Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Making iTunes Music Purchases Available to Multiple Computers

Here are a few questions 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 iTunes copy-protection rules and iPods, making a printer available to multiple computers wirelessly, and surfing the Web from a car.


With the new iPods coming out, how do you deactivate an old one? I think Apple only allows a certain number to be used with an account.

You don’t have to deactivate an iPod if you replace it. The copy-protection rules imposed on Apple by the entertainment companies allow for copy-protected music and videos purchased from the iTunes Music Store to be stored and played on an unlimited number of iPods.

The only “deactivation” iTunes users have to perform is on a computer — Windows or Mac — because the copy-protection rules allow purchased, copy-protected songs and videos to be played on no more than five computers at a time. So, before you replace a computer on which you are storing such purchased, protected iTunes material, you should deauthorize the machine by going to the “Store” menu in iTunes and selecting “Deauthorize Computer…”.

Of course, if you aren’t at or near the five-computer limit, this issue may not matter. It’s also irrelevant if none of the music or videos you play from within iTunes is copy-protected material purchased from the iTunes store. You can happily use iTunes and iPods without buying any copy-protected stuff from Apple. You can restrict your music and videos to those you copy from legally obtained CDs, those you create yourself, or those you buy in unprotected formats from iTunes, or other sites, like eMusic.

I have a printer hard-wired to a desktop computer, but would like it to be available to my laptop wirelessly over my home network. How can I do this?

There are two main methods, assuming the printer doesn’t have a built-in networking port or Wi-Fi transmitter. One method is to buy a small box called a print server and plug it into your router. Then, you plug the printer into the print server, and, with the right software and settings, it will appear on your network and be available to any computer on the network, wired or wireless.

The same companies that make routers, such as Linksys and Belkin, also often make these print servers. The other method is to buy a wireless router that has such a print-server function built-in, with a USB port for connecting a printer.

If I have a laptop with Wi-Fi capability, does that mean I can surf the Web while sitting in a car?

Yes, but only if the car is in range of a Wi-Fi network that is either open (not password-protected) or for which you know the password. And it would only be practical if the car was stopped or parked, since a car moving at normal speed would very quickly drive out of range of any networks you encountered.

A better option, which works even when a car is moving, is to purchase a high-speed cellular wireless modem for your laptop, or buy a laptop with such a modem built-in. These modems, which get you on the Internet via citywide cellular-data networks instead of Wi-Fi, can remain in range for miles. But they require hefty fees, typically $60 a month. And, of course, you should only be surfing the net in a moving car if you are a passenger in that car, not the driver.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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


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