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Full disclosure: My investments and interests

Every year, Post business reporters have to fill out a form detailing their stock and bond-market investments to confirm that none of these holdings could represent a conflict of interest.

Because the paper already frowns on us investing in companies we cover, indulging in such forms of market speculation as day-trading and short-selling, and acting on private tips from sources, this form can be a boring proposition. But that didn't stop me from disclosing my own dull investments in a post here last year, nor will it stop me this year.

Once again, I've confined my money to a handful of mutual funds: the Vanguard Group's 500 Index, Windsor and Wellington Funds, plus the Berkshire Hathaway Stock Fund. (The last fund, one of my 401(k) choices, is a perk of Post employment.) My wife's only consumer-tech-relevant investments consist of minimal holdings in Cisco, Sprint and CenturyTel; the latter two date to a job she held in Nextel's IT department years ago.

As an American taxpayer, I am also now a part owner of American International Group, Chrysler, Citigroup, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and General Motors. But then again, so are most of you.

Last year, I also disclosed a few other details of my life that you might find relevant to my coverage. My computer and telecom choices haven't changed too much since last year -- I still use Mac OS X and various versions of Windows every day and I still use Sprint for mobile-phone service and Verizon for landline, but I no longer subscribe to TV service because I switched to over-the-air broadcasts a few months ago. This time around, I'd like to expand on my past disclosures to discuss other issues that might color my coverage.

* I drive far less than most people in the U.S. -- I haven't had a job that requires driving to work since I was in high school and am blessed to live in a walkable neighborhood. I feel that I suffer enough traffic on I-66, the Beltway, I-95 and the Jersey Turnpike to stay conversant with the auto-centric lifestyle, but it's possible that I'm missing some finer points of GPS navigation apps or car audio systems.

* I watch a lot less TV than most people; it's not uncommon for us to go a couple of days without turning the TV on. This has certainly made me a bit of a cultural illiterate with respect to some popular shows, but it may also lead me to discount the appeal of video devices and services meant for four-hours-a-day viewers.

* I save almost all of my e-mail (the relevant folder on my desktop at home now measures 11.6 gigabytes), so I probably place more of a value on searching, sorting and indexing features than people who don't have an archivist's mindset.

* Outside of tests done for my reviews, I don't know of any successful malware attacks on any computers of mine since I was in college; back then, my Mac SE picked up a few easily removed viruses from shared floppy disks. I think my history proves that a skeptical-computing approach works; you may think I don't understand how lucky I've been. (For what it's worth, I hope I haven't jinxed myself with this paragraph.)

* I am not a videophile or an audiophile. I think "good enough" is not a slur when it comes to home-theater hardware and have no patience for people who insist that they can hear defects in any sort of compressed music file, no matter how high its bitrate.

* Given a choice, I would rather pay a large sum one time than a small amount every month: I know I'll come out ahead eventually.

* I tend to buy new hardware later and less often than you might expect a tech columnist to. I blame much of this on what I call the CES Effect -- when every January includes four days of trade-show marketing types telling you about all the great stuff that will be on sale in the future, it's easy to postpone a planned upgrade. (Please remember that I don't get to keep any of the hardware I review.)

* Computer errors and malfunctions make me angrier than they should, considering I've been putting up with them for more than half my life and ought to be used to the drill by now. Then again, I've grown less tolerant of these problems since I started writing a computer Q&A column and became the primary provider of tech support to my mom, my brother and my in-laws.

* I worry about what corporations can do to limit my choices at least as much as I worry about what the government can do to limit them -- in part because I don't get to vote on who runs the former. And I really worry when corporations try to enlist the government's help in furthering their agendas.

I could go on, but then this post would resemble one of those "25 random things about me" lists. So let's sum things up this way: I have a life outside of work. (I hope this doesn't completely rock your world, but so do my colleagues.)

You could seize upon any of these disclosures as proof that my articles should be disregarded, but I hope you won't do that. For one thing, I have tried to play fair in my assessments. For another, you shouldn't need to know anything about me to judge the accuracy of my work. I'm supposed to tell the truth, and if I don't you should require no further proof of my error than my own words.

Got any other questions about my background? I'll take them in the comments.

And lest I forget: Happy New Year!

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 31, 2009; 2:10 PM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Bonus (overdue) review: EyeTV brings HDTV to a Mac
Next: Ubuntu 9.10 brings polish but may demand tinkering


I didn't need to read your disclosures to know that you are an "honest" columnist/blogger/reviewer. You knock and praise equally, the big and the small. You've kept after the companies who don't do right by us and given kudos to those who do. Thanks for the fairness and objectivity, and for giving opinions, likes and dislikes -- we all have our preferences, and you are allowed that priviledge, too. I look forward to your columns and blogs again in 2010. Your work is appreciated!

Posted by: LBinVA | December 31, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"and have no patience for people who insist that they can hear defects in any sort of compressed music file, no matter how high its bitrate."

I largely agree with you, however, I would say that you seem more tolerant of DRM in your music and video based on past columns particularly in light of your comments:

"I worry about what corporations can do to limit my choices"


"I would rather pay a large sum one time than a small amount every month"

I agree with all these sentiments; I think you should be willing to say not recommend things based on these philosophies.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | December 31, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

This is an interesting peek at you off the page/screen, thanks!

None of it seems particularly surprising, and certainly none of it leads me to questions your reporting. In fact, knowing all this makes me trust you even more, because I would answer almost all of those questions the same way.

(Oh, and I hear that you curse a lot ... which is another thing we have in common. :)

Happy New Year! Looking forward to even FASTER Forward in 2010.

Posted by: mccxxiii | December 31, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Just a comment. No questions. I read the 25 Things, and your recollection of reading about computers in the New York Times. I remember about 25 years ago when Brit Hume wrote a computer column that ran in the Washington Post. He was one of the tech journalism pioneers. There wasn't much else out there then. He was very good and I was sorry to see it end.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | December 31, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, Rob, and thanks very much for all of the excellent reading over the years.

BTW, don't you think that the iPhone and comparable handhelds are a bit like a certain SF writer and UseNet dc.general troll's description of "beltcom"?

Heh Heh. Good SF is something you can wear to work in the near future.

Kudos and of course you know that the reason you don't have malware problems is that you use a Mac.

Sometime, check out and then write a review of the 'fink project', which is 'apt-get' for mac.

Posted by: klaatu1 | December 31, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting the 25 random things....getting paid to do something you like is, as the commercial goes, priceless.

Posted by: tbva | December 31, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I am satisfied with the relative integrity of tech writers for major publications, including you. But, in their efforts to get more done with fewer bodies, big media are reprinting material from sites and blogs that are known to be ethically compromised, such as TechCrunch. That bothers me.

Posted by: query0 | January 1, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Rob comes clean (just kidding). I bought my first computer based on your advice back in 1998 and never had any doubt that you were a straight shooter. Not much TV viewing - that's so you have more time to keep us all up-to-date on all things technological. Thanks for all the great columns in the past and a Happy 2010 to you and your family!

Posted by: alsnow1 | January 2, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Someone once said "Better is the enemy of good enough."
Most of the time "good enough" is "good enough" and most people can't hear much above 10kHz. I used to be able to hear the horizontal oscillator on a tv (15.75kHz), but my wife and oldest son can't. Also, the "ultrasonic" motion detector in one of the stores in a local (Ann Arbor, MI) mall hurt my ears when going up or down the escalator.
I think the only way to tell if someone can really tell the difference between compressed and non-compressed music files is by double blind tests.

Posted by: MichaelJMurphy | January 3, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

A few people have told me that they save all their emails. I could do so if I choose to (I use Thunderbird at home, could download off my IMAP service into a folder on my drive) but haven't really had the need to go back to an email more than a few months back. Is this more from a Tech Columnist needs proof of something in the past type of thing, or are there valid reasons I may be unaware of for saving emails?

Is there any email you don't save? E.g. if your wife shoots you an "I'm going to be late, start dinner without me" does that get filed as well?

Just wondering, always considering things I should be doing that I'm not yet doing.

Posted by: nighthawk700 | January 4, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I like your comment "Computer errors and malfunctions make me angrier than they should, ...". A simple test I do is 'what if this error occurred in your car'.

It's amazing what people will put up with for badly designed, badly integrated, unreliable computers. Cars have lemon laws, but if it's a computer people lower their expectations.

Of course, with more computers going in cars, and computers taking over more functions in the cars, things could get ugly.

Posted by: chrisviking | January 4, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Is there any email you don't save? E.g. if your wife shoots you an "I'm going to be late, start dinner without me" does that get filed as well?

Posted by: nighthawk700
What if your wife needs an alibi? Subscription emails from sites you shop that are date sensitive should not be filed IMO.

Posted by: prokaryote | January 5, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

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