Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone iPhone It's Everywhere!

The iPhone talk has hit a major frenzy this week and it hasn't let up. People are blogging about it, posting webcasts about it and its even being talked about on all of the major media outlets.

Over at Gigaom, Raghav Gupta writes about why the iPhone will change the music business. I agree it will make a big change in the music business that had already begun with the iPod. Apple will become the number one seller of music before long. I recently wrote that the iPhone will also change the mobile phone business much like the Wii did for the game console business. Om Malik talks about whether the iPhone will cannibalize the iPod business.

It will be difficult to avoid the iPhone talk for at least a few more days. Let me know if you're planning on buying one or if you already have over at my iPhone poll located at the top-right of this blog.

Automatic Podcasts on Your HTPC with Podcatcher

Want to watch video podcasts on your Home Theater PC? With Beyond TV and a free plugin called Podcatcher, you can set up the program to automatically download those video podcasts. Podcatcher integrates the podcast title and description information right into the Beyond TV folders with ease. Podcatcher was developed by Michael Pyle, a regular forum member on the Snapstream Forums.

  • Must Own Beyond TV4 or higher
  • Will only Allow playback of BeyondTV supported files such as:
  • Download Podcatcher from the Snapstream Forums HERE
  • Unzip files to a folder Run setup.exe this will install the program and add a shortcut to the start menu
Once installed, run the Podcatcher and you will see the following screen where you input the BTV server IP address, the BTV port number (default is 8129) and the BTV password if you have a password set up. You can also select how often you want Podcatcher to update the podcast feeds and look for new podcasts.
Once you are done with the setup screen, select the save button.

Add Podcast Feeds:

To add your feeds open Podcatcher, Select Setup and then select feeds from the menu bar.

Paste your new podcast feed (RSS2.0 preferred) into the "Feed URL" box and click on the"Add/Update" button. This will automatically populate the feed title and feed description.

Once You are done, Podcatcher will begin downloading your selected podcasts. Once downloaded, they will show up automatically in Beyond TV. The minimized Podcatcher will run in the background and continue to watch for new Podcasts to catch.

Podcast Resources:
To find new podcasts and their related feeds, check out the following sources:

Yahoo Podcasts


Podcast Alley

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Awesome Digital Photo Frame with Plexiglass

This guy over at the Skivinator blog took a laptop like this:

And turned it into an awesome digital photo frame using two pieces of plexiglass, Kubuntu and a little setup. Here's the finished product:

I recommend you check out the how-to he wrote up. It's pretty well outlined and includes several more photos and a bit of humor to boot. I love to see the many ways people reuse old electronics!

Thanks to one of my favorite blogs - DIY: Happy for the tip.


I made a digital photo frame a while back. I think its time to find another old laptop for a project...

The iPhone will be the Wii of Mobile Phones

= ?

Last week I posted the chart comparing the iPhone to a few Smartphones that caused me to receive a lot of comments back saying the comparison doesn't include all of the features of the iPhone. As everyone is awaiting the public release of the iPhone tomorrow some say it is the next big thing. Others say it will fail and be an afterthought. I propose to you that the iPhone will be as successful for Apple as the Wii was for Nintendo. Apple doesn't need the iPhone to re-make its company as Ninentendo needed with the Wii, but the similarities of the two devices are there.

There are plenty of people who are underestimating what the iPhone will do for the Mobile Phone Community. Even the naysayers would likely admit that the iPhone interface is at the minimum very cool and I would propose it is somewhat revolutionary. The large, touchscreen interface is user-friendly enough to move the entire mobile phone industry towards at least some sort of touch screen functionality. It might even be enough to drive more touchscreen interfaces for other devices such as games, home theater PC's and other devices.

When the Wii was first announced, it was widely talked about as silly and gimmicky to have the motion-sensing wii controller. Today the naysayers are far and few between and even the die-hard Xbox and Playstation fans would admit that the Wii has added a special something that appeals to a larger demographic then typical gamers. I believe the iPhone will have that same impact on mobile phone buyers. Today, there are many who are just fine with a plain old phone. "Why would I want to browse the internet with a clunky, small-screen phone?" asks my coworker. I think those people will be won over by the iPhone's interface. It is easy to use, you don't have to read the instructions to figure it out and it looks like it will be downright fun. Time will tell, but I think in a year from people will look back at the iPhone as the first of a new breed of mobile phone. It will help sell mobile internet in a drastic way to a large demographic just as the Wii has done for dedicated game machines.

The Wii was lesser than its competitors in graphics, sound, storage and many other things that seemed to be crucial for gamers. Still the success of the console can be credited to the Wiimote and Wii Sports. Despite its many shortcomings, it succeeds where it counts. Gameplay and appeal to the masses. The iPhone will be similar. It is lacking in network speed, it has no removable/replaceable battery, there's no keyboard; but still it will appeal to the masses and even a good number of power users will want one.

I've been thinking of whether I would buy one and just can't justify it at the moment despite my intense desire to get it because its cool. Add 3g to the iPhone & I would buy it as soon as I had the cash to spend. To get a feel for how others feel about the iPhone, I've added a poll to see how many of you will be buying an iPhone in the near future. Feel free to participate in the poll and let us all know how you feel about the iPhone. This poll is a new feature available to blogger beta testers using blogger-draft.

Home Theater PC's -- Where to Find Help

If you are a Home Theater PC (HTPC) enthusiast or just someone who is thinking of getting into the HTPC world, you will undoubtedly need help from others who have experience with this specialty. HTPC's are not Tivo's or Cable Boxes - they are better. HTPC's are however more work to set up and more work to maintain. It is almost guaranteed that you will need help at some point so where do you turn?

I've used Meedio, SageTV and BeyondTV over the years and can say that your first point of reference should be the forums. Start by checking the forums for the software you are using (or plan using) to get ideas and help. Search for things you need help on and if you can't find it by searching, post your question. The forums will always be a great resource for the HTPC user. Here are the best resources for HTPC's including websites, forums and blogs. If you have a question about HTPC's feel free to add a comment to this post or send me a not via the "contact me" link on this webpage.

Generic HTPC Help

AVS Forum - Home Theater Computers Section
Build Your Own PVR Forums
Missing Remote Forums
Guru3d Forums
Zats Not Funny
Brent Evans Geek Tonic - I post occasionally about HTPC's

Snapstream's Beyond TV
Beyond TV Official Forums - I spend quite a lot of time on this forum. Sometimes helping others, sometimes keeping up on new stuff and always learning. A great community that has helped me tremendously.
Beyond HTPC - a Beyond TV-centric site with plugin downloads and news
Beyond Addons- a Beyond TV-centric site with add-ons (of course) as well as forums and chat
Project HTPC
Peter Long's Website
Brent Evans Geek Tonic - Lots of Beyond TV how-to's on this blog

Microsoft Media Center
Green Button - One of the most popular MCE resource with news and forums
Australian Media Center Support Community
Chris Lanier - Weblog of Microsoft MVP, Chris Lanier
Ed Bott's Media Central
Floppyhead Digital Media & Home Theater Computers

SageTV Official Forums

GBPVR official Forums

Media Portal
Media Portal official Forums

MythTV Main Page
Monolithmc - with a MythTV focus
MythTV Wiki
Building MythTV on Fedora

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another Use for Old Laptop - Convert to 2nd Monitor

Over at Instructables, punish3r did a how-to on converting a laptop to use as a second monitor for his PC. It's not for the casual hardware hacker though as some of the steps look pretty involved. Here are some progress shots:
Laptop LCD disassembled
Close to Finishing (the big red button on top :)
Finished Product

Head over to the how-to at Instructables if you want to see the entire how-to.
You also might be interested in these related articles also:

Make an iTunes Workout or Mood Playlist With Itunes, MixMeister & ITLU

I've been experimenting with different music play lists for my workouts and made a few by manually searching through my tunes and finding ones I thought would be good for workouts, but I wanted a more automated way of making random play lists for workouts. I'm going to tell you what I ended up doing to make this process easier and more automated for me. Hopefully it will help you as well.

This How-To was written with the intent of making exercise play lists, but really the same concept could be used to make different mood-based play lists. We'll start by identifying the Bets Per Minute (BPM) for each of the songs in our music collection. Beats per minute is basically the average beats of percussion per minute for a song. The more beats, the faster paced the song in theory.

Using two free programs, we can add the beats per minute (BPM) tag to all of the music files in your music collection.

MixMeister is a free download that does a pretty good job and finding the average BPM for songs and applying the BPM value into the ID3 tag.
  • Download MixMeister here
  • Run MixMeister and select "import music files" from MixMeister
  • MixMeister will now review every music file you selected and assign the average BPM to each file. This will be written to the files ID3 tag. (note that this could take some time if you have a large music collection - it took several hours for my very large collection)
Now you have the BPM's marked in all of your music files, but because iTunes doesn't yet see the changes you made to the ID3 tags (with the BPM data), you need to use the free, iTunes Library Updater (ITLU) program to update the music tags that have changed.

  • Download ITLU from here
  • Install & run ITLU
  • Select the music folder/s with the updated tags
  • Once ITLU is complete, iTunes should then now have the BPM field populated.
Now you can make smart play lists in iTunes using the Beats Per Minute. If you need guidance on creating a smart play list in iTunes, read this how-to by Apple. While you are making your smart playlist, be sure and keep in mind that this process is based on average beats per minute. It doesn't take in to account a slow start of a song or varying speed within one song. It also ignores the genre of the songs. You may still need to scan through your finished play list to give it the "human check" and be sure it resulted in a play list you want.

For my fast-paced smart playlist I had the following fields selected:

  • BPM is greater than 130
  • Genre is not Podcast
  • Genre is not Oldies
  • My Rating is greater than **
  • Last Played is not in the last 10 days
  • Limit to 75 items selected by random

You now have the tools you need to make playlists with the BPU info. I have three smart play lists for workouts. One for the slow portion of my workouts like stretching and other slower exercises, a second for moderate movement exercises and a third for fast-paced exercises. Below are some very basic guidelines for BPM and the types of workout speed I associate with them.

Guidelines for BPM:
  • Under 100 BPM - Songs in this range are fairly slow. Use these songs for parts of your workout that are slower paced.
  • 100-130 BPM - For walking and other portions of your workout that are a little faster paced
  • 130 and up BPM - These songs are better for higher impact exercise such as jogging, running and other cardio. Over 180 seems to be pretty good for out-right running.
You can find suggestions for workout playlists/songs at these links also:

Bodybuilding Forums

If any of you have other suggestions for workout playlist building I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Internet Connect Your Wii Console - Get the Browser Free until July 1st

If you have a Wii Game Machine, but haven't yet connected it to the internet. Now is the time. You probably have a high-speed internet connection at home and likely even have WiFi at home. If so, you are ready to connect your Wii to the Internet.

What Can the Nintendo Wii do Online?

  • Play Free Flash Games
  • Purchase and Play Virtual Console Games (Virtual Console Games are games from older Nintendo Systems)
  • Hook up with other Wii users & send messages, send pictures, share the Mii you created.
    View News & Weather
  • Vote in Polls
  • Play Games Against Others Online (Only Pokemon Battle Revolution can do this so far, but many more are coming)
  • Update the Wii's firmware for new features
  • View the Internet with the Opera Web Browser.

Get The Wii Internet Browser This Week While Its Free

Speaking of the Wii Opera Web Browser, according to the Opera Website, the Wii version of the Opera web browser will only be free until Saturday, June 30, 2007. Get it by Saturday since it is free for the life of the system because beginning July 1st, 2007 it will cost you about 500 Wii points (approximately $5).

For everything you need to know about hooking up your Wii console to the internet, check out Nintendo's setup page. There are good instructions with play-by-play pictures if you need it. Remember, if you have WiFi already, you don't need to buy anything to make it work on the internet. Just input your WiFi settings on the Wii and your ready to go.

Technorati Crippled: Feeds and Pinging Down for Five Days!

I've been a user of Technorati from the start of this weblog and have found its services very useful. Unfortunately, for the past 5 days, Technorati has not been updating its blog authority, authority and hasn't been updating for new feeds. This outage has been affecting a large number of Technorati customers who have been pleading for help from Technorati to no avail. For an idea of the numbers who have been affected, check out the Technorati support forums to see the huge numbers of posts from people with no response from admin.

Here's a screenshot from the "ping" page of Technorati after pinging. I've also sent in a customer support e-mail request with no response.

I wonder if Technorati is having serious issues and trying to fix those issues or just ignoring that there is even a problem. This isn't the first time they have had issues. Darren Rowse wrote about major problems with them last year, Vario Creative Blog writes Is Technorati Down for the Count?, Sambrook is having trouble also.

Hopefully they will fix these problems. If not there will be someone who will step up and make a better alternative.
If you happen to be one of those having issue with Technorati, post a comment to me. Also, there is a DIGG story that might bring attention to this issue. The digg isn't to my blog here, but to the forums. CLICK HERE TO DIGG
I just recevied a response from Ryan (an admin at Technorati) who said the following:
We're working on it. I know it can be frustrating when we aren't lightning-fast
responsive, but the delay in response is usually because we're working on the
core of the problem.
This looks like a good sign. He's also now commented on their support forums and my Technorati did update. Unfortunately this was just a very-temporary fix as I cannot manually update and it does not automatically update so I seem to be back in the same spot yet again. Even worse, technorati missed any backlinks from other sites to my blog during that time so in essence, they docked my "technorati authority".

Jericho DVR Reminder TiVo Alert

Since Jericho is being renewed after all, I will be recording and watching the entire first season. CBS is replaying the entire first season beginning Friday, July 6th at 7pm.

I won't be home that weekend since I'll be on my Independence Day vacation at the lake. My solution for this was to set up my Beyond TV DVR to record all episodes of Jericho including the premier being replayed on July 6th. I did all of this today, from the office when I was thinking about it since I always seem to forget when I'm at home.

If you have a TiVo, you can set up Jericho to record over the internet on YahooTV

If you have BeyondTV, you can set it up to record (over the internet) all episodes on their online TV guide (webadmin). It's always good to have quality TV on hand for the slow, Summer TV season.
For more information on Jericho, check out the Jericho page on Couchville.
If for some strange reason you don't have a DVR, you can still catch all of the first season of Jericho at CBS's online streaming site HERE. You might be surprised how many shows are available online (and yes I'm talking about the legal ones :) For more on finding legal, full episode TV shows online check out this post.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Google Reader Outage = Internet Withdrawal

Early this morning, Google Reader was down and not feeding me with my morning reading from the many blogs I read every day before work. It was down from around 11pm EST until around 9am EST. I had my coffee, but not my hundred-plus stories to read on my feeder. Rather than just go without my morning cup of internet, I filled my time by focusing on what I find to be the most informative and interesting weblogs. I started with Techcrunch (which was reporting about the Google Reader downtime by the way) and then went to digg, Lifehacker, AppScout, Download Squad,, Make Magazine, Digital Media Thoughts, Mashable and last but certainly not least Chris Pirillo. These aren't all of the weblogs I check every day, but their some of my favorites.

After that, believe it or not, I pryed my eyes from the monitor and actually got some work done. I missed my internet feeding, but still survived just fine. It reminded me to back up my feeds from Google Reader also. Wouldn't want to lose all of the great sites I have saved on my Reader!

Google Reader now seems to be back to normal so I'll have to work harder to get my non-internet work done. Oh well, back to the internet I go...

Wii in Stock at $250 Hurry Though

The Bargainist is reporting that the Wii is currently in stock for $250 at their online site. I just confirmed at 3:50pm Central Time.

Hurry though, they'll probably not last long!

UPDATE: Looks like their sold out online. You might still check to see if your store has one using in-store pick-up. There aren't any in the Kansas City area where I live, but there might be one near you.

If their already sold out by the time you're reading this, here's some other ideas on finding a Wii in stock

Tag and Organize Photos with iTag

Looking for a free, easy way to tag your photos - tags that will show up in all the popular photo software and online photo sites like Zooomr & Flickr? iTag is an excellent freeware application that does this job extremely well. iTag allows you to add a title, description and keywords (tags) to your digital, jpeg photos. The program also tags photos with geocoding data that makes your photos usable in Google Earth.

Why Tag Photos?

First off I should explain why you should tag your photos. Photo Tagging is the process of assigning a word or words to your pictures that help to describe the picture. Once tagged, flickr, zooomr, Picasa etc can group all of those related pictures together. It's a great way to organize and sort through a lot of pictures. For a good article on why you should tag photos and ideas on tag names see this article on digital-photo-secrets.

Why iTag?

The tag data added to photos with iTag is embedded into the actual photo file using standard IPTC headers. By using the IPTC standard, your descriptions and tags are compatible in Zooomr, Flickr, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Picasa, Smugmug as well as many others. I use iTag to tag my photos before uploading to Zooomr or Flickr so that the tags on the pictures will be the same on my computer as they are on flickr.

Current Limitations of iTag:

Only works with jpeg files - it does not work with tiff, png, gif, raw or other photo file types.
Requires NET Framework 3.0
Windows Only

How To Use iTag
First, download and install iTag from here. If you don't already have the .NET Framework 3.0 installed, it will prompt you to download and install it first.
Once you've installed .NET 3.0 and iTag, you will get a "completed" confirmation. Click on Close and start the iTag program.

The iTag interface is pretty simple. There isn't a lot of help under help, but fortunately its pretty easy to use and navigate.
Select the "Open Images" button and a window with a file directory will open. Here, you select the drives where the pictures you want to tag are located. Select the files with your mouse or drag and drop photos from windows explorer into iTag.

Once you've added the files to the iTag interface, it will show those photos in the main window of the application. You can view these thumbnails using small, medium and large sizes.

To add tags simply type in one tag at a time in the "add tag" box and click add tag or hit your enter key. you can select multiple photos by using the control key. Once you have a decent set of tags in the tag box (lower left of the interface) you can just select the photo or photos you want to tag and click on the appropriate tags. You can also add a title and description for each photo.

Once you are finished tagging, select the save button and you are done. Your photos are now tagged and those tags will follow your photos into any application that uses the standard IPTC headers. [If you are uploading the photos to Flickr or Zooomr, do not resize when uploading the photos or the upload will over-write the tag info.] CORRECTION: You can resize when uploading photos to flickr or zooomr without losing the tags. I just tested this out and it worked fine. Thanks to ale for pointing that out!


Don't forget that iTag will also tag geodata in your photo also. This can be useful if you want to use your photos in Google Earth for instance. To Geocode photos, you simply drag and drop Google Earth place marks (*.kml, *.kmz) onto the selected photos. An even faster way is to simply copy a place mark to the clipboard, which iTag can detect. When geocoding, the data can also be saved as IPTC tags, to the EXIF fields, or both. Photos geocoded with WWMX Location Stamper are also recognised and can be viewed in Google Earth. Groups of photos can be selected and viewed in Google Earth. There is also an option to convert GPX tracklogs to Google Earth format.


iTag is a great application if you take any digital photos. I highly recommend it. To download and read more about iTag, go to the website:

Side Note: If you do use Adobe Photoshop Elements, please note that you can also tag photos in that application also. You just have to remember to "write the tags to file" after tagging in PSE so it will store that information in the file itself and be compatible in other applications such as flickr and zooomr.

For a complete listing of flickr hacks and tools CLICK HERE

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wii Games Ideas: Games They Should Make For The Wii

I've had my Wii game machine for several weeks now with just the Wii sports game that came with the machine. It is still very entertaining and a crowd favorite when we have people - young and old - over for visits. It obviously appeals to more than just the typical video-gamer types and therefore needs games that are designed especially with the motion sensing Wii controller in mind. Another thing that seems to appeal to people about the Wii is the way it is an interactive experience. This afternoon after working on another non-tech project around the home, I was daydreaming about some game ideas for the Wii. These are the types of games I think would sell and do very well on the Wii console:

Sports Oriented:

  • Wii Sports 2 - rumored to be Swimming, Hockey, Volleyball, and Horse Riding
  • More Wii Golf like the one for Wii sports except with more Golf courses for Wii Golf & more games of course.
  • A Better Baseball Game (better than the one on Wii sports I mean) - I think that game will be the Bigs coming out tomorrow!

  • Volleyball - This is another sport I think would work well with the Wii controllers
  • Wrestling - Regular and Sumo - The holds, the moves, the slams....
  • Family Games: Frisby Golf (yep its a sport and would work on the Wii), Horseshoes (or washers), Croquet, Badmitton - like tennis, mini-golf (put-put)
  • Water Sports: Water Polo, Jet Ski / Water Ski
  • Dirt Bike
  • Playground Games: Dodgeball, Tetherball.... Don't say I'm crazy here, it is rumored to be coming from EA.

  • Basketball - I don't think there is one for the Wii yet, but with the controls of the Wii this could be really fun to play.
  • Fencing - Cmon', sword fighting with your friends without fear of dying.
  • Summer Olympics: Lots of possibilities here like Track & Field
  • Winter Olympics
Other Game Ideas:
  • Casino: Poker - Texas Hold em and "scrap" poker games, Craps (imagine throwing the dice with your remote...), Roullette, Blackjack etc.
  • Shooting Games: Cmon, we need a proper gun controller and then some good shooting games. Everyone talks about duck hunt, but there are lots of good shooting games that would work with the Wii and would appeal to large numbers.
  • Bar Games: Darts, Foosball, Table Shuffleboard, Bar Fight :)
  • Some sort of Pitfall game - swinging from the vines...
  • Star Wars with light saber fights
  • Donkey Kong
  • Kung Fu Fighting - Karate
  • Trivia Online - like NTN that could be played online or against others on your wii console

Lets not forget that we need real online playing also. Can't wait for that to arrive. Okay, back to reality. I really do like the Wii and I was a true gamer at one time. I would have been an Xbox 360 buyer, but the Wii really appealed to my entire family and is so popular for parties for my teen daughter as well as for the wife & I, the Wii was just too much to pass up on.

If you're still looking for a Wii Machine, you might want to check out this article on how to locate a Wii Game Machine.

Cable Splitter Review by SiliconDust - the makers of the HDHomeRun

Nick (known as jafa) over at Silicon Dust (the makers of the very excellent dual, QAM/OTA tuner) wrote about some testing he did on various cable splitters on the SiliconDust forums. The results can be on their wiki here: CABLE SPLITTER COMPARISON

The winner was the Monster SS4RF4-Way Splitter which you can buy at NewEgg for $24.
If your interested in a review of the HDHome Run tuner, check out this post: REVIEW
It's a great way of getting unencrypted qam into your HTPC without a need for an open slot on your HTPC.

Illuminated Fiber Optic Tablecloth & Clothing

A French company called Lumigram sell tablecloths, clothing, decoration and fashion accessories that use fiber optics for illuminating.
The products are all equipped with plastic optical fibers that are woven with the standard threads. The fiber optics are powered by batteries and are even hand-washable. Cost looks to be a bit steep, but definitely a very cool concept. Here are some photos:
You can find all of Lumigram's products at their online catalog.