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CNET to the Rescue: What to do with old iPhones

What's an iPhone 4 user to do with his iPhone 3? Give it away, or hack it? Also: Jason answers audio questions, a bunch of networking puzzlers, and how bad signals can ruin a perfectly good HD TV.

Josh and Rafe are back on the show together again, finally. This week, we answer the burning question of iUpgraders: What to do with an old iPhone 3? Give it to your kids or a homeless shelter...or hack it? Tough call. Also: Jason answers audio questions, we have a few networking puzzlers, and we discuss how to ruin a perfectly good HD TV with bad video signals.

Now playing: Watch this: Ep. 16: What to do with your old iPhone


CNET to the Rescue: What to do with an old iPhone

Rafe's ideas:
1. Sonos controller
2. Computer for kids.

Josh's ideas:
1. Set it up in your kitchen as a recipe machine/bartender
2. Turn into a voice recorder
3. Jailbreak it and plug it into your TV
4. Home security system

Bruce: Add an Apple A/V cable, and turn it into a Netflix/Hulu plus/ABC/NBC/iTunes video player...that's what I did.

Michael: My wife and I are taking our 2-year-old son on vacation later this week. We both upgraded to the iPhone 4 from the iPhone 3G. I repurposed both of our 3Gs into learning devices for our son. I restored both devices and then loaded them up with education apps/games, my son's favorite music, photos of family and friends, and a few Sesame Street movies. He already knows how to unlock, swipe, make phone calls, end phone calls, open and closed apps, etc.

I also made sure to put the phone in Airplane mode, so it's not constantly searching for a signal and so I don't forget to do so when we board the airplane. Now, when he starts to get restless on the airplane and relentlessly kick the back of the seat in front of him, I have a simple distraction that he absolutely loves. As a tool for use on special occasions, it's a win-win-win for me and my wife, my son, and the poor old lady stuck in the seat in front of my son. If my son learns a little something through one of the apps...bonus!

Matt: We use ours for my daughter, who is 3. She loves it because it has her movies when we're on long trips. Also since it's jailbroken, we can now lock it down so it does not make calls. Add to that when we went to Disney, we used the GPS on it to track her, if needed.

Jeff: See if your local women's shelter can use them. Ours accepts them and gives them to women who are hiding or evading a stalker. They don't need to have an active plan, just be able to hold and accept a charge (a charger and manual are helpful). Any phone with a charge can still call 911, even if it does not have an active plan.

From Twitter:
eriks: Give it to your kids.
Fritz1013: wait until your new 1 crashes and your totally frustrated with apple and then find the biggest hammer you can find and office space it.
diov6point0: iDroid Project -> Froyo for iPhone 2G, 3G and iPod Touch 1G brings old device a new life.
jasmas: Jailbreak, unlock & resell :D
bawitdaba1337: TV Remote or Music for iPod dock

Road test items

A note about Wi-Fi radios in the MacBook, iPhone 4, and iPad.

Red Laser saved me $6 on a headphone splitter while on vacation.

HDR photos with iPhone 4. Examples.


Steve Eli: I have a TV system at home [in which] I have my multi-DVD player, Nintendo Wii, PS2, and a laptop cable all being routed to a RCA (red, yellow, white cables, if I used the wrong term) switch. This switch allows me to use my Wii, laptop, or PS2, and have the audio come out of the DVD/stereo system (through its audio in port) and the video come out of the TV, which prevents me from having to buy a receiver and add another remote [to] the mix (which I'm trying to consolidate).

Over time, I've been watching the CNET shows talk about video and sound quality, and wanted to know if I'm missing out on graphics and if I should think about getting better cables. I've never been a guy that needs the mind-blowing graphics or sound, or craved the realistic quality of video games/movies and just wanted a big TV to enjoy what I watch and play. I'm a real newbie when it comes to component (the 5 cables) or HDMI, and don't know much about them or what they can do for me.

What is the better cable for my system/setup? RCA, component, HDMI, or something else? For my Wii, is RCA good enough, or should I think about getting a component cable or HDMI cable (if there is one)? My TV is 42 inches and is capable of 720p and does/has some HDMI ports (which I'm currently not using).

Rafe: Composite sucks. S-Video sucks less. Best are component and HDMI, which are indistinguishable on 42-inch sets. But HDMI is easier to run.

Josh: As for the Wii, it tops out at 480p--so buying an HDMI converter for it is largely a waste of money. Having used the Wii on an HDTV with both a composite cable and a component cable, the bump from 480i to 480p is nice but not necessarily worth the extra cost. Then again, if you're playing a lot of sports games on your Wii (HA!) it's totally worth shelling out for it. There's a good comparison video.


John: We have new custom-built desks at our workplace, and thanks to a design oversight, they didn't come with computer cable grommets or any way to neatly hide cables. So we can drill our own, but we are also considering going wireless with the keyboards and mice. Do you have any recommendations for a good set which will work well in close proximity (~1 meter) to each other? We will need three sets. Is RF better, or Bluetooth? If it matters, currently XP, but I'm sure we'll go to 7 in a year or two.

Rafe: Wireless is overrated for keyboards and mice. But...Josh says...

Josh: The Bluetooth-vs.-RF debate has been going for quite some time. The key benefit of Bluetooth over RF is that if your computer already has a Bluetooth transmitter in it, you might be able to use these machines without having to forsake one of your USB ports with a transmitter dongle, and there may be fewer interference problems from things like your microwave, Wi-Fi signals, or cordless phones. There are some key advantages to RF tech, though--mostly that it can give you dramatically faster wake times from when your devices sleep to conserve power. Both Bluetooth and RF will not "channel hop," so you don't have to worry about interference when you have a nest of them next to each other, and in the case of RF--they come prepaired, which is nice.


Nik: My old Linksys WRT600N has just bit the dust, and I am trying to find a good replacement. What are your thoughts on the best available dual-band gigabit routers available? Dual-band Wireless N and Gigabit wired connections are a must, and USB network storage is a plus but not necessary. I have found that consumer reviews for all the routers I have looked at suck. They are either totally negative or extremely positive.

Rafe: Try the D-Link DIR-655. I found it for only $65! Must be soon-to-be-discontinued, but it works great, regardless.


Scott: So, it being the beginning of the semester in college, all the teachers handed out their class syllabuses. Some just gave out hard copies, and some did that as well as make digital copies available. So here's the problem: we want to keep digital copies of all our syllabi (?), but only have some digital ones. We don't have a scanner, so we thought we might just take pictures of them all with a digital camera, but then we would just have lots of image files, and it would be harder to look for what we wanted. So is there a way to take image files and make them into a PDF format?

BTW, Rafe, I've settled on using Evernote with the pictures and word documents, but my roommate doesn't use Evernote, and he'd like to have a different solution.

Rafe: First, get the prof to send you the source docs! Or convince your pal to use Evernote. Or...

Josh: I actually used a pretty neat program called Prizmo--available for both Macs and iPhones--that you can use to snap a photo of paper and get it turned into a PDF. It's also able to do nice little things like fix perspective and run the words through optical character recognition. It's $50 for the software program, or $10 for the iPhone app.


Rich The Recruiter: I have an entry-level DSL modem/wireless router (Actiontec) for our home network. For the last few weeks, I've noticed the lights for all the active LAN ports are constantly flashing like a Vegas casino. Is there any way to monitor network traffic to see if anything nefarious is going on? Has someone hacked onto my network? Is one of my computers a zombie? Are my TiVos hogging all my bandwidth?

Rafe: All routers keep log files, and that's the only place you'll be able to see what your router is really doing. You may have to enable log recording first, but check the log. Of course, in order to know what's using your bandwidth, you have to know which machines on your network are which, according to the router's routing tables. But a status page on your router's Web console should give you that. There's no way to tell what's going on on your entire network from any particular endpoint, due to the way home routers and switches now isolate machines from each other.

Don't pay too much mind to the flashes. They're not calibrated to traffic, and blinking could mean anything.

Other things to check: Check with your ISP to see how much bandwidth you're using up. I have Comcast, for example, and it now has a monthly report of bandwidth used. Another option: Switch your domain lookup server from your default's to OpenDNS. This alternate DNS keeps great logs on all the Web addresses that it looks up for machines on your home network.



Bregol: I was just listening to the "Beg, Borrow, and Steal" episode, and was surprised you didn't mention this as a solution for the dying hard drive that needed to be cloned:

A completely free solution that works perfectly is to burn a Knoppix CD (or Backtrack, or any other Linux Live CD) and use the "dd" command to clone from one device to the other. It's free, it's not complicated, and it doesn't require the use of a second computer--the OS just runs off of the CD on your existing machine.

If this comes up again, you don't have to recommend paying for software to do this when you could easily do it for free.