CNET to the Rescue: Cubicle defense

Today, we rescue you from the indignities of working in a cubicle. Also: How to stream music on an iPhone, how to test your home network for open ports, and much more.

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
7 min read

Today, we rescue you from the indignities of working in a cubicle. We've got your rear-view mirrors, your headphones, and should all else fail, your USB foam rocket launchers. Because, you know, work is war. Also: How to stream music on an iPhone, how to test your home network for open ports, and much more.

Watch this: CNET to the Rescue Ep. 10: Cubicle defense


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Episode 10: Cubicle defense

Cube defense necessities:

  • Rearview mirrors and security cameras
  • USB rockets
  • Headphones
  • White noise generator or the reverse, the "Babbleator"
  • A desk full of anime toys - keeps people away

Rafe's recent Comcast outage: The takeaway:

  1. Evening outages
  2. Too many splitters
  3. The re-set cable modem
  4. The non-working router
  5. Twitter to the rescue!

HobbitFromPA: Will try to keep this short. Had a an IRiver that I really loved but 20g just wasn't cutting it anymore and also wanted something that played video. Bought an Archos 5 Android (500 gb) and liked it but got a brick unit from the start and went back and forth with them for months and finally ended up getting my money back. I want something that has a large storage capacity and can play audio and video and maybe even surf the interwebs. Apple is not an option. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Josh: According to our a/v gadget guru Donald Bell, the cross section between big capacity and gadgets with good browsers is relatively small if you're not willing to use something like a laptop. The Archos 5 Android was kind of on its own since it had that much storage.

While not a huge capacity, Donald suggests the Zune HD 64, which can do audio, video, and has a browser. And if you're looking for another Android tablet thingy you might want to check out the Dell Streak, which has the audio/video + browser features covered, but tops out at 32GB. Most of the other Android tablets that are on the horizon have a small amount of storage too.


Chris: I had a question regarding streaming music on my iPhone. I would love to be able to stream music on my phone like I do on my computer using sites such as Grooveshark or Playlist.com. Unfortunately, due to some shortcomings in the area of Adobe Flash...no luck. (Also, Apple did not approve the Grooveshark app, which looks awesome). I realize that I could pay for this and get Rhapsody or a similar service, but I would rather just get the music videos from the YouTube app. Is it possible to stream specific music tracks on the iPhone for free?

Rafe: YouTube works on the iPhone. What's the problem?

Josh: Pandora and Slacker both have iPhone apps. There's also Last.fm and Rdio.

Rafe: Try MOG. New for iPhone. Free for 3 days, then $9.99/mo. Also Rhapsody, now a background app for iPhone 4

For streaming your own music you can use things like Mspot, Dropbox, Box.net and Apple's iDisk, which was just recently updated for iOS 4 multitasking and background processing.


Mark: I have a lighting control system for my home that uses a central controller and is plugged in to my home's wireless router. An iPhone app can control the lights, it just needs to be on the home's Wi-Fi. The instructions say I need to allow "port forwarding" to allow access to the central controller when I am not home and not on my home's Wi-Fi.

I am confused on how safe this is, some say it's fine, some say it's not. The set up for the controller recommends it have authentication turned on, a username and password.

There is another central controller that allows access without port forwarding but it costs ~ $330 and I am trying to save money.

Rafe: You're right to be concerned about security, but there are precautions. First of all, the advice to turn on authentication and have a strong password is very good. Do it. Now, if you set up a port, you are opening up a device to the Net, but chances are the device isn't as vulnerable as a general-purpose computer. I suppose if it's a bad, insecure device, and your password can be routed around, then it is theoretically possible that it could be hacked to access other devices on your LAN from within your home's firewall, which would be very bad, but we have not heard of exploits yet against lighting controllers.

Also be sure to scan your PCs ports with Gibson Shields Up.


Carl: My wife and I both have iPhone 3GSs. I am interested in geolocation apps that would allow us to see where the other person is without needing to check in anywhere or request a location. I know that the new iOS 4 allows some background GPS capabilities. I was wondering if there are any apps that would allow us to see each other's live location on the phone.

Josh: If Apple approves it, an app called PlaceTrack (which has been "in review" by Apple for close to two months now), will do just that using Google's Latitude service. Otherwise, there's nothing I could find that does everything automatically.


COMMENTS (all about video streaming in the home)
Terry: I would like to make a comment on Vincent's home theater question on the 7/14 episode of CNET to the Rescue. I have a similar set up and have just dropped most of my cable channels, leaving only the very basic option. I have a small, relatively inexpensive HP desktop running the Windows 7 version Windows Media Center and an Xbox 360. Windows Media Center is hands down the most underappreciated Microsoft offering. It offers complete DVR functionality, full DVD playback, and limited Internet streaming (mostly CBS shows and Netflix). It is a really great program.

The best part is that any Xbox 360 acts as an extender for Windows Media Center allowing you to watch live broadcasts and any show recorded on the Media Center computer, as long as they are on the same network. I can tell you of first-hand experience that a Xbox 360 with a Wi-Fi connection can stream standard-definition television with out a hiccup. Although high-def recordings really should have a wired connection. It really does not take a lot of processing power to have a Media Center PC. I have a very basic desktop that I have added three video capture card (they run $50 to $75 on eBay) and XP-Media Center IR remote with a USB receiver that I bought on eBay for $25. The integrated video card worked well enough, even when watching high-def broadcasts (until I upgraded to a Blu-ray drive that is). The one thing you will need is a BIG hard drive. WMC files are big, with 1 hour of standard def taking up to 3GB and HD can be as much as 9GB! I have a two drives myself. A factory original 500GB drive and recently added 1.5TB drive.

With the addition of free add-on, I can jump seamlessly between WMC and Hulu Desktop and Boxee with only using my remote to control everything. I found a lot of info I use to make my media center at www.hack7mc.com and www.thegreenbutton.com. Just for full disclosure, these add-on programs will only work on the PC and not via the Xbox extender, I have been using WMC for about three years, starting with Vista, and absolutely love it.


Dr. Karl: I was all set to recommend that the gentleman from last week's show look into Sling Media as a solution, particularly the "SlingCatcher" which basically lets you watch your main TV/DVR/Computer anywhere you want. Unfortunately, whilst researching, I discovered that as of April 2010, the product has been discontinued.

Oh well, a quick Amazon search reveals about a $100 average for home media streamers (cheaper than his console solution). And googling "cheap home media center" gets you a ton of great DIY how-to's (XBMC being my personal favorite). IMHO, though, just sit in the darn living room and watch TV, lol, OR, do what I do, and just leave video inputs in easy to reach places and carry your laptop from room to room. These last two suggestions are potentially free.


Dustin: That's what Boxee was made for. It pulls content directly from the publisher's sites as well as Hulu, so when you look for a video, it presents you with all the various sources available to watch it, which allows you to bypass the favoritism that publishers dole out by putting episodes up on their site before Hulu. The Boxee box will be great when it comes out, but in the meantime, Acer makes some great small form factor PCs with dual core atoms and the ION graphics that work great for this. Combine that with Lenovo's multimedia remote which is basically a trackball with a small keyboard on it, and you have a decent home theater setup, I use it all the time and love it.


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.

Or, for fun, tell us the most embarrassing trinket you have in your cube right now... and why it's still there. Again, from your BlackBerry Messenger app, contact us on our PIN 2482 Echo Bravo 89.