CNET to the Rescue: Beg, borrow, and steal

Josh and special guest co-host Seth Rosenblatt take a look at magic USB pens and cameras you can stick on your head, car, sky diving parachute--or whatever. We also answer your questions about cloning that failing hard drive, getting past Facebook's security, and the best backpacks for your laptop.

With Rafe out on vacation, Josh and special co-host Seth Rosenblatt team up to take magic USB pens and helmetcams that we borrowed from our CNET colleagues to the test, as well as helping CNET readers out with their tech problems.

Topics discussed include: watching DRM'd iTunes videos on your TV, cloning that failing hard drive, getting Windows 7 to stop rebooting your computer every time it updates, and finding the perfect laptop-friendly backpacks. We've also got some great reader recommendations on pulling out contact information from your Mac's Address Book app, and using Bluetooth cell phone relays.

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Podcast



Episode 13: Beg, borrow and steal

Road test items

The recently CNET-reviewed Livescribe Echo pen (Seth gives us a thorough demo, on-air)

The Contour HD helmet cam

Questions

Hi guys,

I've purchased some TV shows in iTunes that I'd like to play on a TV so my entire family can actually see the programs. Is there a way to either burn these puppies to DVD on my computer and play them back on the TV or set the TV up as a second monitor so they display while playing in iTunes. I'm definitely feeling stuck in a walled garden unable to use something I've bought and paid for the way I'd like to use it.

Thanks for your help--love the show,

Susan

Seth: Best solution is not to buy from iTunes to avoid DRM problems. Stop laughing, I'm serious. There are plenty of other options out there, such as the Amazon store.

Josh: You are now experiencing on the downsides of DRM, which is moving that content around.

The legal solution is to hook up your computer to the TV, which depending on your setup can be easy and inexpensive, or a nightmare. If your computers has HDMI out, and your TV has HDMI, it's as simple as buying a cheap cable, but that doesn't solve the sound issue. If you have a receiver, that can be fixed with a simple audio cable.

Another option is if both your computer and TV have a VGA port. Then it's as simple as connecting the two, then again using a 3.5" mm audio jack for sound. And if you don't have a receiver, you can easily buy a Y cable that takes audio from your 3.5" mm audio jack and turns it into left and right (red and white) sound jacks you can plug into the back of your TV.

If you want to burn your content to DVDs, that means circumventing Apple's DRM, which is technically illegal. There are, however a number of programs that will let you do it, including Tunebite, which costs $40 and works on both protected audio and video files.

Seth: I've used Tunebite before and it's worth the money.

Keep in mind, these developers are constantly dealing with Apple changing it's DRM methods, so buying it is not a guarantee it will continue to work.

------------------------------------

Hello rescuers

I need your help. My PC's three internal seagate hard drives just started making funny noises to the point that sometimes the one with the OS on it freezes on and off.

I replaced the two that I use to store my data, though the only left is the third with the OS on it.

What software can I use to clone the OS drive to a new drive? Would it possible to do it without actually entering windows? Do the drives need to be the identical size?

PS: I got the three Seagates in the year 2000, and it seems incredible how all of them can go bust at about a month distance from each other. They lasted only 10 years after using them 24/7.

Salvo from UK

Josh: This is a common problem, and the good news is that your drive has not died yet, so you may still have time to get it. There are a couple ways to do this. If you're worried about your system crashing while running a back-up tool, then you might want to grab something like the dual hard drive dock mentioned on last week's show, and running a some cloning software on another machine with your old hard drive, and the replacement hard drive in that dock.

Now, as for size, you obviously need something just as big, though this is a good chance to upgrade to something bigger. Be sure to check the user reviews somewhere like Newegg to see if users have been having big problems with that particular drive, and/or buy it from a manufacturer that offers a decent warranty on it. And depending on the size, this might be a good time to jump to a solid state drive if you're worrying about this happening again. Considering you have two other external drives, you're clearly not pressed for space, and an SSD can dramatically improve your computer's start up time and general performance.

So as far as cloning software goes there are a ton of options:
-Norton Ghost is pretty cheap and can make a complete backup of your system.
-EaseUs has a free disk copy software that comes recommended
-Acronis Backup & Recovery 10

Also, if you're a Mac User thinking about doing this, I can recommend SuperDuper, which works great. I've used it on two hard drive swaps and it's easy peasy.

On a side note, also worth checking out is this great list of failing hard drive noises, which we'll link in the show notes. This can be useful if you're trying to figure out how your computer is about to die.

------------------------------------

Hey Rafe and Josh,

I am about to start college next week and I am in need a of a backpack to carry all of of my books and macbook pro. I looked at apple's website, and as nice as some of the products are they seem pricy and either small or very large for what I need. I was wondering what kind of bags you two use if you could also point me to a site that reviews bags. Thanks for any help you can give me.

Nate

Josh: Hey Nate, we don't really do rated bag reviews at CNET, but if you watch this show you know Rafe and I (and Seth, who commutes on his bicycle everyday with one) are big fans of Timbuk2 which is based in San Francisco. I own a number of their laptop bags, and they hold up really well to the rigors of life as toss-around bags.

And out of all of them the Q is my favorite. It retails for $100, which may sound steep, but it's built like a tank, and has some very smart pocket arrangements that handle things like your power brick and mouse, while leaving space for pens pencils and other things. If that's not big enough you can upgrade to the HAL bag, which is a tad bigger.

Comments

Hey guys,

I just figured out a pretty neat feature built into the address book in OS X. It might sound like a cheesey setup, but I met a girl at a bar over the weekend. I didn't get her last name, and we barely managed to swap numbers before she and her friends grabbed a cab at the end of the night. Tonight I go to text her and all of a sudden I realize that I have 3 different numbers with the same first name as her. 1 is a co-worker, one is her, and the other I have no idea.

Lucky for me, in the bottom right corner of the OSX address book is a modified date. Since I had just added her number and synced my iPhone, I checked the modified dates of all 3 contacts. I found the number with the correct date, called her, and now we're going out this weekend.

I'm sure there are lots of different ways to do this, and I'm sure a lot of people know about it already. But, just in case anybody else finds themself with multiple contacts with no last name or other identifying info, I figured I'd share.

Keep up the good work!

-Duncan

------------------------------------

Hey guys, even if this doesn't get fixed, I'm bringing this to your attention. People need to know how facebook treats the disabled.

I am a blind computer user, who relies on a screen reader to get things done. A week ago now, I logged into facebook on my iPhone, from a friend's connection. When I got home, Facebook was asking me to prove my identity before I could log in. I've had this happen once before, but this time, it wasn't just a captcha image, they wanted me to identify pictures that are tagged, but for the test, they are not, and you have to identify the people tagged. I even tried to get sited help to do it, and they couldn't identify all the images. I, like many people have people I don't even know on my facebook. It's public by default, 'nuff said. So, as a result, I'm locked out. Help! Or not. No pressure!

-Brandon

P.S. I was surprised and scared that Facebook still let me change my password. Not only that, but they nicely alerted me that they sent an email to every address on file. How security conscious.

Josh: We had a post about this on the Rescue blog a few weeks ago, when a user ran into this problem with Facebook asking her to tag photos of her friends, who were actually gummy bears within the photos that Facebook provided.

If you do get locked out, there's a form you can fill out that will get you in touch with a real human who can re-authorize you when you explain your situation.

------------------------------------

Hey guys, in response to your question last week...

We bought an AT&T EP5632 cordless home phone system about 2 years ago. The system allows me to pair my iPhone with the basestation via Bluetooth, and then make and receive cell calls via any of the handsets in the home.

We got it because the AT&T 3G signal in our townhouse is not strong enough to muscle through drywall. There is only one spot, near a window, where we get cell reception. I keep my iPhone docked there, right next to the basestation.

Once the phone pairs with the basestation, the system works exactly as promised, and it's been a real lifesaver. The big, big, big "but" is that the basestation and the iphone rarely automatically pair when they are in range. Usually, I have to manually pair them from the base station. One out of every 5 times, I have to powercycle the base station to get them to connect. Not a deal breaker for a geek like me, but absolutely a deal breaker for my wife.

This system is almost 3 years old, so potentially the pairing technology has gotten better.

Note: About 2 months ago, we added an AT&T Microcell. So far, very mixed results. When it works, it's really a game changer, but I've had a lot of problems getting the iphone 4 to pick up the microcell, and then often get less than acceptable call quality from 20 feet away.

Love the show,

Rich

Next time:

We'd like to thank our sponsor, BlackBerry Messenger. You can send your tech questions to CNET to the Rescue from your BlackBerry, use the PIN code 2482EB89.

Next week Rafe and I are switching places again, though this time I'll be the one on vacation and we'll have another guest host in my place.

In either case, please please please send any tech questions our way. That address again is rescue@cnet.com.

You can also catch past episodes and answers at cnet.com/rescue

And as always, don't forget to follow us on Twitter--I'm @josh and Seth is @b1g1nj4p4n.

See you next week!

 

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