Walt Mossberg

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Mossberg’s Mailbox

Filtering Junk Mail and Buying Laptops

How can I filter junk mail on my iPhone?

A: The iPhone’s email program doesn’t include a junk-mail filter. It relies on your email service’s junk-mail filtering system, such as the ones built into Gmail, Yahoo Mail or your company’s email system, to clear out the spam before it gets to the phone. Obviously, these server-based filtering systems aren’t perfect, so you’ll still get some spam. But you might experiment to select the email service you feel does the best job. Once you decide, you can make that the main, or the only, service you use on your iPhone, and forward all the email from accounts that receive a lot of spam into an account on that relatively spam-free service.

What model of laptop do you recommend for a student of middle-school age, at the $500 price range?

A: At that price range, you have several broad choices, so it depends on how the student will be using the machine. If it will be mainly staying on a desk or just used around the house, you should be able to find a standard-sized laptop with a 14″ or 15″ or even larger screen, and adequate speed, memory and hard disk capacity, for around $500, or even less, depending on sale prices. If the student wants more mobility, then a high-end netbook, or a low-end “thin and light” or “ultrathin” machine would work, though their screens and hard disks might be smaller and their processors slower.

However, if the student is a hard-core gamer, or does sophisticated video production, the graphics on any $500 laptop might prove inadequate, and you may have to spend more.

I have no particular model to recommend, since the best way to do this is to have the intended user try various models, to be sure she is comfortable with the screen and keyboard, and that the machine has whatever specific features she wants for the price.

I understand that the new Motorola Droid phone has a GPS function. I was considering a Garmin unit but wonder if I would be just as well off with the Droid and Google maps. What do you think?

A: The Droid not only has GPS and maps, which are common on many other phones, but it has a free voice-prompted, turn-by-turn navigation system powered by Google, which isn’t common. This is very similar to what you’d get in a stand-alone unit sold by companies like Garmin and Magellan, or in a paid, add-on app for the iPhone.

However, in my tests of this new feature on the Droid, I ran into two occasions when the Google voice-promoted navigation system gave me completely erroneous directions. On Garmin products, I have often encountered directions I considered too roundabout or time-consuming, but I have personally never received absolutely wrong directions. So you might bear that in mind when deciding if the Google capability in the Droid is a good enough substitute, at least in this stage of its development.

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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