Silicon Dust

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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PhaseHD Runs HDMI for 100ft

PhaseHD Logo

HDMI is great interconnect technology but it’s really only designed for relatively short cable runs. What do you do if you want to send a 4K UltraHD picture 100ft? PhaseHD have the answer.

Canadian outfit phaseHD uses standard, albeit long, HDMI cables with smart adaptors on each end of the cable to transmit a clean signal at one end and boost the received signal at the other, while preserving the control signals needed for encrypted content. Obviously it’s more complicated than that and it’s definitely worth watching the video to understand how this technology differs from the video extenders that use cat 6 network cabling for long runs.

It’s not cheap either, with the expected price around $500-$600. Expect to see early adoption by event management companies and sports bars.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Omnimount Ergonomic TV Mounts

Omnimount Omnimount the maker of ergonomic furniture is now making ergonomic TV mounts. The Omnimount mount for TVs allows a television to be moved easily up, down, forward and backward. If you are sitting on the floor you can lower the TV so that you are not craning your neck  to watch it. The mount is also extendable so you can bring the TV closer to you. The mount can be extended out up to 28 inches. These mounts would be perfect for people who want to mount their television sets over their fireplace. The problem with this idea is that it leads to the viewer having to look up to watch it which is uncomfortable and unhealthy. With the Omnimount mount you can still place the TV over the fire-place and then bring it down when you want to watch it.

The mounts can handle monitors up to seventy pounds and come in various sizes. Mounts that handle smaller TV monitors are available now and those that can handle bigger monitors should be available soon at an MSRP of $449.00.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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LG’s $12,000 OLED TV

LG LogoLG bills its OLED screens as “The Ultimate Display” and Don Baine takes a look to see if the claim holds up.

LG’s OLED TVs are stunning on so many levels – the slimness of the screen, the thinness of the bezel, the curved screen with 3D, the blackness of the blacks, brightness of the colours and finally the price. At $12,000 for a 55″ screen, it’s not cheap, but it is the ultimate display.

If you’ve got the cash, you can pre-order now with availability expected in the US from mid-March.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Amazon Prime Video announces move to stay ahead of stiffer competition

amazon prime logoAmazon today announced a new partnership to bring even more content to its Prime video service. Prime is, of course, more than just video — it is also free second-day shipping on all orders (which often arrive next day) and a lending library for Kindle customers, allowing for one free book per month.

Now, in the face of growing competition from rivals, the retail giant has snagged a deal with TV network A&E, which will bring “popular series from A&E, bio, HISTORY and Lifetime to the Prime Instant Video service.”

Amazon announces these deals fairly regularly, but there are a couple of reasons why this particular one is a bit more important. First of all, it is a slap in the face of rival Netflix, who previously had, and lost, this deal. Second, there is a looming problem on the horizon and it is, potentially, a big one.

Redbox, the company who brought us those irresistible kiosks, has teamed with Verizon and plans to launch a competitor in early 2013. I have been among the early beta testers for the service and, I must admit, it is compelling.

So, is this enough to keep Amazon ahead of the market? Certainly Netflix still seems to be the dominant player, but Amazon is moving steadily up and now Redbox is coming. Competition, of course, is good for all of us.

ARCHOS TV Connect Controls Your TV Like a Tablet

ARCHOS has come up with another innovative device that you won’t want to miss! It will make your TV viewing experience into something much more interactive. It’s called ARCHOS TV Connect. It turns any HDTV into an Android powered smart TV that provides the full Android ecosystem. There is a specially designed TV Touch remote for you to use.

Instead of sitting in front of your TV, and perhaps clicking the buttons on your regular remote, you use the TV Touch remote. Suddenly, you are able to control your TV like you would a tablet. You can tap, swipe, zoom in or zoom out, select something or type. It even has a full keyboard with Android shortcuts, (including a key for voice controls and voice typing).

You can choose from over 700,000 apps and games on Google Play, and play them on your TV. The TV Connect has dual analog thumb sticks and a gaming mapping tool.

Use TV Connect to call a group of friends or family and have a video chat with them through your big screen TV. ARCHOS TV Connect has an HD webcam for high quality video calling. An LED light will notify you of an incoming call while you are watching TV. It is compatible with Skype or Google Talk.

TV Connect includes the ARCHOS Media Center applications. It will read your favorite video files with format and codec support including H.264 decoding in full 1080p HD. You can stream media content over your home network through WiFi or Ethernet. The TV Connect features HDMI (cable included), full USB host and micro SD slot.

The ARCHOS TV connect runs Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”. It will be available beginning in February of 2013, and will cost $129.99. You can experience the ARCHOS TV Connect first hand at CES 2013. ARCHOS will be showing off its new line up of tablets, including the Game Pad and more. The ARCHOS booth is in the Central Hall (15322) of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Enforced Obsolescence

Casio TV-470As the last analogue TV signals are turned off tonight in the UK to make way for 4G and digital TV, thousands of TVs, videos and hard-disk recorders will become obsolete literally overnight. While an external decoder may prolong their life, the sheer inconvenience of multiple settings and synchronised recordings will consign many of these perfectly functional devices to the rubbish bin recycling centre. Reflecting, I suspect that this is probably the first time that enforced obsolescence has impacted on me personally.

Undoubtedly, I’ve had other gadgets that have become obsolete but they became out-of-date because I chose to make them so, usually by purchasing a newer devices. If I plugged in and turned on my first laptop, a Tandy 1400LT that ran MsDOS 3.2, I guarantee you that it would still work, albeit with somewhat crude CGA graphics accompanied by whirring floppy drives. The 1400LT became obsolete when I bought an 386SX desktop, but it still worked as designed.

But when I wake up tomorrow, my Casio TV-470 pocket TV and my Pioneer 530H hard disk recorder will be of almost no use as the analogue TV signals these devices need will no longer be broadcast. I find this enforced obsolescence somewhat disturbing as faceless government officials simply made a decision and that was that. Game over for the unfortunate gadgets.

To be fair, the analogue TV signal has had a good run for its money. The PAL system started in 1967 so it’s lasted over 40 years and my TV-470’s been around for about half of that (1991). I hope it’s happy in TV heaven.

Shazam, Now Works with TV Shows

ShazamShazam the music recognition app has been updated to also recognize TV shows . I was trying it out today and it still needs some work. It didn’t recognize many of the shows that I was watching. It either gave back no information or incorrect information. There were times when it took multiple tries before it came back with the correct information.

I wasn’t surprise when it didn’t recognize Bleach, my favorite anime show. However, I was surprised when it didn’t recognize a Rock documentary on Rush. Not surprisingly it recognized most network programing, however it had trouble recognizing the show Major Crimes which is a new series on TNT this afternoon. This evening though it did recognize it, so the database appears to be improving all the time.

Once the show is recognized  it will show the songs that are played on the show. You can play samples of the music. If you are a Spotify premium member you can play the whole song. You can also view the song on Youtube if it is available. You can also view the lyrics, get tour information and buy ringtones. You can also read the latest celebrity buzz, get the cast information, read the latest Tweets. If you are using it on an iOS device you can share to Facebook or Twitter. If you are on Android you can share thru any app that you have, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus

IntoNow, a Yahoo product recognized more shows than Shazam, however once a show was recognized, Shazam had more options available. Get Glue the other media sharing app, is just that a way to share what you are watching. It doesn’t have the information that is available through either Shazam or IntoNow. Shazam needs to improve its recognition of non network shows. However it is on the right path and I do recommend downloading it if you like to share what you are watching to your favorite social network.

Enhance the Movie Experience

Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.

iPPea TV Bring Android ICS to the TV

When you think of Android on a TV then you probably think of Google TV, the line of set top boxes that run a dedicated version of Android that is made specifically for the living room.  However, MIPS Technologies, Inc. has announced a new dongle that will bring native Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to every TV that has an HDMI port, which is pretty much any TV made in the past five years.

The iPPea TV is thumb drive-like device that plugs into an HDMI port and brings the full Android apps catalog to the living room.  This means video and audio streaming, social apps, and games, among other things.  For this functionality, the maker has set the MSRP at $50.

“The tiny iPPea TV is a fully-functioning Android super micro PC that connects to the cloud, accesses a broad range of websites and apps, and delivers a high-quality entertainment experience,” said iPPea CEO Amanda Senkowski. “We are delighted to be using the MIPS-Based Ingenic processor, which provides all of the advantages of an industry-standard architecture, including a broad ecosystem of supporting tools and software. And because of its inherent power efficiency, the device can be fully powered by a standard USB port — such as those available on most DTVs. Also, unlike many competitive PC offerings, no heat sink is necessary in the iPPea TV device.”

Features included:

  • MIPS-Based(TM) XBurst(TM) CPU running at 1.2 GHz
  • Android 4.0.3
  • 802.11b/g/n Wifi
  • USB 2.0
  • 2GB storage with support for up to 32GB external storage via a microSD slot
  • support for 1080p HD video and most popular audio/video formats, and other advanced functionality.

In addition, they are making several useful accessories available at reasonable prices.    There is a wireless gyro mouse, USB LAN Adapter and HDMI extension cable for prices ranging from $8 to $22.  You can find out, as well as place a pre-order, by visiting iPPea.