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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Logitech Harmony 550: One remote to rule them all!

Most people have more than just a TV and cable box in their living rooms. Most have some combination of a stereo, TiVo/DVR, video game console(s), DVD player, etc. Each of these devices undoubtedly comes with its own remote. I personally had 7 remotes at one point. One day I decided that 7 remotes was for the birds and that I need a universal remote. I didn't want to spend a lot, and I wanted a device that I could use in the dark and that would be future proof. Enter the Logitech Harmony 550. Let me say, firstly, that I love Logitech. They're famous for making keyboards and mice for PC's. Their products are high in quailty and usability and low in price. They have yet to let me down. So, it made perfect sense to look at their remote controls as well. Across the net, you'll find very few bad reviews of the 550 remote. It supports literally every IR device ever made, and comes with software that is updated daily for new devices. It is very easy to program, as the software is designed for novices and pros alike. It uses "activites" to combine commands in order to achieve some functional result, like "turn on TV, then cable, then Tivo, in that order." It has a backlit display and buttons for night use. It has customizable buttons that you can map to any 1 command or series of commands for any items(s). In short, there is nothing you can't do with this thing. It controls my TV, DVR, Receiver, DVD Player, Xbox, PS3, and Cable Box. Put 4 rechargable AAA's in it and never buy remote batteries again. Logitech makes more expensive versions of this remote with many more bells and whistles, but this one is really all you need. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mac OS X "Leopard" on the Asus EeePC 901?

I'm not a huge Mac fan. I find their software to be limiting and overly simplistic and their hardware way overpriced. That being said, there are certain things that Macs do well. Anything dealing with multimedia, for one. So, I thought it would be a fun project to see if I could get Mac OS X running on my favorite toy, my EeePC 901. Apparently, I'm not alone. The interwebs are chock full of tutorials about how to do this. The guide that I used, which I found to be the most comprehensive, is EEEmac. I obtained a "Leopard" retail disc via the usual channels, and simply followed the guide. You can see the results in the above images.

Overall, the process was a success. Software-wise, everything is fully operational. OS X is (un)officially running on my 901. I have the OS running on a 32GB RunCore SSD drive, so its pretty damn fast. Hardware is a different story. The system doesn't always shutdown, boot, or wake up correctly. Lots of holding down the power button involved. The camera and ethernet are not working yet (no drivers). There is a Unix (FreeBSD) ethernet driver here, but porting it to Mac is outside my scope.

So, I have a Mac netbook. Sounds weird. I may try it out for a couple weeks. I can't see ditching XP altogether, though. I really can't understand why Apple has yet to release a netbook. They'd sell a million of them on the first day. There is currently and will be a market for the netbook form factor for years to come. Smarten up, Apple. Get with the times.