Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Logitech Harmony unveils 2 new universal remotes

Posted by Alan at 8:11 AM on April 16, 2013

The Harmony line of universal remotes is a favorite in many living rooms, but the lineup has stagnated in recent times, with only the Harmony Touch being added and that came with mixed reviews. Rumors of Logitech refreshing the line have been around for several months, but today the company did just that.

Logitech’s Chad Thompson announced “the expansion of its Harmony universal remote control lineup with Logitech Harmony Ultimate and Logitech Harmony Smart Control“. Thompson goes on to elaborate “both products feature Logitech’s new Harmony Hub and Harmony Smartphone App to enable closed-cabinet and game console control. And, for the first time ever, Harmony can even help you set the mood in your living room: the Harmony Hub takes personalizing your activities a step further with the ability to control your Philips Hue lights with a tap of the Logitech Harmony Ultimate”.

I currently use a bottom of the line Harmony 300 and have been waiting for the new line to finally debut. The day has arrived and I suppose I must now spend some money, but I still will not be paying for that Philips Hue light bulb, no matter how cool it looks.

Silicon Dust

Posted by Alan at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2013

silicon dust logoIf you are a home theater enthusiast or HTPC owner, as I am, then you have probably heard of Silicon Dust and the HD Home Run. The box has been out for some time and retails for $199, but can be found somewhat cheaper in many locations.

The box takes a cable card and then sends its data out via ethernet to the rest of your network and, as a bonus, it contains 3 tuners. The data is distributed to your network in both ATSC and MP2 format. It all works great with many of your screens, but now Silicon Dust wants to solve the problem with devices like smartphones and tablets.

The new box is a 4 tuner version that can handle hardware transcode that transfers that MP2 and changes it to H.264. Now customers can send 4 separate streams independent of each other and have access to the data on mobile devices as well. It is also smart enough to recognize the difference in screens and resolution and encode for the device. All of this is done behind the scenes.

This latest Home Run box will be available in late spring or early summer. While no price is yet available, the company hopes to keep it in the same area as the previous version.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net

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Control your home theater with Zmart Remote for iOS, Android

Posted by Alan at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2013

There have been several hardware solutions over the past couple of years that turn your smartphone into a universal remote. I have previously looked at RedEye, which seems to no longer be available, but a new solution was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week — the Zmart Remote from Viatek.

This one involves a small device that you will need to plug into the micro-USB port on your phone. It works with both iPhone and Android. The company claims that “The setup takes less than a minute. Whether you are trying to choose which tv show to watch, need to pause the movie to pop some popcorn or even skip to your favorite song on a CD, now you can do all of this with just your smart phone.”

Setup of the RedEye was clunky and almost felt as if it required a computer science degree. Hopefully the newer technology will improve this process. The company claims it is capable of controlling 200,000 devices and 95 percent of those on the market. The ones it can’t control it can learn.

The package, including the app, will retail for $19.99 and can be purchased now.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD projector unveiled

Posted by Alan at 4:53 AM on January 7, 2013

While NVIDIA has dominated the news for the past 12 hours or so, it doesn’t mean it is the only company who has announced anything cool. Epson, known mostly for its printers, also has been making projectors for some time. Largely its lineup has been business-level, designed for presentations. Now the company want to jump from your office to your living room with the PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD.

The projector will handle both 2D and 3D and has 3000 lumens. It is designed for use from either an entertainment center or a ceiling mount, making it more versatile than many others on the market. It also includes component video, S-video, HDMI, and USB connectivity.

epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD projector

“Epson America, Inc. today expanded its award winning line of 3LCD home theater projectors with the highly versatile and affordable 3LCD PowerLite® Home Cinema 750HD – offering families and first-time home theater enthusiasts an affordable and versatile 2D and true 3D big screen entertainment solution. Offering full HD, active shutter 3D with 720p resolution, the Home Cinema 750HD makes it easier than ever to enjoy movies, video games, sporting events and more in high-quality 2D and eye-popping 3D at up to 120-inches or larger.”

The projector is slated to become available in late March and will retail for $899, which is undercutting much of the competition in the market right now.

Thorax Concrete Hifi Unit

Posted by Andrew at 5:55 AM on November 13, 2012

Concrete has always been a popular product, but it’s not what you think of for display purposes – marble and solid wood come more readily to mind. Increasingly, designers are turning to this relatively cheap material with some very attractive polished concrete artifacts and recently I saw a lovely kitchen worktop in the material.

In this mode there is Thorax by Kompatibel Design, a modular hifi unit in concrete.

Thorax Concrete Hifi Unit from Kompatibel Design

Concrete is a good choice for a hifi unit, as the high density and consequent mass makes it less vulnerable to vibration. Of course this is only still an issue if you listen to vinyl records: if you’ve gone all digital, it’s not really a concern. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty impressive piece of furniture and while the aesthetics may not suit everyone, it certainly makes a statement.

The are three basic modules, “O”, “C” and “E” which can be joined to make the desired configuration. The picture above shows and “OEO” config and there are more shots on the website. In a nice touch, the concrete can be coloured to match a particular decor.

Price on application. Promotional video below.

(My German isn’t what it should be so apologies for any mistakes in translation.)

Video of Home Automation System in a $55 Million Mansion

Posted by Alan at 10:21 AM on June 7, 2012

Tech news web site BGR introduced their new BGR Show today and episode one is a big one for tech, home theater, and home automation fans.  The show is slated to run weekly and, in addition to a little cool technology like this week, they also promise interviews with celebrities and some behind-the-scenes segments with manufacturers.

The home featured in episode one may be beautiful, but the statistics surrounding it’s internal electronics are nothing short of breath-taking.  Try to grasp these numbers – over 2,000 lights, 48 TVs, 50 miles of wiring, 35 security cameras and hundreds of speakers.  All of this can be controlled from touchscreens, tablets, computers, and smartphones.

The home is located in New Jersey and the show features the man behind implementing all of the electronics – Gabriel Karlis from JD AV Design.  I would try to describe the level of sophistication seen in the video, but it’s really worth just watching to get a real idea of what exactly is possible if you have the money to do what you want, including controlling virtually every aspect of your home from lights to security to HVAC with the click of a button.

Sony Announces New DA5700ES AV Receiver

Posted by Alan at 8:15 AM on April 24, 2012

DA5700ES AV receiver

Yesterday Sony released word of their new DA5700ES audio-video receiver.  The ES is the flagship line from Sony and the latest addition to it doesn’t disappoint.  The new receiver comes with pretty much every feature a user could possibly think of from great sound quality to enough connectors to power an over-the-top home theater, and it can even be controlled from your smartphone or tablet.

So, what does the premium price (last year’s model, the STR-DA5700ES, sells for around $2,200 U.S.) buy you?  The ability to expand the  7.2 surround sound to 9.2 channels, automatic sound calibration, a network connection that allows access to “the Sony Entertainment Network so you can stream thousands of on-demand movies and TV shows and enjoy them with premium quality sound”, a USB DAC connection so you can hook the receiver to your computer and stream audio files, wireless streaming of internet radio, remote control apps for iOS and Android devices, 3D video processing, and 6 HDMI inputs.  There’s more, such as these highlights that Sony pointed out in their press release:

· True-to-original sound reproduction
· 7.2ch surround sound, expandable to 9.2ch
· Superb build quality and stylish design
· Network connectivity for wireless entertainment
· 6x HDMI inputs and 2x HDMI outputs
· 3D capability
· Full HD upscaling for analogue input devices

There was no MSRP or availability date in the information, but it will apparently be shipping soon and the price will likely be comparable to last year’s model.

Image of: DA5700ES AV receiver

Sennheiser Unveils High End Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2012

Sennheiser is one of the big names in headphones, so it’s not unsurprising that a few of the latest models were released at CES. Nick hears the latest for sound buffs from Eric.

First up are the HD 700s, an open headset approaching reference standard. With a wide soundstage, angled transducers give it a sound experience similar to listening to a speaker array; other features are designed keep the sound as pure as possible. These headphones are aimed at audiophiles who want to hear every nuance of the recording. Pricey at around $1000.

Next are the HD 800s, a futuristic-looking headset that takes audio purity and quality to an amazing level. Every detail has a purpose in the design, giving unparalleled acoustic reproduction for the total audio purist. Even more pricey at around $1500.

And finally, the Sennheiser Amperior brings the world-famous HD 25s to portable devices by optimising the impedance to give superior sound from a smaller unit. Suitable for all MP3 players, Apple iPods and iPhones, the Amperior comes with an inline remote and mic. Available from March for around $350.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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IOGEAR Wireless Multi-Touch Pad

Posted by Andrew at 1:19 AM on January 11, 2012

If you’re a touchpad lover, then you’ll be in heaven with IOGEAR‘s new Wireless Multi-Touch Pad (GTP520R), freshly announced at CES. As you might guess from the name, it’s a wireless touchpad that supports multi-touch, which is pretty cool.

IGEAR Wireless Multi-Touch Pad

Anyone with a smartphone or tablet will be familiar with multi-touch and gestures, but most laptop touchpads don’t support either of them. The IOGEAR Multi-Touch Pad can bring multi-touch and gestures to Windows-based PCs and home theater computers (HTPCs), making browsing, scrolling, image viewing and navigating the web quicker and more natural.

  • Multi-select: double-tap your finger and select multiple icons, or a section for drag’n’drop
  • 1 Finger Gestures: mouse click, right/left mouse click, mouse select, vertical scroll, back/forward command flick
  • 2 Finger Gestures: pan screen side to side and up and down, object zoom in/out, rotate object

As you can see from the picture, the Multi-Touch Pad has six hot keys at the top to control A/V media functions such as volume up and down, skip track and home. With a range of about 10 m, the Touch Pad is ideal for the wireless control from the couch of  home theater PCs and other media friendly devices. The 2.4 GHz frequency band is used and a USB nano receiver is included. To get an idea of size, the pad part is just under 5″ so it’s much bigger than a laptop touchpad.

Multi-touch control is changing the way we interface with devices,” said Bill Nguyen, senior marketing manager at IOGEAR. “From tablets and smartphones to laptops and computer peripherals, people have trained their hands to use touchscreens comfortably and productively and our Wireless Multi-Touch Pad takes this control to the next level.

The IOGEAR Wireless Multi-Touch Pad is available now for an MSRP of $79.95.

Control Your DirecTV DVR From an Android Device

Posted by Alan at 1:46 PM on July 30, 2011

Recently I wrote an opinion piece wondering if Smartphones would soon replace universal remotes like Harmony.  For a while now, I have been using myRemote on my Droid X to control my Windows 7 Media Center-based HTPC.  Recently I have also been trying out DirecTV Remote Pro to control my DirecTV HD DVR.  Unfortunately, there is no official DirecTV Remote Control app for Android – or iOS, webOS, Windows Phone, or any other devices.  Their official app is great for browsing shows and setting your DVR to record something when you are away from home, but it’s not something you can use to control the box from your sofa.

That’s where DirecTV Remote Pro comes in (there’s a free version too, but functionality is severely limited).  The app is priced at $4.99, but right now they are offering it for $1.98 for a “limited time”.  As for the nitty-gritty statistical information, here it is.  The app has an overall four and a half star rating from 327 reviews, the current version is 2.2.3, the latest version was released July 11, 2011, and it requires Android 2.1 or better.  Your DVR needs to be connected to your home network – there is an ethernet port on the back.  You also must have WiFi enabled on your phone.

Once you have the app installed on your Android device you can start it up and it should find your DVR and prompt you to name it.  If you have more than one in your house then you will name each and be able to switch between them.  Click the “Menu” button on your phone and the choose “Select Receiver”.

DirecTV Remote Pro menu

Once clicked, you will get a list of the DirecTV boxes that are currently connected to your home network.  Click the one you wish to use and the app will take control of that device.

DirecTV Remote Pro Select Receiver

Now, we get to the remote control itself.  It is layed out exactly as the peanut-shaped DirecTV one is.  The top half contains the Stop, Pause, Play, FF, Rew, and other buttons.  In addition, there are three icons across the very top – the remote control (home), a star (to mark a show as a favorite, and the menu (which takes you to a list of your recorded shows).

DirecTV Remote top

It also contain a key feature that DirecTV’s physical remote can’t replicate – the channel, time, show, and episode name that is currently playing.  Click the “current show”and you will be presented with more detailed information, such as ratings, genre and overview.

DirecTV Remote current show info

Once you drop below the top, the remote becomes almost an exact replica of it’s physical brethren.  You will find the Up, Down, Left, Right, Select, 4 colored buttons, and all of the rest in the middle.

DirecTV Remote middle

The bottom also contains the expected – Previous, Change, and keypad.

DirecTV Remote bottom

The Bottom Line

While it’s a shame that DirecTV has not done this themselves, I have to say that I doubt they could have done it any better.  The only possible thing they could have brought to the table is integration with there official app.  I found no functionality lacking and it is every bit as fast and responsive as the physical remote.  If you are a DirecTV subscriber, and an Android user, then this is a must-have app.  It takes the actual remote and adds an extra dimension.