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Personal Tech: Holiday Gift Guide

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro was online for a final time this year to offer ground rules for buying on the cutting edge and answer your questions about the hottest gadgets.

Rob will also answer your questions on Firefox 1.5, the Web browser he reviewed on Sunday.

A transcript follows .

In the 2005 Tech Gift Guide , Rob offered insights for buying digital cameras , mp3 players and home computers . He also filed three audio reports on the same topics. Listen to shopping tips for: digital cameras ; mp3 players and home computers .

Want to know what upcoming topics are being covered? Sign up for the Fast Forward e-letter -- get updated information on personal technology news and product demos.

Past editions of Rob's e-letter are online here .

Rob Pegoraro: Good afternon! Only four and a half shopping days left until Christmas--you can imagine my relief. This is my last chat before that deadline, and my last of the year. On with the Q&A...


Kenner, Louisiana: What should I look for when buying a LCD television for my bedroom? What should it cost?

Rob Pegoraro: An ATSC digital tuner, without which you can't watch any digital broadcasts (or, after 2009, any over-the-air broadcasts at all) without yoking an extra tuner box to the set. Unfortunately, you can't as yet get one built into a screen smaller than, I think, 23, or 26 inches. (That's why I don't have an LCD TV on my shopping list this year.)


Arlington, VA: We would like to buy a camcorder but are unsure of which type. We're considering the JVC Everio line with the built-in harddrives so we don't have to worry about tapes. What are your thoughts on this technology? Are these worth the money? We have an Apple iBook and would like to do basic editing and save the movies on our computer or burn to DVD but do not currently own a camcorder.

Rob Pegoraro: I've been trying out an Everio camcorder lately, and I do like it overall. It's substantially smaller and lighter than MiniDV or mini-DVD camcorders, and the video looks great at the two highest settings. OTOH, with a hard drive you've got a fixed limit on how much you can tape--I mean, record. Once you've maxed out the drive, you have to delete footage or hook it up to a laptop to transfer that (a task made more difficult than necessary by JVC's omitting a FireWire port). Also, the Everio's battery life has been pretty weak in my testing--not even an hour.

I'm pretty sure that most camcorders will use hard drives to store video in the future, but I'm not sure that JVC's logo will be on a big chunk of them.


Washington, DC: I bought Star Wars 1-6, and I really want to pull all of the battle scenes out and burn them to one DVD, but I can't seem to get it to work. Any ideas? Do I have to go out and buy a multi-DVD changer, and is there a way to make it only play the scenes I want?

Also, thanks for introducing me to Firefox! Do you know how I can go about getting my gov't agency to allow us to install this?

Thanks for all the great columns and chats - here is another vote for much more frequent chats from you at minimum. It would also be great if Help File became a more regular/larger/both feature. One thing I would like to see is a review for those of us who can't afford the big-bucks tech equipment, so an occasional article on sub-$150 digital cameras and sub-$500 computers and the like would be great!


washingtonpost.com: Fast Forward: Firefox Moves Farther Ahead of the Hunt

Rob Pegoraro: How can I not take this question? :)

What you need is one of the DVD-ripping programs that the MPAA doesn't want you to know about--because, after all, it's illegal to use things you own. Hit a site called

Digital Digest

for info on that.


Lincoln, RI: Hi Rob,

I bought my nano primarily so I could listen to it in the car. The $80 Belkin FM adapter was a bust (couldn't find any "free" stations in metro area). I took your advice from a recent chat and bought a cassette adapter (Belkin). That was also a bust - It was so static-y that it was unlistenable.

I've searched the online forums and can't find a consensus on the best adapters. Should I just try them all, one by one, and hang on to the receipts? Can you help?

Rob Pegoraro: There's no reason that a cassette adapter shouldn't deliver good sound right out of the box. Have you cleaned the heads on your car's tape deck any time lately?


Manassas, VA: How long until you think we'll have a decent supply of Xbox 360's in local stores?

I've gotta have something to put all that christmas money and gift cards i'm sure to get towards...

Do you think the supply shortage was planned by microsoft to build hype?

washingtonpost.com: Mistake or Not, Xbox 360's Disappearing Act Feeds Cycle of Hype (December 17, 2005)

Rob Pegoraro: No, I don't think that was deliberate. *Every* game console in the last decade has launched with major supply shortages.

I'm sure this will clear up sometime after 1/1/06.


Rockville, Md.: Rob, I believe you've mentioned several times now that an ATSC digital tuner is more or less essential, right? If so, does that mean we shouldn't consider getting monitors that are merely "HDTV-ready"?

Rob Pegoraro: Correct. "HDTV-ready" means the set is not, in fact, HDTV ready, at least in terms of being able to pull in a signal off the air. That may not matter if you're sure that you'll always have a cable or satellite box hooked up to it, but why limit your choices unnecessarily?


Pasadena, MD: Rob, my husband and I are getting ourselves a Windows-based laptop for Christmas. He's a tech guy who would have preferred Linux, but he knows I need an office suite and internet connectivity in my familiar Windows environment.

After Friday's WP.com chats, I'm considering getting Open Source software (OpenOffice, Firefox and Thurderbird) to put on it. Point and Click and Sams Publishing have books that purport to teach users of these programs and also include a CD with distributions on them.

Would either of these books get me up-and-running while giving him the "putting one over on Microsoft" feeling?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm not sure you'd need those books--except maybe for the one on OpenOffice. That suite is every bit as complex as Microsoft Office.


Edmond, OK: I'm thinking about getting a Treo 650. Which carriers do not disable the Bluetooth capability? I want to be able to connect to the Internet with my 12" Powerbook via Bluetooth and the Treo 650 using a high speed EDGE or EV-DO network. I can connect this way using my Sprint account today, but it's slow. Any information on using a Treo 650 as a modem?Thanks, Bob

Rob Pegoraro: I think Sprint has released software to allow dial-up networking over Bluetooth, but Verizon has not. (Hell, they haven't even released the Bluetooth car-kit update that Sprint shipped in the summer. Thanks, guys... you're doing a heck of a job there.) Not sure about Cingular.


washingtonpost.com: Transcript: 'Just Say No to Microsoft' Author


washingtonpost.com: Transcript: 'Point and Click: OpenOffice.org' Author


Strasburg: Hi Rob, you had done a Help File(I think) on deleting old updates, and my question is: How do I know whether or not my computer is still using those updates, Hotfix for example?

washingtonpost.com: Help File Archive

Rob Pegoraro: I think this is the advice you're looking for: HELP FILE


Silver Spring, MD: Rob, over the weekend, Microsoft announced an official end to support for Internet Explorer for the Mac. Apple stopped including the browser on new Macs with the release of Mac OS X v10.4, but many people on older or upgraded machines still use IE either out of familiarity or a lack of knowledge about alternatives. As someone paid to support Macs, I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend anybody still using IE to switch to Safari, Firefox, or even Opera. You'll be grateful in the long run.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks, and I heartily concur with your advice.


Clifton, VA: Word on the street is the PS3 will be available this Spring for somewhere between $300 to 400. Great price for a HD DVD player and game console. Sony is subsidizing the price for 6-12mos. HD DVDs should be out in Spring or early summer too. Can X360 be used as a HD DVD player?

Rob Pegoraro: No, the Xbox 360 can't--at least not in its current configuration. But before you trumpet the glories of HD DVD, you have to answer two questions:

1) How do you know that it's going to be the high-def disc standard that wins out, as opposed to its incompatible competitor Blu-Ray?

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