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


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.

Warpia Wireless Media Streaming Adapters Now At BestBuy.com

Posted by Don at 2:29 PM on April 20, 2011

“Cut the cord.” in the hospital it means one thing but at home, in your living room, it refers to something completely different. With the amount of content readily available on the internet these days lots of people are fed up with enormous cable bills and have decided to end their service, relying solely on the videos they find online, thus “cutting the cord.”

Services like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Vudu only make it easier but running cables from your PC to a TV is just a pain — trust me, I know. On top of that, going all-out and buying a PC specifically to feed your home theater really isn’t an option for most of us. That’s where Warpia, and their recent deal with Best Buy, comes in.

Their wireless display adapters, the StreamHD and Wireless USB PC-to-TV adapter, provide a simple and easy way to stream any content you find on the web straight to your TV. Neither device restricts any content or web page, they both simply mirror your PC’s display and put it on your TV screen — sounds simple right? It is!

Both products come with a wireless USB dongle for your PC and a base station that connects to your TV. Both have HDMI ports for HD video but, the cheaper USB PC-to-TV model only supports 720p resolution while the StreamHD delivers full 1080p HD madness. They both come with an HDMI cable and an SPDIF optical audio cable — which is awesome — and Warpia says they’ll stream from up to 30-feet away!

The StreamHD will cost a pretty penny at about $170 but, that’s a lot cheaper than a HTPC, not to mention months upon months of cable bills. The Wireless USB PC to TV adapter is a little cheaper coming in at $130 and both are available at BestBuy.com.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what each product provides…

StreamHD $169.99
Full 1080p (1920 x 1280) HD video
5.1-channel surround sound
HDMI cable
SPDIF audio cable
Wireless USB Dongle for PC
Video Base station for TV and power supply

Wireless PC-to-TV Media Adapter $129.99
720p HD video
16-bit stereo sound
HDMI cable
SPDIF audio cable
Wireless USB Dongle for PC
Video Base station for TV and power supply

VidaBox vCase3 $50 Coupon Deal

Posted by Alan at 5:28 PM on April 6, 2011

If you are a Home Theater PC fan then you probably know the name VidaBox.  They are a high-end manufacturer of HTPC’s, media servers, and accessories.  In addition to that they also sell a few components for DIYers.  One such component is the vCase3, which is a PC case that enthusiasts can use to build their dream system in.

The vCase3 is sleek component that fits perfectly into a media rack.  Despite it’s size it has space for 3 HDD’s which allows users to pack in up to 9 GB (by current standards).  The HDD storage is rubberized and suspended to cut down on noise.  The front panel contains 2 USB ports and a card reader.  It has space for a Blu-Ray drive (full size, not slim) and takes as standard ATX power supply.

The regular price is $239, but right now they are offering a coupon code that gives a $50 discount.  You can visit the vCase3 site and when purchasing the box use the coupon code SPRING11.

Sony Drops Two New Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 5:17 PM on April 3, 2011

Sony has dropped two quite different headphones onto the market, one a wireless headset for cord-free listening and the other a set of noise-cancelling earbuds.

The MDR-RF865RK headphones are traditional over the ear cans with plenty of padding, finished in what appears to be a dark graphite grey. However, they have the further benefit of being wireless with a 100m range in ideal conditions, using a 3 channel FM system. When not in use, the headphones can be hung on the charging station to recharge and they give 25 hours of listening on a 3.5 hour charge. The headphones have handy volume controls, so it’s not necessary to adjust the source volume if it’s too quiet or too loud. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the headphones are a fairly weighty 320g.

At the other end of the spectrum and weighing in at just 7g, the MDR-NC13 noise-cancelling earbuds are aimed at the traveller rather than the stay-at-homers. These headphones can reduce ambient noise by over 87% meaning that “getting away from it all” becomes much easier. Impressively, a single AAA battery gets a 100 hours of noise-cancelling listening pleasure.

Available from Sony in April. Prices not currently disclosed.

Netflix and Vudu Now on the D-Link Boxee Box

Posted by Mike Dell at 6:49 AM on February 15, 2011

D-Link and Boxee have announced that the Boxee Box will now support Vudu and NetFlix.

This will bring even more choices to the Boxee box and let it’s users have access to the 1000′s of movies and TV shows available on NetFlix via their subscription service. NetFlix subscriptions start at $7.99 for streaming only and $8.99 for 1 DVD by mail at a time in addition to the streaming. Go to NetFlix.com to check out their service.

Vudu brings HD movies, on demand for rental. They have first run movies that are available on the Vudu service the same day the DVD’s are released. Standard rentals are priced at $2 for 2 nights and HD New Releases rent for $4.99. Check out vudu.com for more information.

The D-Link Boxee box can be ordered for around $200 just about everywhere electronics are sold. The Boxee service also includes a plethora of other streaming content from various media creators around the internet (including Tech Podcast Network and Blubrry channels)

The Boxee Box itself features an SD card slot, two USB ports, optical digital audio, HDMI output, 802.11n wireless, and an Ethernet port. It has a double-sided remote featuring a built-in QWERTY keyboard and simple browsing interface, consumers can kick back and watch virtually anything. It also integrates social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Right from your remote!

For more information on the Boxee service, check them out over at boxee.tv and check out the boxee box by D-Link at dlink.com/boxee

Shredding The Cord

Posted by tomwiles at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2011

Ah, my once-beloved Dish Network account – the thing I once thought I could never do without; the budget monster that consumed $100 per month, month after month, year after year. I agonized for months over the idea of simply killing it before finally pulling the plug.

It’s been the better part of a year since I put the budget-busting beast to rest and cancelled the account. Dish Network itself seemed to want to throw up as many roadblocks as possible to get me to change my mind. They wanted the LNB module off of my roof, in addition to the two receivers. I had 30 days to send the units back in the packing boxes they sent or they would make me pay full price for them.

I was able to talk the guy out of forcing me to climb up on my roof to retrieve the LNB, and I was able to get the two receivers sent back to them within the 30 days of cancellation. However, somehow they had in their billing system I had three receivers, not two. They sent return packaging for three units. I spent time on the phone with them to make sure this discrepancy was resolved, and they assured me it was.

Ooops, not so fast! A month or two later I got a letter from them stating I still owed them for a receiver and they intended to hit my bank account for the amount. A phone call to them resolved the issue and I haven’t heard a peep from them since.

How has life been without all of those channels? $ome part of me hate$ to admit it, but I haven’t missed it at all. I’ve got an Intel Mac Mini set up as a DVR for local over-the-air HD broadcasts, as well as a Netflix account and several other Internet-connected set top box viewing solutions.

Observations

A very large percentage of TV programming is marketing presented as content. Much of what passes for entertainment depicts multitudes of dysfunctional drama queens assaulting and insulting the people around them. The more dysfunctional they are, the more likely it is the marketing messages will seep into the mesmerized minds of the audience. Even if one isn’t watching commercials, product placement and even behavior placement abounds. Viewers are being programmed to buy certain products, as well as behave in certain ways.

Think you can’t do without cable or satellite TV? Think again. I was paying $1,200 dollars a year for Dish Network. Multiply that by just 5 years and that’s a whopping $6,000 dollars for the privilege of being shaped and influenced by marketing messages so I would spend even more money.

Let’s go one step further. For many people TV is an addiction. These people are crack dealers in disguise. How else could it be that they can continue to raise their prices and people continue to pay ever more?

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of cable TV programming is less than worthless. Could that $6,000 dollars been better spent on higher-quality programming? Of course it could.

The Xi3 Modular Microcomputer

Posted by tomwiles at 1:22 PM on January 23, 2011

David Politis of Xi3 Microcomputers (http://xi3.org/) presents the Xi3 Modular Computer. It is an extremely small form factor and operates on only 20 watts of power, yet contains a dual-core AMD Athlon x86 processor operating at 2 gigahertz. The standard model ships with 2 gigabytes of DDR 2 RAM and 8 gigabytes of solid SSD solid state drive memory.

The Xi3 is revolutionary in several different respects. Not only is the unit as small as possible, the motherboard is broken down into three modular, replaceable components. Thus it becomes possible to upgrade to the latest technologies such as USB 3.0 once it becomes widely available in the near future or to higher-performance future CPU processors.

Imagine the Xi3 as the heart of a high-performance, low-engergy-drain, absolutely silent-running Media Center PC. Since it’s x86 architecture running on a dual-core processor on a high-performance SSD drive it can easily boot Windows 7 Ultimate in 30 seconds flat.

Why didn’t someone think of this before?

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors

Get your 14 day Free Trial of Audible Gold to start Listening to great Books!
Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.
Sponsor: The New Luxor, Las Vegas Deals Start @ $40.00 best rates guaranteed

Hauppauge Colossus HD Video Recorder PCI Express Card

Posted by tomwiles at 8:07 PM on January 21, 2011

Ken Plotkin, the CEO of Hauppage (www.hauppauge.com), describes the Colossus HD H.264 Video Recorder PCI Express card for the PC. The Colossus card is designed to record high definition video from sources such as an X-Box 360, Playstation 3, as well as high definition video coming from a cable TV or satellite box via component video outputs on those devices, thus avoiding the DRM problem. The Colossus HD Video Recorder retails for $169 dollars, available in the first week in February 2011. According to Plotkin, the Colossus is the only recorder solution available that can record high definition video from component video outputs.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors

Get your 14 day Free Trial of Audible Gold to start Listening to great Books!
Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.
Sponsor: The New Luxor, Las Vegas Deals Start @ $40.00 best rates guaranteed

Lookee TV Desktop WiFi Internet TV & Radio Player

Posted by tomwiles at 7:55 PM on January 21, 2011

Ted Aguirre talks about the three models of Lookee TV (www.lookeetv.com), a table-top model, a portable model, and a set-top box model that connects to a TV. Lookee TV devices retail for about $150 and are available right now. Lookee TV receives over 30,000 streaming radio stations and over 1,000 streaming TV channels. The company maintains its own strategically-located international content servers. All the content carried on the Lookee TV devices is free. Lookee TV devices are especially useful for international travelers who want to watch foreign television content or listen to streaming radio from other countries.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors

Get your 14 day Free Trial of Audible Gold to start Listening to great Books!
Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.
Sponsor: The New Luxor, Las Vegas Deals Start @ $40.00 best rates guaranteed

Samsung 58″ Class (58.0″ Diag.) 500 Series 1080p Plasma HDTV

Posted by tomwiles at 12:28 AM on January 13, 2011

A few days ago I made a trip to my local Best Buy store and ended up walking out with a Samsung 58” 500 Series Plasma HDTV. I’d gone into the store thinking if I left with anything, it would most likely be an LCD HDTV. However, after spending quite a while comparing picture quality and prices on the massive number of sets covering the big-box store’s back wall, I happened upon the Samsung model PN58C500, a 58” Plasma.

This Samsung Plasma has an absolutely stunning picture, rivaling the best high-end LCD sets that cost two and almost three times more. The PN58C500 sells for $1,197.99. I happened to have a “Best Buy Rewards” coupon for 10% percent off of any HDTV set costing $750 or more, and the coupon did end up applying to the PN58C500. My final price, including our rather high local sales taxes, ended up being $1,147.

There’s no 3D circuitry, but that’s not a problem for me since I consider 3D TV’s (as well as 3D movies) to be a useless gimmick. The PN58C500 has Samsung’s “AllShare DLNA Networking” that allows the set to connect to computers and DLNA servers running on your home network to stream HD video via Ethernet. I’ve also got a Mac Mini, as well as a Western Digital HD Live Plus media player attached directly to the set via my surround sound receiver/switcher.

The PN58C500 has a useful variety of video formatting modes to easily cycle through via the remote control that facilitates getting the right picture format for the particular video you are watching or device you are watching it from. It has 3 HDMI inputs, and is a thin 2.8 inches thick.

The remote control seems to be a bit touchy, needing to be pointed at the set to ensure that remote control commands register. Also, the built-in speakers seem to fire out of the bottom, but the volume levels are more than loud enough to be usable.

If you are looking for a new big-screen HDTV, you can’t go wrong buying this set considering the price versus value. I cannot over-stress the absolutely stunning picture quality this set produces.