Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, June 26, 2008; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, June 26 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: Welcome! My story today is about shooting things with a handheld device--no, not that kind of shooting, and not that kind of device. I wrote about the Flip Mino, a $180 digital camcorder that does less than many other videocams but it is also much easier to use than a lot of them.

We can talk about that, and any other tech topics you've got on your mind. (If, however, you've come here looking for suggestions about the cheapest source of ammo for your new Glock, I'm afraid I can't be of much help.)

Let's begin!


Flip Camcorder: I got a Flip for Christmas and love how easy it is to use. I can take it out of my bag and use it with one hand. So far I've only watched the videos through the TV, is it really that hard to download videos and e-mail them?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes--unless you're using it with a Vista or Mac OS X computer, on which the initial setup is a little less intuitive. You don't need to change any settings in your existing mail program or add any mail settings to the Flip software; it takes care of all the technical details for you.


Washington, D.C.: Your Flip review was well-timed--I'd been looking at it, but had been hesitant about the 1-hour video and the fact that it had no memory slot to expand its memory. Do you know if there's anything out there that's comparable in size to the Flip, but either records longer out of the box or has expandable memory?

Rob Pegoraro: You didn't mention comparable cost, so I'll point you to the compact digital camcorders now on the market that use only SD Card storage. Most cost at least twice as much, but they offer much better quality (some record in HD) and allow for theoretically unlimited storage.


Silver Spring, Md.: Rob,

You were way too harsh on the Flip. I bought it with full knowledge that it won't give me a great picture. What it does is allow me to throw it in my bag when I'm watching my son play ball. I can take it out and it's ready in seconds. Then after the game, I can send his at bats to his grandparents in a matter of minutes. Plus, if I break it or lose it, I'm only out $150.00. For that price, it's a steal.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for your perspective--although, in my defense, I didn't think I was all that harsh on the thing! This was actually one of the kinder reviews I've written this month, second only to last week's Firefox 3 rave.


Lancaster, Pa.: We just got a TIVO HD box. I knew we needed a cable card from Comcast to make it work. And guess what? The guy showed up on time, was very efficent and smart and polite. Installed the card and it works!

I know it is not the usual to speak well of Comcast, but in this case they did a really good job. Also, they tell us there is no charge for the first cable card. The TIVO HD box has had a hiccup, but I think we got that figured out now as well.

Rob Pegoraro: No way! I'm delighted to hear that at least one cable operator gets the whole CableCard idea. Is Comcast still giving them away for free?


Georgetown: What's the best way to record over the air HD in an uncompressed format?

I'm presently able to do this using the JVC D-VHS recorder, but my Samsung HD tuner that communicates with it is starting to fail and as far as I can tell, no one offers a tuner anymore that's designed to work with the JVC.

First off, is there a HD DVR around? I can't find one other than the DirecTV one, which I know will record its own satellite transmission, but that the satellite feed is compressed. I also know that perhaps the previous model DirecTV DVR could also record HD over the air in an uncompressed format -- does the new one do that? I can't get a straight answer.

Otherwise, is there a way to record over the air HD via a PC? My understanding is that this is easy to do with regular analog broadcasts, but for some reason you can't record HD. Is this true?

I'm really confused and any time I try to hit something like avsforums, I quickly discover that they're talking over my head.

Thanks if you can help.

Rob Pegoraro: Your two options are about what you expected:

1) The TiVoHD, as referenced in the preceding question: $299, plus fees of $12.95/month (less if you prepay for one or three years, or $399 for a lifetime subscription).

2) A combination of DTV tuner and DVR software on a computer: maybe $150 for the combo with no service fees.

Which computer DTV tuner combos do we like these days?


Compact digital camcorders....: I have an Aiptek HD camcorder that I bought for $149.00. The video is great (sound can sometimes be problematic), and it uses SD cards which makes life a lot of fun. The only other complaint I have (and this applies to a bunch of camcorders similar to the Aiptek) is the lack of any kind of powerful zoom ... usually just 4x digital, or something like that.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report!


Washington, D.C. (20003): We just got a Flip video last week and I was enjoying it until I realized yesterday that the software's incompatible with my Mac's iMovie 2008 software, a problem you also mention in your review. Any idea on when a fix for that will come through?

Rob Pegoraro: A publicist for Apple e-mailed me earlier today to say that they have, in fact, released such an update for iMovie. I need to check that--I ran Software Update on the test Mac, and iMovie '08 still wouldn't open any of the Flip's files. I'll check again later today.


Potomac, Md.: Rob, IMAP or POP with GMail. I am just getting started with GMail and they recommend IMAP rather than POP if I use another email reader. I am usng Outlook 2003 on my Windows machine and MacMail on my MacBook Pro. IMAP seems to work ok with Outlook, but on the MacBook I get this somewhat phantom Gmail mailbox which I cannot open or inspect. It always tells me that I have some number or unread emails even if all messages have been read on MacMail and/or the GMail site. Any idea what is going on? Are there benefits to IMAP that would lead me to overlook this petty annoyance? I have since reverted back to POP and everything seems to be working ok. In the FWIW department, I am only reading mail on these two machines, no mobile devices. Thanx.

Rob Pegoraro: That's odd--Mail is a much better IMAP client than Outlook overall. Have a look at this guide to setting up Mail for IMAP access (which, yes, is superior to POP in every way): How-to: Proper Gmail IMAP for iPhone & Apple Mail


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Rob, hope you can give this hardware-challenged person some guidance. I have a Sony Vaio desktop computer I purchased in 2001 which is still working just fine. It came with an HP printer which is just a printer. I recently decided I wanted to get an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/fax, as well as an external hard drive. But I think my USB ports are 1.1 or whatever the number was in 2001, and external hard drives and printers say USB 2.0. Does this mean I can't connect a new printer or hard drive? Do I need to upgrade my USB ports? Can I upgrade my USB ports and if so, how would I do it? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You're fine with USB 1.1 ports. The only difference they'll make is if you pop a memory card into the slots on the printer/scanner; it will then take longer to copy a file off the card and to your computer.


Olney, Md.: Hi Rob,

I really enjoy your chats even though I am fairly naive when it comes to many questions and answers. Question - Are there any plans to manufacter AC/DC small LCD televisions with digital tuners? We have a couple with ananolg and they come in very handly during power and cable outages.

But they become obsolete come February, right? Thank you!

Rob Pegoraro: You can already buy a portable, battery-run digital TV--Radio Shack sells one for only $100 or so.


Kensington: Rob,

Submitting early because I'll be on a plane, and I really hope you can answer this. I am ditching as a web hosting service and was wondering if you can recommend other good web hosting services or places that review such services. I don't sell anything on my site, and it is nothing fancy, but I want something with site building capabilities. Also, it shouldn't be free (for me) because I have a domain name and don't want it ad-based. I have heard good things about bluehost and hostmonster and inmotion, for example. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I have no real idea about who to suggest--what do you all think?


Firefox 3: Could they have made it look any more like Safari? Its black, on gray, on more gray. I need to search out themes I guess.

Rob Pegoraro: The Firefox developers did that to match the overall look of Mac applications these days--earlier Firefox releases got a fair amount of criticism for not looking sufficiently Mac-like.


Baltimore, Md.: I want to buy a flat-screen TV for my elderly mother, to replace her ancient TV set. But all the available LCD sets seem to be HD now. I'd rather pay less money for a digital TV that's not high-def. Will a non-HD set be obsolete soon?

Rob Pegoraro: Not at all. But it's not like you're paying some huge premium for HD capability; when you consider how almost every new computer monitor is an LCD, and how most of them operate near, at or above HD resolutions, it might be more expensive to order up an LCD fixed at an SDTV resolution.


Lancaster, Pa.: Comcast told us the first cable card is free. If you need a second they want $1 a month.

Rob Pegoraro: Still a good deal compared to the typical cable-box rental fee...


Burtonsville, Md.: Rob, I own an old, very reliable Palm Zire 71 PDA, which continues to serve me well. Unfortunately, the charger cradle has broken (the socket has come loose so that the AC power cord can no longer mate with it). All my data is sync'ed of course on my desktops. Still, when my battery power wanes to nothing, my Palm Zire 71 will become a paper-weight. Palm no longer sells the chargers for the Zire 71 and if I am unable to find one on EBay, will I be SOL or can you think of any other options (short of buying a new one) for me to keep using my perfectly good PDA?

Rob Pegoraro: I would be shocked if you can't find a Palm charger on eBay. (That reminds me--I think I've got an old Tungsten charger I've been meaning to hock on eBay!)


Rockville, Md.: My computer is over 5 years old and will need to be replaced sometime - after all, my ipod has a larger hard drive (and I have to be careful about putting more stuff on it because I don't want to give my computer's hard drive indigestion).

If I get one that has Vista, can I get rid of it and install Windows XP from the disk that came with my current computer and then install the service packs to fix all the problems? Would that give me a "good" version of XP? Do I then have to add back and update my original verion of Office? Is this going to be impossible or just really reall hard?

Can someone build me a machine with Linux? Will I be able to figure out how to use it? Should I just give up and get a Mac when the time comes?

Oh, and is there any way I can tell itunes to look at an external hard drive for its data files, so I can put more stuff on the ipod? That might work for a while....

Rob Pegoraro: As a general rule, if you have to ask if it's possible to wipe Vista from a new computer's hard drive and then install XP, you're going to have an extremely difficult time actually making this downgrade happen. I don't mean to sound harsh, but you're looking at a worst-case Windows installation, where you need to find and download drivers for the computer's hardware instead of having everything prepared by the manufacturer.

My advice to you is... well, get over it, as one D.C. notable once said. Vista is not that bad, honestly.

Or buy a Mac.


How to learn Linux?: I will be at meeting during the chat, so I hope you can answer this. I'd like to learn/play with Linux. Is there a good website that can get me started? Can I partition my hard drive and make one part XP and one part Linux? Should I use an external drive as a Linux drive and boot from that? I'm not ready to get off XP, but would like to understand what Linux offers. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Visit and download yourself a copy of the "desktop edition" of this Linux distribution--you'll get a "disc image" file that, when burned to a CD, will yield a bootable "LiveCD" that will run Linux without touching anything on your hard drive. If you like what you see, you can then install Ubuntu alongside Windows.


Webhosting: Forum here:

WebHosting TALK

Best to go review there, because each host has its advantages and disadvantages, and the post here didn't give enough precision on needs.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!


Fairfax City, Va.: Hi Rob,

In your Sunday column a reader asked about a computer screen that is readable in sunlight. I believe the One Laptop per Child's XO can do just that.

Also, in a previous answer in this chat, you mentioned the cost of a "lifetime" subscription to TiVo. We recently discoverd "lifetme" doesn't mean your lifetime, it's only the "lifetime" of the TiVo machine. In our case, it lasted only 3 years. Nice. Help File

Rob Pegoraro: True about the TiVo lifetime deal--but I've also heard from multiple TiVo owners who persuaded the company to let them transfer their subscription to a new model. As with a lot of tech services, what you get depends on your aptitude for bargaining.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I have a client who wants to watch TV on her new Imac, OS 10.5. She has Comcast cable. Any ideas? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: That will only be possible, AFAIK, if she only wants to watch basic analog channels; in that case, you could add a TV tuner module like Elgato's eyeTV.


Arlington, Va.: Rob,

How do I legally transfer a Microsoft Office license from an old, sick laptop to a new one? (Purchased the software at Best Buy - not OEM)

I know that the license agreement technically allows this - but am I going to have issues with registration when its installed on a Vista machine (currently on an XP machine)?


Rob Pegoraro: I think--but don't quote me on this--that the standard Office license lets you put one copy on a desktop and one on a laptop. In that case, you're fine. If not, you'll have to call Microsoft's hotline when the second install won't activate, explain the situation and get a new activation code for it.


Arlington, Va.: Rob, We just bought a 32 inch Sony Bravia LCD TV and are totally new to the world of 16:9 ratio, HD broadcasts, etc.

I noticed that when playing a DVD that says it is in 16:9 ratio, there still seems to be some letterboxing at the top and bottom. As a bit of a math geek this bothers me. If it is a 16:9 disk and the TV is 16:9 shouldn't it fill the screen perfectly? And it seems to be slightly different with each disk....

Am I missing something here or is it just not a "perfect" system? By the way, I did set the DVD player to know that the TV is in 16:9 ratio, my Tivo box did that automatically!

Rob Pegoraro: there is nothing wrong with your set! Not all DVDs have an aspect ratio (width: height) of exactly 16:9; many movies have a picture wider than even that, which requires a small amount of letterboxing to fit the screen.


Arlington, VA.: Kensington - Try Dreamhost or MediaTemple with WordPress (gives you hosting and site-building capability)

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks...


Alexandria, Va.: Re: Which computer DTV tuner combos do we like these days?

For my Mac, I recently got the EyeTV from Elgato, and it does a great job at recording HD (and regular analog, too). It even looks like it has a better digital tuner than my actual TV has, since The EyeTV can pick up a few weak channels that my real TV can't.

According to the manual, it just records the MPEG stream (for digital channels) that comes in exactly as it comes in. I'll assume that's what the previous poster wants, even though all digital signals are technically compressed.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks to you as well!


Philly, PA.: I think that little flip camera would be ideal for a typical Nats fan. You take low res footage, watch it on a tiny screen, squint your eyes and tilt your head a little bit and you might fool yourself into thinking you've got a team worth watching!

Rob Pegoraro: Phillies fans, the classiest in baseball!


Hudsonville, Mich.: I found that XP is not available on new Dell laptops, and soon that will be the case for Toshiba also.... I was planning to avoid getting Vista on a new laptop in September, since it would just throw off my in-laws, who are senior citizens and love "their own programs and email just the way they are." What do you suggest for me? I don't run Vista personally; I am a Mac person and have lots of previous experience with XP. Should I just shop around with smaller business providers and hunt down a laptop with XP preinstalled? Should I pull my head out of the sand?

Thanks so much!

Rob Pegoraro: I think you're kind of... well, doomed. XP would be the path of least resistance, except by September you're going to have a really hard time finding it for sale anywhere. (Except for ultra-light computers like the Asus Eee PC and the HP Mini-Note, which probably wouldn't work too well for a lot of older eyes.)

You could get a Vista machine and tweak its settings so it looks mostly like an XP computer, but even then Windows Mail will look dramatically different. Or you could get them a Mac and be prepared to invest some time upfront in walking them through the basics there.


Washington, D.C.: Rob --I'm looking for a decent quality, small, and affordable camera I can mount on my bicycle (handlebars) to take photos while I ride. A bit like the Flip, but a still, no-frills camera. Thoughts, suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: You could always duct-tape the Flip to the handlebars. (Yes, I've been waiting for an excuse to give a duct-tape answer.)

There are also a few "sports" videocams that are designed to attach to bike and ski helmets... oh, wait, you're talking about just photos, not video. Well, I'm going to stick with the duct-tape advice. Buy a cheapo camera and duct-tape it to the handlebars.


Tivo HD?: Wait, you mean there's a way to run the HD Tivo and not need a separate cable box from Comcast? We couldn't get our old non-HD Tivo to work with our cable changing issues and whatnot. We heart the Tivo and Comcast's DVR just isn't up to snuff.

Rob Pegoraro: Exactly. Call up Comcast and ask for a CableCard (two, actually, if you want to record and watch different shows at once). And let me know how things go... I've heard *all kinds* of stories about cable operators and CableCards.


Arlington, Va.: Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I have a client who wants to watch TV on her new Imac, OS 10.5. She has Comcast cable. Any ideas? Thanks.

One idea would be to get her a Slingbox. That might fit her needs.

Rob Pegoraro:[taps head in recognition] Ah, yes, that would work as well.


Washington, D.C.: A neat dilemma. When I go to to install adblockplus I get the message "Firefox has prevented this site ( from installing on your computer." What's going on here? Is my OS, Microsoft Millenium, simply out of date?

Rob Pegoraro: I have no idea. Do you want to know how long it's been since I've sat down in front of a copy of Windows ME?


Washington, D.C.: This is one of those questions so basic and dumb that I'm almost ashamed to ask it. Almost.

Back in the early '80s, when PCs were new and we learned to use them in the college computer lab, they'd close the lab and drive everybody away from the computers when a thunderstorm blew up. I assume they were worried about lightening strikes. Recently, when I've been on my little Mac laptop, connected to a DSL modem and plugged into my surge protector, and a thunderstorm blows up, I've I need to get off the computer like in the old days? Has anything changed with regards to lightening and computers? Or were they all wrong in the first place?

Rob Pegoraro: Your computer--and any other plugged-in electronic devices--can still get smoked by a lightning strike. But if you have a good surge protector (or, better yet, UPS) and if the lightning isn't on top of you, there isn't necessarily a huge risk.


Washington, D.C.: Instead of no need for the Flip video cam because cell phones can/should do it all, wouldn't it be nice if cell phones could be both inexpensive and limited to only the basic; making and receiving phone calls with only, perhaps a speed dial or speed list search and dial?

Rob Pegoraro: You can buy phones like that--the Jitterbug I wrote about a while back, or the Coupe that Verizon sells. (But if you try to make *me* use a phone that can't get to the Web or send text messages, you'll be asking for a fight.)


Alexandria, Va.: In my Mac mail program, how do I send an email to multiple people who aren't in my address book? If I separate with commas or spaces, I get an error message saying that the combined name is not a valid address. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Um, you'd type the address as you would in every other e-mail program on the market:,, etc. The only way that won't work is you leave a space in each e-mail address.


Tempe, Ariz.: Hey Rob! Thanks for taking my question. Is there a way to permanently change the default font in Microsoft Word? I loathe Times New Roman (plus, my company uses Trebuchet for all our documents) so I can virtually guarantee that I will never, ever produce a document in Times New Roman. Is there anything I can do to keep from having to change the font manually every time I create a new document, table, etc? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I share your loathing for Times New Roman (though for me, it might be more like a sense of jaded contempt). But Word suffers from the irritating habit of picking up new default styles from every new file you open. So although you can change the default style--in Word 2007, get the font settings as you want, then click the "Change styles" button in the ribbon and choose "Set as default"--you may find Word starts to ignore your wishes.


TiVo HD: Actually you only need one Cable Card for the TiVo. It will record two shows at once just fine like that. Only if you want to record two shows AND watch another show at the same time would you need the two cards. I have never run into that problem.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the clarification


Takoma Park, Md.: Windows ME?!?!?!!??!

Rob Pegoraro: My apologies to anybody frightened by that phrase.


Camera on Bike: If you do a google search on - camera mount bicycle - you'll find some cool ideas in blogs. If you have a good enough mount, you could use a pretty good camera. And I'd suggest getting a camera that will take one of those cable devices (cable release?) you plug into the picture taking button and duct tape the other end to your handlebar for easy access.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks! I may have to do some research of my own on this...


Webhosts: I have had good experiences with ipower.web . Full disclosure -- I have not done a thorough web search to read reviews and compare specs of hosts any time in the last 2 years. The last time I did it (when I found ipower) it was extremely overwhelming as there are approximately 32 trillion companies offering webhosting. After a few hours of searching I realized that most of them pretty much offer the same thing, and it wasn't worth the expense to spend more hours on it when I had sites to design. ipower has a great deal on now for as low as $3.48/month:

Rob Pegoraro: Here's more on the Web-hosting query from earlier in the chat....


Alexandria, Va.: I'm planning on giving up on Microsoft and getting an Apple laptop. Anything to keep in mind? Is there any value in waiting (expected upgrades, etc.)?

Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: For most people, the MacBook is all the laptop that's necessary--the added features of the MacBook Pro (or the lower weight of the MacBook Air) don't justify their higher prices. A gig of memory should be fine for OS X, but at least double that if you'll run Windows inside a virtual-machine app like Parallels or Fusion.


New York, N.Y.: I downloaded Windows XP Service Pack 3 on Monday and it ruined-----------m-y- -------c-omput-e-r----..-.-----I-'-m not- writ-ing -like -t-his----- -i-t';--s part of what the Service Pack 3 did to my comput-e-r------PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!!!! - The amount of free disk space which had stood at 66% before the download went down to 37% right now. O__bv-i-ou-sl-y---------_I- tried to get rid of Pack 3 by doing System Restores, but I'm afraid this is going to have to be seen by a professional. I am so angry at Microsoft tha--t-it's beyond words, Eddy Herrera, New York City.

Rob Pegoraro: It hurts just to read this post--and, unfortunately, I don't have any useful advice for NYC's Windows victim.


Washington, D.C.: Rob:

This is more about the versus PT but...every time I click on a video link that is listed in (For all of your content of course), I get the video player to show up but its says loading advertising and then caput.

Same thing with as well - it is truly hit or miss.

This is true with both PC and Mac and on several different types of networks...but yet Youtube always works....

What gives?

Is Youtube just that much better?

Rob Pegoraro: Make sure you're running the latest version of Adobe Flash--I don't think we use any other video format these days.


Firefox: You wrote a glowing review, but many of the comments mentioned problems. So far, Firefox has not told me to update--is it going to do so? Am I asking for security trouble if I just wait until it forces itself on me, hoping they work out some of the kinks mentioned in the comments? Building a Better Browser: Firefox Keeps Innovating

Rob Pegoraro: I've seen those comments, but I have not had any of the problems described there on any of the computers I've installed Firefox 3 on--we're now talking 8 or 10 different installations. In fact, I can't think of a smoother upgrade around.

Note, also, that a lot of people complaining about Ff 3 are actually complaining about browser extensions that don't work in the new browser. They would be better off directing their ire at programmers who haven't updated their extensions for a browser that's been available in various alpha, beta and release-candidate builds for about a year.


Is my OS, Microsoft Millenium, simply out of date?: Dude, ME has been out of date for quite some time. It's the worst edition of Windows ever produced and was only available for a short time period. I know because I'm one of the unfortunates who purchased a computer during those few months. You might not even be able to upgrade it at this point.

Rob Pegoraro: What she/he said. The only upgrade for a computer running Millennium at this point is a copy of Linux or a brand-new computer.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I am really hoping that you can help me with this problem. Right off the bat, it is not in my add/remove programs and when I go into the registry it is not there either so I can't figure out where this program is hiding. Thanks in advance

In any event, here it is:

Unhandled exception has occurred in your application. If you click continue the application will ignore this error and attempt to continue. If you click quit the application will close immediately. Index was outside the bounds of the array.

If I click continue: a box comes up asking me to select my provider and the box is blank

Error signature:

Eventype: CLRZ0R3

P1: watchmycell.exe


P3: 45ec4e95

P4: watchmycell


P6: 45sec4e95

P7: 16

P8: 2

P9: system.nullreference exception

Rob Pegoraro: Programs that show up neither in Add/Remove Programs or in the Registry are often spyware. Have you run a security scan lately?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob,

I'm thinking about getting a MacBook. I was also considering getting a time capsule for the wireless and backup, but I also have an older airport that works fine. Are there other, cheaper backup options I should consider before dropping a couple hundred on a time capsule? I just don't see myself using 500 GB

Rob Pegoraro: Just get a bus-powered FireWire hard drive and keep that near the MacBook; Time Machine will work with that just as well as with a Time Capsule.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob,

Do you or any chatters know what equipment/software I would need to transfer cassette tapes into digital music files? I got a bunch of concert bootlegs my fiance is raising a fuss about, and I honestly will probably never listen to them again if they stay in cassette form. Trying to keep the price under $200, but whatever.

Thanks for your help.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's the form e-mail I've been sending to readers for the past few years:

We ran a how-to story on this a while back--good news is, you shouldn't have to buy more than $20 or so of hardware, then download some free software:

Digital Transformation Revives Old Records

More recently, I wrote about a colleague's experience with a turntable that plugs directly into a computer:

Vinyl to MP3, the Hard Way

- R


Tivo and cable cards: Negative on the person about saying you only need one. To get full functionality (recording two shows at once, or recording one channel and watching another) you either need one multistream cable card, or two normal cards. If you only have one normal card only one of the Tivo's two tuners will function. There is no way to record two channels and watch another, you can only record two channels and watch a previously recorded program.

Rob Pegoraro: And still more on TiVo and CableCards...


Computers are the new 'junk' storage facility?: Your columns & chats are absolutely terrific. I refer friends and family all the time. Hope you can help. Running out of storage space and now will invest in at least a 1TB external firewire drive for backup of multiple drives (Mac OSX 10.4.x for now)When will prices be most likely to really drop significantly? Where can I look to see what the trend is? I read that external storage price drops and efficiency gains are much slower than either internal drives or processor improvements.Thanks for any recommendations.

Rob Pegoraro: Whoever told you that the cost of external storage declines slower than the cost of internal storage was, at best, seriously misinformed. Storage gets cheaper across the board, no matter if it's inside the PC or outside of it.

Go ahead and buy now. I'm not aware of anything that's going to cause some steep drop in the price of external hard drives.


Re: Imap on macs: I have read (and experienced) confirmation that apple mail is very inefficient with any imaps with LARGE numbers of email, and that seems to include some especially slow/stubborn interface between gmail and apple mail (also iphones). Shutting down Apple Mail almost always requires force quit if the Gmail imap account inolves large numbers. There are tons of postings across many blogs and mac sites about this. It's pathetically flawed. I've gone back to pop. I have a hushmail imap that is perfect. So why can't Apple and Google figure out what works? They can, they simply prefer to innovate and sell, not maintain or fix all the bugs and problems they've also created in the wake of innovation.

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, but I've been using Mail with two IMAP accounts that both feature, as you say, LARGE numbers of messages, and I can't recall any hangups I've seen.


Bethesda, Md.: Rob, the EyeTV seems like a neat solution for watching TV on a Mac, but wouldn't it be relatively simple for Apple to add the same capability to AppleTV?

Rob Pegoraro: It probably would. But that doesn't mean that Apple will necessarily do that.


Tina in Falls Church re: ME: My 90 year old neighbor still has his machine gimping along with ME....what a sad case. I told him I just couldn't fix it and he would have to get a new one. He refuses to change.

Rob Pegoraro: There's nothing you can do there but walk away (and hope the guy doesn't get hit with a virus that turns his computer into some spam-relaying zombie).


Burke, Va.: You regularly encourage everyone to back up their files on an external hard drive or other medium. What software do you recommend for backing up data?

Rob Pegoraro: If you use a Mac, Time Machine, or iBackup on pre-Leopard systems. In Windows, I've liked SyncBack Freeware but am willing to reconsider if people can suggest an alternative that doesn't require you to know where all your programs store their data.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Rob! Can you tell me how to use iTunes to create a playlist of playlists? The directions (from one of your articles) worked except iTunes ALWAYS rearranges the order of songs in each playlist added to the playlist of lists. Thanks! Walter

Rob Pegoraro: If you're talking about a smart playlist, make sure you uncheck the checkboxes next to "limit to"; that should yield a static playlist that won't reshuffle itself. (If it doesn't, try unchecking "live updating" as well.)


XP service pack 3: Hi Rob,

Will service pack 3 eventually be part of automatic updates to XP? If so, is it best to simply disable "automatic updates" at this point and manually install all updates from here on out, to prevent SP3 problems?


Rob Pegoraro: Falling back to manual updates is no real solution--a lot of the fixes that arrive automatically fix vulnerabilities that could get your computer "owned" in a hurry.

XP3 is not an automatic update yet, but it will become one later this summer. If you're that anxious about it, hold off for now--if nothing else, that gives Microsoft and other developers more time to fix any issues with it. (Which, I should add, has installed fine in my tests.)


Rob Pegoraro: That's going to do it for today, folks--I need to read up on domain-name politics so I sound halfway intelligent about same for a radio interview at 4. Thanks... talk to you all soon!


Kingstowne, Va.:"Your computer--and any other plugged-in electronic devices--can still get smoked by a lightning strike. But if you have a good surge protector (or, better yet, UPS) and if the lightning isn't on top of you, there isn't necessarily a huge risk."

This is something that bears underscoring for the prior poster, who sounds like he may not have thought much about these issues. Don't just plug the computers into a UPS or surge suppressor (and I don't mean one of those cheapo $10 power strips, either; buy a heavy-duty unit). Also make sure the phone or cable line that provides your Internet connection runs through the surge suppressor.

Also, put your DVR boxes on a UPS so that if you have a recording set and the power goes out there's a chance it might finish. A rather obvious idea that lots of people overlook!

Finally, something that a lot of people don't know is that modern laundry machines and garage-door openers should be on surge suppressors too due to the internal circuit boards that can be fried. You remember last summer when a Redskins preseason game ended in the third quarter due to lightning? Before that happened, there was a lightning strike in my neighborhood. All my PC equipment, TVs, and stereo equipment survived in fine shape (and I promptly bought all new surge suppressors). But my laundry machine, garage-door opener, thermostat, and outdoor light timer were all fried. The laundry machine, it turns out, contains a circuit board that is about the size of five cigarette packs placed next to each other, and parts and labor to replace it ran $361. The repairman told me that very few people realize that these kinds of machines contain electronics and so most people don't use surge suppressors for them.

Be forewarned!!!!!

Rob Pegoraro: (OK, one more, just because it goes into such detail.)


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