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Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Thursday, March 19, 2009; 2:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Thursday, March 5 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss recent reviews, answer your personal tech questions and provide gadget advice.

This Story

The transcript follows.

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

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Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon, gang. As I look through the list of questions submitted in advance, I only see one about Internet Explorer (the new IE 8 is the subject of today's column and is now available for download at Microsoft's site), but quite a few about such non-Microsoft topics as hypothetical Apple netbooks, intellectual-property debates and Google Calendar.

It's a small sample and everything, but still...

Anyway, why don't I get to those questions?

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First Gen iPhone 3.0: Rob, I was able to glean from the 3.0 coverage that MMS still will not work with the first-gen iPhones, and I believe there's some new Bluetooth functionality that won't be available as well (?). Are there any other 3.0 features that won't work with first-gen iPhones?

Rob Pegoraro: Here's one of those non-Microsoft topics--the 3.0 software Apple previewed for the iPhone and iPod touch on Tuesday, and which it says will ship this summer. (Here's my recap of the news: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2009/03/apple_previews_iphone_30_softw.html)

Apple's press release has a vague line saying that "Some features may not be supported by older hardware." But which features? Which hardware? I need to spend some time gleaning all the more detailed reports, as well as the developer documentation Apple has posted.

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Gaithersburg, MD: I read your article about Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8. I can't see any reason I need to upgrade from previous versions or Firefox or Mozilla that I'm already using. And I can't, for the life of me, understand MS Word 2007, over previous versions. As a working word processor user, to me it's convoluted and not as easy to use or configure.

As someone wrote in Fast Forward: "For years, Microsoft's only strategy for upgrading its products was to add features. The vast majority of people use maybe four features routinely from each program, yet need to wade through menus and icons and pop-up balloons constantly. Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity. Hence: Apple's success."

washingtonpost.com: Microsoft's New Browser Is Better, but Still Not Best (The Washington Post, March 19, 2009)

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the comments. FWIW, I will upgrade from IE 7 to IE 8 on this (my primary work machine). The tabbed-browsing improvements are a big enough upgrade for me to want to make that move.

But I'm not changing my default browser from Firefox. The way IE 8 stomps all over our blogging interface is enough to keep that browser in second place on this machine.

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Arlington, Va.: Finally in the market for a LCD TV and I noticed some brands have PC input. Sorry for this stupid question -- how much can this 'PC Input' do? Can it become my second computer screen? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: It does what you think it does, and yes, that means your new HDTV can double as a really big monitor for your computer. (Technically, "PC input" usually means "VGA," the standard analog connection for monitors. Some computers offer DVI or HDMI outputs that can connect, directly or with adapters to the HDMI inputs on all new HDTVs.)

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IE8: I tried to download the new IE8 but evidently I don't know what my operating system is (I thought it was Vista) and it told me I was not compatible. Could I have Vista 64? Yes, I know just enough technology to get myself in trouble. I bought a Toshiba from BestBuy on Black Friday and the OS was preloaded.

Rob Pegoraro: IE 8 works with all the flavors of Vista: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/support/system-requirements.aspx

So I'm not sure what's going on... but I will note that IE 7 had some issues with badly programmed third-party software. Could be the case on your machine, given the amount of junk that Toshiba has traditionally installed on its computers.

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Portola Valley, Calif.: If you back up your PC completely using Western Digital's Data Lifeguard, or Acronis True Image Home, and then RESTORE it to a new HDD: will the OS (Win XP) be operative? Will all programs work?

Rob Pegoraro: I think that if you do a disk-image backup--a bit-for-bit copy of the drive's contents--you'll be fine. I don't know that would be the case with a simple file copy. (Acronis can do an image backup, hence the name; don't know about the WD software.)

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Google calendar: Ack, why is google calendar so lame? I'd like to have an online calendar that I can share with family and friends so I thought Google calendar might be the way to go. But looking at it, it seems like a stunted application. No labels or categories for types of appointments, no link to contact information in an address book. Is there another calendar option you might suggest? If there was mobile functionality for iPhone too, that would be a bonus. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Well, you do have categories--you simply set up multiple calendars, each of which can have its own sharing settings.

There aren't too many other shared-calendar competitors, especially if you want to sync to an iPhone (add-on software allows that sync now, and the 3.0 software will directly support GCal's "CalDAV" sharing). Microsoft and Yahoo have online calendars of their own, but I haven't tried them much myself. Anybody care to report back on them?

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Laurel: I keep seeing ads (some with dropping prices) for iPhones, but it's still $70/month for voice and data.

Are they going to keep improving everything for users, except their own monthly income stream?

Rob Pegoraro: Please don't take this the wrong way... but you must be new to the mobile-phone business.

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20036: What do you think of Google Voice?

Rob Pegoraro: Nothing--my GrandCentral account has yet to be upgraded. Even if it had, I don't know that I'd rush to review it until it's more widely available. As a reader, I don't get much out of stories touting (or damning) a product that I can't use or try out.

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Bethesda, Md.: As a first-gen iPhone owner, I'm pretty unhappy with the announcements this week. I was hoping they'd announce a new phone, because I'm not going to buy the current 3G just to have a new one come out right afterwards. And not only do they NOT announce a new phone, but they announce a bunch of stuff that won't work on my phone! Talk about a double whammy.

Rob Pegoraro: I wouldn't bet that there won't be a new iPhone model by the summer--or, at the least, versions of today's models with more memory.

That said... buying the first generation of ANY tech product involves the risk of this kind of thing happening. At least you've got a free software upgrade pending--talk to somebody with a Windows Mobile 6 phone and ask them how they're going to upgrade that device to WM 6.5 later this year.

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Alexandria, Va.: Dear Rob, recently, my browser, Comcast, 'upgraded' software, to include Explorer 8. At the time, I was in New Zealand and accessing the Internet via my Blackberry. Not wanting to borrow trouble by loading any new Microsoft product without checking out the pros and cons, particularly involving my Blackberry access, I did not access my Comcast e-mail directly, but through another source. What is the compatibility of Explorer 8 with my Blackberry and what are the other issues?

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't tested IE 8 with the BlackBerry desktop software, but I would be surprised if there was any problem. Or maybe I wouldn't... RIM's desktop software is pretty awful, and I wouldn't put it past them to ship some component hard-coded to work only with certain IE versions.

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Alexandria, Va.: I am considering replacing my G4 IMac and am thinking about a laptop. Any reason not to get the white Macbook? The other Macbooks are newer but I have a number of firewire devices (hard drive, ipod,video cam) which won't connect to the new Macbooks.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go with the white model too in that case. Why dump all the perfectly good FireWire hardware you've got?

Did you notice how the new Mac mini has a FireWire 800 port? The MacBook made me think Apple was backing away from FireWire, but the new mini suggests the opposite. That, or the laptop and desktop engineers work in buildings at opposite ends of the Apple campus in Cupertino.

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Beautiful Silver Spring, Md.: I would just like to say that I would be thrilled to chuck IE 6 in the sewer and get on with my browsing life, if my unnamed government agency's IT department would quit insisting that IE 6 is part of the "standard install" and capriciously removing better browsers from agency users' hard drives.

I also have to use Lotus Notes.

That is all.

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, that's tough. I didn't address that kind of forced IE 6 use in the column because a) as a consumer-tech guy, I don't care what IT departments do in offices, and b) there's nothing individual users can do. It's not that IT can't undergo the occasional sea change in their thinking--but there's no predicting the weather there, if you catch my drift.

But keep your hopes up! Maybe Montgomery County will re-route the Inter-County Connector through your building.

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Columbia, S.C.: Do you use software for a password vault? Can these applications be trusted and if so what would you recommend?

Rob Pegoraro: I stick with software built into browsers or operating systems--browser extensions have a bad habit of extending the difficulty of browser troubleshooting. So on a Mac, I use the system keychain to store passwords for Safari. On a PC, I let Firefox remember non-essential passwords (not including those for bank accounts).

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Rockville, Md.: Hi, Rob. My kid got some educational computer games for Christmas. We have a Mac with the OSX 10.4 system. The games say they are compatible with Classic 9 operating system. I've tried to load the game but it apparently can't work with OSX. Anything I can do? I've tried various help boards but I end up confused and I'm concerned about messing up our computer. Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: You found a new (?) game that only runs in Mac OS 9 or older? The only place you should see that would be the Smithsonian... Classic's been dead for years, and isn't even supported by OS X Leopard.

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Travel with a laptop - hot car?: I am planning a car trip in May to Florida, and wanted to take my laptop. But, I've realized that the car will get hot while I'm doing tourist stuff, and don't want to fry the drive or screen. How can I keep my laptop comfy and safe? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: The bigger problem with leaving laptops in cars is that laptops are expensive, easily resold items, there for the taking for the first person to heave a rock through a window. So don't leave the laptop in car; if you must, keep it out of sight in the trunk.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Rob, with the impending release of the Palm Pre, does Sprint finally have an exclusive smart phone to compete with the other carriers? I saw the Engadget guy on Fallon and it seems very slick. I doubt this can be considered an iPhone killer by any means, but maybe it's a LEGIT G1/G2 competitor. (I consider the HTC phones a non-topic since they're available on all carriers.)

Rob Pegoraro: The Pre really impressed me at CES, but I can't give you a definitive answer to the question until I have a production model in my hands, with a confirmed retail price stamped on its box.

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Manassas, Va.: Hi Rob, I'm submitting early and I know you can help. I just got an iPhone on Sunday my only problem is getting my music from my iPod into iTunes to put on the new iPhone. When I synced the iPhone it only imported the purchased music. I have more music on my iPod than I have in iTunes. Perhaps I added some music from my friend's computer. I remember you listed an application in an old help file for taking music from an iPod to put in the iTunes library. After searching the help file archives I was unable to locate the program. Can you, or your loyal techies, provide me with some insight?

Rob Pegoraro: Google "pegoraro copy from iPod" and you'll see this item as the first result:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/10/AR2007021000002.html

(Remember, folks: If you can spell my last name, you can find anything I've written in public on a given topic in the last few years.)

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Silver Spring, Md.: Why put out the Mac Mini with no Blu-ray player?

Blu-ray and HDMI outputs and they really got something. As it is, it is... okay.

Rob Pegoraro: Steve Jobs has described Blu-ray as "a bag of hurt," and I can see why. Between all the different patent royalties you have to pay (something the Blu-ray patent owners are now moving to simplify) and the heinously complicated DRM it requires (something they're not giving any ground on), it's a lot of work for a technology that isn't exactly seizing the market by the lapels.

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Glover Park: Rob, have you heard of a bug within iTunes that hangs up newly-purchased iPhones during the setup process? AT&T is telling me I have to completely remove my iTunes program from my iMac, and then go to the Apple site and reinstall. Sounds like a bit too much work just to be able to use my phone. As it stands now the phone is useless: it's in something called "recovery mode" and will not budge.

Rob Pegoraro: First I've heard of this issue. How about the rest of you all?

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Bethesda (different person): Yeah, 1st-gen iPhone owner, ask a 1st-gen Touch owner like me how thrilled I am to be charged again for yet another upgrade. (I think I've already spent $40 or $50 -- not that I don't love the third party apps, but I'm still resenting the cost of the first upgrade, which added Mail and Notes and a couple of other things, which then became standard on the Touch.)

Rob Pegoraro: True, that's a less happy set of circumstances.

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Washington, D.C.: Kudos to you for taking up the insanity that is intellectual property law in general and copyright in particular. These issues are, in my opinion, the defining issues of our time, and our world will be vastly different if we let freedom and creativity win out over protectionism of outdated formats and industries.

Every day, more content-creators such as yourself are coming to realize that the laws regarding intellectual property ownership are much less about the artist or writer than they are about the industry surrounding them.

Keep up the good work!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks. (I think W, D.C., is referring to yesterday's blog post on the "Thru-You" video you might've seen floating around the Web: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2009/03/kutimans_thru-you_mashes_up_co.html )

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Tatooine: Is George Clinton a Wookiee?

Rob Pegoraro: And I know Tatooine is referring to the same post (it's got an embedded clip of the estimable Mr. Clinton and Hank Shocklee talking about the ethics of sampling).

The answer, incidentally, is no. Have you ever seen a Wookie try to dance?

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San Diego: For Columbia's question about password saving, I use Password Safe, a freeware program that encrypts passwords and allows for a fair degree of organization. The program is small enough that I can copy it and the password database onto my phone just in case I need access and my laptop isn't handy.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, S.D.!

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K Street: Do you know of any plans for TV manufacturers to incorporate the Tru2way technology into TVs? Set top boxes are so bulky and cumbersome. I feel we should have better and smaller technology available. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: There are plans--Panasonic was one of the earlier companies to announce support for Tru2Way, an allegedly open technology that allows TVs and other devices to connect to digital, high-def cable.

I say "allegedly" because the cable industry did such a fantastic job of ignoring the prior such technology, CableCard, to death. Plus, there's the name. If you have to give something a name that suggests an earlier product didn't work as advertised (see: "PlaysForSure")... well, that's just not giving me a whole lot of confidence.

There's a cable-industry convention, called The Cable Show, happening at the D.C. convention center from April 1-3. I'll be there, and I'll be looking for evidence that Tru2Way will deliver on its promises.

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Arlington, VA: Hi Rob: Do you have any thoughts on the much discussed, rumored Apple netbook? In your opinion, does Apple jump into this segment and if so, how much do you think it would cost?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple has said things to the effect of "we don't know how to make a cheap netbook that wouldn't be junk," which seems to me to be a pretty clear admission that they'd like to.

Since so much of the industry is heading that way--and since Apple can choose between OS X and the cut-down version it uses on the iPhone and the Apple TV--I strongly suspect that we will see such a thing. I would expect that it will be wider than most (Apple doesn't like compromising on keyboard design) and more expensive than most; it will leave out one feature considered otherwise essential; it will then sell by the truckload.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I recently moved and brought Comcast with me. When the tech came to set everything up, he told me my wireless router would no longer work with Comcast High Speed Internet -- some new security feature to force you to rent a router from them. I believed him and went with their router (but probably should test my old one to see if he's full of it.) Heard anything about this? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: No, but I should check with friends who have Comcast. If they really are forcing people to buy or rent their own router... that's something I'd like to report on. Can you e-mail me (robp@washpost.com) with the details?

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DC: Not to beat a dead horse, but you responded to my question a couple weeks ago about XOHM in D.C. I've subsequently reached someone at the company who told me that the Washington-area test signal has been switched off and the D.C. launch has been put on hold indefinitely. I'd be interested in reading about this as a business story. How has XOHM worked in Baltimore, where it was launched last fall? Have they gotten fewer subscribers than they expected? Are they running into technical problems? Legal issues? I note XOHM kiosks at some Baltimore-area malls have closed. XOHM just launched in Portland, Oregon. How is that working out? I note on the Clearwire (not XOHM) website that Clearwire is operating in about 30 locations across the country, but mostly smaller cities (Waco, Texas, for example, but not Houston, Dallas or Austin). And Clearwire's prices (after start-up discounts) seem to be much higher than XOHM's. Has Clearwire's takeover of XOHM changed the basic business plan, like maybe they bought out a competitor who might have been a threat? XOHM seems like a great idea, and I was happy with the service I was getting until it died. I'd really like to know what happened.

Rob Pegoraro: What seems to have happened is that Sprint has orchestrated one of the least competent product launches in the history of consumer telecom.

Why? I have no idea. I know some of my colleagues are looking into this--they've noticed Xohm's disappearing act too--but I don't know what kind of coverage might result.

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Arlington, Texas: Rob, I followed your suggestion for security by adding a non-admin account to my WinXP for my daily use and kept my admin account 'dormant' to eliminate the chance for an executable from a trojan horse installing itself and hijacking my browser. I find that now when I switch between accounts my icons on the desk top do not retain their original layout even though I've locked them in. What am I doing wrong? How can I keep my icons arranged to my preferred grouping? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I think that was Brian Krebs' suggestion, not mine. Either way, you've got me--your desktop icons are a per-user setting, not shared among multiple accounts. (You can see a Desktop sub-folder in each user-account folder on an XP machine.)

Anybody have a suggestion for the reader in that other Arlington?

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Springfield, Va.: I was having problems downloading a Linux distro last night. IE 7 stopped downloading at 2GB with no error. I had the same problem with Firefox on XP. Interestingly, Firefox on Ubuntu had no problem. The file system is NTFS, so I shouldn't be hitting a limit there.

Rob Pegoraro: My first guess was going to be a file-system limit, but that's not the case here. Anyone? Anyone?

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RE: If you can spell my last name, you can find anything I've written in public on a given topic in the last few years....: I'm going to change my name to Pegoraro, then I'm going to get a high profile job reviewing personal tech, then I'm going to make all my articles the exact opposite of your articles (IE 8? It's great! Best ever!) and then CHALLENGE YOU FOR GOOGLE SUPREMACY!

You've been warned.

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, but wait until somebody asks you to pronounce it correctly? (I'm hoping you're not typing that from Italy.)

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Lansdale, Pa.: To: Gaithersburg, Md.: I recently moved (31st Dec.) and moved my Comcast account. My old (2.5 yrs) Netgear WiFi router works just fine.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report...

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Comcast: I own my Motorola modem and have a Time Capsule as my wireless router. Haven't had any problems (yet) -- if Comcast actually tried to pull something like this, I'd be on the phone screaming (I know, like that would matter). But sometimes the technicians don't know what they're talking about (or just make stuff up).

Rob Pegoraro: More on this issue... I agree that cable technicians, like floor salespeople in mass-market retailers, are not the most trustworthy source for tech news.

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McLean: I found a mistake in Turbotax -- one which will either cost users money or land them in trouble. I don't think Intuit should get this for free. What is a reasonable approach for asking for compensation in exchange for this information?

Rob Pegoraro: Secretary Geithner, I don't think that's a very gentlemanly way to solve the problem.

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Severna Park, Md.: Star Trek is not very realistic.

Rob Pegoraro: You should know what Star Trek thinks of Severna Park!

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Arlington, Va.: What do you know about Blu-ray drive upgrades for your computer?

Will Blu-ray work with XP?

What are the minimum specs to use one? I know I need a HDCP video card. What else?

Rob Pegoraro: If you're going to replace the optical drive and the video card, don't bother. Standalone Blu-ray players will cost less and save you a lot of time.

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Winnipeg, Canada: We are looking to set up a rec room and are wondering if instead of a DVD player and stereo we should just get a Mac Mini, network it to the external hard drive in our home office (which has all our music, photos, etc. on it) over WiFi, hook it up to our (not yet purchased) TV and use that as our entertainment center instead, with the added bonus of being able to use the Internet from the couch if we want once in a while. (You know, for those times when you just want to check something on Wikipedia or YouTube.)

Does this seem doable or just asking for headaches? Is there a gizmo that would let us connect cable to the computer to let us record TV shows?

Rob Pegoraro: I am thinking of reviewing the new Mac mini to see how well it would do exactly that job--note that it also comes with a SuperDrive, so you'd get a DVD recorder in the bargain.

To tune into and record TV broadcasts, you'd need an external tuner like the EyeTV ($150 or so), which works with both DTV broadcasts and unencrypted cable.

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Alcoa, Tenn.: Hi Rob, I just received my Dell Mini 9 with the UBUNTU operating system. I am brand new to Linux and need some help and advice. I can access the Internet thru my wireless network but I can't see my windows computers from the Linux or the Linux computer from the window computers. Can this be accomplished? Also what security programs do I need? What is a good publication to get to learn what I need to know to use the UBUNTU system effectively? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Ubuntu--no all-caps, please!--is a good operating system, and I think you're going to be happy with it. (For one thing, you don't need any extra security software with it; just keep the firewall active and download the security updates as they arrive, and you should be fine.)

To access your Windows computers, however, you have to turn on file sharing on each of them.

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Arlington, Va.: I was considering purchasing a Kindle, but then I saw the patent suit that has been brought against Amazon over it. Is there any chance that this will impact the Kindle and its business? Any reason that I should hold off any longer than I already have?

Rob Pegoraro: There's two things you should know about tech patent lawsuits in general, and software-patent lawsuits in particular:

1) They drag on *forever.* Companies like Amazon and Discovery can keep throwing lawyers at the problem for years and years.

2) A lot of the underlying patents are of dubious quality at best, considering recent court rulings (see this column I did on the most important such verdict: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/02/AR2007050202513.html )

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Silver Spring -- Mac mini for TV: I do exactly that with my Mac mini.

Rob, why would he need a tuner if he's using a TV as the monitor? He might need a switch box to change between TV and Mac-based video and Internet, but not to see TV on the TV.

Rob Pegoraro: True, though if he/she wants to *record* on the Mac mini you would need that (I thought that was the case, but it may have been a selective reading on my part)

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Florida: If you're going to be here in May, you'll have some rain in the late afternoon (just about every day)...so you may want to be especially careful about where you keep your laptop. The rain is often accompanied by lightning and power flashes, so you should bring a surge protector for your charger (seriously).

I spend a fair amount of time on the road staying in mid-lower-level (Comfort Inn-type) hotels, and most of them have safes in the room.

Rob Pegoraro: This is for the chatter going to Florida with the laptop. You still there?

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Frederick, Md.: My daughter called me this morning; her laptop's power cord was smoking and sparking. It was the plug that plugs into the laptop. Personally I thinks it's time for her to buy a new one (it's several years old), but what caused that?

Rob Pegoraro: And speaking of laptops and electricity... I'm not an electrical engineer (though I am married to one!) but I can only suppose that the cord had received its fair and unfair share of abuse over time. Did it already look damaged before it put on this little performance?

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Arlington, Va.: Rob, thanks for the chats. Can you recommend a way to 'convert' a DVD into a format (e.g, mpeg) that can be uploaded to YouTube? I'm a cheapskate, so free/trial software is preferred, even if it has less bells and whistles or is a bit clunky.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm sure you are aware that copying and uploading an entire DVD is a) illegal, b) will exceed YouTube's clip-duration and file-size upload limits, and c) will get yanked for including copyrighted material.

So I can only assume you want to upload a part of a single scene for comment, criticism or satire, all allowable uses under the fair-use doctrine. (Even so, it'll probably get yanked anyway.) For that, I'd recommend using HandBrake on a Mac (handbrake.fr); on a PC, BitRipper (bitripper.com) look promising, but I haven't spent enough time with it.

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RE: Eye TV: I've used one for a couple of years, and it works great as long as you don't mind rebooting the Mac every time you want to watch something.

Rob Pegoraro: That doesn't sound like a rave review to me...

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RE: Severna Park, Md.: Star Trek is not very realistic.: Remember when Spock held up a small 3' plastic square that supposedly had the plans for a starship on it and we laughed. And Uhura had an earpiece for communications and Flint (Reqieum for Methuselah) watched Spock and Kirk on a razor thin flat screen monitor. Not realistic indeed!

Rob Pegoraro: So true...

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washingtonpost.com: Buying Into Patent Lawsuits (Fast Forward, May 3, 2007)

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Arlington, Va.: Since you brought it up, what is the deal with Toshiba (and others) loading bunch of crap apps onto new computers that are hard for the average user to remove?

Do they honestly think it will get them return business?

Rob Pegoraro: They *know* they'll collect a little extra money from the companies and services behind these apps (and the stickers that festoon most Windows laptops). Same way they *know* that outsourcing their tech support to the cheapest bidder saves them all this money upfront.

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Kensington, Md.: For the guy who wants to do HD theater on his mini...look into the Elgato Eye TV. And the Kodak HD Theater Player

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestions...

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Washington: Hi Rob,

I like the portability of the laptop, but hate the smaller screens and keyboards. I would use the computer about 95% of the time at home. Should I get a laptop with a docking station so I can hookup my current PC monitor and externals? Am I missing other options?

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You wouldn't even need a docking station; with a USB keyboard and mouse, you'd only have two cables to plug in (VGA or DVI for the monitor, USB for the keyboard which is in turn connected to the rodent).

Your other option in that case could be a small-form-factor desktop like Dell's Studio Hybrid or Shuttle's XPC.

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Sun City, Ariz.: I'm looking for a new LCD TV for my main set and keep coming back to the new Toshibas. Have you compared them with any competitors? The picture is (to my eye) far superior to the Sonys and Sharps at Costco.

Rob Pegoraro: Don't put too much value in how an HDTV looks in a store. Most of them have their screens cranked up to unnaturally bright levels to compensate the bright lighting there. (And then you have the sets in the "home theater showcase room," like the showrooms in a Myer-Emco or the "Magnolia" room in a Best Buy, where the lights are dimmed all the way, thereby making it difficult to see which screen have a glare problem.)

Not that I've heard bad things about Toshiba's sets compared to those of other brands. LCDs aren't quite a commodity, but they're getting close to it. Case in point: One reason why I would be less likely to consider a Toshiba or a Sharp set would be because those two vendors don't include memory-card slots or USB ports on their TVs for digital-photo playback (a feature that is helpful but also incidental to, y'know, watching TV).

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Washington, D.C.: The new EyeTV Hybrid has been working great on my Mac desktop. Fun to watch and it records whatever you tell it to; you can also sync the shows to your iPod or iPhone. The only downside is the rapid accumulation of unwatched shows. Luckily I have a few spare external gigabytes on which to store them. I'd recommend it!

Rob Pegoraro: And here's a contrary view of this gadget. I'll have to check one out for myself, I guess.

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Denver, Colo.: How does one detect and remove the Conflicter Virus on one's computer?

Rob Pegoraro: I think you mean "Conficker," which is an extremely bad thing to have on one's computer. Microsoft has some info about how to remove it (some of which only applies to IT department folks), plus links to programs that can delete this worm: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/962007

This story links to a few other Conficker removers published by different security-software developers: http://www.heise.de/english/newsticker/news/134694

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iPhone Video: Hi, Rob: I tried to move a Quicktime video into my iTunes collection to play it on the phone, but no dice. Any ideas about formats that would be compatible? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: The iPhone can only play a subset of the video formats that iTunes supports. But you should be able to fix that from within iTunes: the help file on my copy says to select the video, hit the Advanced menu and select "Create iPod or iPhone Version."

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Rob Pegoraro: That's going to do it for today (besides, don't you all want to get back to watching the NCAAs?). Thanks for all the questions... I should be back here in two weeks.

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washingtonpost.com: Virus alert about the Win32/Conficker.B worm (Microsoft)

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washingtonpost.com: Tools to remove Conficker (Heise online)

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