Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vista, We Have a Problem - The Defection of a Major Vista Supporter

I'm in good company if those that believe Vista is not going well for Microsoft. I've been one of those PC users who decided to stick with Windows XP for the time being instead of switching to the new Windows Vista. My reasons include the cost of upgrading my several PC's, not wanting to increase my hardware capabilities as needed by Vista, wanting to wait until the kinks are worked out and older devices are made more compatible etc. After helping my father-in-law try to get a printer and his networking working with his new Vista, I think its safe to say I'm really happy with my decision to wait this one out.
There have been many who have given Vista a chance and either gone back to XP, Mac or even to Linux. This week one of the most pro-Vista people I know of, Jim Louderback the (now former) head of PCMagazine has come out saying he is disappointed with Vista and will be switching to another Operating System soon. Here is his conclusion:

"I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the
strange and non reproducible system quirks, and more. But I won't bore you with
the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain't cutting
it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating
system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I
fooled! If Microsoft can't get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I
might move to Linux
He also mentions his Media Center PC and the problems he has experienced with it on Vista:
"Take my media center PC, for example. It's supposed to serve up photos, videos,
and music. Instead, it often simply drops off the network for absolutely no
reason. Chip Van Winkle might be able to see it, but Compuccino [his new name for his notebook PC on Vista] can't."

Jim Louderback admits he was a big proponent of the Vista OS and explains his change here:

"Maybe it was something in the water? I've been a big proponent of the new OS
over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto most of my
computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So why, nine months
after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesn't work and what still
frustrates me stretches on endlessly

All I can say is, Microsoft must be realizing by now that they better do something fast to fix all of the problems they have with Vista. If they don't, and they drop support for Windows XP they will soon be losing Windows users in large numbers and Mr. Gates will be saying "Vista, we have a problem!"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Free Online Movie Trivia Game

Do you like movies? Want a free web-based movie trivia game that shows you a movie clip and you choose the correct (hopefully) movie title from a list? Peerflix - a service that allow you to trade movies with other movies using a Netflix-like web interface has put up a great little trivia page thats actually pretty fun. Here's a screenshot:

MySpace Music Hack: Download MySpace Songs For Free

We have yet another website that is offering a way to find and download free songs that are meant to be streamed on MySpace. This one is To use it, you simply type in the band name without spaces (so if you wanted to search for "Plain White T's" you would type in "plainwhitet's" in the search box and click on the "get songs" button. It will then pull up a list of any songs available by name. To download them, you right-click on the song name and select save link as. You will want to name the file so you know what song and artist it is of course. One thing to note - you can only download one song per search so if you are wanting to download two songs from one artist, you would need to click "get songs" button after the first download.
This is a screenshot of the website after searching for Kelly Clarkson

It's doubtful this site will stay up for long as I would imagine the legality of this site is seriously in question. Another problem is that the songs are recorded at around 96kbps so not the greatest quality in the world. You can check it out yourself at

Mass Edit BeyondTV Show Details

Using my favorite Home Theater PC Software - BeyondTV, you can edit any of the show details such as title, description using the built-in BeyondTV web admin interface. If you are just editing one shows information this is more then sufficient for the task. But if you are needing to edit multiple files at a time, you need a way to edit all of those fields quickly, cut and past functions and a quick save of all edits. The perfect tool for this task is BTVShowInfo. BTVShowInfo is a freeware app developed by John Maver - a member of the Snapstream Forums that allows you to edit any text and date information stored inside the video files recorded on BeyondTV. (Beyond TV is one of the leading Home Theater PC applications that transforms your computer into something like a souped-up TIVO.)
BTVShowInfo is especially nice for when you import shows or movies from sources other then Beyond TV (BTV) that might not have populated the show name properly. I also use it to add the series number when I'm recording an entire series before watching it. I get the more-detailed show information from and then cut and past using BTVShowInfo.

BTVShowInfo is an application that give you the power to edit any of the show information that Beyond TV stores for recorded shows. You can edit each field individually or you can select multiple shows to batch edit all at once. When you first run BTVShowInfo, a window opens that asks you to insert the server, port and password for the BTV machine you are logging into. After the first time, this will pre-populate each time you run the program. As an option, you can set the app to log in automatically via Tools-Options.

Once logged in, it will populate with all shows loaded in BeyondTV along with all of the show details.
Any column without a (r) in the field (shaded tan color) are editable and can be changed. To edit a field, you select the field and type in the new information. You can also do copy and paste from any text to the desired field using the right-mouse button. To complete the edit, you just select any area outside of the edited field. The row will then change to a green text to reflect that the field has been changed. Note that these green-colored fields haven't yet been saved to BeyondTV yet. You can still undo a change by right-clicking the grey button at the left of the column in the row and choose Undo-Edit. That will revert any change in that row to its original value.

You can make any additional edits you want. When finished editing, select the Save button and it will save your edits to BeyondTV. Once that is done, the edited fields will change from green to their original color.

I've been using the excellent Tool BTVShowInfo for about a year now and recommend it to all Beyond TV users. For more information, check out the download and forum page for BTV Show Info
You might also be interested in my articles on BeyondTV and HTPC's

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How To Convert Classic Nintendo Controllers to Work With Wii Console

With the Nintendo Wii there is support for the old NES, SNES and N64 games.
To play these games you can buy a "classic" controller for about $20. But what if you already have an old NES/SNES or N64 controller? Why can't you just use those? Well Raphaël Assénat has done just that. He created an adapter that took those older controllers and adapted them to a Gamecube-type adapter (the gamecube controllers are compatible with the Wii machine.)

Here's an Nintendo 64 Controller guts before being installed
He did this with a little more technical knowledge then I have so I'll leave in his words:

Because of the complexity of the Gamecube's controller protocol, it's not
possible to build a simple conversion circuit without using programmable
components. For this project, I used an atmel Atmega8 microcontroller. Maybe
it's a little overkill, but using this chip allowed me to use my Multiuse tiny 1
PCB. Given the small size of this circuit, it's possible to fit it inside an
original controller.
Here's a video of the N64 Controller to Wii Mod in action
He has a full how-to with loads of pictures, the programming firmware and sourcecode all on his site so go check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rumor: Netflix Dropping Price Again - 2nd Time in Three Months!

UPDATE: It's no longer a rumor. The AP has a story saying that Netflix is testing lower prices with select (not all) customers.
"Netflix is always testing prices. Some members, a small fraction of our
total 6.7 million members, have been notified of a lower price on some of their
plans. It is not across the board and it was not announced by the company. It is
simply a price test," a company spokesman told The Associated Press.

A Blogger is reporting that he received an e-mail from Netflix saying his Unlimited 2 DVD's out at a time service is being lowered from 13.99 to 12.99 per month effective August 16th. I can't confirm since I'm on the Unlimited 1 DVD out at a time service and did not receive the e-mail. He did include a shot of his e-mail. We'll find out tomorrow if this is for real.

iFrame - a DIY Digital Photo Frame That Does it All

I've highlighted many photo frames in the past including the one I made, but I just ran across one that is rather unique in functionality. Jake Durrett has created a do-it-yourself digital photo frame that in his words "can do it all." He built the DPF from an Apple iBook G3.

His initial concept (which didn't start out as a digital photo frame) had these requirements:

  • The computer needed to be hooked into the sound system.
  • The computer needed to display on its built-in display and also mirror that video to all of his TVs. He wanted to use the iTunes visualizer to display while serving music.
  • Everything needed to be controlled from the PC - no wires, but still have the ability to control everything with one click without getting up.
  • Needed to handle DVD's, burn DL DVDs, and pretty much anything .

With those goals in mind, he got the idea to use a laptop converted into a picture frame. Not just any picture frame, but one that could handle about anything thrown at it.

Here are a few photos from the project:
Check out the entire project over at Jake Durret's Site

For more projects like this click here

Ebay Hack: RSS Feed for Item in Certain Price Range

Are you on the hunt for a certain item on eBay? Want to receive a notification in your RSS reader (I recommend Google Reader for an RSS Reader, but any will do) whenever an auction item ending today is in your price range? Here's a useful Yahoo Pipe that does just this. Here's a screenshot I made using the search for a Nintendo Wii Console within a price range of $200 to $300:

To try it out head over to Yahoo Pipes

For more tips, hacks and tech news subscribe to the Geek Tonic RSS Feed

Easy Flickr Hacks: Surf Your Photos

Want to view flickr photos in a little different way then the default viewing format? Try "surf mode".

On any individual picture add " /surf " to its hyperlink. For example the picture below is in "regular mode":

And the next picture is in surf mode. Here you can view five photos in a stream at one time with the middle being larger. You will notice a "skip" hyperlink at the bottom of the far right and far left photos. When you click on the skip hyperlink, it skips to the next five photos in the photostream.

To get to the surf mode, you simply select a single photo in your photostream and click on it. Then add "surf" to the end of the hyperlink in your browser and hit enter. Here's an example photo hyperlink for you:

For a complete listing of flickr hacks and tools CLICK HERE

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Free Easy Photo Editor - Photobie

Looking for a free, but still powerful photo editing software program? Look no further then Photobie. Photobie is a Windows application built as an easy-to-use, but feature-packed tool that supports photoshop filter (.8bf) plugins and also includes an advanced screen capture tool, a gif animation tool, a photo framing tool, a batch resize and rotate tool as well as a slide show maker.

The Photobie interface takes some getting used to and doesn't have some of the polish you might see in Adobe Photo Shop Elements for example, but Photobie still packs in a great number of photo editing and manipulation tools with more power than you will see in many other editing software programs. If GIMP is too much to learn for your taste, Photobie might be the perfect freeware for you. Learning the program doesn't take too much work and there are many tutorials available on their website. The program includes all basic editing actions like image crop, color correction and resizing as well as batch processing (the editing/processing of multiple images at one time). Another major plus is it has full support for multilayer editing and support for photoshop-compatible plugins.

The latest version 4.1.1 includes these new features:

  • An improved GUI
  • Plugin Manager
  • You can save photobie image to PDF with various resolutions
  • Enhanced brushes category support: you can create sub-directory within brushes directory and categorize your brushes within specific directory. Photobie will automatically pickup those brushes as new categories, and you can switch category easily.
  • Thumbnail panel for current opening images: you can also tile all opening images horizontally or vertially.
  • New rotation bar in the Layer Manager.

If you are looking for something more simple then Photobie that simply focuses only cropping multiple images, you might also want to check out JPEGCrops.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Is Valleywag Our Version of The Daily Prophet?

I recently saw a comment about an insanely-unbelievable-Valleywag-post that struck me as funny, but surprisingly true. The comment compared the Valleywag Tech Gossip Blog to the "Daily Prophet" of Harry Potter fame. Valleywag for quite some time has entertained the geek masses with its rumor mill - gossip rag. To keep up the entertainment, Valleywag has specialized in throwing around rumors and complete lies. Nothing is below Valleywag. Hear a rumor, then publish it no matter how stupid or crazy it is.

I'll let you make the decision for yourself. Here's the Wiki article that describes the Daily Prophet:
The Daily Prophet is the most widely-read newspaper in Britain's wizard community.
Unfortunately, its journalistic integrity is somewhat lacking; it has been known
to be more concerned about sales than about factual accuracy and is often a
mouthpiece for the Ministry of Magic.

I don't know about you, but it sounds a lot like Valleywag to me.

Here are a few cases in point:
1. Angry Mob Gathers Outside San Francisco Data center - here Valleywag shows a picture of people waiting to enter a data center and put a story up that said a drunk employee set off the outage that shut down many major web sites back in July. The truth was a little less sensational: there was a power outage and the data center didn't have backups set up properly. But that wasn't exciting enough so Valleywag decided to make up a story that they "heard from an anonymous source" to get more page loads...

2. Robert Scoble is getting fired from Podtech - Another blatant lie from Valleywag that yet again makes a sensational story, but is entirely untrue. After continuing a rumor started as a "joke", Valleywag uses the remainder of the article to slander and diss on Scoble for an entire page. Scoble mentions this as one of the reasons he is taking a break from blogging for a while.

3. Who's Going to Chow Down on Zooomr? - Again an example of Valleywag making up a story and attributing it to a so-called anonymous tipster. They proclaimed that Zooomr was getting acquisition offers, but Thomas Hawk and Kris Tate didn't like the cut-rate prices offered. Untrue and unfounded. In the meantime Valleywag name-called Thomas Hawk a "bitchy" photographer and Kris Tate an "underage" entrepreneur.

Valleywag has pissed off Michael Arrington, Kevin Burton, Robert Scoble and Thomas Hawk among many other big-names in the blogosphere. I guess the important thing here is to understand that Valleywag is the Daily Prophet of our day. Let's face it - Valleywag is the National Enquirer of Geekdom. Bloggers and technology folks all around are parodied and thrown under the train for the common page view at Valleywag. As long as you take it for what it is - a totally untruthful, but once-in-a-while entertaining tabloid with a very little amount of truth to it.

Hack iLife HD for Free iMovie HD

Here's a hack for all of you Mac users out there. If you have Apple iLife 08, Apple is giving you iMovieHD for free. But if you have older versions of Apple iLife (before the 08 version), you can still get iMovie HD for free with a simple hack:

  1. open up the terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal)
  2. type: defaults write /Library/Preferences/ HappyCakeOven -bool YES
  3. hit enter your machine will be able to use iMovie HD for free!
  4. Run the iMovie HD installer and you're done
That's it.

If you're not sure what iMovie does here's a quick summary: iMovie is a tool to view and work with video. It has a built-in library that automatically organizes your videos, so all the clips you’ve captured and movies you’ve created are just a click away. It has an interface that makes it quick and easy to browse your library and create new movies. You can also add movies to your website, publish them on YouTube, and create versions for iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV.

For More details on the hack check out xl8yourmac forums

Found via UneasySilence - another favorite blog of mine.

Another Reason to DIY HTPC: Time Warner to Disable Fast Fowarding Commercials

Beginning in October of this year, Time Warner plans to start a new service called "look back". They call it DVR-like which is another way of saying this is an Even More Crippled DVR then ever before. The service will be free of charge to its customers (except for the fact you are already paying for the service in your cable bill!) and it will force you to watch the show before midnight on the day it's shown (it deletes after that) and it won't let you fast forward through the commercials at all.

This is an obvious attempt to get the general public to think they are getting a DVR while at the same time trying to squeeze out the Tivo, MCE, BTV, SAGETV competition.

Bad Idea and more of a reason to build your own Home Theater PC/PVR.

Madden 08 For the Wii Get Ready For Some Football!

Are you ready for some football on the Wii? Madden 08 for the Wii Console will be out this Tuesday, August 14th and I plan to pick this one up this week for certain.

Here are a few of the features of the Wii's Madden 08:

  • Exhibition match-ups
  • Online lobby with real-time leaderboards
  • EA Locker features
  • EA “My Profile” when online, which includes country of origin, win/loss record, defensive percentage, overall ranking, and 5-star reputation score
  • ESPN ticker updates
  • Promised downloadable content such as roster updates planned for late 2008, early 2009
  • Friend Code Implementation: Unknown as of right now, interface will be similar from other versions. Wii players will be able to randomly play against an opponent.
  • No voice chat, but will offer EA’s instant-messaging system
  • Telestrator (see video for explanation)
  • Camera Controls using Wii controller
  • Mii Support - link your stats to your mii character
  • Offline: 22 different mini-games
  • Party mode, allow players to play new drills such as the 40-yard dash, football mini-games, football trivia and more. Your performance in party mode will also affect your party mode rating, which can go as high as 99. This rating is recorded via your system’s own Mii roster.

    If you're still not yet excited about this new game, check out the video - This game will be a big hit for the Wii as well as Xbox360 and Playstation3.

Another Madden 08 trailer video showing some gameplay is below:

For more on the Wii, check out these articles

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mobile Phone Jammer For Sale?

Could it be posible? A device that blocks the mobile phones from working around you? That only costs $56? Well, even if it's real it is probably illegal for personal use as it would block open radio signals in the area which is illegal. Still, it sure sounds useful for those moments when people are being especially rude with their phones.

DealExtreme is selling what they call a Cell Phone Jammer which supposedly blocks all mobile phone signals within a 2 to 40 foot radius. Here's what the site says about the product:
- Creates enough interference to block all cell phone signals around you (GSM/CDMA/DCS/PHS/3G)
- Fully metal construction - creates a solid and techie feel
- Creates a 0.5M ~ 12M (about 2 to 40 feet) radius of cell phone signal black out area
- Built-in 1500mAh battery lasts 3 to 4 hours, also works and charges on AC and Car 12V power with including adaptors
- Light
(6oz) weight, fits-in-a-pocket size

Perfect for the following senarios:
- Class rooms and small seminar halls
- Meeting rooms and board rooms
- Private offices
- Bus and vehicles (imagine how you can finally have a good undisturbed nap)
- VIP and privacy-sensitive senarios

Week In Review Stories from Geek Tonic

In case you missed any of these, below is a summary of the past weeks posts on this blog.
Repair A Bad Headphone Connection
There are two ways to correct a bad headphone connection. The first thing to try is to clean the connector. To do this, take a que-tip with a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the tip, and swab the connector. Do this and on the jack and the connector being careful to dry it afterwords. Check the…
SchedulesDirect Announces Pricing and Details of Zap2it Replacement TVGuide Service
Pay a one-time fee for a commercial HTPC software or pay periodically for a "freeware" or open source HTPC software. It's a concept that will be difficult to swallow for many MythTV, GBPVR and Media Portal enthusiasts. Fresh Details from the Zap2it Labs free tv guide replacement…
Phone Hack: Weather On Mobile Phone with Text Message
Want to know the weather forecast while you're on the run, but don't have mobile internet? As long as you have a mobile phone with text messaging, you can get weather forecasts with a simple text message. To get the weather, follow these steps on your mobile phone: 1: Text your zip code or…
Find The Right Font - 10,000 Free Fonts
Looking for just the perfect font for that document, but don't know exactly what you want? Want to avoid the spam and over-done ad sites that happen to have fonts as well? Well Better Fonts is your place. They have over 10,000 different fonts with a quick, usable preview for each one. Unlike…
Zap2It Replacment Schedules Direct to be a fee-based TV Guide for US and Canada
There is a new update today about the Zap2It webguide replacement. Schedules Direct hopes to be the replacement for Zap2It for MythTV, GBPVR or MediaPortal Users who have been using Zap2It for TV Guide service on their HTPC. As mentioned in the past few months, Zap2It will stop providing free tv…
Connect your GPS to Google Earth without Google Earth Plus
Here's a money saver for you. Over at Instructables, they have an how-to that shows you how to connect a GPS device to the popular Google Earth program, without using Google Earth Plus. Read the full Instructable HERE
Hackers discover how to download streaming movies from Netflix
The story that broke on this blog was dugg on and made the front page! Unfortunately for me it was dugg for TVSquad who did credit me for the original story thankfully----- You're welcome Brad :) I did get a bunch of hits still though so I'm still happy. TV Squad's Story digg…
RUMOR: Apple to offer iTunes for ONLY $.79?
This is just a Rumor and/or a hunch, but Digg Member Brett says"When entering my Avis redemption coupon for the week I noticed it mention three price levels: $1.29, $.99, or $.79. Has Avis made a minor typo or a major leak? Not really sure, but this could be the sign of more changes at…
Socialize: Join me at Digg, Facebook and StumbleUpon
Do you like what you see on this blog? Want to keep in touch with the author using social media sites? I'm here to tell you about the places I frequent on the internet for keeping up with what is going on in the Web 2.0 world. These places are great for getting in contact with other bloggers as…
Picture Hack: Convert Photo to a Sketch
Here's another photo trick for you. At they have several free photo & flickr tools available. One of the neat ones is the sketchr. With this web application you take a digital photo and convert it into a pencil sketch. You can upload the photo from your hard drive Or select a photo…
Netflix Watch Now Hacked - Rip Movies from Watch Now
The rorta forums is reporting that there is a hack that allows you to rip the streaming watch-now movies from Netflix and save them on your PC. A forum member at rorta who goes by the name of "Dizzie" uses FairUse4WM, Windows Media Player and Notepad.exe to rip streaming movies for…

Does This PC Smell Like Fish? Aquarium PC Mod
What do you get when you cross a fish aquarium with a computer? The Tikki Aquarium was the result of the Mod of the Month over at . Martin Blass, the creator of this unusual mod says: "We started this project with the idea of a cool looking aquarium, but then we couldn't stop.…

PhotoShop Elements Free Filter Plugin
Do you own PhotoShop Elements, Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or Photo-Paint? Want a free but powerful plugin that lets you convert your digital photos look by applying high quality, professional photographic styles to your images with a single click? VirtualPhotographer has over 50 presets that will…
Download Time Calculator
AJAX Download Time Calculator that calculates how long a download will take. The tool is modeled after the Google calculator. Just type in a phrase like "60 megabytes at 200 KB/s" and it estimates how long it will take. "5 internets on a modem" even works. read more via…

Repair A Bad Headphone Connection

There are two ways to correct a bad headphone connection. The first thing to try is to clean the connector. To do this, take a que-tip with a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the tip, and swab the connector. Do this and on the jack and the connector being careful to dry it afterwords. Check the connection after this to see if it did the trick.

If that doesn't work, you might need to replace the connector entirely. Chris Metcalf details how to take headphones that have a bad connector (headphone plug) and repair it by replacing the plug entirely. Lots of pictures and a great amount of how-to detail.

Another example of this type of headphone plug repair can be found at ZuneMods

SchedulesDirect Announces Pricing and Details of Zap2it Replacement TVGuide Service


Pay a one-time fee for a commercial HTPC software or pay periodically for a "freeware" or open source HTPC software. It's a concept that will be difficult to swallow for many MythTV, GBPVR and Media Portal enthusiasts.
Fresh Details from the Zap2it Labs free tv guide replacement now called SchedulesDirect. As I have detailed over the past month (here and here), beginning September 1st, Zap2it Labs will cease offering the free TV guide data that has been used by HTPC/PVR software such as MythTV, Media Portal and GBPVR. (Note: this doesn't affect Snapstream BTV, Sage TV or MCE users as those software companies already pay for their guide service).

Schedules Direct, a non-profit organization was created by leaders of MythTV, MacProgGuide and XMLTV to provide low-cost, TV guide listings for the users of open source and freeware HTPC applications. The key statement in that mission is "LOW COST" and not free. Here are the pricing details:

Payment will be handled by Paypal. The cost is expected to be $15 for the first 3 months non-recurring. They expect pricing to drop by the end of the first three months with a goal of $20 per year. They don't currently expect to offer a lifetime subscription so it looks like the open source freeware programs are now going to be more of a subscription-based cost vs. the paid BeyondTV, SageTV and MCE programs being more of a one-time cost.

Another possible TVGuide provider might be CTpvr. Again, it will be a fee-based service but the pricing details are not yet available.