Rob's Blog

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Deals


We got up early on Friday and got in line at Fry's at 3:30 AM for their 5:00 AM opening. As you can see from my iPhone snap, we weren't too far from the front of the line once it condensed down.

Once we got in, we went straight for the Sony BDP-S305 Blu-Ray player for $178 and the Canon SD1100 Camera for $139. We also picked up a $19 digital photo frame. We got our stuff and went to the checkout and were out of there within 15 minutes!

We also stopped at Sam's Club, which was completely dead. They didn't really have any good items.

We also stopped at Best Buy, which was crazy. We were there to pick up a video game for a relative, but we couldn't figure out which was the right one and it was absolutely packed, so we got out of there.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

16 Meg Broadband Rules!

I upgraded to 16 Mbps broadband service today from Charter. I had to swap my old cable modem (which I have had for 5 years) for a new model to support the faster speeds.

The speed increase is pretty nice... 3 times faster than my previous speed.

(Downloading HD movie rentals from iTunes on Apple TV still sucks even with the bigger pipe. For the love of God, Apple, add some extra servers or something!)


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Apple TV Fun

So I got an Apple TV for my birthday.

I got it for an awesome price. I found the last one in the clearance rack at a Sam's Club. They were selling it for $179. I took the card to a register and paid and went to the customer service desk to pick it up. They couldn't find it. They called someone over from electronics and they looked and couldn't find it. So he said they'd sell me the floor model and the customer service manager said she'd sell it to me for $125. (HELL YEAH!) So then he couldn't find the floor model. I must have been there for at least a half hour. They apologized over and over and then started to give me a refund when another CSR came back from break and said "We used to have a ton of these." She opened the cage and moved a box and there it was. The last one. They ended up giving it to me for the $125 price for my trouble.

After hooking it up to my TV via HDMI and connecting it to the Ethernet switch in my entertainment center, I got it up and running. I have it synced to my Mac Mini, which has some movies and TV shows on it. It also is syncing my photos from iPhoto (the photos are actually stored on my Windows Home Server box).

It came with Software 1.0 and had to download a software update to version 2.

Viewing photos and videos on it is an absolutely amazing experience. It is so much nicer than the TiVo Series2 I currently have conected to the TV for home media. (I watch and record TV with the Moxi DVR provided by Charter.) Even the TV shows purchased from iTunes look good. Not as good as real 720p files, of course, but still much better than they look over the TiVo.

You can watch YouTube videos on it as well. As you can imagine, they look like ass.

I've rented a couple of high-def movies on it from the iTunes store. Apple says that with a broadband connection you should be able to start watching movies within a couple of minutes. That is such a joke. Apple apparently needs to beef up their servers. It takes HOURS before you can start watching a movie. They really need to fix that. My movie renting is spontaneous and I want it to start now not in 7 hours. But once you are able to watch it, the picture quality is pretty amazing.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Moxi DVR 4.1 Upgrade Rocks!

I received the Moxi DVR 4.1 software upgrade this week from Charter. There are so many improvements. First of all, performance is noticably faster. Navigating the menus is faster, scrolling is faster, response time is faster, searching is faster. There are also a lot of small UI improvements, like subtle fading in and out, a better font, and the info banner kind of bounces when it appears or disappears. It's flashy and functional at the same time. You can also attach an external hard drive to one of the USB 2 ports in the back and expand your storage.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TiVo Publisher for Windows Home Server!

Since TiVo Desktop doesn't work quite right with Windows Home Server, I dug into the TiVo HMO SDK and built my own Windows service that runs on WHS.

It is working very well and I will likely release a beta to my site this week. The videos portion of the code needs a little more work, but it does work.

The screenshot shows the Console tab and the Settings window.

The software is available to download on my new software blog software.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Quiet Computing

I replaced my two case fans in my computer today (an 80mm and a 120mm). My PC is so much quieter, that it's strange. I can still hear the hum of the power supply fan, but the loudest component is now the hard drive.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

My New Computer

I got all new computer parts this week for my birthday. I spent the afternoon building my new computer. I'm very happy. It is so nice. It's noticeably faster. My old PC was showing its age: it had AGP video, PATA drives, the old AMD 754 socket (Athlon 64 3000)... I like that the new parts are more future friendly. For example, if I want to upgrade the CPU, I can replace it with a quad core model without changing anything else.

This is the first time I've had a motherboard brand besides ASUS since the 486 days. The EVGA board was very affordable and seems to perform well and it received good reviews. It's also the first time I've ran with an nVidia graphics board instead of ATI in years.

I did have to call the Microsoft activation hotline to have my Vista Ultimate license transferred over to the new system. That was suprisingly painless. I had to key in the on-screen code and then was transferred to a support rep. He asked me a couple of questions and then gave me the new activation code.

I am thinking that I will delegate the A64 parts to my Windows Home Server machine, which is an AMD Athlon 2500 barton machine. I will probably gift the 2500 parts to a friend, who is still running an AMD 1GHz processor.

Here are the specs:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 CPU (2.13 GHz)
eVGA 680i LT SLI motherboard
eVGA GeForce 6800GTS PCIe video card
2 GB OCZ Gold DDR2-800 RAM
Seagate 400 GB SATA 3.0Gb hard drive


Monday, April 02, 2007

Charter Expands HDTV Lineup!

Charter has added four new HD channels today in my area (Gwinnett GA): The CW, Stars, ESPN2, and MHD (Music HD, which apparently plays content from MTV, VH1 and CMT). This brings our HD channel count up 19 channels!

The only thing we need now is for Charter to release the Moxi 4.1 update which brings speed boosts and support for external USB drives and PC Link. Come on, Charter, we're waiting!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Treo 750 and WM6

Palm announced that they will be providing an upgrade for the Treo 750 for Windows Mobile 6. It's going to be available later this year and is supposedly free!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Epson Printer Drivers for Vista

Epson finally got around to releasing Vista printer drivers for my printer, an Epson All-In-One CX7800.

The printer and scanner worked okay with the Windows XP driver, however the printer status driver did not work correctly. Without that driver, the ink cartridge status was always greyed out, so the printer wouldn't warn me when ink cartridges were low.

Click here for the Epson Vista Compatibility page.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Windows Home Server

WHS ConsoleI was invited to the Windows Home Server beta program. I have been running WHS Beta 2 for about 3 weeks now. It's a great product and it really works. I have run into some minor bugs, but the product works and is feature complete.

I really like the back up feature. I admit that I do not back up regularly, but with this product I get an auto backup every night, and can restore a file fairly easily.

I also like the remote access feature. However, I think they need to add remote access capability to home versions of Windows. I think most users are going to have XP Home or Vista Home Premium in their homes and the remote access feature does not work on those systems because they do not support remote desktop connections. This would be a great value add for WHS.

I think they made storage management really easy. I do not want to fool with RAID setup. With WHS, you can add a drive as you need and if you have duplication enabled for your shares (which is enabled by default), you can guarantee that your files are on two physical drives in your server. If a drive goes down, you don't lose any data. You can also use external drives as storage.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Treo 750

I got a new phone, a Palm Treo 750 PDA phone with Windows Mobile. It's an awesome phone. It's comfortable to use and I love the QWERTY keyboard for text messaging and e-mails. It's definitely a lot more "high tech" than my previous phone, the Motorola ROKR. With 3G speed, it browses the web at a nice rate. Once Palm releases the HSDPA update it'll be even faster.

I ended up buying it from a dealer on eBay. I got it for a better deal than Cingular, and didn't have to get a 2 year contract upgrade.

It works and syncs very well with Vista and the new Windows Mobile Device Center, but I did have trouble initially with syncing. When first syncing, I kept getting an "ActiveSync problem occurred on the desktop" error. Unchecking all of the sync options allowed it to sync without errors. I then checked each one and synced until I figured out that it was a problem with Tasks. I apparently have a bad task in my Outlook, or there's some kind of sync bug between WMDC and Outlook 2007. Anyways, it's all working great now. The contacts even transfer the pictures I have assigned in Outlook 2007 to the smartphone and are used in the caller ID and for speed dialing.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Apple had a media event today and announced a few new products. The Intel Core Duo Mac Mini is nice, but the rest of the stuff was crap. $99 leather case for a leather case that says iPod? No thanks. And who the hell is going to buy that ugly $349 iPod speaker box? And for the love of God, can Steve Jobs please get a new outfit????


Ink-Jet Printers Suck

I have been wrestling with my printer for the past couple of days. I was about ready to throw it out the window and let it smash onto the ground. It's an Epson CX5200 that I've had for a 2 or 3 years. I have been really happy with the printer up until now. The black refused to print right, so bought a new cartridge. After running the cleaning a couple of times, the black came back, but then the magenta and yellow stopped printing. UGH!!!! I bought new ones and put them it, but no luck. I decided to call Epson support today. My first surprise was that there was no wait time, they spoke English and were very nice. Shocking. Because it was out of warranty, they charged me $9.95. After going through the various troubleshooting tips, they said it was a hardware problem. They cancelled the $9.95 charge and sent me to customer service. They got my phone number and offered me 3 options: (1) A $40 coupon for their store; (2) Send my printer back and have them try to repair it free; or (3) get a new CX7800 printer for $139 plus a $30 mail-in rebate = $109 or a RX620 printer for $249 - $100 rebate = $149. Shipping was free, via FedEx in 3-5 business days. I was really surprised and I decided to get the new CX7800 printer. It's quite a step up from my 5200 and hopefully they have worked out some of the kinks from the 5200. I will say that I'm pretty impressed with Epson's service and would still recommend them to anyone looking to buy a printer.