Category Archives: Gadgets

PC’s, audio/video, GPS, Cell phones, motion switches, spycams … the list is endless.

OfficeMax’s ElfYourself.com partners with jibjab

Read the full story: NOTE … now open for business at elfyourself.com

This Christmas, OfficeMax’s ElfYourself.com Will Get a JibJab Twist

From Tech Crunch:

“A year ago, one of the surprise holiday breakout hits on the Web was ElfYourself.com. It was a promotional viral video site created by OfficeMax that let people upload their pictures and create dancing elves that they could then send as e-cards to family and friends. ElfYourself turned out to be the fastest growing site last December, peaking at 39 million unique visitors in the U.S. (and attracting a total of 100 million unique visitors worldwide throughout the campaign).

When Greg Spiridellis, CEO of JibJab Media, saw ElfYourself, it resonated with him because JbJab is organized around a similar series of “Starring You” videos that allow people to upload their photos so that they can star in the videos, and send them as digital cards.”

News Flash – Hulu and Netflix play directly to your TV – Popcorn Hour and MediaMall Playon

Popcorn hour a110 … its a networked media tank, a NAS, A UPNP server, a samba server, a media server, a NFS server, a Bitorent client, an NZB client and an energy saver to boot.

So my Popcorn hour a110 came in last week and I’ve been having tons of fun playing with it.

I have a netgear digital entertainer hd eva8000 (about $300) which has some similar features to the popcorn hour box… that is it’s HD, you can stream movies and music and pictures from attached usb drives or network shares , watch youtube and get some internet news feeds etc. Its great but there are some major differences …

1. You have to run software from a PC
2. No internal storage
2. No Hulu and Netflix
4. No using it as a nas
5. No nzb downloads
6. No Bitorrent client
7. Not much web content

The Popcorn Hour doesn’t need to have a PC running, you can add a internal hard drive or not. You get much more functionality when you do.

You can add more than 1 usb external drive.

Without a PC you can plug in a usb drive and hook the supplied hdmi cable to your TV and watch your movies or listens to music or view pictures. Add a drive and you can install all the extra provided software ..

You get:
A universal plug and play server which will usually automatically find any shared network stuff ( like my windows home server)

A samba server so you can connect the internal drive to your PC … map the drive on your pc and use it as a NAS or just copy over movies to play directly on the popcorn hour. To connect your popcorn hour to your PC (in vista) click start and type //192.168.0.190 (or whatever ip address you popcorn is using) hit enter and you will get a login box asking for a username and password … which by default is nmt for username and 1234 for password. In xp I think its start, run and then type.

•Right click on the “share” folder. You can see one option as “Map Network Drive”. Left click on that.
•Select the drive label you want to assign to the “share” folder, and click finish.

You might also use the smb server to create a network share with your nas or windows home server. If you have a windows home server then on the popcorn hour click setup then network shares then add

Share name videos

url smb://server/videos

username any username you already set up on the server

password the password you setup on the server for the above username

You can do the same for the folders photos and music . You’ll then see those listed under source on your popcorn hour.

An NFS server … another way of connecting.

An FTP server …

A Bitorrent client … just port forward 8077 on your router to the ip of your popcorn hour (note: you should also set the popcorn hour to a static ip address in the network menu on the popcorn hour.) and drop or save torrent files to the torrent folder on the popcorn hour drive you mapped to your pc earlier. You can manage the torrent downloads from your browser. http://192.168.0.182:8883/torrent/bt.cgi

An NZB app … if you have a usenet news server account just open the .nzbget folder on your popcorn hour drive and edit nzbget.conf file in notepad and change the newsgroup section replacing server1 info with your =news server, your =user name, your =password and save the file.

# Host-name of newsserver
server1.host=news.powerusenet.com
# Port to connect to (default 119 if not specified)
server1.port=119
# Username to use for authentication
server1.username=blahblah@mail.com
# Password to use for authentication
server1.password=12345678# Maximal number of simultaneous connections to this server
server1.connections=4#

After you’re done just drop or download an nzb to the nzb folder on the popcorn hour drive and boom its downloading to the download folder … even unrar’s the files.

Has youtube and other web content and saya tv .. I was not too interested in those .. but what really struck my fancy was a separate download – mediamalls playon. You install it on your pc and it acts as a server that lets you play Hulu and Netflix directly to your TV. QUITE AWESOME!!!!!!!!

So all that stuff I tryed … except nfs and ftp. Worked perfectly .. downloaded a torrent no problem. Downloaded an nzb and unrared no problem. Watched movies from windows home server shared drive, shared drive on the pc perfect … Played some music, watched some picture slide shows also perfect.

Now the popcorn hour is not as easy to setup as the Netgear hd Entertainer eva8000 and the popcorn hour doesn’t have the fancy pictures and movies descriptions you add with tags in the Netgear either. BUT you can add them . There’s a program called my Yet another Movie Jukebox that creates a movies catalog for you automatically with details and pictures from IMDB. Of course as you probably know you the movie you search for on IMDB may be another movie with the same or similar name so there are some drawbacks to the completely automated option.

Also check out My lil Movie Jukebox and a demo of it . My lil jukebox creates its pages from a neat program call Movie Collector which is not free but I already had it so …. Its has a lot more control of the data and you not only get cover pics and imdb details and ratings, but actors links and bio’s.

So that’s where I am right now .. This ain’t a box for your granny … but if you’re halfway intelligent you can figure it out and there are lots of great links on the popcorn hour group on Geeks.

Everything works perfectly playing from the popcorn but I am still working on getting the my lil movie jukebox add on program to play the links from my windows home server share. I’ll keep you posted as I progress.

2 days later

Okay .. here is my update on getting My Lil Movie Jukebox working on the Popcorn Hour A110 using media files on the windows home server.

Before you read any further you should be aware that one of the programs required to run My Lil Movie Jukebox is Movie Collector Pro which is not freeware. If you have a lot of movies … I have 500 .. you can expect to spend several hours using the program to grab photos and data about your movies and creating links to the actual movie files where ever they reside. There are other programs that will create a jukebox and try to populate the data from imdb automatically … Personally I would rather have the correct details and the added control you get from Movie Collector.

The My Lil Movie Jukebox has an extensive details page on how to use it. You should read it . Some of the setup details were incomplete and didn’t work for me with windows home server and the export app would not let me change the play button icons … but once I got it to install correctly I would say its pretty nice.

Another note before I describe how I got it to work with windows home server … about the Movie Collector export settings … while experimenting with different paths and going back to export again I found I had to reset the file to index.htm and the template to nmt.

The main page for My Lil Movie Jukebox has all these links below … I just put them here for convenience.

Download Movie Collector Pro and choose the default install

Download the My Lil Movie Jukebox software and unzip to the movie collector templates folder in your my documents folder

Download the Irfanview program file and choose the default install.

Download the ImageMagick program and choose the default install.

How to get My Lil Movie Jukebox and Popcorn Hour NMT to work with Windows Home Server.

You should be running the NMT software samba server and the Upnp server on you Popcorn Hour. You should have the drive on your popcorn hour mapped to a drive letter on your PC.

When I tried initially the Upnp server found the server:1: windows media connect and you could browse the folders and play the files from the popcorn hour but that won’t help you with the My Lil Movie Jukebox setup.

The Network Shares in setup showed nothing. You can manually add a network share or browse and add a network share. Browsing there I could see SERVER but clicking on it brought the infamous “no content found”. You can manually add an smb share and it will add a source where you can browse your shared folders and play your files but the link it created would not work with My Little Movie Jukebox export.

The solution is …. login to your windows home server go to users and enable guest with no password. Make sure Guest has the rights for Videos, Photos and Music. After you do that go to setup and network shares and click browse .. now when you browse to SERVER you will see the shared folders. Click on Videos leave the name blank … you don’t have to use Guest as user here you can use any name and password that is setup on your whs. I used Guest no password.

Below is what the export looked like. On the Windows Home Server in Videos I have 4 folders inside the Videos folder … Favorites, TV, new, and Movies which has 2 sub folders, grade a and grade b. I have the shared folder Videos mapped as Z:\ I used all the default settings in export except I chose to show title below image, and I took out the last 4 filters. enjoy

Drive Location = Y:\
Copy Resources? = YES

My PC Location 1 = Z:\Videos\Favorites\
My NMT Location 1 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Favorites/

My PC Location 2 = Z:\Videos\Movies\grade a\
My NMT Location 2 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Movies/grade a/

My PC Location 3 = Z:\Videos\Movies\grade b\
My NMT Location 3 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Movies/grade b/

My PC Location 4 = Z:\Videos\new\
My NMT Location 4 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/new/

My PC Location 5 = Z:\Videos\TV\
My NMT Location 5 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/TV/

******** INDEX SECTION *************

MovieIndex = index
Movies per page = 091
Index Background = background.jpg

Movie Columns = 7
Thumbnail height = 195
Thumbnail padding = 6

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B
Captions? = YES

Thumbnail Cleanup? = YES
Irfanview Folder = C:\Program Files\IrfanView

ImageMagick Convert = YES
ImageMagick Folder = C:\Program Files\ImageMagick-6.4.2-Q8

******** DETAILS SECTION *************

Details Background = AllBlack.jpg
Image File Ext. = png
Display Movie Back = NO
Cover Image Height = 500

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B

Play (not selected) = play1.png
Play (selected) = play_selected1.png

IMDB rating = YES
Video format = YES

Show Seen It = NO
Show Cast Info = YES

Show Crew = YES
Show Actor Links = YES

Show Nav Top = YES
Show Nav Bottom = NO

******** ACTOR SECTION *************

Actor Background = Movies1.jpg
Copy Actors Folder = YES
Perform Actor Export = YES

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B

Actor Movie Columns = 6
Actor Cover Height = 230

******** FILTERS SECTION *************

# Filters to Export = 16
Main Index Title = Movie Index

Filter 101 = Action Action Movies
Filter 102 = Adventure Adventure Movies
Filter 103 = Animation Animation Movies
Filter 104 = Comedy Comedies
Filter 105 = Crime Crime Movies
Filter 106 = Drama Dramas
Filter 107 = Family Family Movies
Filter 108 = Fantasy Fantasy Movies
Filter 109 = Horror Horror Movies
Filter 110 = Musical Musicals

Filter 111 = Mystery Mysteries
Filter 112 = Romance Romance / Romantic Comedies
Filter 113 = SciFi Science Fiction Movies
Filter 114 = Thriller Thrillers
Filter 115 = War War Movies
Filter 116 = Western Westerns

You can buy the a100 Popcorn Hour for $179 and the a110 for $210.

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Consumer Spending – The Winners and Losers!

What will consumers be cutting you ask? Non-essential items are the 1st to go.

When the money is tight budgets have to be cut and with 42% of the population making less than $25,000 a year these are the items to observe.

Landline Phones – Consumers with landline phones and cellular phones will cut the landline account and keep the cell. 

VOIP– Consumers with cell phones will drop those $25 a month fees for bundled cable VOIP or Vonage in favor of cell phone only or the $20 a year MagicJack VOIP or Skype.

Cell Phone PlansSprint’s SERO $30 a month plan including data and voice will look much better to those paying $60 – $100 a month

Cable TV – Consumers will move to internet video on the TV in a big way … dropping their $55 a month cable TV bill in favor of no bill. Media from the PC and the internet are going directly to the TV these days with the Popcorn Hour, Xbox, Netgear’s eva8000 Digital Entertainer, Sling and many others streaming Hulu and Netflix etc. … the internet is now a giant set of rabbit ears for your free TV.

Cable Internet – wait … before you say “HUH … nobody will be giving up broadband, but they will be giving up the $50 a month cable broadband bill with bandwidth cap in favor a $25 a month DSL bill with no cap (if they can get DSL their area). In fact more people will signup for DSL internet access just for the TV and shopping savings.

8 Cylinder Cars and Trucks – You can’t even give them away and 6 cylinders vehicles won’t fare much better. Carpooling and public transit have already seen a huge jump.  Gas mileage is now a factor in considering jobs.

Brick and mortar stores – The big box stores will do okay … online shopping will experience a massive boost because of the potential savings on tax, gas and price.  Amazon Prime membership will increase making it like a giant Costco with the convenience of home delivery at a cheaper price.  UPS and FedEx will be benefit.

Name Brand Food – Food is one of those items people can’t do without but they can change their buying habits. Many consumers won’t buy a name brand item now unless it is on sale at a price comparable to similar non brand name items. Store brands sales will increase. Luxury food items will gather dust on the shelves. Inexpensive items such as rice and pasta will fare well.

Meat – Chicken – Pork – Bacon – Ham occasionally are affordable … Beef is way too expensive – Seafood is excessively expensive.

Vegetables – Canned vegetables ok … and frozen vegetables if they are on sale – fresh vegetables are way too costly.

Grocery Items –$3.99 a gallon generic laundry detergent YES … Tide’s $15.99 a gallon laundry detergent HECK NO. In with generic toilet paper … out with Charmin (sorry Mr. Whipple).  Many products normally purchased as non food items at the grocery store will be bought at the local Dollar Tree store. (Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, baggies, aspirin, vitamins, cleaning liquids etc)

Clothing – Hello Goodwill – goodbye Macy’s.

Dining – Expect an exodus from dining out … especially for menu items over $10. McDonald’s dollar menu will thrive.

Big Stoves – No sale … existing stoves will sit unused. Energy prices will push consumers to more use of microwaves and toaster ovens.

Hot Water Heaters – A move to instant on hot water systems will bring a large energy saving. Those that do not upgrade to instant on will at least lower the thermostat to the minimum.

Window air ConditionersEnergy efficient windows units allow you to cool just the room you’re using instead of cooling the whole house with the central air. Anticipate a jump in programmable thermostats and zone systems for central units.

Tech Gadgets – The industry will thrive as consumers spend to save with technology advancements that reduce monthly bills (like cable TV and phone). Spending more time at home means more entertainment needs … benefiting PC sales, gaming, books, and software …

 

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Popcorn Hour Box – PLAYS Hulu and Netflix on your TV

A brief history first … I dropped cable about 8 months ago. Since then I have been getting video from a number of sources using technology.

I have multiple pc’s on a wired gigabit network with a Dlink draft n router. I connect to a windows home server where I have 2 terabytes of storage.  On the home server I store my digital DVD and TV show collection, my 5000+ mp3’s, and bout 12 GB of photos. I also do back ups of the pc’s.

In addition to the home server I have several external usb drives with digital media, 4 replaytv’s loaded with recorded shows, a roku box for Netflix Movies and TV shows, (its rumored Roku will add Hulu and others soon) and a Netgear Digital Entertainer HD eva8000.

With the Netgear eva8000 I can play all the media on my windows Home server and any external usb drive I attach to the eva8000 directly to my HDTV with hdmi cables. The replay attaches directly to the tv and I can play any stored shows and also transfer the shows to a PC If I want.

The Netgear eva8000 is great … it cost about$300, but there is another really awesome box called the Popcorn Hour (see the video review). Its about $200 and can do all that the eva8000 can plus a whole lot more. I ordered the popcorn hour a110 about a week ago … demand is extremely high so there a a several week wait …  next shipment date is October 15th.

Chris Pirillo started a new social site called Geeks (similar in ways to facebook). So while I was waiting to get my Popcorn Hour Box I joined Geeks and started a group there called Popcorn Hour. The purpose was to get some tips from current Popcorn users and get the most out of my box when it arrived.

Well I answered a lot of my own questions while researching links to start discussions in the group. So far I have started 13 dicussions which all include detailed information, how to’s, faq’s, forums …

Rather than repeating them all here I have included a link to the Popcorn Hour Group on Geeks. If you have the Popcorn hour I encourage you to add comments on the discussion threads there. Once I receive my box I will try to do a post including the unboxing all the way through to integration with my other video devices.

So checkout the Popcorn Hour Group for all the details and enjoy watching Netflix and Hulu on your big screen TV.

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Watch Internet TV shows on your TV for free – Here’s how!

Yep … Internet TV on your TV! Yeah … you heard me right.

I dropped Comcast’s $75 a month cable TV bill long ago.

Its really pretty simple … I put links below that list a bunch of sources for full episode mainstream TV and full length feature films that you can view legally for free on your PC.  I discuss my preferences for those later in the post … but first lets talk about how to watch the shows on your TV.

When I say free I make the assumption that you have some specific items already available. Some people’s PC video card has a 2nd VGA jack where you can plug in a 2nd monitor … most laptops do.  Also a lot of people now have an HDTV and almost all of those include a VGA connector. I got my 27″ Soyo HDTV at geeks.com for $339 delivered (sweet)  … it has lots of ports  including 3 HDMI, s-video, composite and for our purpose today a VGA port.

So … I buy a $12 15ft. VGA to VGA cable and plug it into my PC video card 2nd VGA port and my TV (its running under the rug). I buy a 12ft PC audio cable at Radio Shack and plug it into the headphone jack on the front of my  PC and the audio in jack for the TV VGA . That cable is also running under the rug (my TV and PC both accepted the regular PC audio jack plug).

Your video card will have a display manager setting (usually in the tray at the bottom right of your screen) where you select the settings for your second monitor (the TV). Your settings will vary but my options were clone desktop or extend desktop. I choose clone mode (duplicates what you see on your desktop) because I’m running mine on a laptop (its plugged for electricity and sits over in the corner) .  Since my main PC has a 27 inch monitor and is running at 1920 x 1200 resolution and the most the TV can do 1360×768 … the laptop in clone mode is more convenient that running the main PC monitor in an extended mode and dragging the browser over to the TV side and reducing the browser size to fit the lower resolution.

Now we don’t want the laptop on the coffee table so we have a wireless bluetooth mouse (about $20 with the USB bluetooth dongle) on the coffee table. You can have a wireless keyboard too but I find the mouse is enough for me and its less intrusive on the coffee table.

I suggest you put a folder on your Firefox toolbar or Internet Explorer links bar with bookmarks for each of the sites below.

It makes it a lot easier to change the channel so to speak.

You’ll find some channels work better with Internet Explorer than Firefox 3 … I’m sure that will smooth out over time.

Below are some links to content … there is much more out there on the net but I consider these to be the mainstream. All of them include stuff besides full episodes … like clips and blurbs or text about the show etc … but once you go through their site you can usually find where they keep the full episode and bookmark that page.

Ok … I like the ones listed as an aggregaters … they host shows from multiple networks which makes navigating between shows faster and easier … and I’m all about easier … trust me!  Of the aggregators Hulu.com is my favorite.

Its handy having the individual channels bookmarked too as some shows may not be on Hulu.com.

I find TBS and TNT’s DRM very intrusive … where you have to download a license before viewing each show  … I haven’t noticed it anywhere else.

VEOH and Joost (pronounced Juiced) are pretty cool interfaces but I don’t particularly care for having to install software … I have enough stuff running as it is and I don’t need to spend my time managing another applications behavior. I don’t mind The discovery Channels as much.

TidalTV even looks like cable with a program guide where you click on the show to watch it. They also have some channels I have not seen elsewhere.

Now Orb.com isn’t really a content provider … they let you stream content from a remote PC … including recorded video and live cable TV if you have a PC with a TV Tuner card and a cable outlet nearby. Now if you don’t have cable at home and maybe you gave Grandma a PC for her spare bedroom since Grandma has cable and DSL for email and sending pictures to the Grandkids … well … you might want to set Orb.com up for her so when she comes to visit she can watch cable TV (wink wink). By the way Orb can stream to your mobile phone too … at least it does on my EVDO from Sprint.

So now you’re watching TV and Movies on your TV from the internet. On my TV it looks fine … if you have a really BIG TV it may not look as good … I don’t know but I would assume. (If you have a really big TV you can probably afford cable)

ABC

The Cartoon Network

CBS

Comedy Central

CWTV

E! Online

The Discovery Channel (requires an initial download and software installation) includes Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet.

Fancast.com (aggregater)

Fox On Demand

Full length Tv Shows- Yahoo! TV (aggregater)

Hulu.com Movies (aggregater)

Hulu.com TV (aggregater)

Joost – (aggregater – requires an initial download and software installation)

Lifetime

NBC

Orb.com streams video … Watch live cable TV with channel control or recorded content from a remote PC … (hint) like maybe from that PC you put in your Grandma’s spare bedroom

Showtime

TBS – (requires firefox plugin – intrusive DRM)

Tidal TV (aggregater)

TNT (requires firefox plugin – intrusive DRM)

TVLAND

USA

VEOH – (requires an initial download and software installation – aggegater)

I have other TV and videos to watch … but not for free. The Roku Netflix Player ($99) streams Netflix TV shows and movies for an $8.95 a month subscription (you still get to order movies by mail too). I have a Windows Home Server with tons of video, music and pictures … I use that content via the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD (eva8000 … it was about $300)  … it also lets me watch YouTube videos, views news rss feeds and if you get cable you can watch live TV streamed.

I hope this information was helpful to you. I know I’ll sleep better tonight knowing my $75 a month Comcast TV cancellation will cost them $9000 over the next 10 years.

A free DVR … baloney !

How can a DVR be free?

Because Comcast tells you it free that’s how ….

Want to find out how much that “Free” DVR is actually costing you?

Find out in this Wired Magazine article!

Check it out.

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The Death of Cable TV … Net to TV … the new rabbit earstv,

Cable companies have noticed! In the pocketbook.

Yes we have been able to watch videos on our PC’s for quite a while and more recently we download TV shows from our replay TV or tivo and watch them on your PC.

Then came Hulu.com bringing us free full episode TV and movies with less commercial time over the net.

Now most main stream channels have content on the net.

Lots of people have super systems with a 27′ digital monitor and home theater quality sound that is great for TV and video and they don’t mind watching on the PC … But the average Joe has a 17-20″ monitor.

What we all want is free Video from the net … but on our TV. Like the early days … all you needed for free TV was rabbit ears. Now the net is our rabbit ears.

Roku Netflix player (not free …$8.95 a month) gives us TV shows and movies from the net… and it works great.

If you have an HDTV with VGA you can connect to your PC and put a web browser on your TV screen and watch any of the shows on Hulu.com or beta.tidaltv.com and it really works fine.

There are lots of ways to watch the content from your PC on a TV. I like the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD (eva8000). Music, Live TV, You Tube, Movies. I have the content playing from a Windows Home Server.

I took the plunge a couple of weeks ago and dumped the expensive $75 a month Comcast Cable. I only got the basic tier digital channels for that and I probably only ever watched 4 or 5 of those channels. Yeah $900 a year is a lot of money for Comcast to lose … but actually you have to think about it from a broader prospective … over 10 years it $9000.

You may have noticed … they have a plan to get that money back.

They have to make TV on the net difficult beyond just losing the remote. Keep it from becoming mainstream.

Their plan is Comdrastic:
Encourage adaption of bandwidth caps making digital content cost you like a cable bill.

Throw a wrench in whenever possible and call it traffic management.

Complain about lack of bandwidth (not true) .

Call everyone a pirate. Spout off about bandwidth hogs (to them anyone who does anything but read email and views web pages is a bandwidth hog).

Money tried to stop the mp3 innovations and it didn’t work … Money finally came around and is adopting a model people want (death to drm). Same will happen for net TV … it may take a few years … but it has started.

“Being good at being stupid doesn’t count!”
toddlorensinclair.com