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Personal Tech: Gadget News and Reviews

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Friday, October 30, 2009 12:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Friday, Oct. 30 at Noon ET to discuss recent reviews, answer your personal tech questions and provide gadget advice.

Read this Sunday's Fast Forward column early: New Google Maps GPS for smartphones spooks competitors.

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

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Rob Pegoraro: Hello all and thanks for stopping by. What a week it's been! I never thought I'd say it, but I think I might actually be starting to feel sorry for Dan Snyder. Not necessarily for the way fans and the media are arguably piling on, but for the bad advice he must be getting from the people around him.

Wait, wait, wait--there's no way I can get away with going as John Kelly's chat for Halloween. I can't even begin to match his thesaurus, Anglophilia or inventory of bow ties. So instead, you're stuck with the same old personal-tech chat as ever. Hope that's OK with you all...

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MS Essentials: Rob,

Hi. Vista 64 bit with all the updates.

Recently I uninstalled McAfee and installed the new MS Essentials. Everything works great except I cannot get MS Essentials to automatically update virus definitions. I can do manually however.

Have you heard of this problem? Any fix?

Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I'll start with this question (although, y'know, if you want to rant about Dan Snyder's stewardship of the Redskins, I certainly won't stop you). I've probably gotten more questions about Microsoft's new free anti-virus software than its new Windows 7, which isn't exactly what I figured on happening.

In this case, are you sure it's not doing that updating automatically? MSE won't flash a pop-up or anything when it gets an update; the only way you'll know it's happened is if you click its Updates tab and see today's date. That said, if you disable Windows automatic updates entirely, my understanding is that you would also shut off MSE's automatic updates. Have you done that?

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Deltona, Fla.: Who says installation of Windows 7 is easy?

What in the world does Windows 7 change in the boot configuration that is different than Vista? No one -- including Microsoft -- can tell me what this message means.

Microsoft's upgrade adviser says everything is A-OK (including the extensive list of system requirements and all devices). So why does the installer fail with the message "Windows could not update the computer's boot configuration."

I am running Vista Ultimate SP 2 and tried to install Windows 7. I have tried both upgrade and clean installation (clean installation by formatting the hard drive first). I have also tried both versions of Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit). In all attempts the installation fails with the message "Windows could not update the computer's boot configuration". I've spent a lot of time on the troubleshooting web sites (both Microsoft - including TechNet - as well as third party). The closest I get is references to upgrading from XP. These suggest making registry changes. Even then, it appears from the threads on the Microsoft forums that that does not solve the problem. In, they all said that the problem occurs when migrating from XP to Vista; since I am successfully running Vista it doesn't seem like they should apply. And obviously, a clean install to a reformatted hard drive has no registry to edit!

Another suggestion from the online blogs was that the Intel 82801ER SATA RAID chipset would not support the driver on the Windows 7 install - but it implies that this problem would affect Vista as well as Windows 7. And I am not running RAID. I'm not sure what chipset the 780I 775 motherboard has on it.

I also called Microsoft tech support and their technician said the problem was that I was trying to install a 32-bit operating system on a 64-bit architecture system - the Core 2 Duo (gaff). So much for competent technical support.

I have an EVGA GEFORCE 780I 775 motherboard; and Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3GHZ processor; SATA II hard drives (320 and 500 GB); NVIDIA nForce Serial ATA controller. The Microsoft Upgrade Advisor shows a green (good) check mark next to each of these.

I have now spent about 30 hours trying to solve this problem. I always laugh at the Mac commercials, but...

Rob Pegoraro: Of course, I have gotten a few questions about Windows 7 too. This has to be the hairiest one I've seen yet... if you haven't solved it in 30 minutes of effort, I can assure you that I'm going to do any better with maybe 30 seconds of frantic Googling. I take it you've checked out the instructions in this tech-support article?

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/931697

Note that it involves editing the registry--the surest sign of a complete Windows FAIL.

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San Diego, Calif.: Here's a weird one for you ... Every now and then, songs will disappear from my iTunes. When this happens, an exclamation point will show up in the far left column, next to the "check box" where the song title is and the song is nowhere to be found. As near as I can figure, these are songs I've downloaded via eMusic (a service I once subscribed to). I know for sure that I am not manually deleting this music. It doesn't happen very often, I think it may be connected to the regular updates I do, after getting an update alert from Apple, regarding iTunes. It's rather frustrating and mysterious! I'm using OS 10.5.8 with iTunes 9.0.1 - on an iBook G4 and I don't use an iPod or iPhone - just the laptop.

Rob Pegoraro: iTunes will do that if it can't find the file in its original location--which isn't the same thing as the file not being on the computer anymore. (A search for one of these MP3's file names should establish if it's still around, as I suspect it is.) The odds are against you having any other program set to automatically file songs into folders based on artist and album names--a more common issue in Windows--but if you move these songs after filing them in the Music folder, that could confuse iTunes.

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Arlington, Va.: Rob, it seems that Mossberg and many others are saying that it is finally time to buy a 64-bit PC, rather than a 32-bit. For those of us who get a new computer only every 4-5 years, do you agree it is a good time to get the 64-bit version, and do you know if most hardware vendors have created drivers for it?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm sticking with my advice from a few weeks ago, which itself was recycled from an earlier chat:

Rob Pegoraro: I'll give you my stock answer on this: Go ahead and get the 64-bit version *if* you've checked all your existing software and hardware drivers for 64-bit compatibility. All of it. If you're not sure or don't know how to check, go with 32-bit.

Look, I'm tired of hearing from readers who didn't exercise this due diligence and now find that they need to buy new peripherals--all for an improvement in performance that they're unlikely to notice.

Catch is, the 32-bit edition of Windows 7 is looking tremendously scarce in the market. Of all the PCs on display at the Tenleytown Best Buy this week, only three or so were running Win 7 32-bit.

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Aylmer, ON, Canada: Can you upgrade from XP to Windows 7?

Rob Pegoraro: Look in the mirror. Are you wearing a hat with a propeller on top? If so, it's not hard to upgrade from XP to 7. If not, it'll be an ordeal. Here's the column I wrote on Win 7 upgrades:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/14/AR2009081400877.html

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Booting troubles: Occasionally on my computer, I get booting error messages. "No bootable device -- insert boot disk and press any key" or "A disk read error occurred, Press CTRL ALT DEL to restart" There is also "PXE-E53: No boot filenmane received" and PXE-MOF: Exiting PXE ROM"

I usually have to turn off my computer and try again. For the most part, eventually I get on. Is this something serious or will it just be annoying? Or is my computer trying to tell me it's dying?

My desktop is 3-4 years old, an eMachine running Windows XP.

Rob Pegoraro: That is not the kind of problem that will get better or go away on its own. Those messages read like an attempt to warn you of some sort of disk-corruption problem on your hard drive--although in a quick Web search I did find one explanation of how tightening the data cable connecting the hard drive to the motherboard fixed the problem.

Four years can be a long time for a PC. Do you have some money set aside for its replacement?

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Rockville, Md.: Another Windows 7 comment/question.

After what turned out to be superficial research I decided to get the Family Pack of Windows 7 and (Home Premium) and upgrade my machine with Vista Ultimate and get fancy by putting my Vista on my wife's machine (XT) then going to Windows 7 so both machines could upgrade and not need a clean install.

But when I start it says I have to do a clean install becasue they do not upgrade Vista Ultimate.

Am I being given a hard time because I paid more for Vista?

Why did they not say it was only for Vista vanilla?

I will do it, but I will not be happy with Microsoft.

(And what else is new?)

Rob Pegoraro: That sound you just heard was my palm hitting my face. Ugh. Vista Ultimate is one of the biggest ripoffs in all of computing--especially since installing it locks you into buying Win 7 Ultimate (unless you can put up with a clean/destructive install of a "lesser" version of 7). Sorry... whoever told you to buy Vista Ultimate did you a serious disservice.

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Havelock, NC: A few days ago while operating in secure financial web sites, as in the past I tried to open up Standard and Poor company reports and on two different web sites a MS DATA EXECUTION PROTECTION program would not let me open the reports. I was given the following notice -

"INTERNET EXPLORER HAS STOPPED WORKING

A problem caused the program to stop working correctly.

Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available."

I was not allowed to disable the DEP but since it was a relatively new program, I did a System Restore for October 14, 2009 and I was able to down load the S&P files from the secure web sites again.

I fear that I will see more of DEP - What can be done to stop DEP from causing this trouble?

Rob Pegoraro: DEP is a good thing--it uses a feature built into your PC's processor to stop a common malware attack. (Here's the Help File I wrote about it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/07/AR2006010700153.html ) Because of that, I don't recommend turning DEP off or exempting your browser from DEP.

My guess is that the S&P Web site does something wrong that confuses or trips up IE--so, if that site has competent Webmasters, they should be able to fix it soon. Do you get the same error in Firefox?

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Chantilly, Va.: Just a note from my experience -- if your hardware and/or drivers are not 64-bit compatible, do not rely on the Win7 installer to help. I generally know what I'm doing, and I spent awhile trying to get the x64 version to install. Eventually gave up and went back to the 32-bit x86 version. In my case, the installer said it was having trouble with the CD/DVD drive, despite a CD/DVD drive either a) obviously working, ro b) not being installed at the time. (The first time, I was installing it off a DVD, so the drive was obviously working; the second time in an effort to fix it or at least get a different message, I yanked the DVD drive and tried to install off a flash drive instead.)

I guessed it might have actually meant the SATA or IDE controller on the motherboard, but getting updated motherboard drivers didn't fix it either.

I may eventually go back later, try to narrow it down and reinstall the x64 version (I do have 4 GB of RAM partly going to waste), but man.

However, the x86 version installed quickly and easily, and I'm pretty happy with it. So that's good at least.

Rob Pegoraro: More about Windows' 32- and 64-bit flavors. I should also note that if you're even thinking about upgrading to 7, you need to run Microsoft's free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor first:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx

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Hackensack, N.J.: Rob, Thanks!

In the past couple of months, my iphone, when it loads washingtonpost.com it always loads the mobile site first. I have to wait for it to load, and then scroll down and hit the link to the main site. If I then bookmark the resulting URL, it STILL takes me to the mobile site. I don't want the mobile site (unless you guys start linking all the chats there!). Do you know a url that will force the iphone to load the full washingtonpost.com Web site?

washingtonpost.com: I checked in with our mobile team. Unfortunately we don't have a current solution, as the site is linked with the user agent rather than your cookies.

Rob Pegoraro: By "user agent" we're talking about how your phone's browser identifies itself to a Web site. For instance, the copy of Firefox I'm typing this in presents this user-agent string:

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10.6; en-US; rv:1.9.1.3) Gecko/20090824 Firefox/3.5.3

It's possible to change that on some desktop browsers, but not on mobile ones AFAIK.

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Droid: When are you going to have a full review?

Rob Pegoraro: Should be next week.

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Slavonski Brod; Croatia: Why can I not connect via blue tooth my laptop Toshiba Satellite A200-19L (which has blue tooth), with my Sony Ericsson headset HBH-PV708 (which also has blue tooth ). Either of them, separately, connects perfectly well via blue tooth with my NOKIA 6300 cell phone ! I believe I did everything necessary "by the book" to connect the laptop and the headset with no success!? Could you tell me please why not ?

Rob Pegoraro: Have some potica for me, will ya? (My grandmother was Croatian and used to make that pastry all the time.)

Anyway, this problem is kind of Bluetooth being Bluetooth... it has not lived up to its promises of universal compatibility, especially with the crummy Bluetooth software some PC vendors bundle. (Toshiba's is particularly ugly and inept, as I recall.) If your laptop is running Vista, you might be able to disable the Toshiba Bluetooth software--but since I don't have a Toshiba handy, I can't begin to tell you how to do that.

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21771: Do you think we'll see the new Google navigation software on the iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: I do, but it looks like it'll ship after the version for Android. Google PR gave a somewhat coy answer to AppleInsider, implying that it would be up to Apple to approve the app (recall that Apple infamously quashed the Google Voice app for the iPhone):

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/10/28/google_says_its_navigation_will_come_to_iphone_if_apple_approves.html

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rockville: "Sorry... whoever told you to buy Vista Ultimate did you a serious disservice."

It was all my fault. I seriously wanted the extra features so I could control another computer on my network and so I could have the media extensions and the other great stuff they promised. I can blame only myself.

But I can do a clean install and have very few apps to install. But my Microsoft Works came from Dell. I am not even sure I have discs to install it.

Rob Pegoraro: Glad to hear you can work out of this issue. I wouldn't worry about Works... download a copy of OpenOffice (openoffice.org) instead.

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Chicago, Ill.: Here's something I've wondered about for a long time: Why are home cordless phones so much larger than cellphones? They're huge in comparison. They operate on similar frequencies, in fact, many of the frequencies of cellphones are in the same range as those of 900 MHz cordless. Cellphones have far more features in them, most cellphones have color displays, smartphones are miniature computers, while cordless phones don't even have a clock, just Caller ID and memory for numbers. Cellphones have to transmit to towers that can be miles away, while cordless phones just have to transmit only a few hundred feet at most.

Rob Pegoraro: Sure, but cordless phones don't have to fit in people's pockets. It has to be cheaper to design something without miniaturizing every component. I also suspect that many cordless-phone customers--really, we're talking landline users in general--aren't the early-adopter types who automatically equate "small" with "cool."

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Rockville, Md.: I feel like I'm asking a really stupid question here, but if I'm wondering about, I suppose others are too. Anyway, can your computer or phone get a virus from using Twitter? I mean, it's just 140 characters of text, right?

washingtonpost.com: Just be wary of the links you click on, especially if they're from a shortened URL.

Rob Pegoraro: You can get a link from following any link if it goes to a hostile site (especially if you're using a less-secure browser or operating system). Twitter is just another way to have a lot of links thrown your way--though the shortened addresses used there make it hard to know where you're going. (Bit.ly, the address-shortener Twitter uses, says it screens links for malware.)

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WP mobile site: Could you ask your mobile team to PLEASE add links to chats on the mobile site? That's a glaring omission, and adding it would make me pleased as punch with the mobile site. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Happy to pass along the request :)

Rob Pegoraro: Me too. While I'm at it, can we also display blog comments on the mobile site?

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Mattoon, Ill.: Is it true that viewing analog output from a series 2 (analog) Tivo would look worse on an HDTV than it does on my old analog Toshiba? Also, will new HDTVs ever be built with a quicker processor that shortens the time going from one channel to the next? Flipping thru the dial is taking too long! Thanks, Rob.

Rob Pegoraro: Analog TV tends to look worse on an HDTV--in part because of differences in display technology, in part because you're seeing an SD feed right after watching something in HD, which automatically makes the SD look awful.

Don't expect much of a change in channel-change times. HDTVs already have reasonably powerful processors on board to do things like "120 Hz" upgrading of images to reduce blurring.

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Arlington, Va.: What wireless carriers have phones that work on the Global System for Mobil Telecommunication (GSM) network in addition to the ones used in the US? I'm asking because I plan to visit Europe next year, and I might need a phone that works overseas. What are your thoughts on this subject? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: AT&T and T-Mobile. BUT: make sure your GSM phone is unlocked for use with another carrier's SIM card before you leave. That's not always possible--AT&T won't unlock the iPhone at all, for instance.

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Columbia, Md.: Rob: 2 different quick questions...

1) What details have you heard, if anything, about AT&T selling an Android phone? I've been hearing some rumors about it lately.

2) I have Vista Home Premium on the boot camp partition on my MacBook Pro. Is it simple to upgrade that to Windows 7? How?

Rob Pegoraro: 1. Me too--although those rumors started circulating back in May. (The latest ones have AT&T introducing a Dell-developed Android phone in 2010: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2353953,00.asp )

2. It's the same process as upgrading from Vista to 7 on a PC--I've done it twice without any issues that I can think of, though there is a possibility of losing support for some of the Mac's hardware until Apple updates its Windows drivers.

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Another view of Windows 7: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/10/30/seventh-house/

Rob Pegoraro: Ouch.

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Detroit, Mich.: Do you think it is a wise business decision on Apple to continue to have their computers be so expensive? One would think that with their move to the Intel processor, they would have an inroad to be able to make more people change to Macs if they were cheaper. I have been a user of both Macs and PCs, and have recently been using Windows 7, which I love. It seems to me that Apple is maintaining a continuing attitude of superiority and that people should naturally use their computers.

Rob Pegoraro: Let's focus on the word "business." As an enterprise in business to make a profit, Apple could not be doing much better right now. Would it make even more money by selling more computers at a lower price and with a lower profit margin? That's something I'm sure Apple's accountants have looked at in great detail--they have a fiduciary responsibility there.

You can say that Apple's "luxury" business model isn't tremendously fair, but that's a separate issue. For what it's worth, as luxuries go a Mac is pretty affordable compared to most, and especially the automotive examples I cited in a recent column.

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rockville md: Whoops,

Just reread and saw this: Windows could not update the computer's boot configuration

This may well be a bios error as well. Verify that your C drive is set as your primary boot device. If you have your other HD set as your boot device in the Bios, windows will be unable to change it.

Is your computer configured for a dual boot with Linux or other software? Past windows configurations don't play well with dual boot systems, so if you have a dual boot scenario you might have to reconfigure that.

If none of these work, try removing your secondary drive and installing on only the single drive. Hope that works!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestions, rockville!

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Rob,

Confused about your response on AT&T and the iphone overseas. I had my iphone activated for international calling by AT&T in Greece last summer and it worked fine.

Rob Pegoraro: I take it you were also "fine" with AT&T's international-roaming rates? By "unlocking" I mean being able to take out the AT&T SIM card and use any other carrier's, for a vastly lower per-minute rate. That's something that AT&T doesn't allow (though other iPhone carriers overseas do).

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Arlington, Va.: So I have a fairly new desktop computer that is used every few days. I rarely shut it down - just let it go into sleep mode. Bad habit, I know. The other day, I turned it on and found a new home page, new desktop wallpaper, and all of my favorites and internet history were gone. No one has access to the computer beyond me. could it have rebooted and set itself to default modes? or could this be some kind of strange virus? Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: There's nothing wrong with letting a computer go into sleep mode--the power draw of a new computer is almost the same whether it's asleep or shut off but still plugged in, and you save time spent waiting for it to boot up.

But... there is something very wrong about having your desktop and browser reset like that. Does a system restore undo those changes?

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takoma park: Due to the largess of my half-brother (MS employee), I have in my possession two copies of Windows 7 ultimate 32 AND 64 bit versions (some internal company combo pack, maybe). I also have a free upgrade coming for my Gateway 4200-9 I purchased recently ($339+free ship, 1.8ghz quad core, 4gigs, 640g HD, screaming deal)

My question is this. My laptop (single core) is a Toshiba A205 or something. Can even use the 64 bit version? I am going to do a clean install. I have the backup disc in case things go badly.

Rob Pegoraro: Windows 7, unlike Vista, includes both 32- and 64-bit DVDs in the box. But you still have only product key, so installing one of those copies should make the other one fail activation.

General advice about 64-bit 7's compatibility: If the computer has less than four GB of memory, don't bother. You'll lose one of the primary benefits of x64 Windows--support for that much memory.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a annoyance with my iPhone 3G. The iPod randomly turns itself on and then I have to go and pause it. Usually I will just hear some weird faint noise (since I use headphones with the phone) and then investigate and find this. I've looked at the ipod settings and see nothing there to help. I also have attempted to leave the ipod on video or some other function where I have no material stored and yet it still randomly turns itself on. I'm stumped and haven't heard of anyone else having this issue.

Rob Pegoraro: Nor have I. Have you used the "restore" function in iTunes to reinstall its software? (It'll back up and restore your own data and settings automatically.)

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: As an ex-pat now living in Puerto Vallarta, I have been waiting patiently (your only good choice down here) for Kindle to come out with a model that is functional here. Yeah! It is here. Now, just one final question...I have a wireless TIVO hook up, and I tried to hook up some wireless speakers a few months ago. Bad results; the two wireless systems messed each other up (I'm not a techno-nerd so I don't know the right terms here), and I had to scrap the speakers, and re-install the TIVO. Is this new Kindle going to be problematic for similar reasons?

Rob Pegoraro: The Kindle shouldn't cause any problems: It uses an entirely different frequency from your WiFi (which I'm guessing was not the case with those speakers).

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Lilliput: The newest iMacs have 21.5" and 27" screens, up from 20" and 24". I have a previous generation iMac with a 17" screen that I am perfectly happy with. I might like to upgrade, but I don't really want to sit two feet away from a 21.5" screen, let alone 27." (I remember when a 19" TV was considered living-room-sized). Paradoxically, these screens are expanding as netbooks with 9- or 10-inch screens are grabbing a larger and larger share of the market. Are giant screens just a way to boost profits, rather than selling a unit with a smaller screen at a lower price? Is there a point where a desktop screen can be just too darn big for ordinary purposes? Any chance Apple might bring back the smaller screen? They could easily just repackage the lid from their 17" Macbook. Or am I going to have to buy a Mac mini and a separate screen from somebody else?

Rob Pegoraro: I think you might find that you got used to a 21-in. screen faster than you thought... but the point is valid. A 15-in. screen once seemed quite large compared to the 13 or 14-inchers on many desks, and a 17-inch display--boy, that was a big upgrade when I bought one home.

I'm typing this to you on a desktop with a 20-inch display, and that seems big enough for me. I certainly wouldn't get the iMac with the 27-inch display. But that's partially because the TV upstairs only has a 26-inch screen. It seems fundamentally wrong to have a computer monitor bigger than that.

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Denville, N.J.: doesn't the 'free' navigation service on Android-based phones require access to the vendor's 3g network? If so, how useful will it be for someone who travels outside the coverage area? Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan still seem to have the advantage out in the boonies.

Rob Pegoraro: Exactly. There are still parts of America where no cell service is available--as my wife and I discovered several weeks ago, that includes the entire eastern half of Glacier National Park. GPS vendors would be smart to focus more on that use case.

But they'd also be smart to allow for the possibility of future versions of Google Maps caching map data on the phone to deal with this kind of situation.

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Kansas City, MO: Hi Rob, thanks for your great work!

I'm in the market for an external drive. I've been looking at a 500G from Western Digital. Here's my problem: I use both a mac (running Snow Leopard) and several PCs and I want to use it on all of them. Western Digital's Web site says for Snow Leopard I will have to reformat the drive, does that mean it won't work with my PC?

And I'm not completely committed to Western Digital, is there another brand you recommend? I'd like to stay in the $100 range. THXTHXTHX!

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, you'd need to reformat the drive--it's probably sold formatted with Microsoft's NTFS file system, which works fine in Windows but only allows read-only access on a standard-issue Mac.

You could remedy that by formatting the drive in Microsoft's older FAT32 system. Or you could install a free program called MacFUSE (http://code.google.com/p/macfuse/) that can add NTFS read/write compatibility to a Mac. Haven't tried the latter fix myself, though.

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Washington, D.C.: I just purchased an HDTV and don't want to use cable. What is the easiest way to hook it up to the internet so I can use Hulu and Netflix.

Rob Pegoraro: Park a laptop next to it and run a VGA cable from the laptop the HDTV's VGA input. Use the laptop's keyboard and touchpad to bring up the Hulu or Netflix program you want to watch, click the play button and then return to the couch to enjoy the show.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob,

I just bought my first apartment. Yeah! It's a really small studio, so I'm thinking I want to replace my old CRT TV to maximize space. I've been looking on amazon and I have no idea where to begin in terms of pricing and size. Is 32" too big for a small studio? Is there a difference, really, between the major brands like Samsung, LG, etc.? Or is a lesser known brand from Costco better? LCD is better for smaller units, right? Buy now or around Christmas?

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: You're unlikely to find anything but LCDs in stores in those smaller sizes. As for "too big," that's a bit of an interior-design value judgment. You should probably get a big piece of cardboard, cut it to match the dimensions of a typical 32-inch display, and then park that where you'd put the TV to see if it dominates the rest of your pad.

You shouldn't see a huge gap in features in smaller LCDs, but it's worth paying a little extra for two things: A USB port or SD memory-card slot (handy for showing off photos) and 120 HZ scanning (which eliminates some blurring issues you could otherwise get with an LCD).

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Columbus, OH: With the release of Windows 7 and the advertising back and forth between Microsoft and Mac, I'm again amused by some of the oddities of this competition. One product caters to essentially a niche market (high end computers) well the other caters to the broader market of all users. The market share reflects this strategy as well as the nature of the product (one can imagine that Apple's OS would be less highly regarded if it had to make the concessions required to achieve an 80 percent share). Is there really another good industry analogy here? I mean, ultimately Apple does not want to "win" in terms of a significant increase in market share, right?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple has seen a significant increase in market share--it's doubled or tripled from the company's nadir. But Apple wants to make money more than it wants to sell the most computers. I cannot say that's an insane goal for a capitalist enterprise to have.

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Washington, D.C.: I've had Napster double-bill me for albums that initially didn't download correctly, and now they're long gone from my computer too. Pay twice for the same album and then have it disappear in six months -- that was a new one for me.

Rob Pegoraro: Did you get them to reverse the charges?

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Firefox-Windows XP: I am still running Windows XP and use Firefox as my default browser. I believe each is updated to the most current version, but I'm still having a problem with many Web sites(including the Washington Post). The page loads but there must be some kind of error because I keep reading that the 'Skins are not a good team when clearly they have a playoff roster.'

Can you help?

Vinnie C.

Rob Pegoraro: Is that you, Steinberg?

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Puzzled: Rob, when was your last one of these?

I know there was a question I wanted to follow up, but I can't find it in the Weekly Schedule lists.

washingtonpost.com: Rob's last chat was two weeks ago. You can access all of his discussions at this archive link.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for those links!

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Ashburn, Va.--NOT Redskins Park: Rob, my preorder copy of Windows 7 has arrived but I am loathe to install it until it has some time to reveal all of its flaws and Microsoft can issue updates. How long do you think I should wait and how will I know it's time to go ahead?

Rob Pegoraro: Give it a month, unless your PC's vendor has some warning on its site about hardware conflicts.

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Boone, N.C.: Posting early: I'm using a G4 PPC Powerbook running Tiger and cannot get Gmail's offline feature to work, not in Safari 4 nor in Firefox 3.5. I've installed Google Gears in both apps, and both apps show that it's installed. When I go to Gmail & click "Offline" I get the message telling me it's about to download my messages, be sure it's not a public terminal, etc., I click Next, and I'm told that page doesn't have permission to use Google Gears, and I should go to Google Gears Settings and grant permission. I go to Settings like it asks, and I see that Google Gears is installed, local storage of mail.google.com is checked as "Allowed," but at the bottom of that dialogue I see the adjacent buttons to "Apply" or "Cancel." "Apply" is greyed out. What gives? On Safari I'm running PithHelmet and on Firefox I'm running AdBlocker & NoScript, but disabling these plug-ins seems to have no effect.

Rob Pegoraro: Hmm. I haven't actually tried this feature since Google debuted it--I've used IMAP for offline Gmail access through my regular Mail software. That might be an easier fix for you.

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Snyder: Snyder's banned smartphones because he doesn't want you blogging your pithyness from the game. It might obstruct your view of the disaster on the field...or your view of the giant racial slur across the endzone.

Rob Pegoraro: I usually would have wrapped up the chat by now, but I wanted to send up this and a few other comments...

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Washington, D.C.: Hello Rob,

Any new information on transferring iTunes songs from an old computer to a new via external hard drive or some trick other than using an iPod? (I sent in this question last time you did a Fast Forward chat.) I'm starting to have the additional problem that new songs I buy on the new computer don't show up in my "iTunes Music" folders, so I can't transfer them to my iPod. Thank you!

Rob Pegoraro: After that chat, a reader pointed out that you need to copy your entire music folder--not just your old music files and not just the "iTunes" folder that stores some iTunes settings, but the folder encompassing all of them. In other words, grab the whole "Music" folder on a Mac or the entire "My Music" or "Music" directory in Windows.

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Bill, Eugene, Ore.: re compatibility: What are the odds my large collection of 32 bit freeware and shareware programs, some>6 years old, will run on Windows 7 64bit Home Premium? The Microsoft compatibility scanner doesn't comment or recognize these programs on my XP laptop.

Thanks for the great Web chats.

Rob Pegoraro: The odds don't look good to me.

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Alexandria, Va.: I am horrified at the monthly charges for a mobile phone with any kind of web browser or email access. Do you know anything about Boost, which seems to be the least expensive?

Rob Pegoraro: If you just need a phone for calling--not Web access or anything--it'll do. Understand that Boost is a rebranded Nextel service, so you get the same poor data connections and coverage limits that you'd get with a standard Nextel plan.

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Washington, D.C.: Couple questions about public terminal security: Is there a way to tell whether a keylogger has been installed on a public terminal? Could you search somewhere for a specific file or application? Also, if you are using your own laptop with public wifi, is there any way you can detect packet sniffing or other interception attempts?

Rob Pegoraro: Really, you can't. Read this old post for how I've dealt with this issue before:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2007/06/anxiety_at_the_internet_cafe.html

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Rob Pegoraro: It's 1:30 and my stomach's begun growling. I'm sure yours has too, so I'm going to sign off and get lunch. Thanks for all the questions--I'll see you here in a couple of weeks.

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