Ceton InfiniTV 4 Multi-Tuner CableCard

Very recently I bought my wife a Hauppauge TV Tuner for mother’s day. I think we had talked about getting one before so we could downgrade our cable boxes from Verizon FIOS’ HD DVRs to their regular HD boxes, but admittedly when we got the tuner we didn’t even have cable.

That didn’t stop us from using it however and we installed it in a Windows 7 box using just a regular OTA antennae. And even though we didn’t end up recording too much with it (what’s their to record on regular TV anyway), we were blown away about how cool Windows Media Center is when it has a tuner to play with.

If you’re a home theater buff like myself, you will really marvel at how sleek, elegant and functional Windows Media Center is… Especially if it’s your first TV Tuner/Media solution.

Return of the Cable
So fast forward a couple months and cable has once again returned to our house along with its huge bill for renting their cable boxes. And if have cable and don’t think it’s a racket – YOU IZ CRAZY. I mean, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but a Verizon FIOS HD DVR is probably something like $13/mo and a regular box has to be about $7 so every month I’m spending $20 extra to “rent” their equipment which I absolutely need to watch their programming! Again, it’s a racket.



And because of this I started looking for CableCard tuners. I heard about them a while ago through the AVS Forum but now doing some serious research, I was amazed to find that as much as these were lauded over, basically only 1 really exists in the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner and you can’t find them anywhere except on eBay and then only if you’re lucky. I swear you can’t even buy them from ATI’s website! (And let’s not forget they usually sell for north of $200 too).

Enter the Ceton InfiniTV 4 Multi-Tuner CableCard
So if you haven’t heard, some company called Ceton has made a new card that looks like it’ll blow the ATI one out of the water. The Ceton InfiniTV 4 accepts one CableCard, allows you to view or record 4 channels at once, and view these programs all around your house! Do you realize how cool that is? So instead of me paying the $20 a month I am now, I can just do the Verizon FIOS CableCard rental of of a few bucks PLUS I can watch the programming on more TVs without having to pay any more to the man!


Ceton Infinity 4 Multi-Tuner CableCard

Now admittedly the card has a “high” price tag of $399 but I figure I’d make that up quick if I’m distributing the programming to 3 TVs like I’m going to. The only real problem now for me is that Ceton has delayed shipping the card (I think I heard because of a parts shortage) meaning that I’m going to have to hang in here with my high cable bill for a little while longer. But in any event I’m still way excited about it. Anything that helps me bring media into the house and reduce my monthly bill gets two thumbs up in my book.

My Precious Philips Prestigo 10 Remote Has Been Destroyed!

I knew it would happen eventually.

I knew at one point in my life, one of my kids would break, tear or otherwise destroy one of the possessions near and dear to my heart. And honestly I thought it was going to be one of my comic books, one of my 360 games, my Wii sensor bar… Something like that.

I even strategically built my home theater enclosure to minimize the risk that they would get this stuff putting my CD like media up at the top, the receiver below it (so they couldn’t change inputs while I played), and cable boxes below it.

But it appears it was all for naught because in one instant – They got hold of one of my wife’s hand weights, threw it, and completely broke my *sob* *sob* Phillips Prestigo 10 Remote!

“How do I… Get through one more night without you?”
If you happen to recall, I absolutely loved the Prestigo. It was what I had dreamed about for longer than I even knew. One remote to control everything… A beautiful color LCD screen… Big attractive buttons… And the price was just soooo good.

I put in the time too… I programmed all my devices including my cable box, projector, receiver, and blu-ray player. I had the macros set up so that I could push a button and turn everything off, or go quickly from watching TV to playing XBox. Now those days are far behind me and I’m left with a flickering, broken reminder of what my life used to be.



Picking Myself Up and Moving Forward
Fast forward a couple weeks later and I think I’ve finally started to get through the grieving process. THAT means that I’m ready to get a new remote. Only problem is, I don’t know which one to get. I COULD go with the replacement for my old hotness or I could kick it up and try something new. Problem is, I don’t really know what else is out there that’s not going to cost me a freakin’ arm and a leg. I mean… I’m not rich YET. (#);)

So anyone out there have any good suggestions?

Steve Jobs Hates Flash and I Don't Blame Him

Not sure what circles you travel in, but those I find MYself in are all abuzz about Steve Jobs’ alleged comments about Flash.

You might be able to say that it all started at the grand reveal of Apple’s long awaited iPad a week or two ago when during his live demo, Steve Jobs went to a website that had Flash content and everyone saw a “plugin needed” icon where the Flash was supposed to be.

I don’t believe Jobs really said anything about it then (you can double check by watching the conference here), but it looks like he didn’t have to ’cause he had already said plenty on the subject before hand.

Steve Jobs Hates Flash
Now I had NO idea that Adobe and Mac were so standoffish, but if you believe this Engadget article (and who doesn’t like Engadget), according to a report in Wired, Jobs was quoted as saying “Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash. The world is moving to HTML5.”


DAMN GINA!

I’ve read a smattering of things about HTML5, but a quick search on the topic seems that it isn’t fully integrated in popular current browsers and I’m just not sure that its APIs are going to give developers everything you can get from Flash which I think (as of this writing) is at version 10. But be that as it may…

Flash is FAR From Perfect
You may not know this about me Joe Rogan, but I have a LOT of experience in Flash and AIR. And I’m not talking about just cheesy animations either. So let me tell you, one of the more frustrating professional experiences of my life (outside of installing Bugzilla) has been trying to get rid of Flash memory leaks due to its a$$ backwards way of trash collection. So when my friend brought this whole conversation to my doorstep today in a gChat conversation, I think he was FLOORED to hear that I don’t blame Steve Jobs for not wanting to include Flash in his shiznazz!

Apple’s Image WORKS
First things first, I’m not the biggest fan of Apple. I had somebody at my last employ who was THE Apple fanboy. His day started, ended and was filled with Apple.com. He had the iPhone, his trusted MacBook, and day after day tried to get everyone on board with his beloved brand. As I see it, he is Apple’s favourite kind of customer – Likes technology, loves to “look cool”, and doesn’t want to take the time to learn anything computer related. NOT THAT I’M FAULTING HIM. It’s kind of like the 360 debate vs the PS3. PS3 is slick, great at displaying media, overpriced (imo) while the 360 doesn’t look AS cool, has a TON of great games, but doesn’t always work as expected. I mean, how DARE customers expect their computers to work!


I’ve been able to buy a large monitor and hard drive for a long time Apple.
Don’t insult my intelligence!

Look – I build PCs for fun. The idea of Apple framing new monitors and HD as new amazing enhancements for their iMac makes me laugh. I’m saying to myself, “Um… I’ve been able to go on NewEgg and TigerDirect for eons and pick out EXACTLY what size stuff I want. BUT the fact remains that PCs seem to be much more unstable/unreliable than Macs. It’s the tradeoff for being allowed to do whatever the hell we want to them and one that I (being a computer nerd) happily embrace but one that a lot of people would be willing to give up for something that they “don’t have to worry about”.

I Don’t Blame Steve Jobs
And here’s the thing – The whole “don’t have to worry” thing is a LARGE part of Apple’s image. If you think it’s not – You’re an L7 WEENIE. So if Steve Jobs doesn’t want to introduce Flash into his carefully crafted technology which emphasizes reliability and stability – I DON’T BLAME HIM. Furthermore, I kinda agree with him on Adobe. I was learning about trash collection in my HIGH SCHOOL Computer Science classes so if Flash is still struggling dealing with those kinds of issues after 10 major revisions of their product… I don’t even know…

…Though I’m still not paying $1000 for a Macbook, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air.
…Nor am I paying $150 for an MP3 player.

It is Unnecessarily Hard to Get OTA Digital TV Signals

So not too long ago, me and the wife decided to take out the cable portion of our Verizon package leaving us with just phone and Internet service. To be honest, she wanted to take out the phone too but with all the conferences calls I find myself on these days, I told her I HAD to leave that land line IN PLACE.

Fast forward a bit and it has now been about a month or so since we made that fateful decision to do away with the cable. And I gotta say – From a content point of view, we’re doing just fine! Turns out there wasn’t anything on our basic cable package that we couldn’t just torrent and because we’re just downloading all of our shows, we’re picking what time WE WANT to see everything… Which is good! (As an aside, the whole torrenting thing I’ve never really liked but I figure if I keep away from movies and stuff I shouldn’t be in too much of harms way…)

The Snake in my Boots
Of course there had to be some issue and it has an oooglay head… And it’s name is the OTA Digital TV Signal. “But wait!”, you’re thinking, “I thought you just torrent everything!” That’s true, we do torrent pretty much everything but sometimes stuff comes on early enough that we’d like to see it as it’s broadcast or sometimes (and call us crazy) we just want to turn on the TV and get content. As I write this, I think we’re getting ohhhhh two of the big networks decently. And note, I did not say “well” – I said “decently”. Which means that often we get them with a multitude of dropouts (which imo is still pretty bad) AND we’re still missing everything else on those other channels we’re not getting which indeed sucks.


My current antennae on the back of my porch.

What sucks more is that with the rabbit ears I have, I have to do the utmost of positioning to get the two channels I CAN get, and I am constantly having to adjust them. I’ve played with position, splitters, inside, out… It’s really just a pain in the a$$. And if this is all foreign to you, the thing you have to remember is that because OTA signals are now digital, there aren’t really any more fuzzy pictures. You either get the signal – Or you don’t.


Yep, that’s really what I’m rockin. The snow makes it easier for it to stay put.

Plan of Attack
So I’ve done some research on the topic and while I think the BEST thing I could do to remedy the situation is buy a $60 to $100 antennae and put it on the roof (where it conceivably would have a better line of sight to the towers), I think instead I’m going to try a small directional indoor antennae that I bought while doing debugging off my registry for $25. Based on how far I am from the towers, it looks like I wouldn’t necessarily need an amplified antennae anyway so we’ll give this one a shot. And let me tell you, I hope that it works because when it’s Sunday and I can’t watch football ’cause I’m stuck in the house with the kids… It’s no bueno.

Alternatives to TweetDeck?

I don’t know what kind of program TweetDeck is calling itself. I hear it’s one of many that allow you to stay in touch with the social networking universe without having to load up every one of those sites in a separate tab in Firefox. I phrase it that way because other than TweetDeck, I have no experience with any other PC application that lets you do this stuff.

Now let me say from jump (and which will probably be covered in the followup post) that I’m really happy with TweetDeck. Even though some may view these kinds of programs as general distractions, the fact remains that before I used this program I was constantly stopping what I was doing, firing up a web browser, and going back and forth between sites and pages in those sites checking all the latest posts and tweets going round. Now with TweetDeck constantly running, I get popup notifications that (imo) are relatives unintrusive and really don’t knock me out of my flow when doing work.



But I think that in any event this weekend, I’m going to go ahead, do some research and try to find the biggest programs out there and do a little compare and contrast for next week. Again, don’t get me wrong – I really like TweetDeck for what I use it for, but I just have this sneaking suspicion that there’s other stuff out there that I should at least be checking out.

What say you? Do you have any recommendations for me to look at?

Motorola Droid vs Apple iPhone

I have the LG Chocolate and it’s a nice little phone in that “it works”. But when you put it against a current smart phone or “super-smart phone”, it couldn’t be farther from the pack. The screen is tiny, the camera is passable, typing text on it blows and it does the web so badly it doesn’t warrant getting a data plan.

But things might be changing as it seems that yours truly is eligible for an upgrade! (Well truth be told it’s my wife who is eligible but she stole my last upgrade so I’m gonna steal hers). And as things are picking up in my various businesses, I’m really looking to get a phone that will allow me to keep up on my various projects and might also allow me to do some development to expand my ever growing list of services for my web design company. For these reasons and the fact that I’m a Verizon customer, the new Motorola Droid is looking very attractive to me.


Their kicka$$ launch site helps too!

If you don’t know, it’s the latest contender to the iPhone here in the states and it seems to be getting some pretty good publicity and reviews. And even though it’s all but a certainty that this will be phone I upgrade to, I’m still very curious as to how it stacks up against the iPhone. I’ve checked out a few reviews and previews including Shoemoney’s comments here (where he says that he’s going to switch from his iPhone to the Droid) but I’ve been most impressed with the review on CNet putting the two into a big pseudo prize fight.



You can see the CNet video above and I think it’s PRETTY fair though I don’t know how I feel about the thing ending in a tie, giving so much worth to the whole reception/dropped calls thing. Now when you say that, it of course sounds funny as one of the main functions of a phone should admittedly be making and receiving phone calls. Again, it’s just amazing to me that the scores just happened to balance out completely. In any event, if you’re looking for a quick comparison of the phones, you could do a lot worse.

Curious – Anyone out there have Droids? Like? Don’t like?

PS3 is Out, the Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-Ray Player is In!

It may come as a surprise to many, but for the past month I’ve been in possession of a PS3. That’s right, Sony’s Playstation 3. Trust me, I’m STILL shocked I ponied up the money to buy one. Well here’s how it happened – As you know, most of my gaming is done on a big ol’ home theater projector these days so watching movies in standard def is like putting a knife in my back.

Sorry guys, it just is.

Here’s the Story Morning Glory
So when I wanted to throw my wife a bone about a month ago and rent Twilight for her (horrible movie) I decided I would rent it on Blu-Ray and play it on a PS3. (Besides, I really wanted to beat my co-worker’s score in Super Stardust HD anyhow)… Everything that night went fine and the PS3 was a very capable device in my humble opinion. Fast forward about a month to present time and I had a WAY overpriced gaming system that didn’t have any games I really wanted. (I never did buy a single game for it). BUT, I was probably going to just keep it anyway since it played Blu-Ray movies half way decently and I can be lazier than the day is long sometimes.

It was at that point that I received word about this baby:

Samsung BD-P1500
The Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-Ray Player @ $150!

Now I knew that Blu-Ray player prices were far below the horrific price of PS3’s, but I didn’t know you could find a capable Samsung with just about all the bells and whistles for sub $200! Now to be fair, this is a refurb from Tiger Direct, but cNET gave it a good rating for what it wass and Pete gave me the approving nod on Twitter, so I pulled the trigger!

You Did This to Yourselves Sony!
Chances are that this doesn’t excite you like it does me but that’s ok. If on the other hand you have been BEGGING for an excuse to get a player at a bargain – Why not give this a go? And on a final note, I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I’ve said it before that I have BEGGED Sony to give me a reason to buy a PS3… They haven’t done it with their game library, they haven’t done it with their price, and now with Blu-Ray player prices falling, they may have missed me entirely for this console generation.

PrimoPDF – Your Free PDF Printer!

With all the web design work I’ve been doing, I’ve had to send out a lot of proposals and contracts lately. And since those documents have been in different formats and with different fonts and such, I’ve had to convert them all to PDF format. This hasn’t been the worst thing in the world because I have a laptop with Acrobat Pro which allows me to print any document into a PDF. Unfortunately though, I do most of my work on my desktop so constantly going back and forth between the two is becoming something of a cumbersome process.

Free PDF Conversion from Adobe.com?
Then I remembered that Adobe offers free PDF conversion online! So I went on the site, logged in with my standard user/pass, and was promptly informed that I had already used up my 5 trial conversions. *frown* So I said, “Ok, I’ll just log on as someone else,” and I went to my backup user/pass. It would seem as if I had been down this road before as I didn’t have any trial conversions left there either. I would consequently have to sign up as a new user to get another 5 but I thought to myself, “Ok, you sometimes print 5 PDFs in 5 minutes as you catch a typo after the fact… This isn’t going to work out, you use the software enough, why don’t you just buy it?”.

But to be truthful, it’s hard to justify spending $450 on a full version of Acrobat Pro just so you can print documents out to PDFs. SO, I did what I was always do when my back’s to the wall and that’s turn to the Internet! Turns out there is more than one company offering free PDF software including one who I found that provided a great solution, PrimoPDF! But the question wasn’t really if I could find a PDF converter download but instead if I could find one that rivaled Adobe’s online free PDF conversion. Otherwise, I guess I could just create new e-mails for new Adobe trials…


PrimoPDF

Your Free PDF Printer!
PrimoPDF – You gotta love their look. You got the person with the surfboard and of course the tagline, “Totally Free PDF Creation because It’s everybody’s PDF” just gives you the “screw the man” feeling right? At first I was really scratching my head as to why they would give away their stuff for free but after a bit of research it looks like PrimoPDF is apart of the ActivePDF family which DOES sell a bunch of PDF solutions. So we can all feel a bit less paranoid about the wool being pulled over our eyes. When I originally set out on my search, I really had just hoped to find some free pdf software. You know – Something that installed to my computer in Program Files that I’d fire up, load up a file and then have it convert it to a PDF. Imagine my surprise when I found that it gives you, (are you ready for this?)…

a FREE PDF PRINTER DRIVER!


PrimoPDF

For those of you who don’t understand why you should be so excited, let me break it down for you. This is the same functionality given to you when you have Adobe Acrobat Pro. When you want to convert something to a PDF, you select print so you bring up the Print dialog box and then you select “PrimoPDF” as your printer. A second or two later and you have your PDF! Ha, you know the more I write this post the more it’s sounding like I was paid to write it. But I assure you that I wasn’t, I’m honestly just excited that I don’t have to shell out “beaucoup dólares” for Acrobat and I no longer have to constantly flip between my desktop and laptop.

Same as Adobe.com?
Before I definitively looked to PrimoPDF to be my PDF converter of choice, I had to do a sample test on a flyer I had made in Publisher. So what I basically did was convert the flyer into PDF form at both Adobe.com and by using the free PDF printer driver installed on my computer by PrimoPDF. Frankly, I was shocked by the results!

PrimoPDF
Adobe’s Online Free PDF Conversion on Top / PrimoPDF’s Free PDF Printer on Bottom

The PDF I created with PrimoPDF looked better than the one created by Adobe! I attributed this to something like JPEG compression or the like so I went back in to Adobe.com, put all the settings I could on maximum and ran it again. This time I got a much better result from Adobe.com, but still not as clean as PrimoPDF! I also went ahead and printed out both PDFs (and maybe it’s just my lackluster printer), but I couldn’t see any difference between the two in print. It’s only when you’re viewing it at 200% which I’d think some people are inclined to do.

Conclusion
If you’re looking for a free pdf printer, you could do FAR worse than PrimoPDF. After electing to print your document into a PDF, a PrimoPDF dialog appears so that you can change the quality of the PDF between their custom settings, edit document properties such as authorship and also add security. The process is fast, the file sizes are comparable to PDFs created with Adobe, and their logo has a surfboard in it. What more could you ask for?

Am I Developing for XNA 3.0 Game Studio?

The short answer to that is “not yet”. Here’s the longer answer

If you’ve been following along recently, you know that I was pretty much forced into reformatting my hard drive. Of course, nothing is as simple as just that (because of a semi broken mobo) but it all led me to reformatting a spare ATA drive, abandoning my SATA drive for the time being, and really setting it up from jump as a solid dev box. I mean – Figured might as well since I’m doing a lot of web development these days anyway (hint hint) and up to this point I didn’t even have IE 6 on my computer.


Paint Shop Pro

So after I got Windows updated to SP3, got all my updates in and then got IE 6 on there, I wondered what else I should put on my new box. Well for me, the first thing to go on is usually Paint Shop Pro (since I’m a Photoshop n00b). After that I thought about installing Creative Suite, but since I didn’t have a full legit copy, I didn’t want destroying my new box on a bitTorrenting spree. Plus, since I’ve used CS products for so long, I figured I ought to buy at least one version in the next couple months.

Onto the Cool Stuff!
So for those of you who don’t know, my background is really in “traditional Computer Science”, whatever that means. And just because of where my life has gone professionally, I tend to do A LOT more of “web programming” than anything else these days… Which is to say that ActionScript, CSS, and PHP are pretty much my constant companions. One of the things that I had always wanted to learn but “never had the chance to” was .NET. I knew I had a full copy of Visual Studio 6.0 laying around so I put that in, but unfortunately that didn’t seem to have .NET on it. Then I remembered that a friend of mine was toying around with XNA for 360 and had downloaded Microsoft’s Visual C# 2008 Express Edition…

And I said why not?


XNA Creators Club

So now I have Visual C# 2008 Express with the XNA Game Studio 3.0 on my desktop PLUS I have Maya 7.0 on there too! YOU may not be excited, but for the LONGEST time I’ve wanted to try my hands at some basic 3D Game Programming and now I’m finally all set to do it!

The Cold Hard Reality
Though the truth of the thing is that I have a TON of things going no right now the least of which is my 9-5. I mean, I just have no idea when I’m going to have the time to start working on this thing. But, back in the days of DirectX 6 and stuff, I don’t know that I had the time then either… I just stopped sleeping. (#):) So we’ll see. How cool would it be to see something up on Live from yours truly?! PLUS, I think I already have an idea of a stellar game (though I’m pretty sure someone has already made it and it’s probably already caught up in M$ Legislation). Stay tuned true believers!

My New Pioneer Receivers!

As I eluded to sometime ago, I’ve upped my home theater game in several different areas. The part that I did something about was my receiver.

I had been rocking the Pioneer VSX-D812-K and while it has been a “loyal friend and true” for quite sometime, not having HDMI inputs or decoding for HD audio was starting to grate on me a bit. Honestly though, I never really made up my mind to change up the receiver but while I was at Worst Buy, I happened upon a receiver that made me cock an eyebrow.

The Pioneer VSX-90TXV
So this receiver was sitting out on a table of “Manager’s Specials” and was listed at $323 I believe. Immediately, the look of it caught my eye as do most of the receivers in the Pioneer Elite lineup. And of course being me the first thing I do is turn it around so I can drool over the connections in the back. Certainly it puts my old receiver to shame but I still had enough restraint to do some research that night at home to check out what it decodes and what it can do. I won’t hit them all up here, but if you’re curious click the link to go to Pioneer’s VSX-90TXV stats.


Pioneer VSX-90TXV

Fast forward to the next day and I went back to Best Buy and basically fought off another customer to get the receiver. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear thinking I got something that looked really attractive and was indeed really special. That is… UNTIL I hooked my stuff up to it including my 360 and projector… How about – I COULDN’T GET ANY SOUND OUT OF THE RECEIVER. What gives you may ask? Well after many many minutes of research on the big G and forums I found out that if this receiver doesn’t pull audio for HDMI connections, it just passes it through (to say your TV).

I found this out and was just ticked off. What’s the point of having a receiver with HDMI connections if it can’t parse the audio!? The manual says that if you want digital audio, you have to make ANOTHER connection using an optical cord or something… AND SO I needed to find a new receiver.

Enter the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K!
Over on the AVS Forums, I found out that people who didn’t especially like the 90-TXV went over to the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K. Sure it doesn’t look AS nice, but the features are really spectacular for its price point. (And I think I managed to snag it at $4-$500 w/ an employee discount). Again, hit the jump to check out all the VSX-1018AH-K specs but some highlights are HD Audio decoding, HDMI connections, and *drumroll* video upconversion!!! That last one is huge because I wasn’t feeling running tons of cables to my projector so being able to put everything through on ONE HDMI cord was pretty choice.


Pioneer VSX-1018-AH-K

Since hooking things up, I’ve been very happy with the receiver. Things look just great on it and sound even better. Unfortunately, I didn’t take in to account the fact that I live in a townhouse with slotted stairs… Yeah you guessed it, the sound just travels throughout the whole place COMPLETELY unabated. So.. If the wife is sleeping, I can’t crank it too much, but even when it’s on a little it sounds FAB U LOUS.