Personal Tech Live with Rob Pegoraro

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Rob Pegoraro
Friday, December 17, 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: Hello and welcome to this year's last personal-tech chat. This is your final chance to ping me for advice on what kind of gadgets to get--or avoid. Let's get rolling.(Also: Sorry for the late start. You know how computers are...)

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BluRay players & Netflix: If I can install a DSL high speed internet cable for my TV, is this more reliable than WiFi. Can I then buy a BluRay player without WiFi capability and not regret it later?

Rob Pegoraro: DSL is one kind of broadband connection; WiFi is one way to share it within your house. (There are WiFi Internet providers, but they're unlikely to cover you unless you can see a lot of neighbors from your abode.) DSL may not have enough speed to allow real-time streaming of HD video, but it can suffice for SD.Yes, you'll probably regret buying a Blu-ray player without WiFi.

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media streaming questions from the last person to buy his first HDTV: I'm looking at purchasing an HDTV (finally!) for the bedroom and have some questions on streaming video to it from devices in other rooms in the house. I currently use both a media center pc and a tivo to record tv shows (in standard definition). Can I buy a tv that has the built-in capability to let me stream shows to the tv from my pc over my network? Also, if I connect a slingbox to my tivo, does any tv have have the built-in capability to allow me to control and watch the tivo in the same house but a different room, over the network? I know I can move content from the tivo to the pc using tivo desktop, but that sounds like a hassle. Also, will wifi be good enough to stream the standard definition content, or should I plan on connecting the tv via ethernet cables? (The router is a g variety, but I'd upgrade to n if it saves me from running the ethernet cables; the pc is connected directly to the router by ethernet cable)? Finally, will standard definition look terrible on a HDTV? Thanks for the help.

Rob Pegoraro: You're not the last HDTV upgrader--but you are towards the end of the line :)For your shared-media purposes, what you'd want is "DLNA" support.Yes, a Slingbox on the TiVo and another on the bedroom TV should let you view what's on the TiVo remotely. (Right? I'm a little foggy on my Sling network topology.)802.11g should be fine--but if it's not, you'll know soon enough.You probably won't appreciate SD content much anymore. But DVDs should look pretty good when run through an upconverting player.

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IMac file transfers: Hi Rob,I want to buy a new Mac ibook laptop and currently have an old IMac desk top OS 10.2.8. The Apple store wants to charge me $100 to transfer files from the old to the new computer. Is there a way that I can do this myself? Are there any special cables that I would need, etc. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: The old iMac's version of OS X is too old to support Migration Assistant. But you shouldn't necessarily need that. Get an external hard drive--you'll need it for Time Machine backups on the new computer--and copy all of your home folders (Documents, Pictures, Music, Movies, Library, etc.) onto that. Then dump the contents of each of those folders--not the folders themselves into the same folders in the account you create on the new computer. Your apps should pick up the old data and settings automatically--well, once you reinstall them.Any possible hangups this reader should worry about?

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Googles ebook: Can you use Google's ebook service on a plane where you have no wifi service?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, but only if you download a Google e-book as an ePub or PDF file. Its Web reader doesn't allow offline reading yet.

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Ipad vs Apple Air?: iPad or Apple Air Notebook? Or Apple Air Notebook or Apple Pro notebook? Really on the fence.

Rob Pegoraro: Apple would say "collect 'em all!" I'm assuming you're buying a second computer; if you want to use it on the road extensively--including lots of writing--I'd get the Air. If it's actually a third machine, I'd get an iPad.

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Windows Virus on my Mac: According to a computer security service I'm trying (Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition), a trojan called Troj/ByteVer-G is apparently on my machine. According to their report, it only affects Windows, but I'd like to remove it from my Mac. The fix requires a "manual clean-up" but I can't seem to figure out how to accomplish this. Since it affects Windows, I haven't noticed it causing any problems on my machine, but I'm concerned that it is something that I could unwittingly pass along to others, who do have Windows, so the ideal thing would be to get rid of it. The Sophos Quarantine Manager indicates the trojan resides on two files (javapi/v1.0/file/useGoingBook.class-64ec1d8c-5cc04ddc.class) and (Caches/Java/cache/6.0/37/87587a5-282fd6e4), but I don't see either filename when I search.What can I do to remedy this problem?

Rob Pegoraro: The Sophos software doesn't have a "show this file" command? That seems extraordinarily useless.Caches is a subfolder of your Library folder, so you should be able to navigate to that in the Finder. Or you could get there via Terminal, which can show files that the Finder normally doesn't. Not sure about the other.

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Cables needed for connecting a TV, DVR and DVD: What type of cables are needed to connect a TV, DVD and DVR? I keep getting different answers so my DVR is not connected to either device.

Rob Pegoraro: HDMI, HDMI, HDMI. A combination of component and digital-audio cables will also work, but then you're plugging in four wires instead of one.

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BMP FILES ON EMAIL ON CELL PHONE: Why can't a friend bring up bmp files on email on cell phone? Is it that file is bigger then a jpeg file. Also does it use a browser over a picture program. Robin

Rob Pegoraro: BMP--short for "bitmap"--is one of the least efficient image file formats around. It takes up far more space than JPEG or PNG. There's no reason to use it, but Microsoft's Paint program used to have BMP as its default format. If you're sending around BMP files, please stop; use the "Save As..." command in Paint to save them as JPEGs.

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Tivo Premiere shenanigans: Rob, I wrote in last week asking about whether Tivo would try to enforce their $19.99/mo fee on an open-box Premiere. The answer is YES. I only got them to keep my account under the regular $12.95 plan after threatening to cancel after more than 5 years of business. Not a very pleasant conversation and it certainly didn't leave me with the warm and fuzzies towards Tivo. That said, the Premiere is now all set up and I do think it's a worthy step up from the SD Series2 Tivo I replaced. I love the ability to watch Netflix streaming, Amazon video, YouTube and to listen to Pandora. Which makes it such a shame that Tivo had to go and screw up the customer relations so bad with this $19.99 thing. Penny wise pound foolish, I guess.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the report. (This is a follow-up to a warning I posted on my blog last month.) Sounds like some extraordinarily dumb salesmanship by TiVo.

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Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5713343/the-washington-post-seems-to-have-heard-of-this-facebook-siteThey pretty much nailed it. Though the post is obviously scaling back now...

Rob Pegoraro: So you know, I posted that link to my own public Facebook page--hoping, of course, that people would see the link and share it with friends who would then Like my page. See, it's a virtuous circle!

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Samsung's Fascinate: Recently you referred to Samsung's Fascinate as evil, but I missed any discussion of why you think that's so. Is it the Bing search engine (which is annoying) or something else? I recently bought that phone, took it back when Verizon ran a $100 price, only to have Verizon (the true source of evil) screw up the sale. But in the day I had it, I liked it. Just wondering.

Rob Pegoraro: It's the totality of all the changes they made--locking in Bing as the search engine, making Bing Maps the default, throwing in a lot of unwanted apps that the user can't uninstall without rooting the device. It speaks of a lack of respect for the buyer.

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Alexandria, VA: I know your tired of being asked this question but I have to know....what are the chances of iPhone being made available on Verizon? I'm dying to replace my first generation iPhone and I'm holding out till January to see if the iPhone 4 will be made available on Verizon in hopes to save a few bucks on my cell phone charges. Should I wait till January or go out this weekend and spend by Christmas bonus?

Rob Pegoraro: You have NO IDEA how tired I am of that question. Seriously. So this is my final word on the subject for the year: Save your money. Wait to see what Apple announces in January. And if all the stories turn out to be wrong--note, I'm not the source of them--please go to those reporters' Web chats and ask them what went wrong.

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Netbook options: I'm planning on getting a netbook for my girlfriend as a substitute for my dreadfully old laptop, which she borrows, and a replacement for her broken laptop. I'll be replacing my laptop in the next few months, so the netbook won't be the only decent machine in the house and she'll be able to use the optical drive on that - we can network or use sneaker-net.She'll mostly be checking email, using Skype to talk to family/friends in her hometown, using the web, and some document editing (resume's and the like).I've been looking at the Toshiba - Mini Netbook NB255-N250. From some reviews, the battery life seems shorter (6+hours) than others (8+), but that shouldn't be an issue and for the price it seems a decent option. Any thoughts or recommendations on this netbook, other options, accessories that might be useful, etc?Thank you for your assistance!

Rob Pegoraro: Havent tried that model myself. Has anybody here?My general advice on netbooks: You're going to want to optimize your software selection to adjust for their lower performance--use Chrome instead of Firefox, and think twice about loading Microsoft Office.

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One printer to rule them all...: Hey, Rob, I've got a mix of Macs and PCs on my home network, and I'd like to get one printer that will work for all of them. The solutions I've tried (a separate print server) don't always let me use all the printer's features, and I can't scan to any device on the network, which makes having an all-in-one kind of useless. I see a lot of printers with built-in print servers, but even after reading reviews and product information I'm not clear on whether they'll let me get full use out of the device from all my computers.Even an idea of where to look for this information would be appreciated, but if any of your readers have something that works for them, I'd love to hear about that, too.

Rob Pegoraro: You'd want a WiFi-connected printer/scanner, and most of them do support network access to both. (I'd confirm that with the netbook to my right, but it seems to have decided it doesn't want to see the home WiFi in this room just now.)

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powerline networking: Can the networking kits that work through home power lines provide secure networking in an apartment or does the signal go beyond the limits of that apartment's circuits?

Rob Pegoraro: They're supposed to encrypt your communications so nobody can eavesdrop. That said, the odds of somebody else using powerline networking near you are pretty low.

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Software gifts: Hi, Rob, I bought several unopened boxes of software at someone's moving sale, thinking I'd give them as gifts to some PC-using friends and family. But when I inspected them more carefully at home, I saw they were labeled "Works with Windows 3.1 and Windows 95."Is there any chance they'll also work with less outdated operating systems, or with up-to-date ones? Or did I just buy elaborately-packaged coasters?I'm a Mac user, so I can't test them.Thanks. BTW, one makes labels, another is a "career IQ test," another has templates for family record-keeping.

Rob Pegoraro: They're not just coasters; they might also work as Christmas-tree decorations. Sorry...(Well, they might work as gag gifts if your friends appreciate tech irony.)

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Firefox v. Chrome: I'm happy with Firefox and the extensions I'm using. Your thoughts on why I might want to use Chrome instead? Or not? Is one better than the other for certain things?

Rob Pegoraro: Chrome has two things going for it, both of which will cause it to get a more favorable nod in my "how to set up a new computer" column next weekend:* It's faster, and you really notice that difference on a netbook.* It's a little more secure: Not only does it "sandbox" its Adobe Flash and PDF plug-ins to limit the damage Flash or PDF malware can do, it also automatically updates those plug-ins on its own. That's a major benefit to distracted users.

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Internet on TV and Netflix too: Ok, so what do I buy? An Apple TV or Roku box? An Internet-enabled TV? An Internet-enabled DVD player? I'm technical enough to handle any of them. Wouldn't mind an excuse to buy a new TV. Would prefer Ethernet to Wifi for speed reasons, and we have a Web drop next to the TV. Don't care about local content on the TV. Prefer a good user experience for the less technical members of the family, so no popcorn hour or boxee box.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go with Roku in that case. It's not good for local content, but for Web sources it connects to far more sites than Apple TV.

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Ipod Touch alternative on Android?: I would like to get a "smart phone" without the "phone" part...specifically without buying a cell phone contract and only using wifi. The Ipod Touch is similar to what I am looking for, but I want it Android (froyo) based and at the $200 price point...is there such an animal?

Rob Pegoraro: There is on eBay, but not in stores--well, not yet. I'll throw out one reason why: An iPod touch-esque Android device would have to offer a great sync experience with your own photos and music, and that would require its vendor to ship their own software.

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Fairdale, KY- Ion USB Turntable: Rob, Merry Christmas to you & your family. I have a friend who's interested in buying the Ion USB turntable so she can turn her parents LPs into Mp3s and burn them to a CD. Do you know if these turntables do a decent job and how simple is it to do?Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: One of my colleagues tried out an Ion turntable a few years ago and concluded that while it worked, the process was so tedious that it just might be easier to buy the songs all over again as digital downloads. (Especially if you can take advantage of Amazon's frequent MP3 sales.)

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Delivery Problems: How can I talk to a representative the Post? None of the telephone options fit my situation. I want to alert someone that I have not received the paper two out of the last three days. On Saturday, I was out for breakfast, and by the time I returned home and discovered there was no paper, I had no option to ask for a refund or redelivery. I have paid for this service and there is obviously a problem and I wish to alert someone.

Rob Pegoraro: I can assure you that it wasn't me at fault.

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your work: Just want to thank you, most sincerely, for your reporting over the years. You and David Pogue are the two tech-world writers I've learned to trust -- and enjoy! Happy Holidays, Rob. -- A Reader in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Rob Pegoraro: You're welcome!

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email: want something to check email when not at home or in the office. Should I look at net books or will a nook be okay?

Rob Pegoraro: I wouldn't want to do too much typing on the NookColor's onscreen keyboard, but for reading e-mail it's fine. Just make sure your e-mail service's site will work; try getting to it on a smartphone with a good but not state-of-the-art browser, like a slightly older BlackBerry, a Palm webOS phone or a Windows Phone 7 unit.

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On-line payments: Just curious: Do you use a specific, low-limit credit card for on-line purchases in case someone intercepts your account info, or do you feel confident that even a recurring charge like a Netflix sub doesn't expose you to substantial risk?

Rob Pegoraro: I use my regular credit cards and (try to) remember to check my statements carefully. The risks of a card getting intercepted online are near zero; you can't say that about physical-world transactions.If you do see something fishy, call your credit-card issuer right away and challenge the transaction.

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ROKU Sports subscription: following up on the apple TV vs Roku, Roku has options for NHL Gamecenter or MLB.TV live games. The $100 - $160 dollar annual subscription sure beats the $100 monthly cable bill. I get TV in HD OTA.... Any experience with viewing quality, understanding that it is somewhat dependent on broadband cable hookup?

Rob Pegoraro: Remember that the NHL and MLB services have blackout restrictions, under the (to me, silly) theory that it would be wrong to let people watch their own city's team online if they live anywhere near that city. Someday, sports leagues will decide that it's easier to let customers pay them wherever they live.

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Odd TV-PC problem: I have a two year old Philips 42" HDTV, works great with cable through HDMI and a PS3 through HDMI. However, when I plug my PC into it through HDMI and try to watch full screen videos from Hulu or other sources, the bottom 10 percent of the screen refreshes at a slower rate than the top. It's really easy to see during a football game--the grid lines on the field don't since up when the camera pans. What should I look at--both the PC and TV are set for 1920x1080 resolution. Could it be the PC's video card? (PC is running Windows 7 64 bit).

Rob Pegoraro: Very strange. Do you have this issue with any other computers?

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MINI Conneted: Maybe Warren is the person to ask about this, but it seems more up your alley. Do you know anything about the new MINI Connected system that is now available in their cars? It's supposed to let you link to the internet and will allow (among other things) you to listen to web radio. But from what I understand it seems to only work in conjunction with an iPhone. Does it use the phone to connect to the 'net? Or does the car have net capability built in? Do you need to pay a monthly fee? I guess I should just ask MINI. :-)

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't heard of it, but I'll keep an eye out for this--and othe sorts of car-connected Web media--at CES next month. The Washington Auto Show should offer another chance to see what the car manufacturers are up to.

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New Years Day Football and FIOS: Hey Rob - I'm actually chatting with the FIOS lady right now, but thought maybe you could answer smarter (nice english- huh).I have FIOS TV for 4 TVs in the house. Can I do anything to use all 4 TVs in the same room for a new years day foot ball party? Do I move all cable boxes into one room with a lot of splitters?

Rob Pegoraro: Too bad we can't conference her into the chat! I think but am not positive that would work. I've seen three-way splitters, but I can't remember seeing a four-way. Don't you want to save one TV for the kitchen anyway?

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Streaming to another HDTV: Rob, we finally (last week) had our first HDTV installed in our house, along with surround sound, a Blu ray player, an RCN HD cable box, and a Harmony 1100 universal remote. The remote is not yet working as we'd like, but I'm hoping it will. If we add another HDTV in our bedroom, what other equipment do we need to purchase for it? What can we stream from our main (family room) HDTV to our bedroom HDTV, and how?Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: That's not something the TVs can do on their own. Your RCN box might allow it, but not if it's the basic high-def model.

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"Delivery Problems": Assuming the prior post wasn't a prank, why doesn't that person forget the telephone and simply use the Post's online subscriber services at https://subscription.washpost.com/subscriberservices/subscriber.portalAfter all, if they didn't know about washingtonpost.com, they wouldn't have posted here.

Rob Pegoraro: It would be ungentlemanly of me to question the earlier reader's motives.

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Non-Tivo recorder: Rob,Is there a device I can buy that lets me record TV programs without paying a monthly access or subscription fee (like Tivo charges)? I'd lament the passing of the VCR except that only let me tape one program at a time and about 6 hours max per tape -- Not ideal when I'm away on travel for several weeks at a time.Also, do any TVs come with built-in recorders that don't require payment of ongoing fees?

Rob Pegoraro: This is a large-scale FAIL on the part of the electronics industry. Between cheap cable and satellite DVRs and TiVo's habit of suing everybody else who makes a DVR, you have few alternatives: sells a line of DVRs that don't require subscriptions but also cost as much as a TiVo with a lifetime service plan.* You can set up a computer with a DTV tuner--but if you want to record cable, you'll need to buy a CableCard tuner from Ceton for your desktop.* If you only want to record over-the-air programming, I know of one standalone, no-fee DVR still sold.

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Netflix: Do you know what kind of device I would need to stream Netflix to my HDTV? I'm guessing I can't do it straight from my laptop?

Rob Pegoraro: Sure you could--run an HDMI cable from laptop to TV if possible, otherwise VGA and audio. Your next-cheapest solution is Roku's entry-level box, $60 at their site.

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re: NY Football and Fios: If one signal needs to go to 4 separate TVs, i.e. the same picture on all TVs, you'll need a 1:4 distribution amplifier. Each time you use a splitter, it will decrease the signal strength by at least 1/2.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks

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Netbook software: So... if you want to avoid MS Office software on a netbook, what do you recommend? MS Works? OpenOffice? Other?

Rob Pegoraro: OpenOffice could work, although its Office-like toolbar takes up too much room on a netbook's smaller screen. I'd look at using a Web-based app like Google Docs instead.For just basic writing, the free and open-source AbiWord is another option--though it hasn't seen an update in a long time.

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reading library books with an iphone/ipad: FYI - The Overdrive App now lets me check out ebooks (only the EPub format, though) from the participating libraries, such as the Arlington library. It has always let me download audiobooks, but this new feature -- started sometime this month -- is a great upgrade!

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the tip!

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wiredog: At BurnBux I saw "A Charlie Brown Christmas" DVD+soundtrack CD for less than either of them on iTunes. Ripped the DVD to MP4 with Handbrake (iPod Legacy settings, since that works well with the Nook Color), loaded it into iTunes, and watched it on the 42" HDTV via AppleTV. Damn, they have some nice line doubling algorithms. It didn't look SD at all. Amazing that I can rip a DVD so that it looks good on a book reader and an HDTV. My 18 year old self, in 83, would've been amazed at the Future.OTOH, Verizon crippling the LG Ally by leaving netfilter out of the build... May never buy an LG product again.

Rob Pegoraro: You're a good man, wiredog.

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Smartphones: Hi Rob,I'm having trouble deciding on a Verizon Andriod phone to replace my BB Storm (worst phone ever!). I'm deciding between the Motorola Droid X, HTC Incredible, and Samsung Fascinate. The X boasts impressive hardware, but it might a bit *too* big for me, so I'm leaning toward the Incredible or Fascinate. I know you don't like the Fascinate, but other owners seem to like it. Any thoughts? Which would you choose? Thanks for your help!

Rob Pegoraro: I'd get the Incredible.

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Nexus S: Is an unlocked Nexus S viable on any carrier other than T-Mobile? Which carriers are compatible with the HW?

Rob Pegoraro: Not viable--the S doesn't support AT&T's 3G spectrum.

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Internet TVs: Hi Rob,I'm sorta shopping for a new TV, and your holiday shopping guide suggests getting a TV that has some internet capability. The ones I'm looking at have some Internet capability, but it seems restricted to certain content, such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon On Delivery. Is this the type of Internet capability you were referring to, or were you thinking of something less restricted, such as a TV with a browser that I can go to other web sites?

Rob Pegoraro: That's the kind of capability I was talking about--it's an app model. It can be disappointing to have your access limited, but at least this way you can be assured that those apps will work. A general-purpose browser on a TV or a Google TV device is apparently too easy for (jerk) companies to block.

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eReaders: A comment on last weeks discussion on e-readers. At most public libraries you can borrow eBooks that can read on eReaders as long as they are compatible. The most common company used for this is Overdrive. If you're thinking of buying an eReader you'll want to make sure it's compatible if you plan on borrowing eBooks from you local library. A list of compatible eReaders can be found here: http://www.overdrive.com/resources/drc/compatibleebookdevices.aspx

Rob Pegoraro: More details on this. We could have a Help File item here...

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Buying an iMac: So I'm fixed on buying an iMac for the family this Christmas. Given the new rumors for 2011, how big of a mistake is this? Are rumors so compelling to cause me to defer the purchase until new models are available -- reducing prices on current models?Also, what's the consensus on 27-inches? Worth the extra $500?Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: I wouldn't worry about the prospect of a new model--it hasn't been that long since the last one shipped. I wouldn't spend extra on the 27-inch display either. I'm typing this on a 21.5-in. iMac, and I can assure you the screen is Big Enough.

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Sony Dash?: What does a Sony Dash do? Do I want one?

Rob Pegoraro: Imagine an Android or similiar smartphone without the monthly bill and the calling capability, transmogrified into a clock radio-sized device. I'd say you don't if you have a smartphone already.

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10 Foot Interface: A few years ago I bought a Mac Mini to hook up to our TV for streaming media, mainly Netflix. Of course the one I bought did NOT have the HDMI output yet and so it takes a bit of cabling to get it all hooked in, in fact I'm using the VGA in to our TV (ugh). But my question is about Front Row on Apple and 10 foot interfaces in general. I feel like Apple has totally abandoned any updates to Front Row, which is understandable since they want to sell me an AppleTV, but I would love to be able to use the Apple remote to control not just my iTunes content but also Netflix and other streaming media. I've tried used Plex but it just is not as good. Do you foresee Apple ever adding to Front Row or should I look for another solution?

Rob Pegoraro: I'd look elsewhere. I recall reading good things about MediaCentral but haven't tried it myself.

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Mac Stuff: Please help, Rob!Trying to help a senior in our community with her Mac needs, but need a few answers from you.She has an iMac running Leopard.Needs to get an external hard drive to back up her data, is there a particular kind that's best with a Mac? Is time machine the program to use?She wants to be able to edit photos and put text over them while saving them as image file. I was thinking Photoshop Essentials, but would iLife work for that?Thanks so much!

Rob Pegoraro: Any hard drive will work--Time Machine will offer to reformat it for its use if necessary. But if you get a "bus-powered" model, you'll have one less cable to connect; the USB or FireWire connection to the Mac will also power it.For that kind of photo editing, I'd look at Photoshop Essentials or the $40 shareware GraphicConverter (the latter isn't as good for organizing pictures)

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I need a desktop computer: I want to buy a desktop and a printer. I don't need anything fancy, I don't play games or download music. I want it to surf the internet and use Microsoft Word. I just want something that won't have software and hardware problems down the road. My budget is less than $1,000. Could you give me you top three suggestions? What about Macs? Are they compatible with Word documents?Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Macs can read and write Word documents fine--I rarely even open Word, since QuickLook lets me read attached Word docs right in my mail program. As for the rest of your questions: I'm sorry, but any desktop on the market will handle Web and Word use.

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Talking Dragons?: I've seen some TV ads for a speech-recognition program called Dragon. Have you tried this out? How does it work, and how well?

Rob Pegoraro: I have, and it works--with some preparation on your part.

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iMac file transfer tip/answer: For the person moving their files from a 10.2.8 Mac to a new Mac: Copy the entire home folder to the new Mac, being careful to place it in the Users folder. Then create a new account on the new Mac, being careful to use the same long and short name. The new Mac will say "Hey, there's a folder here already...use that one?" Answer yes.

Rob Pegoraro: Didn't know that would work. Thanks!

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passwords: I have too many user name/password combinations for home, work, and the many websites I visit. I don't want to write them all down and I don't want to use the same password for every website. I have tried various "rules" for creating passwords, but too many websites have maximum or minimum character limits or requirements for type of characters. I have considerd trying something that uses the domain in the password such as "pwd4facebook" would be a password for facebook and "pwd4linked" would be the linked in password. Is this approach too common and weak?

Rob Pegoraro: For a site like Facebook--through which somebody can very effectively conduct identity theft--it's too weak. Save the pattern-book passwords for sites where your only vulnerability is having somebody change Web-site passwords or post dumb comments under your name.

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iPhone tether: Hi. Is it possible tlo use my iPhone 3gs to hook ky Dell laptop to the Internet?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, if you've upgraded to iOS 4 and pay AT&T an extra $20 for the option. Remember that it has data caps.

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* You can set up a computer with a DTV tuner--: More info, please!

Rob Pegoraro: See this review of two DTV-tuning options.

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$350 for an OTA DVR?: Ugh, Rob. Just Ugh. I'm tempted to just go find my old VCR and plug it in. Would complaining to the FCC about Tivo's behaviour do anything?

Rob Pegoraro: Unlikely. TiVo's conduct--and, to be fair, the unwillingness of other CE vendors to get into the market--don't involve the public airwaves or other markets the FCC regulates.There are DVD recorders out there, but they don't offer any sort of interactive program guide--even though they could get that for free off the air. I have one, and it's irritating to have to use a VCR-esque interface to program a recording.

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terminology: Hi, Rob,Is there a resource for someone like me?I'm recently back from several years in a distant land where getting on-line required first standing in line at a cyber-cafe -- and now that I'm here, I'm having trouble understanding what for others are basic tech terms. Please point me towards a website or book that will make me conversant enough to go shopping for a new TV, laptop, pda, etc.I thank you.

Rob Pegoraro: Wikipedia articles can be pretty effective guides to technology--I often link to them when throwing around technical terms like "HDMI." (If a Wikipedia entry says Hitler invented HDMI, please check back in a few minutes.)

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HDTV with old analog cable: Hello! My parents have old analog cable, with the coax connecting directly into the (elderly) TV set. Is there a way for me to buy them a new 25" or so HDTV without having to get them to upgrade to a cable box? It'd be a nice upgrade for them, but only if it doesn't require changing their cable service.

Rob Pegoraro: I don't know if new TVs still include analog cable tuners. Most do include QAM digital-cable tuners. But: They'd almost certainly only get local, public, educational and government channels--nothing like Comedy Central or Food Network. You'd also have to pre-program in the channels, since QAM reception often delivers a poorly sorted and redundant list of channels. It's a real mess.

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Washington, DC: Hi Bob, I am grandmother whose grandson is asking for an ipod for Christmas. He is 14 years old. Which version should I buy? Thank you

Rob Pegoraro: If he's showed any signs of hankering for an iPhone or any interest in watching videos, get him the entry-level iPod touch. If he likes to run, get the shuffle. If nothing else fits, the current nano would be fine (though I liked the older model better).

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am one year into my sprint data/phone contract: I have a samsung instinct, but would like to upgrade, either to the EVOO, or to bag sprint altogether and get the iphone. alternatively, the ipad looks cool. Thoughts? Also, I take the metro/buses and appreciate having the access that sprint provides.

Rob Pegoraro: Seeing an (unwitting) olive-oil reference is making me hungry. If you didn't mind typing on the Instinct's onscreen keyboard, the Evo will come closer to that; otherwise, look at the Epic. But you should also consider Sprint's non-4G Android phones, which will be $10 a month less.

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Before you sign off: Thank you, Rob,You're the best gift.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, Mom!

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Photos or Video on the iPhone 4: When e-mailing a photo or video from my iPhone 4, how do I ensure that the recipient receives it upright rather than sideways? When taking the shot I view it as upright on the camera, but frequently it is received sideways and my laptop shows it sideways as well.

Rob Pegoraro: Not all photo-viewing apps read the tags on a picture file indicating which way is up. There's nothing you can do about it on the iPhone except trust that your recipients will know to hold the phone sideways in those cases.

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iPod touch photo deletion dilemma: Hi Rob. Last Christmas I received a fab iPod Touch 3G. I promptly uploaded some fave photos, but none since. Monday I finally added more photos, only to find the originals suddenly deleted. A pal with a brand new Touch says he had the same thing happen. My web search revealed this is a common problem, with nobody having a good solution. What was Apple thinking? One iPod book admits a sync deletes anything not in Saved Images or Camera Roll, but I can't find how to move photos into these safe places. Do you or your readers know what to do?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't, but I'll try to look into this. You still have the originals on your computer, right?

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cell phones make great gifts: Is it just me, or are flip phones dying off with the major providers, the victim of QWERTY keyboards and super-smart flux capacitators? If so, it's a pity -- their compactness and durability are pluses, and I've never bum-dialed anyone with my VZW LG8350. But if they are going away, I might have this phone for a long, long time.

Rob Pegoraro: Sorry, flip phones have officially flopped.

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Charlie Brown's Christmas: Was not filmed in HD. Shutting off the upconversion to 4k and just playing it in SD through my Meridian 4k projector I notice very little difference. Not sure what it was originally filmed in back in 1965. Now upconverting Blu Ray to 4k does make difference. We are talking a $200k front projector and and a $15k screen.

Rob Pegoraro: Hello again, Clifton!

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Mac Protection: I recently just got my first Mac after using PC's all my life. I know Mac's aren't suppose to be prone to problems, should I be using any services that scan for threats? If so can you recommend any? -Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: This is something I'll cover in next weekend's new-computer-setup column too. You need to do three things:* Turn on your Mac's firewall (in System Preferences, under Security);* Update its Adobe Flash plug-in;* Don't install software you haven't seen a trusted source recommend. The only Mac malware I've seen lately has consisted of trojan-horse downloads that pretended to be something else--and even then, they needed the victim to type in their admin password to do serious harm.

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€“ is there an app that lets the Windows systems effectively play the role of a Kindle, Nook or the other e-readers?thanks

Rob Pegoraro: For a tablet to run Office, it would have to run Windows--and Windows isn't built for touch-screen control and all-day mobile use. That's why most people now spell "tablet" as "iPad" instead of "Tablet PC," Microsoft's attempt at making such a thing.(Its most recent attempt was the HP Slate that Steve Ballmer demoed at CES, and which HP quietly shipped a while ago to business markets. Even though that seems to have died of irrelevance already, Microsoft will supposedly show off a new line of Windows 7 slates at CES next month. Good luck with that...)

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Sprint Blackberry Flip Phone: Just upgraded my phone for the first time in probably 4 years and am trying out the Blackberry flip phone. I like it well enough, but is there anything else I should consider before my final decision? I talk, text, and take/send pics. With this phone I have also been on FaceBook and played some games, which is good too.

Rob Pegoraro: The BlackBerry Style runs the new BlackBerry 6 software, which is... kind of weak compared to Android. (Sorry!) It's OK for Web access but bad if you're interested in smartphone apps. OTOH, BlackBerry provides a direct sync to Outlook, unlike Android phones.

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Another Non-Tivo Recorder: I'm happy with the Panasonic DVR that I bought at Costco, and especially like that I can use blank dvds to record & share. I just googled to make sure that Amazon is also selling it.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks - if it's the model I'm looking at, that's been around for a couple of years. Will be interesting to see if there are any new DVD recorders shown at CES.

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If you're sending around BMP files, please stop: Heh. No question, just amusement.

Rob Pegoraro: Glad to provide some mid-day levity!

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Rob Pegoraro: And with that, I need to log off and eat. Thank you for all the great questions--today, and all year. I'll see you in 2011, either during CES or right afterwards.


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