Saturday, February 28, 2009

GeekTonic Week in Review - February 28, 2009

It's been a fun week at GeekTonic.  The new Kindle2 arrived and I've been testing out the coming-soon PogoPlug - both lots of fun.  In case you missed anything from the past week, here is a summary of the past week's news and stories on GeekTonic.


Stay tuned for more in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at  If you’re in to the Twitter thing, you can follow me on twitter under the name GeekTonic.  Thanks for Reading GeekTonic!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Netflix New Watch Now Picks for the Week- Episode 7

Friday has arrived again which means it's time for the GeekTonic "Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching" feature.

If you're looking for some inexpensive entertainment, Netflix's iconmovie streaming service is a great place to start.  All you need is at least a one-out-at-a-time Netflix subscription and a Netflix Watch Nowicon Playback device or compatible browser.  Each Friday, I'll be highlighting a selection of newly added Netflix Watch-Now titles you can check out - I'll try to screen out the worst of the bunch & just leave the better quality ones or at minimum some of the "broader appeal" titles.

(Disclaimer:  Not all of these will appeal to everyone - of course) 


The Big Sleep

This one is a classic adapted from William Faulkner's novel.  A dangerous blackmailer has targeted the wealthy Sternwood family, and while private eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) works on the case, he ends up falling for the fiery daughter, Vivian (Lauren Bacall).

The Whitest Kids U' Know icon


New York funnymen Trevor Moore, Zach Kregger and the rest of the Whitest Kids U' Know comedy troupe turn out a collection of colorful sketches that are anything but bland. Highlights include a look at the darker side of presidential icon Abraham "Honest Abe" Lincoln, an unconventional rap by the one and only Adolf Hitler, and a simple man's attempt to shuffle his iPod -- with disastrous results.

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa explores the vital relationship between man and his environment with this collection of eight enchanting short stories drawn from his personal memories and dreams. A feast for the senses, the luminous tales are distinguished by dazzling imagery, rich color and keen insight. Another famed director (and Kurosawa fan), Martin Scorsese, portrays Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh in one of the segments.

Best in Show

This one is definitely NOT my style, but many seem to enjoy it.  Master mockumentarian Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman) is at it again with this snarky send-up of canine culture that traverses the galloping neuroses that surround one highly competitive dog show. Talented improvisers Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean and Catherine O'Hara elevate this satire to the stuff of genius. Fans of This Is Spinal Tap and television's "SCTV" will find much to love.

Dennis the Menace

Mr. Wilson's (Walter Matthau) ever-present annoyance comes in the form of one mischievous kid named Dennis (Mason Gamble), but he'll need Dennis's tricks to uncover a collection of gold coins that go missing when a shady drifter named Switchblade Sam (Christopher Lloyd) comes to town. Nick Castle directs and John Hughes (Home Alone) penned this comedy based on Hank Ketcham's television hit and long-running comic strip. Lea Thompson co-stars.

Kindergarten Cop

Hard-edged cop John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) gets more than he bargained for when he goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to get the goods on a brutal drug lord (Richard Tyson) while at the same time protecting the man's young son. Pitted against a class of boisterous moppets whose antics try his patience and test his mettle, Kimble may have met his match … in more ways than one. Pamela Reed also stars in this engaging action comedy.

The Deal

William H. Macy stars in this irreverent comedy as a desperate movie producer who lands himself in hot water when the star of his big-budget biopic on British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is kidnapped from the set. Based on Peter Lefcourt's novel of the same name, this outrageous look at the zany world of filmmaking also stars LL Cool J, Meg Ryan and Jason Ritter.


After a failed stint as an actor in Hollywood, Philip (Trevor St. John) returns to his hometown, where he's greeted like a conquering hero. He uses his fame to charm his old sweetheart, Dorothy (Mary Stuart Masterson). But Dorothy has a cheerless, boring life now and is stuck with her racist thug boyfriend (Jon Favreau). This overlooked indie gem features a tight ensemble cast, including Karen Black, Natasha Gregson Wagner and Rory Cochrane.

God's Gun

This Western stars Lee Van Cleef in a double role as twin brothers. Father John, one of the twins, is murdered by Sam Clayton (Jack Palance) in a calculated plan for Sam's gang of low-lifes to invade the town. Retired contract killer Johnny (Leif Garrett) heads to Mexico in hopes of convincing the deceased man's twin to gather his arsenal and help Johnny save the fated town.

Prom Night

Donna (Brittany Snow) has been looking forward to her senior prom for as long as she can remember, anticipating a night of magic surrounded by her best friends. But what she doesn't bargain for is a visitor from her dark past and a party that will end in murder. Donna and her friends find themselves fighting to escape the clutches of a deranged killer before the night of their dreams turns into their worst nightmare.

A Cry in the Dark

In this wrenching drama based on a true story, Meryl Streep plays Lindy Chamberlain, an Australian woman who finds herself under suspicion of murder after her infant daughter is carried off by a dingo during a family camping trip. Lindy insists that the animal killed her baby, but police note inconsistencies in her story and charge her with the crime. Meanwhile, the media proceeds to hound the distraught family at every turn. Sam Neill co-stars.

Conspiracy Theory

Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson), a New York City cab driver who moonlights as a conspiracy theorist, puts his life in danger when crooked government officials set out to silence him. An attorney named Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts) might be able to help him, as she tries to unravel a mysterious murder that could be connected to Fletcher's theory. Richard Donner directs and Patrick Stewart co-stars.

The Locusts

When drifter Clay Hewitt (Vince Vaughn) takes a job at Delilah Potts's (Kate Capshaw) ranch, he unwittingly sets up a dangerous love triangle in this tense drama. Taking up with local girl Kitty (Ashley Judd), Hewitt spurns his boss's advances. But Delilah doesn't like being rejected. Meanwhile, Hewitt develops a strong bond with Delilah's troubled young son, Flyboy (Jeremy Davies). Paul Rudd co-stars.

The Aviator

Christopher Reeve stars as a daredevil pilot in this exhilarating tale that takes place during the heyday of early flying. Rosanna Arquette is his feisty (and unwilling) passenger, immobilized because of a broken leg from a mountain fall. After surviving an airplane crash into a mountain range, the two must battle the extremes -- and each other -- to survive.

Psycho icon

Alfred Hitchcock's Oscar-nominated classic thriller.

Psycho II

Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) comes home in the terrifying sequel to one of Alfred Hitchcock's most suspenseful movies. After years of rehab in a mental institution, Norman returns to the family home, but is he really free of the henpecking from his "mother"? Vera Miles reprises her role from the original movie, still haunted by Norman's brutal murder of her sister years before. Meg Tilly and Dennis Franz co-star. Richard Franklin directs.

Psycho III

And you thought it was safe to go back in the shower! Anthony Perkins recreates his most famous role and makes his directing debut in this second sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's legendary thriller. Once again, the Bates Motel is the site of nasty doings as rehabilitated psychopath Norman Bates (Perkins) attempts to help a vulnerable ex-nun (Diana Scarwid). As usual, Norman turns to Mother -- still propped up in her bedroom window -- for assistance.

Psycho IV: The Beginning

Calling up a radio show about boys who murder their mothers, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) recounts his tortured experiences as the son (Henry Thomas) of an incessantly abusive mother (Olivia Hussey) and announces his intentions to kill again. As his story unfolds, it becomes clear that Bates's threat should be taken quite seriously. The fourth installment of the famed horror franchise also stars CCH Pounder as the talk-show host.

Best Men

Set to be married on the same day he gets out of the slammer, Jesse (Luke Wilson) enlists tuxedo-clad pals Teddy (Andy Dick), Buzz (Dean Cain), Billy (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Sol (Mitchell Whitfield) to help him rob his father's bank -- and then drive him to the church. This quirky hybrid of ensemble comedy and hostage thriller also stars Drew Barrymore as Jesse's fiancée, Hope. Tamra Davis directs.


Director Peter Hyams transplants High Noon to outer space in this sci-fi thriller starring Sean Connery as William O'Niel, a cosmic lawman on a Jupiter moon outpost who conducts an inquiry after three miners go mad and die in rapid succession. But his probe doesn't sit well with the mine manager (Peter Boyle), who's boosting worker productivity through dangerous drugs … and he promptly dispatches a pair of thugs to get rid of O'Niel.

King Ralph

When the entire royal family is electrocuted in a freak accident, it leaves Las Vegas lounge singer Ralph Jones (John Goodman) the lone heir to the English throne. Aided by a family servant (Peter O'Toole), boorish slob Ralph does his best to rise to the occasion. John Hurt plays his scheming adversary, Percival Graves, a British lord who plots the new monarch's downfall in this genial comedy from director David S. Ward.

Arizona Dream

At the urging of his car salesman Uncle Leo (Jerry Lewis), fish-obsessed Axel (Johnny Depp) reluctantly journeys from Manhattan to Arizona, where Leo pressures him to take over the dealership. Meanwhile, Axel forges an unlikely bond with rich widow Elaine (Faye Dunaway) and her accordion-playing stepdaughter (Lili Taylor). The overlooked, absurdist comedy won the Silver Berlin Bear award at the 1993 Berlin International Film Festival.


George Orwell's eerie tale follows the "reeducation" of two people who break the law in a totalitarian state by falling in love while Big Brother is watching. Not only was this highly watchable movie adaptation filmed during the year it's named for, but specific scenes were also shot on the exact date the novel specifies. An intriguing touch in what turned out to be Richard Burton's last film.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

When vacuous stock analyst Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) is rendered invisible as the result of a nuclear fusion experiment gone wrong, he becomes the target of ruthless government operative David Jenkins (Sam Neill), who plans to exploit Halloway's spy potential. After escaping from Jenkins' clutches, Halloway finds an ally in shapely film documentarian Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah). Michael McKean rounds out the cast in this comic sci-fi yarn.


Directed by Steven Spielberg, this affecting remake of A Guy Named Joe stars Richard Dreyfuss as brash Pete Sandich, a firefighting pilot who dies in the line of duty but returns as a guardian angel to fledgling aviator Ted Baker (Brad Johnson). Pete's task takes an unexpected twist, however, when Ted begins falling for Dorinda Durston (Holly Hunter) -- the girl Pete left behind. Audrey Hepburn plays a seraph in her final big-screen appearance.


Kidnapped by an escaped convict (Shea Whigham) and his young accomplice (Rachel Kerbs), Seth Belzer (Paulo Costanzo) and Polly Watt (Jill Wagner) are thrust into the fight of their lives when the four of them become the prey of a bloodthirsty splinter parasite. Trapped inside an abandoned gas station, the foursome is forced to band together to thwart the monster's vicious attacks and make it out alive.


Other New Netflix Streaming Movies for this week:


That's it for this week.  Let us know in the comments if you loved or hated any of these.

Remember, you can now subscribe to the GeekTonic Netflix Watch Now Movie Recommendations RSS Feed

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ask the Readers: What Do You Want To Know about the Kindle 2?


I'm preparing for the first of the dual-reviews (one from my perspective and a second one from my wife's perspective) of the new Kindle 2 eBook reader and I'm looking for some input from GeekTonic readers.

What questions do you have about the Kindle 2?

Would you ever use a eBook similar to the Kindle 2 at some price point?  If so, what price?

If you have a Kindle 2 what are your impressions thus far?


I'll be using your comments in the review so make your voice heard - let us know in the comments.  Thanks!


More Kindle Coverage Here

Demonstration of the Kindle 2 Text-to-Speech Feature

We're still delving into my new Kindle2 to provide a full-blown, detailed review of the device, but I've had several people ask me about the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2.

Since there's really no better way of sharing with everyone how the Kindle2 text-to-speech feature works, I thought I'd show you with a video.


Female Voice

First up is the Kindle 2 reading the Wall Street Journal to me using the "female" voice:


Male Voice

Next we have the Kindle 2 reading the WSJ using the Male Voice - and I demonstrate how to switch between the two included "voices":


So what do you think?  Obviously, this is not Jim Dale (Narrated the Harry Potter books), but it's not too shabby either.  My wife and I decided this is actually a feature we would use, but only for playback in the car on the way to work - possibly a newspaper, magazine or blog when we couldn't actually read at the time.  The voices are much better than we expected, but still a bit like a robot that messes up the intonation and emphasis of words and sentences fairly often. 

For more Kindle 2 coverage stay tuned to GeekTonic.  Also check out the following at GeekTonic:



What do you think - would you use the text-to-speech feature if you had a Kindle2?

Media-Related Windows 7 Changes in Release Candidate

Windows7 Logo

If you're one of the many people running the Windows 7 beta you'll be interested in this.  Microsoft has announced several of the changes/updates being made to Windows 7 that will be included in the soon-to-be-released, Release Candidate of Windows 7.

A few of the media-related highlights from their notes include:

  • Improved Internet Radio playback
  • Internet radio playback continues to gain in popularity. We received feedback that sometimes playback of radio streams may be inconsistent depending on network conditions. It’s worth noting that our understanding of this issue was greatly helped by the broad scale of usage across so many customers and network topologies and our telemetry in the Beta. Windows Media Player has made changes to make streaming playback more reliable and resilient.

  • Improved playback support for video content from digital camcorders and cameras
  • Customers loved the increased range of formats natively supported by the Windows 7 Beta, but noticed areas where they wanted broader support.  For example, one was unable to seek to a specific spot in the video in Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center for AVCHD content that was imported from a digital camcorder. We’ve addressed this.  Also, while the support for video from some digital cameras worked great, we also got feedback about supporting a broader set of devices out of the box.  We’ve since added support for Windows Media Player to natively support the .MOV files used to capture video for many common digital cameras. 

  • Cleaner Now Playing view
  • Customers are sharing positive reviews of Media Player’s new light-weight Now Playing view. Still some have asked to make the experience even cleaner. We’ve responded with a visual update that is more lightweight and compact.

  • Filtering content that cannot be played
  • Media Player’s library view is designed to surface and showcase one’s content. However, in some cases items were displayed that couldn’t be played. For example, Apple’s lossless .M4A or .H263 MPEG-4 content would be shown in a library even though Media Player could not play them. In RC, this content will no longer appear in the library view so that there is better expectation of what is supported by the player.

  • Resume from sleep
  • Customers are used to resuming a CD or DVD after an interruption.  With customers choosing new low-cost, smaller form-factor, machines without optical drives, an increasingly popular scenario is to have content played directly from the hard drive. In Beta, it was not possible to resume playback on such content after a laptop goes to sleep. Customers assume the experience should match that of physical media so we fixed the experience to meet this expectation.

  • Quieting Windows Media Player sync relationships
  • When Media Player is open and a portable media player or a USB drive is inserted, we trigger a dialog to determine whether a sync relationship should be created with the new device. Our original goal was to be proactive and help customers make a decision in context, but we received comments that this experience is jarring. As a result, we will no longer interrupt when the player is running. This is consistent with our “customer in control” goal of Windows 7 and we trust people can manually configure this should they wish to.

  • Easier access to advanced settings
  • What enthusiast doesn’t want to tweak her player settings? This was echoed by several comments so we’ve made it easier to access and adjust settings. The equalizer, play speed, SRS WOW and other options are now surfaced via the Now Playing context menu under Enhancements.

  • Jump List improvement
  • Media Player’s Jump List provides quick access to the content customers consume. The list becomes even more powerful and complete in the RC now that we also include items launched from Explorer.

  • Enriching the Device Stage ecosystem
  • Customers have been so positive about the new Device Stage experience, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we got was “Why aren’t even more of my devices supported?”  We’ve taken that feedback to heart and then took the feedback to our IHV and OEM partners to get their support for more devices.  Our hardware partners in turn asked us to make it easier to integrate with the Device Stage and we worked with them on improvements.  Although Windows already supports tens of thousands of devices, customer feedback on the Beta introduces even more device support in RC via the new Device Stage experience.

Not a bad list of improvements.  I don't see too much that is directly related to Media Center, but several "behind-the-scenes" fixes are certainly included.

For the complete list of changes, check out the Microsoft Blog post

Sneak Peek: SageMC TV Screen Add-On

Those hardworking guys who develop add-ons and themes for SageMC are at it again.  There is already a nice add-on called SageMC TV Screen that transforms the look and feel of SageMC's TV screens.  It looks like Jaminben is at it again and getting close to another release. 

I won't go into the details much at this point, but had to share with everyone how nice this thing looks.  Here's one screen-shot of TV Screen shared on the SageTV forums.  And it's pretty customizable to change the look and functionality too.

SageMC TV Screen

I'll definitely have more information on this in the future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apple Update Requires Boxee Users to Run

AppleTV updated their software to 2.3.1 (with very few noticable improvements) which also seems to have broken Boxee. 

But the fix is pretty easy, just re-apply the patchstick again and everything on Boxee will be well again (except for the fact that Hulu still is blocked on Boxee).   After the patchstick has be applied, user logins, media sources, preferences, etc. will be just as they were before the upgrade.All of your settings and media will still be there.

SageTV Beta 6.5.11 Released

While SageTV did release version 6.5 from beta earlier this month, they obviously still have more to stuff into 6.5 because they've announced another beta.  This one is SageTV 6.4.11 and has a few interesting improvements.

The most notable improvement is that the SageTV HD200 extender (will work in standalone in future beta version) now has support to play back BluRays in BDMV folder structure.  No support for menus or interactive features at this point, but it does support multiple audio tracks, chapter selection and eventually subtitles.

SageTV V6.5.11 Beta Highlights:

  • Support for importing BluRay BDMV folder structures.
  • HE-AAC audio now supported for transcoding
  • Fixed issues with photos containing unicode pathnames
  • New MPEG demux with accurate seeking
  • Improved HDHomeRun support for Mac version
  • Fixed A/V sync issues with playback on Mac version
  • Added support for HDMI hotplug mode changes for HD extenders
  • Updated native resolution switching code with improvements.

The full changelog list is very long and includes goodies for all versions of SageTV 6, the HD Extenders and Studio (the software used to create plugins or mods to SageTV).  I'm always impressed with how many little "under the hood" fixes and improvements the guys at SageTV stuff in each month - all for free to existing owners.

For the complete changelog and beta download head over to the SageTV forums

For more on the SageTV software check out the GeekTonic Ultimate Guide to SageTV

The Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard Giveaway

Vidabox Premium Wireless Media Center Keyboard

I know there are plenty of Home Theater PC users (me included) who have at least one HTPC next to their TV and have on occasion a need for a quality, wireless keyboard for that setup. 

It pains me to have to give this one away - I love using it, but the time to pass along this awesome keyboard has come.  Now that you've read the GeekTonic review of the Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard with Laser Trackball and know how nice this keyboard really is, you probably want to try it out for yourself right?  Well, this is your lucky day because GeekTonic is giving away the review keyboard to one lucky GeekTonic reader complements of VidaBox and GeekTonic! 


To enter, simple leave a comment below (in this post).  Thanks to Vidabox for the donated keyboard.  I'll pay for shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S. (if you're farther then that we can work out the difference in shipping cost)  Only one entry per person.  Winners will be determined at random early next week.

And don't forget, you can pick up one of these VidaBox keyboards for 10% off by putting in the code "geektonic" (without the quotes) during checkout.  While you're over at the VidaBox site, check out some of their other cool HTPC products.


I'll have another keyboard review and giveaway next week so stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kindle 2 Unboxing Video and Lots of Kindle2 Photos


The Kindle 2 arrived this afternoon.  For GeekTonic readers, I'm sharing the unboxing and first photos of the brand new Kindle 2 for all to see.

NOTE:  IF you're a first time Kindle owner or plan to get one, be sure and check out the GeekTonic Kindle2 Owners Checklist and the Video Demo of the Kindle 2 text-to-speech feature


Read on for lots of photos and an unboxing video of the Kindle2.

This latest version of Amazon's e-book reader arrived in a specially branded Amazon Kindle packaging.  My first thought on this thing is wow, this Kindle2 is really small.  It's much smaller than the first Kindle and the package it's shipped in is very small - almost like a book :)  No hardcopy, full operating manual is included this time.  Instead you get the Kindle2, a quickstart guide and the USB cord/power adapter.  That's it.  Eliminating the manual and the Kindle cover definitely shrunk the shipping size, but I sure would have appreciated a cover like they included with the first Kindle.

The brown, eco-friendly cardboard box contains the Kindle 2 packed in a lightweight, black cardboard, egg-carton type package.  Watch the video at the bottom of this post to get a better idea of the size.



Inside the package is a black, cardboard (almost egg carton feel) packaging holding the Kindle.  The second photo below shows the Kindle, the cord still cradled in its packaging.


The Kindle 2 powercord is a standard USB mini USB cable with a small, two-prong adapter (nice because you can use the USB to charge from a PC as well as a wall outlet.


The quick-start booklet has the familiar "Kindle-Art" and contains the information most impatient owners (like me) will possibly read before trying out the device.  The full, owners manual is available for download as a PDF and is of course stored on your Kindle for reading.





To get a feel for the size, I put my iPod Touch (in it's plastic case) next to the Amazon Kindle 2.  The Kindle 2 is bigger, but not bulky by any means.



Below I have three "old-school books stacked next to the Kindle so you can get a feel for the size difference.  There is the large, hardcover Harry Potter book, the smaller "The World is Flat" book and finally a paperback book all holding up the very thin Kindle2.



The Kindle plugs in with a mini-USB port at the bottom of the device.  You can continue using the Kindle while plugged in if you want.




This thing is thin - very thin.  Below I've attempted to demonstrate how it is easy to hold.  (No I'll never get an offer as a hand model ;)



More photos of the Kindle2 Below:


Finally, the unboxing video with my professional average narration.  Enjoy!


Note:  I had some "technical" difficulties with the video editing so below you have the raw, unedited unboxing video 


I'm spending some quality time with the Kindle 2 tonight and will have a "first look" post up on GeekTonic very soon with my thoughts after using it for a few hours.

First Time Kindle 2 Owners Checklist

Amazon Kindle 2 If you are one of the many future Kindle2 owners waiting for your Kindle to arrive this week (the first wave arrives at homes today) you might be wondering what things you can do to prepare for its arrival. 

Here's a quick checklist I made of things to-do while waiting for my Kindle to arrive:


  • Get a booklight.  I'm planning on this being a pet peeve of mine.  Why they don't spend a little extra to include side lighting on the Kindle's I do not understand.
  • Free eBooks!  One of the best ways to try out books on your Kindle is with free books.  Bookmark this link: free Kindle Books on for a continually updated list of Kindle books available for free on Amazon!  No these aren't bestsellers and there is a lot of "junk" in the list but it's a great way to learn how to use the Kindle and it's features.  Check out these free books for example:
  • For a few non-Amazon sources for Kindle books and magazines, check out these places:
  • Add the Amazon Wishlist Button to your browser so you can easily add Kindle-ready books to your Amazon Wishlist

    Amazon Wishlist Button

  • Check out (and bookmark) Jungle which is a great way to do a quick, advanced search for Amazon Kindle store items.Jungle Search
  • Bookmark the Kindle Forums on Amazon.  Lots of fellow Kindle users with a ton of useful information.


Thanks to GeekTonic reader TallMomof2 and many commentors at the Kindle forums for all of these great suggestions.


If you want to order a Kindle 2 for you own(Amazon is an affiliate) here's how:

Order the Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) $359



Stay tuned to GeekTonic - My Kindle2 is set to arrive today so I'll have the unboxing and first-look of the Kindle 2 up later today.