Thursday, May 03, 2007

CableCard 2.0 or Why your new, expensive CableCard Vista PC might soon be extinct

CableCARD 2.0 is reportedly coming in 2008 and will bring us two-way interactivity along with support for six or fewer TV tuners (unique channels can be tuned). The current CableCard 1.0 that's been talked about so much and is included in the current batch of CableCARD, VistaPC's won't be upgradeable to the newer 2.0 version. Same story for the Tivo Series 3 hardware. That means you would have to again buy all new hardware to get the 2.0 version.
Why would you not want the CableCard 2.0 features like multiple tuners (up to 6) and PayPerView among other things? Well mostly because this version of CableCARD would force the Cable Companies UI on you instead of the nice Tivo, VISTA or whatever PVR app gui you are used to seeing. Seems like its full of potential problems just like the current CableCard version. None of this is certain at this point since there is still bickering and arguing between CableLabs and the Computer Electronics companies like Tivo.

You can read more about CableCard in this article at Electronic House

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Repairing an old Sony Vaio Laptop Power Connector

Over a year ago my wife’s Sony VAIO laptop started having issues. At first, it seemed as if the battery didn’t hold a charge for very long. Not long after, it began shutting off without much warning. We eventually realized the power connector on the back of the laptop wasn’t getting a good connection. I ordered a new power cord thinking the cord or connector on the cord was faulty or had been worn. That didn’t work; the only way to get power to it was to jiggle the connector back and forth so it would get power for a while. Any slight movement would disconnect the power. Over a period of a month or so this worked until one day it just stopped working totally. At that time, I wasn’t up to fixing it myself so I tried a PC repair shop. When I realized the cost wasn’t much less than buying a new one I bought Shelly a new laptop and mothballed the VAIO for a while.

Several months ago, I pulled the old VAIO out of the box and decided I would try to fix it and use it for a digital photo frame. I found a great deal of information on the web about the many problems people had been having with VAIO laptops – many having the very same problem with the connector. The fix was to disassemble the laptop down to the motherboard, de-solder the old power connector from the motherboard and solder on a new one. I began disassembling laptop expecting some problems, but figured I could handle it.

The culprit - A dead power connector soldered to the motherboard
The keyboard and lcd screen detached from the laptop. The fun is beginning.

My mad scientist table. I had to use the dremmel on some of the case just to get to everything! Soldering was about to begin here as I had to desolder the old connector and solder back on the new power connector to the motherboard.

Sony did not make this laptop to be opened up. Many screws to take out, but several of the screws were behind plastic. Even when I was able to access the innards, many of the screws were either too tight or stripped. Needless to say, I spent several evenings toying around the laptop until I had a bag full of screws and other parts and finally had access to the motherboard. I practiced soldering on some junk parts I had laying around and then de-soldered the power connector from the laptop. It went really well with no problems so I had my confidence up. I ordered a replacement power connecter, soldered it on the motherboard and began reattaching all of the parts to the point where I could power it back on. To my great surprise it powered up. I’ve never been so happy to see the Microsoft XP logo in my life!

For more on how I turned this laptop into a digital picture frame we use to display photos in our finished basement (placed appropriately on the bar :) HOW I CONVERTED LAPTOP TO A DIGITAL PICTURE FRAME
More Pictures on flickr HERE

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Unlimited Joost Invites Are Here

I've now done two Joost Invite contests and now that Joost is reportedly opening up unlimited invites to current testers like myself, I thought I'd come up with a way to manage the number of invites I give out by making it a little harder to get the invite. With that said, here is how it is going to work this time:

Starting today you can reply to this post with your e-mail address and you will have a chance to win (Note: user [at] domain [dot] com preferred to stop spamming by bots). One entry per person please. I will be giving away 10 invites this week.
If you have a blog or a website, create a post on your blog that says
something like this:

Brent Evans is giving away Joost invites at
To get an invite, blog about it to get an invite from him.

After you have posted about it on your blog, put a link to your blog post in the comments to this post along with your name and e-mail ( use "user [at] domain [dot] com" to avoid the spammers).
I'll be running this for the next several weeks as long as I can keep up with the invites. I am ONLY giving invites to those that post in your blog or website as described above. Thanks!

While you're here, stop by and check out the site. My focus is mostly on HTPC stuff, but I also tinker with tech gadgets, software and other geek stuff.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Joost Invite Winners

Congrats to James, Patrick, & Aaron. They won the Joost invites this round.

I am again giving away Joost Invites. Click HERE

Watch HDTV anywhere in the neighborhood (AKA: wireless network for HDTV)!!!

There comes a time in a homeowners life that he realizes the importance of being able to play full high-definition content from his neighbor’s house 5 doors down… wirelessly. Never mind the fact that getting the needed 20mbit sustained wireless connection for HD inside of a single house is difficult. The prospect of HDTV between houses is tempting.Okay, its official. Jason & Zack, self proclaimed SnapStreamians are stars... After this post on the snapstream blog, they are getting lots of press on Endgadget and other popular websites. This project was not only cool, but never tried before as far as I know. They streamed high definition content from house to house.Join me in digging this story. It's just too good not to be on the first page of digg.

read more digg story

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Vudu - Video On Demand in a Box

There has been tons of buzz this weekend about a new, yet-to-be-released product called Vudu. Vudu is a small box that plugs into your TV and your internet/network connection to provide video-on-demand where you can rent or purchase a movie without the need for a computer or cable box. The buzz on the internet has been calling it a AppleTV killer, but I guess it could be considered a competitor of AppleTV, Joost, Netflix, Amazon Unbox etc. According to Gizmodo and the NY Times, Vudu, Inc has been striking deals with the content owners for two years and should have thousands of movies available when it launches.

What makes Vudu different from the competitors? A NY Times write-up on the Vudu says" The box’s biggest asset is raw speed: the company says the films will begin playing immediately after a customer makes a selection." The Vudu will be based on a Peer-to-Peer network described by the NYTimes interview "The system, according to interviews and those patent applications, will operate like a traditional peer-to-peer service, but without any active participation by users. Vudu boxes that already have a certain movie on their hard drives — say, “The Godfather” — will send pieces of that movie to a nearby box when its owner suddenly gets a taste for the epic Mafia drama."

Description from Gizmodo:

"The box is about the size of a hardcover book and delivers video streamed in MPEG-4, which is upscaled to HD. It has HDMI, composite, and S-Video ports. Vudu goes online via an ethernet cable, and the media stream is managed through a load-sharing distributed network, which should guarantee instant access to the movies without stutters. The remote control has a scroll wheel (nice touch) and appears to have just five buttons. There are plenty of open questions about Vudu—like the size of the hard drive—which won't get answered until closer to the launch this summer. The price is going to be competitive with Apple TV, but probably a bit more expensive."
This device will be in a busy space, but it has a lot going for it. It should be interesting to see how well such a device is accepted by the general public looking for an easy way to get movies they want on their home TV's whenever they want them. Not just the small selection their cable company gives them.