Patrick Marshall answers readers' technology questions.

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Q: For years I’ve edited my own videos and written DVDs to share and save my vacations.

I’m making the move to hi-def now. I have a new Sony camera that records in hi-def. I can play videos directly from it on my hi-def TV using an HDMI cable connection. I haven’t gotten a Blu-ray player yet since the reviews are somewhat mixed.

I’m considering getting a new PC with a Blu-ray drive. If I got a laptop, I’m assuming I could use an HDMI cable to plug the laptop into the TV and use it as a Blu-ray player. If I got a desktop, I suppose I could run a long HDMI cable.

Does either of these ideas make better sense? Or should I just get a standalone Blu-ray player?

— Karen Hansen

A: Well, if you’ve got a laptop with an HDMI port, you’re in business. Though even then, I’d recommend if you’re going to be watching a lot of discs on your TV, get a player for the TV. Personally, I’m not convinced that laptop drives are up to the wear and tear of extensive daily usage.

If you do choose to connect a laptop or a desktop to the TV, bear in mind that cables are rated to go a distance of only 10 meters without a repeater to boost the signal. Also, there are both standard and “high-speed” cables; a standard cable may not deliver the performance you expect.

If you have a laptop with a DVI port but no HDMI port, you may be able to patch things together. DVI and HDMI are compatible, though DVI lacks the audio channel. So you may be able to connect through a DVI port if you’re able to employ a separate audio cable.

The long and the short of it is that this stuff isn’t totally standardized yet. What you can do depends on the ports you’ve got available on your TV, on your laptop and on your desktop.

Q: My wife’s Dell had a problem similar to the one in a recent column of yours: When she was done with work, she would close Word and after a few minutes we would notice the fans come on full speed.

Using Task Manager and going to the Performance tab we found CPU usage at 100 percent with no applications running. Clicking the Processes tab, then CPU column, we saw that while the Word application had closed, the Word process was still running and using all available CPU cycles. Clicking on End Process killed it and the fans quieted down in a few minutes. We had to continually monitor Word for about a month to make sure it quit, then it started behaving again.

The point is that if the fans are at high speed, there is a reason, as you noted. Task Manager may help.

— Dale Smith

A: You raise an issue that’s important to know about — the difference between applications and processes.

As you note, you can call up the Task Manager and not see Word in the list of running applications. At the same time, you may see Word processes active in the Processes section.

The difference is basically one of what is going on in the restaurant versus what’s going on in the kitchen.

The Applications tab lists what is open for the user to employ. The Processes tab lists what’s actually running on the machine, whether the user can access it or not. You may shut down Word, or any other application, but its processes may still run for some time.

You should be very cautious about ending processes. Word might still be saving templates or doing other housekeeping chores.

It is possible that a misbehaving program or a virus may cause an application to fail to shut down properly. But it’s also possible that you might be shutting down something before it has finished its legitimate business.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at