Saturday, January 28, 2006

SageTV Updates

Warning - this is boring if you don't like tech stuff. I've tried not to be overly technical, but I think I've failed at that. :)

For those of you who don't know, for our television at home I use a computer to control all of it. The idea is basically the same as Tivo, except I don't have montly subscription costs and a lot of control over how a lot of it works and to make additions and changes to it. The downside is it probably costs a little bit more over time - depending on how long you keep Tivo of course. If I don't upgrade this computer for another year or so, I think I'm coming out quite a bit ahead. I've had it for a while.

The hardware I'm using is a custom built older computer - in this case an Athlon 1.4Ghz with 256MB DDR memory, and a 30GB and 120GB Hard Drive. It is underclocked to like 1050Mhz and I've removed some of the active cooling because this computer is sitting in the living room and loud = bad. Especially since this is the only form of technology I've put into our house that my wife won't let me pry it away from her now. Needless to say, she's become quite attached to having this.

The software I am using is SageTV. I've been using it for about a year and a half. It does Electronic Program Guide updates, Schedules Programs to Record, and Does timeshifting (pause and rewind live TV). It has lots more features and custom addons (I can schedule programs to record from a web browser anywhere on the internet) that I think make it better than Tivo. There are other pieces of software that do the same sort of thing, most notably BeyondTV and MythTV. I've actually tried them all as well as some others and let me put it to you this way. This was a hobby for me to try to set up for about half a year trying many different free pieces of software and trying to do it as inexpensively as possible. I got more done as far as setup goes in one night with SageTV with better results than in 6 months with the other pieces of software. Looking back, I bet BeyondTV will work just fine as well and actually has some other cool features SageTV doesn't have, but I'm now hooked on SageTV.

Anyhow, on to what I've changed on it. When I originally built it, I only put one TV Tuner into it because - well at the time it cost me about $90 for it and it would be functional with just one. It was also one of the only components I'd have to purchase at the time and my cheapskate nature would not allow me to pay for more. The TV tuner I chose was the Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250. If you've never purchased TV Tuners before for a computer, you may have never heard of them, but trust me they are the standard in this field. I'm not saying there aren't better products out there, but since they are so popular most software supports them. This card has done me well and is at the center of making things work as far as the tv goes.

So in December I ask my wife if she'd rather have a new remote control or an additional tv tuner card in the computer. Like I'm sure you may ask as she did - whats the advantage of another tv tuner?

With one tuner and SageTV - you CAN do 2 things at once - meaning you can watch a show while recording another, but the one you are watching has to already be recorded in the past. This is kind of like having a vcr - and like a vcr - you can watch something as you record something else (if you know how to work your tv right and don't have a cable box or satellite) but unlike a vcr - you can't watch something that is showing right now as you are recording something else. This is because in order to do the timeshifting you are contstantly recording what you are watching - even if you don't keep it. In fact, if you were to put another tv in the room, you'd find what you are watching isn't even exactly live - there is a momentary delay in what you are seeing compared to the other set.

I've just put in a Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150. This tuner may sound like a downgrade from the older tuner, but I picked it up for $65 from Amazon. So, cheaper, and a lower model number - it must be a lesser product, right? From what I can tell from the comparison chart on the Hauppauge website - I'm going to say no. It might cost them less to make it but looking at the features and from what I've already witnessed - they are really about the same. If I were to build another system or start today I'd just get 2 of the 150s. Maybe 3. I'd also get the MediaMVP unit - well, I won't get into that right now. If someone wants to know more about this stuff, let me know.

The results? Well first of all let me say it was ridiculously easy to add the 2nd tuner in. I just popped it into the pci slot, attached another cable connection to it from my splitter, loaded the drivers (and updated them) and then added another video source in SageTV (and programmed the channels in it). With 2 tuners, the game changes dramatically. I can now record 2 live programs at once. So, if my wife schedules something for a time she isn't home but I am - I can now watch something else without cancelling "Martha" or "Judging Amy". Not that i'm ever home at those times. I also, and this kind of seems odd to me, but works - can record 2 shows at the same time AND watch another program that i've already record. I didn't even notice any stutter in the playback. This is most likely because the 2 tuners both have hardware encoding so the only video i'm playing back and decoding is the recorded show. Now I can finally schedule The Daily Show and My Name is Earl (still haven't seen it) to record and not interfere with previously committed show and Wendy can still record The District every day while not interfering with Judging Amy.

The ironic thing? I don't really watch that much tv really. I've barely even watched any this week at all. But nowI'm not forced to make that choice if two things are on at once. Anyone got any favorite show recommendations to check out? :)

To continue my SageTV is the coolest rant, it appears that someone has developed a SageTV to Video Ipod convertor piece of software for free. It watches for new recordings, coverts them, and adds them to iTunes so that when you plug in the ipod - your recorded shows are on there. Since I now have a video ipod, I definitely am going to test this out. I'll report on it if it cool. I should have some of the shows recorded encoded and put on the ipod today.

And - for Christmas - my wife did buy me(us) a new remote because the one we have we got for $6 and is wearing out. It was a crazy slick deal since it is a programmable remote that uses fm instread of infrared for transmission. I decided on wanting the ATI Remote Wonder Plus - because it has decent range and looks versatile - but it was on backorder around Christmas. I still haven't gotten it yet, but it says in stock at the ATI Store so I should really look into that soon.

Cheers everyone, thanks for making it through this more techie post. I'm off to test tv shows on the video ipod!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I am Ninja or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Ok, it is totally stupid but check out . I read about it somewhere, but it was totally taken to an even funnier level with Amanda Congdan of Rocketboom. It was a couple of days ago, so just check out all of the Rocketbooms until then. (link on left with my other links of note.)

We are back from Illinois. It was good to see everyone but it is definitely good to be back home.

Also I just finished watching Dr. Strangelove.

Weird, just really weird. Parts were funny, but still quite stange. Really early acting role for James Earl Jones. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but definitely really forwarding thinking in movies for it's day. I probably would have loved it if I had seen it in 1964. I'd recommend the rental because I think it is one of those movies you just have got to see sometime.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Greetings From Starved Rock

Hello from our one day getaway at a favorite of ours, Starved Rock - where we are usually anything but starved. We haven't seen snow so far this year, and this was no different when we arrived.

But just a few hours later and voila....

We couldn't have picked a better day for snow here at the lodge.

That snowball hits the tree to the left deadon only seconds later. And for those of you who are trying to hack the planet, here is info on the wireless here. :) Ok, more of a just a picture of one of the access points.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Leaving for Illinois Tomorrow

And I can do is pack pack pack. I am the worst packer I know. It could take me all day to leave for a week. It doesn't matter how much time I have, I'll never get enough sleep before I travel anywhere.

Better go back to packing. See some of you soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Greeting from Nascar Central

I'm in Charlotte tonight because of work - and I miss my wife.

And thanks Rich for finally watching TikibarTV - I've converted at least one person! :)

And Frank may be the only one that appreciates this other than Wendy, but I found a Cheddar's Restaurant in North Carolina - I think there's just one in Charlotte and thats it!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Irony

I should have been prepared for this, but somehow I wasn't. Because of listening to podcasts - I've listened to very very little popular music in the last 6 months or so. Thats really a long time when I think about it. Wendy listens to classic rock and country mostly so it isn't like I'll hear anything current (non-country) with her.

So, the ironic thing is that now I've got this new ipod, and I'm realizing that I haven't listened to much music at all lately. Still very useful for podcasts of course. So I've decided I'll start listening to lots of music again along with the podcasts - for a good balance. :)

Ok, so RealRhapsody is something i've used in the past for 2 months or so (a year ago) - because I was able to get it for free. But it was a pain to cancel after the free trial and they have a credit card on file so you have to call to cancel. RealRhapsody, for those who don't know - is a streaming music service that has a pretty large music library - the only hitch is it is streaming, not something you are downloading and keeping and moving to your ipod, etc. And you have to be on the computer or with a device that is supported that talks to your computer. It is unlimited music though while you have the service.

Many people are savvy and use applications like ReplayMusic to record the music and make them into mp3s, but i'm not specifically promoting that.

Anyhow, if you go to to

Click the blue Get my free pass button and wait for the short Honda ad to finish playing. When the ad finishes, click Begin 14-day FREE Rhapsody Trial.

Don't even worry about entering a valid email address, that part doesn't really matter believe it or not. This free trial doesn't require a credit card, and since they don't get any personal information really, it gives you an idea of what it is. It is definitely great for free. :)

This is how I'm going to start listening to some current music of the last 6 months. Geez, I feel like I was in a coma or something! Anyone have any recommedations of their favorite new song/arists of the last 6 months or so? :)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Finally Got the Ipod!

UPS tracking said it wouldn't come today, but it finally did!

I know tons and tons of people have these, but these are still the coolest. I cannot believe the image and video quality on the not so tiny lcd. I can't imagine watching an entire movie on it, but maybe a tv show. I better download some more video podcasts other than Tikibartv and Rocketboom (I will not like those again - they are already on my links on the side). The video quality is just soooo sharp.

What I just still have a hard time grasping is how small they are, even my huge 60gb ipod video.

Maybe I'm just a noob at this, but I don't have the nano or mini or anything. This is the full size, real deal, largest 5th (current) generation you can get. I think the nano and mini would be too small for me. I never thought when I was describing what mp3s where to people in 1996 that I'd ever have something like this!

I don't get excited by much, but this worked. Now I just need to see how I'm going to hook it up to my car stereo. It is going to take this thing hours to copy over the 5264 mp3s that I've just imported into my library. Maybe I'll have a little time. :)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Movies and My Social Security Still Doesn't Seem So Secure

Today - The Island and Murderball

The Island - I don't want to reveal too much about the movie - but it definitely has a twist. The first half I thought was awesome and the second half is pretty good. I guess the first half is more about the storytelling and the second half - all action.

Here is what you won't find on IMDB trivia as of today. Steve Buscemi, who is awesome as always, plays a relatively minor role. This isn't giving away much, but I noticed the woman that plays his wife, looked really, really familiar. Then I figured out that she like the woman that his character is trying to convince her new wedding ring's diamond was not actually a diamond. Turns out to be the same actress, Shawnee Smith.

Here's some shots of Armageddon - it was hard to get them both in frame since both scenes are really short, but you get the idea. She was the woman in the bar in Armageddon that he is trying to pick up before the FBI bring him to NASA.

And here's the Island - I tried to call the main characters as well in frame for the shot so these wouldn't all seem so separate.

Somehow this gives me some continuity. I'm thinking that Michael Bay (director of both movies) just like the actors a lot and had to put them back together. I wonder if anyone else noticed this? It just somehow makes it more believeable for them to be together in this.

Overall - The Island was a good, but not an amazing film. Still very good. It makes me want to go to the Island. :)

Murderball is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time. From imdb: (Murderball is) A film about quadriplegics who play full-contact rugby in Mad Max-style wheelchairs - overcoming unimaginable obstacles to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece

I couldn't describe it much better than that, but it really is so much more. I learned a lot about quadriplegics and what they have to go through - and I'd like to say got a hope as to how many of them feel. All of them had such excellent stories. I recommend fully.

In my real life - I finally have my NC Driver's License with an awful picture that I have to live with until 9/8/2013. And when I pushed about my SSN problem, they had me call the main DMV headquarters in Raleigh. They told me all they can do is put a note on their license that they have to show proof of SSN next time they renew.

I'm so glad I have my middle name on my Driver's License now. Totally worth the extra trip.

I'm going to call the local Social Security office and see what can be done.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What does the V stand for?

I went to the DMV, which is the "Division" of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina. We've been in this state since July, and since we have 60 days to get a North Carolina driver's license, I figure I should wait until the week before my wife's license plates expire in Illinois. Of course.

The DMV here is so busy, they recommend appointments and I couldn't get in until today. I need the license to get my wife's car plates for North Carolina because the car is my name only. Ok, no big deal. I totally forgot about needing to study for the test. I had been warned by so many people that it is tricky here. I guess I was distracted because Wendy's car had a flat tire yesterday and while she was at work I took care of it, throwing my schedule somewhat off.

So, after studying from midnight to 2am, reading the book cover to cover, and feeling very nostalgic of cramming for tests in high school - I got all the necessary materials and documents and headed to the DMV.

- Of course, no line - heck, I didn't even need an appointment really. I talk to somewhere there and he looks at all my stuff. He asks me what the "V" in my name stands for, and I tell him "Vincent". Then he asks me to prove it, which apparently I cannot do since my Social Security Card, Driver's license, and pretty much everything else I have on me does not have it listed. And no, I cannot leave that detail off of my new license. GREAT. What if I didn't have a middle name? :) This guy also had a bunch of small computer problems, and asked me if I ever lived at Rose Lane. Um, noo.....

But he wants me to do all the tests to get it over with, I just can't get a license until I furnish proof with some official document (birth certificate, etc) which I don't have with me. The test - as it always is - was supereasy. I didn't get anything wrong at all. I don't know why I freak out about these things.

So, I'm prepared to leave and have to come back, and the last guy I'm talking to keeps punching in things on his computer. He also asks me if I live at Rose Lane. No again of course. Here's the kicker:


Their solution - since I am showing my social security card now - I'm fine (other than having to come back to prove my MIDDLE NAME FOR SECURITY REASONS) and this other person will have to show proof of SSN next time he's in.

I'm feeling really, really secure about identity theft right now.

On a lighter note, if you look to the left, I've added my netflix queue to my blog, so you can see what i'm about to watch. I know, I know, the fonts are all inconsistent along the left bar. I'll fix it later. :)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolution(s)

I resolve to, in no particular order.

1. Blog more. Not one post per day,but definitely more than I have.
2. Continue the workout routine (like everyone else, I know) that I was doing before I moved to NC. I've put on a bunch of weight, and I'm honestly unhappy about it. It isn't that terrible, but I've got to get back where I was and go further.

I'll be back to blog more on a regular basis. Oh, and I purchased a 60GB Black Ipod with Video today. Thanks to all who got me Amazon GCs for Christmas to make this a reality. It should arrive in a couple of days!