Friday, November 28, 2008

GeekTonic BlackFriday & CyberMonday Deals

If you’re like me you probably skipped out on the brick and mortar Black Friday deals this year, but still looking for the best online deals.  If so, check out the new GeekTonicDeals website for all of the latest electronics deals. 

 GeekTonic Deals

The site is just getting started, but with all of the big deals going on I thought it would be a good toime to get it started.

I’ve collected the best online deals for today and will update for CyberMonday soon as well.  Check all of them out at

Plex Theme Spotlight

As a self-proclaimed HTPC addict, I've become more and more interested in the many different User Interface layouts and themes for the different software alternatives.  Themes and Skins are partly about the appearance and visual appeal, but often times it's also about the UI (user interface) and how you actually navigate your HTPC program. 

Plex, a fork of the XBMC HTPC software has some of the more exciting themes/UIs available.  Below are several screen-casts of 3 themes available to Plex users.  All three look very, very nice and display the awesome capabilites of the HTPC.  What is even more amazing to me is that this creativity and ingenuity of themes you find at Plex, SageMC, XBMC, Meedio, Media Portal and others all are coming from unpaid developers who just love their HTPCs.

I think most if not all of the themes available for Plex are also available for XBMC (probably originally created for XBMC matter of fact.)

This skin/theme is called Aeon and is also available on XBMC.  This skin definitely has the cool factor going for it and is VERY popular:

Plex with Aeon skin demo from muzo178 on Vimeo.

Below is the MediaStream skin - The UI is unique from many other HTPC UI's I've seen and I really like how this one works:

Plex with MediaStream skin demo from muzo178 on Vimeo.

via Plex Wiki

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Best Black Friday Deals for the Deal Hunters

Looking for the best Black Friday gadget deals?  Here are my picks for the good ones:

(stay tuned for the online deals - I'll have the best online deals for this weekend and CyberMonday posted later today.)

Best Buy

  • Garmin nuvi 350 GPS Navigation System 499.99 
  • Insignia 2GB Video Mp3 player 99.99
  • Hitachi 51" Widescreen HDTV (Projection) 699.99
  • PNY 1GB USB Flash Drive 14.99
  • Western­ Dig­ital­ 1TB­ My­ B­o­o­k Ho­me Editio­n­ Ex­tern­al­ Hard Drive $150
  • Sa­m­su­ng BD-P1500 Bl­u­-r­a­y­ pl­a­y­e­r­ $200

Circuit City

  • Creative Labs 8GB Zen Photo Mp3 Player 129.99
  • Sh­a­rp A­q­uo­­s 52″ 1080p L­CD­ H­D­T­V $1499.99
  • S­am­s­ung­ 50-inc­h Plas­m­a $899.99
  • Polaroid 2GB Secure Digital Memory Card 29.99
  • Optoma DLP Digital Media Projector and Projector Screen 449.99
  • M­icrosoft Z­u­n­e (4GB­) M­P3 Player $49.99
  • Xb­o­­x 360 H­al­o­­ 3 Sp­ecial­ Edit­io­­n $99.99


  • ilo 26-inch LCD HDTV - 618.00
  • Sony PSP Video Game System 169.24 (Early Bird)
  • Samsu­n­­g 10.2MP D­i­gi­tal­ C­amera w­i­th 3x Zoom $69
  • HP­ A526 P­ho­to­ P­rin­ter $60
  • M­ag­navo­x­ Blu-ray P­layer $128
  • HP Pa­v­i­li­o­n D­eskto­p w/ 2GB R­A­M­, 160GB HD­, 19″ LCD­ M­o­ni­to­r­ $392
  • Pol­ar­oid 42” 1080p L­CD HDTV­ $598
  • Samsu­n­g­ 46” 1080p HDTV $1,098
  • S­ams­un­g 50” Wide­s­c­re­e­n­ 720p­ P­las­ma H­DTV $798
  • X­bo­x­ 360 A­rca­de­ Bu­ndle­ with G­u­ita­r He­ro­ III with G­u­ita­r $199
  • S­e­ag­ate­ 500G­B­ US­B­ 2.0 Hard Driv­e­ $69
  • G­armin­ N­uv­i 200 3.5” G­PS­ N­av­ig­atio­n­ S­ys­te­m: $97


  • Samsung Mini-DV Camcorder 179.99
  • Atari Flashback Game System 19.87
  • Guita­r­ H­er­o Wor­ld Tour­ with­ Guita­r­ Kit f­or­ Wii $60
  • ­We­s­te­rn Di­gi­tal­ 750GB­ US­B­ 2.0 E­xte­rnal­ Hard Dri­ve­ $88.88

  • S­imp­le­te­c­h­ 640GB Min­i H­ard Driv­e­ $89.99
  •  e­Mach­in­e­s­ 19” Wide­s­cre­e­n­ Flat P­an­e­l LCD Mo­n­ito­r $99.98
  •  West­ern­ D­igit­a­l­ M­y Book Essen­t­ia­l­ 640GB Ext­ern­a­l­ H­a­rd­ D­riv­e $69.99 
If you ventured out with the masses for Black Friday shopping, let us know what you picked up in the comments.  I'll have the online deals posted later this Friday so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Plex 0.7.1

The Plex team has a Thanksgiving treat for all of the users of Plex with their release of Plex Seven (0.7.1).  Plex, a Mac-based Home Theater PC software based from the XBMC software just released version 7 of Plex just over a week ago and yesterday updated to version 0.7.1.

This update includes some nice, new features and bug fixes.  Here's a few of the new features:
  • Aperture support - automatic reloading of databases and access across the network
  • Enhanced CoreAudio - Play 24-bit 96khz (or higher) audio.  The same is true for CD audio or other 16 bit 44.1/48Khz audio.  No more format conversion for audio.
  • Programs Area of Plex Enhanced
  • Thumbnail Generation - Plex Media Server generates thumbnails for artists, per request.
  • Update for scrapers to the latest versions from XBMC
  • Lots of other bug fixes and improvements
Read about the latest version including the full change list and download links at the Plex Blog

via MissingRemote

TVTonic for Media Center Shutting Down Service - For Now

One of the more popular Media Center applications, TVTonic is shuttering their service for the time being while they "restructure for the future."

Not a good sign for the folks at TVTonic (or the company that runs the service, Waveexpress.)  There will be several dissapointed Media Center users out there.

TVTonic got a good deal of press during the Olympics this past year as NBC provided TVTonic downloadable content from the Olymipcs.  It's basically a way for the HTPC user to get online content to their TV via the 10-foot remote control interface.  They offered a good deal of HD content and included many podcasts and RSS feeds all organized in a nice UI.

Here's the original post by the President of Wavexpress (TVTonic):

In these tough financial times we are faced with the need to take down the TVTonic service while we restructure for the future.

Although the service is being retired, you’re free to continue to use TVTonic to download and watch your favorite RSS video channels.

If you’d like to uninstall, directions to do so can be found here.

Please check back for news at a later date. Thanks for all your support.

Michael Sprague
President, Wavexpress

You can read the original post at the TVTonic website.

via Entertainment 2.0

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Deal of the Day: Harmony 890 Universal Remote $175

Today's deal of the day is a Harmony 890 (RF Based) Universal Remote Control from (affiliate).  It's refurbished, but a pretty good deal.  I use the (IR-Based) Harmony 880 model in my bar/entertainment room and it works great.

Harmony 890 Remote (refurb)
$174.95 (list price $199.99) with free shipping

Black Friday er Fri-Daily Deals at Amazon: Get Them Now

It's not really a Black Friday deal if it's not Friday right?  I guess in the scheme of things that doesn't matter though - is running what they are calling Black Fri-Daily deals starting now.

Daily Black Friday Deals at Amazon

A few of the deals there today:
Samsung BD-P2500 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player $299.99 (list $399.99)
Philips 6.5-Inch Digital Photo Frame (Clear & Black) $89.99 (list $129.99)
Samsung HT-X810 2.1 Channel Sound Bar Home Theater System $499.99 (list $699.99)
Seagate ST310005FDA1E1-RK 1 TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive $137.99 (list $219.99)
Sennheiser PXC 250 Active Noise Canceling Headphones $69.99 (list 139.95)
SanDisk Sansa View 32 GB Video MP3 Player $199.99 (list $350.00)

Daily Black Friday Deals at Amazon

You might also want to vote for your Thanksgiving Day Deal

Handbrake Media Converter Gets Major Update

Download it now.

My favorite media converter, Handbrake (Read how to rip a dvd for PC/iPod with Handbrake) has been updated to version 0.9.3.  The new version includes some significant improvements and features that make this a must-download, free application.

Changes for Handbrake 0.9.3 include:

  • Convert from all video types (not just DVDs)

  • Improved video quality - uses latest H.264 encoding library improvements.  Significant picture quality improvements and speed optimizations

  • More Control over multiple audio tracks

  • Better organized presets (you'll just have to try this, but it looks much easier and nicer then past versions)

  • Audio/video synchronization improved (fewer lip-sync issues)

  • Linux graphical user interface

  • Multi-threaded deinterlacing (use those extra cores for those of you with dual-core or quad-core processors)

  • Many other improvements to all interfaces

The one bad thing about this update is they have removed the internal DVD decryption.  This was obviously done to keep them out of trouble with the anti-decryption police.  If you use Mac, just install VLC 0.9 x and you won't notice the difference.  If you're on Linux you can just install a library (read more at the handbrake forums) and if you're on Windows....  I don't see any fix for windows so I'm wondering if you would have to decrypt before using this tool which would make me very sad.

This update applies to  all versions (OSx, Windows 2000/XP, Linux)

Read more and get the download from Handbrake

via Macworld

MPAA wants DRM in your Cable TV - Would Hit Millions of HDTVs

Another Title for this might be MPAA wants to close the "analog hole" - something I fear not because I want to be able to copy and share movies or shows, but because of the many problems this will create for HDTV owners and the interactivity of Video boxes and HTPCs.  This is a very important issues for readers of GeekTonic.

Ars Technica has an article that should put chills down your spine - and I don't mean the good kind of chills...  The MPAA is asking for something they call "Selectable Output Control" (SOC) which is a way of ensuring your set-top cable box can't show certain content on the analog output so you won't copy it.  Currently the FCC forbids video program distributors from employing SOC, but they are reviewing the issue and considering offering an exemption from the rules allowing them to insert the analog HD-braking DRM.  The studios via the MPAA are pusing for this and tieing the broadcast of HD movies prior to DVD release to this expemption.

The Consumer Electronics Association is reporting that if the FCC allows this waiver on Selectable Output Control, we'll see 20 Million HDTV sets (I would argue that number is low) unable to function as they were supposed to.  This would also end the Hauppauge HD-PVR functionality that I use with my HTPC on a daily basis.

Lots of acronyms in this story, but if you watch CableTV or care about DRM, this is a must read:

Via: Ars Technica - Trade group: video output limits will hit millions of HDTVs

Monday, November 24, 2008

Boxee Fix for Apple TV 2.3

If you wanted to update the the new AppleTV 2.3 firmware and still use Boxee, it's now safe to do so.  The Boxee team posted a new version of the USB creator making it easy to get boxee/xbmc onto your AppleTV - even with the AppleTV 2.3 firmware.

Below are the instructions per the Boxee Blog:
  1. Download the latest version of the USB Creator
  2. Insert a bootable USB key (1GB) to one of your USB slots and run the USB Creator (disconnect any external USB drives connected to your laptop to avoid crying once you discovered you just formatted a 1TB drive with all your media..). see a video how-to guide.
  3. Insert the patchstick into your Apple TV and reboot it (i.e. disconnect and reconnect power cord), you’ll see a penguin. this is good. now wait till it finishes the install.
  4. Remove the patchstick and reboot
  5. You should now see a new option in the Apple TV menu ‘xbmc/boxee’, go to Update and choose ‘Boxee’. let it do its thing.
Via Boxee Blog

SageTV 6.5.2 Beta Released

SageTV has another beta release available for download.  This one has several smaller updates and bug fixes but includes several nice behind-the-scenes updates for SageTV users.

Updates include:
  • Multi-threading support for transcoding - nice for those of us using dual or quad-core CPUs on our HTPC server.  This has been possible with one of the user-developed plugins, but now is available in the built-in SageTV transcoding.
  • Several fixes to the EVR support (EVR support was just added in the 6.5.1 release and there are several bug fixes and improvements for those using EVR in this release).
  • Added closed captioning for EVR - a very nice improvement!
There are several other updates that you can check out in the SageTV 6.5.2 Beta release notes.

Dish Network Satellite Tuners Coming to Windows 7 Media Center?

Some of us may have missed it, but when EngadgetHD was visiting the Microsoft eHome offices in Redmond, WA they got a snapshot of a Dish Network Menu Item on a Windows 7 Media Center Interface.

We all know that Microsoft is working with DirecTV with their long-overdue satellite tuners for Media Center, but its been a little less known that Dish Network might get in on the Media Center action as well.

From the EngadgetHD post:
"But this here tuner wasn't the only thing we saw, as there were even a few indications that DISH Network was being tested as well, and while we did see DISH multi-switches and a DISH TV screen up on a Media Center PC, we didn't see any specific DISH equipment connected to Media Center. This could mean the tuners are internal or maybe the tuners were just cleared out before we came through. More pictures of the HDPC-20 in action after the jump."

Check that EngadgetHD post over one more time and be sure and look at the photos they took of the eHome offices.  Some pretty cool electronic setups going on there for sure.

Check Your DVRs for Tuesday's House & Fringe Recordings

This Tuesday, Fox is running the popular show House and Fringe at non-regular times.  House will run eight minutes over its normal one-hour airing time from 8pm ET through 9:08 ET.  This will push Fringe to a roughly 9:08 ET start time that will likely run through 10:08 that night.
                                               Cast of Fringe

I checked to see that my SageTV Program guide had these times correct which it did, but just in case I'm adding a few minutes of padding (extra minutes to the start and end time of the recording settings) just in case.  If you have these two shows set to record, check to be sure your DVR's guide has them set up properly.

YouTube Now in Widescreen

YouTube seems to have switched their standard playback format to widescreen.  All 4:3 videos have the horizontal black bars on the sides.  Checking YouTube today resulted in some showing the widescreen playback format and others with the old-style 4:3 format so I'm not sure if they are just testing or if that's due to transitioning to the new format.

An older YouTube Video uploaded in 4:3 format shows the black bars on the sides

A newer, widescreen video now shown in widescreen on YouTube by default

This along with YouTube's move towards full-length films (so far just from MGM) all indicate a move to compete more in the Hulu space.  There are plenty of other video sharing sites with widescreen as the standard format including Vimeo, and others.  YouTube moving this direction is big since it is the best known and probably most popular of the online video sites.

via TechCrunch