MINIX NEO X7 – On the subject of mini pc’s

intel-nucSo I was reading about the Intel NUC which is a mini pc that will fit in your palm, I heard it was just released in an i5 version (previously i3) so it is a fairly crafty machine that will easily run Windows and even throw in a virtual machine or two.  One drawback though is the price, with a full fledged Intel cpu the price shoots up :-/ not unreasonable but enough that it’s not for me.

Anyway, a comment in a review led me to this link;

http://www.minix.com.hk/Products/MINIX-NEOX7.html

so at 1/3 the price (more or less) you get a cool gadget, that although it will not run Windows will run Android and although not being super fast and powerful as the i5 processor it is fast enough for realtime HD video, netflix and the lot..

41EizlnFUqL__SX385_

Bottom line, if you are looking for an extention to your big screen tv, to play a bit of netflix, surf and other stuff this Minix Neox7 looks real cute and fair priced.

http://youtu.be/cBR3ZrurMKI

Netflix for magazines and games

It is now more than just rumours, Netflix will be setting up shop in Denmark – Lovely, although I do fear that it will be a LIGHT version as the European right holders are notorious for being greedy and thus the titles online will likely be a lot smaller than the US version.

Anyhow, I just realized that there are actually services like Netflix for both Magazines and Games;


www.onlive.com
Is a gaming portal where you can “stream” your games, the game is actually run on the companies server and thus you only get the video streamed.  You can sign up for a package that will contain a bunch of games, not as attractive as Netflix but still for younger kids maybe still worth while – you can also get a settop box and controller so you can play on your livingroom tv.  Sadly of course its US only 😐  but with a VPN service and a little ingenuity you should be able to bypass this..

 


http://www.nextissue.com/storefront/
Is for Magazines what Netflix is for video, here you can pay a monthly fee and get access to a bunch of magazines. Sadly of course its US only 😐  but with a VPN service and a little ingenuity you should be able to bypass this..

Holographics monitor!? 3D to the extreme…

Some of my friends keep telling me that 3D is only a buzz thing that will go away again, I must say I don’t think so, 3D although not as major a breakthrough as surround sound is fairly neat and once we get to the version without glasses people will be caught on the idea..  Myself, I don’t mind the glasses much, ok I do wear glasses daily and thus it’s same-same to me but the once they use at my local cinema tend to make things slightly darkish (it’s the Dolby once, those reusable once) – now I last year visited an IMAX cinema in China and those glasses were a LOT better though they tended to slip off the nose a bit..  so clearly 3D without glasses would be neat..

But how about this, a holographic display!?  Now THAT sound NEAT like hell…
http://youtu.be/Ux6aD6vE9sk

Crackle.com – more streaming

While ‘playing’ with my Roku2 box I came across Crackle.com and thought I’d mention it.

Www.Crackle.Com is a fully Free (yes I don’t get the business model either) streaming service (USA only, but this can be fixed with either www.witopia.net eller www.unblock-us.com), not quite as good selection as www.netflix.com but FREE 😀

Roku 2 HD getting it to work in Europe (Partly anyway)

Today my Roku2 set top box arrived from the USA (my first order via www.shopusa.com which seem to have workd fine), I had ordered this to be able to watch Netflix in my bedroom and the Roku2 box seemed the easiest and cheapest way.

The device which comes with remote and build-in wifi seemed nice, small and elegant and I did not expect many issues connecting it, I had read in advance that the service www.unblock-us.com was supporting this unit so everything should be a brease.

Well things did not go acording to plan 🙁

First things first, www.unblock-us.com works by you replacing your DNS servers with servernames (or rather IP’s) they provide, well the darn box has no network settings it gets it’s configuration from DHCP and that is it.  Well no problem, I run a Windows 2008R2 server with DHCP so I just created a new reservation for the MAC address of the Roku 2 box and setup the Unblock-us DNS server ip’s for this reservation – and sure enough this part worked like a charm (note you have to follow the instructions on the www.unblock-us.com site and activate the service before starting to use it, I’m not 100% sure how they register you, likely by your external IP – but how do they deal with dynamic IP’s then??).

So now I had the device connected to my WLAN and tv.  The first thing is then to link the Roku box to an account, you need you computer for this – so I created an account and entered the ID-code from the Roku 2 box (it displays a code you need to enter into your new Roku account to link the device to your account), and everything worked like a charm (I used a P.O.Box address in the USA as my postal address and my American Express as credit card, everything was fine).  But now began my trouble, see the device somehow knew that it was not in the USA and only showed a few totally uninteresting streaming channels (no Netflix, no Hulu etc. etc.), and now began a lot of googling – I found these two threads that seemed to give some insight to the matter;

http://support.unblock-us.com/customer/portal/questions/141869-roku-2-not-showing-us-content

http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1695235

And the issue appears to be that the account somehow is not accepted as a fully valid USA account, now I tried deleting the account and recreating it via a USA vpn as some suggested, I tried different credit cards, I tried creating a USA Paypal account but nothing solved the issue.  It was suggested that by using a verified USA creditcard you might overcome the problem, however USA credit cards are hard to come by in Europe :-/  I only know of a few places where you can obtain these and these are not free so a streaming service would end up being fairly expensive 😐

Link to obtaining a USA credit card;
http://www.unblock-us.com/how-to-set-up/us-unlocked
http://www.kanmandet.dk/?p=1860 (might also work)

I did however in the end find a liveable solution to my torment, once the device is fully configured and setup you unlink it from your Roku account – then you wait a few minutes and either restart the Roku or refresh your channels – this strangely enough caused the device to remove all channels BUT at the same time restore the Netflix launch button to the frontpage – and now Netflix works (and possibly also Hulu) – you still need Unblock-us not to forget, however all other channels are gone…  Ok, my objective was to get Netflix so I’m happy with this, but at the same time it’s a shame to not be able to try out all the other stuff – but I guess there is no winning every time 🙁

Btw; the powersupply supports both 110v and 220v so no problems there other than the wall jack which a universal adapter took care off

So status at the moment is; Got Netflix working (by unlinking the Roku from my Roku account) but now that is all the device can do…..  Hrmpf I am not totally satisfied, but guess this will have to do…

Streaming and Netflix navigation seem to work fine, quality is not fully as good as when I stream from a PC but quite acceptable.  Do let me know if anyone figures out a way around this messy situation.

Another odd thing about the Roku 2 box, there is no standby?  you need to unplug the darn thing to shut it down, acording to Roku it is because it uses so little power, now I don’t know in these days where we all are suposed to be thinking about the environment :-/

UPDATE March 8th 2012;
Found this site that appear to offer a workaround for any non USA credit card problems, I have not had the need to test it myself but it looks like a workable solution:
http://www.buyfrompowerseller.com

LG 22LU5000 HD LCD TV – Hackable

So I bought a new LCD TV for my bedroom, the old Sony 21″ 4.3 TV had finished it’s tour of duty.

I ended up with a LG 22LU5000 22″ LCD tv YouTube video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt8s_m6dFi0, mainly because of the price I have to say (DKK 1.750,- aprox € 233)..  So how is it?; well picture quality is a big thumbs up, the menu system is fair (I miss being able to name the channels myself) but the sound is dreadful (yes it really suck when it come to sound, it’s something they call invisible speaker …..  yeah, it almost sounds like they forgot to include a speaker)…  Oh well, as mentioned the price is very fair and it is only for my bedroom, so I guess I can live with a bit poorer sound.

What however proved to be really cool and a total surprise was that the tv/firmware was hackable, it allowed for a hack that enabled a USB mediaplayer within the tv..  So now I can plug a usb disk into the service USB port on the TV and play xvid, divx and mkv files 🙂  now that’s cool…  I had even bought a WD TV Mini for that job (before I learned about the hack) but hey I guess I can use that in the living room 🙂

If you have a LG tv, take a look here, maybe your model is equally hackable 🙂 cool…
http://lgusb.wikispaces.com

Boxee the “WD Live TV” killer..

boxee

I somewhere read about this software a while ago called “Boxee”, it’s a new mediacenter software which can be downloaded for free from http://www.boxee.tv But with so much mediacenter software out there it got lost in the masses.  Anyway, recently I was reminded as D-Link is rattling their sable with the forthcoming release of the Boxee Box (well that is hardly going to be the name but still)..  It looks VERY interesting especially with a full qwerty keyboard being merged into the very neat remote that come with it, and it does seem somewhat more interesting than the WD Live TV (A LOT more apps/widgets) and a more finished design overall.

It does indeed look interesting.  Boxee seem to be based upon XBMC (X-Box Media Center) http://xbmc.org/download (which I btw still use on my old trusty X-Box 1 Classic)

Should you want to preview the experience you can download the free software for your pc/mac here http://www.boxee.tv/box

A few notes though;

  • The box is generally good at recognizing your video and music files (even series etc), BUT if it does not recognize the media file (it does so from the naming of the file) it wont show it :-/  thus you will need to rename it to a naming convention it understands which seem silly and acquad.  From what I can tell it will be getting the data (including photos) from IMDB.
  • I had some issues getting it to accept a share on a Windows 2003 server, I could ‘bypass’ this by mapping the share as a drive letter on my Win 7 machine where I ran Boxee but I am still puzzled as to why it did not seem to accept a simple Windows Share.
  • A further cause of concern is, what data is reported back to the producers of this software!?  Do they get the complete list of my music, video etc. archives?  Sadly I don’t know which concerns me as you have to register to run the software 😐

dlink1boxee-box-remote

A quick look at what formats it recognizes;

Video:

  • Adobe Flash 10.1
  • H.264  (MKV, MOV)
  • VC-1
  • WMV
  • MPEG-1
  • MPEG-2
  • MPEG-4
  • AVI
  • Xvid
  • Divx
  • PCM/LPCM
  • VOB

Lyd:

  • MP3
  • WMA
  • WAV
  • AIFF
  • FLAC
  • AAC
  • DTS
  • Dolby Digital
  • Ogg Vorbis

Billeder:

  • JPEG
  • TIFF
  • BMP
  • PNG

Adobe Flash Player v.10.1 beta download

flashlogoSo if you want to be totally up-beat or perhaps are testing out Boxee then you will want to install the latest Adobe Flash Player (Boxee actually seem to require this), but no worries you can get it right here;

http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer10.html

Among other things this version will add HW acceleration, neat for Netbooks as compatible GFX cards now can assist in playing video and thus perhaps adding HD playback to your otherwise slow Atom processor (however this DO require a compatible GFX card to work like the Nvidia ION and others).

Bypassing US IP restrictions and/or Surfing anonymously

If you live in Europe you are bound to have experienced being rejected, when trying to watch your favorite TV show on a US web-site – something in the line of “We are sorry but your IP seem to come from a country outside the USA” bummer – this is annoying as some US TV stations have cool tv shows available for free viewing (but restricted to the US).

ultrasurf9So, as I have mentioned before you can use the TOR network (http://www.torproject.org/) to proxy around this problem – but TOR is an install package that may not always be appropriate to install on a company/school pc etc, along comes UltraSurf (http://www.ultrareach.com/) a simple little portable application you can put on your USB stick.

UltraSurf will once it is started open a browser and you can browse the net with a US based IP (by proxying your traffic) thus giving you access to US based webservices.  Speed is not great but seemed acceptable and I managed to get an ok mediastream from ABC (note you may have to restart the browser when installing activex components).

A word of caution, I would not share creditcard or other confidential information on a proxyed connection, you never know who/what is inspecting your HTTP traffic, HTTPS/SSL/TSL traffic should be secure though (but still think about what you are doing).

Get it here (Free);
http://www.ultrareach.com/

Show your IP (you will notice this changes once UltraSurf is started);
http://showip.net/ or http://www.ipchicken.com/