CNET to the Rescue: Ackerman's mini man-cave

CNET's laptop reviewer, Dan Ackerman, joins us to talk about how he's building a media room in a tiny Manhattan apartment. Also, your questions answered, including: how many antivirus apps do I need?

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
5 min read

Dan Ackerman joins us today from our New York office. He's been building a man-cave in a small Manhattan apartment and shares his experiences. Plus, week 6 of Rafe's adventures with Synology servers. And your burning questions answered, including: can one go overboard on antivirus apps?

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.

Watch this: CNET to the Rescue #40: Dan Ackerman and the mini man-cave


Episode 40: Dan Ackerman and the mini man-cave

Road tests
Synology DS411slim, week 6! Still making thumbnails, but looks like it's in the home stretch. Also, Time Machine backups have failed.

The warranty experience on a bad iPhone.

Dan on his mini man-cave
Dan's man-cave diary.

Topics: TV size, mounting, audio considerations, and what about console games?

Matthew: I just bought a 22-inch 1080p TV for my bedroom. I have Dish Network. A standard coax cable runs into my bedroom. How can I get the HD signal through the coax cable to my TV? A receiver box is not a viable option for my current situation.

Dan: A wireless signal repeater might be what you want.


John: I want to keep my computer protected, and I was wondering how much security software is too much? I have Avast, Immunet, Zonealarm, Threatfire, and other non-real-time software. Is this too much, and if so what should I get rid of?

Rafe: Yes, this is more protection than one computer needs. CNET recommends using one of the lightweight and free antivirus apps that are available for Windows. Our editors like Avast or AVG. I like Microsoft's own Security Essentials. These will protect you from bad software you might download.

Use a firewall to protect from hack attacks coming over the Internet. Windows 7 comes with a good one built-in; just make sure it's turned on. Also, use an up-to-date browser. They all have extra security features to prevent your computer from being hijacked when you browse the Web.


Endo Kendo: Is it possible to back up the data in my house to a hard drive at another location, for free? I am curious if there is such a technology, such as using a Pogoplug at the other location. Pogoplug is interesting, for I "create" my own personal cloud with no fees. How about backing up content, especially at another location?

Rafe: Yes. Check out Crashplan.


Timothy Back: I totally agree with your views regarding refurbs. My problem is that for all the talk of e-PCs etc, the power consumption is often hard to find--especially on the refurb market where they don't always list the full specification. My question is this: if a computer is listed as a 350-watt computer, does that mean that it is going to be burning a minimum of 350 watts even if it is idling most of the time?

Rafe: No, the PSU wattage is the maximum it can handle, not the level it puts out. I have a UPS on my PC with a power meter on it, and I can tell you that power usage varies widely, from about 130W idle to 210W gaming.

Some PSUs are more efficient than others, meaning that they waste more energy converting AC to computer's DC than they need to. By the way, my Synology server uses about 40 watts max. Nice.


Jonathan, from New Jersey: I've got a Thinkpad with an antiglare display, but like so many laptops the viewing angle is heartbreaking! So much so that I'm seriously considering the upcoming $900-$1,500 Thinkpad x220 with an IPS (in-plane switching) display. Are there any other laptops that offer an IPS display with good viewing angles?

Rafe: As far as I know, the only IPS laptop right now is the TPad X220. Oh wait-- MacBooks.


Surfingtheweb: I start college in the summer. As I intend to go into the telecommunications program at the University of Florida, there is no doubt that I need a Mac. I am specifically looking into the 15-inch MacBook Pro. However Apple has also announced that Mac OS X 10.7 Lion will be coming out in the summer. My first question is, should I wait for Lion to come out before I buy, or is it perfectly fine to buy the Mac with Snow Leopard, and then install Lion over it?

Also, as a video editor, I need Final Cut Studio/Final Cut Express. I have heard rumors that a new Final Cut Suite is coming out, but there is the possibility that there will be more consumer features to make it more like iMovie...which I hate with a passion. So should I buy the current Final Cut Studio, or should I wait to see what they will offer with FCS 4?

Josh says...It is well and fine to get a machine now and buy Lion when it comes out. If it's priced like Snow Leopard was ($29), expect it to be cheap and painless.

As for the Final Cut upgrade question: Apple is rumored to be working on a completely new version of the program that's quite different from the current one. It's also about time for a new one, with the last major release coming back in July of 2009. Who knows about the timing though. With this year's National Association of Broadcasters show taking place in a week and a half, which is where FC first debuted, it could be sooner rather than later.


Mike: A firmware password for Mac: Your thoughts? On or off? Is it worth using?

Josh says: Honestly, I think a good password and possibly turning on FileVault to encrypt your files is good enough to keep your files secure. But if you're worried about theft, have a good memory, and don't think you'll forget your password, an open firmware password can be incredibly useful at locking down the machine itself, not just what's on the drives. This ends up making your machine less of a target if someone decides to steal it, possibly resulting in it being thrown in a ditch and making its way back to you. You can always disable it later on down the line too. It is not a permanent security solution.


Ivan: Now that Google has introduced its MS Office Cloud Sync, I use it to backup every homework assignment I have in case of a crash, or whatever. Trust me, it has happened before and I was not a happy camper. But I remember hearing that Docs only has a 1GB cap. Will I be forced to delete past documents?

Also, I don't understand how Google can handle unlimited YouTube uploads with hundreds of megabytes, but not be able to support like 10GB of documents.

Rafe: You have a 1GB total storage limit on Cloud Sync. 50MB per file max. Don't know how they enforce it, but you can buy more. As to your other question, YouTube videos serve ads, so Google makes money on them. That's why they can afford to give them so much space and bandwidth. Your private files? Not so great at generating ad dollars.