Friday, August 06, 2010

To the Point: Kindle Edition

The Kindle Chronicles Podcast takes a moment to discuss Mrs. GeekTonic’s review of FantasticFiction (site for finding books to read on your Kindle or otherwise).  The podcast also highlights an interview of Baratunde Thurston, Web and Politics Editor at The Onion.  If you have an e-Reader or have any interest in the Kindle, definitely add The Kindle Chronicles to your must-listen list.  It’s fantastic every week!

The Kindle 2 and DX Gets it’s Game On – Nothing earth shattering here, but the Amazon Kindle has its first two game apps – both are free and downloadable from your Kindle.  The two word games are Every Word and Shuffled Row.

PCWorld (and others news sites) predicts the latest Kindle versions spell doom for other e-Readers.  I definitely have to agree that barring some true innovation such as paper-thin/folding form factor, non-reflective color screen or e-Ink with non-reflective touchscreen; the only survivors in the U.S. e-Ink/e-Reader market will be Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Washington Post Kindle 3 Hands On.  One of several major newspapers & websites had the chance to use the Kindle 3 hands-on.  And they all agreed that the new Kindle 3 is a significant improvement especially given the pricing.

First Screenshot of SageTV Project Phoenix Leaked

When SageTV 7 first arrived to public beta a few months ago I mentioned several 3rd party projects underway that would be coming to SageTV 7 users.  Three projects in particular are particularly interesting.  SageTV My Movies is in public beta now, Project Ortus has given us several previews of what’s to come from them and we are just now getting more information about Project Phoenix.

These three projects offer even more functionality and UI choices for SageTV 7 users.  Each project is unique and offers the following:

  • Project Ortus – A combination UI system and feature-set add-on being developed by a team of developers for SageTV. First preview here
  • Project Phoenix – Yet another combination UI system and feature-set add-on being developed by a team of developers for SageTV.  This one includes developers of the well-loved SageMC add-on.
  • SageTV MyMovies – Ever heard of MyMovies?  This add-on is a port of MyMovies and it’s available now in beta!

Today, one of the team members of project phoenix posted the first sneak peak of Phoenix:

The screen-shot above appears to be a look at the TV List View with fanart & metadata integrated into the screen.  The developer who posted this screen shot said to remember that these screenshots he’ll be posted (including the one above) is subject to tweaking and change - so please don't point at this picture when Phoenix is released and say "I wanted it to look like that!" ;)

I’m hoping to get a first look at Phoenix before it’s released along with more information so stay tuned to GeekTonic for more information.

via SageTV Thread

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

SageTV Beta Release 7.0.13 Arrives


SageTV has another beta update to it’s SageTV 7 HTPC software – for Windows, WHS & Linux versions.  This update includes a bunch of bug fixes and some new features.

New Features:

  • Category view in the Video Browser with options to edit categories
  • Parental Ratings for imported videos can be edited
  • DVD/BluRay movies will track whether they’ve been watched or not watched (STV update is needed for UI functionality, will be available soon)

Other Notable Changes/Improvements:

  • Merged SageTVTranscoder with latest public version; should resolve many transcoding issues; Also added transcoding profiles for H264 MKVs
  • Added support for setting DVDs/BluRays to be completely watched. This will never happen automatically for DVDs; but will for BluRays if the whole movie is watched (for DVDs, due to navigation which creates non-linear content this isn't reliably determined). An STV update will be released after this beta that includes the functionality in the STV for this (the Watched command can be used to toggle the state in the new STV)
  • PlayOn Plugin Will Now Show Actual Download Progress of Streaming Video - Added support for download timestamp tracking for MPEG2 Program Stream files.
  • Improved moving/converting videos to TV Recordings: Added property "enable_converting_imported_videos_to_tv_recordings" which defaults to true. If set to false, then video files imported that have TV metadata will NOT be automatically tagged as 'TV Recordings' and will show up in the 'Imported Videos' section instead of the 'TV Recordings' section.
  • Auto-rotate of JPEG Photos Setting - Added property "autorotate_jpeg_images" which determines whether or not the core should automatically rotate JPEG images with their orientation bit set when displaying them. This defaults to true; changing it requires a server restart since it invalidates any rotated images in the image cache
  • Added H264 MKV transcoding profiles (they're in the MPEG4 sections since H264 is MPEG4 Part 10)
  • Improved Music/Video Playlist Import - Added property "fully_reimport_playlists_every_scan" which defaults to false. If set to true; then every time a library import scan is done; any Playlists that originated from external playlist files will be fully reimported (i.e. the Playlists in SageTV's database will be synchronized with the external playlist files, using the external playlist file as the master)
  • Fixed regression issue where ATSC/QAM was broken on Linux in the last build
  • Fixed bug where SageTV wouldn't always select the highest quality audio track as the default for DirectShow. TrueHD/DTS-HD are now preferred, and then DTS/AC3 and any ties are resolved by the highest number of channels.
  • Various Extender Updates/Fixes
  • Fixed YouTube Video URL Issues

Head to the SageTV forums for the full changelog and to download.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Buy The Book? Fantastic Fiction – The Best Site for Finding Book Series Information

Where does Mrs. GeekTonic find all of the books she needs for her eReader?

There are many sites to search for your next book including the sites where you are actually going to buy them (i.e. Amazon for the Kindle and Barnes & Noble for the Nook). Unfortunately, I have found that for me Amazon doesn't always have the information that I need to help me determine which book should be next on my list. As previously mentioned in guest posts, I read for pure relaxation. I read a genre labeled “cozy mysteries”. They are typically written in series with the same hero/heroine so it is very helpful to know which book comes next. My mother pointed me to a website from the UK that some of you are already familiar with:

Note:  This is a guest post by Mrs. GeekTonic, the non-geek in the family ;)

Geektonic kept asking me to show him why I prefer the FantasticFiction site compared to others.  As I was explaining, he kept bringing up other book recommendation sites mentioned on Lifehacker and it continued to prove that FantasticFiction is a winner for me.  Here’s why:

1. The homepage for the author gives some basic info on the author to start. There is usually a picture, country or origin, birth and death years (if applicable) etc. It also lists any pseudonyms that they have also written under (IE – Nora Roberts – JD Robb). Then they list the most recent books available for purchase (listing the Amazon prices only – I wonder if there was a Woot-esque merger somewhere along the way).


2. It puts series in order. Below is an example from Victoria Laurie’s page. She currently is writing 3 separate series. Fantastic Fiction lists them in order and lists their publication date.


Below is a screen print of Victoria Laurie’s page from Amazon. Amazon allows you to sort, but not by series. The best you can do here is by publication date. 4858419045_0a2c797c4e_o[1]


From this view (above) you cannot even tell which number they are in the series.


3. Next on the homepage is a list of books published by other publishers or in conjunction with other authors and other information (aka the author’s websites, twitter, facebook fanpage etc). Seriously the only database I know with more information is IMDB. How they keep this thing up to date and accurate is amazing!


4. Next - Recommendations from the author. (I had to switch to another author because Ms. Laurie did not have any listed.) I have found some good books by reading what my favorite authors read. They may just be hawking one of their publisher’s other authors, but I usually research the book before I buy anyway.


5. The site then recommends other authors that write in a similar style that you may like. I have found oodles of new authors this way. These will link you to the Fantastic Fiction homepages of the authors.


6. How do you know if the book is for you? You can get more information on the books by clicking on the link for the book and opening a new page for the book itself. There will be a LARGE image of the book cover and a jacket synopsis of the book. ( Babygeektonic wrote a research paper in High School about how very important this is. She contends that you SHOULD judge a book by its cover.) 

Next on this page is a list of similar books that you may be interested in and then a list of places where you can purchase the book used (NOT Amazon). Then there are links to eBay auctions for the book as well.




While I love this site for most of my authors, I do find it difficult to use for prolific authors like Nora Roberts, James Paterson etc. Especially when (like Nora Roberts) their publishers RE-release books that are not new, but are repackaging them with 2 other titles to make a group book. Hard to keep track of what I have read – Not that that is FF’s fault.


Conclusion – Give a look and see what you think and give me a comment or suggestion. If you have a site you think is better…. Let me know!


Thanks to MrsGeekTonic for this review - I really appreciate her input and hope to see more guest posts on GeekTonic sometime in the near future – when she’s not teaching.  If you have any questions about eBooks, eReaders such as the Nook or Kindle, Teaching technology or pretty much anything, feel free to ask in the comments below or follow her on Twitter.

Other Articles by MrsGeekTonic:

The Non-GeekTonic Review of the Nook – From the Recreational Readers Perspective
Teacher Tech – by Mrs GeekTonic
The Non-GeekTonic Review of the Kindle 2 - From the Recreational Readers Perspective

Back to School – Have You Ever Used a HTPC at College?

Quick question for the readers:  As I ran through the hundreds of “Back to School Guides” showing up in my RSS Feed Reader these last few days I began wondering how many of you used or are using a Home Theater PC – type device for TV, Movies, Music etc while at College.  Anyone out there?  Please let me know in the comments.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Review of the Thermaltake BackX External SATA Hard Drive Enclosure

BackX External SATA Hard Drive

A few weeks ago I picked up a high-performance 1.5 Terabyte Hard Drive to use as one of my two Home Theater PC (HTPC) recording drives.  In the process I needed to remove one of the six drives in my HTPC.  No problem right?  Except for the fact this was a perfectly good 1TB Western Digital Green Drive.  One that I needed to find a home for.  So I went on the hunt for a good hard drive enclosure to house the newly orphaned drive.  Enter the Thermaltake BackX SATA Enclosure.

My search for a good, inexpensive SATA Hard Drive enclosure led me to the Thermaltake BlacX External Hard Drive SATA Enclosure Docking Station.  Read on for a full review:

This enclosure gives you a simple way to take your SATA I or SATA II Hard Drive, and plug it into the enclosure like toast in a toaster (no it’s not that hot), plug the enclosure into the wall AC and connect it to your computer – or in my case to your PogoPlug via USB 2.0.  And your hard drive is ready to use!  Note: hard drive must be formatted before plugging into enclosure to work.

Enclosure Specs:

  • Compatible Hard Drive Size: 2.5" & 3.5" up to 2 TB
  • Includes AC Adapter (this adapter is of the semi-fat size so be warned)
  • Hard Drive Interface: SATA I or SATA II.  Does not work with your old, non-SATA drives
  • External Interface: USB 2.0
  • Transfer Rate: Up to 480 Mbps (Max) – this is of course what you get with USB 2.0, but plenty of speed for most video, music and photo files for your HTPC.  Not ideal for recording for say a HTPC DVR however.
  • OS Compatible Windows 7/ Windows Vista / XP / 2003 / 2000 / NT / 98 / 95 Mac 10.3 and later
  • Hot Swap Capable

For the moment I have two of these.  One will be used for some video files and the other will be a backup for music and photos.  All are connected to my PogoPlug and therefore all files are accessible by me over my home HTPC network as well as mobile via the MyPogoPlug website page and my iPhone.

Pogoplug POGOE02 Network Storage

If you don’t need the speed of ESATA, this enclosure is a great option.  It’s extremely easy to switch out drives – you just pop them in and eject the drive to remove it – it really does work like an old game machine cartridge (this reference is for those of you who actually remember the Atari and Colecovision game machines.)  Another bonus is the ability to handle 2.5” and 3.5” drives which adds to its versatility.  On the back of the enclosure you’ll find the USB port, AC port and a power switch.

BackX External SATA Hard Drive

Overhead View BackX External SATA Hard Drive

The enclosure shipped with a power cord, USB Cable and instructions.  Although honestly the instructions weren’t really needed in my case – a good reference if you run into problems, but the setup was extremely easy.

In the Box - BackX External SATA Hard Drive

Inside the enclosure

Inserting a drive involves a slight amount of force until it “clicks” into place.  The drive is held tight in the enclosure which is a good thing.  Removing the drive from the enclosure requires you to push firmly on the “eject” button on the enclosure – this requires a bit of force as well but it’s easy to do.  I tested the enclosure with several Western Digital drives and a Seagate drive and each of them worked perfectly so no obvious compatibility issues.  After a few days of use the hard drives kept relatively cool inside the enclosure – of course much of the hard drive is showing outside of the enclosure so there’s more air flow there than inside a computer in most cases.

Two Enclosures with HD's Inserted

The two enclosures are living in my gadget laboratory, but working hard behind the scenes thanks to my trusty PogoPlug.  You’ll note the blue-LED lighting that emanates from the enclosure when it’s powered on.

BackX External SATA Hard Drive


  • Inexpensive
  • Flexible – handles 2.5”, 3.5” SATA I & II Hard Drives
  • Easy to switch drives
  • Easy to use


  • No ESATA
  • Short power cord could be issue for some

I recommend this enclosure for most uses as long as the 480Mbps maximum speed is fast enough for you.  If not look for an ESATA drive enclosure, but otherwise this is a great choice for using that spare hard drive on your system.  I picked up two of these during a NewEgg sale for $22.99 each, but the NewEgg price is back up to 32.99 (free shipping)  – still a pretty good price.  Amazon has the same enclosure for $38.84 (both affiliates)

Guide to ShowAnalyzer Commercial Skipping Settings

Ben Drawbaugh of Engadget HD fame has posted a how-to guide that Home Theater PC (HTPC) enthusiasts should put on their must-read list.  If you use a HTPC such as SageTV or Windows MediaCenter you’ve probably heard of Comskip and ShowAnalyzer – the two most popular (and best) commercial skipping applications on the market.  Well Ben has the ultimate guide to tweaking ShowAnalyzer so that it detects commercials as accurately as possible.

The latest ShowAnalyzer beta allows you to set rules to tweak the settings per channel or even per show.  Ben’s guide requires that you roll up your sleeves and delve into the inner workings of ShowAnalyzer, but it’s an endeavor that will be well worth your while.

Check out the complete guide to ShowAnalyzer Settings at EngadgetHD

Discovered via MissingRemote


Related Articles:

Commercial Skipping With SageTV – Comskip and Dirmon2
Windows 7 Commercial Skipping – with DVRMSToolbox & ShowAnalyzer
ShowAnalyzer 1.0 Released as Public Beta

Sunday, August 01, 2010

TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 08/01/2010

Each week GeekTonic covers the TV scene with a complete listing of premieres, finales and specials for the week.  The only notable highlight in the bunch for me is the new series Rubicon which premieres on AMC.  There’s a lot of other finales and premieres to so check out the complete list of new premieres and finales below.


A sneak preview of the first episode of AMC’s Rubicon (premieres tonight) is below:

NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST – TV schedules subject to change

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This Week with Christiane Amanpour (10:30am on ABC) – Christiane Amanpour takes over the long-running, political news talk show series

Rubicon (8pm on AMC – Available in HD) – A new drama on AMC based in NYC revolving around a conspiracy at a government intelligence agency.  James Badge Dale portrays an analyst for a government intelligence agency with an eye for finding clues in everyday information that suggest sinister motives by unseen forces.  Premieres with back-to-back episodes at 8pm and 9pm.

Sons of Tucson (7pm on Fox – Available in HD) – The series finale of the sitcom known for its low ratings.  These last few summer episodes are where they put the leftovers after it was taken off of the Spring schedule earlier this year.

Ultimate Air Jaws (9pm on Discovery – Available in HD) – Its Discovery's 23rd Annual Shark Week and it starts with this special with shark expert Chris Fallows and filmmaker Jeff Kurr back in South Africa.  The pair film massive great white sharks blasting from the water

Holly’s World (10:30pm on E!) – Season 1 finale


Monday, August 2, 2010

The Bachelorette (8pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season 6 finale

Scream Queens (10pm on VH1) – Season premiere for this reality series where aspiring actresses compete for a breakout role in “Saw 3D”

Money Hungry (9pm on VH1) – A new reality series with overweight people putting up their own money for a chance to win $100,000 for losing weight.

Aftermath With William Shatner (10pm on Biography – Available in HD) – A new docu-drama series hosted by William Shatner.  In this episode, Goetz, known as the Subway Vigilante talks of the day he shot four teens on the NY City subway.


Tuesday, August 3

18 to Life (9pm on CW – Available in HD) – New comedy series for CW – brought to the U.S. via Canada’s CBS Network.  The series follows two 18-year old neighbors who get married on a dare.  The two go on to prove that their love is real.

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (9pm on Bravo – Available in HD) – Season 6 finale

The Bad Girls Club (9pm on Oxygen) – Season premiere for this reality series

Shaq VS (9:01pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season premiere of this reality series starts off with Shaq vs Dale Earnhardt Jr. & spelling bee champion Kavya Shivashankar

1,000 Ways to Die (9:30pm on Spike) – Season 3 premiere

The Rachel Zoe Project (10pm on Bravo) – Season 3 premiere

Unforgivable Crimes (10pm on We) – New crime series

Scrappers (10pm on SpikeTV) – New reality series where we follow a bunch of guys searching for scrap metal to recycle.  What fun!


Wednesday, August 4

Dark Blue (9pm on TNT – Available in HD) – Season 2 premiere

Wonders of the Solar System (9pm on Science – Available in HD) – New science/educational series

Locked Up Abroad (10pm on National Geographic – Available in HD) – Season 4 finale

Criss Angel Mindfreak (10pm on A&E – Available in HD) – Season 6 premiere begins with an attempt to leap over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle-type contraption


Thursday, August 5

Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape (9pm on BBCA) – New cooking/travel series with Gordon Ramsay

The Real Housewives of D.C. (9pm on Bravo – Available in HD) – The new D.C. version of the reality series begins

The Nightlife (9:30pm on Teen Nickelodeon) – New teen entertainment series.  First up Ice Cube, Aaron Fresh and New Boyz.  No I don’t know who those last few entertainers are but I’m getting old too.

The Squad: Prison Police (10pm on A&E – Available in HD) – New reality series

Stan Lee’s Superhumans (10pm on History – Available in HD) – New reality series with the creator of Spider-Man and other comics.  Lee goes on a journey to track down people with unusual abilities caused by genetic “differences.”  So does this have anything to do with history?  Probably not.

Beach Heat: Miami (11:30pm on Showtime) – New drama series


Friday, August 6

Gangland (10pm on History – Available in HD) – Season 7 premiere


Monday, August 9

Bachelor Pad (8pm on ABC – Available in HD) – New reality series taking 20 former Bachelor contestants and putting all of them under one roof.  A show set out to prove that the Bachelor and Bachelorette series have absolutely nothing to do with…. marriage.

Dating in the Dark (10:01pm on ABC) – Season 2 premiere - reality

Last Comic Standing (9pm on NBC) – Season 7 finale

Wild Nights (9pm on National Geographic) – New reality series exploring the dark in search of rarely seen, nocturnal wildlife alleys and streets.

If you follow GeekTonic for the TV Premieres and news, you’ll want to click here if you would like to get a regular e-mail for GeekTonic TV Premieres & News.

I have the core of the Fall TV season ready for the periodic Fall TV Season Premiere Guide, but I’ll be waiting until mid-August to publish as the TV networks tend to change their mind about things.