CNET to the Rescue: Four girls walk into a hot spot...

So your daughter is at college borrowing a Wi-Fi signal from the boys downstairs. What could go wrong? We explain, and solve. Also: Replace the expiring XMarks and watching a Parrot AR.Drone fall from the sky.

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
8 min read

This week we tackle a worried father's conundrum: His daughter is at college borrowing a Wi-Fi signal from the boys downstairs. What could go wrong? We explain, and solve. Also: how to replace the expiring XMarks; yet more questions about what to do with old iPhones; Josh road-tests and iPad case with a built-in keyboard; and we watch a Parrot AR.Drone fall from the sky.

Got a tech question? E-mail rescue@cnet.com or leave it at our new toll-free number: 877-438-6688

Watch this: CNET to the Rescue Ep. 19: Four girls walk into hotspot...


Episode 19: Your questions answered

Road tests

Rafe: AR.Drone update. It crashed.

Josh: The Typad iPad case.

Rafe & Josh: Sprint Overdrive.

Rafe: The Social Network.


iYaz: So Xmarks is ending its service in 2011. The cross-browser bookmark and password sync plugin is great and I used it all the time. Do you have any suggestions for a replacement plugin that works on both Chrome and Firefox?

Josh: A simple option is to use Delicious. You can port over all your existing bookmarks, and have them sync in Firefox, Chrome & IE. There's also a bookmarklet you can put on any browser if you wish to keep it extension free.

Rafe: It's a tragedy! Chrome and Firefox both have their own sync apps and their existence is one of the reasons XMarks sync is going under. But they're not cross-browser.

I also recommend trying out Diigo, which is not only cross-browser but works on ipad and Android. However, it's a much heavier add-on than Foxmarks and doesn't actually update your browser's built-in bookmarks. instead it relies on a sidebar that's part of the plug-in. On the plus side it also has highlighting, sharing, and read-it-later features.


Richard Fogel: My daughter moved into apt near UCLA. The four girls in apt are sharing a Wi-fi network with the boys in apt downstairs, who own the router, and gave the girls permission to use their network and password. I am very worried about my daughters info being accessible on this network. She does shopping and bill-pay on her 3-year-old Macbook. How can I protect her data? Should I insist that she get her own broadband connection (about $40.00 per month) and use her own airport express router, which she will share with her roommates?

Security reporter Elinor Mills: He should pay for her to get her own Wi-Fi router and service and she should use a password so that only she and her roommates (if she chooses) can access it. Also: Use HTTPS only when doing business online.

Darren Kitchen from Hak5.org: She could use a commercial VPN service to tunnel all of her traffic. Two I've heard of include HotSpotVPN and HotSpotShield. I haven't used either. Personally I prefer to set-up my own VPN on a dedicated server I lease at a co-location facility. That might be a bit much for the average consumer but for me it's all about trusting the endpoint. VPN clients are dead simple to setup on OS 10. SSL is nice but in a man-in-the-middle situation it can easily be removed using tools like SSL-Strip.


Voicemail: Jake in Fullerton with a deactivated iPhone 2G.

Josh: The easiest way to do this is to jailbreak it. We're not going to tell you how to do that, suffice to say that you can find instructions somewhere like iClarified.


Ralph: To copy a simple DVD as protection from loss or damage what is the best free software? The previous version of the chess training DVD was lost and I would like to copy the new copy I purchased so I don't have to buy it again.

Josh: If you want to keep the menus and everything, try DVDShrink on the PC side. It's free and incredibly easy to use, and like the name would suggest, it can cram a big DVD file into a smaller amount of space, if you're okay with some possible quality loss. It's also super customizable, so you can cut out things you don't need like the foreign language audio tracks and trailers. On the mac side, Roxio's Popcorn is quite good, and can even do video conversions to things like iPods and TiVos. It, however, is $50.


Juan Castro: Hi, I have tried the new AVG and it slows down my computer and made my machine crash. I meed something that does not crash and that is also fast at doing scans. I like the Avast however it takes like 3-4 hours to do a scan on my machine. Please can you help me. I have an XP computer.

Rafe: Microsoft Security Essentials. Now, keep in mind that an initial scan will take a while. 3-4 hours is not unreasonable on a well-used, older PC. But once that's done, you really shouldn't have to worry about it.

Josh: Ditto that, our Download.com users say it's light on the resources and your CPU cycles.


surfingtheweb: safari on the iPhone, is there a way to stream audio and at the same time open another page and surf the web?

Josh: Not through Safari, since streaming audio takes over the whole screen. You can, however start streaming in Safari, hit the home button, and open up an alternate browser like Opera Mini. I tested this out and it worked just fine. Be forewarned if you're using an iPhone 4, however, since Opera Mini has not yet been updated to handle the Retina display. If you still want to use Safari, and you're a MobileMe user, you can store that audio file in iDisk, start it playing in the iDisk app, then move on to Safari.


Neill Currie: I am the Systems Administrator for my wife's iPod Touch, 32GB, 3rd Gen. It currently gets podcasts , music syncs, and OS upgrades via iTunes, when connected to a Windows XP laptop, however, I would love to find a piece of software that will manage the subscriptions *AND* allow for iOS updates/upgrades. I am aware of several "managers" that'll perform most of this, but am unaware of a "manager" that will allow iOS updates. Is this at all possible, and can you recommend one?

The reason I want to switch away from iTunes, is that the Windows laptop is currently an Acer netbook, and I can see it wheezing under the bloat associated with iTunes. I know there's the possibility of cutting some of the bloat from the iTunes installation, but I want to keep the update path for whatever solution chosen to be as straightforward as possible. I have mostly Ubuntu machines in the house, so a Linux solution would work too, but I prefer a Windows XP solution, as then it would be easier for my wife to run the updates etc.

Josh: You can always download podcasts manually right on the device, and get additional episodes of a particular podcast you subscribe to from within the podcasts section of the iPod app. There are also podcasting apps like RSS Player (formerly Podcaster).

As for updating, you can update your device from a computer that is not yours, but there's no way around this without using iTunes. Just plug it in and hit the update button--not the sync one. I did this with 4.1 while out on vacation and it worked like a charm. You can also take solace in the fact that the iPhone and iPod will undoubtedly have firmware updates that can be run on the device itself in a future version of the iOS, since just about every competitor does that right now.


Oscar the College Student: I recently completed a DIY project to hookup my netbook to my TV. It's an older TV so I purchased a VGA to RCA converter for video at about $28 and an audio to stereo converter for about $5 and it works great. I even turned my Droid into a remote for my computer with a free app called RemoteDroid.

However, I have noticed two flaws in my design. My TV display is convex so text does not always appear as it should. And also, the video and audio do not convert at the same speed so the video lags a little behind the audio. I wanted to two know if there was a way (perhaps in software) to correct my screen for the convex display and also a way to delay my audio. This is a problem for me because whenever I watch Reporter's Roundtable or BOL, Rafe's voice comes when his mouth isn't moving so it's like I'm watching a foreign film dub of an english film and it is also difficult to read the shownotes because of the display. I can live without HD and I don't have the money to buy a new TV.

Rafe: Doing image processing to fix your warped TV won't be easy -- it's a complex problem to solve. But if anyone in the Rescue audience knows an app for that, we'll pass on the knowledge. Old tube TVs don't have the resolution to support even 640x480 video though, so it'll never look great. As far as the audio/video sync problem, my suggestion is to try a different player. I get sync issues with some files in Windows Media Player for example, but VLC plays them fine. Just download the podcasts directly from the site instead of going through iTunes.



Don Peer: To the caller looking to buy a used laptop: it was recommended that he bring up a black screen and then a white screen to check the pixels. This is insufficient. I recommend that he use a display test pattern that will fill the screen will all basic colors, such as the Nokia Monitor Test. Also, other things to check for on a used laptop: keyboard keys and USB ports. Most people use these on a daily basis and they wear out of fail completely. I would not trust someone to warn me of such conditions because they may simply be used to working around it.


George Thomas, Modesto, Calif.: I am writing to address a common question that you have been returning to for the past two episodes now. The question is "Best way to use a phone or other blue tooth device on a motorcycle". In my experience over the years as an avid rider, I have tried many different options. For me, the best overall method has been keeping my phone (Motorola Droid) in the tank bag, which most bags have a specific pouch on the top to display your device and still keep it safe from the weather.

As for the headphone setup, the best feature rich device I have found is the "High Tech" branded V2 modular Wireless Device. This unit does it all. It supports A2DP Stereo Profile for audio, as well as an extra auxiliary port for a non-bluetooth media player. It has an embedded FM tuner, and also will allow bluetooth communication between you and a passenger (as well as Bike to Bike radio intercom up to 1600 feet!) For the price, this device really cant be matched at this time. One extra cool feature is a separate charging station for the removable battery/control section of the device. Hope this sheds a bit more light on the topic.



Next time, more of your questions answered.

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