Saturday, November 01, 2008

Daylight Savings Time Is Here - Check Your HTPCs and DVRs

Once again Daylight Savings Time (DST) is Here.  Don't forget to check your VCR's er Home Theater PC's DVRs etc.
DST happens on November 2nd in parts of the United States (Not Hawaii or non-Navajo-Nation Arizona) and Canada - which has changed from , which is different from when it used to occur prior to 2007.  You'll need to set your clocks back 1 hour at 2 AM (or when you get up) on November 2nd this year.  Computers should handle the DST change fine as long as the operating system and in some cases Java has been updated.

Still, I'll be checking my HTPC computers Sunday morning just to be sure it's showing the right time.

SageTV forum thread about the Fall 2008 DST change
Microsoft Update for MS OS's to update for the DST change (many already have this installed)

Netflix Silverlight Opt In - Proceed With Caution

If you've been wanting to get the Netflix Watch Now service on your Mac, there is a way to do it now.  But be warned, this is a all-in no-turning-back thing.  Before I go into how to opt-in, here are some important warnings you should know about:

  • Once you switch to the new, SilverLight version of the Netflix Player, there's no turning back.  You can't access the older, IE version of the Netflix player on that Netflix account once you've opted in.
  • Opting in means your Netflix Watch-Now will use the Silverlight Version on ALL MACHINES.
  • Not all movies are available to watch with the Silverlight version.
  • During the beta, you may notice errors or lesser quality when watching certain titles
  • If you use a plugin for Netflix Watch Now with SageTV, Vista Media Center, XBox360 using VMCNetflix or any of the other HTPC programs, opting in will break that functionality.  The new version will require a re-write of those plugins for them to work with Netflix streaming.
  • The new player does work on PCs and Intel-based Macs (NOT non-Intel-Based Macs)
  • This is a beta - bugs can and probably will surface.

I will not be opting in on my Netflix account until I have to since I use the SageTV Netflix plugin, but I was able to test this out on a friends account (Uses Mac primarily) and can confirm it works.  To me the streaming quality seemed noticibly worse with the Silverlight version although fast forward, rewind and skipping around in the movie worked better in the Silverlight version.  I was able to view Netflix Watch-Now using Firefox 3 as well, but it does not work in Opera.

System Requirements for Netflix Watch Now Silverlight Beta:
          Windows Requirements
  • Windows XP with Service Pack 2, or Vista
    Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher; or Firefox 2 or higher
  • 1.2 GHz processor
  • 512 MB RAM
          Mac Requirements
  • An Intel-based Mac with OS 10.4.8 or later
  • Safari 3 or higher; or Firefox 2 or higher
  • 1 GB RAM
So, if you're a Mac-Only guy who doesn't use any of the user-made plugins for Netflix Watch Now and you're okay with the above warnings...  Opt in to the Silverlight Netflix Version Link.

via The Netflix Blog

Thanks for a Great October at GeekTonic!

Thanks to the readers of GeekTonic for a great October.  Over 190,000 Unique Visitors and over 345,000 Page Loads in the month of October 2008 - a record high for!

Thanks for your support - I appreciate it and will strive to provide you with the Media Gadget Content for your inner geek that you come here for.

Deal of the Weekend - Harmony 880 Universal Remote $69

If you're looking for a Universal Remote Control on the cheap, check out this very nice deal at Amazon (affiliate) for a refurbished Harmony 880 for $69! (regularly priced $199)   I just paid $79 for this very same refurbished remote last week - i t was in perfectly good condition and very cheap then - now $10 cheaper...

Logitech Harmony 880 Remote Control - Refurbished$69

Friday, October 31, 2008

How To Make Your Own USB IR Receiver

You use your computer as a media device right?  But don't want to pull out the keyboard every time you pause, adjust the volume, or fast-forward?

There are a few ways to deal with this.  The easiest is the USB-UIRT which I'll be reviewing very soon (5 of these to give away next week so stay tuned), but lets say you're handy with electronics and want to make your own IR receiver.

Hackaday has a very nice how-to on creating your own USB remote control IR receiver for Windows, Linux and Mac with lots of details, scehmatics and a parts list.
Read more at Hackaday

If you're wanting to just buy a IR receiver or better yet win one, stay tuned to GeekTonic for a giveaway for four USB-UIRT's including a review and writeup on how to use the USB-UIRT with the various HTPC software programs.

UPDATE:  Wondering what the plug-n-play, USB-UIRT is all about?  Check out the GeekTonic review of the device and enter a chance to win one of the four USB-UIRT's in the giveaway!

Deal of the Day - 1TB Samsung SATA $100 with Free Shipping

Stock up on storage space for your computer with a 1TB Samsung 5400RPM 32MB Cache Internal SATA OEM Hard Drive at Newegg (affiliate).

SAMSUNG 1TB 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$99.99! Offer good today only!

Sorry Folks - Sold Out as of 10pm Halloween.  Stay tuned for more very-cheap 1TB hard drives here at GeekTonic!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Netflix Watch Now Streaming Coming to Tivo

Netflix and TiVo have partnered add the Netflix video streaming capability to TiVo users before Christmas 2008.  The new service will be available on TiVo Series 3 and TiVo HD only.

Read more at ZatzNotFunny!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SageTV Hints a Next Generation of HD Extender Coming December

Two big news items were mentioned on the SageTV forums this evening:
  1. HD Extenders are expected (they say "hope to have ready") to be available in December.
  2. They are working on a "next generation SageTV set-top" which to me means something somehow different then the current SageTV HD Extender
A representative of SageTV posted the following on the SageTV forums this evening hinting at a "next generation of HD Extender"
"We're sorry we've sold out of our current SageTV HD Extender. We really appreciate the great support we've had for the SageTV HD Extender and are working on a next generation SageTV set-top we hope to have ready for sale in December. Please stay tuned for more news about it.


The SageTV Team"
 Since August 2008 the very popular SageTV HD Extenders have been out of stock and there has been a constant rumbling from SageTV users wanting to purchase one.  This is definitely welcome news to the SageTV and HTPC community.  I'll report more as soon as there is new information available to share.

photo of SageTV HD100 Extender

You can read my Review of the original SageTV HD100 Extender here

Read the SageTV Forum Announcement

Windows 7 Media Center News from PDC - Includes h.264 Support

Some relatively big news today for Media Center.  Today's session of the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference is all about the new features planned for Windows 7.  The attendees have their pre-beta version of the software for testing and feedback now so news and tidbits are leaking out onto the web.
                       Screen-shot of Music Page via Charlie Owen

Last week many screen-shots were available to look at, but there wasn't much in the way of real news for Windows 7 Media Center.  The biggest news out today is that H.264 will be supported on all Windows 7 Media Center products including extenders and Xbox 360.  Beyond that, there are plenty of tweaks and UI enhancements and integrating the TV Pack features into the consumer product.  My first impression is that additional QAM support (already in TV Pack) and H.264 support are the only non-appearance updates to Media Center.  Yes, the user interface is being improved further, but the deep-down below the surface workings aren't changing much from what you see now in TV Pack.

Here's a more comprehensive list of the new stuff I'm seeing for Windows 7 talked about today:
  • H.264 playback (including Media Center Extenders & Xbox 360) - This will be welcomed in a big way by HTPC users.  Media Center will finally catch up with SageTV, BeyondTV and GBPVR on this. 
  • New Start Menu that changed a little, but not significantly
  • Shared Libraries built into the "Home Group" features of Windows 7 for music, pictures, videos and recorded TV.  Allows you to browse and view  content from multiple computers on your home network.  Charlie Owen makes this out to be a partial answer to those clamoring for Softsled, but having used BeyondTV Link and SageTV Client (both real softsled products) I'm not sure I understand how this is better for Media Center users.
  • Music "Wall" - you can view all album artwork in the background of your screen while listening to music.  Cool, but it doesn't really change the way things work - more of an appearance change.
  • TV UI Enhancements - some minor enhancements to the TV viewing UI
  • Movie UI Enhancements
  • Other Music UI enhancements - read Charlie Owen's blog (link below) for more on this.  They are minor changes on the surface, but very nice UI enhancements for anyone who uses music on their HTPC.
  • Photo UI enhancements - much like the Music UI enhancements this looks like some minor, but very useful enhancements.  Charlie Owen goes into these in detail
  • Easier rating of media and the use of those ratings in playlists and slideshows - this may sound like a minor thing, but I see it as a very significant thing for HTPC users.
  • New media context menus that provide further information about that show, movie or other media
  • The guide layout supposedly has faster navigation although it's not much different in appearance from the current version
  • New Miniguide - kind of like the "info" button to show a transparent bar with further information about the current program or media being viewed.  Again a slight change from the current version
  • Everything (at least most everything) in the TV Pack will be included
I like the UI enhancements that we're seeing in the new version, but they all seem like things that are smaller, evolutionary changes instead of a major new version of Media Center.  I'm left wondering if most of these new features would have been rolled out as part of Fiji (now known as TV Pack) originally to those that already paid for Vista, but when Microsoft shifted gears and decided to abandon Vista and push for Windows 7, they held off and pushed them into that version of windows.  I guess in the end it doesn't matter either way except that those that purchased Vista for Media Center are left with very few "upgrades" in between the Windows versions.

That being said, if your completely happy with the things Media Center can and can't do and H.264 is the last thing you've been waiting for then your wait is nearly over.  I'm guessing we'll see this available late 2009 for purchase.

Check the links below for more news and lots of screen-shots
via Charlie Owen's Blog  and WeGotServed

Monday, October 27, 2008

Deal of the Day: Amazon Kindle $309

Today we have the digital book viewer from Amazon called Kindle.  The device is now famous to those throngs of people who consider Oprah Winfrey a worthwhile source of information now that she has called the Kindle one of her favorite things.

Jeff Bezos joined Oprah on the show recently and together are offering a $50 discount code that's good through the end of this week. Click on the link below and use the code OPRAHWINFREY to get your very own Kindle for $309 with free shipping.

Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device

Just curious here - if any of the readers of GeekTonic have a Kindle or are thinking of getting one - tell me in the comments why you have (or are getting one) and how you like it if you have one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Netflix Watch Now Streaming Arrives for Mac

You may notice that this screen-shot above is from a Windows-based laptop.  Well you'll soon likely see a macbook or something like that in thier ads.

Windows users have had Netflix Watch-Now for quite a while now and Mac users have had to sit by and wait.  Well with Microsoft's Silverlight, Netflix watch-now streaming has finally arrived for most Mac users.  I say most because it will only work with Intel-based Macs.

Note that as of tonight there is no word of this on the Netflix site, but my guess is we'll see it Monday morning (10/27) since that's the date of the press release Engadget has posted ;)

Read more at EngadgetHD 

UPDATE 10/27:  The Official Netflix Press Release Has Been Posted

TV Premieres: What To Watch 10/26 – 11/01

The Fall 2008 TV season premieres have almost all shown themselves over the past few months, but there are a few mid-season additions coming – a few of them this week.

Note:  The complete guide to the Fall 2008 TV Premieres with a free, downloadable guide is here

NOTE: Times are EST
SUNDAY 10/26/2008
Bridezillas (9pm on WE) Reality Series chronicling the frantic brides before weddings.  Proof of the coming doom of society as this show is now heading into season five.
Cities of the Underworld (9pm on History – Available in HD) Season 3 - explore underneath the cities of the world to find the hidden engineering feats and dark histories buried beneath.  Season three takes us back to London and the tunnel network that has existed since Victorian times.
My Fair Wedding (10pm on WE) Reality program where a “wedding planner” transforms what could be a disaster wedding into a platinum style affair.

WEDNESDAY 10/29/2008
Stylista (9pm on CW – Available in HD) A new CW show with eleven aspiring fashionistas face weekly tough challenges under the leadership of Elle's Fashion News Director, Anne Slowey. From the creators of Project Runway and America's Next Top Model.
Law & Order (10pm on NBC – Available in HD) Law & Order returns to save NBC.  Seems ironic that they’re putting a crappy show like Knight Rider (8pm) next to their tried and true Law & Order franchise, but they are.
UFO Hunters (10pm on History – Available in HD) Amazingly enough, this show made it to season 2.  A group of “experts” in UFO Hunters is determined to find evidence of extraterrestrial life.

THURSDAY 10/30/2008
30 Rock (9:30pm on NBC – Available in HD) NBC brings back 30 Rock for its third season, a show that I used to find mildly entertaining, but I think has totally lost its way – much like NBC itself. 

In other TV News, Lipstick Jungle is being moved to Friday at 10pm right after Crusoe (yeah that combination seems pretty ridiculous to me too).  So it looks like both of these shows will die a somewhat slow death on the Friday timeslot together.

What’s coming up in the TV world for the remainder of the year?
  • Surviving Suburbia 11/2 on CW
  • Brotherhood 11/2 on HBO
  • First Class All The Way 11/3 on Bravo
  • Bad Girls Club 11/4 on Oxygen
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent 11/6 on USA
  • Survivorman 11/7 on Discovery
  • Whale Wars 11/7 on Animal Planet
  • My Bare Lady 11/8 on Fox Reality
  • Summer Heights High 11/9 on HBO
  • Ruby 11/9 on Style
  • Cha$e 11/11 on SciFi
  • Extreme Trains 11/11 on History
  • Estate of Panic 11/12 on NBC
  • Top Chef 11/12 on Bravo
  • 24 “Redemption Movie” 11/23 on Fox
  • Secret Millionaire 12/3 on Fox
  • Momma’s Boys Reality Series 12/16