Friday, January 21, 2011

Sports Viewing and the Fast Forward Button

Over the years I’ve become quite a sports addict.  No, not the kind that picks up a basketball and actually plays.  But the couch potato variety like many others.  I love my college football, college basketball, NFL football, baseball and even Olympic sports on occasion.  But I’ll be the first to acknowledge the huge time waste this can be.  So I’m torn… do I cut back on my sports TV viewing or should I get out of the 80’s by DVRing and watching with the thumb on the fast forward/commercial skip button?


Over these last few weeks I’ve found myself watching quite a bit of college basketball and NFL football.  Let’s take football for instance.  Throughout the Chicago Bears beat down of the Seahawks last Sunday I notice a lot of breaks – even more than normal thanks to several Seattle players injuries.  There was a ton of downtime during that game and afterwards I got to wondering – how long are the players actually “playing” football in a game?  So I did some looking and found several references to the fact that an average NFL game has about 10 – 15 minutes of actually playtime!  This Wall Street Journal article claims researchers (does it really require researchers for this?) determined the average is below 11 minutes although I’ve seen others that say the number is closer to 15 minutes for the average game.  So given the fact that the average TV airtime of an NFL game is just over 3 hours. you are watching about 2hours and 45 minutes of “expert” commentary, commercials, fan shots, and cheerleaders.

I think I care too much to DVR most games, but its difficult to argue against DVRing if you consider the above.  And throw in the really observant points offered up by many announcers attempting to fill the time when action is not happening - quotes like:

_____ player is "a student of the game"

"You know, if he had caught that ball in the end zone, it would've been a touchdown." Dan Dierdorf

"Well, if you give him that much time he'll ________” speaking of bad protection of the quarterback.

“You just have to get the ball to _________” fill in the blank of about any decent offensive performer on a football team

It goes on and on.  And throw in the awesome sideline commentary and you get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I love football, basketball and many other sports but there IS a lot of wasted time and oxygen in those broadcasts.

I’m going to give this a try this weekend during a college basketball game and one or two NFL playoff games.  DVR the entire game and then watch it time-shifted.  Fast forward through all commercials, skip all commentary and replays (since I just watched it happen) and watch the things that matter in the game.  No more huddles, no more injury reports etc.  I wonder how much time I’ll save by turning the game into my own personal highlight reel?  One thing I have to remember though… don’t check twitter or the internet for that matter or the “surprise” of the ending will be ruined.  How about you?  Do you time-shift sports?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

XBMC makes the new AppleTV Awesome

Ben Drabaugh at Engadget tells us about a second generation AppleTV that showed up at Engadget with XBMC pre-installed on a jailbroken AppleTV.  The Engadget video below shows off what a non-crippled AppleTV can do with an awesome XBMC UI powering it.

Want to try this out on your lonely 2Gen AppleTV now?  Head over to for instructions.  XBMC working nicely on a little $99 “extender” sounds pretty good to me… how about you?  So you don’t have an AppleTV?  How about a Apple iPad or iPhone?  Yep, that works also as long as your iDevice is jailbroken according to this how-to on

I have to admit.  This really makes me want to jailbreak that iPad of mine…

Frame an iPad with Vidabox iPad Mount

The iPad makes the ideal touch-screen interface for a high-end custom home theater room, home automation setup or home security system.  For many of these applications there needs to be a touch-screen mounted to the wall so it fits in with the room aesthetically with a good way to power the device.  Vidabox, LLC, a well-known media server and integrated control systems company offers an elegant solution for this need with their new VidaBox iPad mount & iPower charging station.

Vidabox iPad Mount 4

I have the florentine silver iPad Mounting Frame from Vidabox in my home to check it out.  This wall mount is made from excellent quality materials that will look stunning in your high-tech home.  It allows you to semi-permanently mount your iPad onto a wall and transform your iPad into a seamless home automation touch-screen. 

Installation is very easy.  The frame is delivered assembled.  You detach the top of the frame by unscrewing the two hinges.  Slide the iPad into the frame and then connect the iPad cable through the rear cutout of the frame.  Ideally you’ll likely want the iPower add-on available separately from Vidabox.


Vidabox iPad Mount 1

So then you take the iPower which allows you to charge up to four iPad’s over CAT5.  Definitely a must if this is a professional, high-end installation.

Vidabox iPad Mount 2

Make no mistake, these iPad Mounting Frames and iPower devices are meant for the high-end installation and custom integrators.  The average HTPC enthusiast won’t be able to drop enough cash to mount their iPad (or multiple iPads) to a wall in their home.  But there is definitely a market for such a device as touch-screen continues to make a splash with the home theater and integrated home market.  Installation is very easy with all parts included and the finished product will aesthetically please the most picky interior designer.  The mounts are available in 6 different colors – Black Metalline, Brushed German Silver, Florentine Black, Florentine Grey, Florentine Silver, Florentine Walnut and Matte Black.  The aluminum frames are 0.71” (19mm) in width. 

The iPower charging station is available exclusively from VidaBox and designed to handle the finicky charging needs of Apple’s iPads.


The Vidabox iPad Mounting Frame costs $159 and the iPower charger is an additional $399.  Not cheap by any means, but given the target audience will be comparing this solution to proprietary touch-screen devices and more complicated setup schemes, the Vidabox solution is competitive.

Uses for the Vidabox iPad Mount

The iPad Mounts were made with the custom integrator in mind to ensure a place for Vidabox’s own iPad-based vAutomation controls.  I asked others what different uses and/or Pad apps they might want on an iPad built in to a wall and here’s a short list of some great candidates:

  • HTPC: Windows MediaCenter, SageTV or XBMC remote control
  • Security Monitoring – checking to see who’s at the door
  • Audio Server Control such as Sonos & Pandora
  • Emerald Observatory 4 iPad
  • In some situations: Netflix, Hulu Plus, ABC, EyeTV, and Slingplayer
  • Photo slideshows
  • Weather apps
  • Home Automation: Creston, Control4, and many more



The Vidabox iPad Mounting Frame isn’t the product every iPad owner will jump out and purchase.  But for the professional installers, DIY-enthusiasts, and others looking to use their iPad for special built-in uses the Vidabox iPad mount is the perfect product.



Below is a video of the Vidabox vAutomation 2.0 platform that the company offers for iPad home automation control:


Read more about the Vidabox iPad solutions at their website

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SageTV HD300 Extender Beta Update

SageTV HD Theater


Tonight the SageTV team pushed out another firmware update (beta version 20110114-0) for the SageTV HD300.  Changes include:

    1. Fix graphics memory corruption in standalone mode
    2. Fix issue with specific subtitles
    3. Update to faster core system
    4. Fix issue with multiple usb drives of the same model

This is a beta firmware, but my experience with these has been extremely good.  As always, updating involves opening the HD300 in Media Player Mode, going to settings>firmware update & entering the code 2382 ('beta') with the remote control.

via SageTV Forums

Complete GeekTonic review of the HD300

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Avatar 3D on Panasonic VT25 Plasma

Last summer I picked up the best TV set I’ve ever owned, a Panasonic TC-P58VT25.  This set has what I consider to be one of the better pictures available on a television today.  It happens to also have 3D which is certainly a nice bonus, but not the main reason we purchased it.  We’ve enjoyed the awesome picture on this plasma for months, but the he 3D feature was extremely nice tonight thanks to Avatar.


Panasonic somehow locked up the 3D version of Avatar so other than on eBay, it’s only available through Panasonic (through 2011) by purchasing a qualifying TV and/or Blu-ray player.  I was one of the lucky (or cash poor) folks and we received our copy of Avatar on Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately we’ve been so busy we didn’t have a chance to watch it until tonight.

Weak Point – the Glasses

As many already know the weakest point about 3D today is the need for special glasses to view the 3D content.  Now these aren’t the old, paper glasses we used to use when seeing 3D.  The new kind are much improved, but still a bit annoying.  And while Panasonic has the best (in my opinion) TVs especially when it comes to 3D, they also have the most awkward 3D glasses on the market. 


Yep, that’s a photo of me with those 3D glasses on.  Didn’t think it was possible to make me look even more geeky, but MrsGeektonic has the photo to prove it!

Here’s a few more shots of the Panasonic 3D glasses.  Note they have a newer, improved version of the glasses which I’ll be trying out soon.  These photos are of the original version that come with the TV:007


The glasses require a tiny battery to power them.  The on/off switch on this version of the 3D glasses is a button that when pressed lights up a little LED light to let you know it is powered on.

Avatar on 3D

So how is the Blu-ray 3D version of Avatar?  Well compared to seeing it at the theater, it’s actually pretty awesome.  I’ve watched several other 3D movies on this TV set and with some, there are some distortions.  Avatar had none of that – no crosstalk, no noticeable distractions or any other issues seen on some 3D movies.  You are fully immersed with a very convincing 3D environment effect.  I didn’t purchase this TV just for the 3D, but I have to admit to loving the 3D feature especially with this movie.  Problem is, there aren’t a ton of other 3D movies available on blu-ray 3D as of yet so its a good thing I love this Panasonic set for its 2D performance.

If you have any questions about the TV set, the blu-ray 3D version of avatar or any of the equipment I’m using let me know in the comments.

TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 01/16/2011

Time for another round of TV Talk.  This week brings back American Idol with new judges, Nova, Big Love and more.  And a couple of interesting series including USA’s “Fairly Legal” and NBC’s “Harry’s Law.”  Read on for this week’s complete listing of premieres, finales and specials for the week.


Fairly Legal on USA

New drama , “Fairly Legal” premieres on USA Thursday

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

Sunday, January 16

NOVA (7pm on PBS – HD) Season 39 premieres with scientists in Haiti and Chile gathering data to prevent future disasters

Big Love (9pm on HBO – HD) Season 5 premieres it’s final season

2011 Miss America Pageant (9pm ABC – HD)

I Survived...Beyond & Back (10pm on Biography – HD) Season finale


Monday, January 17

Being Human (9pm on SyFy) Series premiere.  This one is a remake of a popular British show by the same name.  Three roommates in their 20s, a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost.

Piers Morgan Tonight (9pm on CNN – HD) New News series as Piers Morgan takes his turn in the attempt to save CNN from the ratings freefall

Super Ninjas (9pm on Nickelodeon) – New kids series

Harry’s Law (10pm on NBC – HD) New drama series where Harriet (Kathy Bates), Matthew and Malcolm; three people from completely different walks of life are brought together through fate and decide to start a law practice together in an old, rundown shoe store.

Heavy (10pm on A&E – HD) A new reality series centered around the heavy-set folk.

Skins (10pm on MTV – HD) New teen drama series borrowed from the UK


Tuesday, January 18

Life Unexpected (8pm on CW – HD) Season 2 finale

Pioneers of Television (8pm on PBS – HD) Season premiere with profiles of sci-fi pioneers like “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and “Twilight Zone” mastermind Rod Serling

Glory Daze (10pm on TBS – HD) Season 1 finale titled “Some Like it Hot Tub”


Wednesday, January 19

American Idol (8pm on Fox – HD) Season 10 of the mega-hit reality/contest show begins with Randy Jackson returning and Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler joining the judges' table.  This show without Simon???  Will it survive?

Nova scienceNOW (8pm on PBS) Season 5 premiere

American Greed (10pm on CNBC – HD) Season premiere of a favorite news magazine series of mine.  This episode focuses on Wall Street wiz, Stephen Trantel, a one time successful commodities broker who turns to bank robbing to support his greedy lifestyle.

Hot in Cleveland (10pm on TV Land) Season premier

Retired at 35 (10:30pm on TVLand) New sitcom series where a NYC executive drops everything and moves into his parents' retirement community


Thursday, January 20

Perfect Couples (8:30pm on NBC – HD) New sitcom following three couples relationships.  I haven’t heard good things about this one but it does have Olivia Munn as a major character

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (9pm on Bravo – HD) Season 1 finale

Parks & Recreation (9:30 on NBC – HD) Season 3 premiere

Fairly Legal (10pm on USA – HD) New drama for USA starring Sarah Shahi who plays Kate Reed who after the death of her father, decides to change her profession from lawyer to mediator.  USA has put out some entertaining series in the past few years and this one should be among their best.  Definitely one to check out.


Friday, January 21

Medium (8pm on CBS – HD) Series finale

Kitchen Nightmares (8pm on Fox – HD) Season 4 premiere

Fringe (9pm on Fox – HD) Not a premiere, but a new night for Fringe.  Seriously troubling that Fox moved one of their best shows to Friday (aka the dead zone).  Watch it – it’s good.

Spartacus: God of the Arena (10pm on Starz – HD) A prequel to the Spartacus: Blood And Sand series that tells about the rise of the House of Batiatus and its champions before Spartacus entered the picture.


Sunday, January 23

Top Gear (10pm on History – HD) Season 16 1 finale (UK version is 16, but here in the U.S. it’s season 1 finale)  Thanks Brian for pointing that out.

Kourtney and Kim Take New York (10pm on E! – HD) Yet another reality series

Holly’s World (10:40pm on E! – HD) Season premiere


Monday, January 24

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker (9pm on TLC – HD) Season 1 finale

19 Kids and Counting (10:30pm on TLC – HD) Season premiere


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