Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Converting to Digital TV

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.


We are connected to Comcast (CMCSA) cable and use no antennas. Will we need one of the government-subsidized converter boxes next February?

Not if you are using a cable set-top box, like the vast majority of cable customers. If you are one of the minority of cable households whose TVs use an internal cable tuner, you may need a converter box. To be sure, contact your cable company or TV manufacturer.

In your laptop buying guide last week, you recommended buying a machine equipped for the “n” type Wi-Fi of wireless router. I was under the impression that this has not yet been standardized. Is that wrong?

The engineering committee that has been debating the standard for years has not yet completed its work, but the market has simply moved ahead on its own. This new, faster version of Wi-Fi is being built into routers, computers and other devices by nearly every major manufacturer. In my limited tests, I have found no compatibility problems, and it is backwards compatible with the older “g” and “b” standards.

Is the Mac immune to viruses? If not, do you have a recommendation of the type of antivirus software one should procure and load onto a Mac?

No personal computer or personal computer operating system of which I am aware is “immune” to viruses, spyware or other malicious software. That includes Apple’s (AAPL) Macintosh and its operating system, Mac OS X Leopard. Hackers have demonstrated the ability to invade the Mac. However, there are only a handful of viruses or other malicious programs for the Macintosh that have successfully spread beyond the lab. And these have harmed only a small number of actual users.

Of the well over 100,000 known viruses, spyware programs and other malicious software applications that are about in public, all but this handful are written to run on Microsoft (MSFT) Windows, and cannot operate on the Macintosh OS. For that reason, I don’t believe Macintosh owners need security software, unless they install and run Windows on their computers. If they do run Windows, Mac owners are well advised to purchase and install Windows security software to protect the Windows portion of the machine.

Having said that, I do not mean that Mac owners should be blind to security threats that don’t involve viruses or spyware. Just like Windows users, Mac users can succumb to what is called “social engineering” — scams and schemes that operate via email and Web sites that are often authored by crooks but made to look official. So, like Windows users, they must be on their guard.

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


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