Personal Tech: Macworld 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008; 2:00 PM
A transcript follows.
Rob Pegoraro: I'm back!
What can I tell you about Macworld and CES?
Springfield, Va.: For my money, Time Capsule was the best new product announced.
Apple had this feature (wireless backups) in developer seeds of Leopard. You could use a regular airport with a USB drive. They took the feature out before Leopard shipped, citing problems with it.
Now that Time Capsule exists, people are wondering if that feature will be added back, or if they just took it out to make people buy their new product.
I'd love to take the non-cynical approach, but I've heard no good news to help me out there! Have you heard anything? Will people with regular airports soon re-gain this ability back in Leopard?
Rob Pegoraro: Time Capsule intrigues me too. The pricing is surprisingly reasonable; factor in the cost of a regular AirPort Extreme base station, and you're only paying $120 for half a gig of "server-grade" storage. (Please set aside for a moment the fact that I can't tell exactly what makes a drive "server grade")
I don't get it. Yes, the MacBook Air is impossibly small, but is there any other appeal for it? It's too big to be a UMPC, and too small to replace a desktop (or a functional laptop). It's not feasible for many college dorm rooms (where wireless isn't always available) and I have a tough time finding 80GB HD (or the $3000 64GB!!) being enough space for today. Plus, the speaker output is mono.
I want to see the MacBook Air as a breakthrough -- and perhaps it is -- but I mostly see it as a pretty bundle of unusability.
Rob Pegoraro: I was just talking to my producer about this before the chat (i.e., while I was waiting for Windows to finish rebooting after installing some security update). You're thinking about the MacBook Air as a primary computer--but that's not how Apple has designed it, I think. I see it as a secondary machine for use on the road. Buying one of these would be like buying some two-seat roadster as a second car--it's the Honda S2000 parked next to the minivan.
Arlington: Dear Rob,
We just bought a new Dell to replace an old computer, but we've found that it doesn't have an old-style printer port. I've tried buying an adapter, but the adapter didn't work (perhaps because we are running Vista). Do we need to buy a new printer? If so, do you have any recommendations?
I should say I wish I would have bought a Mac after working with Vista, but that's another story...
Rob Pegoraro: Yes, I'd buy a new printer. Parallel ports, as I think I've mentioned here before, are dead dead dead.
My general advice on printers is "don't buy a printer, get a printer/scanner/copier combo." (They're sometimes called multi-function printers, or--in one of the clunkier abbreviations around--"MFPs.") But I can't throw out a specific recommendation; the HP printer/scanner I have at home is OK, but the driver software can be pretty awkward, and I haven't evaluated any other models in a while.
SSD: I was excited to hear that the new mac would include the solid state drive, only to balk at the $3000 price tag. I'm buying a new computer in the fall and longevity is at the top of my list. I was thinking a mac, because they are the most reliable; an ssd because of the no moving parts; and that it should be somewhat fast, though not top end. Will the ssd price come down by the fall? Is it even worth it? Do you think apple will update the macbook pro by then?
Rob Pegoraro: Yes, flash memory prices are only going to drop, and Apple should be able to get some of the best prices around for them (since, as the iPod company, it already buys a non-trivial amount of the available stock of flash memory). But how soon? Not sure. It seems that after 16 or 32 GB, costs go through the roof; below 8 GB, they've crashed through the floor.
Arlington, Va.: So, the MacBook Air is pretty cool, but I think the price:performance ratio is pretty huge compared to the faster, larger drive, only 2lbs heavier MacBook.
What I'm really interested in is the Time Capsule, which just seems like a no-brainer to buy if you own multiple Macs. Here's my question, if I'm going to be backing up an iMac and a MacBook, should I go with the 500GB or 1TB version?
Rob Pegoraro: Do you want to keep a complete back up of both computers' hard drives--the default setting in Time Machine--or are you OK with copying just the contents of your own home directory? In the former case, I'd go with the 1 TB model; otherwise, the 500 GB model should be fine.
Speaking as somebody who's carted a laptop around for the last 10 days, I would add this: Don't underestimate the value of a laptop that weighs two pounds less than a competing model!
Las Vegas, N.V.: I am a road warrior who uses web, email and Word. Any cons you see in the MacBook Air for a user like me? I was walking through the airport today and my 15-inch MacBook Pro suddenly felt like a brick.
Rob Pegoraro: See what I just said? (I actually didn't know this question was coming up next, honest.)
The MBA--it's as if the computer was named for one of the target markets or something--should do all the things you want. If I'm reading you right, all of the data coming in or out of this computer travels over an Internet connection or a USB flash drive, right?
OTOH, it looks like a bad choice for somebody who edits video (no FireWire port) and if you do a lot of photo editing you could find yourself repeatedly plugging and unplugging cameras and memory-card readers (wish Apple had broken with tradition and added an SD Card slot to this model).
Tampa, Fla.: When I worked in my college cafeteria, I had to wear a "server grade" hair net.
Rob Pegoraro: Heh...
Springfield, Va.: Laptops always face a struggle between larger screen size (good) and small form factor (also good). Since these two are at odds with each other, you can never satisfy everyone.
From what I've seen on the web, the average Mac user is pretty disappointed with the Macbook Air. They seem to want an 11" or 12" screen. There are still a lot of 12" G4 Powerbook owners, it seems.
On the other side, both Steve Jobs and PC Magazine seem to consider the larger 13" screen of the MB Air to be a positive over the Sony and Panasonic competition.
So although most Mac users aren't thrilled, I think the Air has a chance to pull in some new users who DO think the larger screen size on a small laptop is a plus. Do you think there's a chance those people are out there? Can a Mac laptop succeed when the Mac faithful aren't interested? I'm starting to think it can, but wondered if your experience said otherwise.
Rob Pegoraro: Oh, a lot of the people at Macworld seemed plenty interested by the MacBook Air. It's not like the larger screen requires some huge penalty in weight or size.
Pasadena, Calif.: After struggling with Windows-driven glitches for over a decade, I finally made the jump to the Mac world two weeks ago, spending over $4000 for a Power Mac and 23-inch monitor. I really wanted the quad-core processors, but, because they were a $1500 upgrade, I settled for the standard dual-core processors instead. Less than a week later, Apple released a new version of the Power Mac with an extra gig of memory, a larger hard drive, a better video card, AND quad-core processors for virtually the same price as I paid for my now obsolete computer. If you buy a 2007 car a week before the new models come out, you get a substantial discount. However, I paid full price, and nobody informed me that the new models were coming out in less than a week. Other Mac owners have told me that Apple doesn't even inform its vendors of upcoming model upgrades. Consequently, I don't even know if my beef is with my local vendor or with Apple. Do I have any recourse? I was hoping for Mac nirvana, but, needless to say, I feel like I've been ripped off.
Rob Pegoraro: Go to your local Apple Store--I think there is one in downtown Pasadena--and ask to talk to the manager. They *do* cut the occasional deal; last year, a reader told me he the folks at the Clarendon store here gave him a new iPod when he complained about his just-purchased model having been made instantly obsolete.
BTW, as a general rule you should be wary about buying Apple products right before Macworld, and especially if the product in question hasn't seen an update in a while. There's always something new at Macworld.
It is true, BTW, that anybody at Apple you'd be in a position to talk to knows about upcoming products. This company doesn't just keep customers in the dark about this kind of news; a huge chunk of its own employees don't know either, which most definitely includes everybody at an Apple Store.
Knoxville, Tenn.: How hot does the MacBookAir run? Can you actually keep it on your lap while it runs?
Rob Pegoraro: Not hot at all. I picked up one of the demo units on the Macworld floor at the end of Tuesday, expecting the underside to be scorching--it was barely lukewarm, even right by the cooling vents and where the power cord attaches, two of the usual hot spots on a laptop.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, love the chats!
Based on what I have read here and elsewhere, the launch of Vista appears to be one of the great product launch failures in recent memory -- how can we explain its weaknesses? Have there been any good articles giving the inside scoop? (BTW - my own recent transition was not that painful).
Rob Pegoraro: I will probably take a second look at Vista in next week's column. (If you think I should, or should not, please let me know!) There are times when I feel like one of the only people who doesn't think Vista is awful... the product-activation stuff is clearly a pain, the User Access Control is usually a nuisance, and the high memory requirements bug me too, but it also improves over XP in some serious ways.
Anyway, my general theory for why Vista engenders such dislike is that Microsoft tried and failed to balance this software between two competing goals: fixing deep-seated flaws in Windows (i.e., security) and maintaining backwards compatibility. The result is an OS that both has trouble with a lot of existing products and still doesn't address some of our least-favorite parts of Windows.
North Potomac, Md.: Rob,
Welcome back! Regarding MS Office, is it (in your opinion) worth upgrading to from Office 2004? What with Pages, Keynotes and now Numbers. The only thing bugging me about Pages is the fact that it won't give you a chance to view -secure- files created in Word. (Yes, I've written Apple about it - as many others have, and gotten no response).
Rob Pegoraro: Can't answer that yet--I'm told there's a review copy of Office 2008 for Mac waiting in the mailroom, but I haven't made my way down there yet.
Any Office 2008 users in the chat today? Let me know how you like it so far...
Fairfax, Va.: Hi Rob. I enjoy your work. A question about AppleTV:
I own the first generation model. When will the update that provides the new interface for movie rentals be available for download?
Rob Pegoraro: It's supposed to be coming in two weeks; like earlier Apple TV updates, it should be downloaded and installed automatically.
DVD recorders: Not a Mac question, but a DVD question. I got a new HDTV (says NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuner in the description). I only have basic cable hooked right into the TV, not through a box. Does that mean I'd need a tuner in a DVD Recorder or DVD/VCR combo to record/tape anything or can I buy a cheaper tunerless one? I don't want to go the TiVo or Comcast DVR route at this point, just want to be able to record a few missed shows now and then.
Rob Pegoraro: You could plug the video recorder into the TV's output jacks, but then you'd be limited to recording whatever the TV was tuned into at the time (unless your recorder, unlike many, also included an "IR blaster" to control the TV through its remote-control sensor).
So I'd spend a little extra to get an, er, tuner-ful DVD recorder.
Silver Spring: Yeah, the MacBookAir is light, and I LOVE that. But how much does the power brick weigh?
Rob Pegoraro: Really light also--I picked it up, and it felt even lighter than the standard MacBook power adapter (which is itself about two-thirds of the weight of the power bricks included with a lot of Windows laptops)
Washington, D.C.: URGENT RE. Pasadena - check the back of your receipt - Apple offers a 14-day price protection, and will either update your now-old Mac Pro or give you some portion of the $$$ difference back.
Get on it, as it's time-limited. But be aware, Apple folks have a reputation for being flexible if you're a few days past, IF (big "if") you keep your cool & are polite.
Rob Pegoraro: More good advice. Thanks, D.C.!
Washington, D.C.: Will Apple have to give everyone a heads-up before they come out with a 3G iphone like they did with the original iphone (FCC regulations?), or would that be something they could spring on us at a moment's notice?
Rob Pegoraro: No, they'd have to file the usual paperwork with the FCC. That's why Jobs revealed the original iPhone six months before it went on sale; he said they were doing that because word would leak out once the paperwork was in motion.
Rockville, Md.: So the new Mac has flash memory and no hard drive. How much safer is that from failure and do we still need a backup?
Rob Pegoraro: As other people have mentioned, the MacBook Air comes with the option of flash memory. The standard storage is an 80 GB hard drive, the same size as what comes in an iPod classic.
Flash memory is a lot more stable than a hard drive; without any moving parts inside it, you can't have a drive crash. But remember, it's inside a small, easily carried device--there are ways to lose data that don't require any sort of mechanical failure.
Steubenville, Ohio: Hello Rob,
I have an ACER T690 with Vista Home Premium. Out of the blue WMP 11 now only plays the audio but not the video of a wmv file. I do not get any error messages. The properties of the file list Windows Media Video 9 as the codec. An MPEG file (video and audio) plays fine. The wmv files play correctly if I use the VLC media player. I have looked for settings to no avail. I have gone to this page and have tried to verify that the Microsoft codecs are installed. Not being a tech genius I believe the necessary codecs are there. I have thought about trying to reinstall the codecs but the MS website is more than a little confusing for me -- there are mentions about XP but none about Vista, on the pages that I found.
I have downloaded all of the MS updates and the OS is current. Could an update have caused the problem? Any suggestions for trouble shooting?
Sign me "more than confused in Ohio"
Rob Pegoraro: I'm confused here in D.C., too! I have heard of this kind of thing before; the copy of Windows Media Player on my wife's laptop wouldn't play the audio of a recorded DVD, so I installed the VLC player (videolan.org) and told her to use that instead--it was easier to add one other program than to figure out what was ailing WMP.
That might be your easiest recourse as well. You certainly should try to reinstall WMP's codecs (short for "coder-decoder"), and if that doesn't work I'd look at uninstalling WMP 11 entirely (go to Add or Remove Programs, click the "Show Updates" checkbox) before installing a freshly downloaded copy. But sometimes the usual remedies just don't work.
Washington, D.C.: I've been thinking of buying an iMac (20in with 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 duo) now for awhile but keep holding off in case Apple makes any serious updates. With Macworld behind us and no new updates to the iMac, do you think this is a good time to buy the iMac or wait? Logically, what do you think Apple would likely upgrade on the iMac? processor, RAM, design? Thanks!
Rob Pegoraro: The current iMac design only debuted a few months ago, so I think you're pretty safe buying now. At worst, you might miss out on an incrementally faster processor or a faster DVD/CD burner (the two most likely areas of improvement).
Note that "most likely" doesn't equate to "what I'd like to see," which would consist of an extra USB port or two on the back.
Washington, D.C.: It is looking more and more like we have a winner in the high definition format war. How long will it take for Universal and Dreamworks to finally switch to the winning format (Bluray), and when will Sony and Toshiba patch things up and share technology to standardize HD discs and players?
Rob Pegoraro: I don't know, and I don't know. After a few days of licking its wounds (and perhaps sticking pins in voodoo dolls of Warner executives), Toshiba announced a round of price cuts on HD DVD players--the idea being, I think, is to persuade people to think of an HD DVD player as an upconverting DVD player with this extra bonus feature.
Not a bad idea, but it would have had better odds of success last summer. It really is odd that the format with one immediately obvious advantage to the consumer--lower prices--hasn't been able to take a lead in the market based on that alone.
Mac Air: I currently own an Compaq laptop and really liked the idea of the Macbook Air. It's got the right features I need, which is basically enough to do lots of internet surfing, and some fairly benign spreadsheet and powerpoint work at home after work. And it's small and light, and I nearly ALWAYS use the computer on the couch. Also, the price seems acceptable.
My initial gripe is the non-removable battery. It seems like I should be able to buy a new one and replace it. But, on the other hand, my work laptops and home laptops have crapped out in 2-3 years anyway before the battery gave out, so perhaps this is a moot point.
Anyway, I'll seriously consider the MBA (I like your term!) as my next computer. (Wife and I are getting tired of sharing the Compaq, so it may come sooner rather than later!)
I'm getting really annoyed with how slow and bloated Microsoft Windows has become, and our family now has enough disposable income that I can afford the Apple mark-up. I want simplicity and ease of use, and I'm willing to pay for it. It seems to me the MBA is a hardware interpretation of that software skill that Apple has had for a while now.
Rob Pegoraro: I think the battery won't be much of an issue. As you note, most laptops break or get retired before the battery starts to lose much capacity (show of hands here, who's actually bought a second battery for a laptop lately?). And from looking at the slide Jobs showed during the keynote, I can see why the battery would require special servicing to access; it takes up a large part of the inside of the computer.
Austin, Tex.: I just loaded the iTunes upgrade 7.6 to my Windows computer & now cannot preview video on the iTunes viewer. Do you know what could be causing that?
Rob Pegoraro: Probably a QuickTime problem--the current version is supposed to be added whenever you add or upgrade iTunes, but if not you can get the latest update from apple.com/quicktime
Vienna, Va.: Where do you come down on the Vista/Leopard debate?
I have 4 year old pc computer that is starting to give up the ghost. I do a lot of photo work, a lot of video work (in the form of 1 minute videos) and internet surfing.
I've never had a problem dealing with Windows, but Vista seems like a big hassle.
Is it worth the extra $100 or $200 to go with a 20 inch iMac, or should I stay with Windows.
Is there a big performance boost between the 2 iMac models?
Rob Pegoraro:"Vista versus Leopard" is not a comparison that I think Microsoft can win at this point (hell, even Tiger is better than Vista in a lot of ways)!
But before you think about switching, you should inventory the programs you use now and make sure that either they or a comparable program exist on the Mac. (Note that you'd get good consumer-use photo and video-editing software for free on a Mac; unlike many switchers, you wouldn't incur extra costs in buying Mac versions of your old programs. But if you're running a professional app like Photoshop, that goes out the window).
I'd stick with the cheaper iMac. There is a difference in performance, but you're unlikely to see much of it in daily use.
Tempe, Ariz.: Rob, what are your thoughts on Apple's movie rental program? It seems silly to me - I can get (virtually) unlimited rentals, plus truly unlimited online viewing, from Netflix for less than $20/month. Why would I go back to paying per movie? Then again, I don't understand people paying $2 or $3 per episode to download TV shows from iTunes either when you can watch most of them for free on the network's website - but at least in that case, you can watch it on your video iPod, and you get to keep the episode! Am I missing something?
Rob Pegoraro: I'm with you about iTunes TV-show downloads--I have barely been tempted to buy one since my review of them, and I've had no trouble resisting that temptation.
Comparing iTunes movie rentals to Netflix is another issue entirely. A lot of people do not want or need yet another monthly subscription in their lives; they'd rather pay for what they use instead of feeling like they "need" to watch another movie to justify the Netflix bill.
For those people, the comparison is between iTunes and a trip to a video store that may not have the movie they want in stock, and to which they'll have to make a return trip to return the DVD, and which may involve other nuisances like traffic and competing for spaces in parking lots.
Washington, D.C.: Any chance that wireless access for timemachine will work with other external hard drives? I just bought an airport express base station in October -- and I have a great 500 gb external hard drive -- so time capsule is not something I need. But the wireless backup would be perfect. I could network my external hard drive and still use time machine.
Rob Pegoraro: AirPort Express, the smaller WiFi access point from Apple, doesn't support external hard drives. But AirPort Extreme does--and up until right before Leopard shipped, the ability to use an AirPort connected drive (AirDisk) was a selling point for Leopard.
I have to think that feature will be flipped on again at some point. Maybe 10.5.2?
Re: Windows Vista: I like Windows Vista. I run it in two computers in my home. And i never understood why people hate it.
Rob Pegoraro: Some people who hate Vista haven't used it. But some have!
Anyway: What do you like most about it?
Atlanta, Ga.: I've used the Amazon Unbox-to-Tivo service once or twice, mainly to see if it works (which it does).
Any chance the Apple TV HD rental announcement will get Amazon off their duff and force them to offer HD rentals?
Rob Pegoraro: I think there's an excellent chance of exactly that happening. Unbox looks behind the times compared to both iTunes and Xbox Live in this respect.
Alexandria, Va.: Why have reporters de-emphasized Apple's committment to being a more enviromentally friendly company? Considering all of the hazardous waste used in computer manufacturing and the increasing emphasis on conservation in many industries, I would have thought that would be the biggest story of Macworld.
Rob Pegoraro: I don't think so--Apple, like a lot of other companies, has been working to reduce its environmental footprint for a while. It got rid of CRTs (one of the more toxic parts of a computer) a long time ago, and it's had some of the industry's most compact packaging for years (notice how each new iPod comes in a smaller box than its predecessor)?
The company is now talking more about what it's doing, and in the process it's taken some extra steps--for instance, it didn't give out paper press kits at Macworld--but I don't see a huge shift here.
Washington, D.C.: Rob - I'm a PC user thinking of switching to iMAC. Are you aware of issues with using an iMAC to log into a third party network using the popular program Citrix? Any info you can provide about doing this would be appreciated. Thanks for having these chats!
Rob Pegoraro: None that I know of--I've been logging into our editing software from an iMac at home using the Citrix ICA client for years.
Bethesda, Md.: the mac bloggers have said that there was more stuff being released later this week. Speculation is that its a refresh on the mac pro line? Any truth to that rumor?
Rob Pegoraro: Um, that happened last week :)
Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, What are the initial reviews of the MacBook Air? I just bought a MacBook about 13 days ago and am wondering if I should box it up and get the MacBook Air. I appreciate any advice you can offer! Thanks so much. -Tiffany
Rob Pegoraro: There aren't any so far, just some "first looks" stories based on trying out the MacBook Air at Macworld. It's not shipping for another couple of weeks, so I hope to have a review in print soon after.
Arlington, Va.: So how does an OED display look in person? Can this technology catch up with plasma, LCD, and DLP? Have the manufacturers pushed the "green" nature of this technology compared with others?
Rob Pegoraro: I think you mean OLED--short for "organic light emitting diode"--not the Oxford English Dictionary. In person, the main thing you notice about one of these displays is how thin they are. We're talking fractions--low fractions--of an inch, as if you could hang the TV on a wall with a regular picture hook.
OLED screens are also supposed to offer better contrast and response times than LCD.
But... OLEDs are also hideously expensive compared to LCDs and only come in small sizes. They have had lifespan issues, too (one reason why almost all of the OLEDs in use today are in cell phones, which will conk out before the screen ever can).
iPod Touch: Rob,
I'm a long-time Palm user (starting with a Visor Deluxe), but I find my Tungsten E is getting a bit old. Will third-party applications make an iPod touch into a decent PDA?
Rob Pegoraro: If you don't take many notes or track to-do lists on your Tungsten, the iPod touch could be just the thing you're looking for. Its calendar and contacts tools easily match what the Palm OS includes, and its notepad program is OK for light note-taking (but without third-party sync software, you can't read or edit your notes on a computer).
But there's no to-do list on the touch (or the iPhone). That will probably change once the software development kit for these two devices ships, allowing programmers to write their own software.
North Potomac, Md.: Rob,
Were there actually 50,000 attendees this year?
Rob Pegoraro: I lost count after 36, unfortunately! But it seemed slightly more crowded than in prior years; there was a small sea of people around the MacBook Air exhibit.
Re: Parallel Ports are dead?: Really? Because ordinary ports just won't work in the parallel dimension where I live.
Rob Pegoraro: Don't tell me cable TV costs less there, or I'll be jealous.
Washington, D.C.: Rob, I have roughly 2000 cds of data and officially purchased music. I always offload my data onto cds so my pc runs better.
1. they're backed up in case of hardware failure
2. they're cheap, purchased for under $0.20 for 600 mb
3. they're portable
4. they're universal- the music plays in my car and my $20 cd walkman
5. they don't have maintenance fees like online storage
I've moved to DVD-Rs for photos and related storage (About 2500 of my photos fit on one DVD-R) for roughly twice the price of a blank cd.
A friend of mine ripped all his music to a 500 gb drive but lost everything in a drive failure and refuses to rip again, bringing his cds back out of storage.
Do you really see return on investment that I'm not calculating?
Rob Pegoraro: Two THOUSAND CDs? What about the value of time spent burning all those discs? What about storage space for all of them?
I feel sorry for your friend. But the thing to do there is to have a backup--which you'd need to do even if you never mess with digital music.
Silver Spring, Md.: When am I going to be able to buy a digital-TV converter box for $50 at my local electronic store?
It is a most unusual electronics product: millions will be needed but I would make the arguement that virtually none will be purchased in stores a month after The Conversion (2/17/2009). It is a serious quandry for manufacturers and retailers.
Rob Pegoraro: Well, why would you want to rush out and buy one now? There's no pressing need.
In fact, there should be a variety of these things, at the promised $50 price, in stores by this summer. For instance, Echostar announced at CES that it would sell a DTV converter for $40--meaning that would be free for anybody who claims one of the $40 coupons the government is handing out (dtv2009.gov).
Bethesda, Md.: Can I share my one disappointment with the Macworld keynote? When is Apple going to release a substantial update to the Mac Mini? I'd like to be able to replace the computer without replacing the monitor (hence not wanting an iMac), but I don't count a simple upgrade in the processor from a few months ago as an update. Where's the reimagining?
Rob Pegoraro: I hear you, Bethesda. I, too, would like to see the Mac mini get a little more attention from Apple. I'm glad the company released a version with a Core 2 Duo processor last year, but I don't want to see the mini get neglected because it's not, I don't know, "cool" enough next to the iMac or the MacBook.
Analogville, USA: Why is there such an absurdly short time that each digital TV converter box coupon will be valid?
And why aren't they valid against the purchase of a new digital TV?
And is it true that there is a class action suit against the government to allow them to be used for TV purchases?
Rob Pegoraro: You want the government to buy you a new TV?
I'm sorry, but this line of argument just makes me mad. Look: You Have No Right To Television. You don't. By making a digital converter for your existing TV free or nearly free with those coupons, the government is already doing you a big favor.
I would argue that no further assistance is warranted--in case you haven't noticed, we happen to be fighting wars in two countries, we have a massive budget deficit at home and there's this other little problem called health care that (here's a crazy thought) just *might* be more important than buying you a new digital TV.
Washington, D.C.: I am thinking about getting a MacBook Air. I need a new computer anyway, laptop is way more practical, and I'm a longtime Mac user. I use a computer mostly for internet & word processing. My music is already on an external hard drive, and I store my photos online... I don't have a printer, and if I bought one I'd get a wireless one. I never use my current optical drive. So, any downside to getting the Air as my "primary machine"?
Rob Pegoraro: It could work for that--but, really, why not get a regular MacBook? You get the same keyboard and the same size of screen, but you pay $800 less and you still have the CD/DVD drive in case you need it.
Now if you'd also said "I travel all the time and I hate lugging around five pounds of computer," then I could see the MBA making more sense.
Asheville, N.C.: I hope that CDs and DVDs stay around much longer. I still have files on old 3.5 floppy discs that I would like to get at. I am a heavy computer user but not into movies and music downloads so deleting the CD/DVD accessory is only bad news for me.
Rob Pegoraro: I don't think that CDs and DVDs are going to fade away like the floppy disk has--but I do think that they becoming less necessary all the time, and especially as Hollywood comes to its senses on things like minimizing or eliminating DRM.
BTW, I'd copy those files off those old floppies ASAP, Asheville. Floppies are not the most durable storage ever, and any new computer you buy--Mac or PC--probably won't include a floppy drive anyway.
Ithaca: I just bought an HDTV (refurb through NewEgg, by the way -- I highly recommend that avenue if people know what they're looking for and are into saving money) and enjoy hooking my laptop up though the VGA port to watch video files, YouTube, play games, etc. However, if VGA is an analog output, correct? VGA is my only ouput option; is there any kind of VGA to HDMI converter available?
Rob Pegoraro: VGA is analog, but it's not standard-definition. So you're fine. I mean, you do lose a little bit of detail in the digital-to-analog conversion, but it's nothing to get bent out of shape over. And any VGA-to-HDMI adapter wouldn't fix that analog problem either.
20005: I've got a 2 year old Macbook Pro and I'm already on my fourth battery. My first 3 batteries were apparently defective, causing the machine to suddenly (and without any warning) power off when on battery power. Each time,
Apple had a new battery delivered to my door within 48 hours.Granted, it could be a case that my computer is actually the thing that is malfunctioning, but how would this easy and fast service been handled with the Macbook Air? I would've had to drop it off at the store and pick it up later, not an ideal solution to say the least.
Looks promising, but hopefully Rev B will fix the complaints people - or at least I - have (removable battery, one additional USB port)
Rob Pegoraro: You're right about the inconvenience factor of dropping off the laptop. But an MBA battery replacement might be a "while you wait" service--as long as it's not fastened in place with thermal grease (yes, there is such a thing), I can't imagine it involves any painful surgery to extract and replace.
North of Knoxville: What's new or on the horizon for the MacBook Pro (15")?
Price reduction? Speed boost? I'm eager to replace my 4 year old 15" G4 PowerBook, but as always I'm trying to time the cycle before I upgrade. I do tech writing, PR, big documents, photos, minor audio, even less video, but I always have huge storage needs, and mobility & a CD/DVD burner are essential.
Rob Pegoraro: Probably a speed and storage boost, probably not a price cut. I think the $2,000 entry-level price for the MBP is too high, but Apple has stuck with that pricing for years and seems fairly content with it. You can't say it's been hurting for laptop market share lately!
Wiredog: Various comments:
One of my favorite acronyms is "twain", the Technology Without An Interesting Name.
I have an old Centronics cable at home. In the Box Of Dead Tech, next to the Palm Pilot Pro.
An 8GB solid state drive is more than enough to run a complete Linux distribution. I wonder how fast to boot an SSD is? Add in, say, 30 GB of SSD to hold media files and you have an Archos 605 with much better battery life.
I have an Archos 605. It's wonderful on cross-country flights.
I see the AppleTV will now do HD. Good. I have a use for that. Rip all my DVDs to the Mac, copy to the AppleTV, use it as a video jukebox.
Time capsule looks interesting. I have an old G router which doesn't do WPA2 (it does 128 bit WEP (my primary security system is to turn off the Mac when I'm not using it)). So Time Capsule looks interesting. But. I need a way to do offsite backup, or even regular backup to long-term media, of my photo library that doesn't involve a stack of 10 DVDs and an afternoon. Any ideas?
Rob Pegoraro: It's not a real chat without some input from wiredog!
Anonymous: Job is again crippling new products....consider the iPhone and its lack of programs...consider the new laptop with an unremovable battery...seems like whatever he creates there is a plethora of attributes that make it a winner...a thin laptop with only 80gig hard drive is ridiculous in this day and age...why does he not recognize real-world needs?
Rob Pegoraro: But if all of Apple's products fail to "real-world needs," why does this company keep selling more computers and iPods every quarter? Why has it been so long since we called it "beleaguered Apple Computer, Inc."?
It's possible that your needs don't match those of a large chunk of the rest of the market. I'm just sayin'...
(I would add that the first iPod was assailed in almost the same terms. Remember that Slashdot post? "No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.")
Antwerp, Belgium: Hi. Happy New year to you in good health. I performed a full scan with Spyware Doctor v5.5. It found 71 threats and 1094 infections. I clicked "repair checked" and I get a popup message: "Some Threats Can not be cleaned" and it stops cleaning the threats. None disappeared. They are all still there. Program doesn't seem very effective if it cant clean what it detected. I rescanned a few times put none of the infections-mostly cookies-were removed. What's your opinion on Webroots Spysweeper? Thanks a lot.
Rob Pegoraro: If your spyware problem is only finding cookies, you're clean. Cookies are not spyware in the first place, and some will show up even after a complete wipe (I got an explanation of this a while back that made complete sense to me, but I can't remember the details at the moment).
Huh, it's 3:30 already. I did start a little late, though, so I'll keep this rolling along a little longer.
Re: Windows Vista: what i like about Vista is Security features. It just feels secure compared to previous versions of Windows. Not to mention the nice Aero user interface.
Rob Pegoraro: Have the UAC dialogs allowed you to catch any viruses in the act? That's one thing I'd like to know--the whole idea behind UAC is to help the user be a more effective first line of defense, but I have yet to hear from users that UAC warned them about a virus, and that denying the UAC request prevented an infection.
Arlington, Va.: Hey Rob, I have read lots of excited reports on the iTunes movie rentals, but I'm having trouble seeing how this is big news? Haven't movie rentals been available via the Xbox360 (and other services) for awhile now? I remember legally downloading and watching The Departed in 720p last spring.
Rob Pegoraro: Downloadable movie rentals have been available for years--but most of those services (such as the awful Movielink and CinemaNow) have been a pain to use. No-computer movie-rental downloads are a newer thing, but here Microsoft has beaten Apple, as you note.
But: Apple is providing these rentals on the online store most people already know and use, and it's making these rentals compatible with the portable player most likely to be in people's pockets and purses.
Cubefarm, DC: OK, the Macbook Air looks cool, but what about fragility? Will that pretty little thing crack up and the screen shatter if you put a few pounds of torsional stress on it? There has to have been a tradeoff between weight and strength....
Rob Pegoraro: Not necessarily. Panasonic's W-series Toughbooks are some of the lightest laptops I've ever used, but by all accounts they can take a beating.
Rockville: Two of the rumors I wanted to see come true, but did not, were a new mac mini and new monitors. When can I expect to see that happen? I'm holding off a mac mini purchase for a newer one.
Rob Pegoraro: Another Mac mini fan! I think the odds are much better of a new Mac mini than of new monitors. Plenty of other companies make monitors that look and work fine with a Mac; why should Apple waste too much time on this (except for, maybe, some high-end, pro-oriented monitors)?
Falls Church, Va.: Hi, Rob,
I'm an "early adapter" (I guess) of the iPod Touch - just got one for Christmas (my third iPod). Also I bought I new macBook on December 27th (my second one). So imagine my surprise when I found out that I was going to have to pay $20 for the software upgrade for my iPod Touch. Nonetheless, I dutifully went to Apple's website yesterday to get the new software. But before I could even purchase it, I wound up having to download the latest version of iPod Touch software for my three week old iPod, plus a new version of iTunes and a new version of QuickTime for my three week old macBook. OK, that only took half an hour and two restarts. I paid my $20 and completed the software upgrade. While there are some cool new features, I can't help but be -really- peeved that Apple isn't offering the software for free for current iPod Touch users. There can't be that many of us (suckers) out there!
Rob Pegoraro: Apple's explanation for this is that the Sarbanes-Oxley bill's accounting rules require them to charge for updates that add meaningful features to a product if there isn't a subscription stream of income to cover those costs. (So the iPhone gets the update for free, since Apple apparently gets a cut of the wireless carrier's bill).
I'm neither an accountant nor a SOX expert, so this explanation could be complete bull. But that's what the company says.
Arlington, Va.: Rob,
It's time for me to renew my Internet Security. I'm currently using Norton 2006 (with two years anti-virus protection), but the reviews I've seen of Norton IS 2008 have been less than stellar, and quite frankly, Norton has gotten me PO'd on more than one occasion.
When I was using Norton IS 2005, I received erroneous warnings that my subscription was expiring prematurely and just recently, the license on my laptop expired (saying it was a temporary license) even though it's the same one I use on my desktop. Talking to "Jimmy" or "Jennifer" (yeah, right) at some obviously overseas customer support (support?) facility only raises the BP higher.
I'm loathe to renew with IS 2008 given its reviews and given my reluctance to continue doing business with a company that seems pretty faulty from where I sit. However, I wonder if I'd just have the same issues with McAfee or any other provider.
What's your take and do you have any current protection recommendations? Thanks for these great chats.
Rob Pegoraro: I think you have to vote with your wallet--Symantec has not treated you well, so why should they get more of your money?
It is true that other vendors have issues of their own. That's why I advocate steering clear of these far-reaching security suites; get a free anti-virus client like AVG, use the built-in Windows firewall and add a free anti-spyware program like Spybot Search & Destroy or Windows Defender.
Analogville, USA: Your attitude is apalling!
Yes I do have a right to TV, we own the airwaves!
I'm not asking the Big G to buy the TV for me, but they're the ones that are making my TV's obsolete & useless with out the converter!
The Republicans & the Republican run FCC has made a mess out of this. Analog TV's should have been banned from sale at least 5 years ago since so many people have said that this was planned 25 years ago!
I'm still seeing analog sets for sale, most recently at Target, 3 weeks ago!
A whole lot of us can't afford this crap! And yes I know there are a few digital TV's with tubes that are cheap, but there aren't a lot & they're not easy to find.
Rob Pegoraro: Do you have a right to radio? You own those airwaves too.
How about a car? Tax dollars paid for the highways.
How about plane tickets? The government built most airports as well.
I agree, though, the DTV transition has not been managed well. Four or five years ago, I was warning people against buying "DTV-ready" televisions without a digital tuner.
BTW, that Target should not be selling analog TVs at all--they were supposed to disappear from stores last year, after a period in which they were supposed to come with warning labels.
Palo Alto, Calif.: I am about to buy a new MacBook Pro 17 inch, but wanted to wait until MacWorld to find out if there were any changes or upgrades. Are there?
I definitely am not interested in the MacBook Air, since I need a fully functioning laptop, and since I do not use a desk top machine. Any advice about what to look for in the new 17 inch would be greatly appreciated.
Rob Pegoraro: No changes to the MBP 17-inch that I know of. We might not be far from a tweak to that design, though: http:/
San Francisco: Hi Rob,
I'm going back to school and need to get a laptop. I'm looking either at the MacBook (regular) or some generic PC, like a $800-$1000 Dell. Really just need to run Microsoft Office, maybe a CAD program, internet, the usual non-computer-adept-person stuff.
Most of the sites I see touting Macs as superior have reasoning that is more for people who program, or really use their computers to its full potential. On the other side are PC'ers who say a Mac is really just a status symbol and doesn't offer any real advantages besides smugness.
Any thoughts from you on this?
Rob Pegoraro: Your CAD software could make the choice for you--if it's Windows-only, you'd have to get a separate copy of Windows and then run this program in Boot Camp or inside Parallels or VMWare Fusion.
Otherwise, though, I do think a Mac is a more pleasant computer to use than a Windows PC.
Washington, D.C.: Two THOUSAND CDs? What about the value of time spent burning all those discs? What about storage space for all of them?
Rob, I said data and "officially purchased music." That means cds formerly in cd cases that are now in binders.
I have maybe 500 cds of data and music made over the last 5 years. It's true that for a year I burned old cassettes of interviews and live music shows I attended every single day on a consumer cd burner hooked up to my tape deck.
I'm surprised though about the 2000 cds comment- that's only 10 binders on one bookshelf. I certainly have less music than my friends who have music rooms storing 5000 or more cds and vinyl lps- this is washington, dc you know... Do you really think 2000 cds is a lot? Did I mention I'm 40? That was like buying 75 cds a year since high school.
Rob Pegoraro: I'm not that much younger than you! But my rate of CD acquisition has slowed down as I've been buying more stuff online.
The really amazing thing may be that you burned CDs of all your old tapes. That's some serious time there (I am *still* promising myself that I'll get around to digitizing the few old tapes that I think are worth keeping around; a tape deck has been sitting on the floor below the computer desk for at least a year. Pathetic, really :)
Lincoln, Neb.: I'm a new user of a mac laptop - with Leopard, etc. and a Windows package that will allow me to deal with my PC business associates. Prior to this I only used my company's PC based machine.
One of many, many questions I have is: There seem to be several different programs for contacts, calendar and E mail use. I was used to Microsoft Outlook and used it extensively. Should I use this program, or something else?
-I'd also love to know how one goes about learning about all the functions of the neat bells and whistles that are completely alien to an old Luddite like myself.]
Rob Pegoraro: The closest thing to Outlook on a Mac is Entourage, the Outlook-ish part of Microsoft Office for the Mac.
But for most people, I think it's easier to use the separate Address Book, iCal and Mail programs built into OS X. They integrate exceptionally well with each other; in practice, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything by having to switch from one app to the other.
Claverack, N.Y.: You know what drove me mad? Every commentary about Steve Jobs's speech had to dismissively snark it was a failure because there was "no iPhone moment". Well, wake up- there's probably never going to BE another iPhone moment. That was a unique confluence of anticipation, technology and "it factor" that even Apple will most likely never repeat on the same scale.
Rob Pegoraro: I really, really regret not attending the keynote last year. Of course, the "iPhone moment" *had* to happen the one time in a decade that Macworld and CES fall on the exact same days...
Arnold, Md.: Rob,
All I read about in the HDTV world is LCD and Plasma. I have a 3-year old Samsung DLP TV with picture quality that still continues to amaze me--sharper than the LCD sets I've seen and as bright as the Plasma. What do you see for the future of DLP?
Rob Pegoraro: It's going to be increasingly marginalized; the technology makes financial sense for large screen sizes, but each year that LCD and plasma get cheaper there's less room in the market for DLP and other microdisplay sets.
Bethesda, Md.: Rob, thanks for your great columns & chats. You are an invaluable resource.
A Macworld two-parter, if you don't mind:
1. iPhone. How much of a difference do you see the software upgrade making, and when--best guess--do you see Apple releasing new hardware? I'm sorely tempted to go out now & buy an iPhone, but if a new one comes out in the Fall (with HSPDA, say), how much will web performance, etc., improve?
2. AppleTV. It seems this is now one software upgrade away from being a fully-functioning DVR. What obstacles are there to Apple doing this?
Thanks in advance!
Rob Pegoraro:1) There will be a 3G iPhone, that's pretty much assured. But I don't expect it until mid-year. That's just a hunch, but remember that Apple just started selling the iPhone in much of Europe... six months would be a decent stretch of time between models.
2) I don't see Apple building in any DVR functions to the Apple TV until it can be assured that adding a CableCard slot will allow it to work on *any* cable system in America, and ideally with satellite systems too--*and* without any interference in product design from said cable and satellite companies. Apple, as a rule, doesn't like other cooks barging into its kitchen.
Silver Spring, Md.: The gripe about the digital converter box coupons is somewhat valid. The coupons are only good for 90 days and, as of today, you cannot actually use it to buy a converter box!
I would like to start enjoying OTA digital pictures but am holding off on requesting a coupon until I see a box on the shelf. (the Feds will not replace expired or lost coupons).
I don't know why the government puts a 90 day expiration date on the coupons: why not 12/31/2009 or something like that?
Rob Pegoraro: That's a valid gripe. I suspect that when the coupon program was being drawn up, people though the cheap converter boxes would already be available (had they asked me, I would have said "no, not this early"). Good point, Silver Spring.
Alexandria, Va.: Rob,
I have to ask - and as an Apple fan, no less - what the market is for Apple TV 2.0? Between Netflix and physical stores, there's already a successful infrastructure set up to rent movies - and it doesn't require a new, $229 box as the price of admission.
Perhaps it makes sense as a toehold for a future with vast catalogues and massive bandwidth. But for the near-mid-term, I can't imagine many folks buying, and I can see Apple in an Xbox-style loss subsidy situation.
Liked your larger thrust on how Apple may now be leading the way in phasing out optical disks. You're the only writer I saw who drew parallels to the iMac & floppies c.1998. I had exactly the same thought - crazy at the time, revolutionary in hindsight.
Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the kind words. The theme about discs going away didn't really percolate into my brain until a few hours after the keynote, and then I still felt like I needed to bounce it off a couple of people in the business to see they thought it completely nuts.
Apple TV Take 2 could be no more successful than the first take for the reasons you note. But it's not just about renting movies; it's also a good, simple way to get to your iTunes and iPhoto libraries in the living room. Combining easy movie rentals with that might be enough to get this thing moving off the shelf.
Rob Pegoraro: OK, my producer probably wants to do something else by now, and I still have a full inbox (electronic and physical) to attend to, so I have to sign off for now. Thanks for all the questions!
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