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Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Friday, October 2, 2009; 12:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Friday, Oct. 2 at Noon ET to discuss recent reviews, answer your personal tech questions and provide gadget advice.

This Story

Read this Sunday's Fast Forward column early: As Cable TV Goes Digital, It's Still Stuck Inside the Box.

A transcript follows.

Rob's latest tech thoughts and tips are cultivated daily on his blog Faster Forward.

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Rob Pegoraro: Happy October, everybody. Today's column critiques the business of cable boxes, and I see I've already got a batch of questions from people curious about (or, in some cases, annoyed by) these things--as well as satellite and fiber-optic TV boxes. Plus, there's the usual grab-bag of queries about Windows 7, iPods, Mac OS X, phones, etc. etc.

Let's get to it...

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Atlanta, Ga.: Let's talk about cable cards! I have a HD Tivo, which I love, but dealing with the cable company/cable cards has been a royal pain. First of all, Comcast made me schedule a home installation because I was just a customer and not "trained" in the proper installation procedure. The technician had no idea what he was doing, so I had to interface with the phone support to get the thing installed.

Then they started double-billing me for my cards and I had to talk to three different customer service reps before I found one that knew what a cable card was.

This ignorance on the part of Comcast employees has to be intentional, right? The result of corporate policy?

When one of my cards stopped working earlier this year, I gave up cable rather than deal with the hassle of getting a new card. I've been getting digital signals off the air (works with the Tivo) and supplementing with Netflix.

Rob Pegoraro: Let's start with this--a complaint I've seen many times before. I'm not going to say that there's a deliberate conspiracy among cable operators to snuff out CableCards, but I will say that stories like this help explain why many users don't bother, and why a lot of consumer electronics manufacturers have given up on including this not-cheap feature in TVs.

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Dunn Loring, Va.: Hi Rob,

I read your column on digital TV and cable boxes and have a question.

I have old analog TVs. All are hooked up to TiVos. No cable boxes. I haven't upgraded to digital TV because I don't need the extra channels and I don't want a cable box. And, as your column said, Cox isn't forcing me to switch yet. But when I am forced to upgrade, am I going to need a cable box or will the TiVo do the work for me? Especially if I don't want the on-demand or premium channels?

Rob Pegoraro: You will need a cable box whenever the channels you watch migrate from analog to digital service, yes.

FWIW, here's the answer I got about Cox's plans for any all-digital migration, from their spokesman David Grabert:

"We are all-digital, in that every channel we carry is currently available in a digital format. Some are also available in analog, so those channels have dual carriage (analog & digital). It's important to note that even a "digital" home likely has older TVs that only have analog tuners and thus we offer a unique value in providing both analog and digital versions of some of the most popular channels. Beyond that distinction at this point, Cox has no plans to go all-digital in Northern Virginia. It's also noteworthy that Cox is a leader among cable operators for our investments to increase total bandwidth and maximize our efficiency with new technologies. This has given us the ability to add new services while maintaining robust analog TV offerings to our customers."

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Bethesda, Md.: Rob, apologies in advance for a dumb question not related to your columns/posts this week. I bought several of the newly-remastered Beatles releases (I wouldn't call myself an audiophile, but I think they sound a LOT better, incidentally). When importing them into iTunes, none of the album artwork has imported. When I try to look at the contents of the disc in Finder (I'm working on a Mac, if that didn't give it away), I see several files but no album artwork. Am I missing an obvious fix here?

Rob Pegoraro: The album-art-import feature in iTunes isn't magic; iTunes can only grab art for an album that's sold on the iTunes Store. And since the Beatles/their heirs/their copyright holders continue to have a Flat Earth Society attitude about digital sales, they have yet to appear on iTunes.

There are some third-party apps that can look up album art from Amazon and other sources--see this old Help File item for details: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/23/AR2006122300022.html

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Alexandria, Va.: One question I have in all this is how it will affect TiVo recording, if/when Comcast-Alexandria "upgrades" to digital.

Specifically: I have an older, single-tuner TiVo in an upstairs bedroom, and a dual-tune, non-HD TiVo in the family room. As far as I know, neither one has CableCard capability (the newer one would be more likely to have it).

I guess I get that I'll need a cable box for each, but will they be able to record programs automatically like they do now? Or, to record a program, will I have set the cable box to come on at a certain time and channel, and then set the TiVo to record whatever's coming out of the cable box?

And if I wanted to actually use the dual-tuner capability of the downstairs TiVo, would I actually need two cable boxes (for a grand total of three in the house)?

If I'm right in this, this seems like we've moved back 30 years just to save bandwidth.

Rob Pegoraro: Your TiVo units should each have what's called an "IR blaster" or "IR extender"--a little pod at the end of a skinny cable that beams infrared remote-control codes into a cable or satellite box's IR sensor. That allows the TiVo to change channels for you... as long as it speaks the correct IR codes for the box in question.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: I don't really mind the cable boxes (it's the only way to get the HD signal from Comcast), but by moving to all-digital, it makes it impossible to RECORD directly from the cable, or to use the tuner on my DVD recorder/VCR, meaning the cable box must be tuned to the channel I want to record.

Rob Pegoraro: But most DVD recorders and VCRs don't include IR extenders, so Harrisburg would be out of luck in this case.

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Arlington, Va.: This is likely outside your area, but do you know if the radio industry has come up with a radio that can receive TV signals now that they are digital, rather than analog?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope (as in they haven't, not that I don't know). There is work being done on mobile DTV reception; that could lead to a portable radio that tunes into ATSC (er, digital TV) broadcasts, but we're not there yet.

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Hampton, Va.: For the net neutrality, can you tell me if my understanding of it is missing something, because I think it needs regulation. My feeling is that I'm paying for that line and transmission to my device, regardless of the type of provider (wireless, cable, FIOS). Like Ronald Reagan said, "I paid for this mike," so why should I tolerate the provider slowing down or giving priority over what I receive? If they have to manage traffic levels, then enforce them - by amount, not type, of data. And be honest in what speeds are available. So I'm all for requiring neutrality - is my understanding of the term wrong?

Rob Pegoraro: You're clear on the principles as argued by net neutrality advocates. The question is, who gets to enforce them? Some Internet providers--especially mobile-broadband services--say we should leave that up to the market. Other folks--like the FCC chair--say that there isn't enough competition in many broadband markets to provide that pressure, and so government has to write regulations that would achieve the same effect.

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Washington, D.C.: The Cricket website says that their broadband gadgets don't work with Snow Leopard. Do you know whether that's true, and if so when that might change? (And Cricket still works in D.C., right?)

Rob Pegoraro: I used the Cricket modem on a MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard and didn't have any problems with it (though they don't ship the cleanest, most Mac-like software ever). Yes, Cricket works in D.C.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: Hey are they still working on a new Direct TV tivo?

Rob Pegoraro: They are, but slowly. It's now not due until 2010: http://www.tivo.com/dvr-products/tivo-partners/tivo-directv/index.html

There's more abut this on Dave Zatz's Zatz Not Funny blog: http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2009-05/new-directv-tivo-delayed-to-2010-plus-tru2way/

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Alexandria, Va.: Your column on local cable TV providers says Comcast gives free digital boxes. Cox cable serves Fairfax/Alexandria and my neighbor told me that Cox leases digital boxes for analog TVs. He said Verizon FiOS does the same, and that it is priced per box not per household. Is that correct? I recently canceled Cox cable after the long process of getting broadcast DTV to three TV sets from a roof antenna. I'm saving around $50 per month.

Rob Pegoraro: Comcast gives free digital boxes--technically, it's either up to three simple digital adapters or one more capable digital box plus two digital adapters per household--to analog subscribers that it's moving to digital. The company's doing that to keep those customers happy and not freak them out... the quote I have in my notes from the interview I did with their video general manager Derek Harrar is "we didn't want money to come up on the phone call."

A digital box is also free if you sign up for digital service on your own, but you can face "additional outlet fees" if you add more than one. DVR adds $9.95 a month.

With Fios, the receiver isn't included--a standard-def unit adds $5.99 a month, HD is $9.99 and an HD DVR is $15.99 a month.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Rob,

I have an HD Tivo with cable cards from Cox. What annoyed me was that I wasn't getting all of my HD channels, and was told that I needed an HD adapter. I thought it was the size of a thumb drive, but when I picked it up it was a small box. I have cable cards to avoid having an additional box and it doesn't make sense to me why I would need an "adapter" for an HD Tivo. Can you explain? By the way love all your advice, Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: This sounds like a "switched digital video" adapter, a device needed to pull in some higher-tier channels on some cable systems: http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=165548&site=cdn

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Hi Rob, I have an A/B switch on my Comcast cable that splits the signal as it comes out of the wall, one to the TV and one to the (yes, still) VCR. I just received Comcast's digital tuner device and will at some point hook it up. I was wondering, is there some way I can install it and the A/B switch so that I can continue to watch one channel on the tv while I record a different channel at the same time (on the VCR or a DVR)?

Rob Pegoraro: If you get two digital adapters, you could put on one each cable coming out of the A/B switch (but you'd have to use each adapter's remote to change channels, not the remotes for your TV and VCR).

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Recording with digital cable boxes: There are VCRs that have IR blasters (not sure about DVD recorders). But the other problem with recording with digital cable boxes is you lose the ability to record one channel and watch another at the same time. As Harrisburg said, you lose a tuner.

Rob Pegoraro: Good point.

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Washington, D.C.: Your cable box column got me thinking. I have an HD Tivo with a cablecard and had many problems getting the card installed, and frankly, I knew more than the technicians. I do think Comcast is deliberately not pushing training on their techs...and I was told that there were only a few techs that could actually do the installation because the others were not yet trained. This frustrated me to no end, and I saw that my place is wired for Fios, but yet, Verizon will not activate that. So I'm stuck with Comcast until Verizon decides to flip a switch I guess.

Rob Pegoraro: Some of the angriest complaints I've heard about CableCard support have come from technical people who do, in fact, know their stuff. Like my neighbor David: He's an IT-security professional, one of the biggest audio/video geeks I know, and more than competent to plug a card into a slot. So he was highly unamused to learn that he'd have to wait at home for Comcast's tech to show up with the two cards he ordered... especially when the guy arrived with only one card.

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Bozeman, Mont.: Rob, Totally confised about cable. I have one new set w/HD Comcast box and two older sets just hooked to cable w/no HD. Am I going to lose something on the older sets?

Rob Pegoraro: At some point, whenever Comcast converts your analog service to digital. (You may still be able to get your local channels via analog at that point, but everything beyond them would be in digital, and I'm assuming you'd want to watch what you're paying for.)

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Floyd, Va.: My wife and I have a second home in the mountains. Getting "connected" is a real pain. The only internet access is satellite... and they have "fair access policies" that limit me to one video a day (I have to download school work and that eats up my fair allotment almost entirely).

Is this stuff for real? Does accessing the net by satellite really absorb signals to the extent that usage restrictions need to be applied?

Rob Pegoraro: Satellite Internet access does have capacity issues--it's the broadband people get when they can't get anything else. But not all providers have equally stringent broadband caps; WildBlue (http://wildblue.com/aboutWildblue/qaa.jsp#2_7) seems to be a little more generous than HughesNet (http://www.hughes.com/HUGHES/Rooms/DisplayPages/LayoutInitial?pageid=fairaccess&Container=com.webridge.entity.Entity[OID[BD8BE0839F414B4FB7CDDCA10EFA5369]])

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Washington, D.C.: My laptop is beginning to fail. I use it almost exclusively for the web and iTunes, but occasionally I need to create a Word document. Will netbooks allow me to do Word documents on a regular basis, or is there not enough memory/space/operating system compatibility problems?

Rob Pegoraro: Sure--though if you get a netbook with Linux (cheaper than Windows), you'll probably run OpenOffice, which looks and works like Microsoft Office and reads and writes Office files very well, but is a free, open-source app. On a Windows netbook, you can run Office, but you'll have to customize its interface to fit the smaller screen.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Rob

Tell me why are these boxes -- Virginia Beach is a Cox area -- so BIG? Also, can the newer TVs perform some of the functions of the box without requiring the subscriber to get yet another box?

Rob Pegoraro: That's the sort of thing that happens when a company doesn't have to sell direct to consumers. Motorola and Scientific Atlanta only have to satisfy a cable company that will buy these things by the container-load.

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Kirkland, Wash.: I have Vista and have purchased a copy of Windows 7 when released. With Vista Microsoft Mail was included and I am using it. I understand it is not in Windows 7. What happens to my e-mail?

Rob Pegoraro: Microsoft will suggest you install its free Windows Live Mail, which should automatically import your old messages, address book and settings (uninstalling Windows Mail wouldn't remove those things). Mozilla Thunderbird is another option.

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Tucson, Ariz.: Whay is your take on the report that IE8 is better than any other browser at fighting malware?

Rob Pegoraro: Not having seen it, I don't have a take. In general, though, IE 8's restrictions on Web-site scripts would probably give it a leg up (but they can also cause problems with legitimate sites--for instance, our blogging software didn't work properly in IE 8 when I tested it).

Another general observation: The most effective malware defense is *you*. You should be able to know when a Web site or ad is pushing some scareware scam at you that's best ignored.

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NW D.C.: Hi, Rob, I can't figure out how to upload my iCal and Entourage calendars to my (seldom-used) Gmail calendar. I'm afraid my PowerBook G4 doesn't have a lot of life left, so I'd love to get this accomplished soon, before I maybe lose the records of all my past assignments! If you can tell me how to export to the Gmail calendar only a certain category of events -- without having to copy the events one at a time -- that'd be even more wonderful. Thank you!

Rob Pegoraro: iCal saves your calendars in standard .ics format that you can open in any other calendar app and upload to Google Calendar too. You can also directly synchronize iCal and GCal: http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=99358

Not sure about Entourage... sorry, I don't use that app.

You are making regular backups already and not just hoping that the computer runs forever, RIGHT?

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New Jersey: Hi Rob - love your chats! I'm sure you'll get this question from others as well. I have Avira on my home laptop and don't really mind the once-a-day popup. A review I read of the Microsoft Security Essentials (don't remember where I read it - Lifehacker probably) said that it didn't offer anything substantially more than the free Antivirus programs out there. At this point I'm tempted to stick with Avira instead of uninstalling it in favor of the Microsoft suite. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations?

Rob Pegoraro: I've only started my evaluation, but if Security Essentials only offers the same protection as Avira without throwing up a full-screen pop-up ad every time it downloads an update, I'd consider that quite appealing.

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Former Cable Guy: Make no mistake: it's about the revenue. They'll let you "use" the digital boxes now, but after the furor dies down, they'll start charging. Consumer inertia is a hard thing to overcome, especially when the bump is a few dollars.

Rob Pegoraro: Comcast's Harrar was pretty unambiguous about not charging customers moved from analog to digital for these boxes--but we'll certainly have to watch the company to see if it holds to that pledge.

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Warrenton, Va.: I'm thinking about getting an iPod Touch. Is there anything comparable that I should also consider for WiFi internet access? I'm not looking for a phone or anything that requires signing up for a monthly fee.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go with the Touch in that case myself. Nokia makes some Internet tablets with slightly bigger screens, but they cost more, aren't as easy to use and don't work well as media players. Here's a review of Nokia's N810 (and a Sony device that may no longer be available): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/12/AR2008031203671.html

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Charleston, S.C.: MS Security Essentials seems to be working fairly well so far for me. How about for other people. Bugs? Slowdowns?

Rob Pegoraro: See the comments thread on yesterday's blog post--and please, add to it with your own reports!

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2009/10/microsoft_security_essentials.html

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Bethesda, Md.: I have a question about a new, small LCD. I have Comcast, so I have one of the new digital adapters you wrote about today. Of course, standard definition is mediocre on an LCD, so I want to watch the network affiliates in HD over-the-air. But imagine my surprise when I scanned and didn't pick up a single one. (The TV supposedly has an antenna. Maybe some combination of location, trees, and brick walls is the problem?)

Should I get an external antenna? (I mean one of the $30-$50 tabletop ones, not an elaborate installation.) And if so, do you recommend any particular one?

-In case anyone suggests more drastic measures, let me add that I have the higher tech stuff -- HD cable box, etc. -- elsewhere in the house. This little one is not my main TV.

Rob Pegoraro: The TV doesn't have an antenna--it's not like a cell phone in that respect. Yes, try adding one. You shouldn't have to drop $30 or $50; I'm getting good results with a $12.99 set of rabbit ears I got at Radio Shack (although WUSA's signal remains horrible and WJLA's is problematic sometimes).

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Austin, Tex.: What new features do you expect to see on the new iMac? When do you think it will be released?

Rob Pegoraro: The rumor sites are saying "soon," and that makes sense to me. In terms of market timing, I expect that Apple would want to have a new model in stores before the holiday season.

I'd expect that, like Apple's new laptops, it will add an SD Card slot--I'd see that alone as a small but very welcome upgrade. You might see a Blu-ray drive as an option on more expensive configurations. And I'd expect the screen to have an LED backlight for more brightness, less power consumption and environmental issues.

The Mac mini also seems like it's nearing an update too...

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Seattle, Wash.: It amazes me that the FCC doesn't question the practices of the cable companies to keep set top boxes in customer's homes and extend the security capabilities beyond what they were intended (encrypted programming of basic digital tiers). My new digital-ready TVs aren't able to get basic programming w/o a cheap box that degrades the channel. What can consumers do when the FCC seems to be "asleep at the switch" on this issue (as the CE industry has echoed)?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd say the FCC has been pretty assertive in trying to open up the cable-box market--I mean, they imposed a major mandate on cable operators by requiring them to use CableCards in their own update. (Consider, also, that this happened under a Republican administration.) But there's only so much that regulation can do when you look at how things have played out in the market.

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Tysons Corner, Va.: What's using up the space on my hard drive? I'm using Windows XP and if I look at the folders, I can see that MyDocuments amounts to about 7Gb and the Windows folder amounts to about 5Gb. The other folders are all much, much smaller, with only Program Files anywhere near as big. Somehow 49Gb of my 51 available are full. Where should I be looking to clear up some space so the system can run properly? Also, how do I remove old XP system updates that are no longer necessary, but are still taking up room on my HD?

Rob Pegoraro: See the first item in this blog post:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2007/02/help_files_greatest_hits_1.html

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Los Angeles: My McAfee subscription is expiring soon, do you recommend going with the new Microsoft antivirus program or some other option? And do you recommend, paid vs. unpaid?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm a fan of not paying when a good, free option is available, but I haven't spent enough time with MSE to endorse it. Hold on another week or so and I will have that assessment.

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Rob Pegoraro: BTW, just to check: Does anybody want to say something, anything, nice about their cable or satellite box? Not trying to be snarky or sarcastic, I just want to know if anybody here appreciates these things for what they are and what they cost.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Rob, I am finally making the plunge to HDTVs. I have my eye on one of the Samsung 55" LED (backlit) TVs. When do you think these sets would be at the lowest price? I was thinking about making the purchase around Black Friday/Monday. I was wondering would the price likely be better around that time or closer to Christmas or in February after the Super Bowl rush?

Second question: I used to use and love the Google notebook add-in for Firefox, but with the newest Firefox update, it is no longer supported. I liked that I could just right-click on a page and add it to my notebook. I tried Zoho Notebook, but it doesn't have the all features I like (e.g. labels). Any other suggestions for something comparable?

Rob Pegoraro: You're probably right to target a purchase towards either the month before Xmas or the month after; waiting longer usually leads to a lower price, but I don't know that you'll see one in that short of a time span.

One thing to factor in is that LED-backlit LCDs still carry a fancy-new-luxury-product premium. Plain old LCDs*, however, have gotten *seriously* cheap.

* Can we take a moment to appreciate how a 40 or 50-inch flat-panel TV has gone from science fiction to commodity product in only two decades?

Sorry, can't suggest any options for your browser--I haven't used either Google Notebook or Zoho. If you want to recommend a different app, please do.

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Lynchburg, Va.: Rob, will you be doing any review of the HTC Imagio phone that Verizon's got on sale starting October 6th? Since it's actually got WiFi, this phone may be the first Verizon smartphone to not stink.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm planning on reviewing Windows Mobile 6.5, but I'm not sure if it'll be on that phone or another.

FYI, Verizon has sold phones with WiFi before--I reviewed one such Windows Mobile model a few years ago.

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NoLo, D.C.: Something nice about my cable/satellite tv box?

Sure. I have one of the original DirecTiVos, which I bought after ditching Comcast for having atrocious service (both technical and customer).

As a 9-year Tivo user (series 1, series 2, DirecTiVo), I love the fact that I have an actual usable DVR for my satellite system. And it changes channels much faster than the boxes DirecTV supplied me when I first installed the service.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: I have two Dells that are about 4 years old. They work fine when they are in a program, but it takes an ever longer time for them to open a program. Is there anything that I can do or service I can have done for them that will fix this? Or am I doomed to slower and slower responses until I buy new computers, which I would really prefer not to do right now?

Also I use Outlook express, which works for me, but I can't find where it is storing my emails so I can back them up. Any thoughts?

Thanks for all your help.

Rob Pegoraro: Could be that you don't have enough memory in the computer--512 MB or, far worse, 256 MB will seriously slow a computer down.

For backup up OE, you're best off using an app that will do this automatically. (Its files are in a hidden directory and under a non-obvious directory name--not "Outlook Express" or "OE," but "Identites." Duh, Microsoft. Seriously, just duh.)

Here's my latest roundup of backup apps:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/29/AR2008102904162.html

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Clifton, Va.: What matters is not who is charging for a cable box but the price you pay per month for everything. Come the first week in November, it's time to start negotiations w/FIOS over my bill. Let's see ,I save $312.56 per year w/Directtv, $298.67 w/Cox, and $56.78 with DISH network. What can you do to keep me as a customer? last year they tripled my internet speed for free, went from 5 to 30, gave the HD upgrade package for free and took $15 off my bill each month.

Maybe I should hire an agent for these negotiations like maybe Strasburg's agent?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes! I'm sure Scott Boras pays very reasonable rates for his TV service...

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Alexandria, Va.: I'll say something nice about the first gen DirecTV HD DVRs that had Tivo built in - we still use one in the bedroom. Nicely designed, intuitive, very responsive to controls. Unfortunately in HD it can only receive the first band of channels DirecTV put out (70-78).

The subsequent HD DVRs DirecTV has put out do not have Tivo, have a less polished user interface, and are clunky - sometimes when you push buttons nothing happens and you're not sure if it's because it didn't register or it's "thinking" and if you hit the button again it'll register twice.

Rob Pegoraro: Another fan of the original DirecTiVo.

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Odenton, Md.: I'm a Directv customer with one of their HD-DVR boxes. Never had Tivo or another PVR, so I can't compare, but I've got no problems with the box. Its ridiculous that Directv will charge you $199 to -lease- one of these boxes. But besides running a little slow some times, I've got no complaints. It works and I can't remember it ever missing a recording.

Rob Pegoraro: And here's an opinion on DirecTV's current HD DVR.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: I have seen a few DVD Recorder players that offer the QAM. I understand the cable companies don't have to tell you that you can pick up digital channels that way and that they can tell you the only way to receive them is with their digital box decoders. Any truth to that? Secondly, do you know if these DVD players that offer QAM tuner works?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, a lot of DVD recorders include QAM tuners--I should say, a lot of the remaining recorders on the market. The Toshiba unit I have includes that, for instance. Whatever QAM device you plug cable into, though, you'll have the same underlying reception problems.

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Washington, D.C.: Rob,

I'm reading the chat at work in a Federal Government office. My machine is running Windows XP and I'm using Firefox 2.0.0.12 which is the most current they have given us (I do not have administrator privileges on my machine so I can't upgrade).

Today's chat has lost its right side margin, the text is running out to the right requiring me to use the scroll arrows on the bottom to read the entire text, unless I maximize the window. What happened? Did you guys change something in your code?

For what it's worth, I'm not seeing this on John Kelly or Carolyn Hax. And to all of you getting indignant, it's my lunch 45 minutes!

washingtonpost.com: It's not just you! We're working to resolve this problem.

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry to hear about it (and sorry to hear your IT department is that backwards, though at least you're not stuck with the contemptible awfulness that is IE 6).

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Notebook replacement: For Upper Marlboro -- It's not just Firefox that doesn't support Google Notebook; Google has abandoned it also. As a replacement, I like Evernote -- syncs with Mac, Windows, web, BlackBerry, and iPhone at least. And free.

Rob Pegoraro: Here's an idea for you, Upper Marlboro...

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Buying an LCD (timing): Take a look at Amazon.com. Seriously. I bought my large LCD from the late, unlamented Circuit City, and that was fine (it was on sale), but I later learned that I could have gotten a good price on Amazon, which offers in-home delivery and hookup service (in case you're picturing the UPS guy leaving a 55" TV on your doorstep). I bought my small LCD from Amazon at a far better price than I've seen anywhere else, and got it in 2 days even though I used free ("super saver") shipping. (The small ones do get left on the stoop by UPS.)

Rob Pegoraro: I've had pretty good luck with ground shipping too, and not just from Amazon--I bought an LCD from J&R Electronics's Web site and that arrived in two or three days via ground as well.

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DirecTV: I have one of the new DirecTV HD DVRs and, IMO, the interface is much better than my DirecTivo. I've never understood the Tivo fawning - it works well enough, but it's far from perfect.

Rob Pegoraro: A contrary view about TiVo (FWIW, I'm not the biggest TiVo fan either, but mainly because of the subscription fees the company charges.)

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Something Nice About My Comspaz Cable Box: When I have to unplug it to reboot every couple of days, the power cord disconnects easily from the back of the box so I don't have to climb back to the power strip.

Rob Pegoraro: It's the little things that count, huh?

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Tina re: fios: I have the Fios bundle..phone, internet, TV. Do I like paying for it? Of course not. But, I like it. Nothing's perfect but it's way better than my old Cox service.

Rob Pegoraro: Not quite a rave, but not a total pan of the service either...

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Rob Pegoraro: OK, folks, I have to log off here--my stomach's starting to growl. Thanks for all the questions... I should be back here in two weeks.

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