Hardware

Laptop or desktop computers and any components within.

How can I use an old Nook tablet to watch movies?

Episode 1459

Steve from Denver, CO
Barnes and Noble NOOK Tablet 7"

Steve was given a Barnes and Noble Nook reader. Can he watch movies on it? Leo says that the Nook had very limited space and used a proprietary format, but he may be able to hack it to give it more options, including watching the movies he wants. He should head over to XDA-Developers to see how to "root" the Nook. His real problem, though, is copy protection. The Nook only supports movies with Cinema Now DRM. But that's part of the fun of hacking old technology like a Nook.

Is it a good time to buy a new PC?

Episode 1459

Tony from La Jolla, CA
HP EliteOne

Tony's wife has a laptop that's dying. Should he buy her a new laptop or a desktop? Leo says that as time goes on, more people are doing their computing on mobile, so if she needs a new computer, going back to a desktop for those times she has a few hours to sit and surf may be a better option. It's certainly more affordable. All-in-Ones like the HP EliteOne is a good option, and it's very attractive on the desk. Dell makes some nice All-in-Ones as well.

Dick DeBartolo, The Giz Wiz

Episode 1457

Dick DeBartolo

The Water Car is an amphibious car, designed for land and sea. Here's a little backstory from the company: In 1999, WaterCar started a personal challenge to build the world's fastest amphibious vehicle. After January, 2010, when WaterCar established the Guinness amphibious speed record (60 mph / 52 knots), they began designing a vehicle to offer to the public. In 2013, the team realized their Panther model (more than 10 years in development) achieved the quality, reliability, and maintainability that allowed them to offer it for purchase. Each Panther is a custom vehicle.

Can I run Windows on a thumb drive?

Episode 1457

Richard from Spring Hill, FL
USB thumb drive

Richard wants to know if he can run Windows off a thumb drive for security. Leo says that's a smart idea and it's not uncommon for Linux users. He should just understand that it will be slower. But it will enable him to simply reboot if something goes wrong. Leo recommends using a disk imaging command to make a disk image onto his thumb drive and then he can just blast it back on when it goes wrong. He can even make it bootable.

Is Amazon Echo always listening?

Episode 1457

Charmaine from Costa Mesa, CA
Amazon Echo

Charmaine wants to know if she can plug Amazon Echo into a surge protector. Leo says of course! Charmaine also worries that it's always listening. Leo says it is, but it doesn't actively listen unless she says one of four words: Amazon, Echo, Alexa, or Computer. It's only listening for those words. Once it hears the wake word, then it turns on the microphone and sends her request.

Why won't my old computer boot up?

Episode 1457

Penny from Long Beach, CA
Hard drives

Penny has an old tower computer that she wants to get rid of. Leo suggests keeping the hard drive and donating the rest of the PC. She tried to boot it up to move the data off the hard drive, but it won't boot. Leo suggests that she check her keyboard connection. Sometimes a computer won't boot if a keyboard isn't properly connected. The BIOS battery or motherboard battery could have died. The hard drive may have gotten stuck. It's called "stiction." Penny should try taking out the hard drive and putting it into an external enclosure to see if she can still read the data.

Can Amazon Echo be used to spy on me?

Episode 1457

Mark from South Carolina
Amazon Echo

Mark wants to know if Amazon Echo is going to be used in cars. Leo says it will. In fact, Leo just installed one in his. And we'll soon see Google's Assistant there, too. It's the next big thing in computing. Mark is also concerned that Echo could be used to spy on him. Leo says that's possible. But Leo doesn't think Amazon wants to manage all that information and the risk to its business if it was discovered that Amazon was snooping on customers would be devastating. But then again, law enforcement could always subpoena to have access to it.

Should I have to pay to have my router updated?

Episode 1456

Mark from Northridge, CA
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 router

Mark got the Nighthawk router and now he's hearing he has to buy a service agreement to have it updated for security after owning it for 90 days. Leo says that's outrageous. Security updates should be included in a $200 router. Paying $129 a year is ridiculous. But we expect really cheap gear now and with a single tech call, they can lose their profit margin. It's just the nature of the technology business. Security is a basic need, though, and that should be factored in.