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Byline: Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post personal technology columnist Rob Pegoraro was online to talk about his guide to holiday gadget shopping, a hot new phone/PDA combo device and more.
And don't miss The Washington Post's annual guide to personal computers, which includes an Interactive PC Guide.
A transcript of the discussion is below:
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Rob Pegoraro: Only 17 shopping days until Christmas--are you all sick of the gift-procurement business yet? :) I've tried to help out with that over the past few weeks with the gift guides I've written for the paper and this Web site, but now it's your turn--to ask questions about things I missed, challenge my recommendations or offer your own advice.
Let's get started...
Arlington, Va.: Dear Mr. Pegoraro,
Thanks for your tech guides, I have found them helpful. Still, I find myself unresolved on my final purchase. I hope you can help. I want to buy my husband a portable music player. He is a distance runner and is training for his first Ironman triathlon. Therefore, while I understand that units with flash memory will prevent skipping, I want to make sure that I also get something that can provide at least six hours of continuous play, since his work-outs routinely last that long. While he is a huge music lover, I do not expect that he would tax the memory by loading 20 million songs onto the unit. He is more likely to rotate his music selections. I am willing to spend some money to get him the right player. Can you recommend something?
A Lucky Wife
washingtonpost.com: See Rob's "tips for MP3 player shopping," and this week's Closer Look feature -- "MP3 Players to Rival Pricier iPod."
Rob Pegoraro: This is the problem with writing up shopping advice for the general audience--there's always an exception. I wrote that, if you're getting an MP3 player to listen to in your workouts, you should get a flash-based player, and not bother getting more than two hours' worth of storage, because who works out for more than two hours at a stretch anyway?
Well, here's your answer.
Unfortunately, six hours of flash memory storage makes no economic sense--you'd spend more than what a regular hard drive-based player, with far more storage, would cost. OTOH, you really shouldn't have any skipping issues with a hard drive player; my main concern would be size and durability. One player you might want to look at in this case is the Rio Nitrus, which uses a *really tiny* hard drive to store 1.5 gigs of music in a case no bigger than flash players. It's a poor value in strict $/song terms, but it might be what you in particular are looking for.
Falls Church, Va.: I would like to buy myself a new multifunction printer/fax/scanner/copier to replace my 8 year old HP dinosaur. I have a Dell P4 8200 series with USB 1.1 ports. Does the conversion to USB 2 always require opening up the case and installing a card? Is there any external USB device made that would allow me to have USB 2 port(s) WITHOUT opening the case? Do I really need USB 2 for new peripherals or do I just make sure I buy stuff that is "backward compatible" ?? Thanks for your time, as always. Season's greetings. Tina
Rob Pegoraro: I don't think you need USB 2.0 for scanning, unless you'll be doing a lot of it, and you definitely don't need it for printing.
Basking Ridge, N.J.: Some cars now come pre-wired for bluetooth, allowing you to use your phone hands-free in the car without having to plug it in to anything. Despite the pre-wiring, it does cost about $500 (in my case) to get the bluetooth car kit. Does this actually work reliably? My phone is a bluetooth-capable Ericsson and this sounds like an elegant technology, but not, of course, if it doesn't work.
Rob Pegoraro: You're kind of asking the wrong guy--my car is sold, it didn't even come pre-wired with power side mirrors :) Can any Bluetooth-in-car users testify on this point?
Arlington, Va.: I have one of the Creative Labs Nomad Zen NX 30 GB MP3 players. It's my first experience with MP3 players and I love it. I put 2100 songs (pretty much my whole CD collection) onto it with no problem and more than enough room for lots more songs. The software can glitch from time to time by not recognizing that the player is connected to my computer but closing and restarting the program usually does the trick. It doesn't seem any bigger than an iPod to me but I think it is a little heavier because of the metal case elements. Once you learn the controls it's a piece of cake. Slips into my shirt pocket for my commute easily. I wish the shuffle mode was a little smarter (it repeats some tracks more often than it seem like it should) but that's a minor quibble. …