CNET to the Rescue: Road trip road test

We're joined today by two traveling techies: CNET's Daniel Terdiman and Hak5's Darren Kitchen. Both are road trip experts, and we're going to talk to them about the gear they use and their advice on using it. Also: Your questions answered on Android phones, virtual networks, and more.

This week on the show: Road tripping. We've got real-world road tests from road warriors Daniel Terdiman of CNET Road Trip 2010 and Darren Kitchen, of Hak5 and his own cross-country motorcycle trip.

Also, Android and networking tips.

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Episode 7: Road trip road test

Travel gear advice from Darren and Daniel:

  • Vehicle choice
  • iPad as primary computer?
  • Photo and video: Tripods and mounds
  • Communication tips.
  • Entertainment
  • Luggage

QUESTIONS
Evan: I'm a just a simple farm boy who uses podcasts rather than talk radio to keep my ears busy as I work the land all day. I've become quite fond of the form factor of the latest generation of iPod Shuffles.

The problem I have with the device, though, is that podcasts do not shuffle. It seems that regardless of which mode, standard or shuffle, the device is in, the podcasts roll in alphabetical order AND newest to oldest. To me, this just doesn't make sense. First, I feel like I should be able to shuffle the podcasts so I don't hear them in the same order every day. But, even if that isn't possible, I feel like I should be able to play them oldest to newest, so daily podcasts actually make sense. Think BOL.

Josh: I bothered CNET's audio expert Donald Bell about this and he suggested a painful but successful method that involves simply changing the media type of those podcasts you want to add from 'podcast' to 'music' Then you can stick them in a playlist and the shuffle will actually shuffle them--or play them in whatever order you put them into. You lose the convenience of the auto sync and delete, but you gain complete control over playing them in an out of control fashion.

To do it, just right click on the podcasts, then pick "get info." Then in the options tab, change the media kind to music.

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JoshuaCaleb: I am going to be upgrading my first gen BB Storm (and yes, I actually like it) to a more functional android phone. I was planning on getting the incredible, but then the Droid X came and VZW is allowing early upgrades to it(my upgrade is in Nov). Now I'm hearing rumblings about a Moto 2GHz Tegra android phone with gyroscope, hardware acceleration and everything else "technologically possible" (cue Nerd Chorus). So, what's a tech geek supposed to do? Should I wait, or get the Droid X? I like the large screen on the Droid X, but a 2GHz phone sounds killer. And then there's the battery issue. Will a 2GHz processor kill the battery life like the 4G on the Evo? Or is the X's monstrous screen going to be more of a power drain?

Josh: Playing the technology waiting game will always result in loss, and a never-ending feeling of buyer's remorse. People do this every year with the iPhone, and now it's becoming even harder with Android devices, since a newer, incrementally better one is coming every few months. The Droid X is probably more than enough phone for you coming from the Storm, so I think you should just get that and try to be happy.

If you are worried about battery life, just get another battery. They're cheap and useful.

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Eric: I am a Sprint customer and Samsung Instinct owner. I am looking to upgrade to the HTC EVO in the coming months. Minneapolis does not have 4G yet but it will be coming soon and I was wondering about using the EVO as a Wi-Fi hub for my XBOX, PS3 and laptops.

My questions are: Will the 4G signal be strong enough to simultaneously run my laptop online, my girlfriend's (while she plays Bejeweled BLAH!) all while streaming Netflix videos on my PS3? Or another example, do you think the 4G signal will be strong enough to connect my XBOX or PS3 and play online games such as Call of Duty, etc?

I'd really like to get rid of my Comcast internet bill and only pay $30/month for an Internet connection versus about $60. This won't sway my decision on getting the EVO, but will on whether to get the Wi-Fi hotspot option. I just don't know if the 4G will be sufficient. Any thoughts? Thanks for the help, love the show.

Josh: Not a good solution. Likely too slow for long downloads, also the latency will kill you on games.

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Trey: I've been trying to figure out how to use a VPN like Hamachi to access my Internet connection when I'm not at home. It works fine for file transferring between my Netbook and my home computer when I'm at an Internet cafe, but I can't seem to figure out how to browse the Internet through the VPN. How do I configure it so that if I were to go to "what is my IP address.com" from the internet cafe, it would say that I'm using my home internet connection?

If it's important to fake out the IP address, one super-easy solution is to use a remote-control app, like LogMeIn Free, from your cafe to your home PC. LogMeIn owns Hamachi, by the way. On the Hamachi wiki is a way to use the service as a proxy. (Darren has more)

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Alex: I was wondering if there is any method you can recommend for finding out definitively if video streaming is being throttled by my ISP. I frequently have problems streaming video from major services such as Hulu or Amazon on demand. Videos will start playing just fine, but several minutes in the connection status in the player just tanks and the video becomes unwatchable. It doesn't seem to be that my connection is crapping out entirely, because I have run speed tests while simultaneously seeing these symptoms and still show a solid connection speed with low latency. While I could easily believe this is entirely Comcast's fault, I have noticed these problems are most likely to occur at times when these services are probably in high demand. Specifically, evenings when people are likely to be at home and streaming movies. This makes me wonder if the problem might actually be on the content provider's side if they are being overloaded.

Chances are it's not a throttling issue so much as a problem with Flash video issue. Flash is not very good at adapting to changing bandwidth, which you're most likely to see during congested times. Silverlight is actually a better system for variable bandwidth. And you're right, the problem could be at the content provider, the ISP, or anywhere in the middle.

Josh: There are ways to test your connection for these kinds of drops though. Wikihow has a good list

COMMENTS
Greg: I'm a software engineer, working in the wireless networking area. In this past week's show someone asked about how to deal with old computers that don't support Wi-Fi encryption. Turning off ESSID Broadcasts is indeed a good first start, and something I recommend in any case, for everyone. Another thing to consider is that security isn't only about encryption.

Controlling access is also important, and many Wi-Fi access points allow things to be locked down by the MAC address of the wireless client. What you do here is to tell the Access Point which clients are allowed to attach, by entering the 12-digit radio address of each, and only they can get access to the network. This helps protect the other computers (including the wired ones) that are on the private side of the router. Of course, a determined hacker can spoof being one of those clients (so it's not perfect), but if there are enough barriers in place, a thief will usually choose to spend his/her time elsewhere.

NEXT TIME
Next week: Keyboards. What's your favorite, and why? Send comments and questions to rescue@cnet.com.

 

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