Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Blogs, MacBooks and GSM phones

Q:

I’ll be starting a two-year assignment with the Peace Corps in the near future. I would like to start a blog where I can record my daily activities for my friends and family to read. Do you have any suggestions?

A:

There are numerous free blogging services that offer templates, simple tools and a free address your friends and family can use to view your reports. Two that I have used and can suggest are Blogger, owned by Google, at blogger.com; and the independent WordPress, at wordpress.com.

Q:

In terms of battery life, does it make any practical difference if I leave my common programs on my MacBook Pro running when dormant versus shutting them down when I’m not using them and then firing them up as needed?

A:

I asked Apple about this, and the company said an open, but idle, application on a Mac notebook generally won’t use any or many processor resources, which means almost no impact on battery life, even if it performs periodic background actions like fetching mail.

Exceptions would be programs that do heavy-duty things in the background, like rendering videos. The company strongly advises making sure the laptop is in sleep mode when not in use, and keeping the screen at the lowest brightness level that works for you.

Also, you can check how much demand a program is placing on the processor by running the Activity Monitor, located in the Utilities folder in Applications.

Q:

Why would a GSM phone run in 3G-mode only on AT&T and not on T-Mobile?

A:

It’s true that both carriers use the same basic technology, called GSM. But, in some cases, phones (like the AT&T iPhone) are locked so that, unless you do serious hacking, you can use them on only one of the two networks.

In other cases, it might have to do with the frequencies used by a carrier. T-Mobile and AT&T use different frequencies for their 3G networks, and a phone might simply be built to support only the 3G frequencies used by one of the carriers and not the other.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox and my other columns at the new All Things Digital website, http://walt.allthingsd.com. Email mossberg@wsj.com.


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