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Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro
An Annoying Couple of Steps Away From the Perfect Laptop (Mar. 3, 2002)
Good Things Come In Small Packages, If You Choose Well (Aug. 31, 2001)
Washtech: Personal Tech
Recent articles by Rob Pegoraro
Business Section
Business Live Online Transcripts
Talk: Business and Tech news message boards
Live Online Transcripts

Fast Forward
With Personal Technology columnist Rob Pegoraro
Monday, March 25, 2002; 2 p.m. EST

Join Fast Forward columnist Rob Pegoraro to discuss a grab bag of technology topics -- the Macintosh OS X operating system (one year later), lessons from the shareware industry and a new bill in Congress aimed at cracking down on digital piracy.

Pegoraro has had plenty of feedback in the past on all three topics, and he's looking forward to a lively discussion. Here are some background articles:

  • Hollings Proposes Copyright Defense (Post, March 22, 2002)
  • From the Shareware Industry, Lessons on Keeping Downloaders Honest (Post, March 17, 2002)
  • After Six Months of Tweaking, OS X Is Ready for the Rest of Us (Post, Sept. 28, 2001)

    Problems with your hard drive? Take your question to the Fast Forward instead! It's a repeat engagement of "Tech Support," in which Pegoraro takes your queries, scrambles madly to get answers to them from the collective Fast Forward brain trust and replies within mere minutes.

    Below is the transcript.

    Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


    Rob Pegoraro: It's been an interesting week in technology, from the iMac price hike to Sen. Hollings' copyright bill. And on Sunday--speaking of things Apple--Mac OS X turned one year old. I wrote about that in my column yesterday; the week before, I took a look at shareware theft. Should be plenty to talk about in all that... so let's go to the first question.

    Somewhere, USA: Why isn't there an Outlook Express for OSX? - Phred

    Rob Pegoraro: Uh, because Microsoft hasn't gotten around to releasing one? :)

    *Why* that is so, I don't know. Microsoft has shipped a lot of OS X software, so I'm sure that OE is on its to-do list.

    Columbia, Mo.: Hi Rob. I run OS X on an iMac DV (400 mhz, 384 megs of memory) and have been thinking about either the new G4 iMac or an iBook (I'd use either as my main desktop machine). I'd like the portability of the iBook but wonder if I might see any big advantage in having a G4. I don't do any video editing or 3-D rendering or anything like that, but I like OS X and thus am thinking G4. Any thoughts?

    Rob Pegoraro: OS X likes having a G4 processor to run on. The iBook is a good value, but if you're not going to take your next computer anywhere I'd go with the G4 iMac.

    Rob Pegoraro: BTW, if anybody is shopping for an iMac, do *not* buy direct from Apple unless you need the machine in a hurry. I've yet to see the resellers raise their prices to match Apple.

    Alexandria Va.: What's your opinion of the Linksys integrated Wireless Access Point & Router (Linksys BEFW11S4 Wireless 4-Port Cable/DSL Router)? Any personal experience with it? If so, what about the Linksys cards, or any particular PC card wireless access solution for a laptop in conjunction with the BEFW11S4.

    I'm looking to use my laptop around the house and still run a web server on the desktop behind the router. What's your feedback?

    Thanks Rob

    Rob Pegoraro: Haven't tried it myself. Anybody here who has, please report back on your experiences...

    Reston, Va.: Rob,

    I've got a Pentium II 450 MHz PC at home. I'd like to replace the processor with a higher speed CPU. Do you have any product recommendations? I've asked around at a couple computer stores around the area but all I get is the song and dance about how I should just buy a new PC from them.

    Regards ...

    Rob Pegoraro: I think the stores may be right in this case. A Pentium II PC is going to have a lot of old components inside that will hold back the performance of a new CPU--it'll have slower RAM, a slower bus speed. You could replace the entire motherboard (as another person here is considering), but then you really have to think about the cost/benefit ratio--how much is your own time worth, especially if you're not a habitual PC tinkerer.

    Alexandria, Va.: If you don't mind my asking, why do you talk about Apple computers so much?

    What percentage of the consumer computing market is Apple? Are not Windows, Palm and Linux/FreeBSD all more widely used than Apple?

    Rob Pegoraro: Two excellent questions.

    1) I--and a lot of other tech reporters--write about Apple so much because it influences the PC industry far beyond its market share would suggest. Like it or not, this company has a long history of being the R&D lab for the rest of the business. What company did the most to boost the Intel-developed USB standard? Apple.

    2) Windows has a much larger market share than Apple. Palm definitely does not--there are 20 million or so Palm OS handhelds in existence, against (typing from vague memory), what, 50 million Macs? I doubt that Linux and FreeBSD--on the desktop, not the server--have a tenth of Apple's market share combined. (On servers, they do outweigh Apple heavily, but that's not what I write about.)

    Washington, D.C.: I've used OS X as my primary OS since March 24, 2001 and ALMOST love it to death. I wonder what you think of Apple/ATI not providing Open GL support for older, otherwise supported computers such as my rev. D iMac.

    Also, assuming you are a Mac user, what to you tell your friends at The Post with they snicker at seeing you using a Macintosh?


    Rob Pegoraro: I think it would be nice for Apple to provide that support--but I'm not sure that would take precedence over some other things on the OS X to-do list. (Like, saying, improving OS X's overall speed.)

    Nobody here snickers at me for using a Mac (at home, not at work, where I'm stuck with a PC). But my Mac-using co-worker Greg and I have been known to snicker at our colleague Dan's difficulties with Windows.

    Falls Church, Va.: Rob, I am really jumpin' in there. I ordered a new Dell blazing fast system, with XP to replace my dinosaur Dell. It will arrive today. I decided to try Verizon DSL for the 30 day free trial promo now running. I reviewed your DSL info and it seems like a "pick 'em" from a football pool. So far -- Verizon has activated me in five days (nine days earlier than my scheduled date), I have not waited more than one minute on the tech support line for my pre-installation preparations; equipment arrived in two days and they overnighted a dual line phone kit I needed. So far I am impressed. I will check in next discussion since I will probably be setting up when this one takes place.

    Rob Pegoraro: Please do! I'd like to think that Verizon's finally gotten its DSL act together.

    Harrisburg, Pa.: Do you have any comments regarding Senator Holling's copyright legislation?

    Rob Pegoraro: If you read my other columns on this subject, I think you can get a pretty good idea of my stance. Or wait until Sunday...

    Sterling, Va.: Rob, I have a friend in Pennsylvania that has a Comcast digital cable connection and they started limiting how much he can download per month (1 Gig download max per month at basic price). So if he wants to download 4 gigs, he pays much more. Isn't this somewhat of a silly idea?

    Rob Pegoraro: Well, one gigabyte is a *lot.* I suppose it's one way for Comcast to control the amount of bandwidth per customer--except it doesn't address the big problem with cable-modem capacity, what happens when everybody jumps online and starts downloading at 9 p.m.

    Somewhere, USA: Sony Clie: Rob,

    I think you answered this once before but I cannot find any archive of the chat. You had suggested some software for converting images to the correct format for the Sony Clie. I keep searching online and cannot find anything - please help!


    Rob Pegoraro: Sony includes PictureGear Pocket, a Windows app, with the Clie. If you're using a Mac, you'll need to get a shareware app called PGConverter--it's still in beta and a little ugly, but works OK. Your other option is to download a regular graphics-file viewer that can display regular JPEGs and GIFs. I just bought one (Acid Image), which, for $10, seems to work reasonably well.

    For Reston 450 Upgrade: Call Advantage computers in Manassas and talk to Ken. He's not gonna sell you anything you don't want and is very helpful when talking about upgrades.

    Rob Pegoraro: There's one recommendation

    Philadelphia, Pa.: Two questions:

    I recently got a new Palm M125 and get a lot of use out of it. However, I'm overwhelmed with all the programs out there. Do you have any recommendations for must-have programs for Palm?

    As a deaf person, I'm always trying to see what technology is out there that'll help me in everyday life. There's always hype about voice recognition software but it rarely ever translates to practical everyday use. Is there any particular reason why?

    Rob Pegoraro: Start with some sort of picture-viewing application--not just to show family snapshots, but to store any sort of non-text reference data (say, a subway map). I also recommend Vindigo, a guide to restaurants, shops and bars (it's now available in free and pay versions, with the pay option getting you more detailed info). I also use a shopping-list program all the time; there are many choics out there, so try seeing what ranks highest at PalmGear.com.

    Don't forget to leave some room for games!

    Washington, D.C.: Rob, I am currently interested in a notebook for use as a partial desktop replacement at home so weight isn't as much of an issue. Several questions. Is a 15" monitor worth the extra money or is 14.1" enough? If I am going to use the notebook for normal office and home use, with a little bit of gaming added in over the summer, is 16 megs of video memory enough or is 32 the minimum? Finally, $ for $, in the Pentium III world, is there any brand I should consider over Toshiba (I noticed it was not included in the recent Notebook Review and wondered if there was a reason for that). Thanks, Arthur

    Rob Pegoraro: 14 inches should do fine; a 15-incher is better, of course, but not if it comes at luxury-tax pricing.

    Go with at least 32 megs of video memory for any gaming.

    Toshiba's good, but I can't say I've heard that other brands are "bad" in comparison.

    Arlington, Va.: I just bought an iMac to place in my living room, which I'd like to tie wirelessly into my (otherwise PC-based) Linksys LAN system upstairs. Any tips on setting up the Apple on the LAN smoothly?

    Rob Pegoraro: In my experience, adding a computer to an existing wireless network is the easy part. When I tested the Sony and Fujitsu ultra-light laptops a few weeks ago, I didn't have to do anything beyond select the right network from a pop-up menu in the Windows system tray.

    Oak Hill, Va.: Are you aware that college radio stations are not being allowed to webcast? What is your take on this? Thanks..

    Rob Pegoraro: "Not being allowed" is incorrect. There are proposals afoot to settle on a standardized royalty rate for Webcasting music. The idea behind this--freeing stations from having to negotiate with every single record label--makes sense, but the fine print of the rates is giving some people fits.

    My concern here is that whatever rate is worked out leaves room in the market for non-profit and indie online radio stations. The *last* thing the Internet needs is a mirror image of the oligopoly of offline radio.

    Silver Spring, Md.: How long do you think it will be before
    Apple stops allowing users to download
    updates to Mac OS X (currently 10.1.3)
    and starts to sell X 10.2 or whatever?

    Rob Pegoraro: I tried to get Apple to cough that up--mainly, to see if I'd look dumb by reviewing one version when another one was about to come out. Everything I've been able to find out, however, tells me that 10.2 won't be arriving for at least another couple of months.

    Washington, D.C.: Crystal City: Just got an iBook running OSX and love it. But one issue I've got is the seeming lack of photo-editing software available for OSX. The free iPhoto program is great as a display and organizational tool, but doesn't allow much image manipulation. I don't need a monster application -- just something that'll let me resize images, adjust brightness, crop, etc. Do you have any recommendations?

    Rob Pegoraro: Apple's own iPhoto handles some of that. You could also try GraphicConverter, a $30 shareware app (www.lemkesoft.com). Adobe Photoshop is (finally) about ready to ship for OS X, which should mean that an OS X version of its cheaper cousin Photoshop Elements can't be that far behind.

    Chantilly, Va.: Rob,

    Current motherboard is an abit ka-100 with an amd slot processor. 4 ide controllers and igb of ram running under windows 2000 pro.

    I'm looking to go faster than 750mhz, but I can't, with the slot board. I was quoted $249 for a new mb and 1.7 amd xp processor. downside is, I need at least 3 ide controller slots, and, it uses ddr ram.

    This looks like the way I'll go, unless there's a better option. I don't want to disassemble my super tower, just change the mb. Opinions?

    Rob Pegoraro: Here's that other motherboad question. I don't know what your options are for the extra IDE controller slots--what are your existing IDE devices? Maybe they could be consolidated/replaced with faster hardware?

    I don't see DDR memory as being a "downside"--it's fast but cheap, and it is pretty much on its way to becoming the industry standard. Having to unload your old memory is a bit of a pain, but I don't see how you could avoid it on a new motherboard with a much higher bus speed.

    Comments from those better-informed than I would be welcome...

    Somewhere, USA: I'm new to macs. Any Windows XP versions available for macs?

    Rob Pegoraro: You can run XP inside Connectix's Virtual PC, but that's not the fastest OS X app out there. That's your only option for now.

    Silver Spring, Md.: My dad is interested in purchasing a new computer. He wants one that will stay relatively fast through a couple of years, so that it doesn't become obsolete right away... he doesn't need a high performance gaming system though. Do you recommend an Athlon XP or Pentium IV processor for cost and performance?

    Rob Pegoraro: The answer to that question seems to change week by week, depending on who had the last price cut. I think the AMD system will be a slightly better bargain at the low end; low-end Pentium 4 systems use a kind of memory that's a little too slow for that processor, as opposed to the DDR (double data rate) RAM the Athlon XP uses.

    Big picture here, though, is that there are more important things to consider--storage capacity, tech-support offerings, etc.

    Arlington, Va.: Rob is there a special or a package where you can have some free programs when you buy a iMac or a iBook? You see these kinds of deals with PCs but you don't see any with Apple.

    Rob Pegoraro: Apple occasionally offers discounts if you buy a new Mac together with Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, but the savings on those deals rarely equal what you get from, say, a Dell. Apple does ship a decent amount of software standard on all its computers (Quicken Deluxe, not the basic version; AppleWorks; the World Book encyclopedia), but--as you've noticed--if you need to add to that collection you're probably going to have to pay regular retail.

    Alexandria, Va.: Why oh why would one want to run Windows XP on a Mac?

    Rob Pegoraro: Well, this is still Lent :)

    San Francisco, Calif.: Rob, It seems like Apple has been getting a lot of favorable press over the past year or so. Do you think that the general computing public's perception about Apple has changed much?

    Rob Pegoraro: You wouldn't be thinking of any cover stories in any weekly newsmagazines published by AOL Time Warner, would you?

    I think the perception has changed--it's "beleaguered Compaq/H-P/Gateway" instead of "beleaguered Apple"--but I think that's been shifting over the past few years. Apple does a very good job at marketing and PR... but it's apparently not quite good enough to get that market share to really start moving upward.

    Bethesda, Md.: With all this fuss about iPods, etc., I'm surprised that one doesn't see jukeboxes which allow you to access a few hundred CDs from your PC. I.e., what I'd like to be able to do is load up most of my CD collection, start ripping the disks onto my harddrive, and then go on vacation. Upon returning from vacation, all the CD contents would be on my hard drive, and then I could load them selectively onto an iPod or similar device as I wished.

    I saw that Pioneer now appears to have such a product coming out, but I didn't write down the model number. What do you know about this topic?

    Rob Pegoraro: If you mean the kind of jukeboxes that are designed to sit next to the stereo in the living room--they've been out for a while. But all of them cost way, way too much for anything built around a basic hard drive. $1,000 appears to be the *minimum* price for such a thing. Unsurprisingly, few people seem all that interested.

    What I think is more likely to happen is that Apple, Microsoft or both will release software to let you share the CD collection stored on your computer with your stereo, using a wireless link and some simple receiver module that sits atop the receiver in your stereo rig.

    Washington, D.C. Adams Morgan: I'm running OS X 10.1.3 on a G3/400 iMac and I like it, I really do. But if I had known that changing the OS meant 1. that I would have to put up with the very buggy beta version of Palm Desktop 2. that I would never get a driver for my Stylus Scan 2000, meaning I need a new printer 3. No more AvantGo 4. no more Real Audio 5. No conduit for Entourage 6. A host of other strange little bugs, including some weird horizontal hold problem when I boot up my computer, etc. etc. I don't know if I would have bothered.

    I wonder about UNinstalling it now, but I've gotten used to it and there are some good parts, like I've said. Does Apple have plans to address any of those things I've mentioned, which individually are minor but all together add up to a less-than-pleasant computing experience?

    Rob Pegoraro: Aha--I found the other Mac user dumb enough to buy that Epson printer/scanner combo device :)

    There is an Entourage conduit, but it--like the rest of the Palm stuff for OS X--is still in beta. It's ridiculous that it's taken Palm this long to update its software.

    Most of these problems will get fixed with time, except for cases where one manufacturer (Epson) decides to abandon its users. Then the only hope is that somebody will reverse-engineer a set of drivers--it could happen, but OTOH my Stylus Scan isn't that great of a printer in the first place.

    RE:Chantilly mb upgrade: Rob,

    Currently I support two hard drives, two floppy drives, cd-rom, cd-rw, and a zip. I love being able to add devices, so there's the need for the ide controllers. having 12 slots open (6 external, 6 internal) gives one a lot of options.

    Rob Pegoraro: Hmm. I could probably live without the second floppy myself--I never use the one floppy drive I have on my home and work computers already. But that's just my opinion.

    I take it this computer is a fairly large box, then...

    Somewhere, USA: Rob, I'm looking to buy a laptop. I like the iBook for graphical reasons but they just don't have the memory of PCs. What would you suggest?

    Rob Pegoraro: If you mean RAM, buy more after you get the computer. (Apple charges too much for factory-installed memory--see www.dealram.com for an idea of what you can pay in the aftermarket.) If you mean hard drive--well, you're kinda stuck there.

    Silver Spring, Md.: My wife is looking to get a PDA. Is a Mac-user, so looking at Palm OS. Is it just me, or is the Handspring Visor Edge the best deal out there? Cool, ultra-thin metal case, 8 Mb, full-size display (compared to M100 series), rechargeable batteries, and only $199. A comparable Palm (M500 series) is at least $100 more. Sony CLIEs are also cool, but am I correct that they are still not Mac-compatible. I bought a IIIxe last year and would be jealous of Visor Edge.

    Rob Pegoraro: The Edge is a fairly neat device. When we first reviewed it, our writer thought it better than either the Palm m500 or m505. Problem is, it's sold very poorly--Handspring can't seem to decide how to pitch it. Cutting the price that much certainly helps, but I also think this handheld can't be more than a few months from being discontinued.

    That doesn't mean it won't work just fine in the future--Palms generally last for years, and you will have no lack of software to choose from.

    Maryland: Hiya! Any idea why my PC seems to be running SLOWER after doubling the RAM? I replaced the original factory-installed chips on my PC with a pair of DIMMs, upping things to 256MB. Although the system seems to recognize the new RAM just fine, the OS (Win 98SE) actually seems to be slower than it was before! It's a Hewlett Packard Pavillion PC with a Celeron processor, if that makes any difference. Any ideas as to why this might be? Thanks in advance.

    Rob Pegoraro: No. This is quite bizarre. You did match the type and speed of the DIMMs, right? Does the correct amount of memory get reported in the System control panel?

    re: chantilly upgrade: yes it is a large box. vepco insists on a one hour notice before i power up.

    Rob Pegoraro: But it keeps the rest of the house warm in winter, right?

    To return to your original question--you could add the extra controllers via a PCI card, right? Has anybody here done that?

    re: maryland ram addition: you mean you added sdram, right? 168 pin. make sure the speed on all the ram is the same. also, check the size of your swap file.

    Rob Pegoraro: You there, Maryland?

    Rob Pegoraro: To "Arlington, Va.": I know who you are and I know where you work (well, I think I do :)

    Washington, D.C.: Rob,

    Is there a Mac utility that will stop those annoying advert windows from popping up while surfing the 'Net?

    Thank you for saving my sanity!

    Rob Pegoraro: Yes--we reviewed a bunch of pop-up blockers last month, one of which (our favorite, WebWasher) was available for the Mac. Read it here.

    Maryland: I'm the guy whose PC is running slower after upgrading to 256 megs of RAM. Yes, the full amount is being reported under "Properties," but I'm not 100% sure that the speeds of the chips (PC100 vs PC133) were matched up. If they WEREN'T, would the full amount of RAM still be reported under Properties?

    Rob Pegoraro: I believe it would, but by switching to a slower kind of memory, the system as a whole would slow down.

    EraserheadGuy, D.C.: Hey, Rob! David Lynch’s website, davidlynch.com, is having a contest! Just log on, fill out a brief form, and you could win the grand prize: an all-expense-paid trip for you and a guest to L.A. to have lunch with the auteur! The momentous meal will be at Bob’s Big Boy, which is Lynch’s favorite restaurant, and is where he goes to brainstorm ideas. The event will be filmed and posted on the website. 20 runners-up will receive autographed posters of “Eraserhead.” Better hurry though; entry deadline is tomorrow at 6 p.m.!

    Rob Pegoraro: No chat is complete without a report from our resident David Lynch expert. Question: How good is the coffee at Bob's? I mean, is it really piping hot?

    Rob Pegoraro: Well, folks, I think that's it for today. I hope Maryland gets his/her memory situation straightened out, and that Chantilly finds a way to upgrade that mammoth computer. I'll see you all again in a couple of weeks, when I hope to be able to report back on some new developments in handheld computing.


    That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

    © Copyright 2002 The Washington Post Company