CNET editor-in-chief Scott Ard joins us today to talk about a bunch of cool new products he's actually using. Then we get into some interesting tech questions, like which DSLR to get for video, how to protect a 3-year-old from the Web, and what Dell says about backing up their own RAID arrays.
If you have a tech question for CNET to the Rescue, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. No question is too basic, so if you've got a tech problem that's been getting under your skin, please drop us a line and we'll try our best to help you out.
And be sure to check out CNET's new library of how-to articles, live now at howto.cnet.com.
Episode 49: Gadget clothes, keeping kids safe, and breaking RAIDRoad tests
Cris: I want to buy my first DSLR. The problem is that I would like the camera to have video recording. The Nikon D3100 looks like a good camera because of its price and performance, but I can't decide. What do you recommend? I am not planning on changing this camera soon so it needs to be a good buy.
Lori Grunin, our camera expert, says: Oy. I always feel like people are asking "I'm hungry. What should I eat?" with these types of questions. A lot depends upon why he wants video and why he's upgrading to a dSLR. If he just wants to shoot occasional clips, the D3100 is fine; if he's looking to get into video/filmmaking, he really should spend a little more for the Canon T2i. If he's moving to a dSLR for photo quality, the D3100 should be fine; if it's for speed, the D3100 isn't terribly fast, and he may want to bump up a little to the T2i. He may also want to consider the Sony SLT-A35 (not shipping yet), unless he wants an optical viewfinder.
Matt: I was listening to your live podcast and I overheard you talking about an app that takes the "shakies" out of videos shot with the iPhone. What was the name of that app again?
VReveal. Interesting app, can be a real lifesaver. iPhone is a great video camera but has no stabilizer, which is a major problem in such a lightweight cam. Other video editors do this, too.
Jacob Wells: have ripped several of my childrens' DVDs in order to prolong the life of the DVD itself. I ripped a bit-for-bit copy and wish to extract and encode only the movie portion, leaving out menus, special features, etc. I have looked at handbrake, but with all of its different possibilities, I don't know where to start.
Donald: I would spend more time with Handbrake and make sure you have VLC in there to handle any dirty work.
Scott: Use the lite version of Handbrake.
Khaled: My 3-year-old son is always trying to get his hands on my laptop and he'll finally get his wish as I'm giving him an old laptop no longer needed due a recent upgrade. Although his time using it will be supervised and will mainly involve browsing some children's websites, to be on the safe side I would like to install some filters to make sure nothing inappropriate pops up on screen. Any recommendations of good & free software? Would also appreciate hearing any general recommendations for kids & PCs you may have.
Rafe: My advice is to turn off W-iFi.
Larry Magid of ConnectSafely adds: I certainly agree with your decision to supervise your 3-year-old son's use of your laptop and would urge you to limit his "screen time" as kids that age need to be running around and socializing with other people. There are a number of good free filters but the one I like the most is Norton Online Family that not only helps block content but also helps educate children.
Scott: Bookmark Flash games. Also, set up an account with no admin rights, just icons on the desktop.
Jeff: I live in the small town of Cody Wyoming. The views are amazing, but the Internet is not. We live just out of town, so our only options for internet were dial up, a cell phone-based system, or a local satellite system with a large buy in charge. We opted for Verizon so we could own the device and take it with us wherever we go. We have the LG 5 Spot, and so far we really like it. (Road Test Below) The big kicker is the data cap. We have a 3 to 4 GB data cap.
My question is, my son likes to play Flash games on various web sites (Star Wars / Cartoon Network / Mad Magazine / Nick / etc). I monitor usage daily and it doesn't seem like it takes a lot of data, but I'm sure it is taking some chunk to get the game loaded. I don't know a lot about flash. Is it constantly communicating to a server to get the data, or is it downloading a program on my computer each time? Is there any way I can cache the game so that we are not downloading it again and again every day this summer? I have him using Chrome, but we do have Firefox and Safari.
Road test (exclusive for show notes): We have had the Verizon LG 5 Spot for 4 months, and for the most part it has worked great. We have had a few occasions where we mis-managed our data or there were phantom downloads that I fought with Verizon to no avail. It was probably all user error. Verizon has 2 good methods for checking your monthly usage so I monitor daily. Connection speeds are good, about 1.5-2 Mbps, but that might be the fact there is a tower about 1/2 mile form our door. (Not great speeds but very usable)Turning it on and boot time is horrendous when activating the Wifi, and not much better when it is plugged directly into the computer. Wakeup from sleep is very fast. One tip, I plug it into one of the USB connections on my Wii so that it has constant power and is not tied to the computer. I typically use it for my Macbook and my iPod touch. We have done a little Google video chatting and 1 Hulu episode, and it worked fine. If it weren't for the data cap I would be happy, but keeping us under 4GB is difficult. We really like being able to take it with us and look forward to having it for those long summer road trips. Rather than paying $30 for tethering a smartphone (which I don't have) I do like this option better.
Rafe: Flash games cache just like ordinary Web pages, so it's probably not as bad a problem as you think. But you can download Flash games. Here's a decent video tutorial. Play them using the Flash Movie Player.
Neal, in Chiseldon, Wiltshire, UK: I'm a truck driver and want to take use my laptop when I'm away from home for a few nights. I want to minimize the amount of data I use (I'm using a pay as you go 3G dongle in the laptop) and would like to know if there is a mobile browser I can run on Windows 7. For quick browsing I tend to use my iPhone, but would like to access the same mobile pages I get on that but on the larger screen of the laptop.
Sharon Vaknin says: He needs Mozilla Firefox. Then, download & install the User Agent Switch add on. Once installed, go to Tools menu, then "Default User Agent" and select "iPhone 3.0". His browser will think he's on an iPhone.
BMmorrell: Regarding RAID 0... So how do we get out of RAID 0? I hastily bought a Dell and I like it except that that 1.5 terabyte drive turned out to be 2 750 gigabyte drives in a RAID 0 configuration. I am a network administrator in a medical center, so I am not without computer skills, (aging though they are) and when I started here the server had just crashed because my predecessor had RAID 0 the server (always nice to follow an incompetent) So my plan is to get some imaging tool (Clonezilla?) make an image, break the mirror or go to RAID 1, and image back. It sounds simple but all my alarm bells go off and I fear after hours of work I might end up turning a perfectly functioning machine into an unbootable box. I wonder if I should just pay someone to do this?
Rafe: That should work, but I'm with you, cloning is dicey business. I'd feel better re-installing from a file backup. For that, though, you'll need a system restore disk. Dell might be able to make one. The other thing you might want to do is do your clone to a new drive. a 1.5TB HD is about $70 US. 750GB even less. That way, if the imaging doesn't work, you stil have your RAID 0 array drives left unmodified.
Here's what Dell says: "This (should) work as he has described it. There are no guarantees with anything you are going to do when it comes to RAID configurations. I have done this in the past and it has worked fine, his thinking is correct. I would say create the image and then remove the original RAID 0 configuration completely and replace it with new hard drives in a RAID 1, then apply the image, it should work, if not, he can always put the original RAID 0 config back in the system."
Later, Dell added: "I think the only thing that might be worth mentioning is none of us have used the imaging application referred to (Clonezilla). We use Norton Ghost within our labs and don't see any reason why it wouldn't work, but as we pointed out there are no guarantees when it comes to RAID."