Mar 08 2015

Blog - Amazon Fire TV as a PVR Client with Kodi

Kodi (aka XBMC) is catching fire by using the Amazon Fire TV as a client. As both a user of MCE and SageTV via cableCARD, I have been looking to find a replacement for those particular PVR HTPC systems that has extender capabilities due to no more or little further development from either camp in quite a while. MCE has never really had a viable extender for my needs and I always found them to use way to many resources while not being able to play common file types very well and consistently. SageTV is not cableCARD certified, however due to my cable company not encrypting most of the channels it has been a very good option  for me with the exception of no more support or development unless it is through the user forums which has really slowed down to a crawl. Still if aint broke don’t fix right? Well that’s the trouble. Things are beginning to not work as the should a bit with some of the features over at SageTV. While they are minor issues, Youtube being one was fixed by a software writer in the forum.  My bigger concern was noticing a couple of channels that I would normally get were now encrypted. While first figuring it was a glitch, upon discussion with a coworker, he had mentioned that my cable provider was bought by another cable provider. At about that time is when this issue had surfaced. It could be coincidence but not something that I could chance.

Mar 03 2015

Review - NETGEAR Arlo

NETGEAR arlo

Where in the past OEMs have happily sold wireless cameras, and the infrastructure to put them on the network, no one has tried to tie it all together into a consumer product that is reliable and easy to use. With the recent release of Arlo, NETGEAR has done exactly that, signaling a strong a desire to build a discrete brand leveraging its deep networking expertise to deliver a rich and approachable monitoring ecosystem. To accomplish this Arlo is the combination of up to three 2.4GHz 802.11N base stations + up to fifteen weatherproof and completely wireless cameras. This holistic approach is unique because it provides a solution instead of just the parts, but to fully scale out the system there are hardware ($350 for a two camera setup to $500 for four, $160/camera à la carte) and ongoing service costs ($10-15/month or $99-149/year). There is no denying that NETGEAR Arlo is quite intriguing, let’s dig into the details.

Feb 13 2015

Review - UPPER DESK Mobile Device Mounts

With the increasing reach of over-the-top (OTT) content on tablets and mobile phones, content consumption can follow us around the home in a way that a fixed location TV never could. Holding onto the mobile device isn’t always convenient, whether it’s because more than one person is viewing or because you’re elbow deep in cooking, carving (my father often watches how-to videos in his shop), or simply don’t want to hold it up for an extended period of time. This is where a mount comes in handy--but it needs to be portable, easy to use, and most importantly sensitive to the surfaces of the mobile device and mounting surface. Hoping to solve each of these problems UPPER DESK offers table and cabinet mounts promising convenience and flexibility; at $60 ($40 street) it’s priced well enough that if they can deliver it just might be the perfect solution.

Feb 10 2015

Review - Amazon FireTV Stick – A Dream XBMC/KODI Player

When Amazon first released their FireTV player there was not a ton of excitement for the AppleTV competitor. Sure it looked the same, provided similar features, and cost the same ($99), but for most consumers the features were too similar to create a buzz. With the release of the FireTV Stick however, Amazon has now targeted the very popular Google Chromecast price range, but added a wealth of features—and a Bluetooth remote—for $39, making it one of the lower cost media players and directly placing it in competition with the Chromecast, and Roku devices as well.

Amazon FireTV Stick

While the Amazon FireTV Stick is a more than capable media player that does exactly what it’s advertised, the true magic was discovered when I learned that the Stick could be used as an XBMC (now called Kodi) client. I have tested a number of various low cost XBMC clients over the years, and the problem has always been that the client can rarely play all of the files as my main HTPC, as anything with higher resolution or bitrate would either not play or cause stutter. With the FireTV Stick, that was not the case!

Feb 03 2015

Review - iRemocon IR Learning Remote Control

iRemocon

There is a point in scaling out a home theater where a good universal remote control becomes an essential part of the experience. Yes, you can get by with the pseudo universal that came with the AVR, but then you have to train your family, and worse the babysitter, how to use that in a productive way. They need to have input specific knowledge to understand how to make it all play. We’ve seen myriad solutions that attempt to resolve this, but so far unless you step up to the quite expensive custom integrator (CI) solutions, nothing I’ve played with can touch the [still sometimes frustrating] experience of Logitech’s Harmony remotes. iRemocon has taken on this challenge with their $180 smartphone driven IR blasting fixed location device. Offering infinite customization via their UI designer, it holds significant promise – let’s see if it can deliver.

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