Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, June 12, 2008; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, June 12 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss his recent reviews and blog posts.

Read transcripts of Rob's past tech discussions here.

A transcript follows.


Rob Pegoraro: Goooood afternoon! If you're anywhere near D.C. and can only have one technological product in working order today, I hope it's your air conditioning. (But if yours is broken, please don't ask me for help fixing it.)

My column today covers HP's 2133 Mini-Note PC, a laptop that starts at under 3 lbs and under $500. I really wanted to like it--but, sadly, it wouldn't let me.

Let's talk about that, but also anything else tech-related you've got on your mind today.


DC: Found today's HP 2133 review interesting, but wished you had a chance to run it with the XP specs. Vista makes no sense on this little pc in its current spec. I'm in the market for one of these pcs and have looked at a few. I really thought the HP keyboard is a step up from some of the other options. Do you or your readers have a specific recommendation for someone looking to buy now? Thanks Little PC Gets the Big Stuff Wrong

Rob Pegoraro: This may be a little bit of inside baseball, but bear with me: Initially, HP only wanted to provide a model running Vista. I said that while I'd be happy to try out such a configuration, I needed to test the Linux version more--being cheaper and being one of HP's only personal computers to run a non-Microsoft operating system, it was a lot more newsworthy.

Getting a third loaner computer to try out the XP Pro configuration would have been a bit much--plus, it's not like you have to imagine too much to figure how that would work. Its performance would probably be OK--at least before you start loading all the software that XP needs to keep up with the Internet these days.


Wintersville, Ohio: Rob, I am running Vista Home Premium SP1. I have an external Seagate 160GB connected occasionally for backup. When I try to disconnect the computer has the gall to tell me to come back later. I can close all open windows and the only way the cretin will let go of the Seagate is if I shut the computer down -- which I do since I don't want to take the chance on loosing the drive.

IF it is Windows search indexing the drive how can I shut it off for this drive. Right clicking and properties on the C drive give me the choice. Right clicking on the external drive does not.

If not indexing causing the aggravation have any suggestions of where to look?


Rob Pegoraro:"Gall"... "cretin"... sounds like you have the same kind of hostile person-PC relationships that I do!

I was going to suggest that you see if anything was trying to index the backup volume. You should also see if your anti-virus software isn't trying to scan it, and it's also possible that your backup software can't grasp the concept of unplugging a backup volume.

What else could it be? Help Wintersville out if you can...


Tina in Falls Church: Devilish problem w/Dell laptop. I think I have an intermittent problem with the network card. Dell keeps running me around a lot of diagnostics, over and over. I get an intermittent problem with "Internet Explorer is unable to display web page", hit reload and it displays fine, go back then forward and it's fine. Same with Firefox. Virus scan cool, malware and all is cool. Drivers are current, patches current. Verizon router's fine, network fine, signal strength..fine. Dell seems invested in blaming something else but they can not find a problem. Do you or the collective brain trust have any suggestions for how I can nail the problem? Thanks, Tina

Rob Pegoraro: Do you have a similar problem with any other Internet application, like streaming audio, e-mail, IM or large downloads? If not, then the problem is isolated to HTTP (aka, Web) traffic, or maybe you've got the same problem in both browsers. Does trashing the cache have any effect? What if you put a different computer on your network?


Arlington, Va.: Now that the iPhone price is dropped, don't you think the price of the iPod Touch will also drop?

It doesn't make a lot of sense to pay $199 for an 8GB iPhone, and $100 more to buy an 8GB iPod touch, does it?

Rob Pegoraro: No, not one bit. I assume the iPod touch's price will see a comparable decrease, unless Apple has some master plan that involves flushing this particular model's appeal right down the toilet. (It's true that the iPhone 3G's price is subsidized by higher data fees, but people generally don't see those ongoing costs when they're comparing two things in the store.)

I would hold off on buying an iPod touch until at least July 11, when the iPhone 3G ships.


Washington, D.C.: I recently found out my daughter's I-Tunes account was hacked and unauthorized downloads were made to an unknown computer and over $1,000 in charges made to my credit card! My main concern with Apple was this. When I set the account up I selected to have Apple send me an e-mail anytime a purchase was made. The hackers changed this account setting and many charges were made before the theft was discovered. I am working with my Credit Union to get reimbursed on my credit card, but I wanted to alert other I-Tune users. I have also written Apple to at least send an e-mail to the account holder as notification whenever an account is changed. If this was done, I would have been alerted right away something was amiss. Do you know of anything else I could do at this point?

Rob Pegoraro: This is the first time I've heard of an iTunes account getting hijacked like this, but... well, people try to commit every other kind of fraud online, so why not this too?

BTW, are you saying the crooks used the account to buy a lot of songs, or to get her credit-card number and use that to make purchases elsewhere? I don't think that iTunes displays a stored credit-card number; you only see the last four digits if you try to look it up.

You need to figure out *how* this happened. Did your daughter's computer get hit with a keystroke logger that grabbed the username and password for her Apple account? You need to make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen again.


Austin, Tex.: Are there going to be any additional monthly charges from AT&T to use the GPS mapping feature on the iPhone 2.0?

Rob Pegoraro: Not that I've heard of. The big fine-print change you need to know about with iPhone 3G pricing plans is that--unlike the first iPhone's plans--it doesn't include 200 text messages with your "unlimited" data.


Arlington: Rob - can you do what I have yet to read of anyone doing and tell me exactly what the new iPhone will do that, once software updated, my first gen iPhone will not be able to do?


Rob Pegoraro:1) Download data at 3G broadband speeds.

2) Navigate with a built-in GPS receiver.

3) Let you use any old set of headphones.


If we can land a man on the moon.....: If we have a 500GB external drive the size of a paperback book and iPods that fit in a shirt pocket, why are TV cable boxes still so large and unwieldy and is there any prospect of that changing soon?

Rob Pegoraro: Well, it has been about 35 years since we've put a man on the moon, so maybe that's not the best yardstick for technological difficulty.

But anyway. Cable boxes are big, ugly and dumb because the entire cable-box market is broken. The customer--the individual cable subscriber--is not the buyer. Cable systems buy these boxes, but they don't pay the costs of bad design or inefficient operation. It's a classic case of market failure.


For Tina in Falls Church: I also had a connectivity problem with my Dell laptop. I solved it by changing the channels on both the router and the NIC. I was apparently getting interference from other devices.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks! That's an excellent suggestion.


Washington, D.C.: I am considering purchasing the new ipod telephone. My question is this: if I want to sync (not push) to Gmail and Outlook, do I HAVE to buy into the rebranded .mac server?

Rob Pegoraro: No, you can use the mail program already on the iPhone, which works with any standard (POP or IMAP) account.


wiredog: Looking at the UMPCs I wonder what the advantage of one of them is over the iPod Touch?

Rob Pegoraro: If by UMPC you mean the Microsoft-developed "ultra mobile PC" concept, I don't see any advantage, or even much of a reason for that entire category of device to live. Cramming Windows into an underpowered, expensive tablet? No, don't see the appeal of that.


RE: doesn't include 200 text messages with your "unlimited" data.: This drives me nuts. Text messages cost the phone company (next to) nothing. You think they'd be handing out bundled texts like dinner mints and boosting prices for other services instead....

Rob Pegoraro: Precisely. Extra charges for text messages are, I'd submit, the single biggest ripoff in the wireless-phone industry. It's as if Ticketmaster charged you extra to buy a ticket over the Web and print it out at home... oh, wait, they do that.


Midwest: Hi Rob,

Thanks for taking my question. I have a MacBook and love it. I am running Tiger OS on it. Last summer, I installed the beta version of Bootcamp, partitioned my hard drive, and installed Windows XP (I hated to do this to a good Mac but my work involves software that only runs on Windows). Now I would like to upgrade to Leopard on the Mac OS side but don't know how that will affect bootcamp. Will I need to completely reinstall Windows and all of the software/data on that side of the partition?

Thanks for your advice.

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, your Boot Camp setup should be fine. Leopard won't even touch the Windows partition, although it will update the Boot Camp software that makes it work.


Arlington, VA: There seems to be limited information available on how Mac or AT&T will handle trade ups from the first generation iPhone to the new G3's. Is this because they haven't decided what offers may be made or that there will be no deals and the expectation is that previous Edge iPhone buyers will have to just buy the new phone at cost?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm guessing it's the latter. I mean, when have you ever seen phone manufacturers offer trade-in deals like what you describe? How about laptop manufacturers? Digital camera vendors? Nope, nope, nope.


Mac & Firefox: Rob - I seem to have a continuing problem with Firefox suddenly not responding on my newish iMac. I can't reload a page or get links to work, load a new site, sometimes I can close Firefox during this and restart other times I have to Force Quit. What's going on? I thought I was supposed to have less "freezing up" problems when I moved away from a PC. I'm using if that matters. Thanx

Rob Pegoraro: I'd trash the cache--but you might be better off downloading the RC3 (release candidate 3) of Firefox 3, which ships on Tuesday. I don't usually recommend unfinished software, but the beta and RC downloads I've tried haven't given me any problems that I can recall.


David, Boston: About the iPhone extra charges: I've read elsewhere (Ars Technica forum) that SMS falls under the voice plan, -not- data - 200 SMSs are included.

Rob Pegoraro: That would be a little less distasteful. Of course, what would really help would be for either Apple or AT&T to post the damn price plans already! Surely they've had the details nailed down for weeks already.


Alexandria, Va.: Any gut feeling about whether Apple will be ready soon to introduce a new version of any of its iPods? (I just bought an iPhone as a gift but went back to the store soon after because of Apple's latest unveiling.)

Rob Pegoraro: To answer all of the numerous questions I've gotten about future iPod updates: I have no real idea. All I can do is suggest you look at how long it's been since each model was last updated, then act accordingly:


Atlanta, Ga.: Could one, in theory, develop a program for the iPhone that uses the built-in accelerometer to measure the speed at which one can throw the device across the room?

Rob Pegoraro: Sure! (Apple's laptops already include their own accelerometer, the "sudden motion sensor" that parks the hard drive when it detects rapid movement. So of course people have written all kinds of goofy apps that talk to this device; my favorite is the one that makes lightsaber sounds if you wave the laptop around.)


FF3: If I'm not mistaken, Tuesday's Firefox release is the "gold" FF3, not another Release Candidate.

Rob Pegoraro: Yup. Should be in my column next week if all goes well.


ny, ny: will buyers have the option of other carriers than AT&T?

Rob Pegoraro: No, not in this country.


Alexandria, Va.: I have Vista and Outlook 2007. When I get an email with a URL, I click on the URL and get a message that says "Windows cannot open this file" and asks me, "What do you want to do?"

1. Use the web service to find the correct program?

2. Select a program from a list of installed programs.

I always select the second option and am taken to another screen where I can select Internet Explorer and after doing so, the URL will open in Explorer.

I can't find a way to get around this upgrade in the new MicroSoft offerings. How can I return to working smarter and not harder in the use of this wonderful upgrade from Mr. Gates?

I also feel I am being forced into a situation in which I can find no easy answers as to how did I get here and if there is a way to prevent being put here? It is my opinion that being forced into this kind of situation is as bad as a hacker doing it to me since it has the same affect as someone who is taking the use of my computer from me. What gives with these Control Freaks? There otta be a law!

Rob Pegoraro: You need to make sure that you've got the same default browser settings--which, thanks to some boneheaded software design, must be confirmed in three places. Let's see: the file-associations dialog you mentioned, the "Set Program Access and Defaults" control panel and the Start Menu's Properties window. (Right?)


SIM cards and travel: Could you please help your colleagues in the travel section out by writing a primer on using SIM cards overseas? They have revealed their lack of understanding of the subject in a few recent travel chats. I found it so helpful, liberating, and cheap(!) to buy SIM cards overseas, and people seem to need an explanation of the process. I think the last article on this topic is now out of date.

Yes, most Verizon users are out of luck with this, but they can pick up a cheap unlocked quad band GSM phone instead. The fact that people will pay their provider's exorbitant intl rates is a shame when this is so easy but for some reason not widely understood.

Rob Pegoraro: That might work for the "tip of the week" e-mails I send out for PostPoints subscribers--thanks for the suggestion.


Washington D.C.: Any "insider" information on when the new Blackberry Bold will be in the stores? How would it compare with the new iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know.

Given the poor grasp of good interface design RIM has shown so far, I'd be surprised if the Bold came close to the iPhone's elegance.


Washington, D.C.: Can the Mini-Note boot from an external USB CD/DVD drive? Because if it can, it should be pretty darn easy to replace SUSE w/something more user-friendly like Ubuntu.

Now I know the average consumer isn't going to want to do that, but for people who have tech-savvy friends or family who might be willing to be their one-time IT staff (but might not want to routinely come over to trouble shoot SUSE) it could be a decent solution.....

Rob Pegoraro: That's what I'd like to try--although, since I don't have an external CD or DVD drive, I'll probably just try putting Ubuntu on a flash drive and booting off that, assuming I can puzzle my way through that process.


Washington, D.C.: Hello - I am hoping you can help me. I received a telephone call recently from someone who sounded to be over 60 or 65 years of age. She said I had called her - these kind of telephone calls are always so annoying, but that is not the point of my question. She indicated I called her on a date and time that neither I nor anyone else in my household were home. My question is, excluding the possibilities that this is a scam, and that a robber broke into my house, called this woman and took nothing, is it possible to configure some telephone to seem like it is dialing from another telephone number? Thank you very much.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, it is.


Rockville, Md.: Rob, if I'm using Windows Media Player to listen to a CD, then I pop in a flash drive, WMP always switches to "Library" view regardless of whether there are music files on the flash drive or not. This is really annoying and there doesn't seem to be a way to tell WMP to stop doing this.

Rob Pegoraro: Right-click on the flash drive, select Properties and then click the AutoPlay tab. You can then tell Windows to do nothing the next time you insert it.


Chicago, Ill.: I'm disappointed that they did away with the "buy it, take it home and activate it yourself" model to iPhone sales. Is this in reaction to the black market for jail broken (jail breaked?) iPhones?

Rob Pegoraro: That's what a lot of people suspect.

One thing I already know: It's going to be a huge mistake to try to buy an iPhone 3G on "opening day," unless you want to spend a long time on a line waiting to get your phone activated.




Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!

(Disclaimer: The Washington Post is not responsible if you fling your MacBook into a wall while pretending to be Luke Skywalker.)


Alexandria, Va.: Rob,

I'm considering getting a new HDTV soon. I don't have any real interest in Blu Ray though since I have a perfectly good upconverting DVD player. I'm in a quandary about 720p vs. 1080p. How soon do you think major broadcasters will enhance their, particularly sports, broadcasts so they're natively broadcast at 1080p instead of 720p or 1080i like they are currently? Is it going to be 5+ years before 1080p becomes a broadcast standard and therefore a 1080p is overkill except for watching Blu Ray movies?

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, but 1080p will *never* be a broadcast standard. You can't fit it into the bandwidth alloted to TV stations unless you change the entire encoding technology--which would merely involve replacing every digital-TV tuner and transmitter in the country.

1080p may be nice for watching pre-recorded or downloaded movies, and it can make digital photos look even better than usual. It can also be worthwhile if you want to use the HDTV as a computer monitor. But that's about it.


Grand Rapids, Mich.: Rob, you mentioned Twitter in your column on Monday, and I wonder if you could explain the benefits of Twitter. I accidentally joined it when wanting live updates on a bike race (Nature Valley Criterium) in Minnesota this week, but I'm not sure what to do and why I want Twitter. A little tutorial or explanation would be fantastic! When Tech News Breaks, Will Twitter Do the Same?

Rob Pegoraro: The best way to think of Twitter is as a public sort of text messaging. You write once, and all the people following your feed see that note. But other people can also find it, through a Web search or a link to it elsewhere.

That can used for any number of personal or business reasons. I have opted to treat my feed ( as a kind of public notebook; I jot down things that amuse, annoy or enlighten me that would never justify a blog post.


false call: The woman could also have misdialed. It's common enough.

Rob Pegoraro: Can't ignore that possibility...


Washington, D.C.: I'd like to see your online chats consistently announced on the week's online discussion schedule. Any way to arrange that? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Posting your request would be one way, I suppose...


ss, md: is this phone really light years ahead of the horrible so-called smartphone(windows mobile os)? i have a tmobile dash which is awkward and unhandy esp. compared to my old palm-based pda, which i loved but when it died last year i was advised to get a smartphone because palms were on their way out. hard to enter notes data (everything must be typed in) and bothersome to search.

Rob Pegoraro: If you don't like typing on a small keyboard, you're pretty much screwed--handwriting recognition is dead in the market for English-language input. Everybody uses keyboards, either physical (Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile) or onscreen (iPhone).


Crystal City: I am looking for a good quality all in one printer that can print a decent photo, as I am a hobby level photographer. What do you or the fellow Fast Forward crew know?

Rob Pegoraro: You will at least want a "photo" printer, which means one that uses six colors of ink instead of the usual four. You should also check out the durability of the ink, so you don't have to reprint photos that fade rapidly.

Bear in mind, though, that you won't save any money on 4-by-6 prints compared to ordering them online. Printing at home only starts to become affordable at bigger sizes, like 8-by-10s.

If anybody wants to suggest an individual make/model of printer for Crystal City, let me know and I'll post it here.


WpgManCDA: Dear Mr. Pegoraro,

Two weeks back, I submitted some questions on DVD recorders which you opted not to take. I think I now see why: I've done some research on my own and the area seems to be a complete mess. Could you please confirm a couple of things for me which may also be of interest to others out there who are archiving video on DVD:

(1) Unfinalized disks can only be used on the recorder which made them and cannot even be copied back to the original hard drive. (I can't help but think that this may be a DRM thing.)

(2) Unfinalized disks also cannot be processed or duplicated on a computer using Nero or similar programs.

If you know of some software that CAN deal with unfinalized DVDs, I think there are a lot of people out there who'd like to hear about it (at least judging by what I read in various internet discussion groups).

Finally, if we are forced to finalize disks right away for fear of losing the material forever, what would be the best software to combine material from multiple disks onto a single disk without any loss of quality?

Thank you very much, and please forgive my ignorance.

Rob Pegoraro: It's even more complicated than that--but at the same time simpler--because you've got two different kinds of rewritable DVD. (There's also DVD-RAM, but that's a non-entity in the market these days.)

* DVD-RW requires that finalization step to be playable on another DVD player or computer--although you can always erase the disc and then start from scratch. This has nothing to do with DRM, BTW.

* DVD+RW, however, does not require finalization to be playable on other devices.

Since any DVD recorder these days can burn to both types of disc, you should stick with DVD+RW media and you'll greatly simplify your life.


Silver Spring, Md.: Obligatory digital conversion comment:

I still believe the FCC is underestimating the number of devices (TVs, VCRs, portable receivers) that will go dark next year but isn't there a big story in the number of cable-connected TVs and VCRs that will go dark or need a digital box around the same date?

Do you know any estimates on how many additional TV receivers/digital DVRs will be sold due to the conversion? How about how many millions the cable companies will rake in from new subscribers and new digital cable box rentals?

I'm not saying the digital conversion should not happen but I think there will be a LOT of money made by some industry players.

Rob Pegoraro: Let's get one thing straight here: When cable customers are forced to, or are told they must, get a tuner box, that has nothing--nada, zip, zilch--to do with the digital conversion. Cable operators are moving to digital for the same reason that wireless phone companies did: because analog is a horribly inefficient way to use their systems' bandwidth. They would be doing this if the ATSC standard had never emerged from a lab.

Some people may wind up switching to cable if they can't get DTV reception to work. But I also have already heard from many readers who have been able to drop basic cable because their over-the-air picture looks so much better with digital TV.


Paris: Rob,

I skimmed your article a week ago on cell phone comparisons from self interest. Tell me, if you were in upstate New York for six weeks, where would you turn for the best deal on a cell phone? How does it work? If I were to buy a phone with a card in a discount place, would people who telephoned me on my cell phone have to pay a charge? Or would it make me accessible to those who have a more permanent cell phone service at no extra cost? Should I try getting the same carrier as my friends?

Thanks for insights on this. It's Not The Money, Can You Hear Me?

Rob Pegoraro: You'd have to start by looking at each carrier's coverage maps--they all have holes in their coverage in more rural areas.

With that info, you could then get prepaid service from whichever carrier offers the best coverage. At that point, you'd use the phone as you would any other cell phone: You make or receive calls, and you use up your allotment of minutes.


silver spring: My V1 iphone has a sim card that says "3G" on it. Does that mean I can upgrade the software (free) and use the 3G network? Or have to buy a whole new 3G iPhone? (plus pay $10 more for the 3G network).

Rob Pegoraro: No, 3G requires a different receiver. The only upgrade path to that is to buy a new iPhone.


Rosslyn, Va.: Rob, thanks for the chats! I few months ago you had an article about the ten things to do when you get a new computer. I can't seem to find it--can you post a link? 7 Steps to Get Your New Computer Running Right

Rob Pegoraro: And there you are...


Charlottesville, Va.: Rob, as an Alltel customer, what do I have to look forward to as Verizon buys buys my wireless provider? I've been pretty happy with Alltel, and all I really know about Verizon is that I'm tired of "can you hear me now."

Rob Pegoraro: The major difference ought to be getting full access to the services you're paying for across the country. (I used to have the opposite problem as a Verizon customer: Anytime I was in or near C-ville, I couldn't use any data services like Web or e-mail.) You may also get a wider selection of phones--although Verizon takes longer than most other carriers to bring new phones to market, so you may not see much of an improvement there.


Silver Spring, Md.: I have been trying without success to make Georgia or a similar font my default (for 82-year-old dim-eyed people like me). After going to the trouble of setting my outgoing email messages and replies to Georgia, I discover later that it actually transmitted in Times or Courier. I have not succeeded in receiving incoming mail in larger font as well. Also, some fonts on my machine switch to italic regular when I request bold. Suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: E-mail, by and large, is going to look different when it's received unless the recipient has the same software and settings as you. That's usually not the case. Let this go--if people have trouble reading your messages, they can change their own font settings as they see fit.

OTOH, some Web-formatted messages will ignore any settings on the receiving end. But in that case, you can still increase the text size they're displayed in (for instance, in Mozilla Thunderbird you'd hit Ctrl and the plus sign).


HDTV: We were all set on getting a Sony XBR4 46" LCD. Now there seem to be new models out (2140?) with about 26 different submodels. I just want a TV... should we just stick with the XBR4 plan?

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, unless there's some distinct feature on these new models that you were hoping to get. We're past the time when each new line of HDTVs would represent some massive upgrade in quality and capability.


False call: It's also possible, just barely, that Verizon or someone entered the wrong number in some back end system. I just spent eight weeks convincing Verizon that we were not calling flooring suppliers in Brazil dozens of times a day.

It wasn't until the actual flooring company that "shared" our phone number couldn't make any international calls that someone finally paid attention and fixed it.

Rob Pegoraro: Interesting--that's a weird one.


Washington, D.C.: I've got an iPhone ("old" iPhone now, I suppose) and while the new 3G iPhone is really tempting, I am going to hold off a bit on upgrading.

The faster data speeds and GPS are pretty cool but not quite must-haves. And a lot of the really cool stuff we saw on Monday will become available to all iPhone users when firmware 2.0 is released in the next few weeks. Further, while those low low prices for the new phone are seductive, they're almost perfectly offset by higher monthly data charges from ATT for that model ($10 over current plans) and a separately bundled SMS package ($5/month for currently included 200 monthly messages). (That's $360 over two years.) For me the deciding factor is that the new phones are being offered at a subsidized price. If I upgrade today, then, when in 6 or 10 months Apple introduces the next model (maybe with an improved camera, or 32GB memory, who knows) I'll either have to pay full freight for that one; or sit on the sidelines and forego the newer iPhone that -really- is a "must-have". (That is, as much as these fancy gadgets are ever truly a "must".)

Apple surely has a hit on its hands again, but only the most hardware-conscious of the current owners really need to give any thought to upgrading right away.

Rob Pegoraro: I suggest that any iPhone owners do the match as Washington, D.C., has here. You're not obligated to buy every new model that comes out, y'know...


D.C.: So, can these so-to-be-obsolete 1st gen iPhones be used as regular old iPods once they are no longer needed as phones? Could you a wi-fi connection as you can with the Touch?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd think so, but I haven't tried that myself or heard from anybody who has.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: I upgraded to AVG 8 and found that it basically crashes Firefox (because of the Linkscanner)and generally slowed my PC. AVG used to be a nimble small footprint application. It has turned into a bloated snail. I had to uninstall it. Leonard

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report...


Vienna: Rob, I went out and did the whole digital converter thing for a small TV on the ground floor of my house. Turns out, the digital signal is even worse than the analog signal--basically useless. Since I did this to avoid running yet more wire around the house and drilling through walls, is there any way to boost the antenna's ability to get a digital signal?

Rob Pegoraro: The usual advice in this situation--which I think is the correct advice--is to look at the antenna. Try getting a bigger one, or putting your existing one higher up.


Reston, Va.: Just a view about the changeover to digital.Why is the FCC, who's supposed to help and represent the people not handing the job of converter boxes, but instead handed it over to their Federal counterparts the NTIA?

Rob Pegoraro: Because they didn't want to get all "how do I plug in my converter box?" phone calls on Feb. 17, 2009?


St. Petersburg, Fla.: Rob,My young adult nephew, using a several-times-handed-down PC with Windows XP, has had the unit infected with Lord knows what or how much, given some sloppy surfing habits on his part. There's nothing he needs to save on the computer. If he uses something like DBAN to overwrite the hard drive, will he lose the OS as well? He doesn't have the original back-ups (of course). Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Correct, wiping the hard drive wipes everything on it. But when you have a severe infestation, you may not have any other choice.


Williamsburg, Va.: Any chance these WaPo chats might move to an AJAX format, so we don't have to keep refreshing the page? It seems like a fairly arcane/inelegant setup at the moment.

Rob Pegoraro: Jargon note: AJAX is shorthand for "asynchronous JavaScript and XML," which in turn means "Web pages that redraw and refresh parts of themselves as needed." Think of how Gmail works, in other words.

I don't know what our chat-format plans are, but I wouldn't mind seeing these things AJAX-ified.


Athens, Ga.: I have a lot of books on tape and would like to transfer them to my Ipod. Is it feasible? Thanks. Love your column.

Rob Pegoraro: It's feasible but majorly time-consuming--you'd need to plug a tape player into your computer's line-in jack, then use a program like Audacity to record the audio as a sound file, then convert it to MP3 format. You have to do this in real-time. I hope you're not looking to digitize a book-on-tape copy of Ulysses...


Falls Church, Va.: I have a wireless modem connected to a D-Link router. I have a laptop where a printer is connected. I got a new desktop for my daughter, and I can get on the Internet wirelessly with no problem. The thing is, I know I should be able to print from the desktop, but have not been able to. Could you direct me where to start?Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: You have to turn on file and printer sharing on the laptop, then keep the laptop running full time.

Some routers include a USB port into which you can plug the printer directly, which avoids that problem.

What I'd like to see is more printers that themselves included WiFi receivers. C'mon, printer vendors--it can't be that hard to make such a thing, right?


Chantilly, Va.: I've got a 3-year-old HP Pavilion desktop who's hard drive (failed) and power supply (ahem, toasted via operator error) need replacement. I'm gonna get a new machine for myself, but I'd like to repair the HP and let my 5 & 7-y.o. kids use it. Any gotchas I should watch out for, or recommendations on HDs & P/Ss? Don't need anything fancy, hoping to keep the parts under $150. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Power supplies and hard drives are pretty much generic items when it comes to desktops--I've replaced both myself, although not anytime recently. You just need to make sure each matches the specs for your machine (for instance, the hard drive has to offer the right interface: SATA, EIDE, etc.)

Also, don't connect the new parts after walking back and forth across a dry carpet, or while you're standing in a bathtub full of water.


Reston, Va.: Will the new iPhone have a speaker? I'm not sure how useful it is to me to try to drive and read a map off of my phone's screen!

Rob Pegoraro: iPhones have always had speakers.


Silver Spring: Rob, I feel like I'm the only person not enamored by the iPhone. But my current contract (Sprint) ends in July. I want something new but so far nothing else out there is really grabbing me, either. Is it worth just waiting for more info on Android? Do you expect any actual products this year?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd wait for more Android info in that case. Phones running Google's phone software are still supposed to ship this year, so you shouldn't have long to wait for those.

Sprint is talking up a few other new phones--there's this Instinct model, for instance. But the last ad I saw for that referred to it as an "iPhone killer," so it's therefore already doomed.


Rockville, Md.: Re: Wintersville's issue

I've decided that Windows doesn't know what it's talking about and just unplug the stupid external drive. It could be anything from actual background indexing to emptying the recycle bin to the fact that something on the drive is stored in the recent documents list. (I frequently have issues deleting a directory because Nero is storing the directory as the last directory used.)

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!


iphone price plans: why would they be different from my current one? even though I have a year into my AT&T contract from my first gen iPhone, they're going to make me sign a new two year deal, aren't they?

Rob Pegoraro: You do remember that we're dealing with wireless carriers here, not the Boy Scouts, right?


Washington, D.C.: In response to your question about the I-Tunes account, the hijackers didn't get the credit card number they just got into the account and bought a lot of music.

Rob Pegoraro: That's odd. Why would you go to the trouble of hacking into an iTunes account to download (mostly DRMed) music when you could just fire up BitTorrent or any other file-sharing app?

I suppose the upside here is that you weren't attacked by the world's most intelligent criminals...


To Falls Church: Or you can get a print server (wired or wireless) to connect to the router. Then, the printer can print from any computer on the router without any other computer being on.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks--forgot about that option.


Arlington, Va. - Come on Steve, GIVE US MORE STORAGE!: Why oh why does Apple insist on rolling out its best product in minuscule 8 and 16gb formats? HOW is this possible? How can you tout the video playing and Ipod capabilities of a product that can only hold 2-3 movies at best - and nothing else? I find it really, really hard to believe a 32 or 64gb product is not possible.

Rob Pegoraro: Flash memory in 64-gigabyte sizes is still painfully expensive, but 32 GB is rapidly approaching the "cheap enough" level. I'll put it this way: I doubt we're going to see more than one new generation of hard drive-based iPods.

You'll probably have your 32 GB iPhone and iPod in time for the holidays. And you'll also likely see a lot more cheap, flash-based laptops by then.


wiredog: By UMPC I meant little boxes like the EEE or the reviewed HP. They're certainly too small to be called 'laptops', right?

Rob Pegoraro: But they do still fit on laps, even if they only need half of a lap. Kneetops? Tiny laptops? Laptop-lets?

The only thing I know for sure is that the world Does Not Need yet another computing abbreviation.


tina follow up: Trashed the cache, history, temp files all that stuff.... no change. Apps work fine, stream will work fine if I get the page to display. It just doesn't seem like network traffic...never happens w/desktop...only laptop. The IE diagnostic option box appears when it happens, it always says no problems. It's very mysterious. If I have trouble connecting at a wifi spot would that help nail it down???

Rob Pegoraro: If your desktop works fine, then something's snakebit with the laptop. Is it trying to connect to a neighbor's wireless network if your own signal flickers? Make sure Windows doesn't have any other networks listed as "preferred networks."


Re: iPhone killer: You could start murdering people with an iPhone, and the tv news would refer to you as "The iPhone Killer".

Rob Pegoraro: A product manager at HP was recently photographed using a MacBook Air to cut his birthday cake--not that I'm trying to encourage anybody to follow that example.

(Disclaimer: The Washington Post is not responsible if you go on a five-state killing spree with an iPhone as a result of reading this posting.)


Tysons Corner, Va.: Why is "if we can put a man on the moon" the opener for questions about any technological advance or lack thereof?

Rob Pegoraro: That is a question... we'll have to leave for next week, as we are out of time.

(In other words: "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't Pegoraro give the chat a rest already?")

Thanks for all the questions! See y'all here in a couple of weeks...


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