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

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

Flowplayer a free player for your site

Want to add video to your website?  Well take a look at Flowplayer, it is a free open source player that is very easy to implement.


http://flowplayer.org/demos/installation/index.html
http://flowplayer.org/documentation/installation/index.html

Photoshop now even more intelligent

Adobe is making the next version of their “Content Aware Fill” feature in Photoshop even more intelligent, this will allow you to edit out even complex structures from pictures and this without advanced knowledge of photo editing.

See the video for a demonstration, it is quite amazing.

Capture online video streams

Here is yet another capture program for capturing online video streams “Web Video Cap” (eg. for youtube etc etc).


Pros;
Easy operations, it will capture everything in the background, its from our friends at www.nirsoft.net whom usually makes excellent tools.

Cons; Unless you stop it/configure it, it will capture EVERYTHING/ANYTIME.

As with most other capture products you need to install WinPcap (a resident background driver) so nothing new there.

Download Web Video Capture here; http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/web_video_capture.html

Read much more here; http://www.ghacks.net/2010/04/02/download-online-videos-with-web-video-cap/

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).

Windows 7 codec

So you upgraded to Windows 7 but are as always having issues with Codec’s (A codec is the ‘decoder/encoder’ for a video or soundfile in a specific format eg. DivX or Xvid).

Under Windows Vista the Vista Codec pack seemed to work perfectly, but I was reluctant to install it on Windows 7 out of fear to create problems for H.264 (H.264 is now native to Windows 7, which was not the case for Windows Vista).  However in the end I had to (too many things did not work without these codec’s), anyway it turned out that the Vista Codec Pack would not install on Windows 7, it cleverly detected that it was a new OS and pointed out that a new package was available here.

So all in all, my worries was laid to rest and I downloaded Windows 7 codec pack and everything was back to the old working state.

Do you need this codec pack?  Well very likely not, most users can download the VLC player this player has build in most common codec’s and can thus play most video/snd files you get hold of, however if you need to do video conversion etc. then it is a different matter, Windows then need to be able to ‘understand’ the fileformat and this may ofthen require a codec.  The rule should be, try VLC player, if its enough dont install anything more if not install the Windows 7 codec pack or Windows Vista Codec pack (also works for Windows XP).

Mediaplayers update – VLC 1.00 relased (finnaly)

vlcp1You likely already know about VLC player from VideoLan.org?  It is a nifty little player that has several cool features, like; it is free, it has build in codex’es and oh yeah it is free 😉

The really cool thing about VLC is that it come with build in codex’es, this is clever because it is often here mediaplaying go wrong, a user simply does not have the right codex and can not display a mediaclip, many PC users have downloaded a codex pack – however your old aunt Oda have not and cant watch the videoclips you put on your website..  Well VLC deal with this by integrating the codexes, this way you wont have to think about it.

In the past the VLC player had one drawback, it was ugly and un userfriendly, however in the first final (it has been in beta for many years now) version this seem to be fixed..  the player looks nice and is easy to navigate..

Download it here;
http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-windows.html

Just before I was about to post this I was informed about another player very similar;kmplayer
http://kmplayer.en.softonic.com/ KMPlayer
looks very nice (possibly even a bit better than VLC, so give it a spin also)..

Aiptek PocketDV AHD 300 – quick review

aiptekI always wanted a video camera, but to be honest have had very little use for one..  But some day I came across IronGeek.org’s site and was intrigued by this cheap HD camera, and as it proved to be even cheaper in Denmark and I had just received a small bonus check from my insurance company on just that amount, well I ended up buying one..

So how is it really?  Well it’s small very light weight and I’d say good value for money, it lack optical zoom and the sound could have been slightly better (but it’s not bad at all)..  I’ll see if I can’t record a small demo video and put it up here for you to see some time in the future.  Recording is done in .mov format and thus you need to convert it if you wish to transfer it to DVD, but computerplayback works like a charm with Apple Quicktime (which also let you stick to HD)..  Recording of 1h full hd is 4gb, so I added a 16gb sd card which leaves plenty of space for recording.  All in all I am satisfied.

A few links to news/reviews;
http://www.product-reviews.net/2008/08/12/new-aiptek-pocketdv-ahd-300-1080p-camcorder/
http://www.aiptek.eu/index.php?option=com_product&task=view&productid=162&Itemid=278

And I bought mine here;
http://www.mobiludsalg.dk/pi/Aiptek_PocketDV_AHD_300_11694_.aspx
Which was the cheapest store at the time (DKK 1.000,-  €133).

Update; I had some minor problems with video’s I transferred from this camera (they would ‘pixelate’), I actually thought the camera might have been broken – but it turned out to be quite a trivial matter see the explanation here  http://www.kanmandet.dk/?p=813  now video’s transferred from the camera is crisp and sharp..