Walt Mossberg

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External Modems for a MacBook

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 external modems for a MacBook, resizing photos for email, and using the forthcoming iPhone in Europe.

In your laptop buying guide, you mentioned that the MacBook from Apple lacks both an internal cellphone modem and an external slot in which to insert one. Is there a way to hook up a cellphone modem via a USB port?

Yes, several cellphone carriers offer external modems that plug into USB ports. I haven’t tested these, but have no reason to doubt that they work. However, if you are buying a MacBook, make sure any such modem you buy is Mac-compatible. Both Verizon and Sprint carry a Novatel model that plugs into a USB port and is listed as being compatible with the Mac.

When I email pictures to my sister, she has to scroll up, down, and across to see the whole thing. What can I do to my computer or to hers?

You can make the picture smaller before emailing it. Both Windows and Macintosh computers offer you the option of shrinking the size of photos you email. For instance, in the My Pictures folder in Windows XP, if you select a photo and then choose “Email this file” from the menu at the left, you will be asked if you want to make the picture smaller. On the Mac, in the built-in iPhoto program, when you select a photo and click on the Email icon at the bottom, you are offered a choice of sizes for the picture.

Will the forthcoming Apple iPhone be usable in Europe with a SIM card, and will it be based on a Palm platform or a Microsoft one?

Nothing about any future product can be certain until it is released, but Apple officials have said that the iPhone will be usable in Europe if you insert into it a SIM card from a European carrier. However, it won’t have one of its touted features, “visual voicemail,” which depends upon AT&T, the iPhone’s U.S. carrier.

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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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