Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, September 20, 2007; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro will be online Thursday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. ET to answer your personal tech questions and discuss his recent reviews and blog posts.

A transcript follows.


Rob Pegoraro: Welcome back, everyone. If you've got a question about the new iPods, you've come to the right place. (But I'll be talking about more than that.)

Let's get rolling...


Washington D.C.: Rob, nice piece today. I am thinking about buying an iPhone but am wondering if this is a good time. Have you heard any buzz about when Apple might be releasing an update/second generation? Do you think they will make a 16-gig iPhone available, like the iPod Touch? Would the 8 gigs make that much of a difference?

Rob Pegoraro: I am positive that Apple will release a 16-gig iPhone--and a 16-gig iPod nano--but don't know when. I'm pretty sure it won't be anytime this year; companies generally have their holiday product lineup pretty much set by now. The earliest I expect to see anything new would be at Macworld Expo in January, but you might be waiting until cherry-blossom time.


Atlanta, Ga.: I finally figured out how to put DVDs on the iPod. Am I evil? I'm just place-shifting is all.

Rob Pegoraro: I can't say if you're evil--who knows what kind of nefarious conduct you engage in when you're not ripping DVDs to your computer!--but I am comfortable in saying that copying movies *you own* to your own hardware is an ethical thing to do. You're not stealing somebody else's DVD (right?) and you're not sharing the digital copy you've made with anybody else.


Washington, D.C.: I'm thinking of retiring my PowerBook G4 and replacing it with a new MacBook Pro. Should I wait? I seem to recall you recommended waiting until Apple's new operating system comes out (early next year?). I'm in no immediate need for a new laptop so if there is a good reason why I should wait, I'd like to hear it. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Rob Pegoraro: Actually, I've recommended against waiting for Leopard to ship. (That's still supposed to happen in October, BTW). If you're still happy using your PowerBook, however, I'd keep it around for a little longer. The current MBP design had its last update in June, which suggests a revision might ship during or right after Macworld Expo.


Silver Spring, Md.: I haven't tried any of the "real simple syndication" news feed software. Is there any reason why I should try something else other than the RSS feed that Firefox has? Put another way, is IGoogle any better?

Rob Pegoraro: If you only want to check your RSS feeds on one computer, Firefox's built-in software is fine. Otherwise, the big advantage of the readers that Google, Yahoo, Bloglines and other sites offer is that you can catch up on your Web reading from anywhere.

FWIW, I use a hybrid approach: I've got NetNewsWire Lite on a Mac and I use Newsgator's site on every other computer--NNW syncs to Newsgator and vice versa. The only trick is stopping myself from reading clearly non-work-related feeds on the job... and... uh... yeah, I'm still working on that.


Washington, D.C.: I need help with a hard drive installation. It appears that at some point during the installation of a new 160 gb hard drive, I did something to limit the hard drive's capacity to 40 MB. Any idea what I did or how to reverse it. The hard drive is indicating that there is nothing saved on it. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro:40 *megabytes*? What kind of filesystem did you put on it? I can't think of any other way for the system to see so little of the disk--an out-of-date BIOS could make the disk seem fractionally smaller, but not nearly to that degree


Arlington, Va.: Any word on the general level of customer satisfaction with FIOS internet/TV vs. the same from cable? ALso, do you have any idea about the compatibility of the new TiVo HD box with the FIOS system?

Rob Pegoraro: So glad you asked--I'm working on a piece about Fios availability. (I got a query from a reader in D.C. who wants to know when Fios will reach his neighborhood; it turns out that Verizon has told the District *nothing* about when that might happen, and some people in the city government are seriously ticked off about getting the silent treatment.)

So, anyway, the major complaint I get about Fios is along the lines of "I'm interested but have no idea when/if it might get to my home." Most users seem happy with both the Internet and TV service, although some have reported installation issues (Verizon can apparently be cranky or uncooperative if you're not running Windows.)

The new TiVo HD can't take the place of Verizon's regular Fios tuner box (whereas it can displace a cable set-top box or DVR).


Arlington, Va.: Are people (other than Atlanta I guess) really watching video on their "iPods"? I personally can't imagine ever having any inclination to watch anything on such a teensy tiny wittle screen. Gimme my 50" plasma, baby!

Rob Pegoraro: People watch video on cell phones with considerably smaller screens! It doesn't seem to make much sense, but I will tell you that when I was testing the nano's battery life by playing a movie, I started watching it on Metro... then kept watching as I walked out of the station. I had to tear myself away before crossing the street.


old but unresolved subject: Rob, You and my Mac group have suggested that the MacBook is "good enough" for most home users. I would like to make that choice but the 13 inch screen is just shy of comfort for older eyes. I hate to spend the money for the extra 2 inches but I fear that I will regret the screen size if I go with the MacBook. I will appreciate any comments on the 13 inch screen for several hours use each time from you or current owners of MB-13. (Currently have 4+yo iMac with 15 in. flat screen.)

Rob Pegoraro: I'll throw that out there for the audience to respond to--can folks with older retinas share their impressions of the MacBook's screen?


Princeton, N.J.: I have a Comcast/Motorola dual tuner DVR cable box. Occasionally, I schedule a recording and it seems to record at the proper time - the red light is on. However, I cannot access the recording later - it is not shown on the list. Is this a defect in the DVR or because recording that particular program is not permitted? Usually it records fine.

Rob Pegoraro: That's odd--but, y'know, there are reasons why a lot of people don't like the DVRs the cable operators hand out! (Hint: Their quality might be better if companies like Moto or Scientific Atlanta elected to sell directly to individual customers instead of selling only to cable operators--i.e., not the people who will actually use them.)

Do the programs that don't record have anything in common, like coming from a particular channel?


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hi, enjoy your chats. I have an annoying problem. Most times I when I shut down my pc-Windows XP SP2-it doesn't shut but I get error: "iexplore.exe has to shut down" I gotta click a few times on End manually till it shuts down. Many times IE6 freezes and I get the iexplore.exe error. I don't wanna upgrade to IE7 or to Firefox. Thanks a lot.

Rob Pegoraro: This isn't what you want to hear, but I'll say it anyway: Upgrade to Firefox. IE 6 is obsolete and dangerous, and I'm not going to help you stick with software that a) endangers your computer and b) isn't even working right.

I don't usually put my foot down like this. But let's face the facts here: Microsoft abandoned IE 6 a long time ago, and if you're still using it you should to.


Anonymous: You wrote today that the Touch does better than the iPhone browsing the Web over WiFi. How so?

Rob Pegoraro: Both the iPhone and the iPod touch can connect to a wide-open network and a password-protected network just fine, but the iPhone couldn't deal with a partially-open network on GWU's campus that had a different sort of authentication. To log in, you had to enter a user name and password on a Web page, but the iPhone couldn't get past that page, while the iPod touch did.


Virginia: Rob - someone tried to sell me a link to an avi download on Ebay. Is this allowed?

Rob Pegoraro: If "tried to sell" means they sent you an unsolicited e-mail with a link to an AVI download, they were really trying to sell you a virus. If it's an actual eBay auction--sure, why not? You can sell a digital file as long as you actually own it (i.e., you're not reselling a music download that you're keeping for yourself.)


Downtown, D.C.: I don't watch videos on my iPod 30gb model, but it is handy to use for carrying around digital vacation photos to show people, or if you're shopping for something for your home and want to keep a photo of the sofa/cabinet/carpeting you're trying to match up. Aside from a few minutes of video, I don't think I could watch an entire show on it.

Rob Pegoraro: That's a good tip about keeping pictures to aid your shopping. Somebody remind me to do that before I make my next trek to Home Depot.


Wash DC: Rob, in your picture, you look like a nice young man.

Rob Pegoraro: It's amazing what you can do in Photoshop these days!


Chattanooga, Tenn.: How hard is it to add RAM to a Macbook? I've added RAM to a desktop before.

Rob Pegoraro: No harder, I'd say. You fip the computer upside down, remove the battery, use a tiny screwdriver to open an access panel and then you're looking at the memory slots. You do need to give the memory module a decent shove to make sure it seats properly in its slot.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Rob, Has anybody tried to ballpark the percentage of internet activity at any one point in time that involves Google? Between the search engine, mail, reader, calendar and the software package, I don't think it would be far-fetched to say they have a hand in 50 percent of all internet activity. Thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: Good question. I should Goog... I mean, try to look up the answer to that sometime.


FIOS in Md.: There is no question that the quality of the FIOS internet and TV service is simply the best residential service you can get in this area. Internet is fast, low latency and no slow down periods during the day. The TV service is very good. STB's are acceptable and the signals are not compressed. The local HD channels are as good as over the air.

Unfortunately the standard of Verizon FIOS customer service, especially their billing department, is so bad that it will make you forget all of the above statements.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the perspective, Md.


Stormville, N.Y.: Hi Rob! I use Registry Mechanic daily. Is it important to do that, or, indeed, is it important to use it, or something similar, at all?

Rob Pegoraro: Daily? That's a bit excessive. I wouldn't use a registry-cleanup utility more than--maybe--once a month. But that's also because I find that keeping a Windows machine in tip-top shape is borderline impossible over time. Unless you never install any new software, it's just too hard to keep crud from building up in the system.


Arlington, Va.: Am I the only one who has no use for the new Nano form factor? I find it bulky and awkward looking.

My eyes cross if I watch YouTube for more than 15 minutes at a time; why would I want a two-inch screen for videos? My next purchase will probably be the "refurbished" second-gen 8GB model at the Apple store. Sorry, Mr. Jobs.

Rob Pegoraro: When I saw the rumor sites' first photographs of the nano, I thought it looked kinda fat. But I don't think it feels at all bulky in person. You do have to position your thumb at a fractionally different angle than you did with the older nano, but that's about it for any awkwardness.

You don't have to use the video feature at all. That's why I like this--and why I didn't like the original iPod photo--you're basically getting this feature for free, so it costs you nothing to ignore it if you don't want it.


Richmond, Va.: Hi Rob -- I hope you'll answer this iPod question because it's driving me NUTS. I use a cassette adapter to listen to my iPod in the car, and on many MP3s, there seems to be a channel missing from the audio. For example, on some songs, I can hear only an echo of the guitar solo or certain instruments or background vocals, almost like if on a stereo the back speakers were turned off. I don't know if this makes sense, but it only happens in the car. When I use the earbuds or listen to the MP3s in iTunes, I don't have this problem. Have you ever heard of this happening before? If it matters, I have a current-generation 30GB video iPod, but this happened with my last generation iPod also. Could it be a problem with the cassette adapter? I've even had the experience on a few songs where the lead vocals were an echo. I love my iPod, but this is really annoying! Thanks for any info.

Rob Pegoraro: That has to be a problem with the cassette adapter--it's the only independent variable in this situation. (Remember doing chemistry experiments in high school? You can use the same logic to figure out computer problems.)


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Rob - Thanks for all your wisdom. Here's my question: I want to try audiobooks on my MP3. It's NOT an iPod (it's an IRiver). Is there anything different about downloading and playing audiobooks (hopefully rented from the library or downloaded from its website) that I wouldn't know from downloading and playing music files?

Rob Pegoraro: If you download your audiobooks from your library, an iPod wouldn't work at all--Apple doesn't support time-limited DRMed downloads, which are unavoidable in any sort of loan or rent situation. The iRiver, however, should work, as long as it supports the right kind of Windows Media Audio DRM. The usual way of finding out is to look for a "PlaysForSure" logo on the box, with a note about it supporting subscription services.


Rockville, Md.: Rob--always a wealth of knowledge! I just bought a new Thinkpad--one of the IBM ones. Upon plugging it into electricity, I got sparks from the outlet. This happened in three different outlets (which I normally use without problem). Upon reporting this to IBM, their safety engineers reported that sparks are normal 25 percent of the time. That sounds outrageous to me. Does that sound normal to you?

Rob Pegoraro: Do you mean little sparks, as in one blue spark that briefly jumps from the prongs of the plug to the outlet? I have seen that on occasion, although I don't think nearly as often as 25 percent of the time.

If it's anything more--get somebody to look at it.


NYC: Rob this is less of a question and more about your thoughts regarding Apple, iPhone, iPod touch and Mac hardware.

It strikes me that with all that Apple is doing right now and the new OS release, the competitive phone industry that Apple may have bitten off more then it can chew and they have let Mac hardware and software slide. Would you agree?

But that being said with all they have now it seems to me that in the next six months there will be some important updates, fixes, and improvements in the product and software lines. Would you think so? Or am just sounding like a fanboy? I know Tao of Mac is really angry with Apple as are other hardcore Mac users and it is not the usual rants. So this strikes me as a change in Apples behavior. They are on the cusp of major growth and they seem to be not on top of their game. Sorry to carry on.

Rob Pegoraro: Apple itself said that it was delaying Leopard because it needed to put its developers to work on the iPhone first.

I don't think there's been any real slide in hardware or software quality, but I do worry about Apple's interactions with wireless carriers and big-media companies--see, for instance, the ripoff that is iPhone ringtones.

Mac developer Wil Shipley (he's one of the people behind a neat program called Delicious Monster) just wrote a great essay on this subject, which I encourage you all to read when you get a chance: Call Me Fishmeal.: iPhone and iPod: contain or disengage?


Bowie, Md.: Rob, had FIOS internet and TV installed about one month ago. No problems with installation on, or operation with, my iMac G5, so far (knock on wood). Loving the internet speed and channel availability, although I was changing from dial-up and analog Comcast cable, so YMMV.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, Bowie!


Falls Church, Va.:-Difficulty: Office Professional version 7.0A needs to be installed on my Windows98se]

Office Professional version 7.0A attempting installation on Windows98se

In Office Professional version 7.0A Bookshelf 1995 edition needs to be installed on my Windows98se.

Installation error message says:

".... and cannot find any of the qualifing products listed on the Microsoft Office Professional for Windows 95 box."

Do you have a "qualifing product" to sell to me? Says I need: ms095.dll

Rob Pegoraro: I can't even begin to try to answer this--I haven't touched, seen or used either Office 95 or Win 98 SE in years. If anybody can help Falls Church, please post a suggestion.


North Bethesda, Md.: Vonage--do YOU know what's needed? Every time I talk to them I get a different story. I currently have DSL and use one phone line for my fax and phone. Can I do that with Vonage? Will I need a second phone line (that's what they told me at one point) many thanks!!! (BF living in Spain...would love to be able to talk more often)

Rob Pegoraro: At some point, it would be really great if tech-support reps could, you know, actually check out their own companies' Web sites at some point:

(Skype is another, cheaper option for overseas phone calls. I paid about 2 or 3 cents a minute to call China via Skype earlier this summer.)


FiOS Service in Richmond: I live in Richmond and have had FiOS service for about a year after years with Comcast. (Originally, we got the Internet service only because FiOS TV was not available in our area at the time the Internet service became available.) In a nutshell, we are VERY pleased with FiOS, both Internet and TV. The TV service has many more HD channels than Comcast, the signal quality is always good (unlike Comcast's, that used to pixelate constantly), and it has MORE channels than Comcast. Also, one big added bonus of having FiOS TV and Internet is that when we added on the TV service, our network speed was upgraded from an already-blazing 15MBps to 30MBps. Online gaming with FiOS simply can't be beat. And all this for less than what we paid Comcast for their pathetic 6MB up/128KB down Internet service!! On the down side, though, the FiOS system switches to a battery backup source when electrical power is out that expires after about 4 hours, so if you have phone service with FiOS and your battery power runs out, you have no phone until electricity is restored. This hasn't been an issue for us because we got rid of our land line a year ago, but for people with FiOS Internet, TV and phone, that might cause a problem. Overall, though, I highly recommend it.

Rob Pegoraro: Much appreciated, Richmond!


Washington, D.C.: Rob, Are you familiar with the DLNA spec? Do you know if DLNA will stream/share .m4a audio and if so, which DLNA clients can play such tracks? I'm particularly curious about the PS3. Thanks...

P.S. This matches an email I recently sent. Sorry for the possible duplication.

Rob Pegoraro: This means I don't have to answer your e-mail anymore :)

I know of DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), but not with its details. But: I've never heard of a networking protocol that particularly cared what kind of files you sent over it--at the protocol level, an AAC file looks the same as an MP3 file. You'd just need to find AAC-compatible DLNA streaming software.

And here's on streaming server that does claim AAC compatibility: Princeton's iTunes/DLNA NAS media server: bring your own disk - Engadget


Rockville, Md.: Re: sound channel missing.

It might be that the stereo plug for the cassette adapter don't line up exactly right with the ipod. I have a similar problem trying to use a cellphone headphone jack to normal headphone jack adapter. The plugs have to be in the exactly right position.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestion!


Bowie, Md.: I have the new Nano. You would think that a 2 inch screen would be too small for video. But it actually works out great. The picture is incredibly clear and with the headphones in you get a great stereo sound that really pulls you in to what is happening on the screen. Is a great product for the Metro.

Rob Pegoraro: How far away do you hold the nano from your face? I found that anything closer than maybe 9 inches gave me eyestrain--as if my eyes were beginning to bug out like a cartoon character's--but a foot away felt about right.


Silver Spring, Md.: For Princeton....considering that I had to go through -SEVEN- of those Comcast dual tuner HD cable boxes before I got one that worked properly, there's probably a pretty high chance that it's defective. They weren't even consistently defective. One would not actually have two working tuners, another wouldn't output at 720p, another had major hard drive corruption, etc.

And even when it does work, it's the worst user interface I've seen since a CP/M command prompt.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the rant!


iPod cassette adapter again: Thanks for taking my question. I figured that might be the issue since it's the only independent variable, but what might cause that? A bad cassette deck, a bad adapter, a bad connection between iPod and adapter...? I've tried two adapters in two different cars and it's the same problem with both cases. Could this be an iPod issue with transferring the sound by cassette? I'm really wondering if other people have this problem too.

Rob Pegoraro: See the prior tip about positioning the plug at the right depth. That's worth a shot. (FWIW, the tape adapter we use at home has never had this problem.)


Falls Church, Va.: Sorry to get off the Mac theme, but I've got an A/V question for you. I have never ever owned a video camera. What are the key things to look for? My specific needs are digital format, and the ability to capture movement in dark environments (such as dancers on a stage or in a nightclub), and it should be affordable. Thanks!!

Rob Pegoraro: Pretty much any camcorder these days will be digital, so your major choice is just picking a storage format. One of the "tip of the week" e-mails going out to PostPoints subscribers covers exactly that--it should be sent over the next 2 or 3 weeks at the latest.

For shooting in low-light conditions, you do need to shop around a little. Sony's camcorders have a night-shot capability that worked pretty well when I tried it in almost completely darkened rooms.


Washington, D.C.: Is it possible to use more than one iPod for the same music library? And likewise, can I download songs that from my library onto my daughter's iPod? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes and yes.


Arlington, Va.: Hi, Rob. I have a 2-year-old laptop needing the LCD panel replaced. I'm sending it to HP. I began debating about the cost of repairing the screen ($700) with purchasing a new laptop but it just seems that after spending $1700 two years ago for this thing, buying an entirely new computer would be a waste. I bought this one as advanced as possible so I wouldn't have to change out too soon and since I just do web stuff/photos/writing on it, figure that my most extreme change would be putting Office 2007 on it. Is there such a thing as "repairer's remorse?" Will I regret getting a screen repaired and not a new laptop?

Rob Pegoraro: That's really up to you. Two years isn't a long time for a computer, but then again you should see the awful shape one of my work laptops is in after only 2.5 years. (Scrap metal doesn't deserve to be contaminated with its guts.) If you like the laptop and it hasn't show any signs of premature aging, fixing a defect is worth it. But make sure you shop around--for out-of-warranty service, there's no reward for sending it back to HP if a local shop can do the job for less.


re: Vonage: um...guess I wasn't clear. I don't want a dedicated fax. Just occasional use. Also, they told me I'd need two phone lines: one for phone, one for DSL. Is that right?

Rob Pegoraro: For occasional use, why not just stick to using the fax at your office? Or don't use fax at all. I sure can't see the point in paying for a separate fax line for only occasional use; if it's rare enough, it would be cheaper to pay per fax at a Kinko's or wherever.

You certainly don't need two phone lines for Vonage. It rides on DSL, which itself rides on your regular phone line.


WEP vs. WPA: Maybe a question for Krebs, but any opinion? Verizon (FIOS) router is defaulted to WEP. I've read that WPA is better, but I'm having a beast of time trying to configure the WPA.

Rob Pegoraro: WPA is better--this too, happens to be a future PostPoints tip. Y'all are reading my mind!

WPA comes in a few flavors, but the only one you should need is WPA2 Personal. You should only need WPA Personal if you have older hardware that balks at WPA2. Don't even mess with WPA Enterprise; that's meant for big offices.

I really wonder why so much WiFi management software continues to be this bad. There just aren't that many parameters to adjust in a home network; a company would have to go out of its way to screw up this job.


To Falls Church: In response to Falls Church's problem with Office: if you can find a non-upgrade copy of another MS Office program of a similar vintage and install it, you should be able to upgrade. You may have to search around in your basement for old install discs.

Rob Pegoraro: FYI...


Follow-up question: About the audiobooks on my MP3 - you said look at the box. The box for the MP3 player or for the audiobook?

Rob Pegoraro: For the MP3 player.


Washington, D.C.: I notice that soon after I boot up my Windows XP laptop, a program called AppSvc32.exe is hogging between 25 and 98 percent of my CPU, causing my programs like Outlook to load very slowly. Can this be avoided?

Rob Pegoraro: Some quick searching tells me that this is a component for Norton AntiVirus. (Memo to Symantec: Long file names have been supported in Windows since *1995*. Use them already, and if you can't be bothered to do that at least use short file names that let people figure out that you made the program.)

I am a big fan of the AVG anti-virus program, which has been much less of a resource hog--oh, and it's free for personal use.


Santa Cruz, Calif.: What type of tv (roughly 15-20 inch) would you recommend someone buy who is on analog cable. Just for occasional use in the kitchen. We don't want/need to pay extra to have Comcast deliver digital cable there. My experience is that LCD sets don't handle analog signals very well.

Rob Pegoraro: Depends on the LCD. The more important issue for you is that an LCD will take up much less space than any CRT, and at that size you won't pay much extra either.

Make sure your LCD includes a digital (aka, "ATSC") tuner, and you may not even need analog cable--you could plug in some rabbit ears and get your TV off the air for free.


Reston, Va. - iPod video: I have found that I can easily watch my 80gb iPod video for 5-6 hours on a plane. Sure I would never do that at home. But when you travel every week like I do you find that its an amazing way to kill time. I have 25-30 movies on there along with a whole host of tv shows I've been meaning to try.

Which leads me to my second comment, why was Apple so dumb to release their video-playing iPod Touch in 8gb and 16gb models? What a dumb idea. I would have bought one in a second but considering my 80gb model is full that wouldn't work out very well.

Rob Pegoraro:1) I thought about including some snarky comment in the story about the quality of the TVs on airplanes (it's embarrassing that United's 747s still have those CRTs hanging from the aisle ceilings in coach class).

2) Flash memory costs too much to make higher capacity affordable. Remember, the iPod touch 16 GB costs $399--you can spend $50 less and get a hard disk-based iPod classic with 10 times the memory.


Andover, Mass.: Rob, two questions: (1) can you recommend any good system backup programs that save their backup files in a non-proprietary format? I've been using MS Briefcase to backup to an external drive, but there must be a better way. (2) Regarding HP's decision to use solid-state flash drives in some laptops--as I recall, flash drives tend to wear out, and can only be written to so many times. Don't they wear out faster than traditional hard drives?

Rob Pegoraro:1) The last time I looked at free backup utilities, I wound up recommending SyncBack SE Personal. Not great, but it should be good enough for most home use.

2) No, a hard drive will wear out long before any solid-state drive dies. A flash drive also can't suffer a head crash or other physical damage--I've dropped my own iPod on a concrete sidewalk, and it didn't suffer anything beyond cosmetic damage.


FIOS Service: I currently have Verizon DSL (both at my condo here and at my home in Pennsylvania) because FIOS is unavaialable. I know in Pennsylvania they've given tentative roll out dates for FIOS (although it varies from neighborhood to neighborhood). Will your FIOS article discuss when it coming to areas, like say West Springfield?

Rob Pegoraro: That's what I'd like to find out. But Verizon has been... less than a font of information on this subject. Here is the full text of the reply I got from a company publicist when I asked about any plans it had for Fios service in the District:

"We've not announced plans at this point for DC. Comcast would love to know our advance plans for the District, and we're not inclined to help them any sooner than we have to."


Santa Cruz, Calif.: Quick follow-up -- clearly you don't come to Santa Cruz very often! Big mountain range between us and San Jose/San Francisco--so over the air doesn't cut it here.

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, I spend more of my time in the city, the North Bay or Silicon Valley. Can't you just put a few hundred feet of antenna up in the backyard? :)


Brooklyn, N.Y.: RE putting your foot down, you sounded strict. Never saw you like this. There is no iexplore.exe in Firefox? and no such errors? Is IE7 better and safer than 6? Thanks for your patience.

Rob Pegoraro: Iexplore.exe is the name of the actual Internet Explorer program. Firefox has nothing to do with that--one of its most appealing traits is that it's not hooked into the guts of the system the way IE is, and as a result it's a lot less likely to suffer these weird malfunctions and meltdowns.


Clemson, S.C.: A comment on using a 13inch iMac display with older eyes: you can check for yourself using your existing Mac. Set the display resolution to 1280 x 800 (the iMac resolution) on your existing Mac using System Preferences. Then check whether you are comfortable reading the screen after you make any font size adjustments you need to read a page comfortably. If a page extends wider than the iMac 13 inches, you might find it a nuisance to constantly scroll across screens to read a page.

I ran into the opposite problem with a purchase of a high resolution 1920 x 1200 display on a Mac Book Pro. I had to adjust the magnification on all my software in order to read the tiny screens! I admit to getting really irritated at all the 'techies' who kept telling me that to make the print larger, I had to degrade the resolution of the display!

Rob Pegoraro: Here's one suggestion for the would-be MacBook user.


Enlarge Macbook's screen:-- by holding down CTRL and drawing 2 fingers across the touchpad. You'll be amazed at how large things can get. This will enlarge the screen. It is in addition to the regular Zoom feature within programs (COMMAND plus = to enlarge and COMMAND plus - to make small). I have a MacBook and mostly use Firefox's normal enlarge shortcut. -- Another user of reading glasses

Rob Pegoraro: And here's another one.


re WEP/WPA: I, too, have a FiOS router. VZ won't give any help for WPA, insisting that WEP is good enough. I had to figure it out on my own.

Rob Pegoraro: Wow! That is astounding. Do they document that anywhere online?

WEP is not awful for home use, but WPA is so much better. Remember the T.J. Maxx identity theft case? Some of that data was stolen when the hackers broke the WEP encryption the store used in its own network: T.J. Maxx Data Theft Likely Due To Wireless 'Wardriving' -- InformationWeek


Columbia, Md.: I've had FIOs Internet and cable TV since March, and it's absolutely great. But woe come to you if you have a billing issue. I've had a six-month ongoing discussion with Verizon about overcharges. Each month, I'm told it will get fixed. Each month, I get a bill that has erroneous charges on it. It amazes me that a company with a great product can't get its act together on billing and customer service.

Rob Pegoraro: And more on Fios. This is great--please keep it coming. I'll stick around for another 15 minutes or so.


Bowie, Md.: Which claims to work faster for internet - Comcast or Fios? Which is typically faster in reality?

Rob Pegoraro: Fios--but for most people, I would submit that it doesn't really matter.

Here's how I look at this: I see a connection as "too slow" if I'm trying to watch some streaming media online and have to wait for it. Once I cross that threshold, further speed increases are harder to notice.

For one thing, unless your connection performs at ludicrous speed, you'll still have to wait for the latest system updates from Microsoft or Apple to arrive. For another, how much does that matter with downloads? They happen in the background while you do other things like read the Web or check your e-mail.

You would be better off looking at upload speeds, especially if you like to post most of your pictures of video online.



iTunes question: Hi Rob - I have a question about iTunes. I'm constantly - and I do mean constantly - having songs disappear from iTunes that I've purchased from the iTunes store. I don't use the iTunes folder to store my music because I have nearly 5,300 MP3s in my library and they reside on a separate data drive. When I download from the iTunes store, those files go directly to my MP3 directory on that data drive, which I have designated in iTunes as a folder in the library. I've done searches of my system drive (where the iTunes folder lives) and the data drive where my MP3s live and am almost never able to find the files that are missing from the iTunes library. Is there somewhere else I should be searching for the missing files? Every time this happens, I get the the error message from iTunes that says I've already purchased that song and to check my iTunes directory, but can never find those missing files and have to buy the songs again. This is SO annoying...any ideas for me??

Rob Pegoraro: First, please don't make repurchasing a song your "fix" to this problem. That's just not right. Stop shopping at iTunes until you can figure this out.

Second, have you tried the "check for purchases" link under the Store menu? If a download didn't complete, that's supposed to get a new copy for you.

Third, the next time you do buy something from iTunes, right-click the file in iTunes and select "Show in Windows Explorer" or "Show in Finder" to see where it's hiding on your Mac or PC.

I can't think of any cases like this, and I've heard from a *lot* of iTunes shoppers by now. This is weird.

(Note/rant: I would have posted this response faster, but I had to check in my own copy of iTunes--and because I'd just installed an update to iTunes, the old "pinned" link to iTunes on the Start Menu no longer worked. Why do Windows and/or iTunes have to be so stupid about this? The itunes.exe file is in the exact same spot as before.)


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob -- Cellphone service question. How much better is Verizon than AT&T in the DC area? I'm coming out of a 2-year contract with AT&T, and because of reception issues, I'm thinking about switching to Verizon. But I wondering if this is a case of "the grass is greener..." especially because Verizon phones seem to be a year or two behind AT&T phones. Does Verizon reception quality generally make up for it? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Verizon's coverage is excellent overall, and especially if you take Metro--AT&T has zero service in the tunnels and underground stations, while Verizon does. (Sprint phones can roam on that, but not AT&T or T-Mobile.)


re: Verizon response via FIOS: THAT was their response? Jeez. Someone at Verizon needs to take a walk outside and get some fresh air. Customers don't care about inter-corporation competition.

Rob Pegoraro: You should see how annoyed some people in the District government are about this...


U Street: I disagree - I think Apple has bitten off more than it can chew. I recently bought one of the new iMac's. Late last week, Apple release a software update (iMac OS 1.1 update) and it causes iMac's to crash; which is unheard of with Apples (just google iMac softward update 1.1 for details). Nor as Apple done anything to fix this. Only solution appears to be re-install the OS from the CD's (and pray you have all your docs backed up online, on a disk, etc.). Kind of sad but Apple is becoming Microsoft.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the perspective.


Fairlington, Va.: you say Nano is the best deal? No offense, but isn't the $250 80GB iPod classic the best deal? I have an old 40GB iPod that cost $400 at the time, doesn't play video or photos. The 80GB looks like a perfect price point versus hard drive space for movies and songs.

Rob Pegoraro: Most people don't have that much music in their house, let alone ripped to the computer. And of those that do, how many need to carry around their entire library with them all the time?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I read your iPod Touch review and can't tell you how disappointed I am that you disliked it so much (as did the other reviews I read). I was so interested in buying one but will probably hold off for now. So now my question is - I have a Nano (1st Gen) and a 4 year old Palm - both are showing their age. What should I do - hold out for another year and hope for improvement or buy a new Nano and a PDA?

Rob Pegoraro: You sound like the likeliest person for the iPod touch--you use a non-phone handheld already and carry an iPod. If your Palm conks out today, I would probably tell you to get an iPod touch and hope for the best. Many of my complaints with it could be fixed with a software update (especially that silly restriction on editing calendar entries).


Lakewood, N.J.: Hi, love your chats. How can I get to "show desktop icon" in the taskbar? Saves me of minimizing all open windows. Thanks a lot

Rob Pegoraro: You need to tell Windows to display the "QuickLaunch" toolbar. Right-click a blank area on the taskbar, select Toolbars, then select "QuickLaunch." (You can also clean up unwanted taskbar debris this way.) The QuickLaunch bar should have the show-desktop icon already there, along with icons for IE and Outlook Express that you can delete if you want--right-click 'em and select "delete."


FIOS in MD again: I am the example here that is being charged for a STB that I don't have.

Also many example where it take months for bundling discounts to kick in. This is happening to a neighbor of mine. Also they are currently in the process of removing all bundling discounts unless you commit to a one or two year contract. This FIOS service is great, but I don't know that it is worth the trouble.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for sharing your experience.


RE: iTunes: It seems to me that with the recent updates for the Apple TV and the iPhone, iTunes has gotten too big for it's own good. Used to be, it was darn near bulletproof. Now I get all these weird, unexplained bugs popping up. (The most recent update ate all my MP3, but not AAC, artwork, for instance.)

Rob Pegoraro: Ditto.


Burke: Odd that West Springfield doesn't have FiOS; we've had it since Febuary 2006 in Burke, which is to West Springfield what Cleveland Park is to Woodley Park.

But FiOS is as fast as anything I've used, and I work for an entity with a healthy IT budget. As "Richmond" noted above, in true Verizon fashion, we weren't told about the battery backup until the technician was in our basement installing it.

Rob Pegoraro: Yet more on Fios...


Falls Church, Va.: Rob--an old, probably basic iPod question: I got mine for free last year, when I bought my MacBook (I am a part-time grad. students, so qualified for their free iPod Nano offer.)

I use the iPod only about a couple hours each month, but notice that the battery charge looks like it depletes rather quickly (maybe only a couple hours before the battery icon is at half-filled?)

What is the standard battery life, do you know, of the Nanos (2GB) from last summer? I would LOVE to take it on an upcoming 10-hour flight, but wonder if I would only be able to use it for a couple hours.

Also, charging this up: I have a charger for my car's adapter, but this too seems to take forever to get fully charged. As does plugging it into my laptop.

Am I missing something here? Or is this iPod really only good for about four hours of music?

Rob Pegoraro: Take it back to the store--there is no way that an iPod battery should be running out that fast. (The battery life should be more like 20 or 24 hours on that model.) The warranty runs a year, so (I hope) you're still covered by it.


Washington, D.C.: Many people are using the TIVO HD with two cable cards and FIOS in place of the FIOS tuner. See the threads at Broadbandreports, for example.

Rob Pegoraro: Really... this I gotta look up. I didn't even know that was possible.


New Orleans, La.: Hey Rob. How do you feel about the iPod Touch screen issues? A lot of people, including hundreds on Mac's on discussion boards, are getting defective screens. The black colors in the screen have a 'negative' effect. I preordered one, but I'm on the verge of canceling it due to Apple's lack of a response to the issue.

Rob Pegoraro: Mine doesn't have that problem. It does look darker than the iPhone I just reviewed, but that's as far as it goes.


Wash DC: Here is the thread by the way on a bunch of folks using the TIVO HD and cable cards with FIOS.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the link!


Re: Show Desktop Icon: I quick hint for this wishing to minimize all windows and go to the desktop. Hold down the "Windows" key (between Ctrl and Alt) and press "D". Doing so again bring things back there where they were. It's my favorite PC trick!

Rob Pegoraro: This is another good tip


Miami, Fla.: How are the 'one speaker surround sound systems'? I want surround sound, but don't like those wires and ugliness...

Rob Pegoraro: Daniel Greenberg tried out a few for me back in the day--most recently, this crazy rig from Yamaha that's designed to mount underneath a wide-screen TV. He said it worked pretty well, as I recall.


Silver Spring, Md.: Rob: I sent my 1-year-old Toshiba laptop for service. The computer gets hot and cuts out. Would you have any idea what the problem might be? Some people place their laptop on a mount w/air holes for the problem of the laptop. Don't think you should have to do that at an extra charge.

Rob Pegoraro: Me neither. You're right to send it back for service. It's one thing for a laptop to get painfully hot at some points--sadly, most do--but another for it to pass out as a result.


iTunes problem again: Hi, thanks for responding. I do use the "check for purchases" option and these files show up has having been purchased but are not available for download again. It irks me to no end that iTunes will not let you download a song you've purchased from them more than once. I'm not sure what to do about this, but it really does happen all the time. With as many MP3s as I have, I probably am missing stuff I'm not even aware of. I've even stopped upgrading iTunes completely (except for once when I bought a new iPod and HAD to update) because the problem seems to be worse with each new version of iTunes.

Rob Pegoraro: I wouldn't rule out updating--the first version of iTunes 7 was quite buggy, by all accounts. But I also wonder if there isn't something else fishy with your own setup. As much as I hate to say this, I think you're the first person to tell me of a consistent problem along these lines.


Silver Spring: I am think about getting into Macs. I was going to buy one used...what are the minimums, in terms of RAM and processor speed and storage, I will need to run a relatively up to date OS and programs?

I found a used APPLE GRAPHITE G4 w/450Mhz (Sawtooth), but it only has 256k of RAM and a 10 gig hard drive, but it is only $160.

It something like this worth buying, upping the RAM and getting a larger HD? Is it enough? I am not a graphic designer or anything.

Rob Pegoraro: It's going to be pretty slow, but it's also going to be really bulky--this is one of the tower-case models Apple makes for the professional market. I think you'd be better spending a little more on a used iMac G4.

512 MB is the minimum for running OS X on a PowerPC model; add some memory for an Intel model, since they need more RAM to run PowerPC apps.


Falls Church, Va.: FiOS deployment strategy is indeed a mystery. A street two blocks away from my house has had FiOS for years, but my street--which is higher income and would probably love FiOS, remains without.

Rob Pegoraro: I've heard of stories like this--one woman wrote to say that her cul-de-sac had been left untouched while the rest of her subdivision was wired with fiber.


Bowie, Md.: Hi Rob. I use a Mactel laptop (2.16 Duo Core, with 2GBs of RAM) with ClamX virus scan. I use ClamX to scan my AOL mail, which has found phishing viruses in mail that I would have not known had I not scanned them. Is there an automated way of scanning Mail for viruses rather than having to do it manually every day or more times depending on updated definitions? I'm leery of anything Norton based on prior experience. On another note, how susceptible are our machines to spyware and such. I downloaded and am using on a trial basis Mac Scan to hunt for spyware and key loggers after my machine seemed to slow down for no known reason. By the way, I should add that my machine has been operating for 14 days without a restart.

Rob Pegoraro: There are no Mac viruses or spyware on the loose--ClamX is only finding Windows viruses.


A new TV?: Rob, I'm in the early stages of entering the brave new world of TV's, but what kind of homework do I need to do before I hit the showroom? Size of the room? HD vs. plasma vs. ??? Help! We're more movie-watchers than sports if that makes a difference....

Rob Pegoraro: I'll point you to the column I wrote last year on this very subject: LCD or Plasma? Consider Size, Weight, Glare


Lake Luzerne, N.Y.: I've been trying to set up file sharing between two Windows XP PCs in my house. One computer is directly connected via cable to the Linksys router (WRT54G), while the other connects via a Linksys USB wireless adapter. None of the wizards seem to establish a connection them. Do both have to connect to the router the same way (i.e., both wirelessly, or both wired)? Nothing in my manual or the Linksys website addresses this point.

Rob Pegoraro: You can have one machine connected via Ethernet and one via wireless--I've set up Windows file sharing that way without a problem.

The only catch was, I had a Mac acting as the server.

I'm sorry, but file sharing in Windows pretty much stinks. Some people say a program called Network Magic helps with this (


Please tell the designers this looks awful on a Mac/safari: The new design (for this chat at least) is completely shifted to the left side -- heavy and unbalanced. What in the world were they thinking? It's awful -- on safari anyway. Plus, recently the submit buttons and links do not work well (sometimes not at all) in safari -- the result of more tweaking with 'new' coding tricks no doubt.

Sheesh don't they check this stuff in more than explorer? After all, there are growing numbers of alternative browsers. That said, Apple has its share of upgrading to do in safari too. Thanks for these chats and your columns -- a great resource because I actually multi-platform but my home and personal office systems are macs/OS X.

Rob Pegoraro: Posted so the people who work on the site can see it...


HDTV: I have FIOS, but I sometimes use an old (partially broken) antenna for over-the-air reception for the local channels. When doing so, the picture occasionally breaks up. Is that a common problem with antennas or should I just go out and and splurge $15 on a new antenna.

By the way, the over-the-air reception (when it's not breaking up) is a better than the FIOS reception.

Rob Pegoraro:"Not broken" often works better than "broken," so I'd try that--but make sure you can return the antenna and get a better/bigger one if it doesn't work.


iTunes problem, yet again: Do you think I should scrap my current copy of iTunes, download and install a fresh copy and only use the iTunes folder on my system drive? I'm grasping for ideas here...

Rob Pegoraro: That's definitely an idea, although iTunes does support external hard drives--otherwise it wouldn't let you designate a different location for the music folder.


Tempe, Ariz.: Hey Rob! Love your chats. I think I'm dealing with a major spyware infestation on my (PC) laptop, and I'm having trouble dealing with it. I installed Spyware Doctor based on your recommendation, and it identified (and ostensibly removed) several spyware/malware programs. But since I ran the initial scan, my computer has been unusably slow, with Spyware Doctor consuming at least 70 percent (and often 100 percent) of my CPU usage when it's just running in the background; for example, it takes almost 30 seconds just to open a new tab in Firefox. Control panel takes over 90 seconds. A quick search of SD's user help forums shows that this is a common problem with SD that they know about but haven't yet fixed. An online forum suggested that SD's hyperdrive could be the result of a malware infestation in my registry. That sounds scary. I'd like to keep using SD because I paid for it, but it's crippling my computer much more than the spyware ever did. I don't have any conflicting software, by the way, just standard anti-virus software with no anti-spyware component. Can you help me out of this jam? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Here's the second time in this chat for me to play bad cop: Give up. Backup your files and settings, reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows from the recovery CD or partition. It's ultimately going to take less time than continuing to struggle with fixing what's clearly a deeply compromised system.

A hard-drive reformat is also the only way to be sure that you've rid your computer of infestation. It's like what the guy said in Aliens: "Nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure."


Roquebrune-Cap Martin, France: I have to print, at home, a 500 hundred pages manuscript. The Epson inkjet printer I have been using till now has the drawback that the printed pages cannot stand the slightest drop of water. I cannot sneeze while turning the pages, I cannot even dampen my finger on my lips to better turn the pages without risking to spoil them. Is there a solution other than moving to a laser printer, which may take a lot more space? Thank you! Elio

Rob Pegoraro: Epson's had water-resistant inks for several years now. (I know the problem of which you speak; I print out recipes on the laser printer at work to avoid this issue.) How old's your Epson?


Pauls Valley, Okla.: I am pretty sure I got it/them when I tried downloading some program files from Lime Wire.

At any rate I have been being exposed to a collection of pop-ups which I seem unable to control. The all have in common on their urls an association with "IE" and "CiD". HELP!

Rob Pegoraro: You've got a spyware infection. Get a copy of Spybot Search and Destroy ( and see if that cleans up things--but if it doesn't, call somebody in to help. I can't say this strongly enough: YOU CAN'T LET SPYWARE SIT AROUND ON YOUR COMPUTER.


Re: the chats: They look funny on my PC/IE6 (work computer - if I could I'd be using Firefox) too. It isn't just a Mac thing.

Rob Pegoraro: Duly noted.


Merion Station, Pa.: I'm afraid this is an unanswerable question, namely how do you convince a telephone tech that the problem is on their side and not yours. This morning I found I could get to some websites and not others (Washpost, yes, NYTimes, no;, yes,, no)... all verified at the ping level. True of both computers on my in-house wired network. Resetting router and cable modem didn't help.

Call to comcast got a tech who did check and found that Comcast has lost much of it's east coast name service. She'll call me back when it's fixed. OK.

But last time similar happened, Comcast tech swore it was my fault and suggested (no kidding!!) I reload windows on both computers. Second call to Comcast got me no absurd suggestions but a clear indication that it was my problem and there was nothing they could do about it.

A few weeks ago when one of my home office computers failed to complete what HP considered a critical SW update for my network printer, the tech said that it wasn't their problem and I should reload windows. (Another call, another tech gave me the workaround.) Amusingly I had to do the update because I had just had windows reloaded on this computer.

I now realize I have no question, I just needed to vent. sorry to waste your time. Submitting anyway in case you find anything of interest here.

Rob Pegoraro: This is as probably a good way to end this chat as anything else. Thank for you some well-written venting.


Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, everybody! I should be back here in a couple of weeks.


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