Hope all of you had a great 4th of July!

I asked my wife, a Canadian citizen, if they had the 4th of July north of the border. She told me they didn't. I asked her what they put between the 3rd and the 5th.

Just kidding! Actually, she grew up in a small town right on the border. She was able to watch the Canada Day fireworks on her side of the border, and also enjoy the Independence Day fireworks, across the river, three days later.

Speaking of fireworks, I'm still seeing lots of DTV questions. But first, some questions about memory sticks, iPhones and Windows 7.

I Am Sirius. And Don't Call Me Shirley.

Q: After downloading the Sirius radio application to my iPhone, I was surprised and greatly disappointed that it is not possible to listen to the Sirius radio and operate other iPhone functions at the same time. Will this shortcoming be fixed sometime soon?

A: No. Only one third-party app can run on the iPhone at a time.

The Siruis/XM App FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions, at www.sirius.com/app) indicates that other applications have limited functionality.

"Emails, text messages, and phone calls for iPhone will still be delivered to the iPhone and iPod Touch while the app is playing," it says. In order to respond to any of those, however, "you will need to exit the application."

The competition has been emphasizing this "shortcoming." At least one of the TV ads for Palm's new Pre points out that is designed around a new operating system, Web OS, that allows multiple apps to run at the same time.

Also be aware that not all Sirius stations are delivered to the Sirius iPhone App. Howard Stern and some professional sports packages won't be available, for example.

"Certain channels which may be available on your satellite radio or online radio service may not be available on a mobile device like the iPhone," the Sirius/XM page also reads.

Make Mine a Double

Q: I have a test version of Windows 7 on a Dell Optiplex 745. When I go to print something, it prints, but then backs up the printer. If you go to a computer running Windows XP (or Vista), it says there is a document pending to print from my computer running Windows 7, even though it successfully printed.

Have any ideas to fix this problem? Is this a driver issue?

A: Remember that you're functioning as an unpaid software tester for Microsoft. You should probably report this issue to them so that they can fix it before they officially release the product later this year.

Microsoft will also want to know which OS version is running on each computer, including whether it's a 64-bit vs. 32-bit OS.

One thing that was unclear in your question was whether or not Windows 7 printed a second copy of the document, or just sends a "waiting to print" message to other computers on the same network. Microsoft would probably like to know that, too.

It could be a driver issue. In that case, I'd go to the Dell support site and start a chat session with one of the helpdesk techs. They're pretty good at solving issues like these.

Thanks for the Memories

Q: I've gotten interested in online genealogy and need to transfer GEDCOM files between computers using a memory stick. It's been hit or miss so far.

Sometimes the computer will not see the memory stick at all. Sometimes I'll copy a file to the memory stick only to find it has disappeared when I try to read it on my home computer.

Can you recommend a good, reliable USB memory stick?

A: Keep it simple, that's my advice.

I tend to collect memory sticks -- I call them thumb drives -- like my wife collects purses. A quick look in my laptop bag reveals a Lexar, a Sony, a SanDisk, a PNY and one so old that the logo has worn off. That's in addition to the one built into my watch. (http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/watches/9771/)

I think that any brand-name thumb drive will probably meet your needs. I'd shy away from ones that advertise encryption, because (1) they auto-execute the encryption software as soon as you insert the stick, which may cause problems on multiple platforms, and (2) it doesn't seem like your data is sensitive enough to require it anyway.

As far as systems recognizing the stick, you need to make sure you have a good electrical connection. Both the "male" and "female" parts of USB connections tend to gunk up quite easily -- I use a GUM Soft-Pick, available in the toothpaste section of many drugstores, to clean them out. Just make sure you power off the PC before sticking the pick in the port.

Older systems might not recognize a thumb drive. Anything before Windows 98 Second Edition will be problematic. Anything before Windows XP might require installation of a driver. But on newer systems, the thumb drive should be recognized as soon as it is inserted.

One problem you might run into is a drive letter conflict -- the thumb drive is recognized, but you can't see it under "My Computer."

To solve this issue, right-click on "My Computer" and chose "Manage." Under the "Storage" link, choose ""Disk Management." Highlight the partition that corresponds to the thumb drive, and choose "Change Drive Letter" under "Actions."

Remember to properly eject the drive before you physically remove it from the computer. The easiest way to do this is to left-click on the USB icon in the System Tray (bottom right-hand corner of the screen, just to the left of the time) and choose "Safely remove USB Mass Storage Device" for the drive.

If you get a message stating that it can't be stopped, it means that some file is still open on the drive. Usually, it's Windows Explorer. Close it and then repeat the removal process.

If the computer has a good Internet connection, you might want to consider a file-transfer service such as Pando and bypass the thumb drive altogether.. See www.pando.com.

A Timex Guy in a Digital World

Q: My parents have a digital TV and have an antenna outside now to get the channels for viewing in the greater Cincinnati area. But now their VCR can't record the all the programs they watch as some of the channels now have "dots" in them, ie. "12.1," "5.1," etc. The VCR doesn't have the capability to put that dot in there.

Are there VCRs out there that would record these stations? Or is my mother forever going to miss her programs that air while she's at work?

A: The only channel that works on analog VCRs is channel 3. Assuming you have a converter box in front of the VCR, the converter handles all the channel selection duties and passes them to the VCR on channel 3.

There are a few digital VCRs out there. You're looking for a unit with an ATSC tuner (the kind that gets channels 12.1, 5.1, etc.) that can record in VHS format.

The JVC RB-DRMV100B seems to be one such unit. It can also be used to transfer your home video VHS collection to DVD.

One drawback is that that model (according to the reports) has no coaxial output to an older TV set. It seems to me that this would exclude it from acting as a "converter box" and passing the signal to your old TV.

I have no hands-on experience with any of these units, so make sure you do your due diligence.


Randy in North Carolina writes:

I have to take issue with your reply to the questions about the DTV transition.

As an installer of antenna systems for many years and a member of CEDIA [Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association], I am glad that this transition has taken place. We have been fighting for years to get the NTSC system scrapped and replaced with something better. While there will be a period of adjustment the benefits will be worth it in the long run.

I wonder how many of the people that are having problems have contacted a professional to look at their reception and their area before complaining? The FCC has said repeatedly that not everyone who got the analog signal would get the same digital signal.

This is based on a number of factors like antenna height, distance from the transmitting towers, the strength of the signal coming from the broadcaster, the terrain in the homeowners area and the wiring in the home itself.

I have installed 64-foot towers just to get analog signals in rural hilly areas. Most of the problems I see or read about are due to the ignorance of the consumer rather than the transition itself

Please rethink your answers to the consumers and work with us to promote DTV with all of its benefits including a MUCH better picture and sound.

A: Better picture and sound so long as you don't live in a fringe area. That's my main beef with the conversion -- that it was sold as a direct replacement that could be received anywhere the analog signal was previously received.

It's simply not true, despite your protest about what the FCC said.

The expectation was that you could purchase the converter box, perhaps a better set of rabbit ears, and you would get the same channels.

The reality is that you often have to hire an expert (such as yourself), pay your hourly rate and put up special equipment (64-foot towers?) to get what you previously received for free -- with no guarantees about what can be received on the public airwaves.

At least we don't live in England. They're about to replace the FM radio signal with a digital signal that will make every car radio in the country obsolete.

Michael in Columbus writes:

You wrote: "If you're a software pirate, you should definitely get one of the above, and get it installed as soon as possible."

This is not good advice. The advice should be: "If you're a software pirate, you deserve whatever you get."

The correct approach to Macintosh OS X (or any OS) malware is to get your software from legitimate sources. I'm disappointed that you are apparently condoning stealing.

I come from a strict religious upbringing. To this day, I believe that sexual relations, outside of the marriage covenant, are immoral.

I also acknowledge that there are people who do not believe as I do -- who see nothing morally wrong with extra-marital sex -- who are going to participate, despite my beliefs.

To them I recommend practicing of safe sex, without condoning the actual practice, and without believing that those who engage in extra-marital sex deserve whatever they get.

Your mileage may vary, slightly lower in California.

Jeff in California writes:

Have you had a chance to look at AT&T's dead zones at http://www.3gdeadzones.com?

No, but it seems like a great idea, even given the fact that Jeff in California lists himself as founder and CEO of the company.

Perhaps you could add a dot for Verizon service at the intersection of the California State Route 60 and I-15 freeways.

It seemed like I often dropped calls at that location. Maybe it had something to do with the high-tension lines to the west of I-15.

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