Mar 04, 2011

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

... from my 36-hour visit to San Francisco. (It may have been longer if you factor in time in SFO.) So if you've got questions about the iPad 2, I may have answers.

Sorry about the late start, BTW; had a little password hilarity to deal with. Let's go!

I was waiting to buy an ipad2-hoping that the added camera function would allow me to Ichat or skpe with my kids away at college.both have apple laptops. Have been told that they might need to get Iphones to make this work-that their laptops might not have the capacity to do video chats(we use them now do do Ichats). Do you know if this is true ?

Let's start with the major new feature of the iPad 2 (besides the fact that it's OMGnewshinycoolthin!!1!). Right now, the camera only does video calling over Apple's own FaceTime software. That, in turn, only runs on Intel-based Macs and the iPhone 4 and current iPod touch. Now, Apple says it's working to make FaceTime an open standard, but that doesn't seem to have happened yet.

But Skype should be able to use the iPad 2's Webcam once properly updated, just as it can do video calls over the iPhone 4's cameras. That ought to dispel your compatibility issues.

Rob, welcome home! I'm interested in the "idea" of a tablet but not necessarily the cost. For casual web browsing, book reading, and whatever else it's designed for, would the Nook Color suit my needs or would I be better off with one on the recently discounted WiFi-only iPads? Thanks.

If you don't have an attachment to any one e-book store--no books purchased, no inclination either way--you should give the Nook Color a serious look. It's a lot cheaper, at $249, and the browser on it is fine (though I don't konw that I'd want to do a lot of Gmail through that.)

3 very quick questions. Is the new iPad officially the "iPad 2"? What do you take away from Jobs' statements "2011 will be the year of iPad 2." No rumored iPad 3? Finally, if you've handled the IP3, is there a new glare-reducing screen for enhanced readability?

Yes, it's the iPad 2--contrary to the prediction you might have read, multiple times, from some numbskull on this site. (Look, I was expecting Apple to follow its practice of naming each new iPad or iMac just that: "iPod nano" or "iMac," not "iMac 4" or "iPod nano VI.")

The Jobs statement that 2011 will be "the year of the iPad 2" seems to rule out an iPad 3 this year, don't you think?

The iPad 2's screen looked identical to the current model's, although the microfiber coating on the inside of the Smart Cover may help keep it cleaner.

My company has asked me to go pick up an iPad 2 (white) when it comes out next Friday for an upcoming raffle. Do you think I'll need to camp out (i.e., get there by 7am-ish), or can I just walk into an Apple store and buy one when it opens? If I do need to camp out, will only the Apple stores have the iPad 2, or will other stores carry them day 1?

If your company makes you camp out, please bill them for the hours! I'd like to think that people have gotten over the iPad hysteria--Apple is going to make a lot of these things--but history suggests that I will see people on the sidewalk in front of the Apple Store nearest my home.

For day-one purchases, I think you'll need to go to an Apple Store. Apple hasn't announced retail avaialability anywhere else, though I expect that will happen eventually.

I'm planning to buy the ipad 2, but cannot decide whether I need 3G. Would I be better off to get a 4G phone when I can finally upgrade my Droid, and use that to get online with my ipad when I'm on the road?

No, you don't need 3G. Sharing your phone's connection is a much cheaper option (you can do that with your current Droid if you root it, for example).

Is there a Win based Ipad equivalent out there? Good processor, thin, light, some multitasking, email, WiFi only, no contract , for about the same price. I had hoped the IPad success would see competition entering. I covet the thing but need it Win based. I don't need it but I want it. I have checked out some of the Win devices out there but...nothing seems to quite fit the bill. Tina in Falls Church

No. You will probably never see a Windows-based tablet that's "equivalent" to the iPad; Windows has the wrong interface for a touchscreen-only device, and it will need too much processing power to function well on a mobile device, at least until Microsoft can ship the ARM-based version it demoed at CES. You'll have better luck looking for iOS, Android or Web-only equivalents of whatever Windows apps you think you need in a tablet.

I really wanted to like the Xoom, but the price points and wi/fi availability seem out of line with the real competition, the ipad, and now even more so with the Ipad2. Is there any hope that Moto will blink, or will I just end up having to get the ipad2. It is the "proven" commodity between the two. How do you think they compare?

I happen to have a Xoom tablet on the desk next to me, and while it looks nice enough--you're right, the pricing is nuts. Shipping a 3G-only model first is nuts. (Cardinal rule of mobile tech: Do not launch a new platform by letting the carriers introduce it to customers.)

Motorola may blink on the price quickly, but the lack of a WiFi model is a serious problem that can't be fixed so fast.

Do you think they might add this in a future update? I'm leaning toward the 3G version but then if I want to get my other devices online I need to buy other service plans for them. Or I could go mi-fi with any of the carriers but then lose the GPS capabilities of the iPad. I've not figured out a win-win solution yet.

You don't need hot-spot capability on the iPad; you need it on your phone, as I wrote in last weekend's column.

So it sounds like you visited Twitter HQ this week. How is Charlie Sheen's account "Twitter Verified" in 24 hours and they didn't hook a luminary like you up after verifying your identity via an on-site visit? And what's the badge all about anyway. --DZ

I am... embarrassed to admit that I didn't think to ask for that "verified" stamp on my own account. I should have! All the cool kids have one, why not me?

(Answer: I'm not one of the cool kids. I may be cool, but I'm no kid.)

Is the MacBook Air due for a processor/other refresh soon? Is the current Air the best value for a thin laptop, and or is there a PC-compatible competitor that you would recommend?

It's only been out for four months or so. I don't know that it's the best value in that category--I haven't priced out Windows machines of that weight and screen size--but it is a very nice laptop with excellent battery life. If only the smaller model had an SD Card slot and a backlit keyboard...

Do I need to have long-distance service on a land line? Wife and I both have AT&T Blackberry's but we still maintain a Verizon land line. Pre-teen at home does not, and will not (my decision, not hers), carry a cell phone of her own. We're keeping the land line for safety reasons only. Currently paying about 8 bucks a month to AT&T for long distance we never use. Can we ditch it? We have Comcast cable and internet, but their phone plans are more expensive than I'm paying to Verizon. Thanks!

No! Get rid of the calling plan--you don't need one on your line at all. Google Voice provides free domestic long-distance; you call your Google Voice number, enter your PIN (you can disable that for calls from your home phone or any other you designate), press 2, punch in the number and the call completes.

Yeah, we violated Rule 1 by getting the first iteration of a tech device. But then we had it to use for six months. it balances out. We're still happy with it.

Good. You shouldn't feel obliged to rush out and buy the new version of every device. It's not the healthiest habit, economically speaking.

So, I am not completely convinced about the iPad, but would like to join my friends in a game of words with friends (I wish it was just online!) or Angry Birds, etc. Would there be anything I'd need to know security-wise if I picked an old iPad up off craigslist? Any way they put a keylogger or security software that would let them get into my wireless to my other computer etc? Another option is that the old iPad refurbished through Apple are not too terribly expensive. Would I really be missing anything if I got an old one?

The iPad isn't like a phone that comes locked to one carrier and requires some funky activation procedure; you turn it on, connect it to a PC or Mac, use the "restore" command in iTunes to wipe its data and reinstall its software, then sync your own stuff over.

Why the excitement over a white Ipad2 (or a white Iphone4 for that matter)?

I have no idea. None. White surfaces on handheld gadgets are only good for showing off dirt. Black is a much better choice for hiding dirt; plaid or paisley would be better yet, but I don't see Apple going in that direction.

Can the new Ipad do flash and pdfs?

Flash: no, never. PDF: sure.

I am one of those non-tech chumps who bought a MacBook Pro 13" a week before the new version came out. How much will I be missing?

Not a whole lot, besides some pride of ownership. The speed difference is unlikely to matter much for home use. And unless you sling around multi-gigabyte files between a Mac and external drives, the Thunderbolt port will probably do the same job as your MBP's Mini DisplayPort: video and audio output.

Clearly. Otherwise, you'd know that the spelling is: kewl kidz.

You dang kids, get off of my Web chat! [shakes cane]

Now that Apple has announced the iPad2, do you think HP will soon announce a set price/release date for its Web OS Touchpad? And do you think HP will price the basic version for less than a basic iPad2?

They'd better. I suspect that all of these vendors that have introduced tablets without announcing the possibly relevant details of pricing and ship dates were waiting to see what Apple would do--and hoping that Apple would add $100 to the iPad 2's price and then not get it into stores until May.

I don't know that other tablet vendors have to beat Apple on price. But their cheapest models cannot cost more than the low-end iPad. That would be madness.

Now that we're over the iPad 2, we can all move on to the next Apple rumor grist - the iPhone 5, right? So does the May/June launch look like a pretty solid bet? Should I hold off getting the iPhone 4 from Verizon?

No, we can't move on to that rumor.

When will someone make a toy/device with both a keyboard like the Air and a touch screen like the iPad?

I think you're looking for a Bluetooth keyboard--which the iPad does support.

what it means for the iPhone to be a hotspot (or is it hotspot-capable)??

That means the iPhone can use its own WiFi radio to share its Internet connection with other nearby devices.

I am upgrading to the spiffy new iPad2. Should I sell my 1 or jailbreak it for fun?

Do you need the money? I'd think jailbreaking an iPhone would be more fun, or at least more useful: a jailbroken iPhone can have WiFi hotspot support for free.

Go back to Apple store; they will adjust the price for you.

Right! Good tip.

From your previous response: "Flash: no, never."... Why not? Flash works fine on Imacs and Macbooks. Why won't Apple allow it on Ipads? And what happens if you go to a page with Flash content on your Ipad? Can you access the content some other way?

Apple can't keep Flash off Mac OS X. It can on iOS. Why? Apple doesn't like its effects on performance and battery life--see my blog post about Steve Jobs' open letter on the subject--and on the iPad it can enforce that dislike.

If you hit a page with Flash content, you see a missing-plug-in graphic. Apple's bet is that Web authors will ditch Flash in favor of open standards--which, FWIW, I think is the correct answer in the long term. Especially for things like interactive menus, which the Web's own HTML code does quite well. Video is a tougher nut, thanks the industry's inability to pick one standard.

I have an iPhone 4. If I were to purchase an iPad 2, would I need 3G for the iPad? I am not sure what you meant by "sharing your phone's connection."

Sharing means... sharing. Im sorry I can't make this simpler than that.

Anyway: No, you don't need 3G on an iPad 2. With the iOS 4.3 update coming to your iPhone 4, you'll be able to tap a "personal hotspot" button and let a nearby device, like the iPad, borrow its Internet access over WiFi.

We have a land line along with two cells but was told we could not have the long distance charge for "access" removed from our bill because we don't need it. Let everyone know how to do it if it is possible.

We had a no-monthly-charge LD service at home for a while (it was a pay 5 cents/min. option). At some point, that stopped working, and then we had no LD and no charge either. We have not tinkered with the bill since. You can look up options at a site called ABTolls.com.

My wife and I have resisted Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. because of privacy concerns. Are we being overly cautious?

Yes. Do you have credit cards? Do you own a home? Those activities expose far more of your data than you would publish on those sites in normal use.

What? No Itones in the cloud?

And no iTunes either. You didn't really believe that rumor after it's been wrong so many times before, did you? Apple might introduce such a thing if it sees itself threatened by others (maybe Rdio, maybe Spotify if it ever crosses the Atlantic). Doesn't seem to be happening.

Hi Rob, If I rememer correctly when the iPad first came out your review was not enthusiastic (although in fairness you certainly didn't trash it either). Looking back, why were you and so many other's initial perception so off on what would become the most successful consumer product ever launched? Would you attribute it to "there's on born every minute" or "a fool and his money are soon parted"? Does anyone still think nobody will buy it because it's name sounds too much like a feminine hygiene product?

Thanks for reminding me to look up that review. You're right; I called it "good" but "not great." My critiques:

* No multitasking: Now resolved with the iOS 4.2 update.

* No Flash: More Web sites have dumped Flash. This doesn't bother me as much.

* Lack of easy ways to move data on/off the device: Still kind of a mess. Having to do things through iTunes is all wrong. But there are more cloud-connected apps (Evernote, for instance) that do away with computer sync entirely.

I am, in general, a skeptic about a lot of tech debuts. I'd rather look too grumpy months after the fact than realize that I'd oversold something's virtues to readers.

I am a long time user of quicken for my personal finances and bill paying. I'll be taking a year-long assignment across the country; my husband will stay here in DC. How can we both have access to quicken with our bank downloads, etc? Does it make sense to migrate to a web-based system, or should we instead look into a way I can remotely access our home computer? Thanks.

Yes, you should move to the Web--I'd use Quicken's excellent Mint.com (even if you can't upload or sync your existing Quicken data to it).

A trial version of Office 2007 came with my laptop that I bought two years ago. It consistently interferes with my Office 2003. The usual removal of programs does not work, even after repeated attempts. What should I do to remove this endless frustration? My operating system was originally Vista, but I have since installed Windows 7 Premium.

The phrase "does not work" is, I'm afraid, one of the less-informative descriptions you can give in computing. Is there a specific error message you get? Some other sign of trouble? In Windows (and in OS X), there are a great deal of ways for things not to work.

Ok, so the iPad and now the iPad 2 are pretty cool, but what am I supposed to DO with them? Not really laptops, not smartphones, too big for my pocket, too power hungry and expensive to be an e-books reader, too awkward to play video games. I guess it would be good for having access to all kinds of media while on a flight or something. But, why exactly is this thing the greatest invention since the iPhone?

Do you have a laptop sitting on a coffee table? You may find the iPad can do its job pretty well. Think of it as a lightweight window to the Web that can also run apps of its own--without any of the usual maintenance burden of a "real" computer.

Good morning, Rob: I am a first time questioner, but just this morning saw a YouTube videoclip that seemed to be from a broadcast news program describing how an individual can track down a location from a photograph posted anywhyere online (Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter, etc.). They showed examples of photos of children taken by their parents on a smart phone and posted online, where the child's home, even bedroom, daycare, school, and park locations were found out by someone who used the photo to obtain this information. I checked Snopes on this and there was no article there. First, is this really true? And if so, does the same apply for a photo taken with a smart phone and then emailed to someone via that same phone? Barbara H, Pennsylvania

As a rule, you should be a little wary of scary stories on local TV news about the big, bad Internet. That said: Yes, smartphones can tag photos the location you took them at. But this feature is usually not on by default (I'm pretty sure it's off on the iPhone, for instance). And if you're posting photos to Facebook, only your friends should able to see them anyway.

Posting family photos on a public site like Twitter or Craigslist--that's a privacy problem, all right, but it's one you create yourself.

Rob, I'm definitely interested in the Xoom and Honeycomb (having had a Nexus One I'm more than willing to wait for the OS updates to catch up with the hardware). But I don't need another data plan in my life. That's why the rampant internet rumors (complete with photos) of a certain warehouse club (begins with a man's first name) preparing to sell a WiFi version for $539 is intriguing. Have you heard anything about this or about a possible release date and price for a WiFi only version generally?

I've heard no more than you. But if Motorola doesn't get a WiFi-only model in the market, pronto, it's asking to get run over by the iPad 2.

Thanks for your great work. You mentioned in your last chat that you were going to blog on your experience w/rooting an Cyanogen. I am about to take the plunge and was looking forward to reading what you had to say. Did I miss it or is it still forthcoming?

Still forthcoming. I've had a couple of hiccupts with the software that I should document, but I also just haven't had time to finish what will be a fairly involved post. I'd say I could tackle that this afternoon--but with three other items on my to-do list, I'm not going to pretend it's going to get done today.

Where can I find your standard plasma vs led tv advice?

The column I wrote on that is now a few years old, but I can summarize an updated version of its advice this way: Get LCD--with a matte finish, not glossy, on the screen--unless your TV-viewing room has few if any windows. Plasma has a major glare issue (as do LCDs with glossy screens). Plasma is a lot heavier too, so avoid that if you'll be hanging the screen on the wall.

Plasma does generate deeper blacks and has a faster refresh rate, but those differences have vanished in practice. This isn't something you need to stress over.

The other thing is, LCD ("LED" TVs are LCDs with LED backlights, which use less electricity and offer better picture quality than fluorescent backlights) has become the standard tech for most TV vendors. Panasonic still offers only plasma sets in larger screen sizes, but it is pretty much alone in that respect.

With the last iOS update, Apple lowered the power supply to the camera connection kit which meant that you could now longer use this loophole to power additional USB accessories except a camera. Any predictions on the new iOS update and the potential to use additional USB accessories on the iPad2?

No idea--but I hadn't heard about that last change. Hmm.

I called my cable company recently, thinking with our Roku box, it was time to cut the cord. However, I found out that the price for Internet and the landline (my wife doesn't want to get rid of that) increased sharply, almost negating any savings. Have you noticed this or heard of this?

That's a risk with "triple play" bundles. But you don't need to keep your cable company's phone service; switch that back to Verizon and then see what your Internet access costs. Which cable company is this, BTW? Comcast says they no longer charge extra for Internet access without TV (that used to incur a $15/month surcharge, as I recall).

My daughter has a two-year-old HP laptop with Vista that is running very, very slow. There's no viruses or spyware on it that we know of. I'm thinking of reinstalling Vista, but should I simply swap out Vista for Windows 7 first, to see if the laptop runs a little faster?

Yes, yes, yes. Put Win 7 on that thing.

Rob, you need to let the questioners know that the Hotspot option on IPhone 4 is not free with the base data plans on ATT and Verizon (unless you jailbreak your phone).

Yes, it's $20/month extra. But you can turn that on and off on a month-by-month basis (doing the same with the 3G plan on the iPad 3G was not so easy when I checked--you had to cancel your entire account).

Also check to see if the Hard drive is almost full. I installed larger drives in my kid's laptops and it increased their speed significantly.

Good advice. Thanks...

... am meeting a few Mozilla developer and marketing types for lunch to hear what they have planned for Firefox. Thanks for all the questions; I should be back here 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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