Walt Mossberg

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New Trends in Docking-Station Design

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.

A lot of the laptop companies seem to have abandoned the traditional docking station. These docking stations have a large rectangular connector that interconnects with the notebook from the bottom. The newer docking stations seem to be much smaller, with fewer connection options. Is a new trend in docking-station design emerging?

The kind of large, fully equipped docking station you describe was born years ago, when laptops were different. They tended to have smaller screens and hard disks, more-cramped keyboards, weaker batteries, only wired Internet connections, and many fewer ports and connectors.

But the need for such docks has diminished, since modern laptops come with more ports, larger screens and keyboards, better batteries, wireless connections, and more-spacious hard disks. The old-style, more fully equipped docking stations are still available for some laptop models.

I suggest you look around at laptops meant for large businesses, which typically have been the market segment most interested in these accessories.

My daughter was given a Sony laptop. It has a 40-gigabyte hard drive that has two 20-gigabyte partitions. What is the best way, either using software that comes with XP or an after-market program, to remove the partition and then have one 40-gigabyte hard drive again?

I suggest you use a program from Symantec called Norton PartitionMagic, which can either split a hard drive into partitions, or merge partitions into one, without data loss. It can be downloaded from symantec.com/norton/partitionmagic or purchased from various other merchants.

I notice on my iPhone calendar that I can’t get a “week at a glance.” Is there a solution or alternative available?

The only built-in alternative I know of is the calendar’s “list view,” which displays all your appointments in a scrolling list that is organized by day, but not by week.

There is a third-party calendar program for the iPhone called SaiSuke that appears to have a week view, as well as a detailed month view. It costs $9.99 and is meant to sync with Google Calendar. I haven’t tested it, so I can’t say how well it works.

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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