Personal Tech: Gadget News and Reviews

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Friday, May 15, 2009; 12:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Friday, May 15 at Noon ET to discuss his recent reviews and answer your personal tech questions.

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


Rob Pegoraro: Hello, everybody--which may translate to "all three of you," since I'm up against not just Carolyn Hax but also Dana Milbank and John Kelly. This may be the worst timeslot I've ever had! But at least I'm not also competing with American Idol...

Anyway: Let's chat. What can I tell you today?


flip out: have you evaluated the flip and its competitors? which is better? I will be shooting daytime footage for use on an internet news site, FYI. Do-It-Yourself HD Video

Rob Pegoraro: Let's start with a query about today's column (which my producer has thoughtfully linked back to said column). The Flip UltraHD will certainly work for that... but if you're looking to upload directly to a site, you may find that the FlipShare software gets in your way, since it assumes that you'll want to upload to YouTube or MySpace.

You also may find that its quality isn't quite professional-grade. (Though if you want advice about pro video equipment, you're talking to the wrong guy--I'd have to hand the query over to Chet Rhodes, the video guru at our site.)


South Riding, Va.: I have a pocket camera that can take pictures or video. I have taken a few videos and posted them online. I assume that having a video camera would give me better quality and features. I am not looking to spend a lot of money and would want a camera that recorded to flash memory. How much would I need to spend to have something better than my current digital camera? The real advantage I see on some of the cheaper models is the flip screen so I can take videos of myself.

Rob Pegoraro: That depends on the age of your camera. Most recent models shoot in at least 640 by 480, which is the rough equivalent of DVD quality--except, just as with the Flip and Kodak models, the camera may not have enough processing power to deal with fast-moving subjects or low light.

FWIW, all of the videos that I've shot from the Consumer Electronics Show were recorded with the video mode on a digital camera, a Canon A570is.


Arlington, VA: Are we too reliant on Google as a company. When the crash happened yesterday, I wanted to send emails to friends and realized I didn't know anyone's email address to even use another server. The total traffic on the internet came to a stand-still. Its scary that one company can almost bring down the internet by itself. Many other websites started experiencing service problems when google crashed.

When Google Goes Down, It Falls Hard

Rob Pegoraro: I missed out on all the fun yesterday--Google and Gmail were available every time I used them. I felt left out for a little while.

This is something I want to get into for next week's column--it's an interesting topic, this issue of "how much of our data and services should we trust another site to hold for us online."


Germantown, MD: For personal use, which is easier to use: Blackberry or the new Iphone (due out June 2009)?

Rob Pegoraro: You're asking me to review a product that hasn't even shipped yet! I mean, I'm good, but I'm not that good.

The current iPhone, however, is easier to use than a BlackBerry. I presume the next model would be as well, but let's see how it works in the real world.


Arlington, Va.: I've been waiting for the RCA EZ209 for months, but they keep pushing back the release date. I'm getting impatient, but I haven't yet found a camera/camcorder out there now that looks better. Any ideas when it will come out? Or is something like the DXG-581V just as good?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know, and I don't know. Has anybody tried the latter flash-memory camcorder? Can anybody recommend a different model?


bethesda: you mentioned only in passing in today's article that the included video editing programs are not as good as iMovie. I've used some of them, and now use iMovie and iDVD, and I am now going to accuse you of MASSIVE UNDERSTATEMENT. iMovie is incredibly easy to use for High-Def editing, and blows the pants off the others. You should really make that clear - the free programs that come with all Macs are infinitely better than the schlock you find in the box with those cameras. And a person would have to pay more than $100 for a real video editing suite (Pinnacle?) to even get close to iMovie; but it still would never be as intuitive as the no-manual-needed iMovie and iDVD applications!!

Rob Pegoraro: Um, I think you left out an exclamation point at the end :)

No argument about the utility of iMovie; it's one reason why I paid for a copy of iLife '09 myself. But that's not much help to people who already own PCs. And even iMovie is not as easy to use as the FlipShare software, precisely because it does offer all these other features.


Bethesda, Md.: Here's some news from the cable-less sports-watching front.

We just get over-the-air HDTV (which is beautiful); no cable. Earlier in the spring we tried the service which let us watch any game (except the home-market) for $25/month for two months. Not bad, and maybe we'll do the same with after school lets out.

But we continue to miss a lot of sports programming that we'd like to watch. Then last night I discovered that is free for us (RCN Internet customer), and is not bad. The picture quality is not quite as good as, but it's free! I watched parts of two NBA playoff games last night, and am a happy camper. I don't know which other ISPs (Verizon, Comcast, etc.) have this relationship with ESPN.

- we have a 2004-Vintage PC (2.8 GHz Pentium 4) attached to our HDTV. We also watch Netflix-on-Demand with this setup, which of course yields much nicer picture quality than these live sports programs described above. Note that the sports _commercials_ are all viewed with perfect fidelity, since like Netflix the compression can be precomputed

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report. Looks like Comcast and Verizon Fios customers also have access to ESPN360, while a lot of other Internet users are shut out. (Which I'd say is dumb; let those people pay to view ESPN360 instead of turning them away. What part of "if people want to give you their money, let 'em?" does ESPN not understand?)


State of Dyspepsia: Rob, yesterday you said that you don't use Gmail on a serious basis because of the ads (sorry for the paraphrase).

I had to check, because I use Gmail constantly and don;t recall any ads. Sure enough, in Firefox with the Adblocker Plus extension, there are no ads.

So, are you against looking at the ads, which can be overcome, or are you against the idea that Gmail is scanning your content?

Frankly, I was prepared to hate Gmail when I set up my account 5+ years ago, but it has become my number 1 (of 6? 7?) different e mail accounts/clients that I use. Gmail Gunning For More Users With Auto-Import Feature

Rob Pegoraro: It's the idea of Google scanning my messages. I don't mind ads as long as they're not in-my-face annoying... which Gmail's certainly aren't. Most of the time, I don't even notice them. Sorry, Gmail advertisers!


New York, N.Y.: Hi Rob Have you - or any of yr many appreciative readers - had experience with the Audio Technica AT-LP2DUSB LP-to-Digital Recording System with USB? I'm hoping to be able to transfer music from my large library of LP's to my iMac, creating MP3 files, Presumably the Audio Technica achieves this (there's an ION turntable that's said to do the same thing, but it costs considerably more on Amazon). Grateful for a response ...Boswell

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't tried it, but a coworker tried out the Ion turntable a while back and shared his take on it with me:


Not Stealing, Just Moving: Okay, here's your Friday conundrum:

Newish Mac and iPod, loaded with music -- all legally acquired, so this isn't a Napster question (besides, we're old enough to think the artist deserves to get paid).

Oldish Dell desktop, with most excellent sound and speakers, which can't be used anywhere else.

How to play the iPod through the Dell, without having to erase the iPod first as the Dell is requesting?

Rob Pegoraro: Just copy the music from the Mac to an external hard drive, then plug that drive into the Dell and copy it from there to the Dell. (If you don't have an external hard drive, buy one; you can use it with Time Machine on the Mac after you do this file transfer.)


Alexandria: Hi Rob hopefully you have gotten to test it out, but what is your take on the new Verizon MiFi?

Rob Pegoraro: Have not tried it, but you should know that Verizon has a 5 GB/month cap on mobile-broadband use, which means you need to be careful when using something like the MiFi for desktop/laptop Internet use.


sherman oaks, ca: rob, my current means of connecting to the internet is via Time Warner cable. (for their own reasons AT&T have chosen not to run DSL within reach of my neighborhood; and i prefer something that's a faster than a dial-up service.)

i've been reading about Verizon's Novatell MiFi service coming out in about a week.

i'm wondering if this might be a suitable replacement for my T-W internet service. (i don't know whether it's been an issue in Washington, but the T-W internet service has been suffering 'unexplained' outages on a intermittent basis since before the beginning of 2009 here in Los Angeles.)

i use the T-W service for a part-time home-business, so i subscribe to their fastest service. i just checked the down/up speeds - 15mb download/7kb upload. (this service costs $56.95 per month, so the Verizon monthly charges don't seem totally outrageous.

i know you concentrate on the 'home user,' but i'm curious what you've heard/experienced about the new service from Verison. and as someone who basically does email, reads blogs, and downloads the occasional video or audio file from NPR, which of the two levels of Verizon service might work for me; (i really don't have any idea of how to estimate the 'quantity' of data i download in a month).

and because of the 'hickey' service, i'd like to dump Time Warner, something i've already done for cable TV.


Rob Pegoraro: See my prior answer. Using a VzW broadband account (or a comparable one from another of the big wireless carriers) is asking for trouble, as they all have that 5 GB cap for PC mobile-broadband use.


Deltona, Fla.: Regarding your comments on Windows 7: You did not mention whether all existing programs and device drivers from Vista will work with Windows 7. I am using Vista Ultimate and I had to upgrade a number of programs and device drivers in my migration from XP to Vista and I hope it would not be necessary for Windows 7. Microsoft Quickly Looking Past Vista

Rob Pegoraro: Assuming that older software--especially device drivers--will work properly in a new version of Vista is not a good idea. Windows 7 doesn't represent nearly as big of a change from Vista as Vista did from XP, but if there's a way some developer or manufacturer can screw up Win 7 compatibility, they will.


Google: I missed out on the Google fun too. My problem is that, while I basically know everyone's email address and could remember if Gmail went down, everyone else is all using Gmail too, so it wouldn't help much.

It's an interesting problem. I've also noticed that since Google (the search engine) is so reliable (at least compared to older options), it's more or less replaced DNS, too. Sure, it's nice to have a memorable domain name, but if you don't, I can just ask Google. This is why I'm not as concerned by ICANN's plan to open up TLDs for all as I would otherwise be... sure, it will basically break DNS, but with Google around, maybe it doesn't matter.

Rob Pegoraro: I will confess that sometimes I type a site's address into the Google search form in my browser by mistake.

(DNS = "domain name service," or the system that maps out addresses like to the numerical Internet Protocol addresses that identify individual servers online.)


New York, N.Y.: What do you think of the iPod-enabled HDTVs that are on the market?

Rob Pegoraro: I was a little floored the first time I saw Sony introduce an HDTV with an iPod dock, but they were following the lead of a lot of other people. Now that you can put a movie on an iPod, this feature does make some sense. But if you only listen to music on your iPod, it's a waste--most TVs have weak speakers.


Burke, VA: Rob Hello. I'm taking a break from the other discussions and am your fourth.

I recently purchased a Samsung UN55B8000 55", 240Hz, 2ms, LED television which is reported to used 40% less power than comparable sized LCDs. When do you think the price of these LED televisions will come down to current LCD levels (right now there's generally about a $500$1,000 price difference)?

Rob Pegoraro: Probably a couple of years off. Making white LEDs is pretty tricky; that's one reason why the only place you see them in the field is on pedestrian signals (where cities can make up the cost on the money saved by not having to dispatch a truck every few months to replace conventional bulbs).

So how do you like the set, anyway? I've thought about reviewing one of these LED-backlit sets, but their high cost (especially in this crummy economy) has discouraged me from doing that.


wiredog: I noticed that when I clean out the spam folder on Gmail that the ad is always for a spam recipe. Today it's "Spam Quiche - Makes 4 servings" or (checks again) "Creamy Spam Broccoli Casserole - Makes 8 servings"

At least the google guys have a sense of humor.

Any sensitive mail goes to my account. Gmail is for unimportant stuff...

Rob Pegoraro: Dude, some of us are trying to eat lunch right now!


Bethesda, MD: No ESPN360 on Comcast in Bethesda. It seems it is only available on Verizon and RCN.

Rob Pegoraro: I got that from ESPN's site... which could be wrong.


Warner Robins, GA: To Arlington, VA and others: I have used Google since its beginning and love its services but people need to realize that Google is just like Microsoft and Apple... an all encompassing being. I rarely use webmail but I have accounts with all the major services. If one is down, odds are that all the others are not. I always have a USB drive with my contacts and bookmarks. Diversification is the answer.

Just my two cents worth, for what its worth.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the perspective...


Ion turntable: Hi, I used the Ion Turntable to convert all my moms old records and 45's; it worked great and the sound, well the sound is what you get from a record, but it was VERY easy to use.

Rob Pegoraro: Appreciate the report...


Washington, D.C.: Thank you for this chat. I find it to be most valuable.

I recently installed a new modem/router for my Verizon DSL service. It is an Actiontec, model GT704WGV. My computer operating system is XP Home Edition. When I installed the new modem, the default firewall filtering for the modem is the NAT firewall. I had the option to change the Actiontec default firewall settings to Low, Medium or High levels. Because I have been and continue to be using the Windows Firewall, I decided to hold off on going to one of the three Actiontec optional settings.

My question is should I select one of the three optional settings, and if so, which one? If I make this change, should I continue to use the Windows Firewall?

Rob Pegoraro: If you only have one computer behind the router, that doesn't need its own firewall. But if you have two or more machines in the house, then each of them needs its own firewall (for one thing, if you take a laptop to some other place and get it infected by a worm, that worm could then attack other machines at home behind the router firewall).

Not sure what the low/medium/high levels mean, though. You'd have to look up the details on the router admin page or manual.


Vista and Outlook: Hi,

I bought a new computer with Vista. There are some challenges with getting use to the new OS, but I do like the OS better than XP. The biggest I'm having right now is that I can't install Outlook on Vista. While I don't have a problem using their new email program, Windows Mail, my question is how do I view my old emails that are stored in Outlook pst files or is that even possible.


Rob Pegoraro: You must have a really old version of Outlook if it won't install in Vista. Which one are you talking about here?


Binghamton, N.Y.: My wife and I recently replaced our expensive cable TV feed with a Roku box and an Apple TV, and (thanks to our cable company's broadband service) the new arrangement is meeting our needs very well. But now along comes Verizon Wireless with its new MiFi device, which promises to provide us with a mobile broadband feed whether we're at home or on the road. So now we're wondering, can we cut our ties with the cable company altogether? We'd love to have a wifi "bubble" surrounding us when we travel with our laptops, but would the Verizon service work at home with our Roku and Apple boxes? I hear that the speed may be fast enough, but would we quickly exceed the 5GB-per-month allowance? (We download and watch two or three movies a week.) Thanks for your guidance!

Rob Pegoraro: My answer to this one is an even louder NO! Nothing will eat up that 5 GB quota as fast as watching streaming video. Don't even think about it.


Somewhere With No Vista: Is there an estimated release date for that newest version of Windows? Is it going to be soon enough that I'll be able to avoid Vista by jumping straight from XP to W7?

Rob Pegoraro: Microsoft is pretty sure they'll ship it in time for the holiday shopping season. I take that to mean "no earlier than October."


Apache jct, AZ: Hey again Rob, Arizona calling. I'm wondering if I'm missing anything audio-wise by using the RCA plugs to my AV receiver instead of the HDMI cord that I use from my DirecTV right to the TV. The stereo sounds good from the 7 speakers, do I lose anything watching a movie in 5.1 or 7.1 whatever.

Rob Pegoraro: Those little plugs only support stereo, not surround sound. And if you're using RCA, aka composite, for video, then you're also getting the worst possible video signal. Try HDMI instead.


Alexandria: Rob, I really hope you can help me out with this one. My grandmother has Vista and with a recent update it wiped out her internet (she still has a connection and the connection works fine, but you can't get internet explorer to open a page), I restored to a date before the update and when the update happened again there went her internet (this is how I found out it was from the update). How can I figure out exactly what update is causing this problem and not have it happen? I tried to walk her through turning off auto updates, but I believe my attempts failed because she told me she has restored her computer three times since we "turned off her auto updates". Any help you can give me would be great! Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: My guess is that she's running some third-party security program that is causing complications with this update. Make sure she's got the latest version of whatever app she uses. You may need to switch security apps entirely if this solution would require buying a new version; see this comparison of free anti-virus apps I did not long ago:


Silver spring: We're a houseful of mac users, switching on Monday from Verizon DSL to FIOS.

Anything we have to watch out for with FIOS internet? in terms of Wifi?

Rob Pegoraro: The router they'll install will probably come set to use WEP, not WPA, with an insecure admin username and password. You're going to want to change all those things after the install tech leaves.


Manassas, VA: Rob,

I am currently using a g wireless network at home. I am using it instead of an n network because my laptop (Dell Inspiron E1505 with Windows XP) is almost 3 years old and has a g wireless network card built in and the g Netgear router was cheaper than an n router. Beside the speed difference, is there an advantage of the n over the g? The g network does work well. By the way, I do notice the speed difference between the g network and a b network.


Rob Pegoraro: 802.11n routers should also cover a lot more ground than 802.11g routers.


Stevensville, MD: Hi Rob:

What's up with Apple TV?

Apple has demonstrated the power of internet downloads with iTunes. So why is the TV catalog so sparse, and is there any inkling that it will get better?

I have put off getting DVRs from the cable providers, satellite providers, Netflix and TiVO, as I want to be able to control where I download from (i.e. the net on my computer).

Rob Pegoraro: I have no idea. Apple seems to have forgotten that this device exists--I mean, where are these guys even *finding* 40-gig hard drives for the thing these days?

Maybe the developers conference next month will bring news about the Apple TV, but I hate to even make predictions after being wrong about this device so many times before.


Q about DirecTV has a $100 off deal: I just moved and don't have cable yet (outrageous costs!) and have been thinking of getting directv satellite so I found a posting on the Houston, TX classifieds in the electronics ads.

I don't live in that part of the country but the poster states in the ad it is from a friend of a friend and is still good -- Do you think I can still use a so-called 'friend's' direct tv referral code if someone from that part of the state (or country) posted it up there for free use? (if it's even valid)

I've found coupon codes online before but this type is one I'm not so sure about. Or should I just call the the 800 number and find out if it's legit to use? supposedly you can ask for whatever is their best deal running on top of the $100 off.

sorry; i'm kinda paranoid about scams and such but a $100 savings sounds pretty good these days but is that too good to be true and what is the best sat. tv deal these days anyhow. Should I ask for a free dvd recorder?

Rob Pegoraro: It never hurts to ask.


Silver Spring, MD: It was hard to tell from the videos (just train noise), but how is the sound recording on these? Was either one any better at clearly picking up voices, or particularly bad about recording too much background noise?

Rob Pegoraro: They both did alright. I shot another couple of videos going into a Metro station, at which one guy was playing a harmonica in the entrance; in both recordings, you can hear him playing from a good ways up the escalator.


Manassas, VA: Rob,

A couple of days ago I ran a Microsoft program called Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor Beta. It took a while to run, but it indicated that I should be able to run Windows 7 on my 3 year old Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop, currently running Windows XP. There were some minor potential problems I need to be aware of, it should be okay. However I am not planning to download and install Windows 7 until the official one comes out, one reason being the current Windows 7 beta is not setup to install on a XP PC. I may even wait until the first service pack of Windows 7. Have you heard of or used this Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor program?

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't used it yet myself. But by the time the first service pack to Win 7 arrives, your PC will easily be four years old. I'd think about replacing it at that point.


Bethesda: I recently got an e-mail from Comcast boasting that they had just boosted everyone's download speed. I rebooted my modem, as instructed, but I haven't noticed any difference (if anything, it might be slower, but that could be my imagination). Is there a way to tell (on a 2008 MacBook Pro) what speed I'm actually getting?

Rob Pegoraro: Hit this page to test your connection's speed:


Dell automatic update problems: Hi Rob,

I have a Studio 1737 currently in for service because I rebooted it after an update ran & the system booted up, but the screen never came back on. I did the online pre-boot diagnostics & everything was fine, so sent it back to Dell for further diagnostics.

A friend has the same system with the automatic updates & she has had this happen twice to her. Have you heard anything about recent Dell updates that are causing problems. I'm wondering if I should shut off the auto-update tool & screen everything manually.

Rob Pegoraro: No, haven't seen any reports myself.

I can't and won't endorse screening updates manually. It's too easy to forget to install one update, then another, then another--then, bang, you get hit by a virus that exploited a vulnerability patched by one of those updates.


williamsburg, va: Hey Rob, just posted this on your blog for today, but figured, while I've got you here...

Loved the review today! I've been scoping out HD cameras like this one to use when my first child arrives in September, so it was very timely! Couple questions: any reason I NEED to use either camera's software, or can I just grab the files manually and import into iMovie, or upload to FB/YT. I HATE the crapware that comes bundled with a digital anything these days!

Also, any thoughts on which camera has the better screen? Kodak's looks a little bigger - any difference in quality?

Rob Pegoraro: The two screens are each 2 inches diagonally. I thought the Kodak's looked a little nicer, but it's not a huge difference.

Yes, you can use another video editor. Both cameras show up on the desktop as external hard drives; click through until you see your video files, then copy them to wherever you want on your machine.


ESPN360: Nope, Comcast and Disney are having a spitting match, which means no ESPN360 if Comcast is your ISP.

Probably because Comcast knows that live sports is pretty close to the only reason to have cable.

Rob Pegoraro: Ah. Thanks for filling me in.


Washington, DC: I have a PC and a friend has a mac. When sending me photos via e-mail, she attaches them one at a time, which requires that I detach them one at a time. She doesn't know anything about her OS and was confused when I asked her to zip the files up before sending to me. Does the mac have a version of PKZip that she can use?


Rob Pegoraro: You can archive multiple photo into one .zip file in the Finder (under the File menu)... but, look, you're just not going to get somebody who "doesn't know anything" about the computer to go to that extra effort.

Does your mail client have a "save all" option for attachments? If not, you're going to have to deal with this.


Arlington VA: re Ion turntable ...

I've heard that the digitized LPs are highly compressed which really negates the advantage (to me) of capturing the fidelity of the vinyl ...

can the previous poster re Ion clarify whether he thinks of himself as a critical listener/audiophile so those of us who do can have a 'yardstick' to evaluate his standard for comparing the digitized recording to the LP?


Rob Pegoraro: That's a myth. A digitized file can be compressed at any level of fidelity you want--you don't have to stick with a 128 kbps MP3 encoding. You could do 192 or 256, or you could even encode it losslessly (AAC, WMA Lossless, FLAC) and not lose any of the finer points of the original.


Tampa, Fla.: Do you know of any devices or software that can defeat robo-calls by mimicking the 3 ascending tones you get when calling non-working numbers? I've read that the software making the robo-calls are programmed to recognize these tones and delete the number form its call list. Prior devices or software sounding the first of these 3 tones worked for a while, but the manufacturers of the robo-call software fixed this flaw. I understand they haven't done it yet for the 3-tone sequence.

Here's a recent Post article on the problem, this time involving extended auto warranties.

I think the best solution is to make violating the Do Not Call list with robo-callers a felony. Each violation--i.e., each individual call--would carry a 1-year jail term (NOT to be served concurrently) and a $10,000 fine that could not be discharged in bankruptcy. I'd also allow private actions for punitive damages and awards of attorneys' fees, which damages and fee awards could not be discharged in bankruptcy. The officers and shareholders of any guilty corporation would be personally liable for all fines and damages awards, both civil and criminal, and be subject to imprisonment. Anyone claiming not to have known about violations would have to prove their innocence clear and convincing evidence (a very high legal burden of proof).

Rob Pegoraro: Not aware of such a thing myself. My solution is not to answer the home phone before 8 p.m.during the week.


wiredog: I got nothin'.

Installed the Leopard upgrade, all 400+mb, it worked fine. Running FF3B4 on WinXP at work, runs fine. Safari 4 on Mac at home runs fine. My Canon Digital Rebel Xt runs fine, and takes great pix.

Actually, there is one thing: Couple weeks ago I rented a Nikon Coolscan 5000 from Penn Camera, with the optional slide feeder. Ran fine. Great, in fact. Has a separate setting for Kodachrome (which did dye layers differently). The only issue was that, for about a year (about 25 years ago...), I shot on Seattle Film Works film, because it was cheap. Severe fading. So if you've got lots of slides, check them to make sure they haven't faded.

Off to Ocean City in a couple hours...

Rob Pegoraro: Always good to hear from you, wiredog. Enjoy the beach!


Snow Leopard, Va.: I have been thinking about replacing my five year old desktop with a MacBook. However, I've held off because I read that OS X will have a new release (10.6) this fall. Do you believe it will ship then and is it worth waiting for?

Rob Pegoraro: It should be out by fall, but I can't tell you if it'll be "worth waiting for." It should be a huge step up from 10.4, but a lot of its changes from 10.5 don't involve new features that you'd immediately see. It should be faster, more secure on the inside and a better platform to program for, but Apple said upfront that this is a "no big new features" release. It's possible that Apple will sell it for less than its usual price... would be one way to make Windows 7 look bad in comparison.


Richardson Texas: Can't believe I am actually reading this real time rather than after the fact!

What are the smaller (and perhaps smallest) digital TVs available at the moment to replace the 5" and 9" ones we have now? I have tried searching online but can't seem to figure our the right query to find anything and wonder if they even exist smaller than, say, 19 inches.


Rob Pegoraro: There are portable DTVs; Radio Shack sells one, as does Best Buy. You can also find non-portable ones as small as 15 inches.


Germantown, MD: Rob, my DTV box only has S-Video and RCA jacks. I guess I wouldn't be able to use the HDMI or Composite jacks on my TV, unless I had a diffent DTV box. Correct? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Correct. But DTV converters don't support high def anyway.


comcast -- grrrrr: I get my internet connection for my desktop via Comcast. I now want to install a wireless router, so that I can have wifi for my laptop. But I can't seem to get this to work. Seems like Comcast doesn't allow that.

Do you have any experience with this issue?

Rob Pegoraro: Comcast does allow it--there is no way for them or any other ISP to ban such a thing--but their tech support may not be of much help.


No Cable: Rob,

Is watching a show, or say game 7 versus the Caps and Pens, on illegal?

Rob Pegoraro: That game 7 was a crime in a great many ways...


Cody, Wyo.: Hi Rob,

I have an intermittent problem with my one-year-old Dell laptop running Windows XP Home, Service Pack 3. I keep up with all the Microsoft updates.

The problem happens when I start the computer up and try to get into one of my browsers, Firefox 3.0.10 (my main browser) or Internet Explorer 8.0.

Neither browser will open. When I go to restart the computer I get an "End Program" message. Here's what it says:

End Program - nsAppShell:EventWindow

So I end the program and the computer restarts. That usually works, but sometimes I have to restart two or three times before I can get into my browser.

Do you have any idea how I can fix this?

Thanks, Rob, for all your great columns and advice!


Rob Pegoraro: From what I see at these two sites, the problem can be caused either by a buggy browser add-on or certain other buggy Internet apps:

Are you using any of the apps called out on those pages?


20037: I want to be able to hook my laptop up to my tv -- how is this done? Is it easy to set up? I want to make sure that both the video and audio are through the tv.

Rob Pegoraro: VGA cable from the laptop to the TV, plus a patch Y-cable from the headphone jack on the laptop to the RCA audio inputs on the TV. No VGA input on the TV, you're prolly out of luck. (Some laptops have S-Video out, but most don't.)


Gambrills, MD: I would like to set up 2 partitions on my Dell Latitude E6500 notebook (250GB hard drive with plenty of room) and install Windows XP Pro on one partition and my programs/data on the other so I can reinstall Windows separately. I've read on some chats that Windows can be quirky about having the OS on a different partition so I wanted to get your advice on the pros and cons of setting it up this way and the best partitioning software to use. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: No. This is not a good idea. You're going to find that too many programs insist on being installed on the C: drive--or have some components that insist on being installed there--and so you will still have your programs and data entangled in the OS.

If you want to have that kind of separation of the OS, applications and user data/settings, you're going to have to run Mac OS X.


Baltimore, Md.: I have an analog TV with a digital converter, and a flat multi-directional RCA indoor antenna.

Generally, the reception is great, and I get many stations even though I live 30-40 miles from the transmitters.

Except on windy days. Then, every few seconds the signal strength drops to 0%, making the TV unwatchable.

Why would wind affect the signal? Is there anything that can be done about this? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know why it would either. But if you're pulling in any sort of DTV signal with a table-top antenna at 30 miles distance, you're already doing what the DTV-reception maps say should not be possible. You might need to get an amplified antenna or put one on the roof of your house.


Camera Help!: I want to upgrade my very outdated Sony Cybershot (3.2 megapixel) camera. As you can guess my picture taking is for fun, but I'd like to upgrade and do a little more.

I want a camera that can take all of the family shots, as well as good landscapes/nature shots, including sunsets. A black & white feature would be nice as well.

I am undecided about how important portability is right now. Price range is $200-300, preferably on the lower end.

So far, I am looking at Nikon Coolpix L100 and a Sony Cybershot DSC W290.

Can you advise on either of these cameras? Any better ones that I should take a look at?


Rob Pegoraro: I'd get the Nikon, just because it uses standard SD Card storage instead of Sony's proprietary Memory Stick (read: more expensive, not as widely available, not as compatible with small laptops' memory-card slots). Also, Nikon makes pretty good cameras in general.


Washington, D.C.: My son is getting a new laptop today. I was going to download AVG for virus protection, foxfire for internet, net nanny to limit where he goes on the internet and open office for word processing, etc. He has an email account which is on our another computer using outlook express. We already have two other computers which are wired into our router, this will be the first computer with a wireless connection. What else, if anything, should I download or do to the computer?

Rob Pegoraro: Have a look at the "what to do with your new computer" piece I wrote in December:


comcast and wireless router: Is it possible that comcast checks the MAC address of the computer connected to the cable modem, and when that changes it doesn't allow access without a call to technical support?

Rob Pegoraro: No. Look, I know plenty of people who have routers hooked up to their Comcast cable modems. It would be... galactically stupid for the company to try to ban WiFi.

(In technical terms, all you should have to do with your router is tell it to use a DHCP connection, then run an Ethernet cable from the cable modem to the router. There shouldn't be a step three. But as I don't have a Comcast connection, I can't provide any more help than that. Sorry...)


Burke, VA: Rob I'm loving the new LED TV. Blacks are deep black, white is totally white, Reds are...well, you know. Sometimes I think someones in the room with me, especially on slow frame scenes when the detail, even from inches away, is realistic. Now if they can just incorporate 3D, Hmmmm.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!


Warner Robins, GA: Love the chats Rob.

Is the Palm Pre going to have an app store like Apple and is Palm going to allow third party apps, not approved by Palm, to be installed. Is there going to be a type of jailbreaking scheme on the Palm Pre?

I have an old Treo 650 with all kinds of apps from places like Freeware Palm. Are there going to be websites like this for the Pre?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, the Pre will have an app store. Don't know other details yet.


Gaithersburg, MD: Hi Rob--

I've been trying off and on for months to install the Vista SP1. I've never been successful. I even tried all the recommendations on the Microsoft site for getting around the inevitable, meaningless error message. At this point I'm ready to give up, but my computer keeps nagging me. Any suggestions?

Rob Pegoraro: Try installing it in Safe Mode?


Washington, DC: I'm the resident on-call tech support for my family. I'm trying to convince my parents to move to a Mac just to make it easier on myself to provide assistance from a distance. I'm trying to decide between the Mac Mini and the Imac. Price is the #1 factor, and figuring that being able to use current monitor/keyboard would be an attractive option. However, I wonder the relative cost/benefit as my guess is with an Imac it may simply be better in the long run and convince them its worth the extra price.

The only thing they use the computer for are card games, microsoft office and basic internet searches... and they still have dial-up and will have to use one of the existing usb ports for a usb modem.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go with the Mini--they're not doing anything that would require an iMac's bigger screen and faster processor. But make sure they know which PC keys map to which Mac keys, like Alt=Cmd (it might be easier to get a Mac keyboard for that).


Atlanta, GA: My copy of iTunes has started to go completely nuts on me. It's overwriting all the metadata on my MP3 (NOT ACC) files -- making album art disappear, substituting songwriter information and creating a long string of hexidecimal numbers in the comments field. Has anyone else had this problem? I've turned off every "Do X for me automatically" option I can find!

I don't know if this is a bug or typical Apple "We know better than you what you want" behavior, but I've spent a lot of time ironing out the metadata on my music files, and it's frustrating to see all that effort just go poof!

Rob Pegoraro: Never heard of this one before--e-mail me ( with the details and I'll see what I can do.


Rob Pegoraro: That's all the time I've got today, folks. Thanks for all the questions! I should be back in a couple of weeks.


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