washingtonpost.com
Personal Tech Live with Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro
Friday, June 4, 2010; 12:00 PM

_______________________

Rob Pegoraro: Hey, folks - I don't know why you're not out enjoying some not-dreadfully-hot spring weather, but if you're going to stay indoors you might as well stop by this chat, I guess. (No bragging if you're following the chat outdoors on an iPad, please.) Let's go to the first question!

_______________________

Clear.com mobile internet: Rob - so glad you're hosting a chat this week! What do you know about Clear.com's mobile internet (http://www.clear.com/)? I would love to get rid of my unreliable RCN - which stops working every couple of weeks during the day for several hours, which is a problem since I work from home!I don't like the idea of signing a two-year contract with Clear.com, since I don't know anything about them, but I really want to get something different. On the same thread, what about Sprint's 4G service with that little doohicky that, I think, allows you to browse anywhere with a separate modem? Any thoughts? Thanks - love these chats!!

_______________________

Rob Pegoraro: (Sorry, I'd meant to post the answer with it but published the question alone instead.)Please see my blog post from Tuesday, in which I outlined the major features of this wireless service--built on the same technology as in the Evo 4G phone I review today. I'm already planning on an in-depth review of Clear's service, although it may have to wait until I can write up Microsoft's Office 2010.

_______________________

Bts vs Bytes, DSL vs Cable: Could you please explain transmission speeds for DSL vs cable? My DSL connection (when I click the little icon) says "54 mbps" which is FAR higher than what the cable company says it can deliver - "up to 12 Mbps". I do not have FIOS, and am trying to decide who internet service to have in my new location. Speeds w/DSL vary wildly every day, and I am wondering if this might be the case with Cable too?THANKS

Rob Pegoraro: That "little icon" has to be the status-bar indicator for your WiFi network--54 Mbps is the rated (not real-world) speed for 802.11g WiFi. I don't know of any home DSL services in the U.S. that get anywhere close to 54 Mbps. Most cable and fiber options are slower than that too. Your DSL is most likely running from 1.5 to 3 Mbps, but you can check yourself at the wonderful speedtest.net site.

_______________________

Adapter: Can I use an adapter for my laptops? I have to go to Germany, and I want to take either my MacBook or my Dell laptop. If yes, will there be issues?

Rob Pegoraro: You'll only need a plug adapter, not a transformer--but a lot of hotels feature U.S.-standard plugs, so you may not require that either. (Look in the bathroom, where you'd plug in an electric shaver. Just don't use the laptop in the bathtub.)

_______________________

streaming pc movies to HDTV: Hi, Rob. What are my hardware options for wireless streaming of movies stored on my Windows XP or W7 laptops' hard drives to a soon-to-be-purchased HDTV? Is that something the Boxee Box will do if it ever comes out? Is Intel's WiDi option stutter free? Bonus question: is DNLA something I should require in an HDTV? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: That's another pending review--I've got a laptop set up with Intel's wireless display system and just haven't gotten around to writing up a blog post on it. (For one thing, I need to test one suggested fix to a TV-resolution issue.)Buying a long HDMI cable is a cheaper option if you don't mind the mess. Mac support is much more limited

_______________________

Washington, DC: How is "D8" the online abbreviation for the All Things Digital conference?

Rob Pegoraro: It's the eighth iteration of the conference. And on Twitter, you need the shortest abbreviation possible.

_______________________

Ubuntu: Well, just wanted to say that your columns have intrigued at least one person enough to look into Ubuntu. Some of the Windows updates have made me mad recently, not to mention the viruses I STILL get despite being super careful and always running and updating AVG.I guess my question is, how do I make the jump with all my files? Is it a simple matter of backing them up on an external hardrive and then putting them back on when I'm in Ubuntu? Or do I even need to worry about them? Can I have Windows and Ubuntu at the same time? I've also been considering buying a separate computer to hook up to my TV so I can watch shows online on my TV. Would this be a good way to try out Ubuntu instead of diving in and switching everything?

Rob Pegoraro: Installing Ubuntu doesn't do anything to your Windows system, programs, files or settings. The Ubuntu installer will offer to copy over some files and settings, but you can also get to anything on the Windows side of the drive through Ubuntu's desktop--in its File Browser, click the C-Drive icon and you'll see your usual Windows folders.For TV viewing, though, hold off; you should make sure that the shows you want to watch are compatible with Ubuntu. For instance, anything on Apple's iTunes Store won't be, since they require Apple's proprietary DRM.

_______________________

droid: One of my friends has a Droid, and it does tempt me, what with all the apps. I am a little hard on my cell phones--can it take a knock? I worry that I will destroy it in a week or two.

Rob Pegoraro: I haven't heard from anybody who's had a Droid break on them, but as a general principle you might be happier with single-piece phone (if you can deal with an onscreen keyboard)

_______________________

Laptop with true HD: Rob, love all your advice. Thanks! I've been waiting for an affordable laptop to come out with an HDMI 1920 x 1080P resolution output and Blu-Ray player/burner but can only find ones with 720p. In addition to the usual, I intend to use the laptop to play Blu-Ray DVDs, DVDs, and HD home recordings on my 63" plasma TV.Am I in for a long wait or do you think prices will come down as the new iCore processors become more common?

Rob Pegoraro: full 1080p resolution.

_______________________

RAM question: Hi Rob, last year in your laptop buying guide you said that 3GB of RAM was sufficient for many people getting a PC with Vista, and that 4GB could be problematic due to some software not running on the 64-bit version.Now that everything is shipping with Windows 7, do you still think that's the case? We're in the process of getting a new pc for my sister's family and we're trying to decide if we should spend extra for 4GB. Their budget is tight, and I don't think they'll need it (it's for general internet use, email, bill paying, kids doing homework, itunes) but they will keep this pc for years until it dies so I'm wondering if 4GB will be better a few years down the road. Also, their router is 2 years old and the guy at Best Buy is telling them they need a new one because the one they have won't be fast enough to take advantage of the new pc's capabilities.Is this true or is the sales guy just trying to increase his sale? Thank you so much for your help!

Rob Pegoraro: cost them money in the form of higher tech-support expenses--to make x64 Win 7 the standard configuration. I still don't think it's worth spending extra for 4 GB of memory, but you'll probably get x64 anyway.From what you describe, the guy at Best Buy doesn't know a thing about routers.

_______________________

Ipod Touch Camera: What do you think the chances are that Apple will release an iPod touch with a camera? I really want the hipstamatic app (however, not enough to break my contract with Verizon and get an iPhone).

Rob Pegoraro: Very high. It's an obvious feature to add, and the iPod touch is due for an update.

_______________________

iPod Nano: Hi Rob, Love the chats. My husband has an old MP3 player he uses to listen to the Red Sox at work but it no longer holds a charge. I'd like to get him an iPod Nano for Father's Day. He is not technical at all. Would you go along with my choice? I'm sure he would listen to music also

Rob Pegoraro: How's he listen to the Sox? If it's over FM, the new nano includes an FM tuner. If over AM, you may be out of luck--very few devices that small include AM tuners these days. If via podcast after the fact, he'll be fine; the iPod and iTunes are great for podcasts.

_______________________

Verizon: Rumors have been running rampant lately that Verizon will have an iPhone by Q4 2010. I know in the past you have said not to hold one's breath waiting for a Verizon iPhone. Is that still your advice, or did Apple work out whatever issues they had with Verizon's network?

Rob Pegoraro: My advice remains the same. Next question!

_______________________

Fake looking HDTV: Is it just me, or do images produced by 1080p, high refresh (240Hz) look fake? I own an HDTV that can scan up to 1080i with 60Hz, and the image to me looks great. However, when I go to a friend's house who has a high-end set, movies look like they were shot on video, not on film. Am I the only one that sees this phenomenon, or have I just gotten used to my lower-end TV?

Rob Pegoraro:

_______________________

Getting off Facebook: A friend tells me there is no way to completely quit Facebook and close out your account. Is that true? I looked around but don't see any instructions on FB. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Second only to certain sales staffers at some mass-market electronics retailers, "a friend" can be your least accurate source of technical information. See http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=13016 for the proper instructions.

_______________________

Router reset: I sporadically lose my internet connection at home and need to reset my router by unplugging it and plugging it back in. Then all is okay until the next time it happens. The router is at least 4 years old. Could this be a sign that the router needs to be replaced? And it a "g" router. If I need to replace it should I get an "n" or stick with what I have now.Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: The router might be losing it or it might just need some changed settings. Try changing its encryption from the obsolete, insecure WEP to WPA, then try setting it to run only in 802.11g instead of mixed b/g mode. And see if there isn't a firmware update for it (you'd check somewhere in the same admin page where you'd make those settings changes--sorry, you've gotta read the manual for those details).If it is busted, I'd upgrade to 802.11n. You're unlikely to notice the speed upgrade, but the greater range should help out a lot.

_______________________

Windows 7: What caused Windows 7 on a new PC to suddenly decide to reconfigure my desktop? On a normal boot this morning it came up with an odd "configuring desktop" message, then proceeded to wipe out about 70% of my desktop shortcuts. It took me a bit of work to restore my shortcuts. How can I prevent this unwanted action by Windows 7? What caused it to do this? Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: Heck if I know--I've never seen that happen. Any guesses?

_______________________

Slingbox and AT&T: I wanted to get a iPhone when the next iteration is released and get a Slingbox to go along with it. However, now I'm thinking that's not such a great idea if AT&T is eliminating its unlimited data plans. Do you know how much data is tranferred when watching a program through the Slingbox?

Rob Pegoraro: Oy, this took a lot longer to look up than I thought (no thanks to Sling's Web architects). The Sling site says that other mobile versions of its software need at least 120 kbps of bandwidth. So an hour of video would then add up to about 52 megabytes. (Right?)

_______________________

3-D TV: Has Sony given any indication when they will be pushing the firmware upgrade allowing PS3s to play 3-D Blu-Ray discs?When will studios begin releasing more 3-D discs? Currently "Monsters vs. Aliens" is the only movie available in 3-D.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know. I've been holding off on a review of 3D TVs for that reason myself. (Plus, to be honest, I don't want to have to deal with parking our usual TV someplace else in the house.)

_______________________

Apple : Has Apple announced a date to debut new devices?

Rob Pegoraro: You must be new to that company :) Apple never announces when it will debut new devices until right before they go on sale. The only exceptions are with wireless devices; their existence would inevitably leak during the FCC approval process, so Apple normally pre-announces them a few weeks or, at most, months in advance.

_______________________

New Gaming Systems : Rob good day! We are late adopters to some technologies. We just upgraded to a new 55" Samsung TV, and now we are thinking about a gaming system for our soon to be 10 year-old daughter. I think a Wii would be cool for her but I'm wondering if there is something on the horizon that we should wait for...and then get if for her for Christmas. Your thoughts?Thanks...hope your router issue got resolved....

Rob Pegoraro: It's funny how long the current generation of game consoles have been on the market--the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 all date to 2005 or 2006. But the manufacturers involved seem content to evolve those systems with new controls and other hardware add-ons, network services and software.

_______________________

svchost.exe: Dear Mr. Pegoraro - I have been receiving this message almost daily, and sometimes three times a day in the middle of performing tasks, or as often as I turn on my computer. It contnues" The Instruction at 0X7db3d3ae referenced memory at 0x00000018. Could not be read. Click on OK to terminate the program, or Cancel to debug the program. Please help resolve this.Many thanks from Beijing, China

Rob Pegoraro: That error message would have been just as meaningless to me if you'd read it back to me in Mandarin or Cantonese. Sorry, I can't do anything with that.

_______________________

Moving video from a cable digital recorder to a computer: My digital recorder can record the entrance way to my apartment building, and over the past seven years I have recorded the comings and goings of my grand-daughter from the time she was born until today - at age 7. I know the box will self-destruct eventually - what I don't know is how to move the videos to my computer. I have no idea what a "video capture device" is, or what the easiest or most economical means of doing this would be. The box is a Scientific Atlanta explorer 8000. Any ideas? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: This is the single most abject failing of the entire digital video recorder concept--the way these boxes are designed without any easy backup or export option, in the face of decades of evidence that hard drives do, in fact, fail and lose data. That's why you have to geek out with things like video capture devices--basically, an adapter that plugs into a computer's USB or FireWire port at one end, then connects to the video and audio outputs of the DVR at the other. You then play back recordings on the DVR while using a video-editing app on the computer to record them in real time; when you're done, you've got digital video that you can burn to DVD, copy to an iPod, backup to another drive, etc.

_______________________

Bloatware: You've probably answered this question many times, but I just purchased a Asus Eee netbook. What pre-installed software can I safely dump?

Rob Pegoraro: If I had an Asus netbook in front of me, I could give an exceedingly specific answer. Unfortunately, I don't. (We should set up a wiki of some sort on our site where people could share notes on this topic, actually.) You can definitely zap anything with "trial" in its name--those versions will stop working in a month or two. I would dump any add-on security suite for Microsoft's free Security Essentials. I'd trash any desktop shortcuts to web sites--as if we don't all know how to get to eBay or Amazon or whatever. Otherwise... just look at anything that's not from Microsoft and see if you want it or not--and don't be afraid to ask Google/Bing/etc. "safe to uninstall [program name]"?Remember that you're not going to see device drivers listed in the usual remove-programs listing, so your odds of doing serious damage by yanking bundled software are reasonably low.

_______________________

PC O/S: what is :Ubuntu Linux O/S.Thank you IZ

Rob Pegoraro: A version of the open-source Linux operating system, packaged to appeal to less experienced users and bundled with a variety of free productivity, Internet and entertainment programs. It's something you can put on your PC in place or aside Windows.

_______________________

IE 8 and Google: I switched from IE8 to Firefox earlier this week because the Most Frequently Visited sites feature of the Google Toolbar quit working in IE8. Did Microsoft really stop supporting this feature for some reason?

Rob Pegoraro: Microsoft posted revised developer guidelines of how IE 8 add-on should work. The visited-sites feature conflicted with those rules and Microsoft asked Google to remove it; Google did so.

_______________________

Docking station for laptops: Your opinion, please, of which docking stations are good buys. We have a Dell laptop for which we would like to purchase a docking station to keep from having to reattach all the peripherals, e.g., printer, fax, etc. Thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: I have no idea--I haven't used a docking station in years. If you plug in your peripherals into a USB hub, then position that and your monitor's video cable next to each other, you only have to connect two things when you "dock" the laptop--and you don't have to fuss with proprietary docks and their occasional habit of interfering with Windows' sleep mode.

_______________________

Post Website & Shockwave Flash: Why does the WaPo website present on some stories the warning: "Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in to view our enhanced content."? I DO have the latest SWF and Flash Player versions installed, and checking the Adobe website for correct installation verification appears to confirm both are valid. FWIW, I'm using Opera v10.53 and it thinks those plugins are installed correctly.

Rob Pegoraro: I just work here, man :)(Posting this so the people who do attend to those functions can see your report.)

_______________________

Video Formats: Rob, I've got a 6-year-old mini-DV digital camcorder. I'm looking for a replacement but am confused about the video formats. Right now, I capture and save the video as an AVI file for best quality, but the new camcorders with hard drives or flash memory save in the compressed MPEG-2 format. I'd rather not use mini-DV tapes, but quality is important to me. I take it as a given that compressed video quality is less than uncompressed video--but what if the compressed video is HD video? Am I better off with compressed HD video rather than standard, uncompressed, video? (I don't have an HD TV yet, but am looking to the future.) Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Last month, I had the chance to sit down with a guy keenly interested in long-term archival of data--Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. He recommended MPEG-4 h.264 for that purpose. (Though, once more software supports Google's new open-source WebM format, I wonder if Kahle will reconsider. I'll have to e-mail him about that.)

_______________________

New Phone: Bottom line: would you go with the new iPhone, the Incredible, or the EVO? All of the networks will work just fine for me. IPhone would be cheaper by about $20 a month.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd get the Incredible. And I'd check that math again--you'd save at most $15 a month with AT&T's cheaper DataPlus plan, and that's assuming you'd never use more than 200 MB of data in a month.

_______________________

Mac antivirus programs: Hi Rob,In the past I think you wrote about free antiviral programs for Macs, but I can't find the information. Could you or your wonderful producer post the link?Many thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: The only one I've suggested is the free, open-source ClamXav.

_______________________

Best e-Book: Hello Rob: Which e-Book Reader do you think is best for regular use and at a reasonable price? I have heard that the Sony and Nook are better than the Kindle and that the Nook has all of the features of Sony at a lower price (this info is from best Buy). Should I get one now or will some new models be coming out before the end of the year? I don't want an iPad. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro:

_______________________

Motorla Droid: Just wanted to let the earlier poster know: I have dropped my droid on a number of occasions, and it's just fine. I do have it in a hard case which adds to the bulk slightly, but it definitely does protect the phone.Now, if you throw the phone, all bets are off!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report. Much appreciated!

_______________________

Desktop Reconfigure: I've only seen this type of behavior when a new user logs into a machine for the first time. Perhaps the person fat-fingered the login ID?

Rob Pegoraro: Can't rule that out...

_______________________

Data and Phones: Are there wireless phones with WiFi that connect at Hot Spots (like a laptop) but don't require buying a data plan? It seems like that should be an inexpensive compromise for those who only want to check e-mail while on vacation

Rob Pegoraro: Sure - you can buy a Skype-compatible WiFi phone, or you could put Skype's software on a WiFi-equipped portable device (Skype's site suggests Sony's PSP, for instance).

_______________________

Recent Problem with Outlook: Over the past month, I have had several blank e-mail messages in my account each day upon initial boot up and opening the software. A techie friend told me to try accessing my messages via Hotmail and they do appear there but I need to have a more seamless environment in which to communicate. The problem has become so frustrating that I am on the verge of switching to another provider for e-mail even though that will mean considerable inconvenience to me and those on my contact list. I understand I am not the only one having this problem and wonder if you can shed any light on a possible fix for Outlook before I switch my account? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Are you accessing your Hotmail account through the standard POP settings or Microsoft's older, proprietary system? The former shouldn't cause any ghost messages to appear, although it does involve downloading messages from the site instead of syncing them--so you'll lose track of which messages you answered at the site and which in Outlook.(Google's Gmail and AOL's Web-mail both support a better protocol, IMAP, that syncs your messages on and offline.)

_______________________

Bragging: Could we brag if we were to follow the chat outdoors on a netbook? You know, something with an actual keyboard. Oh, and Flash support, so you can have Youtube or some Flash-based game open in another tab.

Rob Pegoraro: Now, now...

_______________________

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for all the questions! Unfortunately, I need to log off--I've got Help File to write, lunch to eat, maybe a second blog post to write. (And, being a bit of a nerd, I'd like to watch a rocket launch live.) See you all in a couple of weeks...

Post a Comment


Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company