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    Rob Pegoraro
    Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro
    The New FFWD: Same Day, More Stuff

    Friday, September 10, 1999, at noon

    Fast Forward is growing. It just moved to a new section of the newspaper (Business) and is expanding its coverage.

    Rob Pegoraro, Fast Forward's editor, will be online to talk about what's in store -- and to take your technology questions in general, from everything to the new Handspring Visor organizer to the latest Internet software. (No topic is too obscure, although he will only answer questions about MS-DOS under duress.)




    Transcript Follows

    washingtonpost.com: Good afternoon, y'all. It's time, once again, for the Fast Forward gabfest. Bring your tech questions or your FFWD 3.0 questions, and I'll do my best to answer them. (Relationship questions? I'd suggest Carolyn Hax's chat next door. Nightlife questions? Might want to save 'em for Eric Brace's next discussion. And don't even start to ask about hurricane insurance, please)


    Reston, VA : I am buying a Dell computer this afternoon, and they are offering me one year service on Dellnet to be my ISP. Have you heard anything about Dellnet? At only $10.00 a month, up to 150hrs-month, its hard to pass up.

    Rob Pegoraro: Since you said "this afternoon," I'll take this one first. Dellnet should probably be an OK deal for you. What Dell is doing here is basically renting out bandwidth and modems from another company--much like how, for instance, Gateway leases connectivity from UUNet for its own Internet access option--and cutting you a break on the price. In return, the idea, goes, you'll have that Dell brand name in front of you that much more often, and will therefore feel compelled to spend a little more on Dell products.

    Dell in general runs a pretty competent shop, so I don't see any warning flags about this operation. They may not always be the cheapest game in town, but they do tend to know what they're doing. And in the worst-case scenario, as you note, you're only out $10 a month. Check the cancellation clauses of the contract to be sure.


    Laurel, MD: Hi Rob..I've been a fan of FFWD since it was a glossy monthly..-still have some saved, BTW-. Where do you see the future of Video-Telephone technology? When will we have cheap, viddiephones in everyone's kitchen?

    Rob Pegoraro: Hey Laurel--thanks for the good words. The glossy issues can be a hoot to read sometimes. (I'm thinking of, for instance, the digital-radio cover we ran back in November 1994. Still waiting for that digital FM receiver in my car!)

    The future of videophones is likely to be similar to its past: Basically, a hobby for the techno-inclined. I think the problem here is not technological; with cable modems and DSL connections, it's not that hard to beam the video signal in and out of houses. But do you really want to have your callers--worse yet, telemarketers--seeing how you look? And, personally speaking, I'm too addicted to roaming around my house with a cordless phone... I probably clock several miles a year in that way, just wandering around the living room.



    Fairfax, Va.: I bought a new G3 after my old 7300 Power Mac crapped out on me. My problem and question is: on the old 7300, one day the monitor screen went pink. The problem isn't a monitor -- I hooked up a brand new monitor to the old 7300. I'm guessing the graphics card or something internal has died but I don't want to spend money to take the 7300 in to get fixed -- I just want all my old files off of the hard drive. What do you suggest? Should I rip the hard drive out of the 7300 and put it in a case and hook it up to my G3? Is there an easier solution here?

    Rob Pegoraro: Yuck. Agreed that it sounds like your 7300's video system is hosed, and that it's not worth fixing. The easiest way to get the files from one computer to the next will be to buy an Ethernet crossover cable and plug it into the Ethernet jacks on the back of both machines. Turn on AppleTalk and file sharing and drag and drop the whole mess over. (There's an article somewhere in the Apple Tech Info Library on this: http://til.info.apple.com). FYI, moving the hard drive shouldn't work; the G3 doesn't use the 7300's SCSI bus to connect internal hard drives.

    OK, OK, I'm a geek. I know this...


    Washington, Dc: So, what happened to the wireless Web accessing Palm Pilot? I thought they were supposed to be in stores by now.

    Rob Pegoraro: As it just so happened, we talked to Palm Computing the other day, and they say the Palm VII is supposed to roll out nationwide in the next couple of weeks. We (that being either us or Tech Thursday, we're not sure yet) will have a writeup of it in the near future.

    If you really really really want a Palm VII, there's nothing stopping you from buying it online or picking it up at a CompUSA on your next trip to New York--the wireless network has been up and running nationwide since the first launch up in the NY area. Try not to look guilty as you leave the store....


    Laurel, MD: My new speedy cable modem works great, but my old 133 pentium, with 16 mgs of RAM doesn't seem to keep up. Any suggestions on how to fine tune an old machine for better cable modem performance?

    Rob Pegoraro: I see what the problem is... 16 megs of RAM is horribly bad. Especially once you install Internet Explorer 4 or above (which is almost impossible to avoid these days, thanks to Microsoft being so, ah, generous about installing it for you). You need to toss at least another 32 megs in your machine, like, yesterday; moving up to 64 megs wouldn't hurt one bit. Hate to sound like a shill for the RAM vendors, but it's the truth.


    Adams Morgan: Congrats on the move, people.

    Rob Pegoraro: Why thank you! I'm happy to report that, after wearing a tie for an unprecedented four days in a row, no ill effects seem to have taken hold yet. I no longer feel so wired about nightlife events--but the things I can tell you about commercial real estate...


    Arlington, VA: I recently bought a computer from a direct mail company. I compared some of the local screwdriver shops, the Best Buys National Brands, and looked over a few of the larger direct mail folks. I was surprised to find that some of the direct mail companies charged local sales tax, others didn't. The difference in cost was not insignificant when we are talking about $1500.

    Between the State's interest in collecting additional taxes and the company's interest in having a level playing field on which to compete, I can't see this situation lasting much longer. Any thoughts? I make a distinction between some guy selling his used computer on eBay and a commercial enterprise.

    Second question -if I may-. I keep reading how there is a shortage of IT professional in our area. If that is the case, what are these IT companies looking for? Electrical engineers? What degree is it they want? Do the local colleges and Universities offer degrees in those areas? Does it matter what school you get this degree from? For example -no offense intended here-, I think it is generally true that a degree from Georgetown is viewed as more desirable than a degree from George Mason -most degrees-. Does that hold for the IT world as well?

    Rob Pegoraro: The deal with sales tax is that if the company selling you the computer has some operation in your state, they have to charge sales tax; if not, not. So, for instance, when LL Bean opens in Tysons Corner, I'm guessing that duck-print sheets will no longer be tax-free in Virginia.

    But the only way for states to be able to get out-of-state companies to pass on the sales tax to consumers would be some sort of act of Congress--the courts have ruled that states can't do this on their own. (I'm cribbing off of what I've read. IANAL = I Am Not A Lawyer.)

    As for the shortage of IT professionals (that's short for Information Technology, y'all): I dunno. You're kinda asking the wrong guy about college degrees; mine wasn't even in English, let alone journalism or computer science. (Ah, the dirty little secret is out... )


    Washington, DC: As a technological guru, how involved are you with washpost.com? What do you think of this on line discussions? Where-what is the future of news information?

    Rob Pegoraro: I'm not sure if I'm quite a "guru," but anyway... I love chats like this. It's like answering e-mail in real time, and I much prefer answering e-mail than doing, like, real work.

    If I knew the future of news information online, I'd probably be ready for my IPO now. But I suspect it's going to be faster, faster, faster, and info-agents that parse through all this data to find the stuff you want/need to know will be valuable. Those agents could be software, or they could be those carbon-based life forms called editors.


    Washington, DC: Is the truth out there, Mulder?

    Rob Pegoraro: Hey, who let Frank Ahrens' audience in here?



    Arlington, Va.: Rob,
    Whatever happened to Fast Forward's original incar-nation as a separate magazine in the Post? Any likelihood of it returning in that format?

    Rob Pegoraro: This is going back a ways. We started life in the fall of 1994 as a monthly magazine, inserted behind the Food section. FFWD 1.0 aimed to cover the whole spectrum of audio-video-computer entertainment; we ran condensed versions of record and movie reviews that had already appeared in Style or Weekend, wrote about home computers and did an article or two on this new thing called the Internet.

    Unfortunately, the glossy paper we were printed on cost a boatload of money. And we were really hard to find, stuffed behind Food on the last Wednesday of each month. So--not being a Web startup--after an extended period of what we like to call the "investment phase" (read "money-losing") the decision was made to cover these topics every week, not every month, in Weekend, on regularhyphens newsprint.

    I don't see the glossy monthly magazine coming back, frankly. Lead times are too long and the format isn't well suited to covering breaking news, which there happens to be a lot of in this field. I do wish we weren't leaving all that extra ink on your fingers in our newsprint incarnation; we'll try to pick colors that won't clash...


    Columbia. MD: Is the Last Wednesday's club still mailing out those handy tip sheets?...What's the addy to subscribe?

    Rob Pegoraro: Yep, we are, And, yep, we were dorks and neglected to include directions in the paper today. Here's the deal: Send an e-mail to listserv@listserv.net. Leave the subject header blank. In the body of the message, type

    subscribe ffwd firstname lastname

    No quotes, no hyphens, no nothin'. If your first and last names are not "firstname" and "lastname," please substitute appropriately.

    When you send in the message, you'll get an auto-reply back saying, basically, "welcome" with instructions on how this listserv thingy works.



    Washington : So, I know it's probably waaay early, but when might Apple have some G4 laptops?

    Rob Pegoraro: The rumors (see http://www.macosrumors.com) have G4 laptops arriving sometime next year, maybe at the Worldwide Developers Conference in May. I strongly suggest not looking at that site, incidentally, before buying anything; you'll only annoy yourself and wind up sticking with obsolete equipment for longer than you should. I, of course, am *happy* with my three and a half year old Power Mac, and only read the rumors sites recreationally. I can stop anytime I feel like it.


    DC: Frank Ahrens is obviously a rogue agent. Just thought I should pass that on.

    Rob Pegoraro: Alex Krycek is in the room, apparently...


    Silver Spring, Md.: I hope you guys don't lose your edge "going corporate" in the business section. I though today's review of Quicken-Money was pretty lame. The back story is that both MS and Intuit are using software sales to lure users into their lucrative Web-revenue sharing businesses. The writer seemed to miss that, and spent all that space telling us. . .it's a tie! You guys gonna go soft?

    Rob Pegoraro: Re: "going corporate." I resemble that remark!

    No, we're not going to wimp out. Alan really felt that these two companies had fought to a tie with these revisions; picking one kinda depends on how you feel about Microsoft, if you use a Mac and if you prefer a Web-centric interface on everything. (I do mean everything; Msoft seems to be slapping Web-page front-ends on every single product in their catalog.)

    Yeah, Intuit and MS are trying to draw customers to their Web sites to make more money. Who isn't? The point to you, the customer, is, Do these Web add-ons do anything for you? I mean, they are free to use. The motivation behind 'em isn't important to me; what I want to know is if they, like, work.



    Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking my question. I've been teaching myself HTML and gotten pretty good at it. I noticed several of the area universities are offering classes in HTML training. I would like to be good enough to sell my web page design services. Do you think any of the area classes are worth it? Do you suggest any specifically? I would hate to pay a lot for something that teaches some things I already know!

    Rob Pegoraro: Good question, D.C. I know barely enough HTML to get myself in trouble and haven't tried any of these classes. You're right that most of the basics can be self-taught. But for employment purposes, it seems to me that the important thing in the future is going to be proficiency in the more complex parts of Web authoring--setting up e-commerce sites, creating sites that dynamically rearrange themselves, working with next-gen stuff like XML.

    A class might teach that, or some sort of internship or apprenticeship might as well. (The latter might be on a non-pay basis, but it beats paying somebody else.)



    Washington, D.C.: I think the power cord to my laptop is bad.... well not the cord itself but what it connects to in the computer. What is that called? Is that part expensive to replace?

    Rob Pegoraro: Ah, that depends. (One of the great help-desk responses, up there with "well, it works fine on my system here" or "try rebooting, then call me back.") Is this laptop new or old? From a big, brand-name company or Haus of Komputers? But if you're correct in your suspicion that the internal power componentry is going south... you might be in for a moderately painful bill. Say, > $100, as opposed to what you'd spend on a new power brick. Anytime you crack open a laptop case, you start to add up service and labor charges. See if you can get an estimate. Good luck...



    washingtonpost.com: And that, folks, is all he wrote for today. Rob will be back next Friday, this time from 1 to 2 p.m. (not noon to 1 anymore!), talking about cell-phone issues. You can e-mail him at rob@twp.com; until next week, keep reading...


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