Personal Tech

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, September 11, 2008; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, Sept. 11 to discuss recent reviews and answer your personal tech questions.

The transcript follows.

Read Rob's latest tech tips in his blog, Faster Forward.


Rob Pegoraro: I'm Rob Pegoraro and I approved this chat.


Washington, D.C.: How well does Chrome and IE8 respect and adhere to the W3 standards?

Rob Pegoraro: Let's start with a technical query, but an important one anyway -- WDC wants to know if these pages play by the rules when it comes to displaying Web pages. ("W3" refers to the World Wide Web Consortium, which governs these standards.)

The short answer is that Chrome is far ahead of IE 8 in this respect -- even Microsoft's folks admit they have some catching up to to do here. I tested both of these browsers at a site called Acid Tests (, which presents three sample layouts that challenge a browser's ability to display complex designs. Both Chrome and IE 8 display the Acid1 and Acid2 tests correctly, but IE 8 does far worse with Acid4 than Chrome.


Anonymous: Hi Rob, have you tried using Google Chrome or IE8 on a mobile device? Any tips or tricks to share?

Rob Pegoraro: I've installed both on a few laptops, if that's what you mean. (There aren't any mobile-phone versions of either IE 8 or Chrome, although the Webkit framework inside Chrome runs inside numerous mobile-phone browsers, including the ones on the iPhone, Nokia's Symbian phones and Google's upcoming Android phone software)


Glen Allen, Va.: Hey Rob, a couple thoughts about Chrome. I downloaded it as soon as I could on the day it was released. It worked just fine for me, although I had a bad tendency to click on the bookmark bar instead of the tabs. Since I seem to navigate my screen as much from muscle memory as anything else those tabs just are not where I expect them to be. Aside from that I had not problems, but for now, I'm going to stick with Firefox for primary browsing, simply because of AdBlock Plus and NoScript.

In the case of GMail, I made an application window out of it, and that's my own theory about what Google's up to anyway . . . they probably don't care so much about overall browser market share as they do about creating a framework within which one can run their apps. In the meantime, other browsers can incorporate some of the better bits, like that snappy Javascript engine, and in the end, everybody benefits.

Finally, a quick note for those who screech "oh noes! it's phoning home!!!11!!" There's a simple way to turn that off. Don't download and install Chrome in the first place. There's no gun pointing at your head. Easy peasy, as they say across the pond.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report, Glen Ellen. You're correct about Google wanting to build a browser as a tool to run Web applications -- the Web is becoming a separate software platform in its own right (exactly as Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson predicted in his "Findings of Fact" in the Microsoft antitrust case, 8 or 9 years ago)


Pittsburgh: Is there a way to create custom "folders" in GMail? I understand the move to labels and tags, but prefer some folder organization.

Rob Pegoraro: You're out of luck. Gmail just doesn't do folders -- never has.


Pittsburgh: Is there a way to automatically clear private data (passwords, cache, etc.) from Chrome when it is closed?

Rob Pegoraro: No, but it does offer a "Clear browsing data..." option you can invoke when you want. You can also use the incognito browsing option.

Gotta ask: Why, exactly, do you want to nuke your saved passwords, cache and cookies after each session? You're only making more work for yourself -- on your own computer, that practice does zilch to enhance your privacy.


Rockville, Md.: Rob, have you personally seen/used the second generation iPod touch yet, and what are your thoughts on the 2.1 software upgrade?

Rob Pegoraro: The new iPod touch is on my desk right now -- Apple shipped a loaner unit to me today. I haven't turned it on yet, though, so no comments yet on the new software. I wanted to sync up the loaner iPod nano that came with it first.


Burning issue: Rob, I'm trying to burn a lot of disk into my computer's music library for use with iPod and video applications. Several cd/dvd disks won't allow me to copy the tunes (for instance, Springsteen's "Seeger Sessions"). Any work-arounds that you can suggest?

Rob Pegoraro: If you've paid for the CD and can't make a legal copy, I can't really get on your case if you jump onto BitTorrent to grab digital files of the music on it.


Arlington, Va.: Rob, I am somewhat worried as I am a devoted fan of my 5G iPod, what is now called the "Classic." It seems like based on this week's announcements it is on the way out. I love having a single device with ALL my music on it, which was the whole idea of the iPod in the first place. I don't want to manage playlists to decide what goes into a limited space. I'm currently filling up close to 50 GB of music (8725 songs). I guess eventually Flash Memory will be able to handle that capacity but do you see Apple going entirely to 16-32 GB Flash based players?

Rob Pegoraro: No, because a year from now, you'll probably be able to buy an iPod with 128 GB of flash memory. The threshold for affordable flash memory keeps going up; two years ago, 8 GB was the limit, now we're at 32.

For the same reason, a growing number of ultralight laptops use flash memory instead of a hard drive.


Lafayette, Ind.: I've tried Chrome, love it. However I've read a little about security "problems" with Chrome and am wondering if you have more information about specific security concerns regarding Chrome?

Rob Pegoraro: Google has had to issue a security update or two for the browser. I'm not surprised. It is, in fact, a beta release -- and unlike Gmail, which has been in beta for about half a decade by now, Chrome is a "real" beta. Stuff will break.


RE: to auto clear cache: I have a client that uses his computer in a shared office environment, and doesn't want to risk others viewing any of his stored passwords, etc. I had suggested Chrome to him due to it's speed, but he prefers to stick to Firefox due to the auto-clear on shutdown feature.

Rob Pegoraro: Sure, and thanks for the context. I think that in this case, you'd be better off not letting the browser save your passwords. Or setting the screen to lock automatically after a minute or two of inactivity. Or getting nicer coworkers.


Williamsburg, Va.: Re: GMail folders -- Pittsburgh could set up an e-mail program like Thunderbird to read GMail; Thunderbird creates folders for each of the GMail tags. Granted, though, that if Pittsburgh wants folders in the GMail website itself, that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

Rob Pegoraro: Precisely.


Fairfax, Va.: I have a security question. I have a MacBook Pro and have turned on File Vault. As I understand it, this encrypts all of your files and data when you shut down the computer and decrypts them when you log in. What can use to encrypt individual files? I can see allowing some close friends to use my Mac, but would not want them to have access to certain files, e.g., financial records.

Rob Pegoraro: Any encryption app will do this for you -- try the free, open-source TrueCrypt (


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Rob: Thanks for your chats. You've helped me before with the DTV transition issue (many thanks) but I am still running into a few problems. I know that you can't solve it but if you could pass it along to the TV stations it might spark some changes. I live in Bethesda in a high-rise building, do not have cable and do not intend to get cable. I am now on my 3rd antenna (Terk) and using insignia converter box. I still cannot get the public access/PBS stations WETA, WHUT, etc. Have tried using a compass to point directly to the tower according to recs but no luck. If these stations want my (and other non-cable having people's) dollars donated in the future, they might figure out how to increase their signal so that we might enjoy those stations again (they might look to the MHz channel for how to do it). Second problem: with the storm last weekend, TV signal was shoddy at best. Any emergency warnings after Feb 2009 may not get to those who need it. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know that this is anything the TV stations involved can do anything in particular about -- did you get their signals in analog before? The Insignia converter box is supposed to be a Zenith/LG model on the inside, and I've only heard good things about its performance.


Ontario, Canada: Hello Rob, one thing to note is that IE 8 does allow for multiple processing and should ensure that if something causes a hang up in one tab it won't take down the entire browser. More importantly though is that one of the more fascinating things about the entire browser market (to me anyways) has been Microsoft's very interesting play with it's own technology.

Let me explain: SharePoint 2007 Microsoft's fastest selling server product that is widely used by the entire business world has a large number of options and features which are ONLY available to IE. This means in a corporate world EVERYONE (in a SharePoint organization) uses IE because it works better with this product. Google's chrome launch is designed for the same concept. Google has it's own applications and of course is the most powerful search engine on the web. Not to mention has Youtube which is the single biggest entertainment medium on the web right now.

Think about it, if Google decided to, they could create features that only work in Google's browser and could very effectively cut off Microsoft's browser dominance with the same methodology that Microsoft has been using. It's not new by any means, but it is probably the smartest move I have seen Google make in the past while. I won't be surprised if Google releases new features for their products and sites soon that only work with GChrome as soon as it's released.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the thought, but I entirely disagree. Chrome has maybe 0.5 percent of the market today; writing apps that only run in it would be laughably suicidal behavior. Microsoft can get away with that because IE still has a dominant share of the market -- although Firefox has cut that from 95% to maybe 75 or 80 percent (Safari has at least another 5 percent).


Silver Spring, Md.: I've got a nice new iMac, and will passing the old one to my sister. What happens to my old Time Machine backups? Do they go with the old machine even if I put all of her stuff on it via Migration Assistant?

Or can I just attach the old Time Machine drive to my new iMac?

Rob Pegoraro: Just attach the Time Machine drive to the new Mac; use Migration Assistant to move your data to the new computer, then nuke your old user account on the old machine before setting up your sister with an account of her own.


Burke, Va.: My understanding is that Chrome captures the keystrokes that you type into its omnibox (or whatever it's called) and sends this data back to Google whenever it feels like it, with no notice to the user. I'd like to point out that this is completely insane. Why on earth would anyone put up with this ridiculous Big Brother-like browser?

Rob Pegoraro: The auto-suggest feature in the "omni-box" does send the address or query you type to Google -- but, y'know, it's a search form. It has to do that for it to work as designed. The privacy docs explain this clearly, and you can turn this off as well. Plus, this data isn't associated with you in any way.


Burke, Va.: Getting good, steady digital signals for the local PBS stations is a problem for everyone; we even have that problem out here in the Virginia suburbs.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't -- have never had a real issue tuning into either WETA or MPT at home in Arlington.


Arlington, Va.: Rob, I've always been curious: when Apple "refreshes" a line like the Ipods this past week, what happens to all the inventory of the previous generation. It's not as if they sold every single one of them before their big event, and it seems that you should be able to get a good deal on either a Nano or Touch if you don't have to have the latest version.

Rob Pegoraro: Maybe, maybe not. Apple has gotten very good at managing its inventory (in the mid 1990s, it was often woefully inept at this job), and so it doesn't seem to have too many leftovers. If you look at the clearance part of its online store, it only lists iPod classics and shuffles.


Washington, 20009: Hi, I was wondering what programs are good for ripping and converting movies for media players. I have an iPod but I got an 'Instinct' cell phone (no disrespect to the iPhone). Of course, I can get movies for the iPod (from iTunes), but would they be playable on the Instinct?

Rob Pegoraro: iTunes Store purchases -- except for iTunes Plus music downloads -- will only work in Apple products, not the Instinct. To rip a DVD in an Instinct-compatible format... uh, I'm sure what that format would be, but in general I like HandBrake on the Mac, and on the PC I'm still looking for a simple, effective, free DVD ripper. Suggestions?


Bowie, Md.: My parents live outside the D.C. area and want to finally ditch dial-up. They could get high-speed access through either cable or their phone company's DSL. They use a Mac and aren't very tech savvy, and want me to research which service will be better for them.

I have FIOS currently, and never used either cable or DSL. Assuming comparable pricing, what should I be looking for when comparing plans & companies? Is either cable or DSL less prone to problems or more Mac friendly than the other?

Rob Pegoraro: You're making a major assumption that cable and DSL will cost the same -- DSL is generally $20 or more less a month than cable. Cable is often faster than DSL, but if your parents have gotten by on dial-up I doubt they'll care; they'll be far happier with the always-on connection.

Also, how do they watch TV? If they use satellite or over-the-air, cable Internet will probably cost even more. A lot of cable operators charge extra if you get Internet but not TV from them.


Washington, D.C.: What about the reports on the zippiness of Chrome? Have your run any benchmark tests with it?

Rob Pegoraro: Chrome is fast -- it's zippy, or snappy, whichever adjective you prefer. But I haven't done any testing, just spent a lot of time going from page to page (would you like to know how much political news/commentary I've read this week? It's truly pathetic) to see how fast the browser feels compared to IE 8 and Firefox.

I did measure how memory these browsers ate when I opened each to the same six sites, then checked the memory usage reported in the Task Manager's processes list (which, for IE 8 and Chrome, required adding up the figures for multiple processes). Here's what I got on a Vista Home Premium laptop:

IE 8: 248,496 KB

Chrome 139,988 KB

Firefox 3: 82,216 KB


Alaexandria, Va.: Rob, I have an old PowerMac 120 (Motorola, not even a G4) running OS 9. Even has the original 13" RGB monitor. I'd love to give it to a needy school or some such, but a lot of organizations have turned up their noses when they saw how old it was. Any ideas for deserving and interested recipients? I'd hate to just recycle it.

Rob Pegoraro: Wow! Um, how about the Smithsonian?

I do know one guy who does a lot of work reconditioning old Macs for use in homes and schools, so I could put you in touch with him -- e-mail me at


Steubenville, Ohio: Rob, I work with multiple apps bouncing back and forth between them. I may open a page in a browser window, copy text from that page, hit the print button, switch to Wordpad to paste in what I have just copied and quite often, just as I am trying to paste in the previously copied text, the screen switches back to the browser to let me know the spooling is done. This stops the pasting action and requires clicking on Wordpad to get it back in the foreground. Is there a setting I can change to stop this? I am using Vista Home Premium.

Rob Pegoraro: The behavior you described is called "stealing focus," and I think it is one of THE most annoying things a programmer can inflict on a user. (Our editing software steals focus multiple times as it launches, and every time this happens I want to punch the developer responsible.)

Unfortunately, there isn't any great way to stop that behavior except, perhaps, switch browsers. Which one are you using?


Silver Spring, Md.: Room for a rant? I'm an over-40 guy that grew up on radio. I used to listen to the great Bob Prince announce Pittsburgh Pirates games on KDKA-AM. I had a crystal radio (no battery, no plug) that was perfect when you're in bed and supposed to be asleep.

One reason (of many) that I don't listen to radio as much is the poor quality of radio reception. Every car, boombox and CD player has a radio built into it but the tuner and antenna are clearly afterthoughts that make it difficult to get many stations, especially when in motion. Am I right that the tuners are lousy or is it a problem of crowded airwaves, the proliferation of electonic noise and the fact that my hearing might not be so good anymore?

Thanks, I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

Rob Pegoraro: KDKA -- that's old school. (The first radio station to broadcast commercially in the U.S., as I recall.)

I'm not sure what you're seeing. It could certainly be true that manufacturers haven't paid much attention to tuners lately; TV makers didn't either until digital came along and they had to make a new technology work. I, myself, find that any car stereo gets much better reception than a living-room unit; for example, at my old condo I could get Annapolis's WRNR outside the building, but upstairs my stereo couldn't pick up the signal at all.

So maybe you just need to park your car in your living room...


Burke, Va.: Rob, it's a little misleading to say that search engine "has" to do keystroke logging. It's certainly not expected by the user that browser's going to grab every keystroke and send that Google (as opposed to sending the query when the user hits "return").

I sure as heck wouldn't want all of the backspacing and rewriting being sent to while I'm composing this, instead of when I'm done and hit "submit".

Rob Pegoraro: Not the same thing; Chrome does *not* log any keystrokes outside of the omnibox. Google has no idea of what you just typed.

Remember, this is an open-source browser. There aren't any secret trap doors here; anybody can download the code and see exactly what it does.


Alexandria, Va.: Migrators beware! I recently switched from PC to Mac. All is mostly good. However, a key application -- Quicken -- fails the switch. For some reason, Quicken for the Mac uses different technology from the PC version to do online banking, and so connects with a much shorter list of banks -- and mine isn't on the shorter list.

I hate to install Windows on the Mac to run one app, but with years worth of back Quicken data, is there any alternative? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, Intuit could do its %#$@$! job and ship a real, cross-platform compatible version of Quicken, not the sad little excuse it ships on the Mac today.


Kingstowne, Va.: My girlfriend rents a condo over in Alexandria near Landmark. Earlier this week, the condo association sent around their monthly newsletter, and it contained the following:


"Resident's [sic] who are currently on Comcast cable TV, [sic] will not be affected by the following change. [Foregoing sentence is in boldface]

"The Master Antenna system at Watergate at Landmark will be upgraded this fall to receive the digital TV channels. Digital sub-channels (multicasting) will then also be received. To reduce signal loss and to keep reception quality stable, digital signals will be relocated to different channel locations. The current analog (matv) system moves UHF stations to 'open' VHF channels, for the same reasons.

"Please note: However, in order for residents to receive the digital signal through the new digital antenna system, they will need to purchase a digital [in boldface] TV set or have a TV set that is not older than three years. The Digital TV set top converters will NOT [boldface and underlined] work in this application."

What do you make of this? My girlfriend is more than a bit annoyed by this whole thing because (1) she doesn't get cable because she doesn't watch enough TV to warrant it, (2) she can't get a satellite dish because she's on the wrong side of the building, so (3) she already bought the DTV converter boxes because her coupons were due to expire, and (4) she has no desire to replace the TVs she has now. We were under the impression that the whole purpose of the DTV converter boxes was that people wouldn't have to replace their existing TVs as part of the switchover, but then I haven't paid the closest attention because I have DirecTV service at my place. Have you ever heard of an antenna system that renders the converters useless? I know I could just get her a new TV for Christmas, but if the information in their newsletter is right, it would still render the other TV she keeps in her bedroom useless. I suspect that in a condo development with a lot of old people (which hers is) this would catch a heck of a lot of people by surprise, which was precisely what the US government's coupon program was supposed to prevent.

(She did call the condo office to ask about it but they haven't returned her calls.)

Rob Pegoraro: This doesn't make any sense to me. For one thing, antennas don't do anything to the signal they receive. They pick up the broadcast and send it down the wires to the TV or tuner. (Your gf should already be able to watch digital broadcasts with a DTV tuner, even with the existing master antenna setup--remember, there's no such thing as a digital-TV antenna.)

Can you follow up with me on this in an e-mail? I'd like to figure this out as well.


Washington, D.C.: Just a reminder for the DTV person complaining about reception now, that after February 2009, some things are going to change which could make things better (or worse). Currently all are on UHF, but 7 and 9 will be moving back to their old VHF frequencies, and also when the analog is off some stations will be moving their digital transmitters further up the tower or turn them to a higher power. So don't get too set in stone now with your setup.

Rob Pegoraro: This is an important point -- some of the local broadcasts will relocate their digital signals from UHF to VHF (where their analog signals live now). You won't have to change any settings on your set; the switch will be invisible in that sense, but you may get better reception that way.


Washington, D.C.: So what do you think of the new Nano? I kind of liked the postage stamp look of the last generation, but I suppose I'll get over that.

Rob Pegoraro: So far, I'm pleased by it. (I'm listening to it as I type this, and wishing I had a bigger music library on my work PC.) It's a good value, it looks great, and the shuffle-by-shaking feature is nifty (though it may also lead to people hurling their iPods into the sidewalk by accident).


Rosslyn, Va.: MacBook vs. MacBook Pro: Is it worth the extra money?

Rob Pegoraro: No.

(I say that because you didn't give me any context that would suggest a need for MBP-only features like the bigger screen or the ExpressCard slot.)


Clearance iPods: Rob, the Apple store has loads of models of iPods in the refurbished section. Probably most of these are new, but just "last week's model." Don't just look in the "clearance" aisle.

Rob Pegoraro: Can you explain why Apple would want to do that? A refurbished model automatically has a lower value than an unused-but-discontinued model; you are, after all, buying something that somebody else thought didn't work. There's zero business rationale for any retailer to do this kind of thing (and there are laws preventing them from going the other way and labeling a refurb model as merely "discontinued").


Washington, D.C.: Regarding "stealing focus" -- I feel your pain. I also use multiple programs and toggle b/tw them. Unfortunately, at work I have to use IE. Many times, I will start up IE and load a page and while that is loading, I'll open another tab to go to another page. But, IE ends up getting confused and loads the 2nd tab address on my 1st tab. I guess it can't handle loading multiple tabs at the same time. Really annoying when you use a lot of Internet-based databases where you have to sign in and run queries. You end up losing your place and have to start all over again.

Rob Pegoraro: You should get somebody to put Firefox on your CEO's home computer, and maybe the IT department will have an overnight realization that it shouldn't mandate IE anymore.


Carpal Tunnel in MN: This might be a trivial point, but, after the 2009 DTV switchover, will stations send a digital signal to the non-.x stations? For example, to see my channel 2 in digital, I tune to 2.1. After 2/2009, will they make it so I can go back to just pressing "2" to see the digital signal? Is this even possible? Having to press 3 buttons to get to a channel sounds just as bad as my parents actually having to put the chips down and GET UP to change the station (the humanity!!!)

Rob Pegoraro: Well, on the DTV tuner boxes I've tried, pressing 2 takes you to 2.1 -- they don't pick up analog signals, so the .1 is assumed. But YMMV, depending on your make/model of TV or tuner.


Washington, D.C.: Rob, have you reviewed digital cameras recently?

I'd like one of the cute, colorful ones that I see everywhere now. Any specific recommendations? Alternatively, can you offer any guidelines as to what I should be looking for? So far I'm thinking image stabilization (which they all seem to have), and maybe upping the optical zoom.

As you can probably tell, I'm not a very serious photographer.

Rob Pegoraro: Sometime in the next few weeks, I plan on writing a comparison of entry-level digital cameras -- watch this space. One of the models I'll be trying is Canon's E1, which could be described as a "cute, colorful" model.


Tina in Falls Church: re: radio I too am a dedicated radio fan. At night I pull in CKLW from Canada for talk shows. I invested in a C Crane "CC" radio several years ago. Well worth the investment. It seems to be able to pull in am great and the FM is supurb.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, TiFC!


Arlington, Va.: I have cable now and two analog TVs. I know I'm fine with the digital transition in the short term, but is it worth getting a converter box or two for the future? Will the coupons still be available after the transition if I need them at that point?

Rob Pegoraro: There's a finite amount of coupons available, and they will expire at some point too -- 90 days after redemption, with the last day to apply for one being March 31 2009. So if your analog sets are reasonably new and you plan on keeping them around for the next several years -- yup, get a coupon for each. (Remember, it's two coupons per household max.)


Fairfax, Va.: I have two Windows issues. First, Excel starts every time I reboot. I deleted everything from my StartUp folder, and did "msconfig", and removed everything Office-related from the Start tab. It still starts up every time.

When I close the top of my laptop, I lose my internet connection. Every time. I read something about the Power Management setting causing this, but it was already disabled. I don't think it is firewall/virus software related. I'm not running a firewall and I removed my virus software. I hate Windows! Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I keep thinking I've seen every Windows bug, but then I get reports like this... and I have NO idea what might cause Excel to run at startup. What version of Office? What version of Windows?

One idea: Ditch MSConfig and use Microsoft's Autoruns or Windows Defender to police your startup apps.


Alexandria, Va.: I go on hikes almost very day in local parks and carry my iPhone with its 2-MP non-zoom camera. It is very convenient for taking spur-of-the-moment pictures of deer, birds etc. I would like to improve the quality of the pictures (higher MP and some zoom), but I don't want to be burdened with the weight of a regular camera. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: There's no way to make the iPhone's camera any better unless you're *really* good with a soldering iron. So you either need to upgrade your phone or carry around a camera.


Bethesda, Md.: I recently bought an all-in-one color inkjet printer (printer, copier, scanner, fax) that I like a lot, but I've got a nit to pick. When it prints out an ordinary document the 'black' color of the printed output isn't really black, it's a very, very dark gray. Is this a known problem with color inkjets?

Rob Pegoraro: Some cheapo models -- years ago, at least -- generated "black" ink by combining the other colors, but I haven't heard of anybody making three-color inkjets in years. Four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black -- CMYK in printing parlance) is standard, except for photo printers that add another two ink tanks.


Bowie, Md.: Hi Rob. Love your discussions. Have you heard about the new Dell mini laptops? They seem pretty cool. Great for travel or in the kitchen for recipes. Choice of Linux (sp?) or Intel chips. Only 16 GB hard drive, but they are just sooo cute for about $500. I'm really wanting to buy one. Good investment?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm intrigued by the Inspiron Mini as well -- unlike the other sublaptops I've tried, it runs Ubuntu Linux, which I think is a much better fit for general use. Do y'all think I should try one? I don't want to give Dell too much ink after reviewing the Studio Hybrid last week, but...


wiredog: So how sensitive is the shuffle-by-shaking feature? If I velcro the iPod to my car's dash, as in my current setup, will going over bumps cause the ipod to change tracks? Because that could get really annoying.

Rob Pegoraro: I've given it a few tests at my desk; it seems that you have to give it a fairly pronounced shake for it to register (when it does, you hear a beep and the song changes).

What I need to test -- but can't do at work, lest I look like a complete dork -- is to see what happens if, say, one attempts to air-drum or air-guitar while holding the iPod. I'll have to save that test for home... with the shades drawn.


Williamsburg, Va.: For the reader looking for folders in Gmail, there is an option, but it's perhaps more of a hack than he'll want to do.

Using the Greasemonkey Firefox extension, there's an add-on called Folders4Gmail. It allows the user to create a nested folder structure for their labels. I haven't used it myself, but Lifehacker wrote it up a few days back:

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't tried that one, but I'm happy to pass the suggestion along.


A lot of cable operators charge extra if you get Internet but not TV from them.: Most of the time. I moved and had Direct TV installed. For internet, I called Comcast (I had an account with them at my old residence) and asked for internet only. While they had better speeds now for around $50 a month, I stayed with my old level (not on their website) and they cut me a deal for $24.99. I'd say, "I don't need all that speed, do you have lower levels at a better price." Might work.

Rob Pegoraro: Good advice -- though you shouldn't have to approach your cable company as if you're buying a used car.


Adams Morgan: My 4th gen Nano has about 30 minutes of battery life at full charge nowadays. Any idea if the new iPods have better battery lifespans?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm more inclined to think you've got a bum iPod. 4th-gen should still be under warranty; take it to the store and ask them to fix it. (They'll probably just replace your model.)


NoLo, D.C.: A few comments:

- I don't think Chrome could ever have the sort of lock-in that Microsoft has with IE/Sharepoint, as Chrome is open source.

- For the person concerned about Chrome sending search info to Google when typing in the omnibox, well, Firefox 3's Google search box in the toolbar does the same thing, offering suggestions on possible search terms.

- For the person giving her old Mac to a sibling, don't forget to deauthorize your iTunes account before wiping the old Mac!

- Handbrake is available for Windows and Linux as well as Mac OS X.

Rob Pegoraro: Great points... though doesn't the Windows version of HandBrake still not deal with commercial (aka, encrypted) DVDs?


Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks, Rob. Just to be sure: so when I attach the old Time Machine drive to the new box after migrating my stuff to it, it will smoothly still let me see the old backups?

Rob Pegoraro: If you use Migration Assistant, that's exactly how things should work. It's like a brain transplant from one Mac to another.


D.C.: Hi Rob, I'm sure you are going to get a ton of questions on the new Ipod lineup. I'm thinking about getting the new Touch, haven't decided 8 or 16GB. Am I wrong to be really steamed that Apple is charging Touch users to upgrade to the software so that we can download from the App Store? Am I the only one?

Rob Pegoraro: No, you're probably not the only one. Apple says that it has to charge for the upgrade because of SEC regulations -- they have to account for material upgrades provided to old products, and if they don't derive a continuing revenue stream from them (as is the case with the iPhone) then they must charge something. IANAL (I am not a lawyer), so I can't say if that's the case or not. But I do know that some iPod software upgrades have included small but distinct new features but did not come with a charge.


Shaker Heights, Ohio: My wife and I were shocked when our Palm T/X wouldn't synch with our new Dell Studio laptop because of 64-bit Vista. A technician (in India, I think) said Palm engineers were working on it. Are they really? Or has everyone given up on the good old PDA?

Rob Pegoraro: No, but Palm had given up on developing its own software for many years. They needed about a year to update Palm Desktop for plain old Vista, and the 64-bit version requires different drivers. So you're out of luck -- which is why I've been on record for many years as saying that 64-bit Windows is nothing but trouble in the home-use context.


Washington, D.C.: My first-gen iPod Nano is on its last legs (sob, sob) and it's time to get a new one. Two questions: Is is true that I must upgrade to iTunes 8 to use the 4th-gen Nano? And is it true that iTunes 8 is supposed to have lower-quality sound quality than its earlier versions? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, you do need to install iTunes 8. My copy of iTunes 7 prompted me to upgrade when I plugged in the new nano earlier today. The headphones on my computer at work aren't good enough to say if iTunes yields any different audio, but I don't see how it would -- the song files at the same as before.


Ashland, Ore.: Hey Rob, my wife's original Shuffle won't play songs on it that we've bought from the itms. I know I could burn and rerip the songs to avoid the copy protection, but that's a pain. Any advice? I've already restored the thing to no effect. It seems to be up-to-date in terms of its software.

Rob Pegoraro: This doesn't make sense to me. IPods don't do any checking of iTunes Store authorization -- you can plug somebody else's iPod into your computer, drag and drop an iTunes purchase on the thing, and it will play. Sorry, but I can't even figure out *how* this could happen, much less what you could do about it.


San Francisco, Calif.: I am on a prepaid plan and am on a budget. Do you know of any not-too-expensive way of accessing the web thru my cell phone on the infrequent occasions when I might find the need to do so?

BoostMobile says you can do that for 35 cents a day charged only for those days that you access the web. Can any of your readers share their experiences on that? I don't mind carrying two cell phones, one for calls and one for web use.

Rob Pegoraro: I've got nothing here. Anybody else?


Potomac, Md.: Rob, I have a home network with four Windows machines hard-wired in and one Windows machine and one Mac Book Pro connected wirelessly. I would like to add a network hard drive and a network adapter to my printer (HP 2200) so that I don't need to run one of my Windows machines to print from the MBP and access the shared files (mostly photos). One of my concerns is that when I read reviews of many of these devices, I get the sense that many of them work fine with Windows but not with Mac OS. Any ideas on how I can determine which devices will work reliably with both? Thanks as always.

Rob Pegoraro: A comparison of WiFi-enabled multifunction printers is another item on my columns-to-do list. I would think that any printer that works when connected to a Mac should work when connected wirelessly -- Mac OS X does printer sharing in general very well. It supports Windows printer sharing as well, but your best guarantee of compatibility should be an explicit statement of OS X support. (That rules out Dell's printers, but maybe not any others.)


Temple Hills, Md.: Rob, I hate to break this to you, but digital signals can and do drop out regularly. I live near Andrews AFB, and any time a helicopter or plane is flying to or from Andrews, I experience brief problems with the digital signal. If there's a thunderstorm in Baltimore, I can't watch Maryland Public Television. The digital signal is clearer than analog, when it comes in.

Rob Pegoraro: You're not breaking anything to me -- my colleague Kim Hart did a piece months ago that cited somebody living in a high rise in Crystal City, who said she briefly lost reception at times when a plane landing at National occupied the right part of the sky. What I said was what my own digital reception has been pretty much consistent.


Williamsburg, Va.: Re: Alexandria's Quicken migration -- Alexandria could try GNUCash, available for free at There's a version available for OS X, and it can import Quicken for Windows files. Two big caveats, though: Installing the OS X version seems to be for techies only. If you've never heard of a .tar.gz extension before, GNUCash may be more trouble than it's worth. Some people report a bit of a learning curve when moving from Quicken or Money to GNUCash, which uses double-entry accounting (which would probably mean something to me if I'd paid more attention to Intro to Accounting back in college...)

Can any of those recently-started personal finance websites import Quicken files?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd have Alexandria try iBank or Moneydance before GNUCash. GNUCash doesn't exactly have the best reputation for usability issues in Linux -- unless you're already used to double-entry bookkeeping -- and on a Mac you have to build it from source code to get it to install (see, after which you've got an app that isn't going to have much of a "real" Mac look/feel. This seems a bit of a lipstick-on-a-pig scenario to me.


Rockville: I have an old XP computer that I want to take to the recycling center. How can I clear the hard drive of data including any personal information? Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: If nobody else is going to use it ever -- it's getting broken down for parts -- hit for a program you can burn to a CD, then use to wipe the entire hard drive. To zap individual files and folders, use Eraser (


Washington, DC again: Speaking of running Windows on the Mac. Which do you prefer Parallels or Fusion?

I have used Parallels on my MacBook Pro with no problems but it is a memory hog and a bit slow.

Rob Pegoraro: Speaking of porcine issues... I was going to Twitter about this the other night, as I was waiting for a Parallels-hosted copy of Windows XP to finish booting up. Parallels seems slower than I remember it being a year ago, and I don't know why. I think I'm going to have to revisit a Parallels/Fusion comparison at some point, maybe for my blog.


What did he say?: Rob -- Thought you might want to know that Google News currently shows the following summary of a new Nano review attributed to the Post:

"Despite its new design, the fourth-generation iPod Nano is more of an evolutionary step than a major overhaul. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site."

That must have been some harsh review!

Rob Pegoraro: Looks like it's a PC World wrapup that we've republished. I can only imagine that the PC World people are a little cheesed off at seeing their piece get all this exposure on somebody else's site.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, I'm an analog cable subscriber, but since I have a digital TV, I can watch the unscrambled major network HD feeds, which I enjoy a lot. Recently, Comcast changed all these channels, and finding them again was difficult, although I think I have them now. My concern is that often these channels can get distorted. Watching 90210 this week the image would pause and then go away. After awhile I gave up and switched to the analog CW channel. The NBC channel doesn't look right either; it's off center. My concern is that, were I to shell out the extra bucks for a digital subscription, would I still have these reception problems? I certainly don't want to upgrade if that's the case.

Rob Pegoraro: You're using the QAM tuner on your TV, and you're not alone in being annoyed at seeing these channels move around, apparently at random. But I don't remember hearing from DTV viewers that QAM channels were getting distorted as you describe.

A digital subscription ought to fix that -- but maybe you'd be better off getting a good antenna (you might need a rooftop model out in Reston) and tuning into the network signals right off the air).


Moneydance: I'd like to ditch Quicken and try Moneydance but I love the way I can bills at my bank from inside Quicken. Will Moneydance do that?

Rob Pegoraro: I think that depends on the bank, but MoneyDance's site says the app supports bill payment in general.


Silver Spring, Md.: The local Apple stores had at least a few of the older iPod Touch models in stock on Wednesday, with a slightly lower price. You can still get the teacher/college student rebate on them if you buy a Mac. The rebate is adjusted so the base model Touch or Nano is still free, and the next model up about $90. Still a great deal if you need a new computer and qualify.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the tip!


Columbia, Md.: Dear Rob: You always have helpful, sensible advice, so I'd like to get your thoughts on my dilemma. I crave an iPhone but have resisted because my partner really relies on his Verizon service, and a family plan w/Verizon is so much cheaper than having an individual Verizon plan and an iPhone plan with AT&T. I don't want the iPhone for the phone itself, rather for the ability to get online when I'm not at home (and to use some of the way cool apps, though I'm not into the game stuff, more the type to browse the web, find good restaurants when traveling, check weather, etc.). I do have an iPod nano, which I use in the car and while working out, mainly to listen to books from (I also have a Kindle, so you can see that I like these toys!)

So, this week when Apple introduced the new iPod touch, my first thought was: oh, I want this! I can use the apps and browse the web and take it places that I don't take my MacBook Pro. But then reality hit: unlike the iPhone (and the Kindle!), the iPod touch can get online only where there's an open WiFi network (or one I've paid to use). So, that makes it less the portable internet appliance that I'd hoped for. But honestly, I can afford it; I'm just wondering if I'll find it really frustrating to use outside of my house (where, after all, I can use my laptop for the same things I'd use the iPod Touch for). My sense is that there aren't many free WiFi networks around these days, outside of a few municipalities. I don't work at a university or hang out at coffee houses, and I don't want to pay T-Mobile $30 a month for the privilege of logging on at their hotspots.

Here's my question: is there enough stuff to do with the iPod touch that the lack of full-time internet connectivity won't make me scream? I'm not really into watching videos, and as I said I already have my Nano for the books (and some music and occasional podcasts). But for some reason I still really do want the touch. Not asking you to make my decision for me (well, not really), but I'm wondering about your perspective on all this. Will a girl who can't switch to AT&T and has a perfectly functional Nano (2G) find happiness with an iPod Touch?!

Rob Pegoraro: I was having a discussion with a coworker along these lines earlier. She, too, likes Verizon's service but is tempted by the iPhone. The new iPod touch could work for both of you if you've got enough access to free WiFi here and there. As you note, it also runs iPhone apps, so you'd have something do with it when you're beyond WiFi coverage.

The answer here might depend on what kind of Web access you have on your Verizon phone. If you've got enough of a browser there to check the weather, look up sports scores and hit Google Maps, then you might be fine without full-time Internet access on the Touch.


Rockville, Md.: "Or setting the screen to lock automatically after a minute or two of inactivity. Or getting nicer coworkers."

Um, who walks away from a computer in an office environment and doesn't lock the computer (CTRL-ALT-DELETE & enter). Our security people ask us all to do that. You never know who's visiting the floor.

Rob Pegoraro: What I do is eat lunch at my desk so often that my keyboard has become a germ farm. I've built up an immunity to the, but nobody wants to touch the thing.


Waiting for vacation: I'm in the market for a relatively compact digital camera and can't decide if I should go with the ultra-compacts or the slightly larger ones, but still small enough to put in a small bag. Is there enough difference picture quality and feature set (such as the larger zoom) that justifies going for the slightly larger model? Any specific ones catch your eye recently?

Rob Pegoraro: My advice is to avoid buying a camera you can't tuck into a pants or jacket pocket -- which includes some compact ultrazooms.


Rob Pegoraro: That's gonna do it for this week, folks. Thanks for all the questions, and thanks for the e-mail followups I've gotten. I'll be back here in a couple of weeks; talk to you then!


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