Monday, March 7, 2011

D-Link's BoxeeBox

In an effort to expand my in-home entertainment options, I recently purchased and set up the Boxee Box by D-Link.  Boxee is an offshoot (for profit company) of the excellent XBMC open source project.  Alot of the features and functionality are the same, but the user experience is much different.  As with many competing products, Boxee has both it's pros and cons.

One thing to note over XBMC, is that as a "for profit" company, Boxee has been partenering with companies like Iomega and D-Link to release it's software on stand alone and integrated hardware platforms.  The Wikipedia entry for boxee states that the folks at Boxee would love to be OEM'd into Televisions and bundled with other set top hardware.

Boxee is avaialble as a download to be run on MAC, Linux and Windows.  You can check it out at

A really great write-up of the boxee box can be found here:

Also, Mike has a really in depth review of the Boxee Box product on Amazon's website.  Scroll to the bottom:

I look forward to exploring my boxee more and expect more features to be added as updates become avaialble.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Greenpois0n ver 6 released - ATV Untethered Jailbreak now avaialble!

Anyone who has modded their Apple IOS device recently may have run into a sticky situation where you had to plug your IOS device into a computer every single time you wanted to restart it. has just released version 6 of their jailbreak utility for ATV2, Iphones, Ipads, Itouches that allows for the untethered booting of Apple TV 2's running IOS version 4.2.1!!!

The best thing too is that it has been released for both Windows and MAC!  I have Tried the Seas0nPass jailbreak, and greenpois0n is so much slicker, easier and quicker than it's counterparts!

On top of getting my ATV2 jailbroken, I have also installed XBMC and it works flawlessly! The only drawback that I have noticed is that the music visualizations do not appear be working correctly.  I understand that the XBMC release is still relatively new (within the past two weeks) and that further updates should be forthcomming. 

Check out XBMC at

Now that I have xbmc on the Apple TV, I have a new one stop home center multimedia device for my living room television.  I still love my Roku's...and hope that someday XBMC can be run off of them as well.

**Update** My future brother in Law has reported that the MAC version of the green pois0n mod worked just as well and as easy on his intel based MacBook.  We had gotten together earlier last week and had a heck of a time trying to get SeasonPass to work.  I believe we got it working once, but I inadvertantly unplugged the power after the mod and due to the "tethered" limitation of the mod, bricked the ATV2 as soon as it came back online.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Why are all my TV shows being cancelled??"

In almost an errie coincidence, I posted my blog link on and commented on TV Show Cancellations.  Less than two hours later, Blastr posted the following article addressing concerns on show viewership, cancellations and renewals.  It's a worthwhile read and answers alot of my questions.

**Original Post**

So you may be asking yourself, "Why are all my tv shows being cancelled?".

This is one of those situations where you’re going to get the answer to your question by asking a bunch of other questions.  Let us begin with this one:

Who pays for TV shows on broadcast networks?  The answer is:  The Advertisers.

The classic TV model which has existed for decades has been based on viewership and  revenue based off of commercials and ad placement.  The more popular the show, the more money an advertiser has to spend to place their ad. These ad dollars keep the show on the air

Why is this model broken?  The issue is how the powers that be rate viewership on a program.  I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the folks in control of this particular task aren’t as progressive and hip to technology as some of us younger folks.  Currently, traditional viewership is measured by how many folks tune into a program on it’s broadcast night and timeslot.  The reason why this is broken is that with the advent of DVR’s (which have only recently been rolled into viewership totals..and even then only for certain DVR providers) and other streaming technologies (Hulu and Netflix) folks are waiting until later to watch their shows.  They’re not turning on the TV on the original air date/time of that show.  DVR’s and online streaming can account for viewership totals that the powers that be are not taking into account!

The way we view our entertainment has evolved in recent years.  We are no longer tied down to inconvenient dates and times for the broadcasts of our favorite television shows.  We know that when we are ready, our TV shows are going to be sitting on our DVR’s and in our Hulu queues ready to be watched when it’s convenient for US!

Advertisers may use the excuse “People just fast forward through the commercials when they use a DVR”.  True, this may be the case.  But in the same token…what stops a person from walking out of the room when a commercial is on to use the bathroom or fix a snack?  I can honestly tell you that I was never super-glued to my couch when I had cable tv. This is a Schrödinger’s cat type problem.  Since advertisers can’t assume all watchers get up and ignore the commercials, they can also assume that everybody watches them.  It’s a paradox of logic, but there you have it.  Unfortunately, when you place in someone’s hand a remote control that can fast forward through commercials, it’s automagically assumed that that’s exactly what you’re going to do….ergo Advertiser’s place less stalk in viewership totals from DVR’s.

Hulu was able to get around this…..they shortened commercial lengths to no more than 30 or 60 seconds, but there’s no way to skip them.  Who’s going to get up for 30 seconds to use the bathroom? Or fix a snack? Hey! They can’t even fast forward through the commercials.  That’s great!  You can argue that they can still pause, but even still, they’re going to watch the rest of that commercial when they get back.

The bottom line is this.  The hip new shows are going to have hip new watchers that are going to watch their fav programming when it’s convenient for THEM!  Don’t punish the folks that put all this hard work into making some seriously suppierior programming just because the folks that are responsible for judging viewership’s aren’t hip to the new trends and are stuck using an old and broken model for television.

Lets evolve and lets keep the good shows on the air.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dropbox and Logmein

I want to take a minute and talk about two of my favorite cloud applications.  Dropbox and Logmein.

First, lets start off with a description of "The Cloud".  The Cloud is what most tech savvy folks have been calling the internet (or anything outside of their own local area networks and out in that big bad world of ours) for a long time.  How did this come to pass?  My money would be on the Visio-esque flowchart diagrams that Systems and Network administrators would make to diagram their network.  Whenever they would refference the internet on the diagram, they would most often than not, draw a picture of a cloud.  Why a cloud?  It's an amorphous shape that can't really be defined, much like the internet.  The internet is so many things, you couldn't draw any one shape to describe it. Recently, "The cloud" has become a buzz word for anything hosted somewhere on the internet and not on your local area network. 

"Cloud" computing, "Cloud" Apps, "Cloud" storage.  Storage so happens to bring us to my first fav cloud app, Dropbox.

Dropbox is a service that allows you to host your files (Docs, Pictures, Media etc etc) out in the cloud.  Most important and to the point, on someone elses storage. This leaves you to reclaim your storage for more important things,  or to give you the peace of mind that if you should experience a hardware failure, you're not going to lose your stuff. My favorite features of Dropbox are that you can create a folder that will sychronize files accross multiple machines.  I have a few computers between work and my personal computers at home where I have the dropbox agent installed and all files contained within, are almost instantly synchronized across all of them.

Another Feature of Dropbox is the shared folders.  You can create a folder within your dropbox (the folder you speficy to contain all the files/folders you want hosted in the cloud) and then log into the drop box website, and pick another dropbox member to share a specific folder with.  Anything you place into the folder will automagically synch to the corresponding shared folder in your buddy's own dropbox folder.  This has become invaluable for sharing photographs, apps and media.  Just yesterday I had one of my buddy's drop me the ISO for ERD commander in a pinch as I had misplaced my own copy and needed it for work.  I had the 200meg file in less than 5 minutes.

Dropbox is free for the first 2GB with paid options availble.  Though, if you have a network of friends, paying may not be necessary.  Dropbox has a refferal program that rewards you with 250megs of additinal space for every friend that you refer (with a cap at 8GB).  I have reached 4GB of storage very easily and find it to be sufficient for my needs.

Check out dropbox here:

Logmein brings to the cloud the ability to remotely control any computer that has an always on connection to the internet.  A little agent that runs in the corner of your screen allows you to log into the "Logmein" webpage and assume control of your computer from anywhere int he world.  The best part about it is that it is FREE!  There are paid versions that allow you to transfer files, hear audio, print remotely etc etc, but for most of us, simple control of your computer away from home is sufficient.  And when combined with a service like Dropbox, provides almost instantaneous and convenient access to your computer and your files from anywhere.

You can check out Logmein here:

My most significant example of where these tools were the most useful was when I was in China for three weeks.  The Chinese government blocks access to most Social networking sites, including facebook.  I had been taking a lot of photos in my off time and wanted to share them with folks at home.  What I was able to do to circumvent "the great firewall of China" was to drop all of my photos into my dropbox on my laptop, allow them to synch all the way from across the world to my computer at home, and THEN use Logmein to log into my computer at home, go into Facebook and upload all of my photos.  Simple as that!

For those of you who live off of your Iphone and android devices, Logmein and Dropbox have apps for both.  The Logmein Ignition app (which will run you about $30) will allow you to remotely control your computers and the Dropbox app allows for you to access your files and administer your shares and folders on the fly.

If you don't hear from me before 2011, have a happy holidays and a great new year!



Thursday, November 25, 2010

I am thankful for....Roku, Hulu, Netflix and playon

Alot of interesting little factoids in the arena of streaming media these days.  Nothing too mind blowing, so here are a few in no particular order of significance:

1.) Netflix: When streaming content on a computer, Netflix now allows you to go into fullscreen mode with the option to stay in full screen mode until you hit escape.  Why is this significant?  Previously, if you were watching a netflix movie in fullscreen mode, any click of the mouse, or touch of any button on the keyboard, would revert the view to it's previous default screen size.  Imagine if you will that you have two monitors and in one, you're watching netflix in full screen movie and you are doing any number of things in the second monitor.  None of your activities in the secondary window disturb your fullscreen playback.  I personally play games and watch movies at the same time.  Hulu has had the "Pop out" option since day one, and now I am glad that Netflix has this new similar feature.

2.) Hulu is on the Roku!  Thats right, Hulu on the Roku! To get it working, they allow you to both use the activation link (similar to associating a netflix streamer to your netflix account) or just to log in using your username and password.  The menu's are slick and intuative and they also allow you to browse shows from A-Z.  Since my original purchase of the my first Roku device (which we primarily used in the bedroom) I picked up a second and placed it downstairs.  Its coming close to eclipsing the functionality of both my AppleTV2 and my xbox.  The only thing the Roku doens't do is stream content from my media server with all my movies.  If the Roku could do that, I'd have one under each TV and call it a day.

3.) Speaking of Hulu and Netflix, both services have just offered reduced pricing.  Hulu plus, which used to be 9.99 during it's beta phase, is now only 7.99.  Netflix similarly offered a reduced service (without any option to use their DVD services) for just their streaming content. I opted for the no DVD option because, quite frankly, I've only ever gotten two DVD's and after having them for over 6 months, returned them unwatched.  Netflix just signed an agreement with the broadcast network that owns Syfy and now alot of the Syfy channels series season sets are avaialble for streaming.  Content for both Hulu and Netflix seems to be getting better and better...but so far...there isn't one service that seems to be better than the other.  Having both services pretty much covers the gambit of both current content and tv shows and older, hard to find movies and shows.  This is why I am so excited that the Roku can now do both.  The Roku also has the streaming service...but other than using up the $10 free credit that I got for getting a roku, I havn't felt it necessary to try and look for something to watch there.

4.) If you havn't heard of playon, it's a media server application that runs on your desktop.  What it does is sling web content from websites (which it does either by it's built in "Channels" or by a script you can download off of a plethora of sites) to any compatible UPNP media player (Windows Media Player or XBMC).  This has come in pretty useful for watching Hulu content on the televisions while we waited for Hulu to come to Roku.  But that isn't all.   You can also do, Youtube, Netflix and other media streaming websites via 3rd party script.  The usefulness for the scripts really didn't strike me until I was able to find one for the "CW" so that Ericka could watch vampire diaries (a show not on hulu, apple tv, or amazon). After finding that, It led me to discover a bunch of other scripts that significantly increase the amount of avaialble content we can get to our television without reaching for a computer.

So thanks to all these things, Ericka and I have been cable free for over two months and we're really not missing it all that much.  I'm definately not missing handing $130 to charter every month.

::Here is where I'm going to shift from praising, to complaining::

Lets talk about Apple, and specifically, Apple's airplay.  What really is the hype all about for this?  What they say it can do is this...."Stream content from your ipod touch, iphone or ipad devices to your apple tv".  Seriously, how usefull can this be?  What content is available on these smaller devices that isn't already on the apple tv?   It seems more hype and gimmick and less of a function to me.  Can anyone think of a practical and useful application for this service?  And keep in mind, I'm talking 'new' functionality, not something the apple tv can't already do. I'm really having a hard time comming up with anything...but recently news articles are buzzing about this new feature.

And has anyone tried the apple homesharing service?  I'll honestly say that I havn't even been able to get this working.  Does itunes have to be running on a computer already?  How is this more useful then opening up a share on a media server and just sharing content to a media player like Windows Media center or XBMC?  Apple tends to hype up little nuggets of "reduced capability" functionality.  It's like the mentally challenged version of standard home networking sharing and media center use, but has a gold star of awesomeness just because it's apple.  In an effort to make things easier for the user, they've made it absurdly more complicated than it needs to be.  Share content, play content.  If you have a windows machine and a media player like XBMC or Windows Media Center, you're all set. Set it and forget it!  Here's another thing i never understood about the Ipod synchronization...why encrypt the music into unreadable directories on the ipod?  Every other mp3 player in the world lets you just drag and drop your content.  I think it's really because they want you to use itunes and nothing else.  Honestly, what could be more easier than drag and drop?  With DRM on mp3's gone the way of the Dodo, I think Apple can afford to do away with this unnecessary complication.  I use an apllication called Sharepod to move music off and onto my ipods and iphone.

Thats enough out of me.  Hope everyone is enjoying their thanksgivings!

Pertinent Links:

Friday, October 22, 2010

In car toys

 Last year I installed some toys into my car.  The following link is a thread I started on the website detailing the work that I had done.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Apple TV has come in!

My Apple TV has come in!  My first observation was on how incredibly small it was.  The pictures do not do it justice.  It is just a few inches bigger than a regulation sized hocky puck.  No lie!

Configuration was simple enough..plug in the Power, HDMI, and Optical Audio.  My receiver can do audio through both so I'm not really sure if the optical was necessary or not, but it's plugged in none the less. I have a powerline kit right behind the TV so I opted for wired over wireless.

Special note for other would be users of the apple any field asking for your email address, type it in all lowercase.  the keyboard shows two rows of letters, one capitalized and a lowercase row right below it.  Putting any capitals into the email address resulted in an error and it took me 4 tries to realize this.

That aside, the set up was really easy.  Navigating with the supplied remote controller is somewhat cumbersome, especially if you have a big thick thumb like I do.  They also laid out their onscreen keyboard alphabetically instead of qwerty which is a bit odd, but still functional. 

I think once i figure out how the apple remote app works on the iphone or itouch, that would make things like password entry and searches easier.

The TV show selections for rentable episodes were slim.  I was a bit disappointed that of all the shows Ericka and I watch, Family guy was really the only we ended up watching before heading upstairs.  It was more of a test than anything considering we could have watched it on Hulu from the XBMC.  If Apple can work on expanding it's library, or if they can Add hulu plus to the line up of apps, I think the apple tv 2 would give Roku a run for it's money.  Blatently obvious is the lack of connection options, but the clear advantage is a crisper screen image for HD content and a slicker interface.  One thing I found odd about the Roku was there was no manual power off or sleep function.  The Apple TV 2 at least has a sleep function which seems to power down the device. Those things are not going to mean squat if the content doesn't improve drastically.

More later once I've had a chance to play around with it.  I'm going to be following the jailbreak/Shatter scene very carefully to see what the hacking community is doing with these little guys.

HDTV Antenna

I'm currently playing around with the idea of installing a roof mounted HDTV antenna.  I recently purchased (and subsequently returned) an indoor HDTV.  What I found was that I could get maybe 1 channel to come in, but that was about it.

My neighbor's have what appears to be a roof mounted outdoor HDTV antenna and I am debating on going over there to introduce myself, and ask them about their reception quality as well as make/model of their antenna.  This would make a good free television resource for Ericka and I as we get deeper into our new lives sans traditional cable.  It's hard to imagine a world where people would just be able to pluck free tv right out of the air...but as some of us can remember, thats how you got TV 20-30 years ago!

Crutchfield has a really good write up on what to consider when choosing and installing an HDTV antenna.

A friend of mine who had commented on a previous post currently uses an HDTV antenna and had this to say about it:

"If you have a place to put an antenna and have a PC or TV with a tuner, you can get all the basics (PBS, NBC, CBS, FOX) OTA HD.  I had (have) an amplified antenna in my attic and was able to get all of those with plenty of signal.

I have a Terk HDTVo antenna. 

I am nearly positive that the frequencies used for the OTA signal is common with the cable channels, so I ran a dedicated line to my tv/pc for the OTA stuff.  That is probably the safest way to do it.  Where you have only the internet coming in on the coax, you might be able to get away with sharing the line, I don't know.  You might have interference on either the internet or the OTA signal.  You could always give it a try and see what your results are.  I would say the same on the injection point.  It may matter where you try to introduce the signal.  Splitters and such are designed to pass the signal going to a particular direction.  " - Brian Finkele

He Brings up a good point...if i were to use the exsisting co-axial running throughout my house (theres a coax port in almost every room), am I going to run into any issues with signal quality on either the TV's or my internet connection?

If i were really carefull, I may be able to isolate the Coax comming into the house and into my office where the internet modem is and segregate the rest of the coax tha tmight be running to the televisions.  This would prove tricky as the wiring all comes in and is split in the basement and it's a complete rats nest.   Still, it would be interesting to try, and my only investment would be the hardware and installation with the fruits of my labor being free television for most of the major networks delivered in digital or digital HD. 

The great improvement over today's digital signal versus Analog broadcasts of yester-year are that with a digital signal, you get crystal clear broadcasting (assuming good reception)versus the snowy/ghosting of TV broadcasts of our childhood. And as the crutchfield article points out, your HD is going to be uncompressed and most likely will look sharper via Antenna versus HD delivered over Coax.

I have some phone calls placed to some local distributors and installers and I would still very much like to get our neighbors input on how theirs works, but the more I think about it, the more likely I'm going to seriously consider giving this a go.

I'd appreciate anybody's input on the subject!



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Engadget Apple TV 2 Write up

After reading Engadget's write up of the ATV 2 product, I'm starting to wonder if it would have been wiser to purchase 2 of the new Roku boxes instead of 1. 

Originally I had slated QTY 2 of the ATV2 boxes.  Upon reading more at the technical specifications, I determined that my upstairs entertainment set up wasn't up to snuff for Apple's sole HDMI and Optical Audio interface. I ended up canceling 1 of the ATV 2 orders and just sticking with QTY 1.  I then purchased the $99 Roku Player and received it within a few days.  Ericka and I have already watched some content off of Netflix and Amazon and are extremely excited to hear that Hulu will be added to the content options soon.

If I end up being dismally dissatisfied with the ATV2, I'm thinking it won't be that hard to try and sell it or, more than likely, look into whatever Jailbreak options are avaialble.

Admittedly, I was slightly miffed to discover that Roku released a brand new line up of Roku boxes immediately after receiving one of their devices, but seeing as how their newer $99 doens't have too many new features and their software updates are backwards compatible with their older boxes, I can let it slide.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Day of Charter TV/Phone!

So I’m pretty excited about pulling the plug on Charter (all services but internet).  It’ll be a real test to see if I can get all the programming I love and enjoy (legally) using all the new hardware and services that are available these days on the cheap.  I am a very frugal geek.

I’ve been a loyal Charter customer for about 10 years.  Over the years, I have been enrolled in various bundles and packages with one goal..maximize programming and features while keeping costs down.  As you can imagine, with anything, it became increasingly more expensive over time.  I continued to make concessions, like turning in hardware, buying my own cable modem, trimming back on premium services, but at the end of it, I was getting very few services and still paying $165 per month.  I had had enough!

After about three calls to charter to try and get myself on a bundle or package that would bring all my services closer to the $100 versus $185 (which as the last bill I paid due to pro-rated service charges…) I called BS and called in and cancelled all my TV services, and my telephone services with Charter. 

I am in a 2 year contract for high speed internet so I am continuing to pay $29.99 per month for 8meg down/1meg up internet.  Fine for my purposes and reasonably priced.

So to get down to it…here  is what I did and the break down as to what it’s going to cost me.

1.)    Signed up for Hulu plus.  You may already be familiar with Hulu, but with the plus service, you can get access to previous seasons of tv shows, all episodes, from their pilots to their last available aired episodes.  I have currently watched every episode of ‘The Office’ and am completely caught up!  Some shows are even in HD. Cost is $9.99 per month, but then you need to find a way to get it to your TV…I’ll go into that later.
2.)    Signed up for Netflix.  Netflix is a provider of Shows and Movies that you can stream online.  Almost all new bluray players, some tv’s and almost all highend gamming consoles (ps3, Wii and xbox360) can stream Netflix.  Cost per month, depending on your packaged is $8.99-$12.99.
3.)    Purchased a Roku player.  This little box allows for the streaming of services like Netflix/Pandora/FLickr/Facebook/ to your tv via either wired or wireless access.’s services vary depending on if you’re renting or buying and/or whether or not you’re getting it in HD or SD (standard definition).  Ericka can purchase her fav show “vampire diaries” for $1.99 or rent it for 99cents.  Renting a show gives you access to watch it for 24 hours.  This requires you to sign up for an account.  It should be noted that if you purchase a Roku player, you get a free $10 credit to  ROku players come in three flavors ranging from $59.99 to $99.99.  Depending on the equipment you already have, you may not need to purchase one of these little guys…but at $60 bucks for the starter box, you can a lot of free content as they have an “channel store” with different services that aggregate media from all over the internet.
4.)    Purchased the new Apple TV 2 (hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t tell you too much about it).  This device will only work with newer/HD TV’s and receivers.  It only has HDMI and Optical audio outputs.  Services include Netflix and access to the itunes music and video store.  Apple has a new model out right now where you can watch brand new tv shows for 99cents.  I believe the show will be available for 24/48 hours.
5.)    Purchased the “play on” media software.  This little bit of software allows you to forward media content from your computer, and stream it to any UPNP compatible devices on your network.  In laymans terms it means that if you have a networked multimedia device, you can sling hulu to your tv and watch it from there.  I use old first generation modded Xbox’s running XBMC.  XBMC is an open source mediacenter solution that runs on 1.) First generation Modded xbox’s 2.) Linux PC’s 3.) Windows PC’s 4.) Macs.  Cost is about $30 but comes with a 15 day free trial.
6.)    I have used these for years, but modded xbox’s running XBMC.  You may not have access to an old school xbox, but modding them is easy (and gives you access to a lot of old school gamming content…NES/SNES/N64/Gameboy etc etc games right on your tv) so if you have access to an old xbox and a moderately sized hard drive, you'll be in good shape.  The OS you’ll basically be loading on the xbox’s is called XBMC.  A very powerfull open source media center that will stream your UPNP content from “Playon” and will also stream movies/music/pictures and internet radio streams right from a file share on your computer. I have three of these under each television I own.  It is the centerpiece of my media centers.  If you don’t have access to an xbox, but you have an old computer or laptop that you can throw under your tv, that will work too! price=Free

So most of this stuff requires some networking…so how do you minimize the cost and the clutter?  Two ways…1 is to go wireless.  This poses some challenges for some of the older equipment, but is still very doable.  To end the cable modem rental fee and to consolidate all your networking devices into one hard hitting, feature filled device…you could go with this:

It’s a modem a router and a wifi access point all in one.  It runs about $140 a best buy, but consider this.  If you’re paying about $6 a month to rent your current cable modem, by buying your own, it pays for itself in about 23 months.  That may seem like a lot, but consider that I rented the same cable modem for the first 8 years I had charter internet….I could have purchased three of these.

If wireless is not the choice for you, consider Linksys’s powerline networking products.  I have two of these kits in my house and they work great!  It uses a carrier signal that works over your powerlines to deliver network connectivity.  Sort of like DSL. Also, you can purchase multiple kits and they all work together right out of the box.

So lets break everything down….

Monthly recurring fees:  $20-30 + whatever a la carte programming you purchase
Up Front Hardware fees:  $0-$350 depending on what hardware you already have available.

Compare this to a bill that can reach upwards of $200 per month, and you’re already saving money by the end of your second month.

I can’t imagine if folks knew that they didn’t have to pay so much for television, they’d stick with Charter.  They’d be leaving in droves.  And to be honest with you…the more people that use these services, the better they’ll get over time.