The Real Deal 168: Smartphones

We tell you everything you need to know about smartphones and answer questions about Windows 7 and more.

Tom Merritt Former CNET executive editor
6 min read

We tell you everything you need to know about smartphones and answer questions about Windows 7 and more.

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Rafe’s law: Ignore the price of the phone – it’s only 5-10 percent of the total expense.

Coverage: (Tom) Data and calls.

Apps: A big freakin’ deal… and you can’t beat the iPhone.

Speed: Matters. 3Gs versus 3G is a difference.

Battery life: These ain't a nokia 6230, but most recharge via USB.

Phone as iPod




BlackBerry Bold

LG enV Touch
Samsung Omnia

Samsung Instinct
Palm Pre

Samsung Memoir
BlackBerry Curve 8900
Sidekick LX
Android G1

Data Plans

Pre-iPhone-Android comparison

Unlocked phones

Consumer Reports: iPhone bests Pre, BlackBerry

Insert rant here: turn-by-turn nav and AT&T’s BS


Hi Tom and Rafe -

First of all, you two ROCK! I got a Gateway 3103 netbook for my birthday and it is wonderful. The problem is it came with Windows Vista and I am wondering if I should upgrade to Windows 7 or downgrade to Windows XP. The specs for this computer are:

AMD Athlon 64 L110
2.0 GB memory
250 HDD

Thanks for your help and keep up all the good work.


Rafe: If you like Vista, you’ll love 7. I don’t advise downgrading to XP — you have to go searching for drivers and stuff.


xfire0384@acedtect Tom, can you use the Win7Upgrade and do a fresh install? Going from 32 to 64bit too.

A: You can use the Windows 7 upgrade to do a fresh install. Unclear whether XP/Vista has to be on the partition or you can just use disk. You can upgrade from Vista or XP 32 -bit to Windows 7 64-bit. Pre-order the download and you can choose at download time.

Rafe: I pre-ordered. Clean install is the only way to go, but it’s not clear yet how MS will check for prev. installs.


Hello Tom and Rafe,
I admit that I only just started listening to “The Real Deal.” I love your work on Buzz Out Loud, and now that I listen to the Real Deal, I love the more in depth information and focus you can give topics in this format. I know the show on telephony was a few weeks ago, but I still have a question about VoIP service. Is there any free VoIP, or do you always have to pay for the service? I have a land line that gets calls for several family members and that I have bundled with my DSL service, because the only other high speed internet provider that I know of in my area (Comcast) sucks. I also have a prepaid cell on Verizon that I barely use. I may not use the VoIP service very much either, especially if I can’t find many others who use it, and therefore don’t think it would be worth it to pay for.
Thanks in advance for your answer and I love all the work you do on CNET.
Kevin O. Thomas

A: Skype and Gizmo Project are free until you call land lines. Others are very cheap or “free” to certain numbers with a deposit and restriction. There’s also something called evaphon.come which purports to be free. I tried it and it took 10 minutes to plce the call. I had to watch an ad. But it did work adn the line was fairly clear.

Rafe: Google Voice – for US only. You can buy credits for overseas.

I would like to take advantage of OS X Time Machine, but the external drive I have been using for backing up my work and storing media (Western Digital My Book; 1TB is formatted for Windows.

Is there a way to set up the external so I can use Time Machine with it, without formatting the whole thing and loosing data? (The hard drive on the Macbook is 250g)

Thanks so much!

Halifax, Nova Scotia

A: Not easily no. Time Machine needs HFS+. Windows need either Fat32 or NTFS. You can set up a drive to be both Windows and Mac and be used with Time Machine http://balloflightning.com/2009/02/dual-partition-a-usb-drive-for-time-machine-and-windows/. However the way described there uses destructive partitioning. I;ve read some reports that Time Machine doesn’t like an MBR, it prefers a partitioning scheme set up by the Mac. So you could TRY using Gparted to resize the partitions and then using the mac to make an HFS+ partition without destroying the Windows partition and THEN see if Time Machine will work with, but I’d say your chance of success is 50-50.

Rafe: External USB drives are so cheap now… just get one and dedicate it to your backup.



Hello Tom and Rafe:

Here is an idea for a topic, since we are being flooded with devices that stream media to our HDTVs. While some devices like the Popcorn Hour will take just about whatever you throw at it, most have a limited range of video codecs and formats, so this means conversion!!

Could you recommend software solutions for doing these video conversion as quickly and easily as possible to meet the “flavor” requirements of the particular streamer we might have? Also what settings should we be be most particular about to maintain HD quality? And, if we do have a range of options, which formats would be preferable for quality and flexibility?

In my particular case, I have an HD video camera that records in MOV (which is frustrating). My new LG BD390 does not handle this, so I must decide whether to convert to Mp4, Divx or MKV. HELP!!



A: MediaCoder for Windows – http://mediacoder.sourceforge.net/download.htm
Handbrake for Mac. http://handbrake.m0k.org/download.php

Hi Tom and Rafe,

I’m dual booting Linux Mint (based on Ubuntu) and Vista, and I noticed that my laptop runs a lot cooler with Vista than Linux Mint. Rafe mentioned on the last show that the same thing happens to his Mac when running Vista (or was it 7?).

I thought it might be something thats just affecting my Toshiba Satellite L300 laptop but after a quick google search and talking to people on a message board it seems that its pretty common. I remember from earlier episodes (way earlier) Tom seems to be pretty good with Linux so I thought I’d ask you guys what you think of this … any ideas on how to make my laptop run cooler with Linux?



PS my specs are:

Intel 2 ghz dual core
Intel 4500 series graphics
Hitachi HDD, 250gb

A: It’s the power management features in Windows that are making it run cooler. A lot of folks have success installing ACPI in Linux.


Tom: Logitech 1100

Rafe: Sidewinder X8 vs Bluetooth POS (wireless laser mouse 8000)



Hi Tom
Just checked out your video on URL Preview. I found this one on the firefox add on page. Just search for Long URL. It seems to work really good, easy to install and you can set it up to show the full url in the options menu on the firefox add on page.

If you find a problem with it let me know.
Thanks for all the good ideas

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