Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boxee Mac Remote Control

If you have a macbook in your lap and want to control your Boxee with said Macbook, this could be your ticket.  A Boxee user created a simple little Boxee widget that does just that.

Boxee Remote Widget


The widget leverages the Boxee remote web interface to control Boxee,  It provides basic media control, volume and other basic remote controls. 

Boxee Remote Widget 2

It’s available for free at Boxee: Boxee Remote 1.0 (Dashboard Widget)

The HTPC program I use, SageTV has a web-based remote control as well – similar to BeyondTV and many other HTPC programs.

via Boxee Blog & Lifehacker

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving From GeekTonic

I call it “the turkeyness.”  Today, I’m spending the day with family & friends, enjoying some turkey & other good food, possibly some football viewing and hanging out with the family.

Happy Thanksgiving to those here in the states and thank you to all readers!

I’ll continue to update the GeekTonicDeals site today (there's already some very nice online deals highlighted along with a BlackFriday summary) and tomorrow with some of the better deals I find and a comprehensive look at the best deal day: CyberMonday

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Black Friday – Where are the Deals?

So as you prepare to have that Thanksgiving turkey (if you’re in the U.S.) your probably beginning to think about gifts for the holidays.  And some of the brave or crazy depending on your perspective might be wondering what can’t miss Black Friday deals will be out there this Friday.

Well I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the more notable Black Friday deals.  And of course linked to three of the better Black Friday specialty sites with all of the ads available for your viewing pleasure as well.

I’ll be watching for the Cyber Monday online ads for the best deals as this years Black Friday sales look a little weak compared to past years.

Head over to GeekTonicDeals to see the picks for Black Friday Deals.  And watch for many other deals, coupons and discounts.

GeekTonic Deals

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday Buying Guide – eBook Readers

 Kindle eBook Reader

This holiday season again happens during tough times for many.  But there will still be some serious tech gifts purchased regardless and one of the more popular items this year should be an eBook Reader.  Here’s the GeekTonic guide to eBook Readers for this Holiday Season:

First, lets talk about reasons you or your loved one might be a good candidate for an eBook Reader (or not):

Reasons You Might Want an eBook Reader:

  • If you are an avid reader of books – paperbacks, hardbacks of any kind, an eBook reader is likely something you will eventually use.  It just makes sense for reasons we’ll point out below.
  • If you are a frequent traveler an eBook reader can make your packing more compact.  The eReaders we’ll cover here are all small and lightweight and can pack in multiple books and periodicals into that one device.
  • If you live away from a bookstore, an eBook reader with wireless delivery can make sense.  Purchase and obtain a book in an instant without traveling to a bookstore.
  • You like the concept of a dictionary available at the press of a button – look up a word while reading etc.


Reasons You Might Not Yet Want an eBook Reader:

  • You’re looking for ways to save money on your books you might be able to figure out a way to justify an eBook reader, but most of the time it is NOT cheaper than buying paperbacks and/or using the library.  It just isn’t.  So don’t go with an eBook reader thinking you’ll save money cause it will take quite a long time to make that payoff work.  eBook readers these days are expensive so keep that in mind.
  • You have an affinity to that “dead tree” book smell and feel.  I think most who use one of these eBook readers would get over this one very quickly as they are easy to hold, comfortable to use for long time periods and very easy on the eyes.  But some just can’t get past the change away from paper.
  • Your concerned about DRM – There are certainly many DRM-free options for eBook readers out there, but they aren’t as easy as the DRM-walled eBook stores at Amazon, Sony and B&N.  This doesn’t bother me for the most part, but its something to consider.

There are more pros and cons, but honestly those are the biggest ones given todays eBook market.  My wife who is an avid reader uses her Kindle daily and swears by it now.  I’m in the market for one although I don’t read books nearly as much as she does.  My dad who lives quite a ways out of town finds the wireless delivery and access to an entire bookstore at his fingertips a great feature as well as the ability to change the font size with a press of the button.

Which One?

So now you’re ready to buy an eBook reader right?  Well which one should you purchase?  There are more options out there than you might think, but I recommend three different eBook readers each from different companies.  Of these choices, I only included ones that had the following:

  • Wireless delivery via 3G
  • Major Presence – won’t go out of business etc.
  • Good eBook selection in the store
  • Great form factor for reading

1. Sony 3G Daily Edition – This is Sony’s entry into the 3G-capable eBook Reader.  It looks nice and Sony has their own eBook store, but for me this is the least promising of the three options we’re highlighting.  I say that because it’s starting price is $399!  Yep even more expensive than its Kindle & Nook competition.  and the book prices in the Sony store are higher than the Amazon store with fewer books available.  They do have Sony’s free google books available as well as access to “free library eBooks.”  The screen is slightly larger than the Kindle and there’s no keyboard.  You can pre-order one of these puppies, but they won’t guarantee delivery by Christmas.  So be sure your prepared for that.  You can get a a Sony Reader with one free accessory (under $30) through 11/30.

Sony Daily Edition

2. Barnes & Noble Nook – Barnes & Noble announced their new eBook reader with a bang.  Unfortunately if you didn’t act fast, you can’t now get a Nook until after January 1st so keep that in mind.  This eReader will be in our hands at GeekTonic by early December for a review.  One of the interesting features for the Nook include the 2nd screen,at the bottom of the device which is in color and is a touchscreen used for navigation and access to the store.  Also interesting is the built-in Wi-Fi, the ability to get free access to all B&N books for free while using it in a B&N store (on their WiFi) and the “borrowing/loaning” feature.  Read more about the B&N Nook here

B&N Nook eBook Reader


3. Amazon’s Kindle – I still put the Amazon Kindle (not the DX version) as the eBook reader to beat – especially for this Holiday.  The Amazon store has a very large selection, they seem to have the best eBook prices across the board and the Kindle is available for delivery before Christmas.  The B&N Nook is going to give Amazon some serious competition, but you can’t go wrong with a Kindle if your buying for this holiday season.  You can purchase the Kindle (Global Edition) for $259 at

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

So are you getting an eBook reader this Holiday season?  If so, which one?

Kindle 2 gets native PDF Reader & Longer Battery Life


Today Amazon announced a nice little software update for all Kindle (Global Wireless), Kindle (U.S. Wireless), and Kindle DX devices.  Amazon says with today’s software/firmware update, they have improved the battery life of the Kindle and added a native PDF reader.

As we near the arrival of the new Nook, Barnes & Noble eReader I imagine these steps are being taken to help sway those thinking about purchasing an eBook reader to go with the Kindle.  And it might just work especially since the Nook and the Sony readers will be difficult if not impossible to come by for Christmas purchases.

Kindle Global and U.S. Wireless (formerly known as the Kindle 2) Updates:

  • Native PDF reader – yep, Amazon finally put native support for PDF document reading!  You can send PDF documents directly to your Kindle (via your @Kindle address) or drag and drop PDF files from your computer to your Kindle (when connected via USB).  All I can say is “it’s about time!”
  • Longer battery life for Kindle (Global Wireless):  Looks like this will only affect the new Global Wireless version of the Kindle, but for those they report read-time up to 1 week on a single charge with wireless on or up to 2 weeks with wireless off.
  • Manual screen rotation: The Kindle screen can now manually rotate between portrait and landscape views so you can see the entire width of a web page or magnify the page of a PDF file. The page-turn buttons work the same in either orientation, and the 5-way controller movements are switched to match the orientation.
  • Option to convert PDF files to Kindle format. If you prefer to have your personal PDF documents converted to the Kindle format (so that they can reflow), you can type "Convert" in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to your address.

Kindle DX Updates:

  • Better cropping of PDF files: In landscape orientation, white margins of PDF documents are automatically cropped to maximize the amount of content shown on the screen.
  • Option to convert PDF files to Kindle format. Same as for the regular Kindle.
  • View pages longer: Amazon has extended the time before Kindle DX switches into screensaver mode — from 5 minutes to 20 minutes.

One word of warning – several reports are coming out saying that this latest firmware will lock down your ability to perform homebrew software updates.  Not many people were doing homebrew, but I know there are a few.

If you’re interested in the Kindle, be sure and read the reviews we did at GeekTonic from a geek’s perspective and one by my wife from a hard-core reader’s perspective.


Read the complete announcement at

Stop PowerDVD Autoplay

One of my biggest software peeves is when a software program assumes it should control the behavior of your computer without the ability to easily change that behavior.  Cyberlink PowerDVD is one of those programs – I use it sparingly on my HPTC server for playback but mostly for the codecs it installs.  But when you install it it changes windows autoplay settings so that just about any media disk you put in your drive, it automatically starts PowerDVD and begins playing the media.  Now maybe that’s how some users want it, but I don’t.  Typically I’ll be viewing my media through my HTPC program – not PowerDVD.

PowerDVD Logo

So how do you disable the autoplay?  I’ve tried going through the settings in Cyberlink and they just don’t work.  So instead we’ll use Windows settings to do this.  With Vista or Windows 7 follow these simple steps:

full how-to with screen-shots after the break

Vudu Streaming Service Adds Wikipedia to the 10-foot interface

Vudu, provider of high definition streaming service has integrated Wikipedia into the Vudu interface.  Vudu originally  service sold via a CE box that  later moved on “outside the box” and began also packaging its service into LG and Mitsubishi TV sets.  Vudu’s service keys on a Movies-on-Demand service where you rent or buy movies of your choosing right from the 10-foot interface.

VUDU Wiki 1

More recently Vudu has added Pandora streaming, flickr & picasa photos, YouTube and games.  This new wikipedia menu functionality lets you select the Wikipedia menu item on the page for any movie and find out what the world has to say about it.  You can also navigate through all of the links on the Wikipedia page just like you would on  Vudu has built in the ability to link back into the VUDU service from the Wiki interface whenever it sees any movie, actor, or director in its database.

VUDU Wiki 2

Vudu is promoting the fact that the service is internet based and therefore doesn’t require a manufacturer to push out a firmware update (or worse, take forever to push out a firmware update.

I don’t have access to Vudu, but I’m curious if any GeekTonic readers have it.   Let us know in the comments what you think.

Read more about the feature updates on the Vudu Blog

Monday, November 23, 2009

Premium Vidabox HTPC Case Review – and $50 Off Coupon

Many know Vidabox from the nice, wireless media keyboards (see keyboard review here) and their OEM HTPC systems for system integrators.  But Vidabox also has some nice high-end HTPC hardware for sale as well – there’s the entry-level media server and now a new HTPC case. 

Vidabox vCase3 Front

Mike at theDigitalLifestyle has a very detailed review of the new Vidabox vCase3 HTPC chasis and its a good one.  It’s designed to fit nicely into your Home Theater although keep in mind you’ll need to use low-profile cards in there to fit them all in.  This one looks like a really nice HTPC case so check it out if you’re thinking of a new HTPC setup.

Review at

More Info and Purchase at Vidabox

Vidabox vCase3 Rear

This case runs for $299, but GeekTonic readers can get $50 off instantly making it $249 with this coupon code: "vCase3-GT" (without the quotes) - effective immediately!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week In Review – November 22, 2009

Below is a quick summary of the past week's news and stories on GeekTonic.


  • PogoPlug Gets Updated with more features and USB Ports – I’m not in love with the look of the new PogoPlug, but they sure did add some nice new features.
  • Recording Video Gameplay -The Other Use for the Hauppauge HD-PVR – I know the Hauppauge HD-PVR is very popular as a way to PVR digital, encrypted content from Cable and Satellite, but I’m guessing the gamers are buying up quite a few of these as well.
  • YouTube Gone from PopCorn Hour – For Now – Looks like google is pulling YouTube from CE boxes using their API unless they pay the big bucks.  Look for many more CE device manufacturers making similar announcements soon.
  • Look Ma, No Batteries On My Remote Control! – Nice concept – Imagine life without batteries…
  • Xbox Apps – Virtual Controller
  • Kindle eReader Arrives in Amazon Canada Store – Canadians can finally get the Kindle 2.  A few things will be withheld from them, but not much.
  • Video with MythTV – A great guest-blog post on MythTV.  Give it a read its a good one.
  • TV Metadata Server Outage – It’s now back and just upgraded more today.
  • Commercial Skipping with SageTV, Comskip and DirMon2 – a geeky but very useful tutorial ;)

    This week of Thanksgiving I’m hoping to share a few gift ideas with all of you.  And if all goes well a few HTPC tutorials that have been on the burner for a while as well.  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!

  • Commercial Skipping With SageTV – Comskip and Dirmon2

    No TV Commercials

    When I answer the question, “why use a Home Theater PC (HTPC)?”  I usually start by showing off the commercial skipping feature – one of the favorite features at my home.  As a commercial begins on any TV show we’re watching time-delayed, we can simply hit the right-arrow button to skip to the end of that commercial.  It makes TV viewing so much better.  This article is a how-to on using one of the better methods of commercial detection for SageTV – Comskip and Dirmon2.  Read on for a simple how-to on setting it up.


    SageTV is an excellent HTPC software program that transforms your home computer into a powerful, supercharged DVR with many additional features than you would find with your cable or satellite box DVR or even your TIVO.  Commercial detection and skipping isn't built-in to SageTV, but is free and easy to set up.  NOTE:  skipping based on a set time (default skip is 3030 seconds, but is configurable to other time lengths) is built in to SageTV.  SageTV's Website

    At the GeekTonic home we rarely watch commercials any more except for the occasional sports program.  This is because it is so easy to install an add-on into SageTV that analyzes your recorded shows and marks the start and end point of most commercials so you can quickly skip over the commercials and go straight to the content. 

    Here's how it works once installed.  When you hit the play button on your remote control a status bar appears at the bottom of the television screen like this one:


    You'll note the dark green portions of the status bar, these are the commercials that were detected.  When you hit the skip button on your remote control (my skip button is mapped to the "right" button on my remote control) it will skip to the next start or end point of the next commercial.  You can skip back the same way with the back button as well.  It works much like the chapters in DVD's with the start and end points of each commercial acting as the chapter marks.

    To give you an idea of how commercial skipping works, check out this very-short screen-cast I made while viewing a SageTV-recorded television show:

    In the video I press the play button on my remote to show you the status bar during playback of a show.  Then the show gets to a commercial - at this point I hit the skip commercial button and it goes to the end point of that commercial.  If for some reason the commercial detection was off a little, I can do a rewind or fast forward a few seconds to get to the correct spot.

    Read on for a very detailed how-to on setting it all up.  I’ve leaned toward giving more detail than needed just in case but it should be a very easy and quick install.