CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

CNET to the Rescue: Cleaning up the cable mess

Rafe and Josh debate best ways to turn an unruly rat's nest of data and power cables into a thing of beauty and logic. With bonus rat's nest pictures from listeners!

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

Today we get wrapped up in cables. We're talking about the best ways to manager an unruly rat's nest of data and power wires into a thing of beauty and logic. With bonus rat's nest pictures from listeners--so watch the video for the full experience. Also, questions about moving from and to Android phones, moving a TV to Singapore, and encrypting Mac hard drives.

Watch this: CNET to the Rescue Ep. 12: Cleaning up the cable mess


iTunes (MP3) | iTunes (320x180) | iTunes (640x360) | RSS (MP3) | RSS (320x180) | RSS (640x360)

Episode 12: You dirty rat's... nest

Cable messes and how to fix them
First up: Slideshow of listener nests.

Favorite cable management products and tips


  • Zip-Ties
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Cable tubes


Casey: My problem is that the Samsung 5-Disc Home Theatre System only has one Optical Audio Input, but I want to have individual optical outs from my Xbox 360, PS3, DirecTV DVR, and Apple TV. I know my TV has an optical out but I read in the manual that if you hook everything up via HDMI, and output a optical cable to my Samsung Home Theatre system it is only outputed with 2.1 and not 5.1 surround sound. Am I missing something here or should Home Theatre systems come with at least 3-5 Optical Audio Inputs? After researching the only logical solution I could find was to buy a Component Selector w/Remote and Digital Optical 3-In 1-Out. What are CNET to the Rescue's thoughts?

Josh: Toslink splitters seem to top out at two connections unless you get this box, which means one more thing to stack next to your receiver.

Rafe: Don't forget the coax digital is just as good as optical. You might have more flexibility.


Anthony Chabot: Switching from iPhone to android - how do I move iTunes purchases, listen to / aggregate podcasts, and is it as good of an experience?

Josh: As long as you have all the content on your computer it's super easy. In fact, I'd suggest using something like DoubleTwist, which can match up all your existing playlists, content, and settings over to an Android phone from your iTunes library. As for whether it's a better experience, that's subjective. There are plenty of good, media apps for Android that make it easy to view content.


akaterror56: What is the difference between a $5 HDMI to a $120 one?

Rafe: $115. For short cables (3 or 4 feet), labs have demonstrated different signal qualities, but have not been able to see the difference on TVs. At longer lengths, expensive cables may be noticeably better, though.


Khaled: I love Android but have always wanted one device with both a good physical keyboard (prefer small vertical not large horizontal) for bashing away business emails and a touchscreen for a great browsing experience. It seems the new torch fits the bill, and as my upgrade has come up I'm thinking about switching, the worst that can happen is I'll fall back on my HTC legend which I'll be keeping for a while. Can you please let me know if I'll love or hate bb's OS keeping in mind I use gmail and google calendar a lot, so will want push / constant sync for those plus google contacts.

Rafe: It's a big change. If you like Android, deal with a Droid. Or the Motorola Charm might do it for you.

Josh: One thing to keep in mind is that the BB OS6 is very new, so there are bound to be some bugs. As for your love for Gmail, there's an official Gmail app, as well as ways to integrate your Google accounts and get two-way sync.


Ravindra: My question is about HDTV and compatibility with various countries broadcast system. Voltage problem is already taken care of.

I have Samsung series 7 LCD TV LN46B750 (US specs) which support QAM / ATSC (Digital TV Tuner), NTSC (Analog) TV Tuner. I am moving to Singapore where I believe PAL is a broadcast standard. I know I cannot use RF input to use TV's built-in NTSC tuner. What I am looking for is using HD Set top box. If I am going to use Set Top box from cable provider which support HDMI out at 1080i will my TV work with that Set Top Box? And general question I have is; does HDMI have any dependencies on PAL/NTSC format. I heard about new MPEG4 broadcast systems or something, is that helpful for me to solve my broadcast compatibility my problem. I like my TV and I don't want to sell it if it's going to work with HD set top box.

Josh: One option is to get a PAL to NTSC coverter box, which can switch the signal for you behind the scenes. Check out this, from Atona.

More reading: HDMI - PAL/NTSC flavours


Ralph: I have my MacBook Pro password protected, but feel vulnerable in the event that my the machine fell into the hands of a determined hacker. Same question for my imac or my external hard drive. Is there a way to protect my data in the event the machine (laptop/desktop or external hard drive) was stolen?

Rafe: Easy: Truecrypt.

Josh: There's also an encryption tool built into OS 10, called FileVault. It's free and works great--as long as you don't lose your password...because there's no way to recover it otherwise. You can find it in settings > security > filevault.


Sponsored by
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.

This week's Blackberry question is from Gurkirpal: I am a college student, from Chicago. I need to buy a new laptop. Do you have any suggestions for a good laptop under $1,000?

CNET's highest rated, sub-$1,000 laptops are the Gateway NV7915U, the Toshiba Satellite E205-S1905 bundle, and the Toshiba Portege R705-P2. There's also Apple's MacBook which can be had for just under a grand. You can get a full rundown of these, and other laptops on CNET's laptop reviews page.