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Yamaha RX-V373 5.1-Channel AV Receiver Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 9:54 AM on December 27, 2012

Yamaha RX-V373Recently my old Kenwood receiver gave up the ghost. It was time to replace it anyway, it was so old that it had a connection for a tape deck and a laser disc player. So over the holiday I picked up a Yamaha receiver, model RX-V373. This is part of the RX-V series of receivers. It is a basic receiver, but it has all the inputs and capabilities that I was looking for.  It has the following input and outputs.

  • 4/1 HDMI inputs/outputs,
  • 2/1 components inputs/outputs,
  • 4 composite video and audio inputs
  • 1 composite video and audio output.
  • 2 digital audio inputs (optical)
  • a USB jack
  • 1 headphone jack
  • FM and AM connection

You can connect an iOs device to the USB jack and the receiver will recognize the music on it. You can than play and control the music through the receiver, using the receiver’s remote control. The receiver will also recognize the music on a USB drive. Since I don’t have a iOs device I haven’t been able to test the iOs capabilities. I did connect a USB drive that had some music it on it. I could view what was playing and do basic functions, like play, pause, forward and rewind. Everything was in text and there was no album art. Using the digital audio input and a Toslink cable I was able to connect my Mac Mini to it. Now I can listen to my music library in full stereo.

As I said before this is a good basic receiver. However if you are looking for a smart receiver that you can connect to your network and has more advance capabilities this is not the receiver for you. If you are looking for a new receiver the Yamaha RX-V373 is currently available on Amazon for $249.95.

Vizio Co-Star Review

Posted by Jack Ellis at 6:15 PM on August 23, 2012

vizio Co-StarOn the day that the Vizio Co-Star became available for pre-order I ordered one and it arrived late yesterday afternoon. It is small about the size of an Apple TV only thicker. The unit comes with a power cable, a remote, batteries for the remote and a quick start guide. HDMI cables are not included.   ifixit did a tear down of the device and all the specs are available on their webisite

The setup is fairly easily although there is some information you want to have in front of you. There are two HDMI inputs one to attach your cable box, if you have one, and the other one goes to your TV monitor. The Co-star has no sound output, so all the sound has to come from the monitor and what ever sound system that is attached to it. You are now ready to plug the Vizio Co-Star in. The Co-star has no on off button so you have to turn it on and off using the remote control.

Once you have it turned on, it will take you thru the setup process. In order for the remote control to pair with your cable box you may need to input the make and model of the cable box.  Although I was able to pair the remote with my Comcast cable box without having the model number. You can also pair the remote control with your TV, sound system and Blu-Ray Player. To do this you will need the make and model number for each.

During the set up you will quickly notice the limitations of the remote control that comes with the Vizio Co-Star. It has no back light, so it is useless in a dark room.  It hard to type on the keyboard. In order to type a number or symbol you have to hold down the function key while hitting the number. This quickly gets tiring when you are trying to type in a password for a web site. If you have an Android device I would recommend tossing the remote control that comes with the Vizio Co-Star and use the Able Remote which you can download from the Google Play Store.  The Google TV remote app from the iOs also works. However because the Vizio Co-Star doesn’t have an internal or cabled IR blaster the Able or Google TV remote can’t control your regular TV.  I am thinking about getting a USB ir blaster, but I am not sure that would work. Despite these limitation I still recommend downloading one of these apps, if only for the keyboard. I actual like the Able remote the best so far because it is customizable.

Having used the Vizio Co-Star for a day now I am happy I purchased it, however I am not sure it is ready for prime time. Part of the problem there are too many choices and those choices are not always clear. For example there is an app called Made for TV, which if you click on it allows you to easily access sites like CNET, Vimeo, Chow ,etc. However unless you click on it you would never know this. There is a USB input and I tried to attach a USB hard drive to it, but I have not figure out how to get the Vizio Co-Star too read the USB drive. I tried to follow the directions, but it didn’t seem to work. At this point I am probably going to download the Plex app and handle it that way.

The video playback has been very good so far, the only time I have had a problem is on a Web site that had an embedded live Ustream video on it. It kept on freezing, and occasionally crashing. I have had similar problems with the site before on a computer, so I think the problem maybe with Ustream and not the Vizio Co-Star.

I have both the current Apple TV and 1st generation Roku Player and the Vizio Co-Star is definitely replacing the Roku Player. I especially like the fact that I can easily switch from regular TV to TV on the web. You can also easily pull up and use sites like Facebook or Twitter, which is something you can’t do on a Roku Player. Plus the Roku Player buffers a lot and so far I haven’t had that problem with the Vizio Co-Star. I am going to move the Roku to the TV downstairs, where the Apple TV is.  If you are thinking about getting a Google TV, the Vizio Co-Star, at $99.00 is definitely worth a look.

A Review of the Galaxy Nexus HSPA

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 6:45 AM on August 20, 2012

I had been an owner of an iPhone since the first one came out. This past March, my iPhone died and I needed something new and inexpensive. I picked up the Motorola Atrix 2 for less than $100.00. After the I got a new phone feeling wore off, I almost immediately regretted the purchase. I didn’t like the bloatware that AT&T had added to the phone. It also quickly became clear that it was not going to be updated and I would be stuck on Gingerbread until I brought a new phone. I thought about waiting for the new iPhone in September, but that would force me to sign up a new 2 year contract with AT&T and the phone would still cost me over $400.00. The answer clearly was an unlocked phone. I wanted something with the latest build and without the carrier bloatware. That is when I started looking at the Galaxy Nexus HSPA, which had been dropped to a price of $349.00 ($381 with taxes and shipping) for the unlocked version through the Google Play Store. Then I discovered it would work with my AT&T sim card and was scheduled to be upgraded to Jelly Bean from Ice Cream Sandwich. I ordered one this past Tuesday and it was in my hand Saturday morning.

The first thing I did was transfer the Sim card from the Motorola Atrix 2 to the Galaxy Nexus HSPA and it worked fine. Once I powered up the phone it had me sign into my Google Account and synced the information to the phone. When I checked for a system update, Jellybean was available for download and install. Once I finished charging the phone, the download and installation of Jellybean went fine. I installed some of the apps I had purchased from the Google Play store previously. I then started to play with the phone. It is slightly taller than the Motorola Atrix 2, but much thinner and lighter. I think the screen is gorgeous. I especially notice it when looking at text.  The text is so clear and crisp. Some people say the image is grainy at full brightness, but to be honest I haven’t noticed it. Everything moves smoothly, there is no herky-jerky motion when you open an app or move from page to page. Google Now came with the installation of Jellybean. I still learning how to use it and I realize that there are privacy concerns involved with it for some, but I love it potential.

The Galaxy Nexus HSPA is has its downside. First the back cover is very flimsy and hard to put back on. I didn’t get a full day out of the battery today, so I have downloaded a battery widget to see what is draining it. The camera is not the best, but it is pretty good. Despite these small and solvable problems I love the Galaxy Nexus HSPA so far. I love having no bloatware and in 15 months I will finish with my contact with AT&T, assuming I don’t pay to get out earlier. If you are looking for an Android phone with no contract, then the Galaxy Nexus HSPA is worth a look.

First Look at Mountain Lion

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 4:38 PM on July 25, 2012

It took from 8:37 AM to 11:25 AM  to download and install Mountain Lion. I suspect this is because everybody was trying to do it at the same time and this process will get a lot faster. The first thing you’ll notice when Mountain Lion starts are that Notifications and Notes and have been added to your dock. Both of Notifications and Notes work pretty much as they do on the iPad or iPhone if you have one. To control what apps can send a notification and how it will appear on your desktop go into System Preferences and then Notifications and then set the preferences  for each how you want it. You have a choice of None, Banners which appears and then disappears and Alerts which will remain on the screen until you dismiss them. If you want to turn off Notifications all together click on the notification icon in the upper right hand corner of your screen and then pull it down and you’ll see the option to turn Notifications off. Or you can simply option-click in the Notification icon to turn it on and off. I have to admit I hardly ever use Notes on the iPad but with the ability to do notes on the desktop and have it sync to the iPad I suspect I will be using it more.

The next thing I tried was mirroring my Mac Mini desktop to my Apple TV and it worked perfectly. It appears that as long as your Mac Mini and AppleTV are on the same network mirroring will work. You can only turn off mirroring at the computer as far as I can tell, which doesn’t make sense to me. However it is possible that I am missing something. I not sure how often I will be using mirroring, it would make more sense if I had a lap top, but it is nice to have.

I then tried dictation. To start to dictate you simply hit the function key twice within any application, and the microphone will show up or you can go up to the menu bar and under edit and hit start dictation. You can change the keyboard shortcut by going into System preference and then Dictation. If you have a Mac Mini like I do, you will need a microphone for this to work. Dictation is excellent at not picking up background noise. While testing dictation I was watching Security Now and it didn’t pick any of it up. Dictation worked surprisingly well and I suspect it will work even better once I learn how to do it correctly.

The first time you tweet something it will ask if you want to use this Twitter account for all OSX applications. If you use Safari, you can share a page by clicking on the icon in the upper left corner. At this time point you can share to Twitter, Messages and by email. Facebook should be added later this fall. I am disappointed but not surprised that there is no way to share to Google Plus. I also wish there was a keyboard shortcut for each option, right now the only one available is if you want to email a page to someone.  Also what you can share to seems to be app specific, for example Notes only shares to Messages and email, while  you can also share to Twitter if you use TextEdit

When I started up Safari I got the message that the Safari Omnibar extension that I had installed was no longer valid. I had to download the uninstaller from the Web site and when I went to deploy it I got a message that I couldn’t open it because it was from an unidentified developer. To open it I had to go into Security & Privacy and under General set the “Allow applications downloaded from” to anywhere. Unless you know what you are doing I recommend leaving it at the default which is Mac App Store and identified developers.

I am still going through the hidden things that are available on Mountain Lion, so far I am most impressed by dictation. I have run across a couple of hiccups, such as the ability to crop being grayed out in Preview and the application Skitch keeps crashing. Have you tried Mountain Lion yet. Do you like it and have you discovered any hidden tricks.

Behringer Xenyx 502 Audio Mixer

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 10:23 AM on June 21, 2012

Behringer XenyxRecently I purchased a Behringer Xenyx 502 Mixer. Behringer is a German audio company which makes products such as mixers, studio monitors, amplifiers, midi controllers and other audio equipment.

The Behringer Xenyx 502 is one of their lower end mixers. It is a small audio mixer that is highly portable. You can add up to five audio inputs to the mixer including Skype, musical instruments and microphones. You can control each of them separately by turning the appropriate knob. There is also an input and output for a CD or Tape Deck. You can control gain, EQ, pan, low and level for the main input.  You can control the balance and level of the secondary inputs. There is a headphone input so you can hear exactly what you are recording. You can also control the levels going into your headphones. To output to your computer or recording equipment you can either use a 1/4 stereo plug or use an RCA cable with the CD and Tape deck output. I use the RCA cable since using the 1/4 stereo outputs would require a special adapter.

This is the first mixer I have purchase so I don’t have anything to compare it to. That being said so far I am happy with this mixer. It is highly portable and was fairly inexpensive at $40.00. However it does have its negative points. The first is there is no on/off switch. The only way to turn it off is to disconnect the power. When it is plugged in a bright led light comes on, which could be a problem in a dark room. A bit of masking tape can solve this problem easily. You use knobs for all the controls and I suspect that sliders would be easier to control. Despite these negatives, if you are looking for small portable mixer I would recommend taking a look at the Behringer Xenyx 502.

Shure PG48 Microphone Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:44 PM on May 9, 2012

Shure PG48I do a small non-tech related podcast and this month I decided I needed to upgrade my equipment. I had previously been using the headphones that I use with my android phone and after 10 episodes I decided it was time to do an upgrade. I have been following and listening to the Podcast Answer Man, Cliff Ravenscraft for several years now, and he recommends getting a dynamic XLR microphone for office recording. Although he does love the Heil PR40 it is a little steep for my bank account. I ended up getting the Shure PG48 Vocal Cardioid Dynamic Microphone. The microphone comes with a Mic clip, a 15 foot XLR cable and a carrying pouch. I also purchased a XLR female to 1/4 Male adapter separately. The Shure PG48-XLR list price is $49.00, but was on sale for $39.00 through Amazon. This is a dynamic microphone so it is built to pick up sound from the front while filtering out most sound from the side and back. It is supposed to be able to handle extreme volume level without distortion. It has a frequency response of 70 to 15,000 Hz. The microphone itself feels good and sturdy. It has an on/off switch which I love. I have done a short test of the Shure PG48-XLR which I have enclosed here.

Testing the P48

I still waiting for the mic stand I ordered and my mixer before my current setup is complete. If you listen to the audio above especially with headphones, you can clearly hear the difference. With the PG48 there is very little background noise and its much clearer. I have to admit I am not an audio snob, but even to my ears the PG48 sounds much better. At this point I am glad I purchased it.

Touchscreen Kleen Review

Posted by Andrew at 4:33 PM on May 8, 2012

Fingerprints are the bane of modern life. You’ve got your beautiful new tablet, you show it to your friends and before you can say, “oleic acid”, there’s a horde of greasy smudges all over the screen. Aaargh!!!

Here at Geek News Central we’ve seen several solutions to this problem, from carbon-based wipes to fashion self-cling pads. Touchscreen Kleen adds to the portfolio: it’s a special-formulated spray combined with a microfibre cloth.

TouchscreenKleen Package

It’s pretty simply to use….turn off the screen, squirt some cleaning solution onto the microfibre cloth and polish the screen with the cloth. Job done.
And it really is that easy. I cleaned tablets, smartphones, LCD monitors and they all came up looking like new, completely smudge free. Very impressed.

The microfibre cloth is washable so if you have to clean a really dirty monitor screen, the grubby cloth can be washed before the next use.

Touchscreen Kleen is available in two sizes, 15 ml and 50 ml, currently on special offer at £3.99 and £5.99 respectively in the online store.

Disclosure – Touchscreen Kleen was provided for review by Screen-Kleen Ltd.

The New iPad Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:37 PM on March 16, 2012

iPad My new white iPad arrived today, a 16 GB WiFi only version.  I previously had the first generation iPad, so this review is for someone who is going from the first generation to the third generation iPad. I am aware that some of the things I will talk about were already available in the iPad 2. The first thing I noticed when I took the iPad out of the box is it feels more balanced than the first generation iPad (aka iPad 1). When I was reading on the iPad 1 I always felt like it was about to tip forward, that isn’t happening on this one so far. However it does get heavy fast if you are holding it up to shoot a video. I predict that someone will come out with a tripod for the iPad fairly quickly, because I do see potential for it being used to film videos. If you are replacing an iPad I would recommend updating all your apps first and then use the backup to set up your new iPad. Once you finish setting it up you can’t help but notice how beautiful the screen appears with the retina display.  Apps that are retina display ready really just pop. I almost don’t need my reading glasses when looking at a retina display app. I think that for any app that is video or image related being retina display capable will be a must. I have tried the voice dictation and it works very well, as long as you don’t speak too fast and you enunciate. It does work better in a quiet room and if you use headphones with a mic, then without. I love the WiFi mirroring, which wasn’t available in the iPad 1. In the iPad 1 you could stream video and music, but that was all. Now I can mirror exactly what is on my iPad to the Apple TV. To do this you have to turn on mirroring on through the music application in the dock first. If you had the iPad 2 I realize this is old news, but I know a lot of people who went from iPad 1 to the current iPad and skipped the iPad 2 where this is new.

I am very happy with the new iPad. If you haven’t gotten an iPad yet or are still using the first generation iPad I would recommend taking a look at the current generation of iPad. If you have the WiFi version of the iPad 2 I not sure it is worth the upgrade, although I have to say the retina display does look beautiful.

Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Router with DD-WRT

Posted by Andrew at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2012

On review here is Buffalo’s AirStation Nfiniti HighPower dual band wireless-n router and access point with DD-WRT pre-installed, aka WZR-HP-AG300H. I’ve had the AirStation on loan from Buffalo for a couple of months and it’s really rather good.

Buffalo Nfiniti Router

As you can see from the pictures, it’s black and about 18 cm tall, excluding the antennae which swivel and tilt to give the best Wi-fi coverage. The unit can support two 300 Mb/s networks, one in the 2.4 GHz band, the other in the 5 GHz range.

Buffalo Nfiniti Router - rear

Round the back, there a four Gigabit Ethernet ports and as this a router, there’s the extra WAN port (the blue one) for connecting to an Ethernet modem (or hotel network port). There’s a single USB socket too that can used either by a storage device or by a 3G modem. In a nice touch, a USB extension lead is supplied, presumably to get the 3G modem positioned away from the high power antennas.

The supplied AirStation Navigator CD gets the AirStation router up-and-running with the minimum of fuss via a straightforward setup wizard. However, it’s largely superfluous as all the configuration of the AirStation can be done through the web interface. A handy tool on the CD that will find the AirStation on your network and provide the IP address. Once you’ve got that pasted into your web browser, you can access a whole plethora of settings.

DD-WRT Interface

Seriously, there are an awful lot of settings in here, from the usual IP setup through to setting up an advert supported Wi-Fi hotspot. I counted no less than 41 pages of settings and frankly, some of the stuff I had to look up to find out what it was about. Fortunately, you can leave the vast majority of the settings at their defaults and there is a setup assistant to start you off. All the usual features of a wireless router are here and then some. If you do find it all too intimidating, it is possible to flash the firmware back to more typical Buffalo wireless router software.

In use, the AirStation was fire-and-forget. I setup the router a few weeks before Christmas and since then I’ve only had power-cycle the device once, which in my experience is very good. Performance was also good with no problems streaming HD media from a network NAS and QoS settings can prioritise video and gaming traffic over other packets. I had a wide range of devices connected to the AirStation including laptops, Android smartphones, an HP TouchPad and a Nintendo Wii, with no lock-ups or unexpected drops apart from the one mentioned previously.

Using the Android app Wifi Analyzer, the AirStation’s range was a few metres better than my other 11n wireless access point, but whether that was attributable to the “HighPower” or the directional antennas is hard to tell. Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as the extra distance is there.

Overall, this is an excellent wireless router that should be seriously considered by anyone who wants to tweak performance to the max.

The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Router is available from the usual retailers for around £80. Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the WZR-HP-AG300H.

NX80 NoiseHush EarBud Review

Posted by geeknews at 12:04 AM on December 29, 2011

I received a pair of NX80 NoiseHush EarBuds to review over a month ago. When I was wearing them I was bragging to my kids how nice they sounded. It was not long after I reviewed them, that the earbuds disappeared from the review box I keep in the office. This afternoon after questioning a certain 15 year old on where they went, the NX80 NoiseHush EarBuds are back in my possession temporarily.

Seeing my daughter has had them for about a month, I asked her what she thought of them, as she was using them with her hand me down iPhone. She said they where really nice, as she as pleading to get them back. I asked her why she liked them, and she said because they sounded really good.  I have to admit for the low price range, these earbuds deliver a very nice dynamic rang especially in low frequencies.

The NX80 NoiseHush Earbuds feature an In-line microphone as well, that is acoustically tuned to filter out external noises. I played with this feature quite a bit in trying to determine how effective this filter is. It does a decent job for the earbud price range.  The earbuds also feature a  control button that is about chest level,  that allows you to switch between calls and your music with just a click.

Overall they are great value for the price @ $19.95.  They come with 4 different sized ear inserts and a nice carrying pouch. My wife now want’s a pair as well, and I have given the review set back to the 15 year old.