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.