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CNET to the Rescue: Rich Brown on PCs vs. laptops

CNET senior editor Rich Brown joins Rescue today to bring us up to speed on the latest in desktop PC tech, including the best buys in graphics cards. Also, your questions answered, including how to prepare yourself for the theft of your gadgets, how to tether an iPod Touch to a BlackBerry, and a brief history of ASCII.

Today we're joined by CNET Senior Editor Rich Brown, who schools us in his area of expertise: desktop computers. Sure, there are more laptops sold than desktops, but the old workhorse form factor isn't going away, and Rich explains why. Rich and I also critique the latest in keyboards. Also, your questions answered, as always.

If you have a tech question for CNET to the Rescue, CALL US with your questions to get on the next show: 877-438-6688 or e-mail 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.

Now playing: Watch this: CNET to the Rescue Ep. #35: Rich Brown on why you want...


Episode 35: Rich Brown on PCs

Road tests: keyboards
Rafe checks out the newest Typad iPad keyboard.

Rich likes the Razer clicky Black Widow keyboard.

Why use a desktop
Rich and Rafe talk about PCs versus laptops. Rafe gets Rich's advice on the latest graphics cards.

Your questions answered
Khaled: My house was broken into a few days ago, and as far as tech goes (main theft target), I'm now left with only my Android phone (and I had a lot of gadgets). I want to make sure this doesn't happen again and need your advice regarding tech-related gadget and home security. Can you give me any tips on any of the following:

  • Software that will remotely wipe windows laptops
  • Best way to keep data backed up so it's not gone with stolen hardware (I was thinking about getting a NAS backup and then backing that up online)
  • Any home security advice such as IP cams, motion sensors, something linked to my android phone so I get remote warnings etc.

For after-theft control, try Prey or LoJack for Laptops. It does geolocation, remote lock, etc.

For backup, cloud backup (Mozy) or sync (Sugarsync/Dropbox)

For home security: A real firm. Otherwise, I use Panasonic netcams, there's also GotoCamera.


Susie Hattan: I very much enjoyed your December 8 show regarding fixing your relative's slow computer. I am actually the dumb relative with the slow computer and I have no tech-savvy person in my family to fix it! I have installed some of the free software you suggested, such as Malwarebytes, CCleaner, Foxit, AVG. My question is, should I remove for example Adobe from my computer? Do I keep my subscription to McAfee or Norton Antivirus? (I have an older computer running Windows XP and I have McAfee; I have a new laptop running Windows 7 and I run Norton Antivirus).

Rafe: The key thing is to not duplicate too much. More important is to not get yourself into trouble and to not over-clean your computer. As to the recommendation about Adobe reader: Yes, delete it. Use Foxit instead. But if it works OK for you now, don't worry about it.

Rich: If you have AVG free, McAfee and Norton are mostly redundant.


Chuck Lutz: Can I tether my work phone (BlackBerry Curve) with its unlimited data plan to my iPod Touch 4G using Bluetooth? This would be totally awesome.

Nicole says: There are two separate concerns here: The tethering of the BlackBerry Curve, and the connection with the iPod Touch. The first concern is possible -- you can indeed set up a BlackBerry Curve to be tethered if you have the right "tethering plan" from your carrier. Yes, most carriers do require you to have a tethering plan of some kind in addition to your data plan. This typically costs $20 or so extra. Since Chuck gets his blackberry through his work, this might not be a concern for him.

The second concern is not so easy. The iPod Touch, as it is, does not support the Bluetooth DUN or Dial Up Networking profile. That is, you can't connect the iPod Touch via Bluetooth to use a phone's internet connection. This is regardless of the phone--it won't work with the iPhone either. However, if you jailbreak your iPod Touch, you can get a Cydia app called iBluever that will let you do this. It's not free. It's $5. But it does seem to be quite popular with the jailbreak community. So the short answer is: No. Long answer is: Maybe, if you jailbreak.


Stephen Siegel: I have the latest iPod Touch and the latest iOS. I've put some mp4 videos from my own sources into iTunes and they play fine there, but if I load them on the iPod, they don't show up anywhere. Videos downloaded from iTunes store work fine of course. Any fix for the non-playing mp4's?

Rafe: Believe it or not, you need to first convert your video files so the i-device will play them. Quicktime X (in snow lep) should do it for you. Under "save as" there's an iPod setting. Then copy the resulting m4v to itunes. It should play.


Matt Jackson: It is well known that one can use modern day digital TVs as a computer monitor. I recently bought an Insignia 32" Class / 1080p / 60Hz / LCD HDTV Model: NS-32L450A11. Unfortunately, it does not truly function as a computer monitor. There are no settings for it to 1. turn on when I turn on my computer automatically 2. turn off when I turn off my computer automatically 3. have a blank screen in standby or hibernation mode. (Instead, "No Signal" is displayed on the screen for hours on end. I am concerned about burn-in. Tech support on the phone states that the TV will turn off after a few hours but couldn't tell me how many hours for sure). What digital TVs on the market truly function as a computer monitor?

David Katzmaier: I don't normally test for this, but I have a couple of smaller LCDs in the lab now that would potentially make good (albeit 720p) monitors--a Sony KDL-32BX300 and a Samsung LN32C30, so I checked them out. With an HDMI input, neither of them supported any of the three features you mentioned, although the Sony has an "Auto-shut off mode" that can be set to 1, 2 or 3 hours (I didn't wait around to see if it would work).

With a VGA input the Samsung behaved the same as HDMI--no auto shut-off (at least after about a half-hour) and no auto power on/off option. The Sony did turn off when its PC input remained inactive for something under 10 minutes, and afterward it powered up automatically when it detected a PC signal. However, when I manually powered down the Sony it did not auto power-up when it sensed a VGA PC signal.

I would assume other same-brand TVs function the same way. Some may also sense HDMI from a PC better (assuming the PC supports HDMI-CEC). Bottom line, if I was buying a LCD for use as a PC monitor via VGA I would get a (1080p) Sony at this point. But to answer your final question, no TVs that I know of "truly function as a computer monitor" according to your criteria. I don't consider burn-in an issue with any LCD.

Eric Franklin: I think a better question is "what computer monitors truly function as TVs?"

The answer is quite a few; however I can only vouch for the one I happen to have held on to, the Samsung SyncMaster B2330HD. It's basically a HDTV disguised as a monitor. I tested it this morning to see if it met the three criteria of the user.

When connected via HDMI, I got the same results as Katzmaier with the monitor not supporting any of the three functions. However, when connected to VGA (no DVI connection on this model unfortunately) the monitor did indeed function as a monitor would and supported all three features. It goes into complete standby mode (blank screen) when prompted. I'd be surprised if some of its larger HDTVs/monitors (up to 27-inch) didn't support these features as well, but I don't have any in the lab to confirm.


Ico, Rochester NY: I'm going nuts keeping track of logins, passwords, and secret questions for all my accounts. I'm a big fan of Evernote but I think its too dangerous to use it to keep track of all my logins. I just saw Seth's review of LastPass and I'm currently using it. I like all the encryption features of Lastpass but I still can't get myself to trust this tool with my money accounts. What do you guys use to keep track of your logins and passwords. Do you trust it with your bank, credit cards logins?

Rafe: I use Lastpass! At some point, you have to trust someone.

Rich: I use my head. I keep a few passwords in rotation. Probably not the safest route (esp. when a big site like Gawker gets hacked), but I'd rather do that than keep them all in one place, no matter how well that one place might be encrypted.


Dept. of "No question too basic..." #1

Shawn: Are WiMax and LTE the same thing?

Kent says: No, they are two distinct and incompatible technologies. Just two ways to approach 4G.


Dept. of "No question too basic..." #2

Atilano: I want to know who decided which combination of ones and zeros would represent a particular character. And where is the translation being made?

Rafe: Explains ASCII...