CNET to the Rescue: The case of the smoking motherboard

CNET Labs' Eric Franklin joins today to talk about smoking motherboards, best backup apps, how to save money on cables, 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

I roped Eric Franklin into joining the show today, and I'm glad I did. He shares a hobby with me: home-building PCs. Today we talk about his smoking motherboard and why we both spend so much money on tower cases. Also: best tools for backing up PCs to network drives, how to buy HDMI cables, and for those of you keeping score, the progress report from my Synology network-attached storage device.

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 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: LIVE!


Episode 39: The case of the smoking motherboard

Road tests and geek chat
First, an update on the Synology DS411slim. Week 5: It's still making thumbnails

To do: Rafe gives up on Things, tries Flow, and settles on Wunderlist.

Homebrew computers: Why we do it. Eric's smoking mobo. Would we do it again? Case picks (Rafe: Lian-Li; Eric: Coolermaster). Etc.

Your questions answered
Lynn: I am going to buy a new TV to replace out my first-generation DLP TV that had composite [ed: component?] cables. It will be a 60 inch, 3D HDTV, 1080P, LED back lighting , with 240Hz refresh. So shopping for HDMI cables, I saw that some of them now have ratings for refresh rates. "Delivers 100% of the data required for 120Hz/240Hz/600Hz or higher" Does this matter, or is this a marketing hype?

Rafe: It's hype. For cables in the standard 4- or 6-foot lengths, it doesn't matter. Get $4 cables from Monoprice. Get a few, in case one goes bad. Save your money!

Eric: Ray Soneira wrote a great article debunking several display myths.


Richard M. Fogel: Please explain Java, what it is and why it causes conflicts with Web sites, especially government sites. When I go to a Web site from the court system from our old crummy PC, it opens with no problem. When I go to same site with Mac (updated weekly, running Snow Leopard), I get a message that says I am not logged in. I ran an update, and can now get in. I've been told it is a Java issue. Does it make a difference if I use Safari as a browser, or Google Chrome?

Rafe: Explains Java a bit, and yells at sloppy Web site developers.


Rich in Lovely Cleveland: I want to upgrade my camera. My budget is under $500, and I was thinking of a micro four-thirds camera as a nice compromise between portability and photo quality. I saw two on Newegg that I thought were good deals, a refurb Olympus E-PL1 for $350 and an open box Panasonic GF1 (with the 20mm pancake lens) for $420. My first inclination was the GF1, but I'm concerned about it being an open box item, while I do get 30 days to return it, Newegg only guarantees that it will turn on, and doesn't say what, if any, accessories come with it. If both were new for the price, I'd lean toward the GF1, as Lori Grunin rated it higher, but with the added quality assurance of being refurbished, the E-PL1 might be a safer bet. Let me know what you think about refurb vs. open box, thanks!

Rafe: I love refurbs. Open-box, not so much.


John Stark: Hope your thumbnails are finally completed on your new server... I am using my new 2010 CNET Editors Choice Seagate Free Agent GoFlex Desk external 2 TB attached to Pogoplug on my home network. The Momeo back-up software that came with the GoFlex is so easy to use, but the issue is it is so easy use that there is no customization of the backup. I would like to have the ability to see the file system so I can exclude specific files/folders I don't want to necessarily back-up to save space on the GoFlex external HD. Someone suggested the Acronis True Image Home 2011. But would love to hear any recommendations you might have.

Eric: I like Acronis. It's what we use here in the lab to backup testbed images. Fast and very easy to use if backup images is what you're after.

Also check out SyncBackSE. It's file backup only, compared to Acronis, which will do image backup. It has amazingly flexible options. I use it.


Elias: I have been using a PC for the past 15 years. I am thinking about purchasing a MacBook Pro. I feel guilty because I have always been a PC fan and I still am. I feel like the world is split in to two and wanted to learn how to use the Mac as well. My question is, if I buy a Mac and use Boot Camp to run both PC and Mac OS, what is the disadvantage of using Windows on a Mac and what would I be losing?

Rafe: Guilty? We need to talk. Anyway, you give up next to nothing when running Windows on a Mac under Boot Camp. Remember that it's not cheap--you have to buy a copy of Windows to do it, but it runs very, very well and everything works. I recommend skipping Boot Camp, though, and instead using a virtual machine, either VMWare Fusion or Parallels, instead. That way you can switch between the two environments on the fly. You give up a little bit in performance, but it's worth it unless you are primarily a Windows user.

In 2008, Harry McCracken called his MacBook "the best Windows laptop out there."

Eric: For desktops, I'm all over PCs as I build my own. Laptops, well, my next laptop will definitely be a MacBook. They're fast. I have minimal issues with them and they run Windows if need be. Boot Camp is fine for me, since I don't need to constantly switch.


Steve Eli: My brother-in-law is moving into my apartment building and wants to bum off my Internet (which I have no problem with). However, the range from my AirPort Extreme doesn't reach his unit alone, but it could if I plug the router into the third bedroom. Only problem is the telephone port (for DSL) are in certain rooms so the extreme needs to stay where it is. I heard in previous episodes that if you get a Airport Express, you can extend the network. Do you happen to have steps to accomplish this? It doesn't have to be an Express so long as it extends a wireless N network.

Eric: Here's a video tutorial. But in a nutshell:

1. Use AirPort utility
2. Give AirPort Extreme and Express same network name
3. Select Extreme and Click allow this network to be extended
4. Choose AirPort express, at Wireless Mode, choose Extend a Wireless Network and click allow clients.


Tyler: I just had a question on using a secondary computer in conjunction with my main computer. I am a soon to be college student, and I currently have a 17-inch MacBook Pro that I use as my main computer. For college, I was looking for a ultra light laptop (not a Netbook or tablet) that could be used during classes. The only problem is, I don't want to have to manually bring everything I've changed (mainly documents) back to my main computer.

As I said above, I have a MacBook Pro running OS X, and I was looking at a MacBook Air, but it could possibly be a Dell Vostro v13. Regardless of the actual laptop, is there any software that will automatically sync specific files if my computers are on the same network? Preferably a solution that syncs Windows to Mac, or possibly Mac to Mac.

Rafe: Yes there is. You're looking for a file sync solution. Dropbox is the current geeky favorite. I use SugarSync. Both have free but limited plans (2GB for Dropbox, 5GB for SugarSync). Both are cross--platform and use the cloud as an intermediary. Another option Windows Live Mesh, which is computer-to-computer. Also cross-platform, also free, but no storage limit since there's no cloud storage. Both computers have to be on at the same time to to sync, though.


Saddest question of the week award goes to...
Hi, I this is Dylan. I am a big tech geek. I have a Microsoft Kin Two, you know the version of the Kin that came back after the original fail. It has a stripped-down version of Windows Phone 7, and I was wondering if there is any way to download an Android OS over the original. I am really sick of the fact that you cannot download new apps, and I was just wondering if this is possible.

Rafe: If you could figure that out, you'd be a geek hero. Here's my advice: Seal it in box and donate it to the Computer History Museum in 20 years when they want to do a retrospective on failed Microsoft products. You'll be able to take it as a tax writeoff.