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Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Friday, November 13, 2009; 12:00 PM

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online Friday, Nov. 13 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: Copyright overreach on a world tour.

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

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Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon, all. Should we talk about:

a) a much-advertised new gadget, both shiny and useful, that many of you have been asking about, or;

b) an obscure international agreement that has drawn scarce coverage in the traditional media and which, in theory, shouldn't affect any law-abiding citizens?

I'd say both, since I just described my two last columns. But that's up to you... let's see what's on your mind this rainy afternoon.

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New Jersey: Hi Rob! A question on the Droid. Is it a big deal that the apps on the Droid can only be saved on the phone's internal memory? I have no sense of whether this might be a serious issue in terms of memory limitations or not. Is this a constraint imposed by the hardware or the software (which could theoretically be addressed in future Android revisions/upgrades etc.)? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Let's start with this semi-technical question. The Motorola Droid, Verizon's new phone running Google's Android software (the one I reviewed is now sitting on my desk in front of the keyboard) comes with a 16-gigabyte SD memory card, but you can't store add-on programs there. You can only park them in the Droid's 256 MB (right?) of internal memory. That should allow for plenty of apps in most cases, but some have pretty large footprints.

My sense, though, is that this is something fixable through an operating-system update--something Android, in turn, allows with a simple download-and-install procedure using its own Internet connection. Just don't ask me when...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob - Now that Windows 7 is out, I'm in the market to buy my parents a new laptop to replace their very old desktop system. I gather from your previous comments that virtually any laptop on the market will meet their limited needs (mostly internet usage), so my question has to do with bloatware. Are some manufacturers better than others at selling junk-free laptops? Any manufacturers to steer clear of? My parents don't have the patience or know-how to clear useless programs off their computer, and neither do I, so any guidance you could provide would be very helpful. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Good question (it will be part of my gadget guidance two weeks from now). In general, your best shot of reducing the bloatware/crapware load on a new PC is to custom order it from the manufacturer's site, not to buy it in a store. That way, you may be able to opt out of having any extra software at all. Emphasize "may": I just tried configuring a Sony laptop without any extra apps, and this "Fresh Start" option requires paying extra for Windows 7 Professional.

In general, Dell has the least junk, HP and Acer get a bit cluttered, Sony's bad and Toshiba is awful.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob,

It's getting cold out. Any glove recommendations for touch screen phones? I have an iPhone and in a few weeks I won't want to remove my gloves to answer calls. Most of what I've seen is sold out. I'm a woman, so bonus points if they are cute. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Most touch screens won't work unless you use a bare finger--otherwise their capacitative sensor won't complete the circuit. (See Wikipedia's explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touchscreen#Capacitive)

I suggest you look for touchscreen phones that include the traditional "send" and "end" green and red buttons.

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Reisterstown, Md.: Love your columns Rob. Any truth to the Internet rumor that cell phones can explode if you use them to talk/text while they are plugged into their chargers? I'm sure it COULD happen, but is it a major problem?

Rob Pegoraro: Why, let me just check that myself.

[plugs phone into wall]

[dials]

Yeah, it's working fine

[BOOM!]

AIEEEE!!!

Ha ha, I kid. No, I have never heard of such a thing. Sounds like 100 percent urban legend to me.

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Arlington, Va.: I've recently bought two different brands of portable digital TV (7" LCD screen). Each had AC power adapter, car power cord and rechargeable battery. Built-in antenna. Scans for digital TV stations. Picks up Channels 4, 5, 20, 26, 32 and several higher numbers. Also the weather for Ch. 4. But no channel 7 or 9 on either TV. (One of the TVs did pick up Ch. 7 and its weather ch. sometimes but not on a regular basis.) This leads me to believe that the signals for Ch. 7 and 9 are weak. Or are these little portable TV just not that good? Here are the exact models: Axion AXN-8701 and Digital Prism. I was using AC power, and tried from several rooms in my house.

Rob Pegoraro: The signals for 7 and 9 occupy the VHF end of the TV spectrum, while all the other stations are on UHF channels. So if those portable sets only have UHF antennas or, more likely, UHF-optimized antennas, you'd naturally have a hard time tuning in 7 and 9. But 9 also has a severely underpowered signal compared to 7, so even with a good VHF antennna you'll have trouble pulling it in. The people at WUSA have to do something to fix this (the folks at WJLA already upgraded their transmission's power, which has helped a lot).

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Bethesd, Md.: I just purchased a 27" Mac but have heard there may be problems with it running Flash. Is this a problem I should be worried about and what big sites use Flash?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know of anything specific to the big-screen iMac that gets in the way of Flash. I *do* know that the Mac version of Adobe's Flash player can be a real memory and processor hog.

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Laurel, Md.: Do I understand correctly that after millions of people paid $250 for Amazon's e-book reader, they're now going to give everyone the opportunity to buy the books without the hardware?

This is why I never buy start-up equipment that ties me to one company's products, like the Fusion razor or DIVX players.

Rob Pegoraro: They already do that--you can buy and read Kindle e-books on an iPhone without buying a Kindle reader. The new Kindle for PC software (see my review: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2009/11/a_quick_read_on_amazons_kindle.html) just provides another way to do that, on hardware that even more people have.

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Winston-Salem, N.C.: Rob,

Whenever I go to Yahoo, it always seems to know that I live in the Winston-Salem area (area specific news stories on the home page). Emptying the cache, clearing the the history, and deleting the cookies has no effect. This happens whether I use Safari on a Mac and Firefox on a PC. How does Yahoo know where I am? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Your Internet Protocol address, the numeric address every device on the Internet has to have for anything else on the Internet to find it. It's not hard to correlate an "IP" with a geographic area, and so a lot of Web sites and advertisers use that data to customize their content a little. You can look up your own IP address at, of course, whatismyip.com

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San Francisco, Calif.: Why is Yahoo's new mail such a pain? first to delete a contact you are to check a box next to contact, but on my web site it's invisable. to use maps, put to and from in box A then B. no box A or B comes up no matter how many times I hit the map and directions box. yahoo is my mailing address for the past 6 years when this senior learned computers, but am willing to take the time to make a chance if you recommend such an action and what free site? Gateway 64 Vista bought last fall.

Rob Pegoraro: Yahoo Mail has been trailing in usability and utility compared to Google's Gmail and even Microsoft's Hotmail for years. That company is letting itself get lapped by the competition.

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Eugene, Ore.: Just how big an advantage is Windows x64 over x32? If it's only a matter of being able to handle more data in RAM, how many of us will really benefit by having> 3gb of RAM? Will it make a noticeble difference to Photoshoppers, once per year home movie editors, Windows Media Center users? (And why are x32 laptops so rare in the stores?) Thanks for the chats!

Rob Pegoraro: In practice, not much. 64-bit computing delivers few tangible benefits to home computing but does carry compatibility issues--but with the arrival of Windows 7 and cheap memory (you do need an 64-bit edition of Windows to use more than 3 GB), it's becoming a standard in the market.

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Cox vs FIOS Internet in Falls Church: I am moving from Annandale to Falls Church next month. I currently have Cox internet service which is fine. I have the option of switching to FIOS internet and I am wondering if the FIOS internet service is worth switching to. FIOS is a little more expensive and of course it's with evil Verizon. Any comments from you or the audience?

Rob Pegoraro: Most Fios Internet users, or at the least ones I've heard from, are happy with the service's speed and reliability, not so happy with Verizon's tech support. The Cox users that talk to me seem... less thrilled overall. But if happy Cox customers or unhappy Verizon victims want to prove me wrong, now's your chance.

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Tybee Island, Ga.: I just purchased a new flat screen lcd that has Internet capabilities. I have broadband DSL service in the house with 2 computers wirelessly connected. The TV, a Samsumg, appears to require a wired connection to a Samsung router that could connect wirelessly to my other router???? Why is this so complicated? And is it really worth it to do, e.g., to stream movies, etc.

Rob Pegoraro: I have an HDTV with a similar set of Internet video and widget software, and with a similar connectivity issue. (Given the cheap cost of WiFi hardware, it's a little puzzling why more manufacturers don't step up and include that--it's not like most living rooms have Ethernet ports.)

What I wound up doing was adding a separate router under the TV and using that to bridge the wireless network to the TV's Ethernet port. (The catch was, this Linksys model couldn't do that with its factory software, so I had to install some third-party firmware--see dd-wrt.com--and customize that. Total rainy-day geekout.)

Some of the stuff I can get on the TV through this connnection is worth it--like Slacker Web radio and YouTube clips. Some aren't as useful, like Yahoo's Twitter widget. I would at least try this out; borrow a friend's router if you can before buying an extra one just for the TV.

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Glove girl: So then all the gloves they're selling won't work? Like the North Face etip and others?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know, actually. I suppose I should have figured that some glove vendor would develop a solution to this problem. Can anybody report back on how well these things work?

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McLean Va.: Ordered a Nook last week, should ship on the Dec 11. Bought it because it reads epub format. Got a bunch of ebooks from Gutenberg which read fine on the BN software for the Mac, so they should read fine on the Nook.

Seeing that Amazon and BN both provide Mac/PC and iPhone/pda reader software reminds me that they are in the business of selling books, rather than hardware. So I suspect that the mythical Apple Tablet will have readers for their books. But it won't have the battery life of the dedicated readers.

So what's the over/under on the Mythical Apple Tablet?

Rob Pegoraro: You forgot that the Mythical Apple Tablet contains its own hydrogen fuel cell--you'll be able to recharge a plug-in hybrid with the thing!

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Marmaris, Turkey: Thanks for your columns, Rob - I always tune in when I can. Here's a Snopes link on the exploding cell phone: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/techno/cellcharge .asp

Rob Pegoraro: Good old Snopes.com... here's a copy of the link without the extra space:

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/techno/cellcharge.asp

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Atlanta, Ga.: Android: Rob, this is just speculation, but I would be very surprised if downloaded apps were allowed on the removable SD memory cards. If they did that, purchased apps would be very easy to copy and use on other phones.

Rob Pegoraro: But Android store downloads are tied to your Google Account. I would presume they'd work just like iPhone App Store purchases, which you can put on as many iPhones as you want as long as you have the same Apple account on each.

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Houston, Texas: Biggest advantages and disadvantages of Droid versus iPhone 3GS? Having trouble deciding which one.

Rob Pegoraro: Look at the networks behind each. Verizon's coverage isn't as superior to AT&T's as those "there's a map for that" ads suggest, but it *is* better.

There's also a fundamental difference in how the iPhone and Android app stores work: Apple only lists apps that it approves--and has a thoroughly documented habit of rejecting apps for reasons that are illogical, unfair or both--while Google is a lot more open about the Android Market.

The iPhone App Store does have about 10x as many apps as the Android Market, but when you look at the good apps the difference isn't as stark. For instance, I wish I would run Google Sky Map or Shop Savvy on an iPhone but I can't; I wish I could run Yelp or Urbanspoon on Android but I can't.

Lastly, the iPhone allows direct computer-to-phone syncing, while Android uses Google's Web-based contacts and calendar services for its sync.

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Ft. Washington, Md.: I'm confused by Verizon's new smartphone cancellation policy. If I want to switch from a smartphone to a new phone (of any kind) and I'm currently under contract w/Verizon and plan to stay with Verizon would I be charged that astronomical new fee or would it only apply if I left Verizon for another carrier?

Rob Pegoraro: Only if you left VzW for another carrier (though if you switched phones before a contract had concluded, you wouldn't get the advertised, new-or-renewing-customer price).

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Arlington: So I was hoping to get the Palm Pre on verizon in January because I have a Centro and have always used Palm products. Now the droid comes out. I like the palm interface but the Droid is tempting and has a bigger keyboard.

What would Rob do? (WWRD)

Rob Pegoraro: This is a tough one. I like the Pre's webOS operating system--it does multitasking better than any smartphone I've tried--and the Pre hardware is pretty sharp too (though the lack of expandable memory sets it back). But the Pre's app support looks horrible compared to everything else; it's up to maybe 300 programs in its catalogue.

I don't think Palm has formally launched that store yet, but if you don't see some signs of progress by January, you do have to worry about when this situation will change. I hope it does--this market, like any other, could use more competition.

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Washington, DC: Please Rob, answer my question! I just ordered a Kindle 2 for a trip to China on December 2. Should I return it and wait for the Nook. It doesn't ship until December so I'd have to lug books to China, but oh, well.

Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I can't answer that--I haven't even seen a Nook, and it doesn't look like B&N will ship review hardware until after you take off. Have fun in China, though!

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Tina in Falls Churcu re: Cox vs FIOS: Chatter from Annandale is in a perfect position to negotiate a deal w/Verizon......make them "want" you as a customer by pitching a 1 year deal. I have FIOS....just remember, once they string fiber optic you can not return to copper (ie: DSL)from Verizon.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, Tina!

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State of Dyspepsia: Rob, my old wireless router does not accept the 3rd party firmware. (Flash memory too small)

But it does have a 'Repeater' mode. But it doesn't appear that this feature will convert wireless to Ethernet to use with my DirecTv DVR. Does that sound right? What's 'repeater' mode good for?? (Netgear WGR614v9)

Rob Pegoraro: Repeater usually means rebroadcasting your WiFi signal to extend the network's coverage. Bridge means relaying it over a wired connection to nearby devices.

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Valencia, Spain: I read Tony Scalisi's article regarding XP Mode in Windows 7 Premium.I am assuming that "legacy support" and "legacy applications" are present-day geek speak for the old programs and apps that operated in earlier versions of Windows and may be problematical in Vista/newer/future operating systems.I read your piece regarding 32 bit vs. 64 bit compatibility issues. I have a few compatibility problems with key programs that work in my XP Pro 32 bit computer but not my 64 bit Vista computer.

My question (finally): Will the XP mode virtualization in Windows 7 resolve the compatibility issues of 32 bit vs. 64 bit for those programs? Or are we dealing with the proverbial apples and oranges, two distinct issues with no common meeting ground?

Rob Pegoraro: I believe that will work - but remember that you can't run XP mode in Win 7 unless you pay extra for Win 7 Professional or Ultimate.

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Columbus, Ohio: What is up with blankety-blank "Patch Tuesday?"

Running XP/SP3 home. Long ago, I disabled "automatic updates," choosing instead the notification option and waiting a day or two before installing updates. In spite of these precautions, on two (widely separated) occasions, PT updates have crashed my system at reboot. The latest crash just happened following my download and installation of the Nov. 10 patches. Instead of restarting, I got a repeated DOS screen following the initial logo screen. No matter which option I chose from the DOS screen, a -black- screen of death would follow.

Fortunately, once I disconnected all power and waited a half hour, I was able to successfully reboot. I also think that disconnecting a portable hard drive from its USB port was instrumental in making the restart possible (just after the PT download and install--for reasons unknown--my Windows Explorer would not recognize this drive, which I keep constantly plugged in).

I'm really fed up and--for the first time--seriously considering MAC.

Comments?

Rob Pegoraro: My saying for stories like this is "That's just Windows being Windows." Sorry, but Microsoft doesn't exactly ship the world's most governable operating system. These things happen sometimes; even though most people will have zero issues installing Microsoft's latest patches, others will get nailed.

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McLean, Va.: Why buy a router for the TV? Wouldn't an ethernet/wifi bridge be a lot cheaper?

How much power do those things pull, I wonder? Since the one hooked up to the TV will be on (unless the TV has a switched outlet) all the time. The wifi router I have is on a power strip which I turn off when not using it, but home theater equipment (especially DVRs) gets unhappy when you do that. Some DVRs take a minute or two to boot.

Rob Pegoraro: Well, this router was a surplus item we had lying around the IT department :)

When I've checked power consumption, most routers draw only a handful of watts. They're not nearly as bad as the average DVR or cable/satellite box.

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Rockville: Rob, a couple of chats ago, you said you were going to review Ubuntu 9.10 when it came out (which was the end of last month). May I suggest you skip it, or else see if the following has been fixed...

Apparently 9.10 can't get Broadcom 43xx wireless drivers to work. Considering that those are ubiquitous, and that the very premise of Unbuntu is broad connectivity with a worldwide community of users, this is like a car with no ignition.

Rob Pegoraro: In fact, I have an Ubuntu 9.10 CD in the laptop to my right--just haven't gotten around to, y'know, doing anything with it. Thanks for the reminder...

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Arlington, Va.: How compatible is the Droid with iPhone-optimized Web sites? Is there a way to force the browser to mimic an iPhone (i.e., change the User-Agent string)?

I'm asking since too many mobile-optimized sites are too stripped-down - with the exception of many (most) iPhone-optimized websites.

If Android-based smartphones don't catch on for another year or two, I imagine that web-browsing on the Droid will be painful until content publishers begin to target the platform.

What's your experience with this?

Rob Pegoraro: You seem to be forgetting that the iPhone and Android browsers run on the same WebKit open-source framework. I have yet to see any meaningful difference in how Web sites look on an iPhone and on an Android device--though next year, when Android can run a version of the Adobe Flash player, you will be able to view more desktop sites in Android than on iPhones.

(I'm hoping that Flash for mobile will not exhibit the resource-hogging habits of Flash for the desktop, but I can't say I'm totally confident of that happening.)

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Android Phone: Atlanta GA got it right. The retail version of the Android phones only allows you to put data on the SD card. That's to prevent copying of commercial software.

Rooted ("Unlocked") and Developer phones have the ability to put apps on the SD card, but are prevented from purchasing paid applications from the Android Market.

Rob Pegoraro: Interesting, though I don't know if this is true or not. Can you point me to a source for this?

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Greenville, SC: Hi, at the risk of sounding irresponsible, I did not read your column about the international issue that has received scarce attention and shouldn't affect law-abiding citizens. Can you tell me about it.

Thanks,

Camille

Rob Pegoraro: I was wondering if I would get *any* questions about today's column on the proposed ACTA copyright-law deal. Short version: The U.S. and 36 other countries are negotiating an agreement to set common standards for enforcing copyright laws. At best, this would cement some unpalatable aspects of current U.S. law; at worse, we'd have significantly more strict rules and punishments. Worse yet, these talks are happening under an extraordinary level of secrecy--your government won't say just what it's doing here.

It's a wonky topic, but it's something you should be a little worried about.

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Silver Spring: What can I do with an old iMac G4?

It only has a 1ghz processor and 512k RAM.

Would it make a good kids/web surfing computer?

It is worth putting extra RAM in it?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, put more memory in it and it should work fine as a Web machine--my mom has that kind of setup and seems pretty happy with it.

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Washington, D.C.: My 68-year-old mother's computer has been showing signs of age and she's considering getting a new one. She's had this one about 4-5 years, and will likely have the next one for at least that long too. She's a pretty light user, and, having not grown up with computers or used them much for work, is still somewhat hesitant and unskilled. Nevertheless she has come to use them for email, Web browsing, photo storage, letter-writing, etc. She's turning to me for buying advice, and I'm thinking that her money would be best used on RAM and a good 20-inch monitor as opposed to a fast CPU or lots of hard drive space (she's not on iTunes or using the computer as a home media hub, for example, so I don't think she needs the power or the storage space). Would you agree? I would think extra RAM would be useful from preventing the computer from slowing down too much after a couple of years (as a former PC user, I always found that REALLY frustrating).

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, but don't go too far with it. For the uses you outlined, 3 GB would be plenty; 4 or 6 would be overkill.

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Tampa, Fla: Can one upgrade a Mac from 10.4 to 10.6 with the $29 upgrade so you don't have to spend $129 and buy iWorks or whatever is in the more expensive package?

Rob Pegoraro: As a technical matter, yes--the $29 10.6 DVD will let you make that upgrade. Apple says its license doesn't allow it, but they don't enforce that limit through any software. So this is a matter for you and your ethical compass.

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Silver Spring, Md.: For the touch screen thing, get some of those half-finger gloves with the mitten bit that flips over them. Flip off the mitten top when you need to touch, flip it back on when you're done.

Common in England, harder to find here.

Rob Pegoraro: That's another possibility for winter touchscreen use.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Rob! I've been a Verizon wireless customer for the past nine years and was eager for the Droid to debut, since I would like to be able to do more with my phone. When I played with it at the Verizon store, though, I was underwhelmed with it compared to my friends' iPhones. Now I'm seriously thinking about switching to AT&T so I can have the iPhone, but am worried about the reputation of AT&T's coverage in our area. And suddenly there's lots of rumors about an upcoming Verizon iPhone. Any thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: Don't mean to harsh on you, Alexandria, but I am *so sick* of "will Verizon get the iPhone soon?" questions. Look, that is NOT GONNA HAPPEN ANYTIME SOON.

AT&T and Apple have a longterm exclusive deal, and Apple doesn't have much of a business case to make an iPhone that will run on Verizon's network anyway--most of the rest of the world doesn't use that CDMA technology, which Verizon plans to replace with a new, more compatible standard called LTE (Long Term Evolution) anyway.

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Hampton, VA: Rob, I'll bite on a final question on the copyright - what do you think of Amazon bowing to publishers insisting on 'text to speech' rights?

Rob Pegoraro: I was disappointed to see that. On one hand, that shuts out people who might need text to speech to overcome the limits of their eyeballs (though an NPR piece earlier this week made the good point that you can't invoke the text-to-speech function without being able to see the Kindle's menus anyway; there's no general accessibility option). On the other, the idea that a computer-driven, automated pronunciation of a book's words is some sort of separate performance is a real stretch. Nobody's gonna mistake the Kindle's voice reading, say, Dreams From My Father with hearing a recording of Barack Obama reading his book.

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Moto vs. HTC Droid: I am unexpectedly in the market for a new cell phone after being laid off this week and losing my company-provided Blackberry. In a perfect world I would get an iPhone, but we already have 5 phones on a VZW family plan. The idea of another BB does nothing for me, but a Droid seems to offer what I am looking for and I am trying to decide between the Motorola and HTC models. The HTC is $100 less and I really don't know care for the keyboard on the Moto, but is there something that I am missing if I go with the HTC Eris?

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, I haven't had a chance to play with the (confusingly named) Droid Eris. But I did review Sprint's version of the phone, the HTC Hero (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/09/AR2009100902161.html); based on that, I do with the Droid. The software is much better, and having a physical keyboard helps a lot for sustained text entry.

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Clifton, Va : Soon to be FIOS customer

Your FIOS internet speed will never slow down no matter how many folks are on line.

If Picture and sound quality are important to you go FIOS. FIOS HD is uncompressed and is the closest thing to Blu Ray out there.

Hey Rob will you be testing 4k projectors and semi auto shotguns for your Holiday gift guide. Hook up with Angus and go shooting.

Rob Pegoraro: Correction: Only over-the-air HDTV is uncompressed compared to its original source. Everything else has some level of compression--though by a lot of accounts, cable operators do engage in more compression than Vz.

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Herndon, Va.: RE: Cox vs FIOS Internet in Falls Church. Middle tier of cox internet service (for me) is excellent (fast and reliable). The reason to consider FIOS(and Verizon's infamously bad service response) is much more HD TV. Threaten to go to FIOS and Cox will discount your TV service greatly because they know they can't comptete.

Rob Pegoraro: Very good point about bargaining power in this situation...

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Houston, TX: thanks for taking questions - your information is invaluable.

Just a side note on the writer that wondered how Yahoo knew where they were (Since I work for an ISP, I knew the answer)

My Yahoo home page shows Houston news, as it should, MON-SAT. Every Sunday, however, it shows news from Santa Clara, CA.

I find this amusing.

Rob Pegoraro: Hell of a commute you've got there!

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IP address and geography: Just to make it clear, while you can sometimes get a general geographic location from an IP address (possibly but not always a city), you can't get anyone's actual street address or anything. (At least not without a warrant and/or subpoena to your ISP.) And sometimes it's completely wrong -- when I lived in central Massachusetts, the IP address trackers all assumed my connection was from New York City.

Rob Pegoraro: But... but... all the TV shows have the cops chasing people by looking up their IP address!

(Thanks for the clarification.)

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RE: Fiber - Copper DSL: Rob,

Had Cox (copper), switched to FIOS (Fiber)when they entered the neighborhood. Have faster speeds on FIOS than Cox for the same dollar expenditure. Both have options for greater speeds for more money. I think FIOS tops out higher than Cox but I'm headed in that direction - yet.

When Verizon connected to the house, they left the copper in place. Did not lose the future option of reverting back to Cox. Inside the house did not change. FIOS added a backup battery box in the garage, but there is no requirement for the Cox copper to run through this box.

This isn't as complicated as rocket science. Its all about the dollars and the deals.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report. I've heard from other Fios customers that you no longer automatically lose the copper-wire connection.

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Re: Touchscreen gloves: Check these gloves out: http://www.echodesign.com/Product/echo+touch+gloves/default.aspx?rid=4853&crid=443

Rob Pegoraro: Suddenly this is turning into a Robin Givhan chat...

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TV with widgets: How do you control the widgets from the couch? With the TV remote? Ugh.

Rob Pegoraro: Exactly. Not a problem with most things, but entering any sort of text is as much fun as you'd think (you have to triple-tap, as if the remote's channel-number buttons were a phone's numeric keypad). Read-only, listen-only and view-only apps work much better than anything that requires entering a lot of text.

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Columbus, Ohio: ACTA. Sigh. Policy laundering at its finest. Sad to see the increased proliferation of the DMCA (beyond it's existing proliferation through WIPO) and the further international evisceration of fair use (since one can be liable for violating the cirumvention provision even if the resulting copy constitutes a fair use). Not that there aren't legitimate infringement issues here and abroad, but it seems as though the huge lobbying imbalance rairly results in equitable policy. Thanks for keeping an eye on the issue.

Rob Pegoraro: Glad to help; thank you for reading.

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Alexandria, Va.: I have the new Droid and love it. This is my first smartphone, but it hasn't outsmarted me,yet. But I do have some qualms. First, when is Verizon going to go over to GSM phones? I travel abroad and it is really frustrating that my American colleagues can buy a GSM card, pop it into their phones and free to call the world. And another Euro-centric criticism--because we use cell towers and not satellites, the Maps feature on the Droid is off by a lot. It says up to 200 M, but I am finding up to a city block in DC.

Rob Pegoraro: The answer to your first question is "never"--but LTE is supposed to be an upgrade from both GSM and CDMA, so when that happens your traveling issue should go away... I mean, unless Verizon doesn't adopt GSM's SIM card system.

About location: make sure you have GPS location turned on for the Droid. Settings: Location & security: Use GPS satellites.

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Germantown, Md.: Hi Rob,

I've heard tales that the Kindle can do general web access, though all the images show up as grayscale. Is it limited to just specific sites such as Wikipedia, or can it serve as a general web reader? What about the other ebook readers which are starting to hit the market?

Rob Pegoraro: The Kindle displays only the guts of some pages--in terms of what you get, imagine browsing the Web on an old-school phone like a BlackBerry of two years ago, but with a much bigger screen. Amazon rightly labels this an "experimental" feature.

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Re How does Yahoo know where I am: Just how much are we tracked? Are IP addresses stored and cross referenced to a person's internet account? Is a person's internet usage able to be tracked and identified?

Rob Pegoraro: Most of the time, your IP address lasts no longer than your active Internet session; once that goes idle (like if you put the computer in sleep mode), your provider will assign you a new, randomly chosen IP out of its pool. Very few providers hand out "static IPs" that stay with one person's account all the time. And even then, the IP only says what network you're coming from; it doesn't identify you as an individual person.

As another chatter points out, you can use various tools to hide or obscure your IP address--a very good thing if, say, you're a dissident in Tehran or Beijing. See, for example, torproject.org

You can read up about that and other tools on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's site: https://ssd.eff.org/

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Tina again, copper: I must have paid the price for being an early adopter....copper gone in a day. FO next day. Boooooooooooo

Rob Pegoraro: I think "early adopter" is the right term for this longtime chatter...

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takoma park: I have yet to own a touch screen appliance of any kind.

But all this cold weather talk got me thinking, does the cold effect them?

Rob Pegoraro: It can shorten battery life (not in terms of lifespan, but how long they can run before needing a charge).

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Adams Morgan: Hi Rob,

How big a difference is 2G from 3G in cell phone networks. Verizon has those commercials ( the topic of a current lawsuit between the two) toting their better coverage than AT&T, but is it a drastic drop off?

Rob Pegoraro: It's anywhere from a three- to ten-fold increase in speed.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Rob, I know one of the considerations in getting 64-bit Windows 7 is whether your current devices have drivers that will work with it. I also understand there are certain pros/cons with 64-bit vs. 32-bit. What I haven't heard though is whether there are any good reasons NOT to get 32-bit, if you don't care about the advantages 64-bit can offer. In other words, is there going to be a proliferation of devices going forward that will only work with 64-bit, and won't play nice with 32-bit?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think so--that would be awfully dumb from a sales perspective.

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Fios Customer: I have Fios and I am happy with the internet (really fast) but the tv part has a major problem. Often when I change channels, the sound goes out on the new station. I have to turn off and then on the tv to get the sound back. Plus, it takes about 20 seconds for the station to come on again when I turn the tv on. VERY annoying.

Rob Pegoraro: Sounds it!

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Alexandria, Va.: TiVo question - I've never had one but need to record programs. The only reasonably affordable one I see is simply called TiVo HD. Will this plug into my Cox Cable box and get all the channels? And is it the best HD one out there?

Rob Pegoraro: You can use TiVo HD without the cable box--ask Cox to provide you with a pair of CableCards and you can use that in place of the box. Your other option, at least the only HD-recording option for cable I can think of offhand, is a DVR from Moxi Digital (moxi.com), which has no subscription fee but costs as much as TiVO HD with a life-of-the-product subscription.

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Baltimore, Md.: Just want to say that I have been so surprised by the use I get out of my "MyTouch" phone. Traded my 6-year old one for this in September, and frankly, I never stop using it. Love the speed of browsing the internet, love the touchscreen. This Android operating system seems to rock - although my Iphone friends still have cooler apps, most seem quite taken with my phone and it's less expensive plan.

I am sure that as a 57 year old woman, I'm not the target audience for these phones, but it's amazing how much easier my life is these days - no more hauling around my laptop - which I used for web browsing and email mostly. Now I just use my phone until I get to my desktop.

Rob Pegoraro: Yup, that's the beauty of a good smartphone.

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Massillon, OH: Can you give me any reason other that "it's an HP" that I shouldn't get this?

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+Pavilion+Laptop+with+AMD+Turion%26%23153%3B+II+Ultra+Dual-Core+Mobile+Processor/9556296.p?skuId=9556296&ref=10&loc=01&id=1218123847586

It's still a fully loaded machine with a Blu-Ray player. And for that price... Right?

Hmm. maybe should've use bit.ly...

Rob Pegoraro: Well, at 7.7 pounds it's pretty hefty, but I take it you're buying it for desktop-replacement use. The Blu-ray drive seems like a waste, though; DVD+-RW would be enough.

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: I read an interesting article on Slate yesterday that concludes that we've basically defeated the spammers. From this end-user's veiwpoint that certainly seems true. I hardly ever get spam in my Inbox. Is the spam war over?

Rob Pegoraro: Not in my inbox--although the Postini spam filter the Post uses seems to catch most of the junk. The problem is, the spammers have moved on to other things: comment spam on blogs, Twitter spam, etc.

Guess I'll have to check out that piece...

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Rob Pegoraro: ... but only after I eat lunch. And on that note, I've gotta sign off. Thanks for all the questions!

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