Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review – The Top GeekTonic Content for 2009

As the 2009 year comes to a close I thought I’d spend some time looking at the past before I look to the future.  We’ll do a quick rundown on how things are going at GeekTonic.  We’ll cover a few stats for the statisticians, talk about the focus of content for the blog and finally run through the most read topics of the past year.

GeekTonic Logo

Stats – Things Continue to Look Up

More than 1,493,000 Pageviews with a steady number of over 100,000 pageviews each month from February through December.  The trend has actually been positive in the past six months as well for both unique visitors and returning visitors.

The most popular referring sites included Google (of course), Stumbleupon, ZatzNotFunny, SageTV Forums, EngadgetHD, Consumerist, MissingRemote, Snapstream, GreenButton, avsforum, Lifehacker and delicious.

The most popular search engines used to find GeekTonic were Google, Yahoo and Bing in that order.  Google wins this battle with ease cornerning nearly 82% of all search traffic.

The top web browsers were Firefox (50%, Internet Explorer 33%, Safari 8% and Chrome 6%.

Countries Represented - GeekTonic visitors came mostly from the US 73%, Canada 7%, UK 5%, Austrailia 2% and Europe filling out most of the rest, but its always surprising to see that over 200 countries had visitors at GeekTonic.

I won’t bore you with more details, but going through the blog stats I also learned that GeekTonic readers are a loyal bunch and visit the site multiple times – even in one month.  Thanks for that loyalty – I hope to continue to make it worth your while.

Topics Covered

Topic-wise the blog will continue to bring you the things I think you’ve come here for in the first place:

1. HTPC – home theater PC’s are a passion of mine and I’ll continue to focus on them.  SageTV is still what I use day in and day out, but I’m also dabbling with XBMC, Windows 7 Media Center, Boxee among others.  I know HTPCs and I really enjoy covering them.

2. Media – TV updates (U.S. and Canada only) will continue to have front-and-center coverage here.  I won’t review shows much, but I’ll continue to offer the weekly updates on new show premieres, specials, finale’s and cancellations as well as the full guides to each new TV season as those continue to be popular.  I might on occasion cover other media topics such as movies, music, books etc – all digital of course.

3. e-Readers – I’m very interested in e-Readers as the devices improve.  I think we are in the beginning of something important here – a shift in the way we consume books, magazines and newspapers.  The Kindles in our home will continue to be covered as will new devices such as the Nook, Que and other e-Readers

4. Media Gadgets – This is a bit of a catch-all, but GeekTonic will cover those media gadgets that interest us and therefore make for good reading.  Yes, the focus continues to be on HTPCs, media players and e-Readers, but we’re not excusive in that way.  Watch for more on the things that interest you and me.

5. Everything Else – It looks like we might have a regular guest blogger here at GeekTonic.  You know her from her reviews of the Kindle and Nook – she goes by the name Mrs GeekTonic on Twitter.  Her focus will be on technology also with the occasional discussion of Tech in Schools & Education.

The main thing that keeps me from covering more is my time.  Because of this, I really enjoy reader-submitted articles which also add a different perspective that is often shared by GeekTonic readers.  You’ll note that two of the top articles from 2009 on GeekTonic were guest posts from readers just like you.


Most Read Articles on GeekTonic in 2009:

Media Center Plugin Brings Netflix Hulu and more Online Video via PlayIt – The MediaCenter fans were pretty excited to get Netflix, Hulu and other online video support.
Transform Your AppleTV with Boxee – Boxee made a huge splash – in large part because of Hulu support built in at the time
SageTV Ultimate Guide – A continually updated guide on all things SageTV (HTPC) is a very popular post here at GeekTonic
Hauppauge HD-PVR on Media Center Arrives – Media Center fans get to use the Hauppauge HD-PVR albeit with a hack and extra paid software.
KindleTips - Ultimate Kindle 2 Shortcuts and Tricks – Kindle tips & tricks including keyboard shortcuts
SageTV HD200 HD Theater GeekTonic Review – The HD Theater from SageTV continues to fly under the radar of the big media.  I guess they just don’t understand it, but that’s what keeps folks coming back for more here at GeekTonic
PopcornHour C200 Preview and First Look – A very nice media player with all kinds of capability including optional Blu-ray optical
iPod Without iTunes – The most popular guest post ever at GeekTonic.  Reader, ZetaVu hit a home run with this article which continues to get new readers daily.  Hmm, you think folks aren’t happy with iTunes after all???
Ultimate Fall 2009 TV Premiere Schedule – This is now dated, but shows the popularity of the TV Premiere schedules I prepare.  Thank goodness for that because I spend days putting this thing together three times a year and then countless hours updating it with changes and corrections during the season.  The latest version for Winter 2010 TV Premiere Schedule is already a popular item for this month
HTPC Wireless Keyboard Roundup Part 2 - Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard – A nice HTPC keyboard by Vidabox
SageTV Tip: TV Channel Logos in SageTV Guide – This was an easy how-to on adding TV logos to your SageTV EPG.  Also includes links to a huge number of TV logos which is part of the appeal of this post I’m sure.
Linksys Discontinuing All Media Extenders DMA 2100 and DMA 2200 – This is my biggest disappointment of 2009.  Not necessarily just that Linksys dropped out of the MC extender market, but the absence of extenders for Media Center in general other than the XBox360.
The Ultimate Directory of SageTV 3rd Party Applications
DIY HDMI and USB Over Ethernet – An Extender Alternative – The second most popular guest post on GeekTonic

Thanks again for being a part of GeekTonic.  I appreciate all of the readers and contributors here and will strive to make GeekTonic even better in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ask The Readers – What To Spend My Gift Card Cash On?

This Christmas the Gift Card was a popular gift – a gift I gave and one I received as well.  So I thought rather than do an impulse purchase I’d ask everyone what they think we should spend our Amazon dollars on so they will stop burning a hole in our virtual pocket.


What do you think?  Tell me what you’d purchase for yourself or what you think I should purchase for myself.

A Look Back at Last Year’s Media Gadget Predictions

With one of my first posts of 2009 I took a wild stab at my top 10 Media Gadget Predictions for 2009 with some long-shots and a few I though were very possible in the wild world of Media Gadgets.  I thought I’d use this last week of 2009 to see how I did.

Crystal Ball

Photo by “circulating” cc license

Eating a Lot of Crow – but a few were Closer Than Expected:

I think it’s probably wise to start with the predictions I really missed on first and then move down the list towards those that were close or actually accurate predictions:


    • The first HTPC extender with a Blu-Ray drive arrives (or would that be Blu-Ray drive with HTPC extender) – possibly as soon as CES
    Yes I really did predict this and I was really wrong.  Matter of fact we saw very few new extenders in the tiny HTPC market and definitely none with a blu-ray drive.  Although there was a media player that has Blu-ray capability with the PopcornHour
    • Two of the freeware HTPC software programs will die and be abandoned.  The free-ware HTPC market will consolidate to two or three major forces (already has begun in 2008.)  I have my thoughts on which of those will die out in 2009, but will leave the names to your imagination…

This is one I think could still happen in the coming year.  I”m surprised that some of the smaller, freeware names still do any updates as names like XBMC and Boxee take up the little air that remains i this space.

    • Apple re-enters the living room (yeah they’ve basically abandoned it at the moment with the current AppleTV) with a new version of the AppleTV and calls it AppleMedia.  AppleMedia will bring 1080p, more online video and HD-PVR capability becoming a major force in the HTPC world in one fell swoop.

I personally think Apple is still moving this way.  Even recently we’ve heard about Apple working with some TV networks on agreements to carry their content on some Apple product.  But so far it hasn’t happened and that reflects how difficult this market is with the many entanglements that come along with todays TV licensing deals.

    • Microsoft cuts the budget for Media Center as HTPC interest wanes.  While Windows 7 is popular with current VMC users, number of consumers using Media Center stays relatively the same as with VMC.  Focus continues to shift towards the custom installers and highest-end customers.

I was wrong here – very wrong.  I say that even though I’m betting the actual budget for HTPC at Microsoft did not get increased and quite possibly decreased.  But I think Microsoft still values the HTPC/Media market and their improvements in Windows 7 demonstrates that.

    • Apple will push the touch-screen platform further by releasing a iPod Touch mini (or nano) as well as a iMac Touch micro computer.
    I was a year early on much of this one really.  But the not-yet-here Apple Tablet will do this in early 2010.
    • Media companies continue the fight to eliminate analog outputs from all devices to remove their fear of the “analog hole”.  They fail in 2009, but make inroads to their goal.
    This happened and continues to happen today.  Media Companies are working diligently to move away from analog ports and will eventually win this battle.  I just think it will take the better part of five years instead of one.
    • TV Networks begin to abandon the old “local TV station” model and push further to online delivery.  Hulu and other online video sites skyrocket in use and profitability as advertisers strive to find the consumer anywhere they can.

This one seems to be slowly moving the way I expected.  Hulu pushed around those trying to use their content (like Boxee for example).  Comcast’s XfinityTV is another example of the experimenting the media companies are doing.  While I personally am very against the online, streamed TV content as a primary source of TV and movies, I admit this is probably where media will go some day.

    • SageTV announces two new hardware devices.  One is an extender/player, the other is a complete hardware-based Server/Player solution

How could I be so right on one hand, but so wrong on the other?  SageTV did release a very nice SageTV HD Theater (HD200) that is even better today than it was when it was first announced in January 2009.  So on that hand I was right.  But there still today is no hardware-based Server/Player solution and I’m not sure if we’ll see one even in the next six months.  Still I consider the SageTV HD200 one of the best media gadget devices I’ve ever purchased – and that’s saying a lot.

    • Blu-ray becomes the de facto standard as prices of players drop as low as $70 and Blu-Ray Media prices drop to $15 by years end.

While some may disagree with me, Blu-ray is the standard now.  Blu-ray player prices have dropped to incredible lows over this past holiday season even though the regular prices for low-end models still over just below $99 instead of $70.  Many now have them and want their movies on Blu-ray – even if they are renting them.  The bestseller Blu-ray discs on Amazonrun anywhere from $14.99 for The Dark Knight to $39.99 for the Planet Earth Series.  And people who have no surround sound system at home are still renting and buying Blu-ray discs in the stores these days.  DVDs will linger on like VHS did, but they are now considered “old tech” by even the “regular folk.”

  • A Leading for-profit HTPC software company ends new sales of their HTPC software leaving the market to two or at most three viable HTPC software companies and a bunch of free-ware HTPC programs.

There were a few possible companies I had in mind here, but the primary one was Snapstream.  Not because I thought Snapstream was failing, but because I saw their enterprise DVR/Search product offering so much and filling the perfect niche for a small company.  Somewhat as I expected, Snapstream announced they were “scaling back” their focus away from the consumer-based BeyondTV HTPC software and publicly admitting that their number one focus is for their Enterprise product.  It makes a lot of sense to me and while I’m sort of disappointed to see BeyondTV get left behind in the HTPC world as it was one of the best software PVRs available.


I proved one thing this past year – I’m not all that good at predicting the future.  But I do at least have a feel for the general direction of things.  I’ve asked my twitter followers what HTPC predictions they have for 2010 and I’m listening for your Media Gadget predictions too – let me know in the comments and I’ll provide a new list of 2010 predictions later this week.

Monday, December 28, 2009

So You Received a Kindle for Christmas – Now What?

As readers of GeekTonic know, we’re fans of the e-Readers – and the Kindle by Amazon is one of the most popular options.  It appears that Amazon has had a stellar holiday season and the Kindle was their number one seller this year.  I watched as many of my co-workers received or gifted the Kindle – many of which never shop online.  I also observed that many on twitter and facebook received a Kindle or Nook this season.  So for those of you who received a new e-Reader – particularly a Kindle, what do you do with that thing?

The Kindle (and any e-Reader) isn’t for everyone.  Some just want the smell of the old books or the nostalgia of holding that book in your hands.  Or you’re one who trades your paperbacks among your friends.  For the rest of you, you are going to love your Kindle, Nook or Sony e-Reader.  Here’s a few things to know about your new Kindle:

1. Instant gratification.  You’ve probably already discovered this, but shopping for a book through your e-Reader or computer is super easy, fast and painless.  No need to trudge out in the snow to buy the next book in that series and it’s always in stock.  The ability to browse and purchase a book 24/7 from the comfort of your favorite reading chair (or from the airport) is very nice indeed.

2. Kindle without the Kindle - iPhone App.  The Kindle app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a great app by itself.  But if you have a Kindle as well the iPhone app makes that book even more mobile.  Waiting in line at the store or waiting in a doctors office but don’t have the Kindle with you?  Pull out your iPhone, select the book you’ve been reading and it automatically takes you to the farthest point in the book you’ve been reading.  It’s not as nice to read from your iPhone since it isn’t the comfortable-to-read-on e-ink screen and quite a bit smaller screen.  But it’s a great way to always have your book with you.

3. Finding Free Books – There are many ways to find and save free e-Books on your Kindle.  One of my favorites is Project Gutenberg.  Just save this url to your Kindle web browser and you can search, browse and download free e-Books right to your Kindle without a computer.

4. Kindle Covers that Work.  One of the first things you should get to go with your Kindle is a good cover.  We’re not fans of the standard Amazon cover because it’s difficult to lock into place and if you drop it, the Kindle is still exposed to the fall since the cover doesn’t latch into place.  Here’s a few of the best covers in my opinion:

5. Book Light? – We don’t have one for our Kindle, but my Dad’s Kindle sports the very popular M-Edge e-Luminator2 Kindle Booklight for $25


6. If you’re into Podcasts, be sure and add theKindleChronicles to your list.  Len Edgerly has one of my favorite podcasts that focuses on the Kindle and e-Readers in general.  It’s enjoyable to listen to and I amazingly learn something new each week.

7. Check out this list of Kindle tips & tricks for other tips on making the Kindle work for you

If you have a tip of your own regarding the Kindle let us know in the comments

Saturday, December 26, 2009

TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 12/26/2009

Time to finish of 2009 and run into 2010.  This week brings us several New Years specials along with a few premieres as well.

For those interested in the new TV Winter 2010 season, I once again joined  Phil Lozen and Adam Thursby on the “Seen in HD’ Podcast to run through the Winter 2010 TV Season.  Head over to Seen in HD to listen to the podcast or add it to your iTunes.

Don’t miss the Ultimate Guide to the 2010 Winter TV Season Premieres with free downloads by premiere date & by show name!


Ryan Seacrest & Dick Clark

                  Dick Clark with Fergie and Ryan Seacrest take us to 2010

Below you’ll find all this weeks TV premieres, finales and specials through next Sunday.

NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST


Sunday, Dec. 27

Witness: The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst (10pm on MSNBC) – a look back at the infamous 1970s case that made the Symbionese Liberation Army a household phrase. If it were on any real news network I might check this one out.  But since it’s not I won’t.

Monday, Dec. 28

American Masters- Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (9pm on PBS- Available in HD) - Louisa May Alcott, author of ``Little Women,'' leads a double literary life by writing under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, and that identity remains until the 1940s.


Tuesday, Dec. 29

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (8pm on ABC) – Special where Rudolph the reindeer comes to the rescue when an evil bird kidnaps the New Year baby. Voices of Red Skelton, Frank Gorshin, Morey Amsterdam.  Originally aired in 1976

32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors (9pm on CBS) - Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, \Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen all get honored.  Why it isn’t in HD is beyond me.  UPDATE:  While my guide information still shows this as not airing in HD, I am told it will be in HD.

One Big Happy Family (9pm on TLC – Available in HD) – I normally don’t do realityTV unless it’s a particularly interesting Amazing Race or Survivor season but I’m going to make an exception here and watch this series.  It’s lead editor is Vince Anido who also happens to be a HTPC enthusiast using SageTV.  This realityTV show is about a morbidly obese family and their attempt to deal with the weight issue without professional help.  I can’t imagine doing that but it could be interesting.  From my favorite TV critic’s words about this show on TVBarn:

To their credit, TLC’s producers have chosen an entertaining group to follow, and it appears from the way the show is scripted that TLC is trying to get the Coles on the diet wagon. If it’s painful to see some of the Coles in denial about their problem, well, it’s hard to argue that isn’t a slice of Americana these days, a la mode. “If you don’t like looking at us,” one of them says, “look away.”


Wednesday, Dec. 30

The Real World DC (10:30pm on MTV) Another season (24) of the Real World


Thursday, Dec. 31 – New Years Eve

NBC's New Year's Eve With Carson Daly (10pm on NBC – Available in HD) Carson Daly does New Years.

Billboard's New Year's Eve Live (11pm on Fox) Hosted by Carmen Electra.  That alone should make one change the channel and if that doesn’t do it – it’s not in HD…

Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2010 (11:30 pm on ABC – Available in HD) Seacrest does the New Years thing.  Honestly I’m not a huge fan of Seacrest, but I consider this the best of the three network options on New Years.

Friday, January 1 – Happy 2010!

Tournament of Roses Parade (11am on ABC – Available in HD) – “The” New Years Parade to watch so they say.

NHL Hockey 2010 NHL Winter Classic (1pm on NBC) For something a little different on New Years day you can catch the Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers at the open air Fenway Park.

Brian Boitano Skating Spectacular (4pm on NBC – Available in HD) So NHL isn’t your thing?  Perhaps ice skating???  Brian Boitano with Michael Weiss, Yuka Sato, Kimmie Meissner, Alissa Czisny, Steven Cousins, and pairs Elena Leonova and Andrei Khvalko and Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon

Great Performances-From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2010 (9pm on PBS – Available in HD) Julie Andrews hosts the 26th annual New Year's celebration with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (9pm on Cartoon) – Season 2 returns

Iron Chef America (9pm on Food – Available in HD) – Season 8 premieres and then switches back to Sundays on 1/3

Jake Johannsen: I Love You (9:30pm on Showtime – Available in HD) Special with popular stand-up comedian Jake Johannsen fimed at Kansas City’s own Uptown Theater.

The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie (10pm on HGTV – Available in HD) A new home improvement show on HGTV.  They help families with a little cash renovate their patios.

The Squeeze (10pm on MSNBC) – A new documentary-style series about a criminal investigation unit at the Cook County Jail.  Not in HD and on MSNBC – both turnoffs for me but might be worth a look if you’re into the criminal investigation thing.


Saturday, January 2

It’s Me or the Dog (8pm on Animal) – A new season of the Reality TV where a dog trainer tackles behavioral problems in dogs by teaching their owners responsible dog ownership

What I Hate About Me (9pm on Style) – another new reality TV show

Demons (10pm on  BBCA) – The remaining descendents of Van Helsing fight demons in the London underground

The Soloist (8pm on HBO – Available in HD) Robert Downey Jr. is Steve Lopez in this documentary/drama based on Lopez's book about his friendship with a musically trained homeless man (Jaime Foxx )

Sunday, January 3

Platinum Weddings (9pm on WE) New reality TV series – not in HD

Brothers & Sisters (10pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season 4 continues with so much overly done drama Mrs GeekTonic’s emotions will be torn :)

Desperate Housewives (10pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season 6 continues.  Housewives like this don’t seem to be in my neigborhood – probably not yours either.  Perhaps that’s the appeal of this soap opera?

Worst Cooks in America (10pm on Food) – They finally found a realityTV show I’m qualified for – just ask Mrs GeekTonic about the bugs in the broccoli meal ;).  New realityTV series for Food network.


Click Here If You Would Like to Get a Regular E-mail for GeekTonic TV Premieres & News

Week in Review – December 26, 2009

This past week was a little quiet thanks to a Christmas-shortened work week.  But there was still some good reads to be had so here’s a quick summary:

  • Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!
  • 2009 GeekTonic Guest Posts – a summary of all guest posts on GeekTonic for the year.  One lucky contributor won a SageTV HD Theater and everyone else received a small token of my appreciation.  Some great articles in this list.
  • Kindle DRM Cracked – Books Now Transferrable – Well I thought this was more significant than it really was.  Apparently, according to the comments the Kindle DRM had already been cracked.
  • SageTV HD200 – DTS Shortfall and How To Overcome It 
  • Barnes & Noble Pushes Out first Nook Update – firmware update – A good sign that B&N is working towards improving the Nook with firmware updates.
  • Last Minute Gifts – Amazon Kindle – Based on hits at GeekTonic over the last few weeks, a large number of people received a Kindle this year for Christmas.
  • Avatar is a Must See Movie – Good Story Spectacular Effects – I loved Avatar on an IMAX-sized screen and it looks like many others did as well.  I plan to see it at the theater one more time – it was that good imo.
  • TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 12/20/2009
  • Enjoy the remainder of your holiday break!  More in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at  If you’re in to the Twitter thing, be sure and follow me on twitter under the name GeekTonic.  Thanks for Reading GeekTonic!

    Friday, December 25, 2009

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!

    I wish all readers of a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    I hope you all enjoy time with your family and friends and possibly even get a few cool gadgets as a bonus.

    Thought I’d throw in a little something extra in this years annual Christmas post.  I’ve followed Jeremy Jones MultiMedia PC’s site for over a year now and last year noticed a little hobby of his – he creates house Christmas light shows matched to music.  Here’s a display from this year:

    Check out other music matched with Christmas lights at his site.  Very cool

    Merry Christmas!

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    2009 GeekTonic Guest Posts

    Earlier this month I reminded readers that they can share their media-gadget story on GeekTonic.  I also mentioned a possible reward to the guest bloggers on GeekTonic this past year.

    The winner of the SageTV HD Theater Player/Extender is ZetaVu.  He was chosen by random drawing, but it probably didn’t hurt that he had the most contributions this year – and therefore the most entries.  Congrats to Zetavu – The HD Theater should arrive on Christmas Eve!

    For nearly all of the others who contributed guest posts this year a small gift was e-mailed to you last night.  Check your e-mails for a little gift certificate from Amazon if you contributed.

    For everyone else, I encourage you to check out the guest posts from this past year – there were some extremely good ones.  And consider sharing your story or a summary of your media-gadget setup with everyone here on GeekTonic!

    If you’re curious on contributing:  Write an Article for GeekTonic! Looking for Guest-Submitted Articles at GeekTonic


    Guest Posts on GeekTonic in 2009:

    The Non-GeekTonic Review of the Nook – From the Recreational Readers Perspective by Mrs GeekTonic
    Windows 7 MCE + DVBLink for HDPVR = HD Happiness by David
    The Perfect HTPC Graphics Card by Ganesh
    Smart Sports Recording with Sage Recording Extender by Wayner
    Video with MythTV by GadgetWisdom
    The Second Digital Transition by Scott
    DIY HDMI and USB Over Ethernet – An Extender Alternative by Clift
    Placeshifting With The SageTV HD Theater by Dave
    Control Your HTPC With EventGhost by ZetaVu
    BeyondTV Plus MediaPortal vs SageTV – Redux Part 1 by ZetaVu
    BeyondTV Plus MediaPortal vs SageTV – Redux Part 2 by ZetaVu
    Keeping the Analog Hole Open by JarkHD

    When Socialism is a Good Thing - a Revolutionary Idea in Commercial Skipping by Ray (GhostLobster)

    The Non-GeekTonic Review of the Kindle 2 - From the Recreational Readers Perspective by Mrs GeekTonic
    Video Editing Power Tools by ZetaVu
    iPod Without iTunes by ZetaVu
    Testing The MediaPortal Waters - Experiencing New HTPC Software by Ray (GhostLobster) NOTE:  actually written in December of last year.


    Media Gadget Showcase – Home Theaters and HTPC Setups

    What Did We Do Without HTPC’s by Jamie
    MythTV, VMC, GB-PVR and SageTV Oh My! by Clift
    Blaze818's Home Theater and HTPC by Blaze818
    Home Theater PC Setup by Damian
    Suresh's Home Theater and HTPC by Suresh
    HTPC Setup by Wayner
    Home Theater PC Setup by ZetaVu
    Home Theater Setup by Dennis
    HTPC Build by Sodarkangel


    If I missed anyone (or any article) from the many guest posts at GeekTonic in 2009 please let me know.  Thanks to all who contributed – I appreciate it!

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Kindle DRM Cracked – Books Now Transferrable

    I first shared this with my Twitter followers and as I said then – this is big.  According to BGR, an Israeli programmer has cracked the DRM protection on Amazon e-Books making those books open to converting to PDF and of course transferable to other devices.

    Kindle on Bookshelf

    I have mixed feelings about this honestly because I fear it will cause publishers to be even more fearful of releasing their books as eBooks and make it more difficult for all eBook manufacturers.  On the other hand, it sure would be nice to be able to purchase an e-Book from any store and view that book on any e-Reader…

    Read the full story at BGR and the forum thread with the complete (translated details) here

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    SageTV HD200 – DTS Shortfall and How To Overcome It

    Do you have lots of MKV files?  Do those MKV files have DTS only audio tracks?  Don't have a DTS capable receiver/TV? Then SAGEAudioConvert is for you. 

    NOTE:  This is a guest post by DavidBasic guidelines for writing and submitting your own guest post at GeekTonic can be found here.

    Developer mikep has create this very handy tool.  It uses a few freeware tools (eac3to and mkvtoolnix) to automatically scan an input folder, create an AC-3 track then remux the new track into the file.  The tool is in beta, but it helps to overcome one of the few shortfalls of the HD200 extender.  As most know, the HD200 will not decode DTS tracks.  By adding the AC-3 track to the file the user is able to switch to the AC-3 track by hitting the audio button on the remote.
    SAGEAudioConvert is currently a command line tool and the author (mikep) even posted his SJQ code to run the tool when sage finds the new file in it's automated scans.
    There are several options to use and more can be found at the sage forums.
    Current SAGEAudioConvert post

    About the author:  Dave who goes by the screen-name "hugenbdd" on the SageTV forums is a reader of GeekTonic and SageTV user.  He also wrote the how-to on “placeshifting with the SageTV HD Theater

    Barnes & Noble Pushes Out first Nook Update – firmware 1.1.0

    Reports are leaking out that Barnes & Noble Nook eReaders are getting their first official firmware update today & the updates include some much needed fixes to the interface.

    Barnes & Noble Nook

    Version 1.1 (updated from 1.0) includes the following per Barnes & Noble’s Nook Website:

    • Improved page turn and formatting of downloaded eBooks
    • Improved startup time for My Library, The Daily, and Settings
    • Immediate launch of the reader upon choosing Select from The Daily and My Library, for books and subscription issues that have already been downloaded; otherwise the book detail page is displayed, with Download as the first option.   For instance the “read” option will be gone from the library so it just goes to the book immediately.
    • No longer shows “formatting” whenever you select “read” now.
    • Exclusive Barnes & Noble in-store content and promotions: when a customer enters a store, your nook will recognize the location and display the Barnes & Noble logo and welcome message, as well as special articles and offers.  - This looks like the beginning of the free in-store reading (limited to one hour per book) as mentioned at release.
    • Elimination of the page skipping that has occurred in certain PDB eBooks
    • Status bar (battery indicator, signal indicator, and clock) is displayed in reader
    • Page numbers are now at the bottom of the page instead of the top
    • The battery indicator & clock is now consistently in the upper right hand corner when you are reading
    • Overall system improvements
    • Side Effect being reported:  The items in “My Documents” get re-ordered and not in a meaningful way apparently


    You can update to 1.1 via wireless (3G or Wi-Fi) or you can force a manual download.  Your registered nook (if connected wirelessly) should download automatically & install on your Nook taking about 6 minutes.  To force a wireless update go to “My B&N Library” and press “check for new B&N content.”

    The update involves downloading the firmware, installing the new firmware as seen in the photo below

    Nook Update Firmware

    And then a reboot of the Nook as seen below

    Nook Update Firmware Reboot

    Thanks to Len Edgerly of Kindle Chronicles Podcast for the screen-caps of the installation and reboot


    According to Nookdevs, the firmware update does NOT disable rooted nooks so even the hackers will be relatively happy with the update.

    I don’t have my review unit Nook anymore so I can’t test this update out, but I wouldn’t expect miracles here – I expect the fixes in this update will probably be noticable, but fairly minor overall.  But it’s a great sign that Barnes & Noble has already pushed out a firmware update – let’s encourage them to continue the process.

    via Barnes & Noble Nook Support Page with many tips about the firmware via Twitter particularly Dave Zatz

    Last Minute Gifts – Amazon Kindle

    One of the last remaining tech gifts you can purchase online with free shipping and still have in time for Christmas is the Amazon Kindle.  Amazon has definitely stepped up their game in the eBook market this holiday and just by having an ample supply of their popular Kindle eReaders (the Nook and Sony Wireless aren’t available for this Christmas) they win out.

    Kindle Gift

    Add to that Amazon is offering free 2-day shipping for you last minute shoppers out there and it’s hard to argue with their strategy.

    If you want to give a Kindle e-Reader this Christmas there is still time.  Head to Amazon (affiliate) and order now while there’s still time

    Amazon Kindle with Free 2-Day Shipping $259

    Kindle Wireless Reading Device $259 with free 2-day shipping

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Avatar is a Must See Movie – Good Story Spectacular Effects Make it Amazing

    Okay, I was pretty skeptical about a movie so hyped and expensive as Avatar was.  Even my teenage daughter (a huge movie buff) was saying Avatar could end up like Waterworld with it’s over-priced cost to make and full of hype in the news.  I had seen the previews for Avatar in theaters which left me curious, but unsure of how it would turn out. 

    Well yesterday I took my daughter to see Avatar on a “IMAX” screen in 3D and after watching the long spectacle I can sum it up in a few words: This movie was spectacular!

    Planet Avatar

    There, I’ve added to the hype.  Both my daughter and I left the theater completely amazed with what we had just experienced.  The story was good – it kept our interest throughout without many (if any) dull points.  And the effects were simply amazing.  The 3D technology really is something special when they put the amount of detail and work that obviously went into this movie.  I have to agree with Gizmodo’s review of Avatar which said

    Avatar Review: Yes, It Changed Everything After All


    If you haven’t seen it yet, skip the reviews.  Just go see it and decide for yourself.  If you’re still not sure, try checking out what others who have seen it are saying on twitter.  Here’s a few choice comments from twitter I picked up.  I’m pretty sure you can do a search for Avatar on twitter and see similar comments as well

    Avatar lives up to the hype! Go see it!!!!

    Avatar was a great movie! Its snowing so I'm happy!! :)

    Best description I've heard yet of Avatar's planet Pandora and its wildlife: "Like the discovery channel on acid"

    If the devil is in the details, Avatar is impressive because it gets a so many of them right. It successfully creates an entire world.

    If you have seen the movie already, check out DVice’s picks for the best 3D moments of Avatar – I mostly agree with them.  And also check out Popular Mechanics “behind the scenes” of how they used 3D technology to make the movie

    The next question will be, does this somehow make us all want 3D TV screens in one room of our homes some day soon?  I’m still not sure about that.  But I’m pretty sure movies like this will make studios pay attention and discover something that makes audiences want to see movies at theaters again.

    TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 12/20/2009

    Since we’re in a bit of a slow period for TV I thought I test a few changes to the weekly GeekTonic TV Premieres roundup.  I’ll continue to provide a listing of the new TV premieres and specials for the week along with extra information such as show description, season number, whether it’s in HD or not etc.  But I’m also mixing in the season finales and show cancellations as well.  Not a huge change, but hopefully useful.

    Don’t miss the Ultimate Guide to the 2010 Winterl TV Season Premieres with free downloads by premiere date & by show name!

    It's a Wonderful Life

          Popular Classic, It’s a Wonderful Life airs a few times this week


    Below you’ll find all this weeks TV premieres, finales and specials through next Sunday.  Lot’s of Holiday & Christmas specials to be had…

    NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST


    Sunday, Dec. 20

    It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (3:30pm on PBS) Special

    Meet the Natives (6pm on Travel – Avail in HD) -  series premiere

    Two Weeks in Hell (8pm on Discovery– Avail in HD) – Special – documentary following Green Beret boot camp

    Survivor (7pm - 10pm on CBS– Avail in HD) 19th season finale


    Monday, Dec. 21

    Sons Of Mistletoe (11am on ABC Family) Special

    The Christmas List (1pm on ABC Family) Special

    Unlikely Angel (3pm on ABC Family) Special

    A Carol Christmas (5pm on ABC Family) Special

    Santa Baby (7pm on ABC Family– Avail in HD) Special

    The Sing-Off (8pm on NBC) – Season 1 finale

    The Closer (9pm on TNT– Avail in HD) – Season 5 finale

    Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe (9pm on ABC Family– Avail in HD) Special

    Make My Day (10pm on TVLand) – returns from hiatus


    Week in Review – December 20, 2009

    Well, actually two weeks in review.  The combination of the Nook reviews and holiday season has made this a very busy month.  But plenty of great content to be had here at GeekTonic.  Here’s a quick summary of the articles from the past two weeks:

    Barnes & Noble Nook Articles

    Other Content

  • Windows 7 MCE + DVBLink for HDPVR = HD Happiness – A guest post how-to on using the Hauppauge HD-PVR with Windows 7 to record all cable and satellite TV content on Media Center.  A great how-to & worth a read for any MediaCenter user.
  • The Perfect HTPC Graphics Card – A guest post about choosing a HTPC videocard.  The author works for a company called “Ambarella” which makes the card that goes inside the Hauppauge HD-PVR.
  • Amazon Plans 2010 Kindle Update For Vision Impaired – great to see Amazon working towards a solution for the vision impaired.
  • WDTV Live Media Player Firmware Update Problem Resolved
  • Deal of the Day – SageTV HD Theater
  • Ultimate Guide to the Winter 2010 TV Premieres – Your one-stop authority on the new Winter 2010 TV season.  Free downloads of the new TV season with a by-title & by-date listing.
  • Boxee Announces New Beta & Previews Hardware Box
  • More in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at  If you’re in to the Twitter thing, be sure and follow me on twitter under the name GeekTonic.  Thanks for Reading GeekTonic!

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    The Non-GeekTonic Review of the Nook – From the Recreational Readers Perspective


    This review of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-Reader is coming from a self-professed Kindle lover!  I had a difficult time working myself up to writing this review.  Brent suggested that I go back and look at what I said in my review of the Kindle to use that as a starting point.  Well, I’ve done that and unfortunately it didn’t help much since at the point I reviewed the Kindle I had never even seen or touched anything like an e-reader.  My perspective has shifted considerably since February and I now feel like an e-Reader pro.

    Note:  This is a guest post by Shelly (Mrs. GeekTonic), the non-geek in the family ;) Shelly, my lovely wife collaborated on the GeekTonic Look at the Nook review from the Geek’s perspective. She bypasses all technical jargon and gadget love that I give the Nook. Instead she focuses on the most important aspects for the hard-core book readers out there.  Are you someone who couldn’t care less about the latest “gadget” unless it serves its primary purpose and works the way it should?  This is your review.

    Nook on-the-go – the Nook iPhone App

    Since the device itself was delayed in its delivery I will begin with the iPhone app.  Originally, with the Kindle I wasn’t sure that I would ever use the iPhone app with its small, non-eInk screen, because the Kindle was small enough to fit in my smallest purse when I needed it. Then one day I forgot that I had a doctor’s appointment and had to go directly from work and was then stuck in the waiting room for an hour or so.  As luck would have it, the iPhone was right there and ready to go.  The Nook iPhone app has lots of personalization options available.  The iPhone font size choices are “cute” but not all that useful  (small, medium, large-ish, large, huge and gigantic.)  The Kindle’s fonts are set up Aa Aa Aa Aa Aa  You can see what you are getting.  There are also color choices on the Nook app available too, but I find them distracting and one of them completely unreadable (it gave me a headache).

    Nook iPhone Color Screen

    Worse, when testing the syncing between the two devices the Nook app failed.  First of all you have to exit out of the book to find the sync icon (DUMB!).  Secondly, if you sync from the Nook to the iPhone forget it… it will sync from the iPhone to the Nook, however (Ummm, ok.).  There is one advantage that the Kindle does not have, however.  The Nook gives you the ability to search by chapter.  If I leave my Kindle in the wrong part of the house (or if I turn off wireless my to optimize my battery) I may not get a very good connection and my iPhone sync may not find its way to the last read page.  For instance, today it was at least two chapters off which could have been easily remedied by a chapter search like the Nook iPhone app has.  Instead I had to page forward (annoying). 

    One cool feature of the Nook iPhone app was there is a scrolling feature that moves the text up for you.  However, it moves VERY slowly and I never did find a way to adjust speed control.  I am a very slow reader and l thought it was too slow.

    Long story short – the Nook iPhone App needs serious work…. They spent too much time and energy on stuff that just doesn’t matter (colors that are hideous for reading) and not enough time on stuff that matters (making sure sync function works).

    THE NOOK – The Actual e-Reader Device

    Size – The e-Reader is slightly smaller than the Kindle in width and height, but not as thin (due to the removable battery) and therefore not as light.  I put them both on my weight watchers scale and we are talking about 2 oz. but to me it was quite noticeable.  The screen however, is slightly larger as the frame is narrower.  The Kindle could make strides in this area.

    Wake up from blank screen (not screensaver mode) takes FOREVER!  This is not just a perception.  I actually timed it after Brent posted his review.   One minute and eighteen seconds to start up! Are they kidding?  I would have read a couple of pages by then on the Kindle (remember I read slow).  The wake up from blank screen on the Kindle was 3-4 SECONDS!  Only 1 second longer than from screen saver mode.

    Touch screen at the bottom will take getting used to for an iPhone user.  I want to touch the WHOLE device not just the bottom. After a couple of days my hubby (a Blackberry user) was doing it too.  It makes me wonder about the logic in a partial touch screen concept (is it just me?)  I find myself touching the Nook home button a couple of times before it notices that it is supposed to do something and the scrolling on the touch-screen is also not very responsive. 

    Home (or the Nook button) brings up your touch screen.



    They need to make each button on the menu a little smaller to include 1 more button for the audio player on each page.  I heard this complaint on another review and while it doesn’t bug me since I have an iPhone and iPod with me at all times it does make sense.    It is an option if you open any of the other choices so it should be on the main menu.

    Nook Menu MP3

    Changing font is a nice feature.  Some fonts are just more pleasing to the eye than others and that is an individual choice.  Text size options are listed by word not size as they are on the Kindle therefore you have to actually select it and see how it looks to decide.  (see above with the app review)

    The e-ink darkness appears to be a little bit darker on the Nook, but when I was listening to an old podcast from when the Kindle2 came out, the Kindle1 folks were complaining that the K2s (now know as “the Kindle”) screen was too light.  Sounds like it is a K2 problem to me ;)

    Book Selection

    Shopping in the B&N Nook store was not my favorite experience.  On the Kindle, I can type in the author’s last name and get what I want.  When I typed in “Viets” (an author’s last name) in the B&N store I got everything from Vietnam and very few “Elaine Viets” books.  What I did like is that from the list of results on the Nook store it shows the price.  In the Kindle store you actually have to select the book to find out the price.

    Sometimes I will download a sample of a book to decide if it is something that I want if it is a new author or series.  The sample from Barnes and Noble was less than a page.  I was completely taken by surprise when I got to the end of the sample.  How am I supposed to know if I want to buy the book after 2 paragraphs?  The same sample on the Kindle was 2 chapters.  It appeared to be 40 pages, but that included the title page, table of contents (not included in the real book) etc.  When the actual content started it was literally less than 1 page.  BOOOOOOOOO!


    Interesting Features

    Book sharing on the Nook is a great idea!  The rules are pretty strict though.  I don’t always finish a book in 14 days… ok, I almost always do, but my husband doesn’t. (You will have to read about this feature in Brent’s review because he actually tried this feature out as well as downloading a library e-book). The Kindle does not have any type of sharing option though.  You can have more than one Kindle on the account, but you would only want to share an account with people IN your household.  The Nook allows you to share books with folks not on your account.  Amazon will need to find a way to do this to keep me happy.  If we were to buy my daughter (19) a Kindle now, she would be on our account, but when she moves out……  Not buying her books forever, but we do read similar things and it would be nice to share some books with one another. 

    Another Nook feature that would appeal to people like my daughter – people happy to spend a day away in a comfy chair in a B&N store with a frappaccino in their hand is the ability to read books utilizing wi-fi in the store for free (rumor has it this is not working yet). [NOTE: The In-Store Wi-Fi free reading is supposed to go live some time in January but will be limited to one hour per book and only those books approved for the service by the publisher]

    On to the nice, but doesn’t really matter category….

    Book Cover View – to me this is like (sorry honey) dvd cover view on the Sage TV movie stuff (yes that is the technical term).  I could care less about this.  My daughter would like this though – she actually wrote a research paper on choosing books based on their cover (former marketing major).

    Nook Book Cover View

    Screensavers – you have the authors just like on the Kindle, but you also have cityscapes, and nature-scapesYou can also create your own using. jpg image format

    Previous page button on both sides – I really don’t use it that often, but when reading in bed (one handed) it is nice to not have to shift around.



    Brent was a little disappointed with my initial review because it doesn’t go into a lot of the Nook’s geek features.  But the reality is this:  I use my Kindle to do one thing…  Read books….  It does other stuff?  Who knew? 

    He was talking about how he missed the “back button” on the Kindle and my response was “I have never used it and I have no idea what it does.” And then I was listening to a podcast he did and Len Edgerly mentioned how he missed the “back button” too.  Now I feel silly.   The buttons available on the Nook are perfect in my opinion.  I don’t need a joy stick, back, menu AND home button if the Nook (home) button pretty much does all of that.  As long as the page turns… I am good!

    Do I think others like me (non-geeks) would be okay with a Nook e-reader?  Yes, they would probably do fine with the Nook.  But ultimately I think the Kindle is better at the things we find most important in this sort of device – finding and reading books.

    I don’t read magazines or newspapers (newspaper paper makes my skin crawl) now so I doubt that I will start because they will be available on the Nook or the Kindle. (I did have the Kindle read the Wall Street Journal to me once using the text to voice option (not available on the Nook) while I was cooking – It doesn’t know how to pronounce Obama.  It made me giggle.)  Podcasts?  Yeah, I listened to my very 1st one this week, because my husband was on it and they talked about me (my ears were burning).  So I don’t need my book to offer them.  I don’t need to “hack” my book (not that I could).  I just read books… THE END


    Thanks to Shelly for this review - I really appreciate her input and hope to see another guest post on GeekTonic sometime in the near future.  If you have any questions about the Nook or Kindle e-readers for Shelly feel free to ask in the comments below.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    A Look at the Nook – GeekTonic Reviews the Barnes & Noble e-Reader

    You’ve read the Nook gadget reviews on Engadget, WSJ, NYT and pretty much everywhere else.

    After many days with the new Nook e-Book Reader from Barnes & Nobleclip_image001 I’m ready to offer my opinion on the Nook as an e-Book reader.  I’ll be doing some direct comparing to the Kindle as well since I see the Nook as a formidable challenger to the Kindle’s current dominance in the e-Reader realm.  While I definitely agree that the Nook was rushed to market and has some issues, I’ll explain why I differ from most reviews you’ve read on the conclusion.  The Nook is a strong competitor to the Kindle – one I think still could win out over time as they update the UI a bit.

    Note: The companion review of the Nook – from the non-geek’s perspective can be found here.

    Nook with Books

    If you’re a Kindle owner, you’re probably already pretty smug about your decision to go with the Kindle instead of the Nook after reading many of the Nook reviews these past days.  While I totally understand that sentiment, I think there are areas where the Nook really wins – and some things that will surprise even the most seasoned e-Reader owner.  While far from perfect, I think the Nook just might be the e-Book reader for me.  Read on to see why.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Windows 7 MCE + DVBLink for HDPVR = HD Happiness

    Readers of GeekTonic know I’m a fan of the Hauppauge HD-PVR and it’s ability to take component video in and allow you to record all of your Cable or Satellite channels on your HTPC.  You probably also know that’s supported with HTPC software like SageTV and BeyondTV, but not with Windows 7.  Well David has written up the process for getting HD-PVR support in Windows 7 Media Center – read on for all of the details.

     NOTE:  This is a guest post by DavidBasic guidelines for writing and submitting your own guest post at GeekTonic can be found here.

    Install Windows 7

    I did a clean install of Windows 7 Business.  I ran Windows Update and installed all the Important updates.

    Install the latest drivers for your graphics card

    Windows Update didn’t give me the latest drivers for my ATI HD 2600 XT.  Having a card that has a hardware h.264 decoder is recommended if you plan on using your HTPC to connect to your TV to cut down on CPU usage.  If you plan on using the Xbox 360 as your extender then the h.264 decoder is not needed.

    I use my HTPC in my theater and 2 Xbox 360s in the rest of the house.

    Attach Hauppauge HDPVR and install the latest drivers

    I downloaded the latest drivers and installed them.  The version I used is

    You will also need to install the IR blaster configuration program, I use USB to change my channels, but that will be covered in another post later.

    Download DVBLink for HDPVR 2.0 Beta 3

    You can try it for 15 days before you buy it.

    Install DVBLink

    1. Run HDPVRBridgeSetup.exe
      install1 install2 install3
    2. Click Always trust software from “Tabekc”
    3. Reboot and finish install.

    Read on for the full how-to on Setting up Hauppauge HD-PVR support for Windows 7 Media Center:

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Nook eReader Gets Rooted – Entire OS on MicroSD card inside Device

    It appears the crafty guys at NookDevs have done a teardown of the Barnes & Noble Nook eReader device and have “rooted” the device.  They’ve discovered that the entire operating system of the Nook is on a little MicroSD card found inside the device (noted in the photo below as “microSD filesystem”!

    This should open up some interesting “hacking” of the pseudo-Android eBook Reader – something I’ll be following very closely.

    Nook Exposed

                      Photo from NookDevs

    With the Android OS powering this e-Reader I imagine there are plenty of interesting things that could be added to the Nook – especially with WiFi capability and a Micro-SD slot.  I can’t wait to see what they are able to do with the Nook.

    Read more about the Nook Teardown at NookDevs

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Geektonic Talks about the Nook on Kindle Chronicles Podcast

    Kindle Chronciles

    This week I again joined Len Edgerly for a segment about the Barnes & Noble Nook on his popular, Kindle-centric podcast – The Kindle Chronicles.  In the interview Len and I discuss our first day with the Nook and compare it to the Kindle.

    If you have any interest in eBook readers or the Amazon Kindle readers, the Kindle Chronicles is the Podcast to subscribe to.  It’s on my must-listen list of podcasts.  Len does a great job of mixing in e-Book Reader-related news, tips and tricks and an interesting interview in nearly each podcast.  Highly recommended.

    Read more about the Kindle Chronicles Podcast at the website (you can also download or listen to the episode with my interview from this site)

    Get the Kindle Chronicles Podcast on iTunes

    I must say, I’ve really warmed to the Nook as an e-Reader – even though we are now a two-Kindle house at GeekTonic.  I’m very tempted to hang on to this Nook.  Look for the Nook reviews at GeekTonic early this week.  I assure you we’ll cover ground that has been thus far glossed over by most Nook reviews thus far.

    Stay Tuned to GeekTonic for more e-Book and Media Gadget talk by subscribing to the GeekTonic RSS Feed

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    The Perfect HTPC Graphics Card

    Are you still hunting for the best graphics card for your HTPC? Well, you are not alone! Many enthusiasts are still searching out there for the perfect graphics card. Why does this search never end? The answer to this has got to do with the varying factors which people take into consideration while choosing their HTPC card. Sooner, rather than later, they realize that one of the factors they initially didn't consider as really important comes back to bite them.

    You've received a Picture Message


    As a consumer who has tried out and experimented with offerings from all the 3 leading graphics card manufacturers, I can tell you that that every manufacturer has an advantage in some aspect or the other. This post will dwell in detail on the two major components of the HD HTPC experience, namely, video and audio. At the end of the post, I will also examine miscellaneous aspects which affect the consumer choice.

    Read on for an in-depth look at choosing the right Video Card for your HTPC