Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: Logitech Harmony PS3 Adapter

I find it really annoying that I have to spend $50 on a single-function machine to control my PS3 with my Harmony when Sony could have spent an extra $0.25 per unit to add an IR receiver to the PS3. Argh. Anyway, the Harmony PS3 Adapter just works. It's easy to set up and does what it says. It's just way too expensive, and the concept of needing this in the first place... well, you already get my point. If you have a PS3 and a Harmony, this thing is, unfortunately, essential.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review: Roku SD

I bought my girlfriend, among other things, a Roku SD for Xmas. I had a chance to play with it for a few hours yesterday. I streamed a few Netflix titles and a few Revision3 shows. I have to say that I'm VERY impressed with this little box. It just works. The shows stream in great quality video and audio. The user interface is intuitive and attractive. The remote is simple, accurate and responsive. The content, while somewhat limited now, has room for expansion, which is inevitable. If Roku got Hulu on this thing, it would be unstoppable. XBMC might be nice too. The only downside is the rewind and fast forward functions. When performing these, you cannot see the video move accordingly, i.e. a blind rewind. This stinks, but is easily correctable with a firmware update. All in all, the Roku is a great buy. It should score very highly in S.A.F., or Spousal Acceptance Factor. Give it a try, you  won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boxee (Alpha) for Windows

Boxee (Alpha) for Windows is probably the best free streaming media application out there. Nowhere else will you find Digg, Revision3, Hulu, Netflix, NPR, Comedy Central, Apple Trailers, Pandora,, etc. all in one place. If it's good streaming content, it's on Boxee. Originally for modded Apple TV units, this app is now available for all Windows, Mac and Linux. There are video channels, music channels, and picture channels as well. I tried it out for the first time last night. Wow. The interface is clean and easy to use. The video quality is great. The sheer amount of content available is enough to quench anyone's entertainment appetite. I liked it so much that I immediately installed it on my netbook as well. Boxee is perfect for travelers who either miss their favorite shows, or need PC based entertainment because that's all there is. Ah, if only it was available for modded Xboxes. One can only dream...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Followup: Google Video Chat

So I've been using Google Video Chat with my girlfriend for the better part of a year. We use it every couple weeks or so. Now that I've figured out how to use it exactly how I want, I can safely say that it's a great free video chat solution. I never have any issues with video quality or dropouts or audio. It just works. I strongly recommend it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Top 10 Electronic Devices I Own

10. Sony PCM-M1 DAT w/ CSBs

In my more formative years, I was very interested in recording concerts, specifically of bands that I liked the most. The best thing you could use before flash memory came out was the Sony PCM-M1 DAT Walkman. It can record at 16-bit/48KHz and is small enough to fit in your pocket. Pair that with some clip-on binaural mics, like my Core Sound Binaurals, and you can make some fine bootlegs. My concert appetite has mellowed recently, hence my bootlegging appetite has as well, but I did make some fine recordings with this thing. Even though it's obsolete, I can't bring myself to sell it.

9. Linksys WRT54G w/ DD-WRT

Out of the box, the Linksys WRT54G is a damn fine router, but add the open souce firmware DD-WRT to it, and it becomes the best and most versatile router within $300. Most useful to me is the wired or wireless network bridge functionality. I still use mine every day.

8. Panasonic TH-42PZ85U Plasma HDTV

I bought my TH-42PZ85U without having seen it in person, instead relying on online reviews. I really do love this TV, especially for what I paid for it. If it didn't have horrible phosphor trails in black and white scenes, it would be perfect. Other than that, it's superb for TV and movies.

7. Onkyo TX-SR606 Receiver

With only one minor flaw, this reciever is the best bang for the buck sub-$1000. It has four HDMI ports, 1080p pass-thru and decodes every type of audio codec, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA. It's last year's model, but I can't see needing anything else from a receiver for a decade.

6. Oppo DV-980H

Before Blu-ray, this was THE all-in-one disc player. It plays DVD, DVD-A, and SACD, and scales to 1080p like a dream. NTSC and PAL both work great. If you have no desire or money to go Blu, get this. Your DVD collection will never be obsolete.

5. Logitech Harmony 550

I have almost a dozen devices in my living room that require remote controls. The Harmony rules them all. I honestly don't know what I would do without it. Sure, there are newer and more expensive models than the 550, but it does everything and does it well. You need one.

4. Asus Eee PC 901

Ah, the 901. I was an early adopter. I really and truly love this netbook. Short of HD video, it does everything I need it to, has a 6 hour battery, and weighs 2.5 lbs. Webcam, mic, speakers, Bluetooth, Wifi. Runs XP and Windows 7 perfectly (except Windows Media center). Of course, I have to mention that I added a Runcore SSD to the thing, and without it, the 901 moves like mud. If you like th 9-inch form factor, one of these can be had on the cheap. Add a Runcore SSD, and the thing will fly.

3. PlayStation3 w/ Media Server

I got a PS3 last year for Xmas. It is the best Blu-ray player around, it's a solid gaming platform, and with the free PS3 Media Center suite for PC, it streams all my HD videos with full surround, basically all but eliminating my need for an HTPC.

2. FiOS w/ HD-DVR

FiOS is the best TV service in the USA. Best video quality, best channels. I thought I was going to have to spend $600 on an HTPC in order to record HDTV. The FiOS HD-DVR (QIP6416-2) has great video quality, easy use, and intelligent seeking. I love it. I just need more storage.

1. Modded Xbox running XBMC

My Xbox has been very good to me. What do I do with it, you ask? I have my entire music, video and picture libraries on it for couch-based enjoyment. I have 16 vintage console emulators running approximately 10,000 games. I can watch streaming TV shows. Apple movie trailers, too. No machine can do all this so well. I also have a Xir installed for ease of use with my Harmony remote. Thanks XBMC.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eee PC 701SD with a Touchscreen

A few months ago, I picked up an Eee PC 701SD from for a scant $120 shipped. Yeah, it only has a 900 MHz CPU and a 8GB SSD, but it runs XP well. The price is not a bad deal for ANY complete PC, I'd say. But what to do with it? I already have a customized Eee PC 901 that I love. I take the 901 with me wherever and whenever I need to compute away from home. Since my mobile needs are already being met, I decided that this 701SD will be my project machine. The first mod I'd try would be a touchscreen. I found a nice one on for $35 with free shipping. The catch is that most items from this site ship from Hong Kong. That means that it took 3 1/2 weeks to arrive to me on the east coast of the US. A bit long for my liking, but oh well. What arrived was a 7" touchscreen and a combo USB hub and touch controller, along with various cables. No instructions or drivers were provided, but they were easy enough took look up on the net. It took me about 2 hours of total labor to install and configure. Basically plug and play.

I have to say that I'm rather impressed with what I recieved for $35. The touchscreen works as advertised, and the driver software has a nice config tool. It just works. A machine like this would cost hundreds if I bought it in a store. I built it for $155. The only cosmetic issue is that the bezel bulges slightly around the screen and on the side. No big deal. Also, using a stylus is better than your finger for precision computing. Having said that, this machine would do very well in any number of applications in home or workplace scenarios. Overall, I'm happy with it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Verizon FiOS HD-DVR

In an attempt to find the perfect HDTV recording solution, I bit the bullet recently and ordered Verizon's HD-DVR solution for FiOS, the Motorola QIP6416-2. This is basically a standard set top box with a hard drive inside. It will record 80 hours SD or 20 hours HD, on top of the standard FiOS set top functions, like On Demand, etc. I had been using an HTPC running Windows XP Media Center Edition for recording purposes. I really loved Media Center, but my configuration only did SDTV recording, so a new solution was in order for HDTV. A comparable Windows 7 HDTV recording solution would cost $500-600. No dice. We're in a recession.

Compared to MCE, the Motorola box matches up well. It records in slightly better quality, and the scheduling is much the same. The new box has 2 tuners, so I can watch one show and record another, which I couldn't do with Windows unless I bought another tuner and rented another cable box or cablecard. The only thing that MCE has on the new box is the scheduling and searching menus are a little easier to use in Windows. FiOS' interface I find a little clunky, but not unusable.

One area definitly improved upon is power consumption. I no longer have to leave my HTPC, battery backup, and my FiOS modem on all the time, so the monthly energy cost savings should be significant. It may even pay for the extra monthly cost of the FiOS box. We'll see.

The QIP6416-2 replaced the QIP7100-1 that I had been using for quite a while. The QIP7100-1 was faster in the areas of channel changing and Program Guide navigation. The IR receiving in general was better on the 7100. Oh well.

Bottom Line: If you have FiOS and an HDTV, and are on the fence about getting the DVR, get it. This box is the only truly cost effective way to record HDTV, and probably will be for a while.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Recording HDTV: What are the options?

I currently have an HTPC that records my SD content, but I'd like to be able to record HD content. I pay handsomely for it, in both hardware and content subscriptions, so why not record it? TV is now on our schedules, right? So, there are many ways of accomplishing this. They could be cheap or expensive, easy or difficult, so let's run through them.

OTA vs. Pay

If you don't wanna pay for television content, you can receive and record over-the-air digital SD and HDTV content cheaply and easily. This content is not encrypted, and there are several hardware manufacturers like Hauppauge that make ATSC tuners that record in HD. Simply build or buy a cheap PC that is capable of playing back 1080i smoothly, add a tuner/capture card, and you're all set. there are also stand-alone set-top boxes that can do this without a PC. If you pay for cable/satellite/fiber though, the solution is not so easy. In order to record your pay channels in HD, you have to use one of the methods discussed below.

Hardware: CableCard vs. HD-PVR

There are 2 ways one can record pay HD content. The first is to record from a set-top box over component cables into a device like the Hauppauge HD-PVR. This method makes use of what's called the Analog Hole. Pretty straightforward. GB-PVR, BeyondTV, SageTV support this. Windows Media Center does only through a 3rd party plugin. Content owners hate this, but oh well. We paid for the content, right? The other method is recording via a set-top box or PC containing a CableCard. This is a card fits into the back of a set-top or PC and acts as a cable box to decode channels. Windows Media Center plays well with this, as does TiVo. Providers chage a fee of a few dollars a month for this, usually the same or less than the cost of an actual box. Either option is costly for the hardware, usually > $600 plus possible monthly fees.

Box Options: TiVo vs. Provider DVR

If you chose CableCard, then you have another choice to make. You need a box. A TiVo Series 3 or TiVo HD would do the trick. The hardware is a bit high, as is the monthly fee, but it's a great solution. There are other set-top and HTPC makers that sell this type of equipment. Shop around. You could conversely rent your TV provider's DVR solution. This is a good relatively cheap solution, because you don't have to buy the box. Don't expect a lot in the way of features or reliablity though, as these devices are in their infancy.

Software: WMC vs. Other

Windows Media Center (formerly XP Media Center Edition) is probably the most popular and best DVR suite available, along with TiVo. It's got a great UI, free program guide, and just works. Windows 7 specifically has the killer version of this, with support for h264 recording. If you don't wanna go this route, get a 3rd party app like GB-PVR, BeyondTV, SageTV. You might have to pay a subscription fee for the program guide, depending on who you go with.


Since I have Verizon FiOS, I'm going to wait for the next firmware update for the current generation of FiOS DVRs, which currently seem buggy and unreliable, before I take the plunge. This seems to be the cheapest and easiest, although not the best, way of recording my HD content.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My New Toy: Asus Eee PC 701SD

I got this from for $120 shipped. Not bad, eh? Yeah, it's only 900MHz, but I did upgrade the RAM to 1GB. The 8GB SSD is slow for writes but not bad for reads. I can always upgrade it if necessary. I'm running some benchmarks on it now. I'm trying to find decent jukebox software so that I can possibly turn this thing into a touchscreen jukebox. If not, I'll probably sell it on ebay or something. It's a decent computing experience overall. Flash runs smooth in full screen. The internal speakers are ok. The screen is obviously small, but I don't think it's annoying. I might try and run Windows 7 on it. Stay tuned for the benchmarks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

XP vs. Windows 7 RTM on the Eee PC 901

In a previous installment, I posted some preliminary benchmarks for Windows 7 RC vs. XP. Based on the feedback I received, it seems that people are interested in this sort of thing, so I thought I'd continue with it. I recently got a hold of the RTM (release to manufacturing) build of Windows 7 Ultimate, so here goes.

As previous, I'm dual booting XP and 7 across a Runcore 32GB SSD (PATA) on the 901 for ease of comparison, and because I wasn't ready to stop using XP altogether on my 901 because it runs really well and I'm very happy with it. This 901 has 2GB RAM (up from 1GB stock). Installed is the 2103 BIOS (official) that fixes the black screen video issue in Windows 7. Windows 7 RTM default drivers are installed except for ACPI (from Asus) and Aero is enabled. SuperHybridEngine is installed and set to Super High Performance mode for both. XP has all the latest official drivers running. Both have all Windows Updates installed. PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0 was used for the PassMark scoring.


Windows 7 RTM seems to have closed the performance gap quite a bit on XP in the latest build, especially in the areas of CPU and Memory benchmarks. My results last round did not have SHE enabled in the Windows 7 side, so that might explain it. Plus I'm using a different PassMark version. SSD performace is still great on Win7, which is very good to hear. What I take away from this is that XP is overall going to give a user the better Windows Experience of the two, but Windows 7 is now a viable netbook OS.

Coming up next... XP vs. Windows 7 on the Eee PC 701SD.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

XP vs. Windows 7 on the Eee PC 901

I recently started playing around with Windows 7 on my Asus Eee PC 901. I had read that I could get it running smoothly if I upgraded the 901 to 2GB RAM, and since I was already running an upgraded RunCore SSD, I figured I'd invest $20 or so and give it a go. I'm actually very impressed with the performance of Windows 7 on my netbook. More on that later.

I thought people might find it useful to see a few performance benchmarks comparing Windows XP to Windows 7. Windows 7 seems to be the proper heir to XP, as most IT professionals and end users have written off Vista as crap. I'm dual booting XP and 7 across a Runcore 32GB SSD (PATA) on the 901 for ease of comparison, and because I wasn't ready to stop using XP altogether on my 901 because it runs really well and I'm very happy with it.

These benchmarks are not scientific. They are merely presented as a rough guide to how XP and Win7 run on a netbook. This 901 has 2GB RAM (up from 1GB stock). Installed is the 2103 BIOS (official) that fixes the black screen video issue in Windows 7. Windows 7 RC default drivers are installed except for video (Intel Vista drivers) and Aero is enabled. XP has all the latest official drivers running. Both have all Windows Updates installed. PassMark PerformanceTest 6.1 was used for the PassMark scoring.


Windows 7 actually shows modest gains on XP in SSD performance. This wasn't surprising, given the press coverage that has been dedicated to this very topic. However, this is where Windows 7's dominance ends. XP bests it in every other measurable way on the 901. Having said that, I really like Windows 7. It just feels right. It has all the new bells and whistles that we've been clamouring for from Microsoft for years. The included update of Windows Media Center is great. If I was forced to, I could switch over to 7 from XP without losing my mind. Thankfully, I'm not.

Monday, June 29, 2009

PS3 Media Server Continued...

My initial reaction to the PS3 Media Server has been right on so far. I tried streaming a variety of HD-encoded movies to my PS3 over wired and wireless connections. Only videos with the lowest HD bitrates will stream seamlessly over 802.11g, which makes perfect sense. G-woreless does not have the bandwitdth for that amount of data. 802.11n might work, but I don't have any N-based equipment to test on. The wired connection, however, streamed like a dream. This is a 100Base-T connection, not gigabit. I was able to stream every movie I had without hiccups, including an uncompressed Blu-ray rip, complete with 5.1 surround, which I'm pretty sure was the Dolby lossless primary audio track. All in all, very impressive. I should add that proper decoding/demuxing for streaming requires a newer PC to do the heavy lifting. I have a Core 2 Duo (3 GHz)-based system that decodes/demuxes an uncompressed Blu-ray using 75% CPU. Hardware a bit lesser than this should work fine, but not to much lower. If your living room is lacking an HD streamer, but not a PS3, and you have PC with newer hardware, then PS3 Media Server is where it's at.

Friday, June 26, 2009

PS3 Media Server: Streaming HD at last!!!

I've had a PlayStation 3 since December. While I enjoy watching Blu-ray movies on it, I'll admit I don't use it for much else, as I'm not a huge gamer. The game that I play the most is Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and that's a vintage remake and a download. Torrent sites are flush with HD rips of movies and TV shows, but my HTPC is standard definition only at this point. I've been looking for a way to stream these downloads to my HDTV wirelessly with minimal hassle. Enter PS3 Media Server. This is exacly what I was looking for. PMS (an unfortunate acronym, I know) allows me to stream any HD content from my PC to my PS3 with minimal overhead in perfect quality, including surround sound. I highly recommend this for all HD streaming. Setup is a snap. I haven't tried to stream very high bitrate stuff yet, like a lossless Blu-ray rip. I have a feeling that my existing Wireless-G setup will choke on it, but we'll see. A more through review is coming soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Move over, Zotac. ASRock is here.

TweakTown reviewed the coming soon ASRock Ion 330-BD nettop system. This seems to be a nice alternative to my having to build a Zotac Mini-ITX system for a homebrew HD video recorder/streamer. If I can buy something off the shelf that meets my needs, I totally would and do. My previous and current desktop systems are ASRock-based, and they're an Asus brand, which definitely counts for something. Expectations are high here. Overclocking is no big thing with this unit, and power consumption is way low. No word on Flash video performance, though. Not a huge deal, but I'd like to see it. I bet overclocking this thing to 2.1GHz alleviates much of the stutter issue. Anyway, we're waiting for a more thorough review(s).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blu-ray ISO's are the way to go.

I recently built a new PC for general use. It's the first Blu-ray capable PC I've ever owned, and man, is it sweet. I have a PlayStation 3 already, and since I enjoy the HD movie experience so much, I thought I'd try my hand at ripping a Blu-ray movie. My goal is to preserve the entire disc in full quality via the .iso format, just as I'm accustomed to doing with DVDs. This is very easy to do with AnyDVD HD. It's basically a 2-click solution. The question remains though: how does one playback a Blu-ray .iso file? PowerDVD 9 Ultra, the king of software Blu-ray playback, won't touch it. Nor will VLC. Enter a freeware solution: Virtual CloneDrive. Brought to you by SlySoft, the makers of AnyDVD. This software allows one to mount a virtual optical drive from any .iso file, including Blu-ray rips. Awesome. PowerDVD plays very nicely with a virtual drive. So there you go. But can you stream it? Don't know. Haven't tried. I actually don't have the means to test that one out at the moment. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Streaming Videos to the Wii

After having successfully hacked a Wii a couple weeks ago, I managed to get wireless video streaming working as well last night. I was able to stream just about every movie file format (with the exception of a DVD .iso file) from a Vista PC to the Wii over wifi. The app I used was MPlayer CE, available via the Homebrew Channel. Not too shabby. Mplayer supports Windows shares, which makes life easy. Video quality was adequate. It would be improved significantly if we were using the Wii component cables. For those looking for a way to view downloaded movies and TV on your Wii from a PC, this is currently the best way that I've seen. There are other media streamers that work with the Wii, like Orb, but they require transcoding to Flash, which degrades video quality significantly and takes extra CPU cycles.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Hacked a Wii

Last night, I managed to successfully hack a Nintendo Wii for the first time. By that, I mean I installed the Homebrew Channel via the Bannerbomb (google it) exploit. I really underestimated the maturity and sophistication of this hack. Simply loading a few files on an SD card unlocked the full potential of the Wii. The Homebrew Channel has downloadable utilities, homebrew games, emulators, media players, and every other doodad that you wished the Wii legitimately had. It couldn't be easier to use. If you have a Wii, I highly suggest you consider modding it like this. I was so impressed that I might actually have to buy a Wii myself.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Atom/Ion Mini-ITX w/ DC 90W? YEE-HAW!!!

Big news. Hothardware (and others) has a review of the new Zotac IONITX-A Mini-ITX motherboard. This beauty has the Atom 330 and the Nvidia Ion integrated graphics chipset for maximum HD 1080p awesomeness. As of now, this has dethroned the Eee Box B208 as my next PC/HTPC. To summarize, this board will do HD video and audio, 802.11n wifi, and has all the ports you'd ask for. And FANLESS!!! Granted, it'll get pretty hot if not properly ventilated, but still. I read elsewhere that maximum power consumption is < 50W!!! All hail the new king of HTPCs.

Only one question remains: what case do I put it in?

Friday, May 8, 2009

The future of digital content

At this point in time, the Internet is the Wild West of entertainment. Anything goes. There are no real rules to speak of. Anyone with a computer can download any book, magazine, newspaper, software, movie, song, album, TV show, etc. in any quality they want for free. While it's not completely obvious about how to do this, especially for the non-tech savvy laymen and laywomen, anyone willing to put a little time into it can figure out how to get whatever they want pretty quickly. This is a major problem for media creators, distributors, and, yes, consumers, even the ones downloading illegally.

Content owners have no way of policing the Internet for copyright infringement. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) don't either. So, how are the the content owners and creators going to get paid for their work so that they can continue creating/distibuting content if anyone can get everything for free right now? As I see it, there is really only one way: Everyone pays a little. All the digital content owners and creators, from the big guys to the individuals, are going to have to come together with ISPs, world leaders, and consumers in order to come up with a fair way of charging everyone with an Internet connection some small amount, which then gets distributed amongst the content owners and distributors, again, in some fair way. In exchange for this fee, the consumers get to download/keep/stream/redistribute anything and everything out there, sort of like an unlimited Netflix/iTunes/Kindle subscription. We would have powerful devices in our home hooked up to our TVs/stereos, and handheld devices for the road that are capable of accessing every digital anything ever. Storage shouldn't be an issue either, because eventually we'll all be streaming everything live. Imagine if you lost your iPod. Yeah, you'd have to buy another one, but you'd never lose any content. It's always all there. In the clouds.

Unless we all come together to discuss a solution like this, then we'll soon be forced to realize the hard truth that no one is going to get paid what they deserve for the content that they've created.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eee Box B206 reviewed. Verdict: Meh.

UK site Register Hardware has a review up for the Eee Box B206. Leading up to this point, the B206 was supposed to be the first killer nettop because of its discrete HD graphics. Apparently it handles 720p sometimes and 1080p never. Lame. Asus, why did you ship this thing with an HDMI if you can't play full HD vids on it? Did you not know that the entire geek world has been clamoring for this since forever? To play devil's advocate, VLC and Quicktime do not offload to video cards, so the CPU does all the heavy lifting. If all video apps supported this, we might be saying 720p rules on the B206. Well, hopefully the B208 packs a little more punch when it's released.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yet another 901 use: HD Audio Recorder

As I've written about many times, my Asus Eee PC 901 is about the best and most useful tech toy I ever bought. I use it for checking email and surfing the web from the road. I watch (standard definition) movies on it in perfect quality. I use XBMC to stream my music collection anywhere in my apartment, including to my bedroom stereo. I play emulated old school video games on it. Recently I found another use for it: recording HD audio. I tested out the line/mic 1/8" input on the 901 for recording audio at 24-bit/96KHz by sending it some high-quality flac recordings I had laying around. The results were so good, I couldn't even tell the difference between the original source and the recording. Even though it might seem like a measly analog stereo input, the 901 is packing the Realtek ALC662 audio chipset. This chipset can capture and decode HD audio like a champ. This is great for podcasting, recording lectures, or for recording concerts, assuming you can get the 901 in the door. If you're considering a netbook purchase and haven't looked at the 901, do yourself a favor and give it a look.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My next project: Wind Power

I bought a Thermor BIOS Wireless Weather Station For PC the other day from Should be delivered today. The goal is to set this puppy up on top of my buddy's garage in order to determine if there is enough wind to feasibly power the meager electrical needs of his garage. This includes (for now) a few light bulbs, and maybe a radio and saw. All I need is this, a PC, and 3 months worth of patience to collect data. Assuming it works, this is the first step of my master plan to become familiar enough about wind power systems that I might be able to make some money doing related contract work in my community. Stay tuned for more as this develops.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eee Box B208: It's BACK!!! Woo-hoo!!!

Oh happy day. Asus re-announced the PC I've been waiting for: the Eee Box B208. No word yet on price or availability, but they seem to have updated the specs:

The only thing that looks different from before is that the B208 does not have an internal UPS (battery backup). While this is pretty lame, I have to say that I'm pretty excited about the impending release of this machine, and the clones that are sure to follow from other manufacturers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Uh, maybe not.

Tax Day came and went, but neither the Eee Box B204 nor B206 was released in the U.S. So much for taking Asus at their word. Stay tuned for more on this.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eee Box B204/B206 U.S. Release Date: April 15

Looks like eco-nerds in America will actually have something to celebrate on Tax Day this year. I called Asus' US Sales department and asked them when the Eee Box B204/B206 will be released. Their answer: April 15. Finally. No word on price, though. This gets the ball rolling for nettops with HD graphics chipsets. Asus is once again ahead of the game. I'm probably going to hold out for their nettop with a 330 dual core chip (B208?). Either way, hooray for Asus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Atom 330: The future of Green PC's.

My Asus Eee PC 901 is the first Intel-based system that I've ever owned (all others were AMD-based). As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm more that pleased with the amount of punch the 901 packs with such a tiny carbon footprint. By that I mean that it sips electricity instead of gulping it like other larger notebooks. The 901 is powered by the Atom N270, the most common chip in netbooks today. What this chip can accomplish with 4W of power is staggering. Even though the N270 netbooks use the crappy GMA 950 graphics chipset and slow hard drives or solid state drives (upgradable), I'm still digging them.

Sometime this year, the netbooks and nettops of the world will be transitioning from the N270 to the Atom 330 (8W power consumption), which is, for all intents and purposes, a dual core N270. This means that low-power, or green, systems will be on par with some desktops with regard to overall throughput. While this is rather rad in and of itself, many vendors like Asus and Dell plan on combining the 330 with a discreet graphics chipset like the new Nvidia Ion or the ATI HD 3000 or 4000 series. Oh my. That means that we can have green PC's with twice the CPU power and 10 TIMES the graphics muscle, AKA full 1080P video decoding, AND 10 TIMES less power consumption than a full size desktop, at a miniscule price? Wow. It's gonna be a good summer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Future Touchscreen Jukebox: Eee Top

We all have dreams. One of mine is to have a touchscreen jukebox hanging on the wall of a room where I'm hosting a party. Just like in so many bars. This particular dream of mine came one step closer to reality a short while ago when Asus released the Eee Top. (Side note: Asus, in my opinion, is second only to Apple in the amount of original, innovative and downright amazing PC-related devices released in the last couple years. Keep up the good work, Asus.) The plan is thus: get one of these beauties and install any one of a number of touchscreen jukebox programs so that my future party guests can boogie down to their own soundtrack, ensuring good times and smiling faces.

At less than $600 (and sure to fall quickly), one can have an all-in-one XP touchscreen machine that looks great to boot. Here's the specs:

Nice. What more can you ask for? As soon as these babies hit $300 (I'm guessing December), I'm all over it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

mp3HD: You're kidding, right?

This has to be the dumbest idea I've heard in a while. The genuises at Thomson decided that instead of audio software and device manufacturers supporting the numerous existing lossless audio codecs we have (FLAC, ALAC, WMA Lossless, etc.) in addition to mp3, that it would be a good idea to take mp3s and their lossless counterparts and COMBINE THEM into one gargantuan file! They say MAXIMUM COMPATIBILITY!

Hello? Disk space calling Thomson.

Why the hell can't device manufacturers support mp3 AND a lossless format. It doesn't really matter which lossless format. Hell, some already do support lossless, including the iPod. Computationally, to decode a lossless format, its trivial. It may suck slightly more juice than an mp3, but battery technology is only getting better. One could argue for the mp3HD format by saying that disk space is getting cheaper and that the overall size per file is not that much bigger. I'd counter that by saying that people's music collections are also growing, and a 20% increase per file adds up. We aren't carrying around terabyte disks in our pockets, OK? All this, and mp3HD requires a new plugin for PCs and a new firmware update for portables. Not compatible? FAIL FAIL FAIL!!!!

Prediction: this format sinks faster than a lead submarine.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Further proof of Logitech's Awesomeness: Harmony-to-PS3 Adapter

As reported here, Logitech is once again making my life easier. One of the downsides to owning a PlayStation 3 as I do is that the remote/controllers are bluetooth and not IR like every other remote on the planet. Well, soon this won't be a problem anymore. The little beauty you see above is an adapter that will translate IR to bluetooth for all Harmony remotes. The rumor is that it won't even require a USB port, but this seems far fetched, as USB would be a nice way to at least power the device. Either way, I once again can use 1 remote to rule them all.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Google Video Chat: It Mostly Works

I've had a Gmail account since the day Google announced them. I use it mainly as my "other" email address, and for various Google services. My girlfriend has one as well, and uses hers daily. As I've mentioned here before, I have an Asus Eee PC 901, which has, among other things, a 1.3MP webcam. My girlfriend just got an Apple MacBook Pro, which also has a webcam. I thought it would be fun/useful to try out Google's Video Chat. Especially when communicating with loved ones, sometimes the phone just doesn't cut it.

After installing a few browser plugins, and then reloading our respective browsers, we were both able to see and speak to one another. Both of our machines also have internal microphones, so there was no need for a bulky external mic for either of us. Audio was surpisingly clear for both parties. Video was a bit pixelated. This is to be expected, as my webcam's 1.3MP is not exactly stellar. Ambient light in the room where the machine is located makes all the difference. If you're in a dark room, it's hard to make out the other person. Turn on a few lights, and all is well.

The only feature that did not work for me was full screen video. It was very pixelated/blurry and often froze up, causing me to have to return to windowed mode. However, I'd say that Google Video Chat is, for the most part, very usable. It's a great free option for video chatting. Give it a try.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Asus Un-Announces Eee Box B208

Asus just destroyed my hopes and dreams for a low-powered, low-profile dual core HD HTPC. The listing for the Eee Box B208 has disappeared from their site. Hopefully, this won't be a permanent deletion. Asus, if you're listening, give the people what the want, ney NEED.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My future HD DVR: Asus Eee Box B208

Asus just announced this wonderful little toy a couple days ago. Frankly, I've been waiting for a PC like this for a long time. There are several Eee Boxes on the market, but they're pretty low-end for everyday desktop usage. The newly annouced B208 has the following specs (from

Wow. Where do I start? Finally, something that I can use to stream 1080p HD content into my living room. And at 36W, it draws 90% less power than either of my existing low-end frankenstein systems. AND I can finally get rid of my power-sucking UPS units. If this things steps in below the $500 price point, I may buy two. This is, of course, assuming that it passes 1080p benchmarks upon release. It even comes with a remote. I love you, Asus.