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Laptop battery supply chain disrupted by fire at factory

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There are a bunch of tidbits you may not know about that fill today's notebook. Let's see if we can fill in some items you may not know about.

• A fire at a major laptop battery manufacturer in South Korea in March has crimped the battery supplies of many computer suppliers worldwide, and supplies of both laptops and replacement batteries are still being affected. The fire at the LG Chem plant should affect the supply chain well into the third quarter, experts say, and hurts mostly smaller computer companies but the biggies, as well.

It will be interesting to see the pricing of replacement lithium-ion batteries, too. I would expect to see some increases pretty quickly on the short term.

• Dell now says it will continue to pre-install Windows XP for its business customers who request it past the June 30 deadline. That's the drop-dead date for Microsoft, but here's the catch: You're actually buying Windows Vista but exercising your "downgrade" rights to XP. If you're a consumer, you may have to use Dell's small business Web site to take advantage of this offer — this part is sort of unclear as of this writing.

Microsoft plans to stop selling XP on June 30 but still plans to support it for at least another year and likely longer. There is continuing pressure on Microsoft to extend the deadline, but it looks more and more unlikely to do so, as every "downgrade" sale counts as a Vista sale.

• Have you been to the Discovery Channel Web site and downloaded (or watched) the "Boom De Yada" commercial yet? The folks behind this ad campaign are geniuses. They need to release a five-minute version of this.

• Blu-Ray has won the format war for high-def DVD players, but then came the great recession of 2008. Sales of Blu-Ray players dropped 40 percent from January to February, according to industry stats. Part of that, of course, was the post-holiday bloom, but another part is the players are just too expensive. I can get a great up-conversion player for 50 bucks (without Blu-Ray), and I am not willing to pay $300 for Blu-Ray. Experts say $199 is the price-point we're all waiting for, and we're not there yet.

It really is too bad, because the sale of hardware will drive the sale of software (movies), so that is why Blu-Ray discs are still so expensive. I hope some company takes the risk and gets the price down to $150 and makes a killing.

• I have installed Service Pack 3 on about a dozen Windows XP machines, and it installed flawlessly on all of them. It took less than 30 minutes, and the only apparent change was the Service Pack 3 indication in the "My Computer" information. I recommend the patch for all XP users.

You can download it from Microsoft or wait for it to arrive from Windows Update, where it will be staged and set to your computer if you have automatic updates turned on. If not, you can run Windows Update periodically, and it will be made available on a random schedule.

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim@cyberdads.com.