Saturday, March 14, 2009

GeekTonic Week In Review: March 14, 2009

The GeekTonic blog has been loaded with new posts again this week.  We finished the Kindle 2 reviews, I participated in several podcasts and shared many other media gadget articles for everyone.  In case you missed anything from the past week, here is a summary of the past week's news and stories on GeekTonic.

Media Gadget Showcase

Be sure and check out the GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase - I encourage everyone to sign up for the Gadget Showcase at GeekTonic.  Get started by joining the GeekTonic Flickr Group and adding photos of your media gadgets and Media Setup photos for a chance to win Amazon Gift Certificates and more. 

We've had two great entries already and hope to see many more in the series.  Don't let the first two scare you off - this is for simple sharing of your media gadgets (as simple as a photo and quick review of your HTPC server, favorite media player or whatever) or as elaborate as a full-out writeup of your HTPC setup or Home Theater Build.  I'm looking for anything and everything media-gadget related.

Week In Review:


Not as many posts as with some weeks, but many of these were extremely time consuming.  Anyway, that's a wrap for this week. 

Here's a sneak peek at what's on tap for the coming week:

  • Kindle 2 Recommended Web Resources - I've consumed as much information I can get my hands on for the Kindle 2.  Now it's time to share the best places for Kindle Information with GeekTonic readers.
  • Media Gadget Showcase - Another installment of the Media Gadget Showcase is coming this week.  I now have over five of these queued up for the coming weeks.  Hurry and get your submission in soon.  We have some gift certificates to give away to a few of these submissions.
  • Comprehensive Look at the Pros and Cons of SageTV versus Windows Media Center.  You've heard the podcast where we touched on the high points on this topic.  Now its time to go in-depth and really look at the many good and bad points of these two popular HTPC programs.  Don't miss this one.
  • Installment 3 of the Wireless Media Keyboard Reviews - The third of the HTPC keyboard reviews - and another giveaway.
  • More Media Gadget Goodness - lots more HTPC and media gadget news, reviews and discussion at GeekTonic coming this week!
Stay tuned for 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, March 13, 2009

Netflix New Watch Now Picks of the Week: Episode 9

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 Waterboy

from Netflix - New choices to watch instantly

Adam Sandler is Bobby Boucher, a water boy for a struggling college football team. The coach (Henry Winkler) discovers Boucher's hidden rage makes him a tackling machine whose bone-crushing power might vault his team into the playoffs. With a hilarious turn by Kathy Bates as Bobby's Cajun momma and Sandler at his oddball best, The Waterboy scores big laughs.

What About Bob?

from Netflix - New choices to watch instantly

Determined to receive treatment, Bob Wiley (Bill Murray), a neurotic New Yorker struggling with a host of paralyzing phobias, follows his psychiatrist on vacation in this quirky family comedy. Pompous shrink Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) tries to get rid of the unwanted patient, but Bob ingratiates himself with Marvin's family. Soon Marvin's wife and children, charmed by Bob's childlike enthusiasm, start to think Bob is more fun than Marvin.

Hang 'Em High

from Netflix - New choices to watch instantly

Clint Eastwood (in all his squinty glory) survives a hanging, vowing revenge on the lynch mob that left him dangling. To carry out his oath, he returns to his former job as a lawman. Before long, Eastwood catches up with the nine men and starts dispensing his brand of justice. The film aspires to be an Americanized spaghetti Western -- and succeeds.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

from Netflix - New choices to watch instantly

While the Civil War rages, three men -- a quiet loner (Clint Eastwood), a ruthless hit man (Lee Van Cleef) and a Mexican bandit (Eli Wallach) -- comb the American Southwest in search of a strongbox containing $200,000 in stolen gold. In his third classic spaghetti Western with Eastwood, director Sergio Leone continues to shake up the genre with stylish photography, a hefty dose of cynicism and Ennio Morricone's instantly recognizable score.

The Big Chill

from Netflix - New choices to watch instantly

Never trust anyone over 30 … except this group of erstwhile buddies and former college radicals. After years apart, friends who've followed divergent paths reunite at the funeral of one of their own. Watch as the top-notch ensemble (William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, JoBeth Williams, Mary Kay Place, Tom Berenger and Jeff Goldblum) reconnects and cavorts to an irresistible soundtrack of 1960s hits.

The Survivors

from Netflix - New choices to watch instantly

Legendary funnymen Walter Matthau and Robin Williams star in this comedy as Sonny Paluso and Donald Quinelle, two unemployed fellas who run afoul of the Mafia and decide that the best defense is to enroll in a military survival course. Donald buys into the curriculum lock, stock and barrel, but Sonny's not quite so gung-ho in this satire from director Michael Ritchie.


Other new, Netflix Streaming Movies:


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

SageTV Beta 6.5.12 Arrives – Adds Subtitle Support and More

The team at SageTV continues to grind out new beta releases at a has been releasing beta's for SageTV 6.5 at an almost non-stop pace since November.  Today, they released 6.5.12 with a bunch of bug fixes and even some significant new features.


NOTE TO SAGEMC ADD ON USERS:  This update breaks the Video OSD if you use SageMC (extenders and PCs).  The developers are working on a fix. Already fixed by SageTV - gotta love how fast they are


Some of the important updates in SageTV 6.5.12 include:

  • Official (in beta) Support for subtitles!  One of the most asked for features in the history of SageTV and other HTPC programs really is subtitle support for the TV/PVR side of things.  The new subtitle support included is listed below:
    • Added support for external text based subtitle files in all media players with formats SRT, SUB (MicroDVD or SubViewer), SAMI/SMI, SSA/ASS
    • Added support for embedded text based subtitles when played back with the HD200
    • Added support for external IDX/VOB (VobSub) subtitle files when played back with the HD200
    • Added check for external subtitle files whenever a file is played back
    • Added psuedo-outlining to text that is rendered as subtitles (it's not a *real* outline; it's just four text shadows, one done in each corner's direction; much faster than calculating a real outline though and doesn't require additional glyph storage)
    • Added audio & subtitle track selection to SageTVPlayer. Audio tracks should work in all cases; subtitle selection is still limited though (this is in addition to the core support for external text-based subtitle files)
    • 4. Video playback: Made subtitle on/off toggle dependant on whether any subtitles exist and extended the option to videos instead of only DVDs.
  • TIFF photo file support.  Another often requested feature from SageTV users is to provide support for viewing of TIFF photos.
  • Added .tp file extension to default imported video file extensions.  You no longer need to rename or convert your .tp video files to get SageTV to recognize them.
  • Several updates for those SageTV users who use Mac and DirecTV
  • Many behind-the-scenes Studio Improvements – While this might not sound like much to the non-developer, just know this – SageTV has just eneabled the ability to store and use custom metadata that opens up a whole host of new capabilities for add-on developers.  Such as sort by season/espisode for TV series, improvements to fan support and possibly even one of my most often requested items, sort by date added for movies.  Before we were limited with a very specific set of metadata allowed by SageTV.
  • Many, many more bug fixes and performance enhancers (no not those kind) that should make SageTV that much more enjoyable.


Get the download and Read the full changelog at the SageTV forums.


Not to be left out, the SageTV HD Theater Has a beta firmware update: 20090313 2 with the following highlighted updates:

  • Subtitles support
  • BDMV directory support (Blu-Ray)
  • MJPEG decoding in media player mode.
  • Increased number of image reference for H264 to match profile 5.1.
  • Add wma pro audio decoding.
  • Fix some bad cases with files using low resolution pcm audio.
  • Fix access to files larger than 2GB over UPNP in media player mode - this is a big one especially for those SageTV users that use PlayOn.  Now all your Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video On Demand Movies will work with no problems on the SageTV HD200!
  • Tiff images support
  • Various minor bug fix
  • Many fixes and improvements to the HD Theater Media Player (Standalone) Mode.

The full changelog on the HD Theater at the SageTV forums

To update your HD Theater to the latest beta firmware: While using the HD200 as a Media Player (standalone mode), use the remote's number pad to enter the code 2382 ('beta') on the HD200's Settings -> System Update menu.

GeekTonic on Kindle Chronicles Podcast

Kindle Chronciles

The Kindle 2 has been our digital media gadget of choice at the GeekTonic home these past two weeks.  While not our normal TV or Audio-based media gadget of discussion at GeekTonic, the Kindle 2 eBook reader by fits in very nicely with its convenient, easy to use digital book reading capabilities.  Earlier this week, Len Edgerly asked me to join him for a segment of his popular Kindle-Podcast, the Kindle Chronicles.  In the interview Len asks me about my experiences with the new Kindle 2.

If you have any interest in eBook readers or the Amazon Kindle readers, the Kindle Chronicles is the Podcast to subscribe to.  I've been listening to it for several months now and look forward to each week's podcast.  Len does a great job of mixing in Kindle-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 the episode with my interview from this site)

Get the Kindle Chronicles Podcast on iTunes


More Kindle 2 Writings:

We've been pouring over every detail we can get our hands on about the Kindle 2 so don't miss these other Kindle 2 posts on GeekTonic:

Kindle 2 Shortcuts, Tips, and Tricks

GeekTonic Kindle 2 Comprehensive Review 

The Non-Geek Tonic Kindle 2 review companion piece by my wife, Shelly

Kindle 2 Photos, Unboxing Video and 1st Impressions

Kindle 2 Text-To-Speech in Action - Video


Stay Tuned to GeekTonic for more Kindle 2 and Media Gadget talk by subscribing to the GeekTonic RSS Feed

SageTV vs Windows Media Center Showdown Podcast


I had the pleasure of participating in a a fun Home Theater PC (HTCP) roundtable podcast that pitted SageTV against Windows Media Center.  I joined the regulars on the HTPCentric Podcast, Tim Campbell and Adam Thursby along with Josh Shenkle and Josh Pollard.  We hashed out the pros and cons of both SageTV and Windows Media Center talking over cost, ease of use, third party applications and more.

If you're a HTPC enthusiast or just trying to decide between the two I think you'll find the podcast a must listen.  There's no way we could really cover all of the many great things (and the pet peeves) about both of these HTPC programs in just an hour, but I think we gave it a good start.

Listen to the promo here


HTPCentric Website The Podcast is Published and ready for you to listen.

HTPCentric Podcast on iTunes


Thanks to Adam and Tim for having me on the show and for Josh Pollard and Josh for joining us for a great HTPC Talk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Media Gadget Showcase - Home Theater Setup by Dennis Heinle

Our second submission for the GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase Series is an impressive Home Theater Setup.  Dennis shows us the unfinished basement that has been transformed into a functional home theater.  And to make this home theater room even more interesting, he utilizes a Home Theater PC to power the media behind the scenes.  Read on for his great writeup with photos to share.


NOTE:  This is a guest post by Dennis Heinle.  To read more about how to submit your photos and/or writeups for the GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase Series, read this.  Basic guidelines for writing and submitting a guest post at GeekTonic can be found here.


 Finished Home Theater with Screen Down

I have always wanted a big screen TV.  I can remember when I was kid going to B&B Electronics with my older brother to look at car stereo equipment and I was just in awe of those 50" rear projection monsters.  When we finally decided to finish the basement last summer I started to think about how I can integrate a Home Theater into it. I didn't expect to finish the HT as soon as I did, I just wanted to put the pieces in place during construction so it could be finished at a later date. I decided on a layout and then started to rough-in speaker wire with low voltage boxes.  I also created and area for an in-wall av rack.


Create a budget friendly home theater with great WOW factor.  I really wanted this to happen.  Push 1 button, all equipment turns on, screen drops down and lights dim to the correct settings.  I am almost there, I have all the hardware just need to finish setting up the lighting.  My wife also had some goals for this.  She didn't want any wires anywhere, period. It had to look clean and be un-obtrusive.  If we were not watching a movie she didn't want to see any equipment, period.  Melanie is thrilled with the outcome, it just looks awesome and can be "put away" very easily. It also had to be easy to use.


My dad and I built the entire basement and did all the work except the drywall so we had a lot of freedom to place things where they would fit.  I did a lot of research online before construction to figure out speaker placement. has a great resource on speaker placement, even for in-wall or ceiling speakers.

Can Lights, blocking for Projector mount, power and low voltage box  



Based on Melanie's requirements I had to go with in-wall speakers.  I had bought a lot of stuff from parts express in college and was always happy with their gear. I purchased the following speakers.

  • Fronts - 8” Elite series
  • Center - Dual 5.25” Ultra Series
  • Surrounds - 6.5” Elite series
  • Subwoofer - 10” 125 watt powered sub
  • I also bought all the in-wall cable (Speaker wire, HDMI, Component, Sub, etc...) from

They sound great and I am very very happy with them. I thought they were very reasonably priced as well.


I needed a new receiver and started doing a ton of research on-line.  I wanted a receiver that would do HDMI switching with audio and upconversion on the HDMI output.  I really only wanted a 5.1 receiver because I honestly never thought I would have a need for it.  I found a receiver that did everything I wanted and much more.  I landed up with an Onkyo TX-SR606.  I found a killer deal on it at Circuit City (of all places, before bankruptcy) by using  The on-line price was about $130 less than the in store price but they did price match it.


I started out with a cheap Cyberhome DVD player for movies and let the receiver upconvert it 1080i.


The day after Thanksgiving I got a Sony BDP-S350 1080p Blu-ray Player from Bestbuy for only $200. I really like how this blu-ray player support BD-Live which means it connects to the internet and you can interact with features on the disk.  I have yet to use this but I see the HSM3 has this feature.  I'll have to check it out with my daughter.

I used to do all my projector research, it was a great resource and I love the projection calculator.  You select the model of projector you want, enter the distance you have to work with and it will tell you what size screen you can get with the built-in zoom on that projector.  I read all the reviews and settled on the Mitsubishi HC-1500, an editors pick. It is a 720p projector but looks great.  I really didn't think I would buy a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD (remember that?) player anytime soon, so I was ok with 720p and it will go up to 1080i.  I ceiling mounted the projector in front of a beam which gave me perfect access to hide wires. I was not exactly sure how I was going to use the projector so I ran HDMI, Component and VGA to it.  So far I have only used HDMI.

Screen While on a saw some reviews of electric screens.  I figured they were out of my price range but looked anyway, I was happily surprised.  Elite screens has an economy line which is very reasonable.  I picked up a 100" 16:9 Elite Spectrum Motorized Projector Screen from for about $250 shipped.  It's a white screen, not the preferred gray for movies but was cheap and I was going for the wow factor of an electric screen.  While framing the basement I made a soffet in the front of the room and built an area for the screen to fit up into. So when the screen is up, you see nothing.  It has an IR remote and a remote trigger.

Screen Part Way Up
Screen Down

Media Center
My major problem with the HT was my media center.  I had been a Beyond TV / Beyond Media user for about 5 years and loved it. It always worked and had a very high WAF.  My problem was I only had it setup on 2 TV's.   I really did not want to build another PC for the HT.  It would be somewhat costly, be used rarely and I had to figure out how to get HDMI to work without any HDCP problems.  I was dreading building another PC for this. 

I started looking into alternatives and found SageTV. I saw their new STX-HD100 extender and thought it would be perfect.  I started doing some research on it and read a review on GeekTonic. I started reading more reviews on the SageTV Forums and was hooked.  I was hesitant to switch to Sage because of BTV's high WAF, but gave it a shot anyway. I found Geektonic to be a great resource for me as I moved to SageTV.  Brent had a lot of great articles on moving my BTV recordings, setting up comskip, setting up webadmin, etc...  Going to was much easier than searching the SageTV forums for me.

So far SageTV has been awesome, I love all the little add-ins and tweaks for it.  Since then I have bought a SageTV HD-200 for the bedroom and am looking at getting a 3rd for the living room.

SageMC on display - LCD in Bedroom

The SageMC Menu on 100

I am now a huge fan of extenders and love how they use very little power compared to a full PC.

Lighting was very important to me as I wanted that perfect theater experience.  Low side lights, task lighting etc...  I found a couple of great articles on that explained the basics and I ran with it from there.  I installed a Lutron Lighting Spacer system that has 5 zones and can be controlled by the Harmony remote.  I still have some issues with setting up my scenes, so it does not work perfectly yet, but can dim the lights from the remote.  Very cool.  I am also a Disney fanatic and while searching for some other items from I found wall scones for Disney's All-Star Movie resort.  I thought they were perfect and bought 2 for the side lighting.  I also installed 4 - 3" can lights in 2 rows.  1 row to highlight the front wall when the screen was up and second as task lighting above the main seating area.  This way the movie looks great but I can still find the popcorn and the remote.

I was concerned that I would build the Home Theater and it would not get used very much.  It was done sometime in September 2008 and I already have 360 hours on the projector lamp.  Needless to say we use it all the time.  We have had a lot of people over this year for baptisms, birthdays, wedding showers etc... and we always find ourselves in the basement.  So far no real problems with the setup.
Olympics in HD!

Total price
Here is a breakdown of the cost.
Onkyo Receiver - $380
STX-HD100 - $200
Sony BDP-350 $200
Mitsi HC-1500  $780
100" Elite Screen $250
Lutron Lighting controls ~$900 retail
Harmony One $170
Dayton Audio Speakers and Sub ~$500
Speaker wire ~$80
In-wall subwoofer cables ~$50
In-wall HDMI, Component, VGA cables ~$75

Things to finish up
As with any project there is always some things to work on / fix / setup. 

I need to install an IR repeater - will allow for a better remote control experience
I need to make and install a door for the AV In-wall cabinet
I need to configure the Lutron lighting screens
I need to configure the screen to drop down / up when the projector is turned on / off

UD paraphernalia and wall scones from Disney All-Star Movies resort

Check out all of the home theater setup photos in full-screen on flickr.  And more awesome photos including Dennis's at the GeekTonic flickr group.


About Dennis:  "Dennis is a geek, working with technology since he got his first computer in 1983, a Commodore64.  He works as a Enterprise systems administrator in St Louis, married, 3 kids and is addicted to Walt Disney World."  You can find more of Dennis' musings on technology at his blog and by following him on twitter.   Thanks goes out to Dennis for sharing with us his new Home Theater Setup - be sure and ask any questions you have for Dennis in the comments below.


If you'd like to have your setup or media gadgets highlighted, and want a chance to win some gift certificates read the guidelines for submission here.  We're looking for things as simple as a few photos of your favorite media-related gadgets or as elaborate as the home theater setup above and Sodarkangels HTPC build from last week.  Either way, join in on the GeekTonic flickr group and upload your media gadget photos!

The Ultimate Directory of SageTV 3rd Party Applications

SageTV, one of the top HTPC programs on the market thrives because of its ability to quickly evolve and improve over time.  Meeting the users (many of which are very demanding enthusiasts) needs has been an important part of SageTV's success over the years.  But a small company like SageTV cant meet everyone's needs all of the time - it just isn't feasible. 

So how do they fill this vacuum of special wants and needs of it's enthusiast community?  The answer to this question points to an important part of what makes SageTV great - the ability to customize, develop themes and applications and a strong user community to develop these add-ons.

The average Home Theater PC (HTPC) enthusiast wants their HTPC software to have as much built-in as possible.  TV and PVR functionality is important to most of course, but there's also the movie player, the music player, the photo viewer and many other functions you want that HTPC to handle for all of your media.  A close second in importance to most HTPC users is the third party applications.  One of the great things about SageTV's HTPC software is that most of them allow the development and usage of excellent 3rd party apps to add to the experience.

SageTV User Interface Choices

Custom User Interface Replacements - SageTV is unique from other HTPC software programs because it has add-on programs that actually customize the entire user interface of SageTV completely.  This allows for an entirely customized User interface well beyond just theming the look, but also adding features and a different way for the interface itself to work.  

Here are the top UI's for SageTV:

  • SageTV Default - this is the user interface you get when you first install SageTV.  Developed by and updated by the guys at SageTV.

SageTV Default UI

  • SageMC - quite possibly the most popular add-on for SageTV ever.  SageMC doesn't really fit into one single category because it does so many things.

SageMC with BlueTwo Steel Theme

Meekell Alternate UI for SageTV

iSage  Alternate UI for SageTV



3rd Party Apps for SageMC UI:

The applications listed below are third-party add-ons that can be used with the SageMC replacement UI:

  • SageMC Video Tools v3.0 - transcode, compress and convert video.  Cut commercials from shows, create DVDs from video and more.
  • Toolbar for SageMC - Make SageMC more mouse-friendly
  • Touchscreen Controls for SageMC - Add touchscreen control to SageMC
  • NetFlix for SageMC  - View, add and remove titles from your Netflix queue.  View movie previews and watch online streaming Netflix titles.
  • Pandora Internet Radio - Navigate and listen to your Pandora online radio stations.
  • Sage Movie Wall – A beautiful replacement movie interface for SageTV
  • Movie Info Screen  - Customize your movie screens with cover art, fanart animations and more.  You can make your movie screen look how you want it to.
  • TV Info Screen - Customize your TV screens with cover art, fanart, animations and more.  You can make your movie screen look how you want it to.
  • Grouped Recording Screen (NEW!) – replaces the SageMC grouped recording screen to show extra detail.
  • iMovies - Give your movie screen the Apple Coverflow look.  Lots of customization capabilities too.
  • Today – A new screen for SageMC that provides access to multiple TV windows on a single page.  Easily switch between news, weather and other TV channels – configurable to your preferences
  • Malore
  • Slim Player for SageMC - Online Radio support for Shoutcast, SiriusRadio, LastFM, Live365, AlienBBC and more.
  • Google Calendar for SageMC - View and manage Google Calendar from SageMC
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements Catalog Viewer - An alternative photo browser that uses Adobe Photoshop Elements as the driver - for viewing and controlling those photos and albums from within SageMC
  • JRMC Media Explorer 2 for SageMC - JRiver Media Center Front-end that puts JRMC to work behind the scenes of SageMC.  An alternative media (music, movies and more) from the SageMC interface.
  • Recipe Viewer for SageMC - View Recipe's from your SageMC HTPC.  Perfect for that Kitchen HTPC.
  • Day Plus/Minus while in Guide - Maps the "skip Back #2" and "Skip Foward #2" remote keys to day plus/minus while in guide
  • Display output resolution on Timebar  - shows the current output display resolution to the timebar
  • Advanced Mini Guide  - alternative to the standard mini-guide
  • Simple Mini Guide- another alternative to the standard mini-guide
  • TMG miniguide - yet alternative to the standard mini-guide.  This one based on the TiVo mini-guide.
  • Video Editing for Sage  - From your SageTV Interface, tweak the output from ComSkip, ShowAnalyzer or VideoReDo AdScan commercial markings and then save those edited commercial marks, clip parts of the video or just strip out all commercials and save the edited video for viewing on SageTV
  • OSDClock Adds a clock to the OSD during playback of media
  • Dead Pixel Test
  • Replacement Graphics (glassy icons etc) for SageMC

Themes for SageMC UI (those below without links are built-in options for SageMC)


3rd Party Apps for SageTV Default UI:

The applications listed below are third-party add-ons that can be used with the SageTV default UI:

Themes for SageTV Default UI

  • Other Customizations

    Automatic Commercial Detection and Advance

    SageTV Web Interface


    XML Metadata & other Metadata File Tools


    Media format conversion


    External Status Monitor

    Plugin: Status Monitor Interface by nielm
    Plugin: LCD Smartie status display by AndersNolberger
    Plugin: MizookLCD (Alternate SageTV LCDSmartie Plugin) by cslatt
    Utility: SageMCEDisplay -- LCD status display by Jere_Jones
    Utility: SageTray - SageTV tray application by k10ck3r
    Utility: Vista Sidebar Gadget by cncb
  • Themes for the SageTV HD Theater (HD200) in Media Player Mode

    • Cheetah - This is the standard theme built-in the HD-Theater for Media Player Mode
    • SagePro


    For the ever-growing list of SageTV customizations, check out this forum thread constantly updated by Andy (Opus4), the Sage of SageTV

    You can always find the SageTV Download at the SageTV Website


    Learn More About SageTV at the GeekTonic Ultimate Guide To SageTV


    For those SageTV users reading GeekTonic, let me know if I missed anything.  And anyone else, feel free to ask any questions about the many SageTV add-ons in the comments below.

  • KindleTips - Ultimate Kindle 2 Shortcuts and Tricks

    You knew I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Over two weeks with the Kindle 2 eBook by, my GeekTonic Kindle 2 Review and my wife's Non-Geek Tonic Kindle 2 review are both complete so what to do?  Well I have actually been reading on the Kindle 2 quiet a bit, but I've also been doing the "geek"-thing and searching for as many keyboard shortcuts, tips, tricks and hacks that I could find.  I even went as far as trying random key-presses to see what I could dig up.  I found a lot of information for the Kindle 2, the sort of things that make this Geek Reader excited. 

    So without further talk, here are the best shortcuts, tips, tricks and hacks I could find and confirm for the Kindle 2 - enjoy!

    Power, Reset, Sleep and Wake:

    • Sleep/Wake - Slide and release the power button (on top of the K2)
    • Power Off - Slide and hold the power button for 4 seconds
    • Reset - Slide and hold the power button for 15 seconds

    General Shortcuts:

    • Screen-shot - Alt+shift+G creates a screen-shot (.gif format) that goes to the Documents Folder of the Kindle 2 which you can view when connected to computer.
    • Refresh Display - ALT+G (if you notice any ghosting, try this shortcut) Also useful for refreshing web browsing page
    • Jump to page 1 - 5 on Home Screen - Press the number on keypad and then press 5-way Controller
    • Display the Time - Press MENU button
    • Display Free Memory - Press MENU button
    • Display Wireless Network (3G or 1X, if wireless is on) - Press MENU button
    • Play Minesweeper - Shift+ALT+M (from home page) (M or enter to mark; R to restart game; 5-way controller to move cursor)
    • Go to Amazon Kindle Store - alt-home
    • Jump to Web - Type in your search terms and move the 5-way controller to the right and then select “google”.
    • Search Wikipedia - Select "wikipedia" in search category
    • Search Content by Specific Author - Enter @author [author’s name] in the Kindle Store search bar
    • Alpha Search - To search for an author or title by first letter, click one letter on the keyboard and press the 5-way controller.  Then go immediately to the place on the list with the first author or title under that letter alphabetically, *but only if that match exists*. So if you have no Q's, you can't get to the R's that way.  This doesn't work for "Most Recent First" listings but seems to work for title or author sort and could be useful if you have a lot of books on your Kindle 2.
    • List Supported Search commands - Type @help in the search string to display other supported search commands like @dict, @url etc.
    • Search Kindle Store by Author - When in Kindle Store, type @author in searchbar to limit your search to author names
    • Show Diagnostic Data - From Settings Menu, enter 411
    • Show Current Radio Diagnostics -  From Settings Menu, enter 411 (constantly refreshes the data)
    • Search Amazon Kindle Store for Free Books - From Kindle Store search, type in -domain into the search field.


    Entering Text - Symbol Shortcuts

    • Double Quotes " - Alt-9
    • Colon : - Alt-8
    • Comma , - Alt-7
    • Question Mark ? - Alt-6
    • Apostrophe ' - Alt-0


    Book or Periodical Viewing:

    • Add or remove a bookmark - ALT+B.  Alternate Method: Press 5-way up/down to go to cursor mode, and then press 5-way controller twice.
    • Alt+shift+1-9 - changes the spacing and number of lines per page (default is 3)
    • List Sections of Periodical - Press the 5-way Enter Button
    • Newspaper View Summaries - To view summaries of the articles in a newspaper or magazine, while viewing the newspaper section list, press the 5-way controller to the right to highlight the number showing the number of articles in a section, then press the 5-way select button - This will bring up the list of articles in that section and you can navigate directly to any one you wish.  This little trick makes Newspaper reading much, much better!
    • Jump Quickly through Periodical - Move 5-way controller to right to go to next article or to the left to go to the previous article

    Text-To-Speech Shortcuts:

    • Start or stop text-to-speech - Shift+SYM (shift key is the "up arrow")
    • Pause text-to-speech - Spacebar
    • Switch Between Male and Female Voices & Change Voice Speed - Alt + Aa keys & then toggle between settings with the 5 way controller
    • Start text-to-speech at specific point on a page - To begin the text-to-speech at a particular point on a page, move the cursor with your 5-way controller to the point just before you want the reading to begin.

    Audio Controls:

    • Play or stop MP3 Audio - ALT+spacebar
    • Skip to the next audio track - ALT+F
    • Pause Audible Audiobook - Spacebar

    Photo Viewer Controls:

    The picture viewer can be activated by connecting your Kindle2 via USB cable to your PC and create “pictures” folder in Kindle USB disk. Create subfolders inside of that and copy the pictures. The subfolders will then become “book” names and the pictures will be pages. *.gif, *.jpg and *.png files all seem to work. Now you disconnect the USB cable and press Alt-Z in the home screen.  Your picture folders should now appear among the books now.

    While you are viewing pictures in the Picture Viewer:

    • Toggle Actual Size - C
    • Toggle Full Screen - F (currently not working properly)
    • Zoom In  - Q
    • Zoom Out - W
    • Rotate - R
    • Reset Zoom Level - E
    • Pan Photo Larger Than Screen - Use 5-way controller to pan photo


    Other Tips and Tricks:

    • Save All Words You've Looked-up in Dictionary - When you look a book up in the dictionary, highlight the word & the definition and it will save it to "My Clippings."   You can then track all of the words you've looked up.  My Clippings is accessible in a text file when your Kindle is tethered to your computer with the USB cable.  Here's a step-by-step guide on saving your looked-up words:
      • 1. Place the cursor over the word you want to look up. (or search for the word)
        2. A "mini definition" displays at the bottom of the screen.
        3. While the mini-definition is showing, press the "return" key.
        4. The more detailed definition from the dictionary will appear.
        5. Place your cursor at the beginning of the entry and click the 5-way controller.  Then move the cursor to the far-right point of what you want to save to "my clippings" and click the 5-way controller once more to highlight the definition.

    • Turn multiple pages at once - Hold down the next/prev page button or click them multiple times causes the Kindle 2 to turn several pages at once.  It's slow and not ideal, but does work.
    • Make your own custom screen-saver images - For those more technically inclined read this how-to on the mobileread forums
    • Delete Book from Kindle - Highlight the item you want to delete (navigate with 5-way button), then press left with the 5-way controller to bring up the Delete selection option.  Press select with 5-way controller to confirm deletion.

    Kindle at the Bathtub

    • Read Kindle 2 Around Water - Use a Ziplock Bag to protect your Kindle 2 during bathtub reading - this is one my wife tried out (successfully) during her review of the Kindle 2.  Still, don't drop the darn thing in the water - it's just too expensive for that.


    These tips and tricks were compiled from my experiences as well as the following locations:

    Whew, that took a long time to try all of these out.  If I missed any shortcuts or tricks for the Kindle 2 you know of let me know in the comments.

    More GeekTonic Coverage of the Kindle 2 eBook Reader:

    GeekTonic Kindle 2 Review

    Non-Geek Tonic Kindle 2 review from the recreational readers perspective

    Kindle 2 Photos, Unboxing Video and 1st Impressions

    Kindle 2 Text-To-Speech in Action - Video

    Monday, March 09, 2009

    The Non-GeekTonic Review of the Kindle 2 - From the Recreational Readers Perspective

    This is a guest post by Shelly Evans, the non-geek in the family ;) Shelly, my lovely wife collaborated on the GeekTonic Kindle 2 review from the Geek’s perspective. She bypasses all technical jargon and gadget love that I give the Kindle. Instead she focuses on the most important aspects for the hard-core book readers out there.

    Let me begin this review by stating that I began this whole process by looking for the negatives of the Kindle.

    Book Selection:

    As a teacher, my mind is moving non-stop all day long. I choose to read books for the pure entertainment value of the book. I read to relax my mind at bedtime. I do not like “meaty” books that make me think too much; I would never get to sleep. Reading books like War & Peace would defeat the purpose of why I read. When I signed up for Audible I was let down by the lack of selection of some of my favorite authors.

    Surprisingly, the Kindle books appear to be slightly less expensive than my typical paperback and seem to have all of my favorite authors available. As a matter of fact, while searching for books I have found that some of those fave authors have new books coming out soon. However, not all books in a series are available on Kindle, just the most recent books. So, if I wanted to start a new series I would have to go back to the bookstore/library to get the older books in the series.

    Ease of Use

    Adding books to the Kindle couldn’t be easier. I didn't even look at the manual. Quite quickly I had a book and a sample on the device with little effort.

    Screen-shot of

    Another plus that I was initially worried about is font size. Adjusting the font size is simple and quick. If you need large print books, this will work just fine for you. One handed reading is also an advantage. You could have the Kindle in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. ;)

    Kindle2 Font Selection

    Above is a screen-shot showing the "font" menu where you can instantly change the font size (instant large or small-print books).  You can also control the speaking voice to "talk" faster or slower and change the text-to-speech voice from female or male.



    Interview with Shelly (the author) by GeekTonic (Shelly's answers in italics & bold):

    • You talk a lot about the high purchase price of the Kindle.  $100 - $150 would definitely push this device down to the average household.  Would you change your tune if Amazon offered a book subscription service - one where you could "rent" a certain number of books, magazines and newspapers each month for a set subscription fee?

    I don't think a "rental" plan would change my opinion about the price.  If I want to "rent" a book, I can do it for free.  It is called the public library.

    • After reading a full book using the Kindle this past week, how does it compare to the paper-kind-of-book?  Comfort to hold, readability (eye strain, easier/harder to read?), page turning etc.

    I liked the ability to read 1 handed.  My hands are too small for holding a book with one hand. Eye strain is not an issue as you can change the font size at will. You cannot do that with a print book.

    • How did you like the "online" bookstore feature?

    I had already done some research at as to which books I wanted.  So when the device arrived I did a quick search on the Kindle and clicked the button and BOOM the book was there.  You gotta love that.

    • Did you use the bookmark or "clippings" feature with the keyboard?  Did it work well when you were "sharing" a book with your daughter over the weekend?

    Yes, I had to use the bookmark feature when I handed the Kindle over to the daughter.  It worked well.

    • How did it handle glare from sunlight and/or inside lights?

    I had little to no glare with actual sunlight.  It was the inside lights that caused some glare.  This was easily fixed by tilting a bit.  I was sitting directly under a "can" light and it was shining straight down on the devise.  It had the same kind of sheen to it that a magazine has.

    • Some have complained that the Kindle2 should have included color on the screen for the price - do you feel like it needs color for books or illustrations?

    What... Am I 5?  I cannot remember the last time I read a book with color in it; so why would it matter if the Kindle had it?

    • How well did the "page turns" work?  Was it distracting or did it slow you down at all while reading?

    It does take some adjusting.  I started hitting the page turn as soon as I got to the last line of the page.  BUT I read really slow, so it could be more of an issue for some.  Our daughter is a speed reader and she said that the page turn was fine.

    • The new Kindle2 has "next page" that work a little differently than the Kindle1 to avoid accidental page turns.  Did you have any issues with accidental page turns or any other accidental button presses while reading?

    I did turn the page accidentally a couple of times, but I blame myself not the device.  I think they keys are designed well enough that there were few "accidents" even if jostled or dropped (not that I dropped it dear ) .

    • Did you ever try reading from the Kindle2 in the dark with a book light?

    Yes.  You do need a book-light but you cannot shine the bulb directly on the Kindle.  It causes a slight glare like a light hitting a magazine page.


    • Price of books is slightly lower than the paperback price and even more attractively priced compared to hardbacks
    • Purchasing books wirelessly from the Kindle - no matter where you are is easy and quick
    • Easy font size switching - large print or smaller print books are only a keystroke away


    • Sharing of Books - My daughter and I have very similar tastes in books. (She likes my books; I do not necessarily like hers.) While using the Kindle, our ability to share books would be impossible. I read every night and would not be willing to hand the Kindle over to her in between books. (I did lose it for 2 days while visiting her at college while she finished the book I had just started).
    • Price of the Kindle - It would be extremely costly for each of us to have our own Kindle. (She did ask how much it cost. I think she was thinking about her upcoming bday). However, when perusing through the lists of books on Amazon, I did find a number of textbooks available at severely reduced prices. If this could become the standard for colleges we could have already saved a small fortune on books.
    • Fragile electronic "book" - Another negative for me is that I read in the bathtub. In the cold winter months I am often found in the Jacuzzi tub with a book. At the price of the Kindle, I would not feel comfortable taking it with me. The husband (Mr. GeekTonic himself) found that some are putting their Kindle in zip-lock bags and taking it to the tub anyway. I tried it and it worked great.  I was even able to have a snack and a glass of wine in there with me (see photo below - I am not in the bathtub shot.  Sorry... Or you're welcome.)

    Zip-Lock Bag protecting the Kindle 2

                     You might notice the wine glass is already empty ;)

    • Text-to-Speech is no AudioBook - Yep, another negative, one that I expected but was hoping that I was wrong. The text to speech feature is not good for fiction. It is better than I expected but not NEARLY good enough. Words are mispronounced and phrase emphasis is fairly awkward. I will stick to imagining what my characters sound like (unless Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame wants to lend his voice for Kindle 3). I did listen to the Wall Street Journal while fixing dinner one night and it wasn’t horrible. I just do NOT recommend it for fiction.   Read this post to hear what the text-to-speech voices sound like on the Kindle 2


    Brent and I have discussed this at length. We love the Kindle - you can read his wordy (he calls it detailed) review here. I think its appeal will be very widespread, but not at the current price. There is a lot of money to be made by Amazon and the publishers through the sale of books that do not need to be printed.

    To maximize that profit Amazon must reduce the price of the device and put it into as many consumers hands as possible. A typical reader like myself will not even look twice at the Kindle because I can go to the library for free and to the bookstore for pretty cheap.

    Brent on the other hand does not read nearly as much as I do because he is more interested in computers, technology etc.  So is it me, the "avid-reader" who Amazon should be marketing to?  The problem with this scenario is that I would not buy it or even give it a consideration because of its high price.  In the long run, I am the one who will be using it mostly, not my husband who is fascinated with the technology. He will be bored by it in a short time and only use it on occasion.

    Suggestions for Amazon's Kindle

    • Drop the price to $100 - $150 and Amazon won’t be able to keep up with demand. They will see multi-device households also.
    • Drop book prices another 5-10% and you put “old school” bookstores out of business
    • Expand into the textbook market to appeal to parents of college students
    • Waterproof Case?????

    When I had a colleague proofread this review for me she was intrigued by the Kindle, but teachers (avid readers by the way) will not spend the money on the device as priced because we don’t have that kind of disposable income.

    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 Kindle 2 for Shelly feel free to ask in the comments below.

    Hauppauge Working on HD version of MediaMVP

    Hauppauge, the guys that brought us many HTPC tuners and devices (Hauppauge HD-PVR anyone?) is updating their aging MediaMVP media player with a new, HD-ready version called the MediaMVP-HD.

    MVPHD Front

    The new Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD was exhibited at CeBIT 2009 in Hanover.  The new media player is in a small box that looks strikingly similar to the SageTV HD200 and I wouldn't be shocked if the internals were similar if not nearly the same as the HD200.  Like most media players these days, the MediaMVP-HD connects to your TV via LAN or wireless via USB Wifi dongle to provide video, audio and photos to your TV set.

    MVPHD Rear

    There's not a lot of details available yet, but I pulled the following from the German CNet site:

    • HD Capable
    • Plays all major media formats (I'll have to check on which ones specifically since "major" is a bit broad for me)
    • Can connect to Windows machines or Samba network drives via network connection
    • USB slot on front
    • I see component video and S-Video but no DVI or HDMI unfortunately. UPDATE: It does look like HDMI is on this box - looking at the cable on the right side of the second photo I believe that is actually an HDMI cable plugged in
    • Expected to be available mid-2009 although no official word from hauppauge on the exact date and which countries this will be available for.


    UPDATE via SHS on AVSForum:

    • Board: The box uses a Sigma 8654
    • Video: Component Video, S-Video, Composite and HDMI outputs
    • Audio: Left audio, Right audio and Toslink Digital Optical audio output
    • LAN Network input (not sure if gigabit or not)
    • OS: Linux and Samba based
    • It can be a standalone (it does not need a PC to boot like the previous MediaMVP did).




    For those of you who speak German, feel free to let me know what the videos

    CNet Germany

    PlayOn Adds Amazon VOD - Works on XBox360 PS3 and SageTV HD200

    If you're a XBox360, PS3 or SageTV HD200 owner, you've probably heard of PlayOn, a video streaming

    PlayOn is a streaming software that lets you stream Hulu, Netflix CNN, CBS, YouTube, ESPN and now Amazon VOD and Revision3 online content sources to your XBox 360, PS3, Popcorn Hour and many other players.  I use it with the SageTV HD200 which isn't officially supported by PlayOn but does work for the most part.

    I've tested the new Amazon VOD on the SageTV HD200 and it works well.  Now if we could get Amazon to hurry up with the HD already!

    You can pick up PlayOn for$40 and try it out for a free, 2-week trial available on their site.  They have plans for some new features and Wii support in early 2009.

    The GeekTonic Ultimate Kindle 2 Review

    After two weeks with the new Kindle 2 eBook by I can confirm the Kindle 2 is a simple, but extremely useful device that really does change the way you acquire and read books, magazines and newspapers.  The Kindle 2 has many things going for it, but does it convince us to "go digital" with our reading?  Is it worth that price tag?  Read on to find out.
    By now you've likely heard of the Kindle and now the Kindle 2, the heralded eBook by  When the second chapter in the Kindle story, the Kindle 2 was officially announced, I was more than curious. 
    I hesitated at first, but after thinking about it decided the Kindle 2 was another move towards the digital media world that GeekTonic is all about and it was time to delve into those digital pages and see what the Kindle was all about.
    Note to Readers:  This is the first of two Kindle 2 reviews on GeekTonic.  This review is from the perspective of a true gadget geek, me.  I read newspapers and magazines daily, books on occasion (although more on vacation and weekends than during work-weeks) and lately I read blogs and articles on the web constantly.  I am first and foremost a gadget geek who is fascinated by digital media gadgets.  Next up is a review by a hard-core reader, regular person (read: not a geek, but very technologically capable) who always has one or two books she's reading.  This Kindle 2 we're reviewing is one we purchased for ourselves for the full price of the device so expect a very unbiased review as you'll always find at GeekTonic.

    Getting Past the Kindle "Stumblers"

    All across the web these past few weeks we've heard about the great promise of the new Kindle 2.  It is said to be a new way to experience reading.  So if this thing is so great, why aren't there more people with Kindles yet?  Well, I think there are a few big "stumblers" that are keeping the Amazon Kindle 2 from widespread acceptance.  Here's a rundown of the big ones:
    1. Cost - There is definitely a segment of the population that can drop $359 on a Kindle 2 and then $30 for a case to protect it, but it takes a certain kind of person to be able to do that especially in this economy.
    2. It's not paper.  Let's face it.  Most of us are so used to paper books, magazines and newspapers that moving to an eBook is a tough thing to get your head around.
    3. You have to charge that book?  Yep, going from that simple, paper book to an electronic reader means you need to charge that thing occasionally.  And that is a turnoff for some.
    4. Sharing - Have you ever borrowed a book from a friend or relative?  Ever checked a book out from the library?  Not quite as easy to do with an eBook.
    Many non-Kindle owners might have some of these same reservations about the eBook reader, but it's important to understand what the eBook reader is up against before we get started. 
    Even if you're deadset against the eBook concept and/or the Kindle 2 in it's current form, I encourage you to read on.  There's so much good to say about the Kindle 2 I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
    Now that we have that out of the way, lets delve into the meat of the review shall we?

    What Has Evolved?  Changes from Kindle 1 to Kindle 2

    The Kindle 2 addresses many of the shortcomings of the first generation Kindle.  It is an improvement in nearly all points over the Kindle 1.  For those familiar with the first Kindle, here are the basic changes from Kindle 1 to Kindle 2:
    • Slim, aluminum-backed frame with rounded edges
    • An aluminum back replaces the rubber backing
    • Smaller, more rounded keys on keyboard (looks much nicer)
    • Text-to-speech (the Kindle "reads" to you) - although this will be entirely dependant on the publisher/author now that Amazon has announced that they will allow the publisher to decide whether to "turn on or off" this feature
    • Longer battery life
    • More Memory, but no SD card slot
    • A USB-based charger
    • No cover included - now sold separately for $30
    • 5-way controller replaces the slider

    What's Included?

    The Kindle 2 arrives in a very small box along with a quickstart guide and the USB/charger cable.  That's it.  Check out the Kindle 2 first look photos and  unboxing video to see more

    Looks - Is the Kindle 2 Attractive?

    If you've seen the original Kindle, you likely considered it somewhat awkward and almost clunky.  This new Kindle 2 comes across as more sleek with its rounded corners, extremely thin body and brushed metal backing.  Yes it's still mostly white and still has a keyboard at the bottom, but it just looks better than the Kindle 1 in all aspects.  Put it next to a Sony eBook reader and it shines in comparison (something I couldn't have said about the Kindle 1).  It looks sleek, yet simple and is perfect for a form-factor of an eBook.
    Kindle2 Rear
    Above is a look at the underside of the Kindle 2.

    Feel - Holding the Kindle 2

    The Kindle is thin - .6 cm on the edge (less than the iPhone).  It's light and thin enough to slip into a messenger bag, a large jacket pocket or even a small purse.  The screen-size is the same as on the Kindle 1, but the layout and spacing around the screen makes it much more comfortable to hold.  The next page and previous page buttons are in the perfect spot for holding the Kindle one-handed on either side, although a next-page button near the bottom would be useful for those who prefer to hold a book from the bottom.  No accidental page turns on this one as the buttons were redesigned to push from the inside edge instead of the outside edge.

    The Kindle 2 is extremely comfortable to hold during long readings one-handed or two handed.  I've used it over the past two weeks and can tell you I would prefer holding that Kindle 2 for longer reads then I would a hardcover or even a paperback book, it's just that simple.

    Buttons & Keyboard

    There are a couple of very important buttons on the Kindle 2 - ones that are far more important than the alpha numeric keys. 
    The Most Important Kindle 2 Keys Include:
    • Next Page - There is a "next page" key on the right and left-hand side of the screen.  As you can imagine, you'll use these keys often.  These keys are about 1 1/2 inches long and placed perfectly on the Kindle 2.
    • Previous Page - The "previous page" button does just what you'd expect, take you back one page in the book or periodical.  Kindle 1 owners will note that the Kindle 2 doesn't have a previous page button on the right-hand side like the 1st generation Kindle did.  I would have preferred they left that button on both sides, but it's really not as big of a deal on the Kindle 2 since you don't have those annoying accidental page turns on this Kindle 2 like you saw with the Kindle 1.
    • On/Off Slider - On the very top-edge of the Kindle 2 you'll find a slider button that puts the Kindle to sleep (leaving a random book cover on the screen), turns the device completely off with a longer "slide" and turns it back on.  This is a huge improvement over the Kindle 1 as you can turn it off and on even in the dark since you no longer need to press a combination of keyboard  buttons.
    Kindle2 OnOff Slider
    • Home - The home button takes you to the main menu page of the Kindle where your books and periodicals are listed.
    • Menu - The menu button gives you the menu items as displayed in the screen-shot below:
     Kindle2 Menu
    • Back - The back key takes you back one step in navigation of the menus
    • Five-way key - this is like a joystick where you move the cursor around for menus up, down, left and right and highlight a certain word or item in a book.  When you press down on this key it works like an "enter" key to select an item.
    One negative I can point out about the above keys - and mind you this is very minor. The next page buttons have a "click" sound when you press and de-press so that you have two tiny clicks each time a page is turned.  This click sound is pretty quiet, but for the overly obsessive like me it could annoy when your significant other is reading in bed ;)
    I remember the first time I saw the original Kindle.  The Kindle 2 still has a keyboard, but thee keys look more natural, are spaced out better and are very functional.  They keyboard is used for input of search text, shopping for books and periodicals, web page browsing etc.  The buttons have a solid feel to them and key-presses seem very responsive. 
    Kindle2 Symbol
    The new Kindle has a "Symbols" key (SYM) that when pressed, shows all of the available symbols (see screen-shot above.)
    Its a Real Page Turner
    While the slower page turning on the Kindle 1 seemed to be an issue for a few, the Kindle 2 should not present this problem.  Amazon is claiming that the page turns are about 20% faster then on the Kindle 1.  I've timed a bunch of page turns and it seems to take about one second to turn a page.  So unless your speed reading is beyond light-speed, the Kindle 2 should be perfectly fast enough. 

    Reading on the Kindle

    Okay so we've covered the look and "feel" of the Kindle 2.  So how easy is it to read?  The Kindle uses an electronic inc technology that makes the screen much more like viewing a paper document. 
    The screen reflects light very much like paper which means it is easy on the eyes (unlike a laptop or iPhone) during long readings and it means it doesn't suffer from the glare from sunlight like you get with a LCD screen. 
    This technology also means the Kindle 2 uses much less power to display that page.  Most of the energy usage is for the initial page generation, page changes and wireless connectivity.  More on that later.
    The screen size and resolution is exactly the same as on the Kindle 1 but improves to 16 gray scale tones which improves the reading and viewing of images.  I think the text looked pretty good on the Kindle 1 and the improvement on the Kindle 2 is there and looks at least as good as on paper if not better.  Where you'll notice the most improvement from the additional gray scale tones is with illustrations, charts etc.  And this of course will be important if you read any books, magazines or webpages on your Kindle 2.  Just as with the Kindle 1, the Kindle 2 has a monochromatic screen which means only black and white.  This won't matter to most book readers, but if you are into the photos or illustrations on picture books, magazines, newspapers or web pages this is something to remember.
    Reading Books
    If you are a hard-core reader the Kindle is really a nearly perfect device for you.  Reading books is what the Kindle 2 does best and being able to pack in so many books in a single, tiny device makes it really appealing for the avid reader who also travels or commutes very much.  Packing my Anathem book in my backpack adds quite a bit of weight and bulk to my load, but on the Kindle, it's small and lightweight - and I'll never lose my place either.  My wife's "avid reader" review will go into the basic Kindle experience from her perspective, but I can tell you that the person who reads very much will come away impressed after holding and using the Kindle for very long. 
    Me being a self-proclaimed "geek" means I'm very accustomed to reading a lot on LCD screens, iPhone and Blackberry devices.  While its certainly convenient to read on all of those devices, nothing comes close to the experience of reading on real paper except for the Kindle 2 reader.  It's easy on the eyes, very easy to read text and as close to reading a paper book as you can get.
    Reading Newspapers

    I'm a heavy newspaper reader.  I read my local newspaper (Kansas City Star) daily and for work I read the Wall Street Journal.  So I was very curious to see how well the newspaper experience was translated to the Kindle 2 eBook format.  I was really pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal on the Kindle 2.  Navigation of the newspaper was a concern since the WSJ has tons of articles in each section, but the new Kindle 2 navigation makes it much easier.  Is it as good as reading the traditional paper?  Definitely not - the newspaper is large and meant for quick scanning of headlines and articles.  The Kindle 2 makes it pretty easy, but not as easy as the good old newspaper. 

    One more negative about newspapers on the Kindle:  The selection on the Kindle for newspapers is weak at best.  You can get the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News, Orlando Sentinel, Austin American-Statesman, Denver Post, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times and others.  But if you're in Kansas City like I am or in many other smaller cities you're out of luck.  Hopefully this selection will improve soon.  Here's a link to a Complete List of Newspapers Available for Kindle Delivery
    That being said, I LOVED getting that newspaper delivered to my Kindle in the early hours of the morning.  When I wake up and turn on the Kindle the paper is right there ready to read - no wet newspaper, no delay and I have it delivered to my Kindle no matter where I am be it on vacation, on a business trip or wherever.  This convenience is a nice advantage of the Kindle 2.  A few other nice advantages for newspapers on the Kindle include the text-to-speech feature (see the next section of this review) and the search and annotation feature.

    It Reads to You!  Text to Speech

    One of the highly touted, new features they added to the Kindle 2 is the text-to-speech feature.  In general I liked this feature for short periods - mostly to listen to a newspaper, but also to continue listening to a book I've been reading when I just couldn't read it (on the way to work or getting ready in the morning) in the traditional sense.  There is a male and female reading voice and both are quite good.  It's not like an audiobook by any means and I wouldn't listen to a whole book that way, but it is a useful feature.  If you'd like to hear what it sounds like, check out this post with a video of the text-to-speech function.
    As previously noted Amazon has decided to appease the publishers & writers and allow them to decide whether to enable or disable the text-to-speech feature for given books.  Read more about this unfortunate news here.


    Navigation with the Kindle 2 is mostly easy and intuitive.  I say mostly because there are a few little tricks to the navigation that you either have to figure out or find out in the manual (or by reading here).  The front page lists out all of your books, periodicals and items added sorted by most recent by default. 
    You can organize the home page by most recent first (read or added to Kindle most recently), title, or author simply by:
    1. First press the "home" button
    2. Then move the cursor to the top so that "Showing all # items" is highlighted
    3. Then using the right toggle button to toggle between the sort options: "most recent first", "Title", and "Author"
    4. You can also use the 5-way button to move the cursor to the left and select "personal docs", "subscriptions", "books" and 'all my items"
    One of the big complaints about the Kindle 1 was the lack of a way to sort items into folders.  Amazon touts that the Kindle 2 can hold over 1,000 books on the device,  but imagine sifting through even 200 or so books when there is no way to create folders and move books to and from the folders.  This is something I would think Amazon could have added by firmware update - even on the Kindle 1, but hasn't done so.  Lets hope they change this soon.  Another thing they could do is add some sort of meta-tags or genre tags to help in the sorting and navigation.  If they really want us to hold that many books and periodicals on the Kindle, they must add some of these features to make it easier to manage that many items.

    Search and Dictionary

    Something those totally new to the Kindle might take for granted, but Kindle 1 owners will be impressed with is the five-way toggle button (up, down, left, right and enter).  This button is very efficient and easy to figure out and the search, lookup and annotate features of the Kindle 2 really show off how easy this is with the five-way toggle button.
    Want to search for a certain word or even a phrase?  Its as simple as typing in that word or phrase with the keyboard and a "find" window appears at the very bottom of the screen.  Once you've entered the word or phrase you want to search, move the cursor to the right and you can search the current document, the Amazon Store, Google Wikipedia or the dictionary:
    You can also do a quick lookup of a word as you're reading?  Simply move the cursor over that word with the 5-way toggle (yes the exact word - not the entire line as with the Kindle 1) and while the cursor is over any word, the dictionary entry shows at the very bottom of the screen instantly.   Pressing enter on the 5-way toggle brings up a more detailed dictionary entry.
    Pretty cool - even for this geek.  If you're a reader who likes to learn new words from the books or newspapers you read, this is a great way to do it.  And better yet, you can clip all of those searched words and save them for later.

    Annotate, Bookmark and Highlight Text

    Want to make a note about a particular part of the book or bookmark your current place in the book?  You can do that by pressing the "menu" button and then selecting either "add a note or highlight" or "add a bookmark".  You can always access these bookmarks, highlights and annotations by again pressing the menu button on the Kindle.  You can also access all of these saved bookmarks, highlights and annotations compiled together when you synch up your Kindle to your computer with the USB cable.  This could be useful for the person doing research on a book or just wanting to remember their notes they made about a book or passage in a book.


    The Kindle 2 has 2GB of storage although mine shows approximately 1.46 GB of available storage before putting anything else on it after it arrived.  This is a huge improvement over the Kindle 1 which had 256 MB of internal memory and an SD card slot for expansion.

    Battery & USB Cable

    The battery on the Kindle 2 (3.7V, 1530mAh lithium polymer, BA1001 model) is much improved over the Kindle 1 battery battery life seems to be very good.  Leaving the wireless on with fairly heavy use, the Kindle 2 has proved to last several (more than 4 days) without charging.  If you use the text-to-speech feature it seems to drain the battery a bit faster but you definitely could make it longer than a day without charging. 
    You can charge the Kindle 2 with the included mini-USB to USB cable which includes an AC plug attachment.  With that same cable you can charge from a computer or from AC.
    The big disadvantage of the new battery is this:  the Kindle 2 battery is built-in and not replaceable so after a few years I can see it's battery life will probably degrade.

    Tethering to your Computer

    You can connect your Kindle to your computer and browse the files on the Kindle from your computer's file browser.  In there you'll see the book and periodical files, screen-shots you've saved, clippings bookmarks and annotations, audio files and photo files.  Transfer via the USB tether is fast and you can charge from the USB cord as well.

    Reading "in the Dark" with your Kindle 2

    The Kindle 2 comes with no backlight or sidelight for viewing in dark conditions.  So you'll need a booklight if you're planning to read in the dark.  I picked up the Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Clip-On Light for $12.99 which fits on the Kindle 2 fairly well and makes reading on the Kindle in the dark much easier.  It would be nice if the Kindle had some way to light up the screen built-in.
    Prices of Books, Newspapers and Magazines
    You might be surprised (or maybe not) to know that 12 of the top 20 Bestsellers for the Kindle on the Kindle store are all available for free on the Kindle.  Many of them have pretty good reviews so I'm guessing like many others, these are some books Kindle users are trying out on the Kindle or just stock-piling while they can get the books for free.  There are many other places to get books besides the Amazon store, but I'll save that for another GeekTonic post.
    Book Prices in the Kindle Store:
    • New York Times Bestsellers are all $9.99
    • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell - $9.99 on the Kindle (15.39 hardcover)
    • House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street - $15.37 on the Kindle (17.80 hardcover)
    • Anathem by Neal Stephenson - $9.99 on the Kindle (19.77 hardcover)
    • Corked by Cabernet - $6.39 on the Kindle ($7.99 paperback)
    I should note that while the Kindle store has a huge selection of Kindle books for sale, there are plenty that aren't available for the Kindle.  A few notables that aren't available for the Kindle include: The Watchmen (#1 on Amazon's top sellers list right now) and all of the Harry Potter books.
    Newspaper Subscription Prices (per month):
    • $14.99 New York Times (75 cents for a single issue)
    • $9.99 Wall Street Journal (75 cents for a single issue)
    • $11.99 USA Today (75 cents for a single issue)
    • $9.99 Washington Post (75 cents for a single issue)
    • $5.99 San Francisco Chronicle (50 cents for a single issue)
    Magazine Subscription Prices:
    • The New Yorker $2.99 per month
    • Time $1.49 per month
    • Readers Digest $1.25 per month
    • Forbes $2.49 per month
    Again, the list of available magazines is pretty short (24 as of this review).  Full List of Magazines Available for Kindle
    Blog Subscriptions
    You can also subscribe to a selection of Blogs as well for around 99 cents to about $1.99 per month which supposedly covers the wireless delivery.  I've subscribed to Lifehacker and a few others for the 14 day trial and it is convenient, but I think I'll stick with my laptop for blog viewing.  The Kindle also has the capability to view basic mobile websites with a somewhat rudimentary web browser which I'll use once in a while, but for the most part, the laptop or iPhone is much better at handling web browsing.  For this reason, I'm mostly ignoring the web features on the Kindle for purposes of this review. 

    Sharing Books and Periodicals - the DRM Issue

    Any Kindle device with a single Amazon account can access purchased books and share with each other.  Magazines and newspaper subscriptions are tied to a single device however.  Sharing a kindle book with a friend or family member that has a Kindle (or iPhone for that matter) is not possible because they wouldn't be tied to the same Amazon account.  This brings up another issue.  Remember that old fashioned thing we call the library - you know the one where you can check out books for free?  Well you won't be able to check out Kindle books there so your Kindle is pretty much helpless at the library.
    Let's face it - DRM is bad for the consumer.  It creates all kind of ease of use issues and limits the value of your purchased materials.  But it seems to be a necessary evil for the moment.  Until there is enough competition for eBooks expect to see DRM as the norm on the Kindle and on competing eBook reader formats like we'll probably see from Barnes and Noble for instance.

    Whispernet Wireless

    "Whispernet" is basically a Sprint EVDO, 3G wireless connection that feeds purchased items, updates the firmware and delivers your subscriptions to your Kindle 2 via the Amazon store.  It makes purchasing & downloading new books, magazines and newspapers extremely fast and easy.  Books we ordered via the Kindle and even on via a web browser all arrived on the Kindle, ready to read in less than a minute.  You can delete an item from the Kindle and re-add it from the Amazon server at any time right from your Kindle.
    Remember that iPod Touch/iPhone Kindle app we talked about last week?  With the iPhone Kindle application you can load your books on the iPhone as well and it allows you to read to a certain page on one device, pull it in to another Kindle or iPhone device and pick up right where you left off.  A nifty feature for sure.
    Now, if you are loading items that weren't purchased from the Amazon store (we'll get into how that works in a future post on GeekTonic), you have to connect your Kindle to the computer using the USB cable since there's no longer a SD card slot on the Kindle 2.

    Not Available in Canada, Europe or other Non-U.S. locations - Yet.

    If you reside in Canada, Europe or pretty much anywhere other than the United States, you're out of luck.  Thus far, the Kindle 2 isn't available to you.  Rumors are bubbling that we'll see the Kindle in Canada and other non-U.S. locations soon though.


    • Lightweight - this little Kindle is light (just over 10.2 ounces) and very easy to carry.  It makes it much more mobile than even some paper books and that means I'm much more likely to add it to my backpack for short and long trips.
    • Super-thin - its sleek and yes thin (just over 1/3 inch) like I like my electronic devices.
    • Easy to hold with either hand - If I'm going to read a book, it must be easy to handle whether I'm reading on the couch, on the train, in bed or wherever.  The Kindle 2 is up to the task and is very easy to handle while reading.
    • Whispernet (EVDO wireless) - purchasing and archiving books is fast and easy.
    • Instant Access to the Bookstore and Newspaper Stand Anywhere you go - I have to say, having the ability to purchase a book, newspaper or magazine wherever you are in an instant is almost addictive.  Did you just finish book one in a three-book series and want to start the next one NOW?  The wireless delivery system makes this possible and this sort of access makes the device very appealing to the traveler and even those in rural areas without quick access to the bookstore.
    • Display is great - the electronic ink display of the Kindle 2 is excellent.  Easy on the eyes, very low glare and fast refreshing pages make it a joy to read on.
    • Very good battery life - We were able to use the Kindle extensively for several days without needing to charge it - that was even with the wireless turned on.
    • Excellent build quality - This thing looks and feels solid.  Buttons are tight and the thing just feels solid.
    • Instant Font Changing - I hadn't used the quick font changing function on the Kindle 2 all that much until I showed it off to my retired parents.  They were delighted to see that you could increase the font size with a key-press and have an instant large-print book or newspaper for those times when they wanted it.
    • Text-to-Speech - A nice-to-have feature.


    • Price - Plain and simple, the $359 cost of the Kindle 2 without a case/cover is just too steep for the majority of consumers.  Lower this price closer to $100 or $150 and you have yourself a hugely popular eReader.
    • No folder navigation
    • DRM and sharing
    • No expansion card - Not as big of a deal as I expected, but something Kindle 1 owners would miss with the Kindle 2.
    • No replaceable battery - Well, this has its positives (no clunky battery door)  and negatives, but as with the iPod, it sure would be nice to be able to replace that battery down the road. 
    • Shopping Around for non-Amazon content isn't Easy - Before I go into what I mean here, let me say this - I love   I shop there often for all types of physical items and prefer their DRM-free music to iTunes for instance.  Further, their Kindle book selection is pretty darn good.  But I'm somehow a little uncomfortable thinking I have to get all Kindle books from a single company.  It's almost like saying I'd have to purchase all digital music for my iPod from iTunes.  Convenient? yes, but not necessarily always the best thing.


    The Kindle 2 is a significant evolutionary step up from the Kindle 1.  If you're a Kindle 1 owner I'm not sure it would be worth it to upgrade although it does offer some decent new features and improvements.  But for the person entirely new to eBooks with the necessary cash to spend on a eBook reader, the Kindle 2 is something you really should consider.  We've tried to show off the Kindle to as many people as we can over the past few weeks including high school teachers and students, my retired parents and many others.  In general the reaction has always been one of pleasant surprise.  I think most of the younger people who've seen it were the most interested - probably because they are more comfortable with using technology in new ways, but my parents both of which are retirement age and read books and newspapers daily were extremely interested in the Kindle2.
    I think the positives I've listed above are significant and far outweigh all negatives except for the price.  Unfortunately the high price makes this device something of a luxury item for most people and that means its reach is far less then it could be.  For the gadget lover who reads often and has the cash, I recommend this highly.  For the reader who tends to pick up a book daily and goes through quite a few books in a year I recommend it to them as well - but the price keeps me from making it a must buy.  Instead it's a must consider and for many people a device I would keep my eye on for the future.  It's only a matter of time before we see a cheaper and probably even better eReader come out that really does radically change the way we all read.

    You can purchase your own Kindle 2 eBook Reader at  It currently sells for $359 with free shipping.
    Let me know in the comments what you think of this new version of the Kindle.  Would you buy one at some price?  Do you already have one?  Any questions you have?
    NOTE:  Many of the observations and comments used in the review above were a collaborative effort between my lovely wife Shelly and I.  Next up is a quick, but useful review of the Kindle 2 from the perspective of an avid reader - in this case my wife.  Shelly bypasses all the technical jargon and gadget love that I give the Kindle and focuses on the most important aspect for the hard-core book readers out there.  Stay tuned for that review coming later today.