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Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro
Tech Support Friday

Friday, February 11, 2000, at 1 p.m. EST

Is your computer making your life difficult? Again? Do you not feel like waiting on hold to talk to the manufacturer's tech support? Take your question to the Fast Forward staff instead! In his bi-weekly installment of "Tech Support Friday," Fast Forward editor Rob Pegoraro takes your queries, scrambles madly to get answers to them from the collective Fast Forward brain trust and replies within mere minutes.

You can continue the discussion among yourselves on the new Fast Forward message board.

Falls Church, Va.: Okay, when will Windows 2000 really be out?

Rob Pegoraro: Hey all y'all... welcome back to our biweekly descent into computing hell. Part group hug, part primal-scream therapy, part CarTalk for computers: Send in your problems, your suggestions and your complaints, and I'll try to come up with something intelligent to say in response.

To answer Falls Church's query: It officially ships Feb. 17, but PC manufacturers have already begun preinstalling it on systems. Read my column next Friday to find out why this probably doesn't matter to you in the slightest!

One other item of business--corrections on today's tax-software piece. (We are so real-time, it hurts.)

1: Microsoft's TaxSaver does *not* handle state returns.

2: Kiplinger TaxCut *does* support DC returns, but only in its Windows 95/98/NT version.

3: Astute reader George Gutman called in earlier today to report that none of the three disk-based programs handles Form 8859, what you need to file to claim the $5,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers in the District.

So: On with the show!

Washington: Dear Rob:

I recently got Bell Atlantic DSL service at home, and the speed on it is addicting, though sometimes it just doesn't work at all -- my guess is that Bell Atlantic sometimes just gets overwhelmed with traffic, or something goes wrong upstream. Sort of like a beautiful Italian sports car: speedy but occasionally temperamental.

I recently got married, and since moving in I have decided that I would like to unite my wife's laptop with my desktop in a wireless network matrimony. My vision is being able to sit in front of the boob tube with the laptop on my lap and surf the net at DSL speeds, without wires. Are you aware of any good wireless setups between desktops and laptops?

Thanks for all your helpful advice and sounds.

Rob Pegoraro: "An Italian sports car"--I love that! You should be sure to bug Bell Atlantic for refunds for the time the service is unavailable, though; no sense in paying for what you can't use. (A friend of mine in NYC has had to do this a few times.)

Wireless networking is still in its infancy. You've got two options that I can think of off the top of my head. The cheaper one, at least for now, is something called HomeRF ; the other is IEE 802.11, the technology used in Apple's AirPort (but the PC implementations still cost quite a bit, if I recall correctly).

Warrenton, Va.: Is this the year that notebook computers will finally come down significantly in price? Same for LCD displays?

Rob Pegoraro: Maybe, and maybe. The non-screen components of laptops--processor, hard drive, memory--have been getting cheaper all along. The LCD screens have not; they actually climbed in price last year, thanks to lack of manufacturing capacity combined with the earthquake in Taiwan. People in the industry say the prices should start to drop this year... but they also said similar things at about this time last year.

I hope it happens (that 22-inch Apple Cinema Display is beyond scrumptious) but I'm not incredibly optimistic.

Woodbridge Va.: Rob--boy your article on the release of Episode One got me STEAMED!! What is the REAL reason Lucasfilm won't release it's fantastic movies on DVD?? Is this is typical Lucas move to glean every possible dollar out of a situation? How much money does one man need? I don't get it. The Star Wars movies are PERFECT for DVD, and when Episode One comes out, we get the same Lucas excuse--he doesn't have time. WHAT NONSENSE!!! I want to know what YOU think the REAL reason is, and I want to know who else I can write to complain about this!

Rob Pegoraro: I wish I knew, Woodbridge. In my own opinion: George Lucas is being a world-class twit. I agree with Bill Hunt that the "we don't have enough time" excuse is ridiculous, and I don't think his "secret plan" hypothesis is implausible.

Some people say that Lucas just doesn't like DVD; the PR people at Lucasfilm will point to the release of American Grafitti on DVD as evidence to the contrary. It doesn't seem to be convincing too many people.

Alexandria, Va.: I have 4 directories with 30,000 files totalling about 1 GB on my server. It takes 2min. to open a directory. How can I make opening directories faster?

Note: The directories are on a NT 4.0 server with NT 4.0 workstations.

Rob Pegoraro: 30,000 files?! What are you squirreling away there?

Anyway: I don't know. (Oops, tech columnists aren't supposed to say that.) But my guess is that you're just asking NT to handle a lot of files at once, and you should try putting in some subdirectories in there.

Any NT gurus with suggestions that are actually *informed* in the house?

Fairfax, Va.: This isn't really a tech support question, but I hope you'll take it... Lately I've heard radio commercials touting the advantages of fiber-optic internet connections -comparable in price to DSL, much faster than a T-1-. How widespread is fiber optic internet service? Is there a future in home connectivity using fiber optic connections as well?

Rob Pegoraro: Haven't heard these commercials myself--what radio station is this? It must have some very well-off listeners, because I've never heard of fiber being anything but expensive. With this, you need to put in new lines *to every house.* That is not cheap; putting in new fiber is not too practical outside of business districts. (Hence we have a backhoe ripping into the intersection of 15th and L outside.)

Do you remember the name of the company running these ads? Either they've figured out a way to magically get fiber installed for free... or they could just be sniffing glue. Clearly, further investigation is required.

Columbia, Mo.: Hey Rob: I bought a new iMac DV -great decision- a couple of months ago and am thinking about updating some software. Do you think I should wait until OS X comes out this summer -allegedly-, and there are more applications that are native to it? Or should I just go ahead and buy stuff that won't take advantage of the new operating system's features? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: I'd go ahead with the purchases, Columbia. One, you don't want to tie your software procurement to an upcoming major OS update (like those are never late!). Two, the OS 9 to OS X update *ought* to be relatively cheap. I say "ought" because that would be the right thing to do, both in ethical and in business terms. (Remember, it's not supposed to take that much work to make an application OS X-ready.)

But I also wouldn't be surprised to see some developers try to jerk their customers around with this update, whenever it happens.

Alexandria, Va.: Hi Rob. Thanks for the opportunity to get some straight answers. Our Macintosh Performa CD631 recently went kaplooee. It can't seem to find the hard drive during start-up, so I guess that constitutes a hard drive crash. While trying to rectify the problem I put a Mac OS 8 disk in the CD ROM drive so the computer would be able to start up from something. I had hoped that once I got the computer up and running that I would be able to use the chooser to select the hard drive as the start-up disk. No dice. The computer, though it still recognized our hard drive's name, would not recognize it as a valid start-up disk. Now the computer won't start from the hard drive, and won't let me eject the OS 8 disk from the CD drive because that "contains the active system software."

My questions: How can I get the machine to start from the hard drive? If I can't do that, is there a way to recover the data from it and transfer it to a zip disk? How do I get the CD ROM out of the drive? If nothing else works, should I just reintialize from the OS 8 Disk?

Thanks for taking my lengthy, and multiple questions.

Rob Pegoraro: Ouch. The OS 8 CD-ROM won't work because that requires a Power Mac. (Mac OS 7.6.1 would be the last system software that would run on your Performa.) Look at the front of the computer, near the CD-ROM drive--there should be a small pinhole there. Jam a paperclip in there to force the CD-ROM drive to eject. Then try booting off the Disk Tools floppy that originally came with the computer. (If you don't have that, you should be able to download a copy of that from Apple's Web site, then copy the "disk image" onto a blank floppy--assuming you have a second Mac at your disposal.)

Good luck...

Sterling, Va.: how come, after loading aol 4.0 on my pc, i cannot connect to any internet sites unless i go back to dialing in to my old isp? i have no problem connecting to aol - i just cannot fire up netscape and surf after that. the browser just cooks and cooks and finally tells me the server may be down no matter where i try to go.

Rob Pegoraro: Um, that sounds like a pretty good reason to drop-kick AOL, personally speaking. Not that it's not a fine service for many people.. but if it doesn't work, fire the company. People won't make good software unless they're punished for shipping bad softwaer.

Washington: Dear Rob:

On George Lucas and DVD, here's one hypotheses: do you think he may be more concerned than others about the DVD hack, i.e. the DeCSS program that allows people to copy the DVD? The Star Wars series is his biggest meal ticket.

By the way, many thanks for your helpful response on wireless networking -- I'm the guy who called Bell Atlantic DSL "Speedy" and "Italian," so I hope I haven't totally destroyed my credibility.

Rob Pegoraro: Good question, D.C. (Can I call you DSL Guy now?)

I don't think that's the case, because Lucas has been saying "no DVD of Star Wars" since before the story broke. It would be a silly reason not to release the movies anyway--there are about 5 million DVD players in the U.S. alone. The technology can't be uninvented or recalled. Piracy will happen. Deal with it. Punish the pirates in court--don't punish your customers at home.

Stepping off soapbox now...

Minas Morgul, Mordor: Rob:
I just recently got a dvd player. I noticed that there is an "angle button" on the remote, but all the movies I have come up with operation not enable or some such. What movies use them and where are the best places to get said movies...

Rob Pegoraro: You've obviously been reading too much Tolkien to have heard that the "multiple camera angle" feature is only used with... ahem, movies that are not reviewed in a family newspaper.

Rob Pegoraro: And with that, we're going to knock off early for today. Thanks to all for the questions; if there's any I missed, e-mail me at rob@twp.com or post them in our message boards. Enjoy the weekend... talk to y'all soon.

- Rob

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