Geek Alert!

HD TV, TiVo and such

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I have a first generation TiVo that I’ve since hacked and upgraded in many ways. I’ve added a second hard drive, replaced the first hard drive, added a cache card and an ethernet jack so it can communicate with my wireless network instead of using the phone. When I first bought it I bought the “lifetime subscription” which has long since paid for itself but is locked to this particular unit. They no longer offer lifetime subscriptions and you can’t transfer it.
They were having a special where you could buy a new HD TiVo for $300 and transfer your lifetime membership to the new unit for $200 (basically buying a new lifetime membership even though they technically aren’t offered any more). I was so tempted, however we don’t have the money to do it and we don’t have an HD TV. It would have been more for prevention of future problems. Eventually I will get an HD TV and HD service at which point our TiVo will no longer be of any use because it will not handle HD quality.
Uhh, bummer. That’s really all there is to this story.

I now have a comment feed

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I always wish there were an easy way to keep up with comments on other people’s blogs instead of having to just manually check all their entries to see if there’s any new comments (which is the case for most blogs). For a long time I used a plugin which allowed people to sign up for email comment notification but I think pretty much only Jess and I used that.
Therefore I now have a comments feed as well as an entries feed over on the left there. Use your favorite newsreader (I use Google Reader) to keep up with new comments posted here. It’s all new to me so I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work but hopefully any time a new comment is posted you will see it in your newsreader.

Guitar Hero 2: Redux

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While we were filming the movie we had taken our Playstation with us to play Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2. At some point, something had messed up and we lost all our GH2 save data. I had completed the game on every difficulty level and completely 5 starred Medium and most of hard. I was distressed. For a long time, I couldn’t find the will to climb back on the horse and start all over again.
Then a few days ago, I started my band over and went straight for expert. I don’t know what was up, but I tore through expert like a madman doing far better than I had the first time through expert even though I hadn’t played in quiet some time. Today, all I had left was the final 4 songs on expert. My first time through, I had to really practice and play through each of those songs, many, many times before finally completing them through sniper-like use of my star power. Today, I finished all four of them on my first try. My GH2 mojo has never been stronger.

I am a golden god

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I just finished finally Guitar Hero II on Expert. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to 5 star most of the songs on expert but at least I’m ready for the upcoming Guitar Hero: Rock the 80s, Guitar Hero III, and eventually Rock Band

Lord of the Rings Online

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I thought I was done with MMOs. I had first started with Everquest after hearing my friends rave about this great new game. Over the years Jess and I played many Massively Multiplayer Online games and worked (or in Jess’s case, still work) for an MMO company! We enjoyed them all but eventually just decided that we didn’t have time enough to play to justify the monthly subscription costs of such games. There was also the annoyance of having to pick which server you played on and inevitably finding out you had friends on a different server after you had already built up a character on your own server and having your friends splintered across different games, much less servers.
We loved World of Warcraft. The only reason we quit playing was purely the money thing. We couldn’t play enough to justify paying $15 a month for each of us when we only ended up playing maybe once a week. We reluctantly decided that we were probably pretty much done with MMO games. Then Jess brings home two free issues of PC Gamer from work. They included free beta CDs for the new Lord of the Rings Online game. We figured, what the hell, play a couple of weeks of free beta in Middle Earth! Then I noticed that if you pre-ordered the game you got some special benefits. There were some cool items in game that you would get but there was also the special “Founder’s” pricing. Instead of the normal $15 a month per account you could either get $10 a month or the “Lifetime Subscription” for $199 per account. “Cool idea” I though, as I had bought a lifetime subscription on my TiVo Series 1 when I bought it (sadly they no longer offer lifetime subscriptions on new TiVos) and it had long ago paid for itself. I thought this was probably the smartest idea I’d seen in an MMO.
At first I didn’t even consider it. I mean, come on, $199 a piece plus the price of the game?That means it would cost damn near $500 for Jess and I to get 2 games and lifetime subscriptions. Absurd. Then the more we played and thought about it, the less absurd it seemed. We had played all those other MMOs where we had paid for the game and the monthly fees probably totaling much more than $500 over time. If we played this game for 20 months we’d break even and after that it was all profit! I know plenty of people who have been playing various MMOs for years and are still playing and paying. We would definitely get our use from this game and since we weren’t paying monthly we wouldn’t feel that pressure and guilt about not playing enough to justify a monthly cost. We could explore Middle Earth as often or as little as we liked for as long as the game exists. This could truly be the One Game to rule them all and judging from the fact that even some of the worst MMOs we’ve played are still going many years later, we have no doubt that LOTRO will have a long life.
So once again, we have been pulled into the world of online gaming. We’re playing on the Landroval server. Look us up if you visit Middle Earth. We’re both really impressed with the game too. It seems to have really learned from the evolution of MMOs and incorporated a lot of the best features and improvements over the years. It’s beautiful too. If you’re a fan of Middle Earth you will certainly geek out over being able to be a part of it, explore it, meet characters from the books and visit familiar locations. It has reawakened my enthusiasm for playing MMOs, which I thought was dead and buried. It still hasn’t overcome the problem of multiple game/server splintering (for example, I still have lots of friends playing WoW who don’t want to switch to a new game and after playing for 2 days we found out some friends of ours were playing too but on a different server so we started brand new characters from scratch so we could be on their server and join their “Kinship”) but overall we are excited about playing.
Just think of it like this: how much do you spend on going out to the movies or out to eat each week (or whatever)? Now if you could pay for two years up front and in return do that as much as you like for free for the rest of your life, wouldn’t that be a pretty good deal? What? Stop looking at us like that! We’re sensible dammit! If you really analyze this, we’re not crazy! It’s genius!

More Google Geeky Goodness

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I have always used Bloglines to keep track of all my friend’s blogs and other RSS feeds. However, being a fan of all things Google and only just really discovering Google Reader today, I think I’ve left Bloglines behind.
Don’t get me wrong, Bloglines is great and I can’t really say it lacks in any way but I just found Google Reader more appealing to me in some intangible way. It just “felt” better. Both services also have plugins for Firefox that can alert you when you have new unread posts (Bloglines Notifier and Google Reader Watcher). Now it should also be said that I only use these services in the most basic way. all I want is a central place to view all my RSS feeds and to be notified when one of them is updated so I can’t really say if they’re comparable when it comes to feature beyond the basics. For example I know Bloglines has all kinds of bells and whistles beyond these basic functions but I’ve never touched any of them nor can I say if Google Reader has comparable bells and whistles. Being that I already use many of Google’s other features (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, etc.), I also find it appealing to have everything I can consolidated under one umbrella (as the long as the services are also among the best options available also). Don’t foret to go into Firefox’s Tools>Options>RSS menu and set your default reader to make subscribing to web pages even easier.
All I can say is that in initially setting up my Google Reader account and checking out the basic needs I have from a reader, I think I have left the Bloglines ranks for the great land of Google.

Lifehacker: Geeky Overload

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Thanks to my friend, Jon, I have discovered Lifehacker. I so love this site. Since discovering it, I have started using:

  • Rocketdock and Launchy, two kick ass programs that increase the efficiency of using my computer.

I also discovered

  • IZarc, a great free archive program for dealing with .zip, .rar and other archive types
  • Gaim, a free multi platform IM program (like Trillian, except it’s open source and free but I haven’t had a chance to actually try it out yet) and
  • Paint.net which is a great free alternative for anyone who can’t afford Photoshop (GIMP is another free alternative)
  • Free Download Manager and DownThemAll, 2 free download manager/accelerator programs which speed up your downloads and allow you to resume downloads if they’re stopped for any reason (by your own hand or by a crash/restart, etc). I prefer FDM, but DTA is good if you often find yourself wanting to mass download all the links on a page (such as downloading all images on a page or all mp3s on a page)
  • Firebug which allows you to see the HTML and CSS of any page you’re viewing and let’s you make changes to the code right there in your browser and see the changed immediately (obviously it doesn’t actually change the code on the server but just temporarily in your browser).

I was already using ExplorerXP and several other recommended plugins and programs.
In general I’ve found Lifehacker’s opinions and suggestions indispensable.

Amazing free home recording program: Reaper

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If you’ve been wanting to turn your home PC into a recording studio, but don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on expensive program,s I highly suggest checking out Reaper. This program is currently in development and completely free. Its capabilities are absolutely amazing and can very much give extremely expensive commercial programs a run for their money. In fact in some ways, and depending on your personal needs, it may be better than some of the big fish. Don’t be fooled by its plain appearance. It may look a bit primitive, but really that’s a good thing. You’re not wasting precious CPU cycles on shiny pretty graphics and bells and whistles. Instead all your computer power can go into important things like processing audio. While the UI may not be the sleekest looking thing, it’s certainly functional and easily does everything you need to do.
Though it is technically “in development”, there are extremely frequent updates, and it is a solid program, not some buggy beta. With this one free program, you can have more recording power in your PC than The Beatles had during their entire career. Talent, however, is not included.

Google’s World Domination plan continues

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So today I found Google’s new Google Calendar. So far, I’m impressed. As of yet, Google Groups has not been able to steal me from Yahoo groups, as Google doesn’t have nearly as many built in functions (though I’m sure it will only keep improving), but so far, the calendar has impressed me. It is one step closer to converting me form Yahoo.
You can have several different calendars in one such as personal, work related, etc. Then you can view all your entries at once or just view the ones you want. you can invite friends to events on your calendar, and share calendars with friends, co-workers or whoever. I’ve only just started playing with it, but thus far, I likey.

TiVo Upgrade part 2

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I know that probably no one who normally reads my blog has any interest in these posts, but I like to document certain things for my own sake, and the sake of anyone Googling for info.
When we moved into the condo, a new problem presented itself. The TiVo, which needs to make a daily call to update its information, had no phone jacks anywhere near it. Not even any that were in a location that could have been used with our 50′ phone cable which was used in the apartment to run across one doorway and around the edge of the room to the phone jack. It would have had to run across our main entryway and kitchen doorway into the kitchen where the nearest jack was. No way. It was time for the great TiVo Upgrade, part two.
I had always intended to this upgrade at some point, but could never be bothered to unhook the TiVo and take it apart, buy the parts I needed, etc., since everything was fine as it was in the old place. Since I knew we needed to do it now, I just left the TiVo unhooked after the move. The first upgrade I had done was adding a second hard drive to increase its capacity to 40 hours of recording at the best quality setting. I love TiVo but I think their naming conventions are deceptive. A “30-hour TiVo” is only 30 hours at the crappiest quality setting, which was unbearable to me. At best quality, it was more like a 6 hour TiVo.
For round 2, I decided to install a CacheCard. I had also other options, but this seemed to be the best. I could put a 512 MB stick of RAM on the card to cache the TiVo’s database, thus speeding up the access to menus and certain operations, plus the card also had an ethernet connection on it. Since there are also no ethernet jacks in the living room, I also bought a Linksys wireless bridge to connect to the TiVo and give it access to our wireless network to make its daily “call”. I followed all the instructions for backing up my TiVo and installing the CacheCard and drivers, and that part all went flawlessly. I had various fiascoes in the wireless bridge department, but that’s another story not worth the telling. Eventually I got it all working, and now my TiVo makes its “call” via wireless networking, which has the added advantage of being a LOT faster than the phone call, too.
I figured as long as I was tweaking, I might as well also install Tivoweb Plus. Now I can also access my TiVo via the web to do anything I can do on the TiVo itself, plus far more. Mine is an old school Series 1 TiVo (the modern ones are Series 2 at the time of this writing), and sadly a lot of the cool new features (such as TiVo’s own multimedia network functions) will never be available on Series 1 units, but since I’ve done all this upgrading, and since I bought the lifetime subscription (which has long since paid for itself) I’ll be sticking with unit. To be honest it does everything I need it to do, and while I love bells and whistles, I certainly don’t feel like I’m really missing out.

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