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Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, November 13, 2008; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro will be online Thursday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss recent reviews and answer your personal tech questions.

This Story

A transcript follows.

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

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Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon! I hope the weather is better where you all are reading this--in the D.C. area, we've got a Seattle-esque cold rain coming down. Then again, that's perfect weather for cuddling up with a warm laptop. A laptop like the one on my desk, running Photoshop Elements 7 and Picasa 3, the two programs I review in today's column.

So what can I tell you about them? Or about any other tech topics you have on your mind?

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Boston: Loved the column today. Two questions on photo organization: (1) what are your thoughts on the Windows Vista Photo Gallery and (2) if I tag photos in any of these programs, will those tags remain if I decide to switch programs in the future? I'm done letting my data become prisoner to some proprietary format and don't see the point of tagging if I'm going to have to do it all over again if, for example, Vista Photo Gallery or Adobe Elements become extinct. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!

1) I think Photo Gallery works pretty well for organizing photos--really well, actually. But as an editor, it's barely usable. It doesn't even have a "straighten" command to fix photos that aren't parallel to the horizon.

2) The tags set in each program do stick around; I can see them in Photo Gallery to my left as I type this.

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Bethesda, Md.: I am sure you will get this question much more than once--but what about photo programs for Mac's? Is there anything else out there that's better than iPhoto? (And isn't, of course, meant for professionals.) Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't seen anything better than iPhoto--not that Apple's program couldn't be improved. Trying out the new versions of Picasa and Elements made me realize that iPhoto desperately needs geotagging capability, and it wouldn't hurt if it it had the same sort of automatic face detection and red-eye fixes offered by those two programs.

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Frederick, Md.: Rob, I need a video camera that will spend about 85% of its utilization in harsh winter conditions, filming skiing and snowboarding action. (I can only assume image stabilization is a must, correct me if I'm wrong). First, which type (DV, hard drive, mini-dvd, flash?) would hold up best to the cold and the constant jostling around the slopes in the pocket of a ski jacket? And the next question, obviously, is are there any you recommend off-hand?

Rob Pegoraro: Uh, I think we had a Sarah Palin chat earlier this week :)

I have no idea about this one--aside from a general preference for devices using flash memory when you're looking at any sort of rugged environment--so I'll throw this out to the wisdom of the crowd: What should Frederick get?

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Columbus, Ohio: With a digital camera I recently purchased came software called "Kodak EasyShare." I installed it, and I'm sorry I did. MS Picture Manager would suffice for any modest photo editing and printing I would wish to do. Recently Easy Share emailed me notice of, and a link to, an update. I made the mistake of trying to download it, but the download stalled for unknown reasons. I aborted it. I then (I thought) uninstalled Easy Share via the MS "Add and remove programs." However, even though Easy Share no longer appears in that screen, the program is still installed in its own directory and continues to open uninvited. What's the safe way to get rid of this thing once and for all? Will my camera--a Kodak EasyShare C813--play well with my computer without this annoying software?

Rob Pegoraro: Take another look at Add or Remove Programs; you might see an additional entry there for something with Kodak or EasyShare in the name. I have installed and uninstalled the Kodak app before, and I don't remember it leaving any leftovers around.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Rob,

I emailed you this question earlier this week, about getting text messages with pictures on my iphone. Apparently it can't be done! I have to log onto a website to view the images, which are only there for a week and cannot be downloaded. Is there a way around this? I try to tell everyone to send me pictures to my e-mail address rather than my phone number, but not everyone remembers.

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: No, there isn't any workaround. It's almost mind-boggling that Apple and AT&T haven't fixed this by now--it cannot be that hard to add multimedia messaging capability to the most multimedia-capable phone on the market.

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Madison: Thanks for taking my question. For the last few weeks, Firefox (3.0.3) has been consuming 100% of my cpu whenever I use the internet. I've used Firefox on this computer for years without any problems. I have a 4.5 year old Dell Inspiron laptop and use Windows XP. I've tried cleaning out temp files, running the disc cleanup, and foregoing tabbed browsing, but none of this makes a difference. Ordinary tasks are requiring more cpu as well, but nothing as dramatic as using Firefox. Is this a sign that my computer is reaching the end of its life, or is there something I can do to improve the browser? And yes, I am backing up religiously.

Rob Pegoraro: Do you have the latest version of the Adobe Flash plug-in? Have you tried running Firefox with the "Safe Mode" option (look in the Start menu's Firefox folder)?

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Greenwich, NYf: Hi, Can you change the dark gray background color in the Photoshop Elements user interface? It's too dark. I'd like to lighten it up.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has medium gray around the onscreen controls, making them easier to pick out on the screen.

Thanks! Bob

Rob Pegoraro: Yes. Go to the Edit menu, select Preferences, then select General Preferences (that's a bad interface call right there) and move the "User Interface Brightness" slider all the way over to the right.

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Halethorpe, Md.: Rob, I wrote you a month or two ago about having trouble picking D.C. DTV broadcasts up here. You suggested that I be satisfied with the Baltimore stations. A few weeks ago, I picked up a (cheap) "rabbit-ears" antenna and placed it on the second floor of my townhouse; I'm getting better reception now. You see, there IS hope.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks! That's impressive reception right there.

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Anonymous: How does Aperture compare to these two new photo programs? Thanks - Amanda

Rob Pegoraro: Couldn't tell you. That's a $199 program aimed at professionals, and as such it's outside of what a personal-tech columnist is supposed to cover. (As a general rule, I don't review programs that cost more than a new copy of Windows or OS X.)

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Laurel, Md.: Is there really any such thing as a disposable cell phone? Googling turned up a Hop-On 1800 that sells for $10 ($5 rebate if you recycle it), but no one seems to be selling it, not even Hop-On's website.

Rob Pegoraro: There's absolutely such a thing as a disposable cell phone when you look at how some of my friends have treated theirs. But if you're talking about an *intentionally* disposable phone... I don't see the point. These things are complicated electronic devices, and the only way they can be sold for so little is with a hefty subsidy upfront.

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23112: I want to sing the praises of Opera. I've become a huge convert. IE8 is a disaster on my computer, the new Firefox isn't much better, but Opera DOES NOT HANG and is so much faster. The only downside is it doesn't always play perfectly well with the eMusic.com website, but there's an easy workaround. I wish I'd tried Opera a long time ago.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for your testimony. Hadn't heard that eMusic didn't work right in Opera; did you ask them to fix it?

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Newport Beach, Calif.: Rob -- sorry to tell you this but my weather here is 75 degrees and sunny. Another crappy day in paradise.

Question -- have you had a chance to play with, try, fall in love with the Sanyo HD1000 or HD1010 Full hi def, pocket portable camcorder that works with flash memory?

I have nothing to do with the company but I LOVE it. And since I used to be the Technical Editor or Popular Photography -- eons ago -- I'm very into the best of the best.

Rob Pegoraro: Grrr... don't you have an earthquake to prepare for? :)

I have not tried those Sanyo models, but I will be looking for them--along with other flash-memory-based HD camcorders--when I make my annual CES pilgrimage to Vegas in January.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm surprised you're so enamored with iPhoto. Although it certainly could be worse, I think most of its functionality pales in compares to Picasa.

iPhoto lets you organize photos and isn't too bad with things like cropping and removing red eye. But Picasa seems so much easier for manipulating photos and its auto correct features (to fix color balance, brightness, etc.) run circles around iPhoto. Even the Picasa straighten function seems to work much better than iPhoto (iPhoto seems to degrade the quality).

Is there something about iPhoto that I've been missing all this time?

Rob Pegoraro: Uh, the fact that it runs in OS X and Picasa does not?

But also: I think iPhoto is *much* better at making sense of a large volume of photos. All the editing features in the world won't help much if you can't find the picture you want in the first place.

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Tina in Falls Church re: Acrobat Reader: I updated Acrobat Reader to v9. It has many new features but all I do is use it to display .pdf web links. It was supposed to be faster opening but it seemed really s-l-o-w. Anyone have similar experience? I uninstalled 9 and installed v8.1.3 as before. Way better.

Rob Pegoraro: I thought 9 was a little faster myself. What do the rest of you think?

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Virginia Beach, Va.: No matter how much I clean, my computer is still slow (2-3 minutes to start). Lots of unwanted programs start with the beginning. Can you kindly suggest something to make it faster? I do have enough memory.

Santosh

Rob Pegoraro: Get yourself a copy of Window Defender or, if you'd like more technical detail, Autoruns (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx) and use either of them to see what's running at each startup and block the ones you don't need.

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Harsh Conditions Camera: For the action videographer in our midst, I'd recommend the Canon HV-30. It's been taken to the summit of K2 in 2007, Kilimanjaro, and Nanga Parbot (another 8000 meter peak) by friends and me this past summer. No problems with cold. Some precautions were taken but the HD quality is amazing. For $1000, it packs quite a few features in a very portable and light camera.

Rob Pegoraro: This is the kind of research I wasn't in a position to finish by the end of this chat. Thanks!

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Lexington, Ky.: Hi Rob.

I have DISH Network for TV service. I would eventually like to get a DVR (digital video recorder) to record shows when I'm not home or busy. Years ago, I saw TIVO in action and said to myself, "This is the future."

Do I have to buy a DVR through DISH or can I buy my own via the Internet or brick and mortar store such as Best Buy?

Could I set up a DVR unit myself or is it incredibly difficult?

Do I have to pay DISH an additional fee for using a DVR (even if it doesn't come from them)?

By the way, I'm using a four year old (non-HD) Toshiba TV connected to a DISH model 311 receiver. This is a basic satellite receiver connected only to one set.

Thanks. I really enjoy your columns and your podcasts.

Rob Pegoraro: You have to get one of Dish's DVRs. There is no standard to let you use a third-party recorder with a satellite service--which I think represents an EPIC FAIL by the satellite providers, who could have jumped ahead of cable operators in making interoperability work. (Cable has had standards like CableCard and now Tru2Way, but their deployment has been horrifically botched to date.)

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New TV!: Rob, I'm ready to take the plunge and buy a new, bigger TV, especially considering the sales that are likely in December. (So ready to ditch the 19".) I'm looking at around a 37" screen, and know that I probably want an LCD, but other than that I am lost. Will you be producing a handy guide or story about what to how to make this decision (comparing HDMI inputs, dpi, etc) that can help? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Yes--look for it next week or the week after. (My editors and I are working out the details of this.)

Also, as I've done in previous years, I'll be chatting every pre-Xmas Thursday for the month of December. You'll be sick of me by the end of the month!

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Sarasota, Fla.: Rob,

I am interested in whether or not you have had a chance to review Microsoft's beta of Windows 7 and if you have your opinion of it. Thanks.

Dick

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't and I won't anytime soon. Considering how late XP and Vista arrived, this successor to Vista is going to have to get much closer to shipping before I start paying any major attention to it.

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Alexandria, Va.: Rob, for years I've used the washingtonpost.com as my home page, but I can't stand the distractions of the new quickly-flipping slide show and the moving ads. Is there a setting on my PC that I can change so that pictures don't move?

Rob Pegoraro: Not that I know of, but I'll post this so the folks at our Web site can see it too.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, If I'm finally going to get around to copying my music cds to a hard drive, what's the best program and file format to use? I don't have an iPod or iTunes.

Rob Pegoraro: I still prefer iTunes for this--it supports the widest variety of formats and, unlike most of its competitors, takes all the work out of subscribing to podcasts. For a format, your basic choices are MP3 and AAC. MP3 offers the best compatibility, but not as efficient--so you'd need to accept a larger MP3 file to get the same quality that AAC might offer. Because disk space is so cheap, I'd go with MP3. (There's also Microsoft's WMA, but that rules out your ever using an iPod and doesn't offer any inherent advantages of its own.)

That brings up the third question, "bit rate," just how much you want to compress the music. Do not go with the default setting of 128 kbps; use at least 160, and you might want to step up all the way to 228 or 256 if you listen to very good speakers. Also, use a "variable bit rate" option to optimize this compression a little bit more.

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The Big One: "(As a general rule, I don't review programs that cost more than a new copy of Windows or OS X.)"

Does this mean you stay away from Microsoft Office?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope, it means I only look at the Home and Student Edition ($150 list, $125 at Amazon).

I did have to break this rule to try out the speech-dictation apps I reviewed last week, though.

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Alexandria: I recently bought a second-hand laptop from a local chain that specializes in used equipment. They included a fresh (licensed) install of Windows XP, but no reinstall disc. What is the easiest way to create my own OS backup disc? Or is just copying everything onto an external hard drive good enough? Also, Ebay sellers are offering "reboot" or "reinstall" discs that don't actually load the OS, but purport to basically repair and clean up the one you have. Do they work?

Rob Pegoraro: You should at least have a copy of XP on a system-recovery partition. If the PC didn't include that, it'd be a little sketchy. Has your copy passed validation?

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Ashland, Ore.: Hey Rob, I'd never get sick of your chats even if you had them twice a week! I just turned firefox back on after installing gchat audio/video. Have you used it yet? What have I gotten myself into?

Rob Pegoraro: You're far too kind! The new Google video chat is kinda neat; I blogged about it yesterday. I think this could lead to a big increase in both video chatting in general (when you consider how many people log into Gmail) and Gmail use time (it's yet another thing to keep you on Gmail).

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Alexandria, Va.: I always understood that there is no such thing as an HD or non-HD antenna as long as you have the correct antenna for the band on which the digital channels are broadcast in your area (presently UHF in the DC area).

My girlfriend's condo management (Watergate at Landmark) sent around a notice a week or so ago saying that they are "upgrading" the TV antenna on top of the building "in preparation" for the digital TV changeover. They plan to install some sort of box on the system so that residents won't need converter boxes for their older TVs. However, they then stated that the new antenna "will not receive HD programming" and that residents who want HD programming must get either Comcast cable (the only one available) or a dish (not an option in her unit since it faces the wrong way).

Does that make any sense? Why wouldn't someone be able to receive HD signals via an antenna? Is it because of whatever this thing is that they're installing to eliminate the need for the converter boxes?

I should mention that the condo management's story on the new antenna has changed a couple of times. Earlier this year they claimed that the converter boxes would not work and that residents would need to have TVs with digital tuners. Needless to say, that sparked an uproar (especially among the many elderly residents), and they then retracted that statement and provided the information I've set forth above.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the update--we discussed this condo's TV setup about two months ago. And I'm still confused! It may be that the building is putting a converter box of its own between the new antenna and the lines going to individual apartments. But why would it want to go to that trouble and expense, especially when that would prevent anybody with an HDTV from getting a high-def picture?

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wiredog: I see your co-worker, Brian Krebs, is getting lots of good press over at/. and in the blogosphere. Good work at the Post!

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah--props to Krebs! I sent him a not earlier today thanking him for uncovering this story.

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McLean, Va.: Will most houses be wired with Ethernet in the future? If I were building a house today, should I put phone line in?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes--the phone line can carry DSL. You don't want to give the local cable operator a monopoly in your house.

I would not, however, rush to put Ethernet in the walls. WiFi replaces that pretty well, although some video-sharing apps (like the Slingbox) recommend Ethernet instead.

One thing that I've seen recommended is to build in some upgradability--instead of running individual phone and TV wires from room to room, put in a rack or conduit that can hold current and future wiring. Then you only have to fish a new wire down that path to upgrade the connectivity later on.

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Alexandria, Va.: Love your columns and chats! How is the iphone 3G for call quality? Is it still dropping calls in 3G or has it finally been resolved?

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't been making that many calls on the review iPhone--I mostly use it for Web access. There, my big complaint, even after two system updates, is how unstable Safari is. It will crash when it's loading pages, and it will crash when I'm just reading a single page that has already loaded in full.

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Lazy McGee (Lazytown LA): Can you link to your dictation software review? The missus would like to know more about it.

washingtonpost.com: Typing Without Touch

Rob Pegoraro: Done!

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HD and antennas: Is it true that if I get a converter box, or even a DVD TV, I'll still also need an antenna if I don't get cable or satellite TV service?

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Correct.... well, unless you live right next door to a TV transmitter. Then you might be able to get by with attaching some crumpled aluminum foil or a wire coat hanger to the antenna post on the box.

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Verona, Italy: Rob, thanks for the advice and reviews. Speaking of photo organizers I must have done something because I've got copy and copy(2) of a lot of photos on my hard drive. I'm talking about 30 GB of photos (backed up, of course, on portable drive). Is there an application that will analyze and tell me which are exact duplicates and can be, therefore, deleted? Thanks again.

Rob Pegoraro: Testing two photo-album apps that automatically add new pictures to their own image catalogs on the same laptop is an excellent way to create this problem... but you've got a pretty wide range of duplicate-finding utilities that can clean u the mess. I've seen WinMerge and DoubleKiller recommended before; what other ones do we like?

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Windows backup disc: I believe MS stopped including them for pre-installed systems; you get the validation key but have to order a disc separately ($10?).

Rob Pegoraro: $10 is usually what you'd pay when you buy a computer from a Dell or an HP and want a separate copy of XP on a disc. I don't know what rules apply to screwdriver shops and white-box builders.

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MP3 conversion: For me, Windows Media Player 11 is the only choice for a music manager on a Windows box. Someone else said "iTunes spends half its time trying to sell you music and the other half of its time restricting you from listening to it", and WMP 11 currently handles probably 5000 MP3 files on my system with ease. It'll rip, burn, and sync all day long, and you can tie online music stores directly into it.

Rob Pegoraro: I have to disagree with you on this:

* WMP 11 offers zero support for podcasts; you're on your own when it comes to finding, subscribing to and downloading them. (The Zune program is much better about that, so maybe WMP 12 can catch up to the times.)

* The only stores it connects to are the ones that nobody shops at!

* No AAC support.

If you don't like the iTunes Store, ignore its little icon at the left of the iTunes window. That seems a lot easier than working around WMP's defects

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tina: Is there something wrong with tin foil? It serves as an antenna booster and keeps the evil thoughts from penetrating our brains

Rob Pegoraro: You have to wrap it around your teeth as well, or the CIA will be able to tune into the transmitters your dentist implanted on your last visit. (Don't tell anybody I told you this!)

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Cleveland Park: Hi Rob,

do you have any idea if/when Gmail might get push mail. It would be great to get new email pushed to my iPhone.

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: It already had that; it's called IMAP, and it will get new messages on your iPhone within minutes. If somebody wants to get to you faster than that, I would encourage them to send a text message or call.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Rob, I recently had to install the GIMP photo-manipulation program, to use along with Scribus for desktop publishing. I haven't used it much, but think it might have some features that Picasa doesn't have -- although it can't replace an organizer for photos.

My question to you: Do you use other programs to manipulate images on occasion? And how does GIMP rate with you?

Rob Pegoraro: The GIMP--the acronym stands for "GNU Image Manipulation Program"--is a wreck of an interface in Linux, and it's worse in other operating systems. Do not want.

For editing beyond what the likes of an iPhoto or Picasa can do, I recommend Paint.Net for Windows (free, getpaint.net) and Graphic Converter for OS X ($35, lemkesoft.com)

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Bethesda, Md.: To the Kodak Easyshare user: I also had a lot of trouble installing this software, and went through multiple uninstall attempts. I vaguely recall that the problem had something to do with DirectX, and that fixing the problem (which took me several hours, and I'm a computer-guy) also had the side-effect of fixing one of my kids' games.

But the bottom line is: having gone through the pain of getting the software properly installed, I have never used it once. I use Picasa and a flash card reader.

I hope that you have better luck with your camera's batteries than I've had with mine. Other than that, I love it (an Easyshare Z712 IS).

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestions!

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WDC holiday shopper: Have you had any experience with the free-standing devices that copy old vinyl records onto CDs or MP3s? I saw one yesterday at Linens and Things that makes CDs and cost I think $300. Are there ways to do this directly to the computer? Anything similar for converting cassettes?

Rob Pegoraro: I had a colleague check out one of these, the Ion TTUSB turntable, and he wasn't too impressed:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2007/09/vinyl_to_mp3_the_hard_way_1.html

Read the comments there for some other suggestions about how to get this work done.

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Rockville, Md.: I am buying a new laptop for the first time in ages and can't decide whether to get a Dell or Mac. What are issues that I need to consider as a I researching computers? Also, what is happening Windows now that Vista is not being supported?

Rob Pegoraro: That's not a question I can readily answer in one paragraph--but read my column over the next two weeks and you should have a better answer.

BTW, Microsoft *is* supporting Vista--that's the only operating system they will sell to you. I think you meant to type XP there... right?

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Stormville, N.Y.: Rob, I sent you and email commenting on your article "Photo Programs ...". Delivery "failed permanently". Reason given : "571 Message Refused". You address was correct in the email. Maybe the email was refused because I started the subject with a "re :" ?

In any case, here's what I wrote : Re Photoshop Elements : the Healing Brush tool already existed in V5. The "Brush tool" is in the left hand sidebar, right below the red eye tool and above the clone stamp tool. Right clicking on it will offer to select the Healing brush tool. Once that is chosen the choices offered will be between healing brush and spot healing brush.

One note : buying a Canon scanner gets you a bundled copy of Elements, although not necessarily the very latest. That is how I originally got V1 and then when I got my next Canon scanner (a while ago) I acquired V5.

Rob Pegoraro: If you had the right address, the e-mail should have gone through--even outright spam should only be detained by our filter, not bounced entirely. But maybe we just don't like you :)

Didn't mean to imply that the healing brush was a new feature (it's been part of Photoshop proper even longer); I mentioned it there mainly to point out how Google had implemented this function in a simpler, more elegant manner.

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Cody, Wyo.: Hi Rob,

Got a question on making backups.

I have Drive Image 7.0 and I really love it. Although it's an older program, and no longer supported, it continues to work well for me. However, I'm thinking of replacing it.

In the 25+ years I've used computers, I've had only one crash on me, just a few years ago. Drive Image 7 had recently backed up my entire hard disk including the operating system, all applications, settings, and data files. It took me maybe 30 minutes to completely restore everything. The restored backup worked perfectly.

Since then I've been a huge fan of full backups.

But lately I've been reading varying opinions of backup programs. Some recommend against full backups, as they take a lot of space on the backup drive. I've never had a space problem, although I guess my hard disk's used space is probably small compared to others -- about 20 GB out of a total of about 150 GB.

I used to do selective backups, but they were a pain compared to the way I do full backups now. Though I never had to restore a selective backup, but it seems it would take a lot more time and work than restoring a full backup, especially if you've backed up only your data files.

Anyway, that's a very long-winded introduction to my question. What's your opinion of full backups versus selective backups?

Thanks, Rob!

John

Rob Pegoraro: I prefer selective backups for a couple of reasons.

One, if your system gets hit by a virus, you don't want to restore any part of the operating system--you only want your data.

Two a selective backup approach offers the option of restoring individual files, or old versions of individual files. You might get that option with a drive-image backup as well, but then you're going to need even more room on the backup drive.

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Alexandria, Va.: Just wanted to remind you that the Best Buy where the CompUSA used to be near Landmark opens tonight. (I live within walking distance!)

Rob Pegoraro: Given the economic climate, that's just spectacular timing, huh? :)

Landmark Mall neighbors, please take note....

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Arlington, Va.: Is there a particular reason I should stick with my old analog (Comcast) cable or should I make the switch to digital? I'm still on a non-HD set so that's not an issue.

As far as I can tell, I'm not saving any money with analog anymore and they keep reducing the number of channels.

Anything easier/better about analog cable? I tend to watch almost everything through a TiVo, if that matters.

Rob Pegoraro: Your last sentence ought to settle things--if you don't use a box now, you get the most flexibility out of your TiVo with the least effort, in that the cable goes right into the TiVo. With digital, you'd need a box, and therefore you'd have to set up your TiVo to control the box with IR extender cables.

If you do stick with analog, though, call Comcast and ask them to cut your rate to account for the channels you can't watch any more. I've heard this from too many readers to doubt it: Comcast will cut deals if you ask for them, but only if you open your mouth in the first place.

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Downtown DC: My IT guys buried Acrobat in Word 2007, making it very handy to create .pdf's on the spot. I'd love to buy it for my home computer, but I don't (yet) have that version of Microsoft Office. Will it work? If so, what package do I need to buy from Adobe, and what kind of capability do I need on my home computer to run it smoothly?

Rob Pegoraro: You can get PDF export for free--there's a plug-in for Office 2007 that you can download off Microsoft's site:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=4d951911-3e7e-4ae6-b059-a2e79ed87041&displaylang=en

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Silver Spring: Mad Props for working P-Funk into the Circuit City piece.

Between you and Jason La Canfora, the Post has two of the most unsuspectingly musically hip white guys in the business.

And I mean that as a compliment of the highest order.

I need a printer that will print out good quality 8X10 photos (I have a D40 and use it a lot). What is out there to choose from?

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks! (Though I was a little concerned when the first 16 or so comments didn't pick up on the George Clinton reference...)

If you'd asked about 4-by-6 prints, I'd tell you to order them online. But you can still save some decent money at larger print sizes. What you want is (duh) a photo printer, in the sense of one that includes more than four colors of ink, so as to capture the full range (gamut, in print-speak) of a photo's colors. You're mostly looking at ink jets in the consumer market; you will also see some "dye-sub" (dye sublimation) printers that only do photos, not text, but most of them seem limited to 4-by-6 prints.

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Washington, D.C. : So, I just got my first digital converter box, and WOW! Much better picture than I used to get and several more channels. Now my question is, is there anywhere I can look to see what the programming is on these new channels? I couldn't find anything on the WP website.

But I have discovered that I can get A Team reruns every day at 8! I love it when a plan comes together.

Rob Pegoraro: I asked TV Week editor Deb Leithauser about detailing what's on those DTV-only channels. Her reply:

"We have run a list of the kinds of programming on digital channels (4.3 is weather, 4.4 is retro, etc.) But at this point, we don't plan to add hour-by-hour programming in TV Week. We only have room for 45 channels, and I'm not sure the viewership of the digital channels will be enough to get it into the top-45 bracket. (We don't even have the room now to offer 24-hour programming for such popular channels as Animal Planet and Food.) Of course, we'll be monitoring the popularity of these channels... "

It looks like tvguide.com carries those listings; you can also check the Web sites of individual channels

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Arlington, Va.: I am trying to do a video and audio chat with a friend of mine overseas, but he tells me that his internet network provider does not allow for Skype or Vonage. Any other alternatives? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: That's a real jerk move! (Is this friend in Cuba or North Korea?)

Try the new Gmail video chat, maybe...

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Rob,

You are a great asset to the community. Are you aware of any MP3 players that can record AM radio? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Nope - don't know of any MP3 players that even tune into AM.

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Harsh Camera Conditions (part 2): Missed the media type question first time around. Avoid flash at temperatures below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It slows down, can become unresponsive, and you have no record of you images should the camera fail. Mini-HDV provide you a physical backup should your camera break. As to the jostling, invest in a good camera case that hugs the camera. I found mine at Walmart which hung from my waist belt using a couple of clips. Lowe Alpine also makes camera backpacks designed for outdoor adventure (i.e. skiing and climbing).

Rob Pegoraro: More advice for our friend in Frederick. Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Rob, I am confused. If the boxes we can get with a coupon from the government will allow our analog television to receive the digital signals why does Comcast keep taking channels away and making them all digital. By the time they are through there will be nothing we are interested in being converted. I used to see Madmen on Bravo and they took that channel away and now I see that Lifetime on analog is looking shaky.

Rob Pegoraro: Comcast is not broadcast TV. Repeat after me, Comcast is not broadcast TV. (Same goes for any other cable providers.) Those converter boxes will do NOTHING for your cable TV. And Comcast moving channels to digital cable has NOTHING to do with the DTV transition--it's just this company choosing how it uses its own network, not the public airwaves.

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Kansas City, Mo.: Hi Rob! Love your work!

I have broadcast TV only, no cable (too expensive!). I recently bought a converter box. My DVD/VCR combo is dying. I occasionally tape television shows. I'd like to get a DVD/DVR instead of DVD/VCR. I know the cable company offers a package that includes one (& Tivo, also too expensive), but can I buy something to use with broadcast only? I don't even need much memory, maybe 5 hours a week. Can you recommend a brand or give me a price range?

Or should I buy another crappy DVD/VCR combo? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: The only DVR--meaning hard-drive-based TV recorder box--that you can buy without paying a subscription fee is a $300 model that Philips sells, with a DVD recorder and a hard drive, plus a digital tuner. A reader recently picked up one and seemed happy with it, last I heard from him.

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more HD and antennas: So will my old rabbit ears do or what should I buy instead? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Try your existing antenna first. No need to upgrade if that alone gets the job done.

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Wash DC: Hi, Rob,

I want to get a digital camera basically to document my possessions for insurance and also to sell things on ebay and craigslist and to make a few prints. Also it would be a nice extra to be able to shoot video with sound in case someone famous has a melt-down in front of me a la Michael Richards, but maybe that's more a cell 'phone thing and if it doubles the price I'm probably not interested. Anyway I am completely confused by all the offerings and prices out there. I work on both PCs and Macs. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, but any camera you buy will suffice for those purposes.

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Arlington, Va.: Isn't there a map of FiOS availability somewhere? All I can find is the search by phone or address. Which is telling me that FiOS is not available in my building...but I think others have it.

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, no such thing exists. It's a huge mistake by Verizon to keep this information secret, if you ask me:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/26/AR2007092602468.html

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the glorious Golden Triangle business district: Rob, I'm not really a wireless guy, but the reports on WiMAX have got me intrigued. This seems to be some pretty nifty technology. Can we expect an article from you on the subject any time soon? You know, how it works, what its limitations are, competing standards, availability, etc.

Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: When they roll out service in D.C., which will--I hope--be soon...

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Rob Pegoraro: I've gotta call it a day here--the unread e-mails are piling up, including one or two from my editor. Thanks for all of your questions; I will try to answer some of the ones I couldn't get to in Help File (I think I've got enough detail from the queries you sent in to research those problems), but if not you can e-mail me (robp@washpost.com). Or I'll be back here in two weeks... er, three weeks, right after Thanksgiving.

Thanks!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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