Apple's iPhone 4, HTML5, satellite TV on the PC, security on public wi-fi, more -- Personal Tech Live with Rob Pegoraro

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Rob Pegoraro
Friday, June 18, 2010; 1:00 PM

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Rob Pegoraro: Hey folks - just got back from watching USA-Slovenia in 3D HDTV, so we can talk about that (note: awful officiating doesn't look any better with the extra dimension), or we can discuss my last two columns reviewing the new Web and desktop versions of Microsoft Office. Which should we get into first?

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Incredible: Strongly considering taking the smartphone plunge with an HTC Incredible on Verizon. However the $200 purchase price w/contract still falls in the 'I'd cry if I dropped it and it broke' category, which is something I've occasionally done with phones. Any thoughts on when we might see that price drop?

Rob Pegoraro: Or we can talk about something else entirely...Verizon tends to cut prices on its phones fairly aggressively after it launches newer models--see how cheap the Motorola Droid is now, with the buy-one-get-one-free offer. So once VzW has a newer phone (like, say the Moto Droid X that's supposed to arrive in a few weeks), you might find that the Incredible is a little cheaper.

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Apple Iphone 4 cases: I'm looking forward to receiving my new iPhone 4 on the 24th. But the only case that Apple had available was the bumper case, which I am not interested in. Any idea when new cases will be for sale? I've checked a number of sites and they all say "coming soon."Also, how do I go about transferring my current iPhone number to my new upgraded iPhone? It can't possibly be as easy as syncing the new phone with iTunes. I have visions of being on hold with AT&T forever.

Rob Pegoraro: There's a real chance that AT&T will leave some customers hanging when they try to activate new iPhone 4s on its network June 24--because that's happened every other time.

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iPhone4: I intend to wait until around Christmas to purchase the iPhone4 because I believe the "kinks" should be out by then. Your thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't quite follow the logic there... if there are software kinks, they'll get fixed sooner (even if you buy an iPhone 4 on day one). If there are hardware issues--well, they should become apparent pretty soon. If we don't hear of any worrisome reports by, say, late August, you'd be entirely safe buying then.

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Sat TV on PC?: I'm watching my basic cable offerings from Comcast dwindle and want alternatives. Can you comment on the 'satellite TV on PC' programs that seem to be out there? The web sites look pretty scammish. However I do recall recently when 'bad guys' were watching video feeds from our UAV's over the internet that it was reported that software to read video from satellite feeds was in common use, so I wonder what really is up.

Rob Pegoraro: I, too, am suspicious of those sites. (The UAV video snooping isn't the same thing; those drones transmit unencrypted, while satellite TV broadcasts are scrambled.)

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smart phones with no contract: Is there a smart phone out there that I don't have to use as a phone? Basically, I want something like the i-Touch but Apple wants too much money. I just want something to check email on when I'm near a wi-fi hot spot, have my music, my calendar. Really basic stuff - but can't be crazy expensive.

Rob Pegoraro: You could buy a used iPhone or Android device off eBay and don't bother activating it for phone service.

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security on public wi-fi: Rob, in last Sunday's Navigator column in the Travel section, an internet security expert recommended that "if you log on to a public wireless network, don't conduct any secure transactions". When I travel, I use my iPod Touch to check my e-mail and online auctions on public wi-fi networks (hotel, Starbucks, etc.) using the Touch's version of Safari, always logging in securely, and I do avoid online banking via wi-fi. Am I being too trusting here, or is the advice a little too alarmist?

Rob Pegoraro: I read that story and had the same thought myself--if you've using an SSL encrypted connection at a site, your data is safe even if you're on an open wireless network.

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Sprint EVo 4g?: I really want the Sprint EVO 4G but have read its having problems: Screens separating, 1 hr battery life as a wi-fi hot spot, grounding issues. Was HTC ready to roll out this "iPhone Killer" or was the EVO 4G rushed to market with issues. Should I wait for the next "iPhone Killer"?

Rob Pegoraro: Sounds like you're referring to David Pogue's writeup in the NYT yesterday (I haven't read it but have read about it--which in Washington is good enough to cast judgment on published works, right?).As it happens, I have the review Evo 4G in front of me, and it's now at about 50 percent of a charge. It was fully charged at 9 a.m., but I've spent an hour or so browsing on 4G and it's been checking mail off two accounts every hour. That is not unusual use for a smartphone, but it is unusually high battery drain for a smartphone. So while I did warn about 4G's effect on battery life in my own review, I should have been harsher about that.But when I tested the Evo as a WiFi hotspot, I didn't see its battery drained in an hour--no way. I'm not sure what "grounding issues" are, and I haven't seen any screen-integrity issues.

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Rob Pegoraro: Would anybody like to ask me about Microsoft Office 2010? I'm serious--there aren't any queries about that in the queue.

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Nook vs Kindle vs iPad: Hi Rob,I would like an ereader, but not a device that only let's you read. Should I wait for the next generation of iPad?Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Yes.

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Technology without fees: It seems like every time something new comes out, I not only have to pay to get the device but also for a service. Sure, I don't have to send Text messages or surf the Internet on my Cell phone. And, I don't need to update the maps on my GPS, but what is the point of the technology if you can't use it. Is there anything on the horizon that will eliminate or reduce the service fees associated with each and every electronic device? My income isn't keeping up with all of the service fees.

Rob Pegoraro: Mobile-phone service has gotten more expensive, no argument. But you can cut that a bit; T-Mobile has its Even More Plus plans, which knock $10 off the monthly bill if you bring your own device (like, say, a used phone), and Sprint's voice-data bundles include unlimited text messaging.But what you should look at doing is using one service's new capabilities to offset costs in others. Drop your landline service or cut it back to a cheap metered-rate plan. See if you need to watch all the channels you're paying for on cable or satellite. Etc.

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Energy efficient recharging: What's the most cost effective way to recharge small gadgets like iPods? Plug them into a USB port on my home computer or into a separate wall charger? What about GPS - is it better to cheaper to charge it in the car or off house current? Yes, I know, it's not much money either way, but may as well use whatever is cheaper and better for the environment.

Rob Pegoraro: There's no meaningful difference there--it just doesn't take that much electricity to recharge an iPod or a GPS receiver (though I'm pretty sure your house's electricity has a lower environmental impact than your car's engine).I'd definitely use the computer with an iPod because a) Apple doesn't include a wall adapter in the box and b) you need to plug it into the computer anyway to sync it to iTunes.

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Handwriting Recognition App for IPad: Do you know of a good app that can do handwriting recognition for the Ipad? And should I buy one of those styluses? And if so, which one? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: There apparently are some out there, but I haven't tried any. Do you all have suggestions or recommendations?

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iPhone 4 cases: Hey, good luck with that. Just ask any of us iPad owners, who have to back-order cases and other accessories. (I do love Apple, but shouldn't they have foreseen/planned for this? I don't want to buy a 3d-party case, but I'm afraid to carry the thing around unprotected!)

Rob Pegoraro: I guess you'll have to be extra-careful with the thing until the other manufacturers catch up. I'm not sure what Apple could have done to help those other companies out in advance without ruining the surprise of the new iPhone.Wait, I know--the case manufacturers should have outbid Gizmodo for that lost iPhone 4 prototype!

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Buying First iPhone: Rob, your chats are great! My wife and I are buying our first iPhones. What should determine whether to get the 16gb or 32gb phone? Do warranties for iPhones make any sense? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: How much music in your collection? How many movies do you have on your computer? (Easy way to tell is just to open iTunes and select your music library; it will tell you the size.) For most people, I suspect that 16 GB will be plenty--and even if you have more than 16 GB of music, a well-crafted smart playlist will ensure you're listening to a changing selection of new music on the thing.

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Office 2010: Okay, I'll ask. I need word processing and a spreadsheet app on my laptop at home. I need to be able to work on the same files there and at work, where we use Office 2003. Should I bother spending cash for Microsoft Office 2010 or should I just download from from OpenOffice.org? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Even if my producer just sent this one in, I'll still take it!The simplest way to find out would be to download and install OpenOffice to see if it handles your office files without any problem. Odds are it will--but if your coworkers are fond of particularly ornate Excel files, you might have issues in OpenOffice's Calc. But at least if you do have compatibility issues, it won't have cost you anything to find out.

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NetBooks: Are there netbooks where one doesn't have to subscribe to a mobile network plan? Or am I basically describing an inexpensive laptop? The weakness of the iPad for me is that the keyboard isn't built-in, but then I'm really old-school and prefer the type of keyboard that comes with desktops.

Rob Pegoraro: Most netbooks don't require a mobile-broadband account at all--I'm pretty sure most only have WiFi onboard, though you can always add a USB receiver for a mobile-broadband connection. (See this review of prepaid wireless-data services from last year if you think you'd only need 3G access on an occasional basis.)

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Apple cases (again): I meant Apple's own cases and accessories (such as the camera connector kit). The 3rd-party vendors are out there with stuff -- but Apple can't keep up with the demand for its *own* accessories.Also, a tip for the iPhone question about memory: you may be surprised how quickly you can fill up 16GB. I have a 16GB Touch, and if I load all of my music (which isn't that much, compared to a lot of people), I don't have much room for video. I can keep a couple of TV episodes, but if I want to make room for a movie (say, to take on a flight), I have to delete a bunch of music. And that's without any photos, so if you want to carry a few pictures of the family, or your last vacation, it adds up. I would recommend the 32GB.I sometimes buy AppleCare warranties, but you don't have to decide yet -- I think you have until the end of the standard warranty period to decide. (And don't buy 3rd-party -- Apple has excellent customer service and the plans aren't very expensive.)

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the detailed answer. I think the explanation for Apple being slow to offer accessories is that Apple doesn't necessarily tell itself about new phones--it's an exceedingly compartmentalized company, and I could see the accessories people getting relatively little advance notice.

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OK - I'll bite with a twist: When do you think MS will come out with a version of office for the iPad? AND what do YOU think of Office 2010? :)Dave

Rob Pegoraro: Heh. They should--or they should at least update the Office Live site so it allows iPad owners to use the full version instead of shunting them off to the far more limited mobile-phone version. Look, that's where the customers are; Microsoft can't let pride get in the way here.(But maybe it will: The only smartphone platform a PR rep would name as a possible next stop for the OneNote Mobile app was Nokia, not iPhone or Android--which is an utterly illogical choice in the U.S. market.)About Office 2010... yeah. Mistakes were made.

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HTML 5 : Will the Post switch over to HTLM 5 for videos? I note all your ads are Flash... any idea when HTLM5 might be adopted?

Rob Pegoraro: I would like to see us do that--but first, I wish we'd stop using Flash for purely navigational elements. If Virgin America's site can generate an animated menu using straight HTML, we can too.FWIW, management here seems to want to move to HTML5--see this answer from a recent chat.

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Wash.Post site takes ages to open: Hi Rob,dunno why the past few days takes ages to navigate a Wash.Post page.I use Win.XP SP3 IE8.I gotta click refresh few times till I get to desired page.Have nice weekend

Rob Pegoraro: We just don't like you.(No, we like you fine. I have no idea what might be happening there--the site's been its usual self in all the browsers I've used lately.)

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Office 2010: Here's a question for you: what's the point of Office 2010? To sell more copies, right, but why, as a buyer, do I care? 99.9% of the time, I just want a basic word processor and spreadsheet.

Rob Pegoraro: That's the problem. Microsoft has backed itself into this corner by only having one productivity application--so it both has to appeal to the IT priesthood and the home-computing laity. The former group does need new features and options, while the latter ignores most of them. (Though I should also note that Microsoft missed the chance to catch up with some useful, consumer-friendly features in Apple's iWork--it is way, way easier to set up a wedding guest-list spreadsheet in Apple's Numbers than in Microsoft's Excel, for instance.)I don't see how Microsoft gets out of this self-assembled box unless, maybe, it makes major improvements to Office Web Apps that allow those in-browser programs to serve as the real "home version" of Office.

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3d: Rob -- what grade would u give today's 3d presentation?

Rob Pegoraro: You'll find out on my blog in an hour or so--but first, I have to eat lunch.

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Rob Pegoraro: It's now 2 p.m., so for once I'll end a chat at its scheduled time and give you a chance to step away from the computer and enjoy some beautiful Friday-afternoon weather here in D.C.Thanks! See you here in a couple of weeks...


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