Holiday gadget buying -- Personal Tech Live with Rob Pegoraro

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Rob Pegoraro
Friday, December 10, 2010; 12:00 PM

Rob Pegoraro answers your questions on recent gadget reviews, technology news and provides personal tech buying and fixing advice.

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Rob Pegoraro: I'd say we only have 14 shopping days to go before Christmas, but in these days of online retail and electronic gift certificates, is there such a thing as a non-shopping day? I think not.Anyway, what's on your mind today?

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Google PC: Will Google's Chrome OS netbook - scheduled for mid 2011 release - make those of us who buy personal computers from now to then, sorry?

Rob Pegoraro: Not necessarily. For Chrome OS (see my post from earlier this week) to work for you, you already need to be living and working in cloud-based services: Gmail or an equivalent for e-mail, Google Calendar for scheduling, Picasa or Flickr for photos. Migrating your data to those kinds of Internet services is not necessarily easy--especially for the less-experienced, less tech-savvy people who might otherwise benefit from the automatic updates and low maintenance of a Chrome OS notebook.

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wiredog: I have a Nook Color, which is a decent video player (especially considering it's primarily an ebook reader) and have registered for the BN developer program. First thing I want to develop is a real file system browser. The Gallery App is tolerable, but doesn't display file names. So if I have 30 videos in a directory I have to tap+hold on each one to find the one I want. So what app would you like to see developed for it? Got an LG Ally which I've gotta root so that I can turn tethering on. Between the two I'll have most of the capabilities of a Samsung Galaxy Tab at half the price.

Rob Pegoraro: This may be the first time I've had a developer solicit requests from users. What would you like to see running on Barnes & Noble's (surprisingly good) e-book reader/tablet computer?

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Electronics: Can you explain what ROKU is & how it replaces cable. Also, are there similar products?

Rob Pegoraro: Roku (not all-caps; it's not an acronym) is what we used to call a set-top box when TVs weren't flat and what I now call a Web-media receiver: It connects to your home network and your TV to link the TV to Internet sites like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and many others. Apple TV is another contender, so are Google TV devices.It can replace cable, but only the non-live, non-sports parts of it. (Though free, over-the-air DTV reception can fill in those gaps reasonably well too, depending on your tastes.)

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Ipad : I had planned to buy an Ipad as a Christmas gift for my husband, but I've learned not to trust Apple. If I do they will roll out a new generation Ipad after the holidays, Right? What should I do?

Rob Pegoraro: It's tough, isn't it? We've got a writeup on my blog about increasingly detailed reports of a new iPad; while I don't have any inside sources of my own, the specifics of the report and its timing make sense to me. It's obvious that the next iPad will have to support FaceTime, since every other mobile device bigger than an iPod Classic does. It seems equally likely that Apple would ship a new version a year after the first one arrived, which would mean the next iPad would ship in April.Would Apple also announce it in January, a year after it debuted the first one? That would be a crazy thing to do. But this is Apple. Sometimes, that's how they roll.

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Brookstone Livescribe Smart Pen: Do you think Brookstone Livescribe Smart pen with 8 GB offers features that will work well for a college student?

Rob Pegoraro: Have no idea, as I haven't tried that. Can anybody in the room testify to this gadget's utility?

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ereaders: I really want an ereader. Should I go with the Kindle, even though I won't be able to borrow from my library? Or is the Nook good enough? And do you think Kindle will eventually read epub books?

Rob Pegoraro: This is anoither tough question. The entire e-book industry has yet to answer some fundamental questions about compatibility and DRM restrictions, both of which undercut the potential value of any e-book purchase.If I had to buy an e-book reader, I would get the Nook Color. But that's because that device has value and usefulness outside of e-books. And then I'd limit my e-book purchases to items that either don't have a long shelf life--say, travel guides--or are heavily discounted.

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TiVo vs. Comcast DVR: I have a Comcast DVR and hate paying rent to them. TiVo sounds great, but they have the stupid monthly fee, plus there is no phone outlet near the TV. Am I doomed to deal with the Comcast DVR? Is TiVo worth the upfront cost, despite the headaches?

Rob Pegoraro: unless you buy a WiFi adapter. (Dear TiVo, it's the year 2010. Networked devices are supposed to speak WiFi by now.)There is no real alternative besides TiVo when it comes to cable recording, though. I would put up with the Comcast DVR, perhaps grudgingly, considering the high upfront and operating costs of TiVo. Although you won't be paying rent to Comcast for the DVR, those costs would be higher than your DVR-rental savings.

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Jumpy cursor=unhappy holidays: My brand new Toshiba Win7 laptop A665 has a cursor that occasionally jumps by an inch or two or even to the edge of the screen in response to a tap on my mouse pad. It's totally unpredictable, all the taps are the same, this is not a palm check issue, and I've gone carefully thru the Synaptics mouse pad software, unchecking virtually every option. The system's online driver check indicates I have the most recent driver. Have you or your readers experienced this or have have a suggestion of what to try next?

Rob Pegoraro: The option you should turn off is "tap to click." Not always easy to find, especially if your laptop's Synaptics control panel is as much of a mess as the ones I've seen. Somebody get that company a user-interface guru!

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Plasma burn: Rob,I'm a bit new to the world of HDTV, and my girlfriend and I recently bought a plasma TV. When we were shopping, we were told by the BestBuy techie that the issue of plasma burn was more or less a thing of the past, though I'm noticing a slightly retained picture image on my TV (and by picture, I only mean the widescreen framing). It's not overly noticeable; you have to be on a black input channel and really looking for it to see it. But it leaves me with the worry that plasma burn is still an issue, and I'm a bit unsure of how to address it going forward. The user manual doesn't really provide any meaningful information on what techniques are useful--just that certain options exist, without going into detail what they are, what they do to prevent plasma burn, what techniques are recommended, etc. So I can only theorize what the "pixel orbiter" is, or what the brightness of the 4:3 bars have to do with the price of tea in China. Any recommendations you can pass on would be greatly appreciated!Many thanks from an HD newbie!

Rob Pegoraro: Plasma TVs shouldn't have permanent burn-in issues. You can have what they call "temporary image retention," where a ghost of a high-contrast image stays on the screen for maybe an hour or so before fading away.Your plasma may have an option to use a dark gray instead of black in those letterboxed areas, which should reduce the issue.

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Hesitant to go Blu-ray: Rob,I recently made the decision to jump onto the Blu-ray bandwagon, but after doing some product research, I've hesitated. Not so much because of price (though $200-$300 for a player seems ludicrous), but because a lot of user complaints I've read had to do with the players' product life. Many reviews have noted that various components of the Blu-ray system (like the WiFi) essentially broke down and stopped working after only a short time, or that the player stopped being able to play Blu-ray discs and could only play regular DVDs after an equally short time.Have you heard anything similar, and/or are these common ailments of Blu-ray players that I should know about before purchasing?For what it's worth, if I bought a Blu-ray player, it would only be to upconvert my standard DVDs for my 720p TV, and *maybe* to stream Netflix.

Rob Pegoraro: For those uses, I wouldn't bother with a Blu-ray player at all. Since, you know, you're not looking to play Blu-ray discs on it. Get an upconverting DVD player--they start at $50--and spend your savings on a Roku box (starting at $60) if you decide you want to stream Netflix or other sites to the TV.

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Where ebooks shine.: When traveling. I no longer have to carry a stack of books, just the ereader. Whether flying somewhere, or heading to the beach for the weekend, the convenience is remarkable.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks...

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Roku vs. ??: If I want to stream Netflix and other videos to my TV, do I want Roku, Apple TV or something else?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd give the nod to Roku over Apple: lower cost, broader selection. Roku is terrible compared to Apple for streaming media from your own computer to the set -- but you didn't mention that.

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WEBMAIL ON A PANASONIC CF-52 TOUGHBOOK LAPTOP : Mr. Pegoraro:Many times when I hit the backspace to correct a typo in webmail this computer functions like a back browser button thus throwing me out of an e-mail I'm writing, causing loss of text and time wasted.Do you know the fix.RS,Michael

Rob Pegoraro: That's not a computer-specific issue; the Backspace key functions as a "back" button in most browsers. But most browsers and a lot of Webmail sites warn you that you'll lose your work if you hit the Backspace key without the cursor in a text field. What's the browser and site in question?

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App gift cards: Rob, Great work. One of the advantages I see for apple is the ease of gifting apps. Just buy an itunes gift card. the receiver can get music or apps or rent shows... I have a Droid, my father in law has a Windows phone (new). I cannot find a good way to buy a gift card for the windows phone. The droid I know I can get a VISA gift card, but that carries an extra premium at the point of sale. Is there something I am missing?

Rob Pegoraro: You can buy gift cards for Amazon's MP3 store, but they're not good for app purchases. OTOH, the Android Market is much more about free apps than paid ones anyway--in part because Google Checkout is a lot clumsier than the iTunes Store's one-click purchase mechanism. For example, I couldn't use my AmEx card to buy a backup app because it was priced in another currency.

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Union Station, DC: I'm thinking about getting a Droid HTC through Verizon. Is it worth it to get the $15 for 150MB or $30 unlimited data plan per month? I'm not a big app person and don't see the point of spending $30 more a month. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: You should be able to up the data plan later on without penalty--just watch your data usage. (So one of the apps you should install right away is a freebie called NetCounter.)

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For TiVo vs Comcast: I have a TiVo and paid for the "lifetime" service, which is about a two year pay off (I guess then you start paying down the cost of the unit itself.) One feature I really like is the ability to download shows from the TiVo to my Mac Book Pro so I can take them with me an watch them anytime/anyplace. I don't think you can do that with the Comcast box, but I don't know for sure. Just something to think about.

Rob Pegoraro: Good point about the video-transfer option. I should have mentioned that.

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Older TV: I still watch TV on one of those older, non-flat style TVs. I have noticed that both sides of the picture are being cut off on the left and right sides. It has been this way for a while, and I don't really know/think it is getting worse. I don't know if this is the TV or somehow the signal from my cable box is designed for a wide screen TV. Which is more likely, the TV is going bad or the cable box is set wrong?

Rob Pegoraro: Cable box.

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IPad2 Price --expectt to be more?: Another iPad2 question: based on what apple has done in the past with subsequent product generations, do you think they will maintain the price on iPad1 and offer iPad2 at a higher price, or, does apple typically drop the price on the earlier version and offer the new one at a higher price point? I know you don't have a crystal ball, but I'm also thinking of buying iPads as gifts for my nieces, and so, perhaps it is better to get a less expensive version now notwithstanding the new features since it would then be out of my price range?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple is very consistent on this point: The new version of an i-gadget or computer sells for the same price as the old one, which promptly vanishes from the non-refurb parts of its Web store. You don't see the new model sell for less too often, although simpler iPods have seen price drops to reflect the cratering prices of flash memory.

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BN Nook: I have the black and white Nook and love it. I would not want the color one because it is back-lit. I stare at a computer all day why on earth would I want to stare at another back-lit screen, it just kills my eyes. Another Pro of the Nook is that I can check out ebooks from Fairfax County Library. In the few months I have had my Nook the e-library has expanded dramatically. It is a great convenience.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks

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Plasma TV Black bar burn-in: My Panasonic Plasma TV owner's manual stated that for the first 100 hours of viewing (I gave it 3 months, assuming a low 1 hour per day) , the side bars should be set to light gray. After the 100 hours it could be set back to black. I did that and now after 2 years have never seen burn-in ever.

Rob Pegoraro: Another tip for our new plasma owner.

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mac combo: What do you think of the Mac mini as a main computer and then an ipad as a travel computer? Could both do their respective jobs fully? I'm looking to replace my 3+ year old macbook and want something powerful, affordable, lightweight and mac, preferably. It looks as though the Mac Mini could also use the ipad as a screen in case I wanted to take the mac mini on the road also for full computing power. Even together, they would be abound half the weight as my mac. Is this crazy?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think you can use an iPad as a Mac's only display--there's an app called Air Display that lets you repurpose an iPad as the computer's second monitor, but the documentation there is very specific about that second-monitor scenario.

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Computer video via Roku...: Ok, if I might want occasionally (not very often) to stream video from my computer (an Imac, if it matters), how bad is Roku?

Rob Pegoraro: Not good. There are solutions for that in the Channel Store, but not as simple as the Apple TV's sharing software.

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Phones: My phone broke and I need a new one. I'm with Verizon. I'm sure if I went ahead and got a smart phone I'd end up using the bells and whistles. But there are so many different choices! I think I'm leaning towards the HTC Droid Incredible. Yay? Nay?

Rob Pegoraro: I like the Droid Incredible. It's been around for a while but seems to be aging very well, as phones go.

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TV repair?: Not a holiday shopping question, but . . . my otherwise great 46-inch LCD (2 1/2 years old) has, for several months, been struggling more and more to turn on (it makes that clicking-on sound 10 or more times before the picture comes on). I assume it will just die someday, probably soon. Assuming it's just something in the turning-on mechanism (whatever it's called), is it possible/practical/reasonable to have someone come fix it (it's well out of warranty, and I didn't buy the coverage -- which might have gone "poof" with Circuit City's demise anyway)? I don't think that loading it up to take somewhere is an option. And even with the continuing drop in prices, I would probably be looking at 4 figures to buy a comparable replacement (in terms of features, quality -- and if I had to buy, I'd spend more for newer upgrades like LED background and greater contrast). Any advice?

Rob Pegoraro: That could be tough. In-house service will cost you. But even out-of-house repairs on an LCD that big aren't likely to be cheap. Any suggestions?

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Digital SLR Camera: Suggestions/locations for getting an Mid level Digital SLR: Cannon/Sony, deals after christmas, lens updagrades? Any resources for researching cameras would be appreciated

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't tried out any D-SLRs lately, but I trust the reviews at the Digital Camera Resource Page. I think Jeff Keller, the author there, does a good of approaching these things from a consumer's mindset.

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DVD ripping: Rob, do you have a recommendation on what program I should use to rip some DVDs that I can add to my iPhone for travel?

Rob Pegoraro: If you've got a Mac, download VLC player and HandBrake (the latter needs the former to unlock the DVD). If you have a PC... last I checked, there wasn't an option as simple and easy to recommend.(Hmm. Didn't realize it had been so long since I addressed the topic.)

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Reston, VA: Have you heard any issues regarding poor wifi reception on droids as a result of the Froyo OS upgrade? I've seen a few discussions about it on-line, but they're mainly "I received the Froyo push and now my droid always reports Poor wifi signal."I suffer from the same problem. Droid was fine before the push. After the push, only Poor reception, no matter how close I am to the router. All other devices receive very good or excellent signal strength. I was hoping the recent Froyo patch would address it, but it didn't, and I fear Verizon won't push Gingerbread to original droids.

Rob Pegoraro: I have not. (For non-Android users, Froyo is the 2.2 release and Gingergread is 2.3. Google uses alphabetically-sequenced dessert items as nicknames for Android releases... which may lead to problems once they get to "x" or "z")

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Ebooks...: Very basic question about ebooks. When you buy the book for Kindle, Nook etc., do you own it in the sense that you own a paper book? Can you transfer it to other devices, store a copy on an external drive, give it to a friend, resell it, etc.? Or are you basically leasing it, like renting a DVD? Do you have to actually buy the book, or can you rent it for a short time (again like renting a DVD)? Can you print out pages from it, the way you might photocopy some pages from, say, a paper travel book? Or is that restricted?

Rob Pegoraro: You own the e-book in the legal sense, but the DRM on most releases denies many traditional ownership rights--loaning the book to a friend as long as you want, reselling it, copying it, printing it and so on.

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Digital SLR: I don't know if it qualifies as mid-range, but I love my Nikon D5000. You can get kits at fairly reasonable prices. My only complaint about it is its video support, but since I bought it to take pictures, it's a minor one.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks

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A few thoughts on the probable iPad 2: Best guesses out there are that the new iPad will have at least one camera for FaceTime (I really have trouble imagining wanting to take a hi-res photo from a back camera by holding up the device!), more memory (which will improve the multitasking that came out with 4.2.1) and maybe a high resolution screen. Even if the device is announced early next year, it seems unlikely it would be released before April; Apple tends to update iOS device hardware once a year. The current iPad works beautifully as is, so unless you're (a) willing to wait 4-5 months and (b) really in need of video chat capability, I see no particular reason to wait.

Rob Pegoraro: A Retina Display or equivalent would make sense on a new iPad as well.

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small TV: My sister is asking for a 7-9" TV (doesn't need a DVD player attached) that she can use in her kitchen. I haven't found a lot of reviews of that size and the only brand I have heard of is Philips. Is the quality of this size of TV good?

Rob Pegoraro: The size shouldn't affect the set's quality. Philips has been in the TV business a long time--but a year or two ago it basically outsourced that operationn, keeping the brand but having other firms build TVs for it. I'd assume they know to pick a contract manufacturer, but I haven't heard much from buyers of Philips-brand TVs lately.

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3G kindle vs nook color: Hi,I am torn--I've really been wanting an e-reader, and both have pros and cons. Do you know if the Kindle is backlit so that I can read in low light or the dark? In your opinion, which of these two devices have more staying power? Will the Kindle allow me to read magazines?Thanks so much--

Rob Pegoraro: The Kindle isn't backlit and doesn't do magazines well--its grayscale e-ink screen isn't set up to replicate the graphics of magazines. It's a book device.

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UPS for satellite receiver?: I was visiting my mother and we had a short (about 5 seconds) power outage yesterday in the morning and the Directv receiver took almost 5 minutes to boot back up. I was thinking of buying a UPS for her so that the short interruptions don't affect it or the TV. I think she'd also probably plug in the Roku and the DVD player. Do I need to get one specifically for home theaters or can I use the same one I'd use for a computer?

Rob Pegoraro: Electricity is electricity--a home-theater-specific model might look nicer under a TV, but a computer-specific model will be fine. But if you add in the sat receiver, Roku and DVD player, you're looking at pretty high current draw. Might want to stick with the satellite box and keep the others plugged into the non-UPS outlets on the UPS (which simply act as surge-protected outlets).

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Transferring from camcorder to computer: We have four-year old MiniDV camcorder that takes great video, but would like to transfer some of the footage we've shot to our computer for editing, etc. Is there any particular software that you recommend for handling this?

Rob Pegoraro: On a Mac, I like iMovie; Windows, I'd go with Microsoft's free Windows Live Movie Maker.

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capacitive...wha?: Rob, I've read some phone reviews that talk about a "capacitive" screen vs. some other type. Can you translate for me?

Rob Pegoraro: Pretty much all touchscreens are capacitative, which means they pick up your body's slight electrical current (some older devices have "resistive" touchscreens, which require pressure).The one downside of capacitive screens is that they don't work when you're wearing gloves--unless they're designed with those displays in mind. See last year's Help File for details on them.

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After Christmas Sales: Those are very good. I got a 42" Sharp Aquoos a couple years ago for 1/3 list price. Damaged open box, where the damage was a missing remote. Since I already have a Logitech Harmony (have you used/reviewed those yet?) I didn't need it. Open box meant no manuals either.

Rob Pegoraro: Good tip to keep in mind... just don't have every present consist of an IOU promising a purchase after the holidays.

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ipods: Rob - my mother wants to get my dad an mp3 player for Christmas. They're not big cellphone users, so a player tied to a phone is out of the question. Do you think a nano is too small for a 67-year-old? Are there other players outside of the Apple series?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't like the usability of the new Nano--that touch screen represents a step back to me. They might be happier with a Classic or a Touch, although both look like overkill.If they use Windows, they might do fine with a "generic" MP3 player that syncs to Windows Media Player--especially if they already use that.

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Combination : What do you think of the LG device that plays bluray DVD's and streams Netflix and other "channels"?

Rob Pegoraro: If you're going to get a Blu-ray player, you should probably hold out for that kind of connected Web-media feature. It's a little bit of future-proofing that shouldn't cost much. (An earlier chatter complained about $200 Blu-ray models, but you don't have to spend nearly that much on a connected player.)

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IPAD Challengers: Are there any competing tablets that offer a bigger bang for the buck than the pricey iPAD? If not, should we hold out for the second generation iPAD?

Rob Pegoraro: The problem so far is that the best-known Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, sells for as much as or more than the iPad even though it has a smaller screen. There are cheaper models, but a lot of them have really sketchy, low-rent builds of Android. I do like B&N's NookColor, though that runs such a stripped-down Android configuration that it's best thought of as a Web tablet that lets you read books--not a general-purpose Web-plus-apps device.

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MAC Book Air Difference and Apple Pricing: Rob, this might be as much rant as it is question, but here goes. For Christmas I got my wife a Macbook air. We did window shopping in November, at which point I was able to gleen that she actually preferred the 11 inch model. On black friday when Apple does its one and only discounting, I went online to order the Macbook air, only to find that only the 13inch model was discounted. For 11 inch model I had always planned to up the size of the SSD to 128G, up the RAM to 4mg, and choose the highest processor which all would have come out to $1500 at base price. With the $100 discount on the 13inch model, I could get the 128GB, the 4meg of Ram, and a slightly faster processor (I know clock speed doesn't really matter), for $1400. So, I got 13inch model. So does Apple know something that I don't. Is the 13inch a dud and the 11 inch the Bees Knees. Its not out of the shipping box yet. I could probably get the 11 inch and pay the extra $100. Why would Apple not just discount them both. This is the kind of thing that has kept me from getting Apple products before now.

Rob Pegoraro: Apple pricing can be mysterious sometimes. I would guess that the 11-incher has been selling better overall because of its sub-$999 price; if it's flying off shelves on its own, why discount it? (Apple didn't discount the iPad either on that one-day sale.)

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Finally buying a DTV, but which one: Hi, Rob,I'm guessing I'm not the only senior in this situation:Rather than buy a third Apex converter box (the only kind stocked at my local electronics store) that, like its predecessors, will flatline in a few months ... I've decided to make the switch to digital TV at last. Even a less-expensive one is going to be a major expense for me, so I'm hoping you'll point me towards the least-expensive decent one I can get, at least 32 inches, and recommend when to buy it -- now, after Christmas or as far away as the next President's Day sale if I can hold out that long. Besides specific brands, can you suggest the best stores, price-wise, in DC or the near 'burbs?Since DTVs supposedly only last a couple of years, I'm guessing it's a bad idea to buy a floor sample or a used TV. Is that a good guess?My apartment is very sunny and I watch TV with the lights on, so that's a consideration. I don't get cable or satellite service and don't have access to a rooftop antenna, just an indoor one facing east (I have a Terk). Thank you so much, Rob! May your holidays be the best ever, and I'd be happy to drop off some home-made cookies to thank you for all your patience and advice.

Rob Pegoraro: Make sure whatever LCD you buy as a matte-finish screen (Sony, LG and, I think, Panasonic sets do, Samsung models don't). You should also get one with a USB port or SD Card slot--makes it really easy to show off photos to friends. And if you can find one with connected-TV Web-media functions, so much better.Pricing is pretty competitive at that end of the market, so you're not likely to find a huge variation in price--but check online too.Also: There's no rule about DTVs only lasting a couple of years. The electronics inside are more complicated, but they're not like computers that eventually can't run new software releases.

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livescribe pen: I bought one for my techie grad student boyfriend's birthday--he loves it--- check out all the demo videos on youtube.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks!

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Amazon Kindle Lending?: Any news on when Amazon will allow lending on the Kindle? The last report I saw said something like "before the end of the year," which is fast approaching.

Rob Pegoraro: Yup. Remember that, per that report, you'll only be able to offer a 14-day loan, and that's only if the publisher allows it.

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re Apple pricing: "(Apple didn't discount the iPad either on that one-day sale.)"Oh yes, it did. On all models, I think. Shockingly.

Rob Pegoraro: Yeah, you're right. What was it that they didn't discount--oh, iLife '11.(Sorry. Sometimes I get my products mixed up.)

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DVD from Australia: D received a DVD of a series that ran in Australia from my sister but i can't play it on my DVD - any suggestions on what to do?

Rob Pegoraro: Download the free VLC player for your computer, an open-source app that ignores "region coding restrictions."

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TVs as computers...: "Also: There's no rule about DTVs only lasting a couple of years. The electronics inside are more complicated, but they're not like computers that eventually can't run new software releases."Actually, my new Samsung is running a Linux kernel! Not that I expect this to matter; it's not like I care whether the kernel is up to date in my tv...

Rob Pegoraro: My Sony has a Linux kernel too--and downloads software updates pretty regularly too. It has not, however, coughed up any computer-esque error messages.

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T-Mobile smartphones: Rob or readers: Any thoughts on T-Mobile's Android smartphones? Is the MyTouch 4G worth it, or will the Optimus do the trick? If I choose a phone with a slide-out keyboard, will it be broken in 10 minutes?

Rob Pegoraro: The slide-out keyboards on new phones seem pretty sturdy. I've seen Droid phones show all kind of scuff marks, but their keyboards operate normally. Can't speak to the merits of those individual phones, however.

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€™t successfully install. The only other thing I can think to do is back up my bookmarks, uninstall Firefox and then reinstall it, hoping it will install the newest version. What do you suggest?

Rob Pegoraro: The "permissions" involved here are the attributes on every file and folder on your computer determining who and what can read, write or run it. They're messed up on yours in some way. Disk Utility has a "repair disk permissions" option, but you fix this issue immediately by downloading a fresh copy of Firefox, dragging that to your Applications folder and then typing in your admin password when prompted.

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Toshiba's new 3D capable laptop: Any thoughts? The reviews out there are really limited. Thinking about my mom, who wants a 3D big screen TV to watch movies. She needs a laptop, too. I think it might be a good compromise, plus it won't lock her into a TV technology that's going to change rapidly in a few years. What do you think?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd skip that.

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iphone: Hi Rob,My wife wants an iphone for Christmas. I'm not sure if I should buy it or wait for Verizon. Assuming it is launched, do you think a verizon iphone will be significantly better than an AT&T?

Rob Pegoraro: Verizon's coverage is significantly better than AT&T's. It seems reasonably likely that we'll see a VzW iPhone in the next few months--but if we don't, there are going to be a lot of fed-up buyers. And fed-up journalists who want this story to end, one way or another.

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Rob Pegoraro: ... it's time for me to sign off. Thanks for all your questions; I'll be back here again next Friday.


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