Mossberg’s Mailbox

Surfing the Web on a Television Set

Published on August 16, 2007
by Walt Mossberg

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 surfing the Internet on a television set, the security of Apple’s Safari Web browser for Windows computers, and the cost of AT&T’s wireless service for laptops.

Can you recommend a device that would allow me to surf the Web on a bedroom television connected via Ethernet and to control the device via a wireless keyboard or remote control?

Perhaps the most direct approach would be to buy the MSN TV 2 device from Microsoft that is specifically meant for browsing the Web on a TV from a distance and can be used with Ethernet. It costs $200, plus a monthly fee, comes with a wireless keyboard and remote, and can be ordered at

A second option would be to buy a small computer with a wireless keyboard and hook it up to the bedroom TV instead of to a computer monitor. For instance, I have surfed the Web this way using a tiny $599 Mac Mini computer from Apple, which comes with a wireless remote and accepts almost any wireless keyboard, though it doesn’t come with one. There are numerous Windows computers that could do the same, and many cost less, though most are larger.

Another method would be to use a game console capable of surfing the Web, even if you have no intention of playing games. These are made to work with TV sets, and some can use a wireless keyboard and/or wireless controller to do the job. For instance, the $250 Nintendo Wii game machine has an optional Web-browsing function.

Apple has released a Windows beta version of Safari. Is it any safer to use than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer?

It’s too early to tell, as the Windows version of Safari is still in beta and is very new, to users and hackers alike.

Certainly, operating in Windows will make Safari much more vulnerable to attack than it is on the Macintosh operating system, if only because the writers of malicious software aim their firepower overwhelmingly at Windows. While Internet Explorer is hardly impregnable, it has become safer over the years, and Microsoft certainly has much more experience battling Windows security issues than Apple does. Apple has already issued some security updates for this new version of Safari and will undoubtedly have to keep issuing more to keep ahead of the bad guys.

I am thinking of buying a ThinkPad laptop from Lenovo with AT&T BroadbandConnect. Do I still need to buy some sort of card from AT&T and insert it into the laptop, and must I pay a subscription fee to them?

No, and yes. The laptop likely has the modem for AT&T built in, so you can connect to the Internet via AT&T’s cellular network without buying an external card. However, the service isn’t free. You can’t use it without a subscription, which typically runs $60 a month.

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