Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review – The Top GeekTonic Content for 2009

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

GeekTonic Logo

Stats – Things Continue to Look Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics Covered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Most Read Articles on GeekTonic in 2009:

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

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

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

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


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

A Look Back at Last Year’s Media Gadget Predictions

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

Crystal Ball

Photo by “circulating” cc license

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, December 28, 2009

So You Received a Kindle for Christmas – Now What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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