Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Installing Windows Media Center

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 installing Windows Media Center, opening files in Safari and transferring 8mm films to DVDs.

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.

I want to upgrade my laptop to Windows Media Center. I have an external TV tuner and I acquired the software through a friend who got it free with his computer, but would rather run regular XP. If I just install Windows Media Center and plug in the tuner, everything should work OK?

I’ve never tried this, but I doubt it will work. Media Center isn’t a software program, but a flavor of the Windows operating system itself, so you’d be upgrading or replacing your current version of Windows, which could alter many things on your machine. It might not work at all, because Microsoft only sells Media Center with new PCs.

Even if installation did somehow work, however, you’d probably get trapped in Microsoft’s “activation” process. In order to run any new copy of Windows, it must be “activated” by Microsoft, and I suspect the copy your friend gave you would be recognized as one that came with a particular new PC and activation would be denied on grounds of piracy, which would eventually cause your computer to stop functioning.

I just switched from a PC to an iMac. On Windows, I used Firefox as my Web browser, and I could right-click on any link or bookmark, and it would open in a new tab. In the iMac’s Web browser, Safari, I cannot find the same function. Have I overlooked something?

Safari offers similar functionality, including the right-clicking — if you have a two-button mouse. But it only works with links, and with individual bookmarks in the Bookmarks Bar. Bookmarks inside folders, or in the main Bookmarks menu, can’t be opened in a new tab by right-clicking on them. Also, in Safari, you have to first go into preferences and make sure tabbed browsing is turned on.

Bear in mind that you can also use Firefox on your Mac. The Mac and Windows versions are nearly identical. Oddly, on the question you raise, the Mac version of Firefox behaves like Safari, not like Firefox on Windows.

I have lots of old regular 8mm films in the closet, and I’d love to have all of these reels transferred to DVD. What’s the best method and how expensive would it be to transfer perhaps 10 hours of this film to DVD?

I suggest using a service to do this. The best one I know of is called YesVideo (www.yesvideo.com). It charges $49.99 for the first 250 feet, and 10 cents per foot thereafter. But you can’t send the film directly to YesVideo. You have to go to a retail store that partners with the company, such as a Best Buy or Ritz Camera shop. Details, including a store locator, are on the company’s Web site.


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