Personal Tech: Gadget News and Reviews

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Friday, April 17, 2009; 11:00 AM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Friday, April 17 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his recent reviews and answer your personal tech questions.

Read Rob's latest tech tips in his blog, Faster Forward and his latest column: GPS Units Plug Into the Web, but We're Not There Yet.

Submit a question now or during the discussion.


Rob Pegoraro: Good morning (not used to starting my chats with those words). I'm coming to you from scenic Ashburn, Va., where I just wrapped up a panel discussion on the business utility of social-networking sites. So if you're in the room and forgot to ask me about something during the panel, you can ask me now. (Or, you know, just talk to me directly--I'm in the back corner of the auditorium).

Otherwise, we can talk about any of my recent columns, like today's assessment of an Internet-connected GPS unit or last week's item on e-mail software. Let's go!


Manassas, Va.: Rob, when Windows 7 officially comes out, should I anticipate having problems installing it on my laptop, which has Windows XP installed. My laptop has 2 GB of RAM and is suppose to be "Vista Capable." Thanks!


Rob Pegoraro: I'll start with a question that isn't about any recent column. Answer: You should be fine. Windows 7 has lower hardware requirements than Vista (in my test of the public beta of 7, it used a lot less memory than Vista). The only uncertain item is whether your graphics card will support Win 7's "aero" graphics.


District of Columbia: Rob, for the teems of people who got their iPhone the first day it was released in June of 2007, our contracts with AT&T are just about to expire. Please tell me Apple and AT&T realize this and will have a new model ready to dangle in front of us in order to get us to resign for another 2 years.

Rob Pegoraro: I can't tell you that for sure. The odds are that AT&T will have a new model this summer, considering their practice of the last two years, but they could always change their mind. So, as tragic as this may seem, you may have to not spend more money on a new phone as soon as you'd like.


Dover, N.H.: Hi Rob. I hope that you can get to this. I have a new Mitsubishi 65 " DLP TV. I notice watching DVDs through an Oppo upconverting player that I get a lot of ghosting, especially in dark scenes. The Oppo has a DVI connection to an HDMI on the TV. The ghosting only seems to be on DVDs. Have you or your readers seen this? I plan on buying a Panasonic Blue Ray this weekend but I was curious if you have seen this.

Rob Pegoraro: Never heard of it, but then again most people don't own DLP TVs in the first place. Does your Oppo have component video outputs you could try instead of DVI?


District of Columbia: Hi Rob, I'm a MacBook user and as a result haven't really worried about viruses or malware in the past couple of years. I'm still smart about what I do online (have the firewall online, don't download stuff I don't recognize etc). A couple of months ago I heard that Apple was suggesting we get anti-virus software. I noticed it but didn't do anything else.

Then today I received an email from a company (PC Tools) talking about Mac Malware. I did more research and found an article in the Guardian about how there are a couple of trojans out there specifically for Macs. So now I'm thinking its time to do more research and be prepared but I have no idea where to start. Am I worrying for nothing? Do I need to start getting anti-virus and malware protection? And if so what companies make such software for Macs? I knew it couldn't last forever but I was sure hoping it wouldn't end so quickly.

Rob Pegoraro: There are more than a couple of Mac trojans, but you have to be an idiot to get hacked by them. As I recall, they all require you to type your admin password to install them. They are the functional equivalent of a hand-written note that says "please delete random documents from your hard drive."


Florida chick: I do basic web searches and word processing. I am a single mom on a super-tight budget. I need a laptop PC - have Mac at home (and hate it.) I am thinking of a netbook from Costco. Is this a good idea? Also, do you like Costco's own tech support, which they advertise as supplementing the manufacturer's help line? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: A netbook could do well at those tasks, but you need to try its keyboard first-hand--some of them have utterly wretched key layouts. Can't speak to Costco tech support; if anybody has tried it, please speak up.


Alexandria, Va.: Hey Rob,

What is the difference between LED and LCD TVs and what are the advantages or disadvantages of them? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: LED (light-emitting diode) is not a screen technology but a backlight technology you can use in any LCD (liquid crystal display) TV. Most LCDs use a fluorescent backlight; LEDs are much brighter, last longer (though conventional LCD backlights are already good for, like, 20 years of 8 hr./day viewing) and use less electricity.

Unfortunately, LED-backlit LCDs also cost about 30-50 percent more than comparable fluorescent-backlit screens. This seems like more of a next-year technology, as far as the mass market goes.


Clifton, Va.: Rob,

I think you need to get your bosses at the WP. to spring for a Meridian 810 projector. Wow puts my Sony SXRD professional movie theater one to shame. The video processing is incredible. 1080p is like a VHS in comparison.

I can talk to them for you. You need one for your reviews along with dedicated HT room.

Rob Pegoraro: Clifton, we love you, but you're still nuts.


Silver Spring, Md.: Here's a softball. I just got company laptop, an HP EliteBook that has an Optiarc AD-7561S DVD RW drive and a firewire port. This is handy because I have a camcorder and it seems like I should be able to make DVDs of the kids for the grandparents. My choices for blank DVDs appear to be DVD+R and DVD-R and I can get them in single layer or double layer versions. Since it looks like this drive can support any of those, what should I get (and does it matter)? My objective is something that my folks can just pop into their DVD player and watch on the TV. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: As long as you finalize the disc, either the + or - formats will be fine. Double-layer just means twice the capacity--which should not factor into home movie-making, unless you're shooting a LOT more footage than the average camcorder owner.


So You Don't Like: The word "pirate". How about just "thief". Or maybe "bandit", it has kind of an adventuresome ring to it.

Yes, I know the world has changed and the old business models don't work anymore. But guess what, this has happened always. Doesn't mean that someone who takes something offered for sale and doesn't pay for it isn't a "crook" (there's another name to try).

Rob Pegoraro: This is a follow-up to a post on my blog earlier this week, in which I asked if "pirate" was the best word to describe people who use commercial software without paying for it, in light of last week's events off the coast of Somalia. My contention is that it's not, and that we need a better term to describe this act and place it in the proper moral context. I like "fraud," in that you're disrupting the normal commercial transaction but aren't taking someone's property away, as is the case with theft. Other folks suggested "free-loading" and "poaching," terms I like too. But read the comments and see for yourself--it's a good thread.


Laurel, Md.: Rob, I can't get any of the sports chat hosts to answer this question...

I'm expecting to watch my first baseball game over HDTV this weekend. Is there anything game-important you can see that way that wasn't visible in normal def? (By game important, I mean something like seam-rotation on pitches, not whether a player's uniform has a loose thread.)

Rob Pegoraro: You're going to like the experience, I promise you. You won't see things like seams rotating on a pitched ball--even HD cameras can't freeze action that fast (even with a slower pitch like, say, Wakefield's knuckleball). What you will see that's game-relevant: facial expressions on players, the finer movements of people in the outfield, and simpler stuff like the lettering on the back of the jersey (not so easy to read in SD if somebody isn't in a tight focus).


Anonymous: Observation: I've used XP for years, still use it on my desktop and netbook. My aunt has a Macbook that she brought on her visit to our house last weekend. The last time I really used Mac was probably 1996. Trying to use her OSX system was frustrating torture...nothing seemed logical, there were no right-click or context menus, and we couldn't figure out her new backup software. "It just works" is a big lie, and it was all I could do to hold my tongue about how much I hated her Mac. And that's after watching two people have to restart malfunctioning iPhones at the same time the day prior.

Rob Pegoraro: Um, what you're saying is "an unfamiliar interface is confusing." Which is an observation you could make of just about every program ever released. But I think that if you make a line-by-line comparison of the steps involved in common tasks like, say, installing or removing a program, OS X is objectively easier.


Arlington, Va.: It will be interesting to see which area GM and Chevy dealers survive 24 months from now? The best capitalized dealers in the area are not always the ones offering best customer service in both sales and service. I have had great dealer service from Hendrick Honda in Woodbridge and maybe Mr Hendrick will acquire some area Chevy dealerships. My siblings who own Chevy have not had good experiences at Koons, Ourisman or Criswell.

Rob Pegoraro: I think this is meant for another chat--but the point about the virtue of good customer service applies in the computing realm too.


Bowie:, Md. Rob, I didn't notice in either of your traffic-enabled GPS reviews any mention of the Navigon brand. Their 5100 and 7100 series units (the former I've seen as little as $130) include lifetime traffic over XM free for life; i.e. no monthly license fee.

So, if you're willing to assume XM stays in business...

Rob Pegoraro: Good point. Er, points. I do think satellite radio will be around for the long run, but you can't rule out an interim Chapter 11 bankruptcy that would wipe out all the debts Sirius and XM ran up with some dumb business decisions early on.

So how do you like your Navigon's traffic updates?


Wiredog: My XP box at work starts throwing warnings about the C: drive (actually a partition) running out of space, so I open up Partition Magic. Tell it to mark the C partition as active (prior to joining it with the E partition that has 100gb free space). Reboot.

"Windows is unable to find hal.dll Windows can not start."

Oops. Oh dear. Darn. And other words less suitable for a Family Site like this.

Thank the FSM I do regular backups and haven't lost any work.

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, that is bad. FWIW, I haven't had any issues using the free GParted to resize partitions; it can't, however, merge them.


for Dover, N.H.: Quite likely, the "ghosting" that your poster is seeing is the edge enhancement of DVDs which is more apparent and annoying on larger TV screens. Since the poster mentioned getting a Blu-Ray player, they should know that Blu-rays don't seem to have this problem, at least on the ones I have viewed since I made the upgrade a few months ago.

A detailed article on edge enhancement with examples may be found here:

Rob Pegoraro: Thank you!


Sherman Oaks, Calif.: rob, an HDTV question: I've read your mentions that I could connect my computer/MacBook to my HDTV and play internet videos on the TV.Is there a link from an article where you've written about the details for project that I can go to and channel my 'inner geek?' thanks, Tom

Rob Pegoraro: I'm working on a column about "home theater PCs" that will go into more details. But the short version of it is pretty simple: Get a VGA cable, with an adapter if necessary for a Mac's mini-DVI or DisplayPort connection, then turn on the computer. Use Front Row and the Apple remote to enjoy your music/movies/photos. Repeat as necessary.


Edmonton, Canada: I enjoy your columns, blog, and discussions. Interesting reading about the other guy's problems. Different when you're sweating over your own little implosion.

HP Pavilion 8325, 1 year old/vista ult 32 bit/up to date nvidia GS 8400 with latest driver, Hauppage tv card, 22 inch HP 2207 monitor, up to date virus/spyware scans are clean (I can see the eye chart)

No obvious precipitating event--no installation or software change. But one day last week, screen went wonky--displaying gridlike patterns, checkerboards, lines, etc in changing colors. I had no access--had to turn it off and re-boot.

Rebooted in safe mode, uninstalled the video card in device manager, re-booted to let windows find it again, checked for driver update and made sure I had most recent, etc. Did a system restore to before the first incident. Ran hardware diagnostic--all components passed. No help. Sometimes it'd boot up and work normally, only to do the screen/crash a few minutes/hours later. The crashes appeared more and more often--even in safe mode (where I believe the nvidia drivers wouldn't be loaded). Finally after too many hard shutdowns, I couldn't get past the introductory HP screen.

Took the Windows disk and managed to boot from it, did a full copy/re-install--from a disk image about 3 weeks old, created well before the problem appeared.

That went fine. But the problem is, the intermittent screen chaos/crashes survived it all--still with me. Admitting I'm completely out of my depth, I'd appreciate any long-distance diagnosis or a pointer or two about what's going on and what I can do. Video card? Motherboard? Monitor? Other than a sledgehammer, what's next?

Progress? I'm sending this from my HP Pavilion 750n--puchased 2002 and still humming along.

Rob Pegoraro: If a complete reinstall of Windows doesn't cure the problem, then by definition you've got a hardware issue (though I guess installing Linux on a second partition or running a copy of Linux off a liveCD would confirm that for sure). I hope that "1 year old" means "almost 1 year old" and therefore still under the standard warranty.


RE: Ghosting: The ghosting appears when you are using an upconverting player with interlacing that refreshes at a higher rate than the response time of the TV. Check the response time of the TV and the upconvertion settings on the player. Make sure the player is set to a progressive upconvert setting (720p or 1080p). Some players cannot upconvert to 1080p, so naturally just upconvert to 1080i which can cause these ghosting problems with televisions that have slower (>8 ms) response rate. If you TV has a slow response rate, you may just be better watching your upconverting DVDs at 720p.

Rob Pegoraro: Another possibility I hadn't thought of. Thanks!


Toronto, Canada: I recently updated to Internet Explorer 8 and my computer now seems to take an inordinate amount of time to connect. Is version 8 too content-rich for my Dell Inspiron 8100, now about 10 years old? Should I go back to version 7, or buy a new computer?

Rob Pegoraro: 10 years, as in a decade? I'm amazed it boots at all. Yes, I would consider buying a new machine. There have been a few advances in computing since 1999. (But if you really want to keep using the thing, try a smaller, lighter browser like Opera or Chrome.)


Stormville, N.Y.: Hi Rob !

I just bought a Toshiba Satellite L305 series laptop. OS is W Vista Home Premium.

My question is really on Vista. I wanted to start deleting some of the preinstalled crap, like NetZero.

Going thru Control Panel, and select the program, then click on remove, a window pops up that tells me it needs my permission to continue, then it says: "Uninstall or change an application Microsoft Windows"

Then a LONG alphanumeric entry, and a Continue button.

I got hung up on the fact that in this popup window the application is not named and may be interpreted that one is going to uninstall Windows.

OK, so I am paranoid :-) but better be safe than sorry.

Do I guess correctly that I have nothing to worry about here ?

Sorry for the basic question, but while my computer experience goes back to pre-PC Junior, this is my first brush with Vista.

Rob Pegoraro: You shouldn't have anything to worry about yanking an add-on app like NetZero. It's possible that removing that will also yank out some system-level add-on files, but in a worst-case scenario System Restore should be able to rescue things.


Staunton, Va.: Rob, I fell for an old e-commerce dupe this week: I tried to buy something at what looked like a legit site, but which was offering a much lower price on the item than anyplace else. I was a little skeptical, but I used the who is search you described and found the name of a real person with a real address. I finally wised up when I got an email asking me to submit payment by Western Union, but not before I'd (previously) entered my credit card info. No harm, no foul--AmEx took care of it, but the site is still operating (though no longer pops up in Google shopping results). Is there a way to report the site, and the person who registered it?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm glad whois worked for you! It sounds like enough other people have reported this person, in one way or another, for it to vanish from Google, which is the Web equivalent of death. But it might be worthwhile dropping a note to the local authorities near this person.


Potomac, Md.: Rob, recently, every time I start Windows a window pops up to install "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications." As best as I can tell, the purpose of this is for Microsoft to monitor whether or not I have a legal copy of Windows on my machine. I do, so I don't need their help (:--) ). Aside from just hitting "Cancel" every time this comes up, is there any way to get rid of this short of installing it? I really don't want Microsoft spying on my computer.

Rob Pegoraro: Your understanding of "WGA" is correct. You should be able to click a checkbox like "don't ask me about this update again" when those prompts next pop up.


Turbo Tax: Hi Rob,

Do you happen to know the max income that turbo tax can handle? An obnoxious acquaintance whined to me this week that she and her husband had to find an accountant because Turbo Tax gave them an error because their income was too high (I am not making this up). I need to know how much to despise her.


Rob Pegoraro: I'm a journalist, so I'm in no danger of hitting any max-income-level limits :)

I would imagine that TurboTax can handle quite a lot of income; there's no reason why Intuit's developers would want to code in any sort of income limit to it. My guess is there's more to the story than your acquaintance told.


Arlington, Va.: Hi. New netbooks or new versions of older ones seem to be appearing almost weekly, and the reviews seem to give great weight to large-capacity hard drives. I'm interested in traveling with a netbook for email and websurfing, without a need for a lot of extra programs, and I'd prefer the increased reliability of a solid-state drive instead of more storage. I'm looking at the Dell Mini 9 and the HP Mini, but I'm sure there are plenty of others. Any recommendations?

Rob Pegoraro: The HP has a much better keyboard than the Dell. Dell bundles a much better version of Linux. Of course, if you'd prefer XP then it's an easy decision: Get the HP.


San Diego, Calif.: Sometime in May, I'll be receiving a one-time payment of $250, as part of President Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan, for seniors and disabled people. I don't know how much my upcoming purchases will stimulate the economy, but hopefully I will be able to stimulate my Mac! I've decided to max-out the RAM on my iBook G4. I also want to upgrade (L-O-N-G overdue) from OS 10.3.9 to whatever newer version of the Mac OS X that this machine will run. My iBook's processor is 1.2 GHz PowerPC G4, with 256 MB of memory built-in. So, which OS X will run on this iBook? How easy is it to add the extra RAM and will I need any special tools or professional guidance? Would it be smarter for me to have the people at the local Apple Store do it? Thanks for any pertinent info you can provide on this. Let me close by also thanking you for the wealth of tech tips and info these online sessions have provided in the past.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, upgrade the memory. There is no better return on your money, as far as computer upgrades go, and it's not too much work; you open a panel on the machine, pop a tiny circuit board into a slot until it clicks in place, close it up, and reboot. You could upgrade to OS X 10.5 as well, but you are at the lower level of Apple's hardware requirements.


Fairfax, Va.: Rob, I'm going to start looking around for a small device I can use to read PDFs during my morning subway commute. What I need is something portable, that will allow me to read articles and documents for school. Ideally, I'd be able to bookmark certain pages, or somehow be able to make notes while reading - either directly into the PDF, or by opening another do I've been reading reviews of ebooks, and hearing that they don't always work well with PDF files? So then I started looking at mini laptops. They are nice, but have way more stuff on them than I will need (I like simplicity), and the orientation is awkward. For example, if I have to stand on the train I think an ebook would be easier to hold. Do you have any thoughts on what device might be best for me? I was hoping to spend under $300. Don't know if that's possible.

Rob Pegoraro: One of my colleagues asked a version of that question--he's reading some very long PDFs as part of a court case he's covering. Your best option is probably a convertible Tablet PC, but those cost a lot more than $300 a pop and are not too simple either. A netbook like the Acer Aspire One would get you the cost and the simplicity, but you will have to put up with the screen being the wrong orientation for PDF reading (a more annoying issue with the small screen on a netbook).


Chinatown, District of Columbia: I'm an iPod virgin and am considering getting an iTouch only because I don't have an AT&T contract. That said, I wouldn't mind getting an iPhone with the possibility of switching in the future. Is that possible? Or does one need to sign a contract to buy an iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: You can buy one without a contract, but you pay 2-3x the list price that way. Not recommended.


Silver Spring, Md. for Sherman Oaks: I do this right now, and have no trouble. If your HDTV has DVI or HDMI inputs, use a DVI-DVI cable or a DVI to HDMI cable for better quality than VGA. A few televisions have strange challenges due to odd pixel formats and circuitry, but very very few. If you can run Windows on the Mac get yourself a Kodak HD Theatre Player too.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!


Bowie, Md. on Navigon: General comment: Too many feature packed into too small a device makes it somewhat hard to use, in the "do they know how big a human finger is" sense.

On Traffic: Some things are stupidly annoying. It tells me the BW Pkwy is congested between Benning and Burroughs, so I press "Avoid Traffic." Then it tells me the Pkwy is back up from East Capitol to Benning (and I click "Avoid"), and then from Burroughs to the 50 split. If I'm avoiding that first segment, there's no way I'll be using the others, either. That said, I do think I get info within 5 minutes, which is all I can expect.

Rob Pegoraro: Appreciate the report from the field...


RE: "poaching," terms I like too: I like "poaching" as well. I work in a private library in a law firm, and we have trouble keeping certain reference books on the shelf. People have the option of paying for their own personal copies, which I order for them. But some don't want to and take the library copy as soon as the new edition is on shelf. I told another librarian it drove me crazy that someone always stole the library copy. She said "stealing" was such a harsh word. Maybe "poaching" is better. We never see the book again, so it's not like it was "borrowed."

Rob Pegoraro: One vote for a new vocabulary for copyright infringement.


Fairfax, Va.: Rob -- Just bought a Mac mini. Added 4MB RAM. Plan to use it as a second desktop and to keep photos and music. Seems like a nice system for such a small package. What did I give up? I had adequate monitor/keyboard/mouse.

Rob Pegoraro: You gave up the option of internal expansion--one that most computer owners never, ever get around to exploiting.


Florida Chick: Thanks! You're smart, smarter than most of the Post types.

Rob Pegoraro: Am I being graded on some kind of curve? BTW, that's not a very nice thing to say about people who write for the New York Post :)


Rockville, Md.: Rob, So my computer just crashed and had to basically buy a whole new computer. I am told that it probably had viruses on there that shut it down. I had Mcafee running on it, which I had downloaded from my employer (US Govt.) for work purposes. It had a auto update and was always running. Now the employer is upgrading to McAfee Security 8.1, which includes firewall and other fixes. Is this enough of a security suite for our home computer or do we need to get somthing else to make sure the new computer won't crash anytime soon. Some say Norton is better than McAfee and that I should disable the McAfee, which takes up too much memory and not quite as effective. Your thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't like any of the security suites--their firewalls don't provide any more protection against incoming threats than what comes for free in Windows, and they have a long history of causing problems with other programs. Your single most effective defense against malware is your own common sense: If some site you've never heard of yells that your computer is in danger or offers some normally-$-involved item for free, be suspicious. Check it out in a Web search. Just don't act on its suggestions.


West Milford, N.J.: For Potomac, Md.: Not installing Windows Genuine Advantage means you won't be able to get anything but critical security updates from Windows/Microsoft Update. No important ones or optional ones. You can, however, get the important security updates from the Microsoft download site.

Rob Pegoraro: Good point. But as of this week Microsoft is only providing security fixes for XP--it's in its "extended support" phase, with no more feature enhancements coming from Redmond, Wash.


Cameron, N.C.: HD baseball, once you see it you won't want to watch SD again. I tend to avoid non HDTV. On a properly set up TV (not like in the store) it's like watching the world through a window, next best thing to actually being there.

Rob Pegoraro: You can even pay yourself $7.50 for a beer if you want to recreate the entire major-league ballpark experience!


Bethesda, Md.: I have a problem with my mouse that I've never heard of before. I have a MacBook with a wireless mouse. The roller ball on the mouse works going up and sideways, but not scrolling down the page. I've been living with this rather than buying a new mouse, but wonder if there might be a simple fix, perhaps something I could clean. Thanks! Love your chats and columns and will have to start reading your blogs.

Rob Pegoraro: If it's an Apple "Mighty Mouse," try rolling that ball at the top against a damp cloth a few times. (Problem is, you'll have to keep doing it. That little ball is a dirt magnet.)


Regarding Turbo Tax: I make quite alot (not 7 figures) and have been able to use Turbo Tax without a problem. However, certain trust account returns cannot be done in Turbo Tax. Unless the obnoxious aquantance is stupid, if they make THAT much, they should have already set up trusts, etc to shield their income and would have needed an accountant long before. I think they are blowing smoke.

Rob Pegoraro: My thinking too.


Annapolis Co., N.S., Can: I have a Dell with XP Pro and up-to-date security patches.I use Avast home freeware. Since the internet set-up in Nov/07 I have been using IE 7, which I updated from 6 shortly after getting the PC. I had a lot of trouble accessing sites, ie facebook with IE 7. Recently, I changed to Firefox, making it my default server but leaving IE and using it. Firefox will keep email addresses for facebook and gmail only. It will not retain my hotmail address or password and likewise for yahoo. I have instructed it to delete history after a day and it won't delete it at all. On EI I screen cookies, on Firefox it is supposed to delete them when the "session" is over. I wonder if it actually does. It's acting like a teenager with selective "hearing". What could be the problem? I have gone in several times to redo the settings to no avail.

Rob Pegoraro: Your security settings may be causing those issues. Having the browser delete cookies after every session is a total waste of time. It doesn't keep you any more secure but will cause all sorts of issues with sites that require logins.


A Kindle Question: My new Kindle uses a 3G network which Amazon calls Whispernet for wirelessly transmitting the books I purchase. As I understand it, Whispernet works just like a cell phone network. If that's the case, are there any security issues that I need to know about? Thanks. PS: The Kindle is the BEST INVENTION EVER!!! Not that I'm excited about it or anything.

Rob Pegoraro: The primary security issue with the Kindle is the DRM (digital rights management) software that locks down your purchases. There's a story going around this week about a Kindle owner who had his Amazon account canceled--Amazon thought he'd returned too many items--which left him unable to buy any more Kindle books, stopped all his newspaper subscriptions on the device and left him with no way to transfer his purchases elsewhere. He did get his account back, but I'm not comfortable with a system that lets my purchases get "unpurchased" at somebody else's whim.


Arlington, Va: Trying to survive without cable for a while using OTA HDTV signals. So far, I get locals 4,5, 9 & 20 with rabbit ears. Is buying a signal-boasting (i.e. amplified) powered HDTV antenna going to provide better coverage or did I just waste 25 bucks?

Rob Pegoraro: Don't get an amplified antenna--you're more than close enough to all the local broadcasters' antennas. Try a different antenna instead, especially if you're at the bottom of a hill. (Do you live in one of those valleys in North Arlington?) In that case, you might need a rooftop antenna, not a table-top model.

FWIW, in my own, non-valley-based Arlington home, a tabletop antenna works fine.


Arlington, Va.: I have a WD My Book Premium that I paid $250 for. It has 500G and I have only put 8G on it so far. All of a sudden, it's not recognized on my computers anymore. My son took it an worked with it and it now is recognized but it goes in and out. What's wrong and how can it be fixed? I didn't think external hard drives could just go blewy like that and I hate to spend another $200 to replace something I haven't even come close to utilizing.

Rob Pegoraro: Right, that's not how external hard drives should work. If it acts up on two different computers, the problem can't be in your own software or hardware. Take it back to the store.


Metro Centro: R-Peg, do I have this right: this summer's iPhone release will contain new software, but will it be the same physical phone? In your opinion, COULD the phone unit use improvements? (thinner, better battery, etc)

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think the iPhone "needs" to be thinner, but there's no such thing as too much battery life on a phone. It also ought to support video recording, not just still photos.

But most of the improvements I'd like to see are at the software end. Some are coming in the 3.0 update, like copy-and-paste support, but others still seem to be on the to-do list. To name one, complete Bluetooth support that would allow for file transfer to a computer and the use of a Bluetooth keyboard.


District of Columbia: Turbo Tax - remember Geitner used it when he worked for the IMF and it got him in all sorts of trouble. Don't know what his income is but he certainly isn't hurting financially.

Rob Pegoraro: Funny how Intuit doesn't use his testimony to sell this app...


Woodbridge, Va.: We can't secure our wireless! I put in the IP address (Linksys) - - and I get a "page load error". What should I do?

Rob Pegoraro: Make sure you're plugged directly into the router via Ethernet? You might also want to try doing a hard reset of the router to its factory settings.


Adams Morgan, District of Columbia: Hi Rob,

My girlfriend is in the market for a netbook since she hates lugging her heavy laptop. It needs to have wifi and Windows programs, and enough ports for some externals. Any recommendations? This will be used for mainly e-mail, editing and creating Word docs, and internet access. Seems to be lots of choices and price points.



Rob Pegoraro: Again, it's all about the keyboard. A lot of manufacturers have made what I regard as inexcusable errors in keyboard layout (look, the QWERTY layout has been around for most of a century; there's no reason to screw that up now). Your only expansion ports will be USB and a VGA video output, but that should be enough.

Oh, also look at screen size. Outlook and Word eat up a lot of screen real estate, even if you turn off some of their toolbars; you might prefer a netbook with a 10-inch screen instead of the 9-inch displays on many of these machines.


District of Columbia: Rob, can I watch streaming video from Netflix or Hulu on an iPod Touch or an iPhone? If not, have you heard anything about when that would be available?

Rob Pegoraro: No and no. Sorry.. basic problem with both sites is that they require a browser plugin not available in the iPhone/iPod touch's Safari. You can watch YouTube clips, but that's only because there's a separate app written just for that site.


Charlottesville, Va.: Treo Pro question for you: I'm interested in getting one, but the ones with Alltel, my carrier, all run Windows Mobile. I'm still hanging onto my old Palm Pilots which run ancient Palm OS's. Any problems for me making the switch and keeping all my data up to date? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Before you switch phones, make sure to sync your Palm to Outlook, not Palm Desktop (the latest version of Palm Desktop includes a conduit that allows that). Otherwise, your data will be stranded there--you can get addresses out of it, but not calendars.

Note, also, that Verizon is buying Alltel, and Verizon does sell Palm OS phones (but, given that Palm is dumping the Palm OS in favor of the Web OS in the upcoming, Sprint-only-for-now Pre, I would be really hesitant about sinking any more money into that platform anyway).


Rob Pegoraro: That's gotta kick things in the head for today (if I can steal Marc Fisher's line). Thanks for the questions; if I missed yours, you can e-mail me at, and I'll also be back here in two weeks. Enjoy the weekend...


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