Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Smartphones’ Memory Problem — and Fix

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about browsers’ antivirus capabilities, smartphone memory, Wi-Fi router speeds and the limits of burning songs from iTunes.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.


Does the Firefox browser that you recommend contain antivirus capabilities?

No. I know of no Web browser that includes the ability to block, detect or remove viruses. For that, you need separate antivirus software, which every Windows user should obtain and keep updated. You should also run a strong firewall program and an antispyware program.

Firefox does omit some of the features in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser that digital criminals have misused to place malicious software on computers. This doesn’t mean that Firefox is perfectly safe. As it has become more popular, some vulnerabilities in the new browser have been uncovered, and it’s likely that digital criminals will get better at exploiting these vulnerabilities. Still, on balance, Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer.

I am thinking about upgrading to the new Treo 650 smartphone from PalmOne. But I would like to know if the company ever fixed the memory problem you wrote about with the initial Treo 650 units?

Yes. Sprint, the cellphone carrier that launched the Treo 650, has — just this week — issued a patch from PalmOne that supposedly remedies the memory problem. I haven’t tested it, so I can’t say if it works.

The memory problem, which mainly affected power users, didn’t impair the basic functionality of the phone. But it caused databases, like address books and digital dictionaries and maps, to take up more room on the 650 than the same files had occupied on the earlier Treo 600 model. The patch issued this week revises the way the 650 manages memory so these large files take up less memory. It may not restore the full efficiency of the older memory system, but it should ease the problem significantly.

I just signed up for DSL broadband service with a maximum speed of 1.5 megabits per second. Which type of Wi-Fi wireless router should I buy in order to handle the maximum speed — the “b” type or the “g” type?

Either type has enough capacity to handle the top speed of your new service. The “b” routers top out at 11 megabits per second, and the “g” models can go up to 54 megabits per second, though they drop back to the speed of “b” if you have any “b” equipment on the wireless network.

If I buy songs from the iTunes Music Store, or one of its competitors, can I record these songs to blank CDs in order to make music CDs that can be played in my home CD player?

Yes. Song files purchased from iTunes and other legal download sites can be recorded, or “burned,” to CD an unlimited number of times. And, they can be combined with any other songs, either those you purchase or those you create from your own commercial CDs. These CDs you burn can be played on most home, auto and portable CD players. The only limitation is that you can’t burn the exact same collection of songs, in the exact same order, to CD more than seven times.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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