Hardware

Laptop or desktop computers and any components within.

Is there a Mac for under $1,000?

Debbie from Calabassas, CA

Episod 1093

Debbie wants to buy her son a laptop computer for his birthday, and wants to know if there's a Mac for around $500. Leo says no. She can get a base MacBook Air for $900, which has an 11" screen. It's powerful and affordable. 128GB is a fine size for an SSD and Debbie's son can always add an external hard drive, or he can bring it back and get something different. Should she get it at the Apple Store or at Best Buy? Leo says she won't save any money getting it at Best Buy. So she should go at the Apple Store.

How can I use a DVR if I'm blind?

Larry from Sherman Oaks, CA

Episod 1093

Larry has failing eyesight and records audio to SD cards to listen. He says he can't record using his DVR and just get the audio. He would like to record nonstop for hours on end. Leo says that DVRs aren't very well designed, especially for accessibility. Leo says that TIVO used to work on uVerse but sadly, not anymore. One suggestion may be MythTV. He can buy it pre-built or because it is open source, he can build his own.

Google's Nest Buys DropCam

Episod 1093

Google bought NEST, the programmable digital home thermometer with the aim to get into home automation. Then, the NEST division bought DropCam for a half a billion dollars. Leo uses six DropCam cameras at the BrickHouse studios in Petaluma and you can view the cameras online here. Leo says that the acquisition makes sense for the home automation track that Google is on with NEST.

Scott Wilkinson

Episod 1093

Scott Wilkinson

Program note - Scott will be filling in for Leo during 4th of July weekend. Also, Home Theater Geeks is now live on Thursdays around noon. Guests lately include SMPTE engineers who are establishing the television standards for ultra high definition. We've had HD for over ten years now and the industry is moving into 4K in order to sell more TVs. They tried 3D and it didn't really go over too well. There is a new 3D technology called UltraD that's coming this year, but everything is in 3D. And it's not going to do much better. So now it's all about 4K. Leo wonders about high frame rate.

Is the Asus router a good choice for me?

Tom from Warren, OH

Episod 1093

Tom is looking to get an Asus Dual Band Router. He's heard good reviews about it. Leo says that routers these days are a dime a dozen; a commodity. There isn't much difference between them, quite frankly. The dirty secret is that they all run the same chip sets. But Asus has started to use the open source firmware solutions like DDWRT. Going with open source firmware allows updates to happen more frequently that keep it secure.

Should I get an All-in-One computer?

Richard from Placentia, CA

Episode 1092

Richard is thinking about getting the Dell XPS All-in-One Computer to replace his XP machine. Leo says it's a pretty good machine that's essentially their version of the iMac. Very elegant design, and no wires. The only downside is that if something goes bad, it's all down for the count. He can't swap out a hard drive, for instance. Leo also says that going forward, Windows 8.1 is the way to go and it fixes a lot of things that Windows 7 broke. Security and performance is better. A lot of people aren't a fan of the Metro tiled interface, but it's the future and Richard should go with it.

Why does my XP machine crash all the time?

Brian from Rancho Santa Marquerita, CA

Episode 1091

Brian has an old XP machine that's starting to crash more often. He has to remove the hard drive and run check disk to fix it. But when he puts it back in to his laptop, it read the MUNC file, so the computer can't do anything. Leo says he can reinstall Windows, that could fix it, but it's likely a hardware issue and it's only going to get worse over time. The best solution is to have it repaired. But at that age, it's likely cheaper to just buy a new computer.

Can I use the Roku 3 headphone option as a hearing aid?

Ed from Valencia, CA

Episode 1091

Ed got his 88 year old aunt the Roku 3 so she can listen to the TV with headphones. Leo says that's a great feature, especially for those hard of hearing. Ed wants to know if there's a way to harness that capability by adding a mic and turning it into a hearing aid of sorts. Leo says that there's a ton of options out there which are far more comfortable and mobile. Like a smartphone with headphones, even with Skype. Home Theater Geeks episode 209 is a great episode on the importance of hearing.

Why won't my iMac to boot up?

Jim from Harbor City, CA

Episode 1090

Jim is having boot problems with his iMac running Snow Leopard. It's constantly telling him to restart. He can't boot from a startup disk. Leo says it sounds like a Kernel Panic. It means that the computer just can't go on. So that means that there's a serious issue with the hardware. Jim can try zapping the PRAM by rebooting and holding down CMD-OPT-P-R. Sometimes that'll solve it. But it's more likely a logic board problem or a power supply.