CNET to the Rescue: Reuse, repair, and re-wire

Dong Ngo joins us to discuss how he re-wired his house for gigabit networking. Plus, your questions answered, including rescuing old laptops from evil malware, and stretching out battery life on a MacBook.

CNET reviews editor Dong Ngo is with us this week to discuss the re-use of old technology (my ancient AV receiver) as well as the benefits of running Ethernet cable in the wireless era. Also, your questions answered, including laptop resurrection tips.

If you have a tech question for CNET to the Rescue, e-mail rescue@cnet.com. No question is too basic, so if you've got a tech problem that's been getting under your skin, please call us and we'll try our best to help you out.

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Episode 44: Reuse, repair, and re-wire


Road tests
Dyson DC25: Great vacuum, but overpriced. A good buy as a refurb, though.

Marantz SR19: Old receiver, from 2000. Got it fixed at L&M electronics in Daly City.

iPhone case by bioserie. Made of corn husks or something. Feels like it will decompose, But actually nice, very slim. Too bad it's $35. Try Default Case to save big money.

Dong wired his house for gigabit networking. He explains why.

Listener questions
Donna: I received an HP SimpleSave 750 as a gift to use with my laptop (operating Windows 7) the power light comes on but nothing else happens. I know the device works because I plugged it into my desktop (Windows XP) and it started right up. Can tell what I need to do besides going to Staples and paying for them to help?

Rafe: If the drive works on a desktop but not a laptop, the chances are that the laptop USB port is not putting out sufficient power to run the drive. So the electronics and the light will come on, but the drive won't spin. The cheapest way to see if this is true is to get a special reverse-Y USB cable that takes power from two USB ports and sends it to the drive. Another thing to try is to use a powered USB hub (one with its own AC adapter) between the laptop and the drive.

Dong: Also, try upgrading the software (when used it with XP) and make sure that you didn't turn off autorun in Windows 7. You can also open the drive letter and run the backup software itself, manually, after that use the Options to customize it.

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Sascha from Switzerland: My XP Notebook is slowly dying on me. It takes forever to boot. I guess it's because I like to try out software which then clogs up my system. I'll soon buy a new notebook and to avoid having the same problem here's my question: Is there a way to sandbox software that I'm only evaluating (for instance by putting it in a virtual machine). And how would I do that on Windows 7?

Dong: Most of the time if you change the hard drive and re-install Windows 7 from beginning that'd help make the system much faster. If you want to use Windows XP within Windows 7, you can use XP mode that's included in Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate.

Rafe: My take on PC performance is that today's Win 7-based machines are plenty powerful, and you won't have to worry about this much. I think 4- or 5-year old XP machines were underpowered for growth. I have a 4-year old machine, been running Win 7 on it since mid-2009 when it shipped, and it's still very, very fast.

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Lynn in Aledo, TX: I have several laptops and desktops in my home all on a wireless network. My daughter's laptop came down with this malicious malware that takes over your pc and locks all executables. What is the best way to remove this software and be certain that it is gone. I was able to gain access back to the pc by identifying the running process and killing it and then locating the file that was naturally hidden system in a temp directory but I found out later that there are numerous other files that if one is removed another drops in to take its place. So far I have removed over 5 different files starting with jxo.exe and they are all 3 letter file names. Again, not all malware programs were able to even pick up this malware. What am I to do before starting using this pc for normal everyday activities like banking, etc. and be absolutely sure its clean without reformatting.

Dong: Take the hard drive out of the infected computer, put it into another computer using a enclosure or the Seagate GoFlex. Run a scan from the clean computer. Try Combofix or Dr. Web.

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Matt: I'm sure you travel a lot and use your laptop on the flight. I have a 14 hour flight coming up that does not offer power. What can I do to keep my (non removal battery) Macbook kicking? External battery?

Rafe: Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, turn down the screen. Use internal graphics if you have the option. If you want to watch movies, rip them to HD first. Turn off servers and IM, and optionally Spotlight Search. For external Mac batteries, check out HyperMac.

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Richard in Chino: How do I post a video to a Web site someone created for me? I downloaded from a Flip cam to my Mac, but can't figure out how to post. All I want to do is send links to my friends. What is easiest way?

Rafe: The Flip software includes a feature to send a video to YouTube. That is the easiest way. Make the video private or unlisted if you don't want others to see it. You can embed YouTube videos in Web pages, too. Alternatives: Photobucket, Minus

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Michael in Akron: After the news of Cisco closing the Flip camera division, I thought I'd share my road test on the Kodak Zi8, a "flip" style camera with a big difference. It shoots great video from WVGA to 1280p but the big plus is the microphone "in" jack. This lets me connect a lavalier or wireless mic. The on-camera microphone isn't bad either. I've been using one for about a year shooting video for my newspaper/corporate master with great results. The fixed-focus lens isn't wide enough for some situations so I used hot glue to attach a ring to attach a wide angle lens when needed. It's got the flip-out USB plug as well as a card slot for expansion. It's been a great tool for me in situations where a full-size camcorder or DSLR are overkill.

Of course, it looks like Kodak is closing down the product since it's been advertised on clearance at area retailers for several weeks now.

Rafe: These products come and go. I'm using a Sony Bloggie at the moment. I like it a lot, and it also has the fun flip-out USB connector. Plus good image stabilization, which I like. But honestly, my iPhone also does great work as a vid cam.

In other words, the Flip is dead, long live the Flip.

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Kayn: I have a an Android smartphone specific issue for you. I've recently come to the realization that I have not backed up my HTC Desire running Android 2.2 Froyo since installing said update. Do you have any suggestions or solutions for backing up my applications, contacts, and photos without losing the whole lot through resets or rooting?

Rafe: Another listener actually answered this for us...

Robert: In your iPhone vs. Android show ago when you were asked about the contact sync you should've mentioned with Android the contacts are backed up in the cloud and synced over-the-air in user's Google account and it's bi-directional. In the case if your phone is damaged or lost and you get a replacement or adding a new Android device all your contacts will be restored once you've enabled sync and connected to the nerwork. This is actually an advantage over iPhone's requirement of syncing contacts via iTunes through a physical USB cable and if you're away from your computer for some time while getting a new replacement iPhone you won't have your contacts until you physically sync with the computer.

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Steve inMilan, Ohio: I am getting ready to switch from dial-up internet (yes, dial-up internet) to Verizon mobile broadband. I was told that this summer I will be able to connect using the new 4G network. My question is what is the best wireless USB adaptor for my desktop computer. I noticed on the side of the boxes at the store that they very in connection speed so I don't what to end up with a 4G internet connection and a USB adaptor that cannot handle the 4G speeds. Thanks for the help and I look forward to downloading your pod cast in under 8 hours. That's how long it takes now.

Dong: Check out this LG number . But note that the speed depends on the area of coverage.

Rafe: I like MiFis and Overdrives. The WiFi hotspot adds a lot of flexibility.

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