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Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, July 17, 2008; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, July 17 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss his recent reviews and blog posts.

This Story

Read transcripts of Rob's past tech discussions here.

Editor's Note: This chat was previously scheduled for July 10, but was moved to July 17 so that Rob could answer questions about the new iPhone 3G.

A transcript follows.

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Rob Pegoraro: I'd like to say that I'm typing this from the iPhone 3G I reviewed today, but while that's certainly possible, it's also likely to lead to my fingers falling off about 45 minutes into this chat.

I do, however, have said iPhone on the desk next to my keyboard. So if you've got any questions about the thing, I should be able to take care of them. Questions about other personal-tech topics? They're welcome too.

Let's start...

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Vienna, Va.: I recently downloaded and installed the iPhone 2.O software on my year-old iPhone. Battery life now seems shorter. Am I the only one who seems to have this problem? I have turned off the "push" feature.

Rob Pegoraro: I'll begin with this one. You are the first person I've seen report such a problem with the 2.0 software on an older iPhone, but that doesn't mean you're alone. Has anybody here seen the same problem?

(It's possible that having a bunch of interesting, Internet-connected third-party apps on your iPhone is leading you to spend more time online, and therefore running down your battery faster.)

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Rob - I was wondering if you thought that AT&T would ever drop the contract length requirement from 1 to 2 yrs? I would consider switching, but I'm afraid of committment (much to the chagrin of my gf!

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You could go into a store and ask, but I doubt they'd play ball with an iPhone. At some point you'll be able to buy an iPhone without signing up for any contract with AT&T--but this no-commitment iPhone (still locked to AT&T) will sell for $300 or $400 more than the prices advertised today.

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Bethesda, Md.: So if you're already an AT&T customer (on a fairly expensive data plan), already a .Mac/MobileMe subscriber, and didn't buy a first-gen iPhone, it sounds like you would rate the 3G iPhone a solid buy. Yes?

Rob Pegoraro: You read me right.

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Laurel: Rob, did you read the article that iPhones are selling for $1,000 in Belgium because that country's laws prohibit charging low prices for one product to be subsidized through higher prices of a related one: Quirk in Belgian law drives iPhones near $1,000

This goes to show that the $2/300 retail prices here aren't really the issue -- the $75/month for service is.

I'm currently a prepaid user who spends about $15/month; I'd go somewhat higher for data. Do you know of any phone/prepaid combination that does 2/3 of what an iPhone does for 1/3 of the service price? (I'd pay an equal amount for the phone itself, if it was unlocked.)

Rob Pegoraro: I hadn't heard about that Belgian situation--that's kinda nuts.

I can't think of any Internet-connected smartphones with service costs anywhere close to a third of an iPhone's $75/month. At most, you could get your bill down to 2/3--Sprint's rates for unlimited Web use on a Palm, Windows Mobile or BlackBerry device are at about that. So are T-Mobile's, but the company's 3G network is far more embryonic than even AT&T's.

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Washington, D.C.: Something very strange happened a few weeks ago and I'm hoping you can shed some light on the situation. One night, every phone call I made to my mom got switched - I got a random person and my mom got a call from a stranger although the call showed up as being from my phone number (with my ringtone and everything). It almost caused a major panic, as my mom thought I had been kidnapped and no one could get in touch with me (I had entered the metro station) and they thought there was another brunette intern in D.C. story brewing.

I'm familiar with getting interference through crosstalk, but I can't find anything about this specific phenomenon online. We both use T-Mobile (who said there was some problem, but were very vague). Do you know anything? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: This is even odder. (I'm picturing Lily Tomlin's Ernestine character at a switchboard, cackling wildly as she connects calls at random.) Can you e-mail me with the details? Or just post 'em here--at least, what date did this happen on?

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Alexandria, Va.: Rob, I love these chats. Recently Walmart and Best Buy began selling a Blu Ray player made by Funami priced anywhere between $298-329. At Walmart it's under the Magnavox brand and at Best Buy it's the Insignia. Have you seen this player in action yet, and if so, what's your opinion? With a price as low as $298, it makes me consider jumping into Blu Ray sooner than I expected to.

Rob Pegoraro: Just skimmed a discussion thread about this series of players on AVSForum.com, and it seems it's a decent player. FWIW, CNet gave it a 6 of 10 rating: Philips BDP7200

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Arlington, Va.: Thanks for all of your hard work and advice Rob. Do think that Apple will be dropping its prices on the iPod Touch anytime soon?

Rob Pegoraro: They have to. The touch's pricing looks absurd next to an iPhone's, even though it doesn't come with any monthly fees--if nothing else, the plummeting price of flash memory ought to let them knock a $100 off it without feeling any pain.

But don't ask me when this will happen. A month ago, I would have told you that this price cut had to happen before the iPhone 3G shipped.

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Bethesda, Md.: Am considering switching from Dell to IMac (24 inch). It contains a DVD burner. Should I wait for the new Blue Ray DVD? Is it relevant for computers eg photos, converting my classical LP's, et al? Thanks, Fred Luskin

Rob Pegoraro: Do not wait for Blu-ray on a computer. You'll still need multiple discs to backup your data, and it will cost more. But what really skeeves me out about Blu-ray support is all the DRM this format requires. The absolute *last* thing any operating system needs these days is a few layers of code running behind the scenes that do nothing but police what use I make of my property.

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Silver Spring: Hi Rob, My husband and I want to be able to take videos of our son -- we don't need anything too fancy, although we do want the ability to edit video. I saw your review of the FlipVideo and we want/need more than that. So, my question to you is two-fold: do you recommend any specific camcorders? What do you think of the point-and-shoots that also take video? Thank you!

Rob Pegoraro: I'd get a digital camera with a good video mode--which, provided you don't need HD video, means pretty much anything over entry level. They all now record 640 x 480 video (aka, about the same resolution as DVD), and you should be able to edit this with any decent video application.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks, Rob, for the review of the iPhone 3G. I purchased one recently - upgrading from a Sony Ericsson with no data plan - and was shocked at the low battery life for the first three days.

I found that for me the big battery saver wasn't turning off 3G, or even wireless, but the "Location Services." That alone doubled the battery life for my uses. Traveling to and from work, I hardly need to know my GPS location.

Rob Pegoraro: I will pass along this tip to anybody else struggling to get their iPhones to run longer on a charge. Thanks!

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McLean,Va.: Is anyone else having trouble using the new my yahoo with Firefox 3? One of the major irritants is not being taken back to the original place on a page after clicking on an item and then clicking to go back. It always takes me back to the top of the page instead of taking me to where I had been on tht page.

Rob Pegoraro: Somehow, Yahoo doesn't seem to have upgraded my own "My Yahoo" page--or this new design looks exactly like the old one--so I can't answer this one. Can anybody else here suggest a solution?

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Los Angeles, Ca.: re: former .mac customers who have become mobile me I run a g4 with Sys X.4.11 - I have 2 months of service left on my current contract but can't isync any of my info including contacts & bookmarks & I can't use ecards do you know what apple will do to customers like myself who paid for service that they stopped Thanks, Hal

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't heard of any on-the-record policy. I suspect that if you asked an Apple Store rep in person, they might refund you your money (their retail personnel seem to have the authority to cut deals like this, to judge from numerous reader reports).

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Vienna, Va.: I've made the mistake of paying for what was Musicmatch Jukebox and now is Yahoo! Music Jukebox. Yahoo! isn't supporting it anymore. Not only that, but, in my opinion, it's worse than when it was Musicmatch.

What's the best program for holding my music, making CDs, etc.? Is Windows Media as good as any other (and free)?

Rob Pegoraro: Windows Media is only OK--Microsoft has let the rust build up on that while it focuses on its Zune software. I'd go with iTunes, even if you don't use an iPod. (Though, if you use a non-iPod player, iTunes won't talk to that on a PC.)

FWIW, I agree with your complaint about the shameful way Yahoo has let MusicMatch rot. And that's hardly the only acquisition Yahoo has botched.

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Alexandria, Va.: I have installed Mozilla Firefox on my desktop. I really like it! I am very frustrated because it will not allow Adobe Acrobat to function, tried following instructions to bypass problem - I cannot make it work. Can you suggest a place where I might learn how to USE my computer that does not start by telling me how to turn it on? I cannot believe I am at the mercy of a machine which I enjoy so much but have absolutely no control over. (71 yrs old-not senile yet) Machine: Sony VARIO PCV-RX671 Thank you, Sandra Phelps

Rob Pegoraro: Well, first you should make sure you're using the latest release (Adobe Reader 9), not some older revision. Another option is to use some other PDF reader, like Foxit--although last I checked, that one doesn't run as a plug-in inside Firefox, so PDFs will open separately in Foxit. (It's a free download at foxitsoftware.com)

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Old Town Alexandria: Hi Rob, How often should a home wireless Internet user update or replace their wireless router? I currently have a Linksys WRT54G router. I read in one of your chats that WPA encryption is better than WEP, so I tried to re-configure my router for WPA and now it's all a mess. I noticed the new Linksys routers with UltraRangePlus and such, just wanted to know if you recommend replacing routers regularly or not.

Rob Pegoraro: Routers should not "go bad"--the one I'm using at home is about five years old and shows no signs of aging. But if you have a router that simply doesn't support WPA, it's time to upgrade.

Your router, however, supports WPA by all accounts. It's not the easiest thing to configure (which you might expect from a company that uses names like, say, "WRT54G"), but this walkthrough might clarify things for you:

Wireless Security: WPA Step by Step

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Severna Park, Md.: So when AT&T says the iPhone plan is unlimited, that means unlimited, right, and not "virtually unlimited" or some other such marketing creation that will allow them to hit customers with data overage charges later on.

I've learned to expect the worst when it comes to phone companies.

Rob Pegoraro: The last I'd heard from an AT&T rep, he stated repeatedly that there are no quotas to its "unlimited" Internet offering for smartphones. But that doesn't mean that the company couldn't impose one later on--terms-of-service documents usually say that the company can change the rules as it sees fit.

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Reston, Va.: Hi Rob -- I'm using a 7-year old R40 Thinkpad. Recently, my screen went dim the way it does when you're running on battery, except that I'm running on power, not battery. Settings are all normal and battery is charged (although only at 25% capacity). Any suggestions. Thank you for your time.

...Fred T

Rob Pegoraro: Your backlight may be going bad, in which case you should probably just buy a new laptop--screen repairs are not cheap for laptops, while new laptops are quite cheap themselves.

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Burnsville, Minn.: So how does one use this new iPhone in the car? Is there some type of mounting aparatus or holder or does it just lay on the seat?

Rob Pegoraro: Um, you'd use it like any other cell phone--on the seat, in your hand (laws permitting), in your pocket (if your car has Bluetooth), in the passenger's hands (for navigational purposes).

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W. Bethesda, Md.: Rob, I really don't think I need an iPhone but I have a VERY old iPod I've been thinking of replacing and I would like to have a personal PDA. From what I read, I'm thinking an iPod Touch could not only replace my aging iPod, but also would give me a PDA I could synch with my computer as well ad portable WiFi capability. Does this make sense or am I missing something? Also, can you download and run programs to Touch in the same way you can for the iPhone? I'm assuming that in this sense it would be the same as downloading to an original iPhone. True? Thanks for all the great info and advice.

Rob Pegoraro: Your understanding of the iPod touch is correct--it's the closest thing to a Newton replacement Apple has ever shipped, inasmuch as the Newton had Internet but not voice capabilities. And yes, the touch can run the same programs as an iPhone. But you should wait to see if Apple doesn't (finally) cut the price on the iPod touch.

Although I warned you not to trust my predictions on this earlier today, I have to think that Apple would adjust its pricing before back-to-school shopping kicks in.

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Not an iPhone question: Hi there. I am one of your converts into the non-admin account,especially for surfing. My problem is my iTunes library.

On my admin account, I successfully moved the iTunes library to a shared folder. Got the iTunes to sync up with that folder on the admin account, but cannot get it to sync up on the non-admin account. I temporarily changed both to admin accounts and then Consolidate the Library but that didn't work. Any suggestions? If I still have to connect to itunes (with my iphone) in the admin account this defeats the purpose of having a non-admin account.

Rob Pegoraro: Actually, it's Brian Krebs who advocates using non-admin accounts. I don't, precisely because of situations like this.

I would give up on putting the iTunes library in a shared folder separate from the non-admin account's home directory--that raises too many file-sharing issues for the non-admin account. You'd probably have better luck setting the Music folder in the non-admin account to be shared, then trying to connect to that from the admin account (the idea being, reserve any unusual or non-standard tasks for the account with greater privileges).

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Arlington, Va.: Rob, In the past few weeks I have seen an exponential increase in the amount of spam I get (getting through the first line Earthlink filters and my Apple Mail filtering). I have had my email address for at least 7-8 years and know that there is no way to keep it totally protected, but I try to keep it as clean as possible and clearly someone has added it to some lists recently.

But the most annoying and potentially disturbing part is the spate of "Mail Delivery Subsystem: Could Not Send Message for X Hours" emails I have been receiving. I got about 20 of them in 1 day. They have a bunch of yahoo.com addresses in the body and often an attachment for some online casino at the bottom.

I know that someone is sending these out with my email as the "from" email, but is there ANYTHING I can do to stop this short of changing my email address (which I am not inclined to do unless I have to)? I hate the idea of all these people thinking I'm sending this spam out and I worry that my email address will be added to a quarantined list. Or are the blacklists based on IP addresses, not email addresses (which are so easy to spoof)?

Thanks for taking my question.

Rob Pegoraro: No.

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Alexandria: Hi Rob, I want a basic (not an HTIB) system that comes with fairly small speakers but gets good sound in the price range of about $1K, any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: I've been pondering this same issue (although my shopping difficulties are compounded by the fact that I'd like to get an HD Radio tuner in the receiver, which limits me to three or four models at the moment). Assuming that "not an HTIB" (home theater in a box) means you're looking for separate components, the price ought to be doable--surround-sound home-theater receivers don't run that much, DVD players are dirt cheap and you don't have to spend a fortune to get small-ish speakers.

One option that I'm considering for speakers, FWIW, is one of those "soundbar" speakers, where all of the separate speakers in surround-sound system (aside from the subwoofer) are consolidated into one assembly sized to fit under a flat-panel HDTV. Polk Audio makes one of these that sells for $500 or so that seems to get decent reviews.

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Annapolis, Md.: For the user who doesn't think s/he needs an iPhone but wants the iPod touch, I suggest considering the iPhone. If you already have a phone with a voice or data plan around $75/month (which is the cheapest iPhone plan), it's worth switching (assuming you don't have to pay to cancel your contract).

The iPod touch is really cool but software updates are not free. While Apple can roll out updates to iPhone users, iPod touch users have to pay for each software update/upgrade (i.e., the January applications bundle or the recent 2.0 OS upgrade). These $10 updates may not be too much individually, but they add up. If you're already spending $75 (or close to it) on a phone and/or data plan, you might as well get the iPhone. Even an previously owned 1st generation iPhone might be worth the investment (and can probably be had for a hundred or so bucks, if not a tad more).

Rob Pegoraro: Good point, but remember the "if"--if you're not spending that $75 a month in phone fees, this math breaks down. AT&T's coverage also has to work for your own situation.

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JP, Winnipeg, Canada: Re: iPod Touch as PDA

I have a touch which I bought hoping to be able to replace my old Palm TX. The touch is better in most respects (easier to use, more reliable WiFi, music/video work much better, better calendar/contacts software, etc) but I still find I have to use the Palm sometimes because many of the programs I rely on are not available for the touch. That's really the only sticking point I have for the touch as PDA.

I'm hoping that most of the programs I use on the Palm will be available on the touch soon, but who knows.

Rob Pegoraro: You may not get the exact same programs--although I've seen iPhone apps from some names I recognize, like SplashData--but you're almost guaranteed to find equivalent apps. For instance, if you use HandyShopper on a Palm, there are several different grocery-list programs available for the iPhone/iPod touch.

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Lancaster, Pa.: Without warning I receive a message that I am offline. Sure enough when I go into Tools Work Offline is checked. I uncheck it (have to do this some times 3 or 4 times) and everything resumes. I certainly didn't check it, my network is up, my modem seems fine. I've been told that if IE can't get out it assumes that I want to work offline. Needless to say I don't care for its assumption. Don't tell me to switch to Firefox. That's not an option. I'm running XP Tablet Edition SP2. Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: I can't answer this without finding out why Firefox is "not an option." And if you're still using IE 6--sorry, can't help you at all:

Internet Explorer 6 Support Ends Here

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Honolulu, Hawaii: Hi Rob,

I recently installed Adobe Reader 9. I was surprised that the installation came along with Adobe Air. What is Adobe Air? Do I need this application? My computer use is minimal, just surfing and email. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Adobe Air is a framework program that lets you run Web-based apps outside of a browser. It could be useful, but I've yet to see any Air-based apps start climbing up the pop charts. Are there any I ought to try out?

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Austin, Tex.: Apple surely had to realize that there would be a great demand for the 3G. Do you think they are trying to gin up more demand by limiting the supply? They are not readily supplying AT&T stores and many Apple stores are out. They could end up overplaying their hand if they are manuipulating supply for a higher demand. I am trying to get one but soon I will simply give up and just get a different phone.

Rob Pegoraro: I think you're giving Apple a little too much credit for advance planning--it's one thing to gin up publicity with a lot of advance hype, it's another to annoy hundreds of thousands of iPhone users who can't activate their phones for the better part of the day.

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Washington, D.C.: Maybe an answer for some of these Firefox 3 problems. I was having a terrible time getting simple downloads to work from home on FF 3 running Vista; really simple stuff like saving a PDF to disk or downloading an installer app. After scouring some troubleshooting sites it turned out that Firefox now uses the Windows default security settings for some pretty basic stuff! That was truly troubling. I have IE locked down tight as a drum since I very, very rarely use it and only let it out of its cage when I need to visit a site that only works well in IE. And, of course, IE security settings are mostly now synonymous with Win security settings. I had to actually back out some security settings in order to allow downloads in FF. Not good. Independence of Windows security is one of the whole reasons to have alternative browsers in the first place!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for posting this--I think you unintentionally answered the question somebody sent me about downloads in Firefox earlier in this chat, and which I was struggling to find an answer for.

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RE: One option that I'm considering for speakers is one of those where all of the separate speakers are consolidated into one assembly...: Stop it. You're making the guy from Clifton cry.

Rob Pegoraro: LOL. If that's wrong, I don't want to be right!

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Re: Vienna: I'm no techie, but I've always found RealPlayer to be good for holding my music, making CDs, etc. Any idea why it's not more popular than it is?

Rob Pegoraro: Where do I start, Vienna? The current version of RP is OK--although I'm sick of it offering to download every single bit of Flash video that appears in my browser--but prior releases were among the very worst commercial software products I've had the displeasure of reviewing. They routinely treated my computer like a billboard for RealNetworks, altering system settings and planting unwanted shortcuts all over the place.

Seriously, you are the first person I've seen call RealPlayer "good" in a very long time. You might want to shop around... things have advanced quite a bit in the media-program market.

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Reston: Rob - Thanks for the chats! Is there a painless way to sync Google Calendar with iCal for free or should I just pony up the money for MobileMe? I have Gmail and I understand it works well with the iPhone, which I recently purchased.

Rob Pegoraro: If you can pay for a program without suffering pain, there's a $25 program called BusySync that should do exactly what you just described.

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Washington, D.C.: Rob -

I've recently purchased an iMac and peripherals from Apple. I noticed that the Time Capsule and AppleTV do not have on/off switches. I don't understand the logic of that. Isn't it just a waste of electricity to leave this devices always "on" or plugged in on "stand by" all the time. I expect more from Apple. What am I missing?

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Time Capsule is a wireless router, not just a disk drive, so it has to stay on all the time. Apple TV does have a standby mode, but it doesn't really save any power--you're looking at maybe 14 watts versus 20.

OTOH, the Apple TV *is* a computer; Macs boot up quickly, but there's still a distinct wait. My guess here would be that Apple doesn't want people to think about turning it on and off--but I hope that Apple will keep driving down its standby power consumption. (For instance, Macs draw only a watt or so in standby and yet still wake up in a couple of seconds.)

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Atlanta, Ga.: When is Apple update going to stop trying to install Safari on my PC? I don't need another browser. Am I going to have to keep unchecking that box every time I update iTunes until the end time?

Rob Pegoraro: I suspect so. I'm not sure why Apple is trying so hard with the Windows version of Safari, though; it's just not that competitive with Firefox, and it's not like Apple needs to step up and provide people with an alternative to IE. They seem to be pushing some water uphill with this project.

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Washington, D.C.: I recently made the switch from a PC to a Macbook. My iPod was formatted for Windows because of my PC. How hard is it to get everything on the iTunes on the mac? I would call Apple, but their phone lines seem to be swamped with iPhone owners...

Rob Pegoraro: The usual way is to dump your music from the PC's hard drive to the Mac's. But if for some reason you haven't done that, use a free program called Senuti to download the music from the iPod to the Mac: fadingred.org/senuti

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Annandale, Va.: Rob you recently reviewed Firefox 3. Is it fully available yet? If so when will Firefox's automatic update download it? I went from version 2.0.0.10 to 2.0.0.15 since you reviewed it. Do I have to directly download it from Firefox's website?

washingtonpost.com: Building a Better Browser: Firefox Keeps Innovating

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure about this one--I liked Firefox 3 enough that I installed it on all of the computers I run.

I suggest you do the same and download a copy yourself. There's no reason to hold off at this point.

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Silver Spring, Md: I seem to remember you were going to try the Palm Centro at one point. What did you think? Now that Verizon has the phone, I was thinking of looking at it myself. The keys seem impossibly small to me, though.

Rob Pegoraro: I reviewed that model last fall, when Sprint introduced it. It's not bad (although it's no iPhone), the keys are usable (provided you don't have enormous hands) and it actually looks like a semi-new design (unlike the Treo 755p). But the software on it has aged badly. The e-mail client is slow and less than stable, and the desktop software is atrocious. I usually try not to tell visiting PR types what I think of their products, but the last time Palm stopped by I couldn't stop myself from blurting out "Look, Palm Desktop sucks. You need to replace that piece of junk."

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Houston, Tex.: Regarding the reader who asked about the Linksys WRT54G, there has been a firmware upgrade out for quite some time that gives you WPA2-PSK capabilities. It's easier to set up and more secure than WPA.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!

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wondering: Hi Rob, does the iPhone's wi-fi work in the D.C. metro?

Rob Pegoraro: It doesn't--there aren't any WiFi access points in the subway.

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Washington, D.C.: RE: Google Calendar and iCal. There is actually native support for iCal from Google. In your calendar settings (for an individual calendar, not your global settings) you will find settings for Calendar Address. There is one for iCal as well as a normal HTML view for non-Google users. I'm not sure how the calendar sharing affects this; it may not work with private calendars, but at the very least you might be able to share it with yourself and create the link.

Rob Pegoraro: That's synchronization from Google Calendar down to iCal, not the other way--the previous person wanted to sync things in both directions.

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Arlington, Va.: Rob, I'd love to switch from my Palm TX to an iTouch. My son has one and it seems so much more intuitive and easier to use and the graphics are much superior to the palm. If I do make the switch is there any way to easily transfer the data from my palm to the iTouch without entering every piece of information. Does the iTouch have an equivalent of the Palm desktop? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: This brings us to one of my recurring complaints--in Windows, there is no viable alternative to Outlook, even though that's a horribly bloated, sluggish choice for individual use.

On a Mac, you've got Address Book and iCal, which I like much much much more than Outlook.

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Columbia, Md.: What do you think of these small lightweight laptops that are coming out, like the Asus or the HP Mini (not sure if I got that last one right)? I'd like to get a lightweight laptop but worry these may be a little underpowered. I'm not too hot on the Macintosh Air because of the lack of an Ethernet port. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm waiting to find an ultralight laptop that I can love--the ones I've tried, like the first Asus EEE and the HP Mini-Note, all have some software and hardware issues that put me off.

Asus has an upgraded EEE model, and I'm hearing good things about a machine called the MSI Wind. We'll see...

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iPod Touch: Annapolis overstates the case. Updates (bug fixes, etc.) for the Touch don't cost anything. Software upgrades that offer entirely new functionalities have cost a bit ($20 in January to add e-mail, maps, and notes; $10 in July to add third-party apps) but were not required if you didn't want them. And for those small prices, the Touch becomes a whole new device. I originally got mine mostly to listen to music and watch videos -- then I had e-mail -- and now I have really cool apps that have changed how I use it every day.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the perspective...

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Bethesda, Md.: Concerning the power issue with AppleTV and Time Capsule, what's the harm in just pulling the plug on these devices when not in use? Are there downsides to doing that?

Rob Pegoraro: The risk is that you'd crash the hard drive with an unplanned shutdown. You should at least listen to the thing to hear if the hard drive is writing anything at the time.

Now that you raise this point, yeah, it'd be nice if there were some way to command an orderly shutdown.

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Re:[2] Vienna/RealPlayer again: Dang... Did you and I have the same RealPlayer?

All I've ever had is the free version, and it has -never- treated my computer like a billboard, altered my system settings, or planted unwanted shortcuts. I create playlists and burn an occasional CD, and get no grief. It organizes files any way I want them, tells me all the identifying info I need, lets me play them however I want.

And if I keep my cursor away from the top right corner area of videos, it doesn't offer to download them.

Rob Pegoraro: You clearly haven't used RealPlayer 9 or 10, that much is for sure :)

You've got RealPlayer 11, which has been more polite. But you still have to pay extra to get full-speed CD ripping and burning.

Oddly enough, I just realized that I've been using this computer here at work for several months without ever putting a copy of RealPlayer on it. Apparently this program isn't quite as essential as it once was...

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New Orleans, La.: Moving contact/calendar data from Palm organizer to MS Outlook ... difficult? Problematic?

Rob Pegoraro: Not difficult if you set your Palm HotSync to sync your data to Outlook instead of Palm Desktop. The first sync after that change will take a while, but you should then have all your records safely transferred to Outlook.

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Washington, D.C.: Are any of the Big Four wireless providers noticeably better in the District? I know that Verizon will work on the Metro, but I'm more concerned about being able to make clear calls in my apartment.

Rob Pegoraro: I think you'd have to let the population of this chat into your apartment to answer that one :)

(Sprint works in Metro too, since it uses the same CDMA technology as Verizon.)

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Not about the iPhone: Rob, I am thinking about finally spending that surplus check, and I'd like to buy a new television. One feature I'd really like is to be able to hook my laptop up to it and watch the stuff on Hulu and Netflix Watch Now. Is that possible? If so, what inputs/features do I need the TV to have? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: A VGA input is all you'd need for that, though you may need to tweak some settings to get the TV to show your laptop's screen in the right proportions. A friend of mine uses an app called PowerStrip for this: PowerStrip 3.8

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Vista and So, N.Y.: My wife has a four-year-old Sony Clie PDA, running Palm software. We have two Dell computers running Vista. I can't figure out how to make HotSync work with Vista. Nothing helpful on the Internet either. Do you know of some Vista-compatible program that can address a PDA that old? Otherwise, should she get some sort of smartphone? She would need something with an address book and appointment calendar -- and something she could download the Bible onto. (She's a minister; she had Bible software that worked on the PDA.)

Rob Pegoraro: You need to hit Palm's site to get a current release of Palm Desktop--whatever came on the CD with that Clie will not work.

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Washington, D.C.: I'd like an iPhone but, being self-employed and taking care of a couple of kids, cannot wait in line for hours. I wonder when I will be able to just walk into an Apple store at any time, buy one, and get out within a half hour or so?

Rob Pegoraro: Two weeks?

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Fairfax - A DTV 2009 problem: Is it possible for the DTV box to "hurt" or do something weird to the TV? I had a DTV box hooked up, removed it, and now the TV is not working like it did before. What recourse do consumers have with all of this - are the boxes exchangeable??

Rob Pegoraro: Converter boxes are like any other kind of electronic device--sure, you can return them.

And, no, I've never heard of them doing anything to mess up a TV. Fundamentally, they can't. Are you sure you haven't switched around some input settings on the TV that you didn't undo after unplugging the converter?

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Rob Pegoraro: Folks, I'm about 20 minutes late for a meeting, so I've gotta take off. Thanks for all the questions--if I missed yours, I'll be back here soon.

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