Feb 18, 2011

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

What can I tell you?

Ron, thank you for taking my question. I bought a Nokia Nuron a few months ago because I got a deal with T-Mobile for $50 for the phone. I been with T-Mobile for many, many years. My question is with all this talk lately about Nokia joining forces with MS, will my Nuron become a paperweight? As you probably surmised, I'm not into have a true smart phone. I don't need all of what's on them. I just wanted a more updated phone, that gave me the option to do certain things if I wanted to, ie: send/rec email, availability of certain apps, so on. The real deciding factor on the Nuron, beside the price, was the sound quality of my calls, which has been great. What do you foresee for my Nuron?

The fact that this is the first question I've gotten about Nokia in months should tell you something about the company's prospects. (In case you missed it, it announced last Friday that it's going to scrap its Symbian and Meego operating systems and switch to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.)

I would expect continued bug fixes for your Nuron, and maybe a software update if one's already in the works. Otherwise, the phone you have is the one you'll keep. I.e., Nokia's not going to send a self-destruct signal to it in a year.

There was an article in the Health section of the WP on Tuesday about adding the Flux program to your computer that will change the color of your monitor at night to help with sleep problems. I loaded it on my MacBookPro and I do not like it at all, however the only icon I can find for the program is grayed out and it won't let me delete it because it says it is running. I cannot open the program or find any place where I can turn it on or off. Please help. Thanks.

Open your Applications folder, then the Utilities folder inside that. Then open the Activity Monitor program there. Type "flux" into its search box, select the app and click the "Quit Process" stop-sign button. Then you should be able to drag the Flux app icon to the trash.

Just sent a question about how to remove F.lux. I figured it out, so please disregard it.

Oh, and here I missed your answer to your own question. Was your fix the one I suggested?

Hi, Rob, I rarely move my laptop, but wanted to show someone a live-stream from Egypt when Mubarak resigned, so I clicked "sleep," unplugged it, and carried it a few yards -- no stairs, no bumping or shaking. When I plugged it back in, a warning came on that the clock had reset to ... I think it was 1969 (sometime years before there were laptop computers!). I reset the clock to the correct date, but then the same thing happened again when I clicked "sleep" and carried it back to the bedroom! I know this can't be good, but -- Is it important? What does it mean? It's a PowerBook G4, and I use it without a battery since someone at the Apple store told me that it shortens the battery's life to leave it in and active. Should I just reattach the battery if I want to move it again? And, although it doesn't help with my problem, I'm curious why the computer's internal calendar goes back decades before the computer was made? Thanks!!

The clock weirdness probably relates to the motherboard battery on the laptop expiring--that's what stores the system time and other parameters. Those things do go bad; see this tech-support thread for a discussion of the issue.

As for the year--sure it wasn't 1970? Unix-based operating systems, including Mac OS X, start their internal clock at o:00:00, Jan. 1, 1970 by default.

I question the leave-out-the-main-battery suggestion. Apple's own advice is simply not to leave the laptop plugged-in full-time.

When I had a Comcast DVR there was an option on it for recording to DVD. (Well actually it said "Record to VCR} but I could use that option to record shows I wanted to keep from the DVR to a DVD using my recordable DVD player. Now I have Verizon FiOS and they don't have that option. My DVD recorder does not have a tuner in it so I am assuming that it has to be hooked up through the cable box to record. This may seem like a stupid question, but is there a way to record directly to the DVD. I know it still has to go through the cable box and it is set up that way, but I just don't think I have it set up right because I can't get it to work. Can you help? Thank you.

This is yet another reason why I don't like DVRs--as a class of device, they don't recognize the concept of archiving anything. In this case, you'll have to run audio and video cables from the outputs of the DVR to the inputs of your DVD recorder, set the DVD recorder to "tape" off the proper set of inputs, then press play on the DVR and record on the DVD--just like dubbing a tape in the '80s, if you're old enough to remember that.

Rob, Do Apple blog posts get more hits than non-Apple postings? There sure have been a lot lately. I love Apple; my eMac is still running strong but there is certain point where all the speculation is a bit much for something that is just a phone. Albeit it a pretty special one.

I don't have any specific numbers for you, but the general trend is clear--there is intense and, to me, somewhat odd interest in what Apple is up to. You might want to read the thread on this topic I participated in on the Quora Q&A site.

Hi, Rob — I dropped my iPhone and need to look for a replacement pretty soon. I can get a free-ish AT&T upgrade to any of these: Palm Pixi Plus, Samsung Jack, Blackberry Pearl 3G, HTC Aria, Sharp FX, Blackberry Curve 8900 or 8520, or Pantech Link. I really like the iPhone’s functionality, but my fingers don’t do well on the virtual keyboard. A lot of the reviews of these non-Apple phones complained about freezing and other Windowsy problems. Am I going to be happy with one of these other phones, or should I save up for a new iPhone?

I would get the HTC Aria. It's an Android phone, so it's got the same Web access as the iPhone and a comparable selection of apps (better in some categories--mapping and navigation are much better on Android). The BlackBerry models, AFAICT, run the older version of BlackBerry's software, which is even worse than the current, mediocre BlackBerry 6. The Pixi Plus is an old model without an upgrade to the upcoming webOS 2.0 (though you might like its physical keyboard) and the other two phones are "feature phones"--i.e., not smartphones.

Rob: I'm new to Facebook so forgive the simple questions but I hope you'll answer them. 1. My spouse and I have shared a primary email address for years and when I set up a Facebook account in my name (I couldn't see how to do a duo Facebook), the contacts in the account apparently were scanned for Facebook addresses and loaded. However, when I went to set up a Facebook for my spouse, Facebook refused to use the same contacts and wouldn't accept the primary account as the "security" address. That makes no sense to me. People have shared mainline phone numbers for years so why not email accounts? 2. How does one log off Facebook? Does it stay on until I get off my online connection? I don't find Facebook very user friendly. Thanks for your help.

She'll need to get a separate e-mail account. Any one will do--Gmail, Hotmail, whatever.

The contacts were probably imported when you clicked "yes" at a "Find your friends" link--it's a standard option at most social-networking sites.

To log out of Facebook, click the "Account" link at the top right and select "Logout" from that menu.

I use Yahoo email. All too often the recipients see my paragraphs broken into all kinds of line lengths, making it difficult to read. I try to wrap around, but it still happens. It even happens even when I cut and paste excerpts from emag articles. Any suggestions?

Are these friends using really old e-mail programs? Word wrap hasn't been an issue with most mail clients since the '90s.

Hi Rob- Is there a limit to porting your number to a prepaid service? Ex. can I take my number from ATT, my present company, to Boost Mobile, and then eventually to Verizon/other company at some point?

There's no limit, as long as you don't let an account expire somewhere.

So I'm probably going to use Google's 2-step security for my Gmail account, but I don't want to have to access a second code every time I log in. If I set it to prompt me every 30 days, though, doesn't that pretty much defeat the purpose? Wouldn't that just mean that my account is blocked to hackers once every 30 days, instead of all the time?

Yes, that is a problem. FWIW, I haven't enabled two-step authentication myself yet. I may try it on one of my Google Apps accounts first to see how things go there.

Do you think web/app-enabled TVs are the future of TV/computer integration or will it be more set top box+"dumb tvs?" With my XBOX, laptop and Roku, I' think it a better value to buy an HDTV as a mere "monitor" rather than spending money chasing TV's w/apps and connectivity. I wonder what your thoughts are. Thanks!

The industry seems to be betting, heavily, on Web smarts in TVs. Every manufacturer I checked out at CES not only had an array of apps on their sets but also some kind of app store to add more.

The risk with that strategy is that the software gradually gets stale--but since most people don't trade in TVs every few years, the user is stuck with it.

Girlfriend just became eligible for an upgrade...and she would desperately love to leave the aging BB she has. So she turns to me, a somewhat avid techie. Should she hold off given the dual core phones coming out in the next quarter or should she go with a Droid X? I like my Droid X, but I salivate at the doubling of processor speed. Thoughts?

I don't know that she'll place the same priority as you on a dual-core processor in a phone. Any new Android phone she gets will seem ridiculously faster than her BlackBerry.

If she likes the BB keyboard, I'd suggest the Droid 2 over the Droid X.

I've had an HTC Touch Pro 2 for about 2 years now. It is an ok phone, but great for business use with its exchange and office applications. I have been waiting for the new Windows 7 phone from Sprint, the HTC 7 pro. I keep hearing it will come out soon, but they are waiting for Microsoft to put out a CDMA version. I've also heard that the phone will only be 3G. This seems to me to be an indication that Sprint is far behind the curve. Should I change carriers?

Nobody else is offering a 4G Windows Phone 7 device (I can't bring myself to write "Windows Phone 7 phone"); that's not just Sprint. I can assure you that the HTC 7 Pro does exist--I saw it at CES. But I can also tell you that Sprint seems to be putting much more effort into its Android lineup of phones.

WAMU fundraising kepps mentioning an Insignia portable HD radio. Sunds interesting for doing yard work and stuff. Anyone have experience with this? I thought about a table top HD radio but the antenna would be a problem...very hard to get it to a window and no roof antenna at my house. Thanks, Tina in Falls Church

Ah, pledge week... aka, "Rob hits the snooze button more often week." (Sorry, WAMU! My support consists of showing up on Kojo's show whenever you all see fit to invite me.)

That Insignia model has been around for a while--my blog post about it dates to July of 2009--but I still have to hear any first-hand reports about it from buyers. Maybe I will after donors to this year's pledge drive get their radios. 

Why the Xoom cost so much when they get the Android for free?

We're talking about Motorola's upcoming Android tablet, which will apparently cost $800 in its 3G version (upgradable to 4G) and $600 in a WiFi version. Moto will say "look, you get 32 GB of memory and a Web cam"--but when buyers see this next to a $499 iPad, they're more likely to think "this is $100 more than the tablet everybody says I should get."

I think the Android tablet manufacturers are going to have to accept some thin profit margins--they have to match Apple on price, which will be hard considering the volume discounts Apple has locked up on touchscreens and flash memory.

seems to have mixed customer reviews, and is unavailable at Newegg.com and others. (1) Have you tried it, and if so, what did you think? and (2) Does the unavailability mean it's no longer in production?

Never even heard of it. But if you can't buy it... you probably shouldn't buy it.

Although I haven't had a chance to look a the HTC Inspire, I'll pass along a vote for the HTC Aria. I have heard complaints that the screen is too small but I prefer a smaller phone -- I want to be able to fit the phone into my jeans pocket and I don't want to look like I'm wearing a utility belt. If you're interested in the latest and greatest OS, though, I'm not sure that AT&T will ever get around to updating the platform to Android 2.2. Having said that, it's easy to root and update the OS on your own (not that I would do it, but it's easy to un-root also if you need to send the phone in under warranty).

Thanks for the testimony!

FWIW, I updated my own Android phone last weekend with a third-party ROM, Cyanogen 6.1. I'll save the details for a blog post, but I would sum up my reaction so far as: I wish I'd done this earlier. It's like I've got a new phone.

I hear the Flux Capacitor can also be an issue...

Well, not until you hit 88 mph.

Hey Rob, I have OTA HD reception and use netflix over our Wii as a supplement. The Wii doesn't offer Hulu+ (presumably because Hulu+'s shareholders hate profit) - what am I missing? I'd kind of like to get a wifi equipped blu-ray player, but not if there's no real difference between Hulu+ and netflix on demand!

I don't find Hulu Plus as attractive as Netflix; the latter has a much wider selection and runs on far more devices. Hulu needs to work on the selection of Plus--which, to be fair, is improving, as it's regained Comedy Central and just added the Criterion movie library. (Here's my review, which predates those additions.)

Any thoughts on why the Verizon debut of the iPhone wasn't as successful as Apple/Verizon thought? Do you think it has something to do with people realizing that Apple is not the only game in town anymore (Android), or that they are all waiting for LTE or the iPhone 5 this summer? Or is everyone stuck in 2 year contracts that they aren't willing to break for an old phone?

There's only anecdotal evidence so far of "lackluster" sales--but the fact that neither Apple nor Verizon has seen fit to brag about them should tell you something in its own right.

I suspect the timing is a major factor--summer isn't that far off. (Considering how it is outside today, it feels like summer is only a week away.) But, yeah, the iPhone is nice but it's not the only good phone. People have had plenty of time to realize that while the iPhone was an AT&T-only device.

If I need to upgrade my phone now, should I still wait for 4G to come to my area? It seems to be rolling out slowly on all carriers. Is it worth waiting for?

I've tried enough 4G phones to find that the faster service doesn't make a huge difference unless you either tether the phone to a laptop or you're in a really overloaded signal environment (when everybody's 3G phones are getting the equivalent of busy signals, being one of a minority of 4G users can pay off).

Why does the Post use so many different systems for chats and posting comments? You're using the newer system. It refreshes automatically. Other chats use the older system that does not. And the looks are different. As for commenting, articles use one system. There seem to be 2 different systems for blogs and columns. The older one is used by Post Leadership and the On Faith blogs. Another one, which asks you to "Weigh In," is used by The Fix. This would not present an issue, except for browser security settings. Your former colleague Brian Krebs recommended using NoScript with Firefox. I do, but I can't get it to work with Weigh In. Do you know which scripts I must allow for Weigh In to work? I emailed the Ombudsman, but have yet to receive a substantive reply. It looks like the Post has a Balkanized IT department, with each little kingdom using its own system. I hope the Post is not this Dilbertian.

We prefer the term "federal system" to "Balkanized."

Rob, I see TrendNet has come out with a 450Mb wireless router. Trouble is, I can't find any 450Mb receivers. Does anyone make a wireless receiver at that speed?

Somebody probably does. But, seriously, what's the home-use case for that kind of speed?

Rob, Another laptop battery related question. Someone told me that whenever possible one should use the laptop with the power cord unplugged so that it is powered by the battery. Is that true? I get only tour hours of battery life so I tend to keep the laptop plugged into the AC during the day. I am told that this can damage the battery because it does not fully discharge often.

If laptop batteries were really that sensitive to how they're used, laptops wouldn't dominate the computing market. The basic rule of thumb is that you should avoid the extremes--constant charge-discharge cycles shorten the battery's life, but keeping it plugged in full-time isn't good either.

I'm somewhat new to Blu-ray (a player was given to me as a Xmas gift), and I'm curious about firmware updates. My player is an LG model, and since December, so far it's only downloaded one firmware update. Only one. I was actually kind of expecting them to come more frequently, much like Windows updates do. I guess I'm just wondering how frequently firmware updates are issued. Thanks!

You're not saying that you'd prefer your Blu-ray player to have the same maintenance needs as Windows, are you? Just checking... no, firmware updates in the electronics world don't come as often as in the computing world. These are simpler devices, without the security risks of full-fledged computers (i.e., the only way most can run new software code is if it's delivered in a firmware update; they can't run any random app off the Internet.)

Hi Rob, I just upgraded to HDTV and upgraded my DVD player/recorder to Blu-ray at the same time. I was kinda disappointed to learn that I've given up my ability to record DVDs - the tech guy said recording was still limited for Blu-ray machines. I know I could hook up a separate recorder, but I'd rather not. Any thoughts on when/if recordable machines might become available? I know DVD is a fading format, but there are some shows and films I would like to have in that format.

You can buy Blu-ray recorders for your TV--you'll just have to hop a plane to Tokyo first. (I believe United and ANA have nonstops from Dulles, if you're free this weekend.) Why Japan-only? One reason I hear a lot is that in Japan, there's a standard for tuning into subscription services--cable, satellite, whatever. None exists here.

The less convincing reason I here is that "people don't want to archive anymore." Oh really? Then why do I keep seeing questions like yours?

I waited for it to come to Verizon (and for me to be willing to spend the money). It's cool, it's useful, it's worth it. Maybe I'm atypical.

Sure, but you're not all "OMG greatest phone EVAR!!1!" That's the sort of reaction I would have expected from some of the more breathless coverage of the runup of the Vz iPhone launch. (I'm thinking of a gag-inducing Fortune cover with a headline like "Get Ready For The Dream Phone.")

Another piece of advice that may be relevant on recording from a DVR to a DVD recorder: On some DVRs, or with some DVD recorders, you may need to make sure you change the output to 480i. Most of them no longer require this, but I recall that my old HD DirecTV TiVo box (the HR10-250, prior to when they switched to marketing their own DVRs) always told me to do this when I used the "record to VCR" option, using the DVD recorder in lieu of a VCR of course. I guess it's simply a precaution to ensure that the DVD recorder will recognize the signal, perhaps because some older units are less compatible?

Something else to consider. (There's no technical reason a DVD recorder couldn't record at 480p, but I don't know of any that offer that feature.)

My wife plans to purchase a netbook for her frequent travels from CT to DC. She will use it on the train (no WiFi), hotel, and airports. We plan to have Skype chats during her trips. What features are most important in selecting a netbook? Which accessories? Do you have any recommendations for a best buy? She plans to carry it in her briefcase.

Netbooks are about the only category of computer where I'd suggest paying attention to the processor: Many of them have used seriously underpowered Intel Atom chips. So the faster CPU you can get, the better. Battery life matters a lot too, although you can't take the vendor's claims to the bank.

FYI, Amtrak just announced that it will be bringing free WiFi to Northeast Regional trains, following its debut on the Acela. But you won't be able to use Skype--Amtrak blocks streaming audio and video to conserve bandwidth--and even regular Web browsing can be very slow at peak times, as I've seen on my last few trips on the Acela to/from NYC.

There are a zillion doojiggers that claim to put the Internet (streaming video and widgets) on my TV. Do I get one of them or buy a new TV with that built in? I need a new TV anyway.

It's a lot simpler to have Web software built into your TV--there's no extra remote and no need to switch inputs. But look to make sure you've got access to a good range of services. I would consider Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus to be a minimum; if the TV has an app store that lets you add, say, MLB.tv, then you should have the functional equivalent of a Roku.

OTOH, a Roku only costs $60, so I wouldn't spend too much extra on "connected TV" functionality.

I have an iPad and a blackberry for work. What would be some reasons I would still want an iPhone?

To replace the BlackBerry? Otherwise, no. If you've got a free phone and service through work, it's hard to beat that price.

Facebook questioner here: In the future please don't assume that the person asking the question is "He" as in "she'll need..." I'm the "computer tech" for our household; my spouse never met a direction or manual he ever liked! He provides muscle if needed while I interpret the directions for anything technical.

Good point. Thank you for making it.

I keep reading about a kindle software update with "real" page numbers. Leaving aside the utility of that, I updated my Kindle 2 and got no such thing. Is it limited to Kindle 3?

I believe it is; Amazon's help page says it's only supported on the "latest generation" Kindle.

I have a Droid Eris (now a dinosaur, apparently). I'm happy with it aside from it being exceptionally slow. Would rooting it speed it up?

Not by much, although if you could free up some system memory by junking carrier-installed apps you can get a minor speed boost. You'd really need to flash the ROM for that... unfortunately, I can't recommend a particular ROM for you (Cyanogen Mod, the one I used, doesn't support the Eris.)

This may be a bit of a stretch for this chat, but I figured I'd ask anyway. Earlier this week I was burning a DVD-Audio disc for use in the car. (Why that format? Because it can hold seven times as much Red Book audio as a CD can. I can fit the Beatles' first ten albums on a single DVD-A, for instance, which beats hauling 11 CDs in the glove compartment.) Some of the files I was using were .M4A purchased AAC downloads from the iTunes store. The DVD-A process requires that I convert all the files to .WAV, then use an encoder to create the .ISO file, then burn that .ISO file to DVD. On the whole it's straightforward, but I have about five of the purchased iTunes files that simply don't seem to make the conversion--when I start playing those tracks, they'll play for 10 or 15 seconds and go dead. But what's weird is that the .WAV files play perfectly well on my PC. It doesn't matter how I convert them to .WAV (via iTunes, via dbpoweramp, whatever)--they play fine on the PC but they punk out when I play the DVD-A either in the car or on my Marantz universal player at home. None of the purchased files are DRM-encoded, either. Do you have any idea what might cause this? And do you think it might help to try burning all of the problem files to a CD-RW, then re-ripping them to .WAV? Yeah, I realize this is a bit esoteric for most readers, but I figured if anyone kne why this sort of issue happens, you might.

You are right about this being esoteric (though no more so than the "how do I convert lossless WMA to MP3?" question I got earlier, and still need to research). I'd try the burn-to-CD workaround.

I run XP and use internet explorer. For some reason there is a setting that thinks I live in Kalespell, Montana. I live in Salmon Idaho. What and where is the setting that will stop me from getting ads and deals from Kalspell? Gary

I'd have to guess that you're using an Internet provider based in Kalispell; the Internet Protocol address it assigns your computer looks like you're in Kalispell instead of Salmon. That's how most "geo-targeted" ads work--they just know you by your Internet provider, wherever that may be.

I have been looking recently at several WiFi devices for the kitchen counter, from Sony and HP. Though the devices offer photo's, weather, social site viewing, movies and internet radio, they have not satisfied a target market. Is it too early to expect battery backup, touch screen entry, video chat without the tablet indoctrination for the kitchen or bedroom.

I don't see anything but a tablet (iPad, maybe Android or the upcoming HP TouchPad) working for those uses. There are small Web display devices like Sony's Dash and Chumby's receivers, but they don't include video chat.

I think PC's have 'error correction' that helps them get past digital problems that some players can't deal with...I've had some digital files that will just NOT PLAY in a stand alone player. Re-Rip, re-purchase, or you can get lucky doing some converting (to almost anything) to get a non-corrupted version.

That does happen. A while back, I had an audio CD that played fine in a regular CD player, but which I could not rip without errors--no matter what computer and what program I tried.

Perhaps streaming movies to your tv. Perhaps just to separate yourself if you live in a crowded area and everyone is on the 2.4G/54Mb band. Myself, I've got a 2 channel wireless and I use the 5Mb/300 exactly for that reason. Speed is good!!

Avoiding interference is a better reason--although any 802.11n WiFi router should work for that, at least until everybody else upgrades to n.

We are a family with four people and four computers - two laptops and top deak tops. All have some data files, lots of pictures and music (Itunes) and of course email messages. What is the easiest and least expensive way to backup all of of this informaiton. We have external hard drive but that only backs up when I copy things onto its hard drive, I don't know where to find the emails (outlook express) to copy them to the hard drive and the drive is not even connected to lap tops. Please help!!!

You're forgiven for not knowing where to find your OE e-mails--Microsoft not only puts that data in a directory that's hidden by default, it then names the OE data folder not "Outlook Express" or "OE" but "Identities."

Good backup software will let you specify the apps you use and then find their data folders for you (Mozy's software does this, for example).

One backup app that might work for you, if you get a "network attached storage" (NAS) drive, is the free CrashPlan. That will let you run backups over your network to that drive. Which reminds me, I'm due to give that another try.

Rob: I get notices from Microsoft that there is a new version of MSE available and I should update. So I download it, only to find that I can't open it. The icon appears on the desktop and taskbar, but it is unresponsive. So my only alternative is to remove MSE and redownload the new version, a laborious process given the updating and scanning the update goes into. Do you have any idea why this happens? Thanks.

Uh, that's Windows being Windows? These things just sometimes happen in that operating system.

Too bad that recent reports have the N97 not being a smaller iPhone, just a dumbed down version. What about all the people (like me) who don't want or need a smartphone with a data plan and all that, but just want a simple phone. An iPhone nano with a small form factor and Apple design could be pretty cool. If you made the current iPod nano a phone with some slight tweaks, I'd be all over that. Basically, I want my phone to be a small wafer. I have bluetooth headphones at work and integrated in the car, I don't need to hold it up to my head, I just want something small that won't take up space.

Sounds like you'd prefer the upcoming HP Veer, a compact phone running Palm's webOS.

When my MacBook Pro was new, almost 2 year ago, a fully charged battery would register almost 10 hours. Now I am getting only a little over 5. I try to let the battery go almost all the way down before recharging it like Apple suggests but am getting concerned. Is this normal for the battery? Thanks.

No, that's not normal. Apple says "The built-in battery of your MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air is designed to deliver up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles before it reaches 80 percent of its original capacity." No way you should have hit 1,000 cycles in two years. Take it to an Apple Store and have the Genius Bar check it out. 

With the new operating systems like Windows 7 and Droid, it seems that Linux has dropped out of the horizon (they certainly missed the boat with Netbook latops). As well, since Goggle is planning a Droid OS for PCs/laptops due by summer, what is your opinion on Linux for consumers?

I think it's got a future... when people don't know it's Linux. Android is Linux-based, but you don't see that. Same with many of the quick-boot options on laptops, where you can select a simpler software configuration to play music or videos or whatever. But Linux as Linux just hasn't taken off, even though Ubuntu and other distributions have improved greatly in recent years. One reason: Windows 7 isn't as bloated as Vista, making it a reasonable choice on netbooks. Linux had more of a chance there when the only Windows option was the aging XP.

I have a HP Photosmart C4795 that all the sudden won't copy - when I try the scanner light doesn't even come on and the machine just twiddles its thumbs. The printing function from computer documents is fine. I've tried all the ususal - restart, turn off, unplug from power and reinstall software. Is it a lost cause?

If it won't even function as a copier in standalone mode... yup, you're probably out of luck. On the upside, a new printer/scanner/copier may cost less than a fresh set of ink cartridges for your model.

It's extraordinarily nice outside. So I'm going to have lunch there instead of continuing to type here, if that's OK with everybody. Thanks for all the questions - I should be back in a couple of weeks.

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Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post's Fast Forward columnist Rob Pegoraro, writes about computers, the Internet and consumerconsumer electronics. His latest tech thoughts and tips are cultivated daily on his blog Faster Forward.

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