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Taking the fight to recessed headphone sockets

panasonic rp-hc500As many previous iPhone owners discovered, recessed headphone sockets are a pain.  It’s difficult to find headphones with a plug slim enough to fit into a recessed socket and a market sprang up for ungainly adapters. I’ve experienced this pain first hand with my excellent Panasonic RP-HC500 noise canceling headphones.  The RP-HC500 is one of the best sets of noise canceling cans ever made, crushing comparable Bose QCs on build and sound quality in my opinion.  But while I love detachable cords since they preserve the lifespan of good headphones, the RP-HC500 has a recessed socket.

recessed headphone socket

Ugh, recessed headphone sockets

One day I came home to find that my cats had ripped through the RP-HC500’s cable, leaving me with a dilemma.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find any cheap off-the-shelf replacement cables that will fit a recessed socket.  So I could either pony up the ridiculous $20+tax+shipping for Panasonic’s official replacement cord or tell my cats to fix it before their next feed.  Since I reckoned my cats’ cord cutting abilities were superior to their repair skills, it looked like I’d have to hand over the cash.

recessed headphone socket RP-HC500

A typical 3.5mm stereo male to stereo male cord is too fat to fit into a recessed socket

That was when the DIY bug bit me.  I had some 3.5mm stereo male to stereo male cords lying around,and I wondered if I could trim them down to size.  Out of the box they were too big to fit, but I hoped that between a Stanley knife and some delicate carving I could fashion a $2 replacement.

cutting the cord

Cutting the cord - don't try this at home!!

It actually turned out to be a five minute job and my RP-HC500s are now singing again, ready to make plane journeys a pleasure once more.  See, we’re not such a throwaway generation after all!

recessed headphone cord RP-HC500

The cut down plug now fits the recessed socket

Here’s the warning: I don’t recommend doing this at home because it’s easy to wreck your cord, plug and fingers.  But if you’re a risk taker and choose to ignore my warnings, be careful not to cut all the way through the plug’s casing.  Also, the RP-HC500’s cord plug was rubber, which made it possible to carve the plug; I don’t think I would have seen a successful outcome if the plug had been made of hard plastic or metal!

Neil Berman

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Jan 17, 2011 Posted by | Audio, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Mobile | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Caprica gone, will the story of the first Cylon War ever be told?

I desperately wanted to love Caprica, and I kept waiting to see how that superbly recreated Cylon from the original show would evolve into Six and her BFFs.  The premature demise of the show leaves a gaping hole in the Battlestar Galactica storyline.  BSG told the story of the ragtag group of humans fleeing the Cylons after the second Cylon War, forty years after the first.  Caprica was meant to tell the story in the run up to the first war.

Unfortunately Caprica got caught up in a muddle of teen angst, religion and virtual reality that never seemed to be going anywhere.  The development of the Cylon storyline was always playing a distant second fiddle to other plotlines involving the society’s religious tensions with the Soldiers of the One, rebellious teens in an affluent school who joined them to bomb Caprican infrastructure and civilians, and the world of the Graystone’s holoband which again seemed to add little to the development of the Cylon plot.

Caprica felt like it was starting to drag, and although I unfailingly watched every episode with a religiously hopeful optimism, it just wasn’t providing a Cylon fix to its viewers.  The show was cancelled by Syfy a couple of weeks ago, so we’ll just have to hope that someone picks up the reigns down the line to tell the rest of the story…hopefully with more Cylon action this time.

Neil Berman

Nov 11, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , | Leave a comment

EFO ‘smallest and lightest’ iPazzPort review

EFO iPazzPortWe’ve reviewed many EFO iPazzPort controllers over the last year. Up to now they’ve followed a similar form factor but EFO decided to go even smaller with the latest model, which is a credit card sized keyboard and trackpad combo.  I’d love to be able to describe this model by a specific name but EFO simply differentiate it from the other iPazzPorts by calling it the ‘smallest and lightest’ model.

For the uninitiated, EFO’s iPazzPort range aims to provide an ultraportable wireless controller for a variety of uses from HTPC use to acting as a games console thumb board to serving as a business presentation aid.  This iPazzPort is Windows, Mac and Linux compatible.

First impressions of the credit card sized iPazzPort

This latest iPazzPort is notably smaller than the versions we’ve reviewed up to now. The front facing dimensions are similar to a credit card, and it’s about as thick as three stacked on top of EFO iPazzPort keyboardeach other.  While we haven’t felt that the previous form factor was too big, we can understand that the smaller size makes sense for certain use cases. For example for a business presentation this model fits in a shirt pocket more conveniently than the larger size. To get an idea of the size, this model is slightly smaller than a regular size BlackBerry.

This model is also extremely light. There’s not much inside the iPazzPort except for a battery and a circuit board but the smaller size makes this model feel featherweight compared to the regular, already lightweight version. This model also feels more solid. The main body is still made from plastic but this stuff feels higher grade than the other iPazzPorts. The keys have a rubber finish which makes them ready to press, with a similar texture to the model we recently reviewed.

The trackpad on this model is far smaller than on the regular iPazzPort, due to the smaller size of the whole device. It still offers tap to click thought, although no multi-touch which has been on our wish list of features to be added to the iPazzPort for some time.

EFO iPazzPort trackpadThis iPazzPort also has dedicated page up and down buttons, also similar to the version we looked at recently there’s a red last pointer built into this model. The keyboard is backlit in a cool orange glow for use in dark environments.  Around the sides there’s a power button, although the iPazzPort will go to sleep to save battery life. At the base of the iPazzPort is a standard USB charging port.

Using three credit card sized iPazzPort

The keyboards across the iPazzPort range have come a long way since we reviewed the first model a year ago. This model carries on these improvements offering good tactile and usable key spacing for those of you used to typing on a portrait smartphone. The QWERTY key positioning is slightly off in places, since the keys are aligned vertically rather than being staggered but it’s fairly easy to adapt to the layout.  The keyboard backlighting works very well.

The laser pointer works just as well as on the larger version; my only thought with the placement of the activation button is that it’s on the right side of the iPazzPort. This might be more convenient for right handed than left handed users if the user wants to switch between using the laser pointer and trackpad/buttons.

EFO iPazzPort power and laser buttonsEFO recently switched back to RF transmission for the iPazzPorts from a brief foray into Bluetooth, which has been a good move.  Windows 7 detected the device almost instantly and there was no need for pairing.  Another benefit of moving away from Bluetooth is that the battery of this model lasts for a good few hours, which should be plenty given that users are unlikely to use the iPazzPort as a primary keyboard for a whole day at a time.

The trackpad is responsive, however its small size makes it a little harder to get used to than the larger iPazzPort which has a standard laptop size trackpad.  It gets the job done though.  One aspect of using the trackpad that I found very difficult to get the hang of was the button placement to the right of the trackpad.  It felt very unnatural to fish out the secondary mouse button; the trackpad button placement of the larger iPazzPort feels far more logical, but of course that model has enough real estate to allow for easier button placement.  I’d also love this device to have a multi-touch trackpad; a saving grace is that EFO is adding multi-touch capability to the next version of the regular size iPazzPort, so if multi-touch is a must-have for you then stay tuned for our review of that one when it comes out.

Should you get out the credit card for the credit card sized iPazzPort?

What’s amazing about this iPazzPort is that it crams the most essential keys and functions of a trackpad and keyboard into a tiny package that looks pretty decent.  For the $50 being asked, the iPazzPort works as promised with no major flaws and would be a great complement to HTPCs and business presentation users.  I’d just wish EFO would start coming up with some different names, which would help me to describe the different models more easily!

The photos in this post were taken with a Samsung Epic 4G.

Here is the EFO iPazzPort product page.

Neil Berman

Oct 30, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Frost’s holographic projection iPad is the coolest TV gadget effect ever

Holographic projection iPadIn tonight’s episode of Chuck on NBC, Frost pulls out an iPad to set the scene for Chuck and Sarah.  But this is no ordinary iPad…this iPad magically projects a holographic image R2-D2 style.  Is this iPad 2.0?  Sure would be cool!  Is it plausible?  No way!  Do I want one?  Hells yeah!!!

Neil Berman

Oct 25, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Hulu Plus and the cost of coming second

When Netflix launched its online streaming service it was anyone’s guess as to whether it would catch on. For years now the Berman living room PC has been our primary source of couch media. Between Windows Media Center, Netflix and more recently Hulu and Fancast, our TV needs are fully served. But we still haven’t adopted Hulu Plus.

Around a year ago when we found we were gobbling 90% of our Netflix food online and only a snack through the mail, we cut down from two DVDs per month to one. The online selection has become enormous, with movies such as Ironman, the new Star Trek and Wall-E available through the pipe. We’ve also consumed all eight days of 24 over Netflix this year. It’s little wonder that recent stats suggest 20% of all US peak internet traffic is Netflix streaming.

So when Hulu Plus came along offering content WITH commercials for a dollar MORE a month than Netflix, I wasn’t really interested. We were already in the Netflix ecosystem; all our large screen devices (Windows Media Center, iPad, laptops) support Netflix and most importantly in the living room Netflix works with a simple remote control on Windows Media Center or the Xbox. In my household Hulu Plus was paying the price of coming to market a late second. Sure, Hulu Plus offers different TV content to Netflix but its overall library is weaker, due to its relative lack of quality movie titles. Hulu is also coming out with a remote control interface, but it’s not in production release yet.

It looks like I wasn’t alone. Rumors are circling about a possible 50% Hulu Plus price cut, which can only be a result of a lower than expected adoption rate. At $4.95 per month the service would definitely be more tempting than the current $9.95, but the most frustrating part of the Hulu experience remains i.e. the ever increasing amount of commercials. Ad breaks on Hulu have rapidly increased from an acceptable 30 seconds to around 2 annoying minutes, and I’m sure that duration will continue to increase. With Netflix being commercial free, Hulu Plus will always have a hard time convincing consumers to pay for an ad-supported service when much of its content is available on its free site.

I’m guessing therefore that the real objective of a lower Hulu Plus subscription price would be to remove the free service altogether when subscriber numbers reach critical mass.

Neil Berman

Oct 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Software | , , , , | 1 Comment

ABC, CBS & NBC blocking streaming shows to Google TV devices

Have you been calling around your local Best Buys in search of a Sony TV with Google TV so you can watch Modern Family online at your every whim?

Hold them horses cowboy and stand down on the bank loan, because Google is finding out just how hard the networks will fight to keep you from cutting off the cable. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that ABS, CBS and NBC are blocking streaming episodes to Google TV devices. While owners of the new Apple TV can watch some network content for 99c an episode, it’s clear that those networks don’t want consumers to be able to bypass that paywall with a Google TV. There are also reports out there that Hulu is blocking Google TV browsers from streaming content as well.

It looks like it’s going to be a tough journey for Google TV. Trying to sell a TV product without content provider agreements is hard enough, but when your product gets blocked for doing what customers expect it to do it’s likely to turn into a messy situation. This certainly highlights how hard it’s going to be for the whole web-on-your-TV thing to really happen.

Neil Berman

Oct 21, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

Did we just live through “Crazy Pricing Week”?

First was the Logitech Revue Google TV at $299, then the Cisco Umi home videocon came along at $599 and yesterday we saw rumors tha the Samsung Galaxy Tab might launch at $399 on a 2 year contract with T-Mobile.

If that last one turns out to be accurate, it could end up as a disaster for the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Tab will not have the software and app ecosystem to compete effectively with the iPad.  Heck even Google said Android 2.2 is not designed to run tablets.

These issues might be surmountable if the Galaxy Tab were to be priced competitively – and I mean something like $199 on contract and say $399 contract free.  The rumored $399 with a contract make it seem irrelevant, since anecdotal evidence suggests that only a small percentage of iPad owners have subscribed to the ontract free AT&T  data plan, which starts at just $15 per month.  The rumors also suggest that the unsubsidized Galaxy Tab might cost $649, which is slightly higher than the 16GB iPad 3G.

Samsung does have a history of expensive tablet pricing.  The company’s Q1 7-inch Windows XP tablet and Q1 Ultra follow-up device were too expensive to win significant consumer attention.  If the Galaxy Tab pricing rumors are true, expect to see limited numbers out and about.

Sheesh, that really was the week of crazy pricing.  Sure sales might have been down recently due to the weak economy but the way to win back sales is surely to price appropriately and look for volume buildup rather than having to endure price cuts that anger early adopters.  Apple already went through that with the original iPhone launch and hwere wise to avoid a similar pitfall with the iPad.

Neil Berman

Oct 11, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are your free video calls too cheap?

cisco umiThe last time you enjoyed a free Skype video call, perhaps basking in front of an HD webcam, did you think “wow that was too free…I must remember to pay more for my video calls in future!”  Well fear not, because the Cisco Umi (pronounced ‘you me’) is here to help lighten your wallet.  Priced perfectly for small to medium sized businesses, but marketed towards your living room, the Umi offers HD video conferencing in the home for just $599 with a $25 monthly subscription.  It sure is true that tchnology makes the world seem smaller every day, but with video calling this cheap expensive, it’s likely to start feeling a bit bigger from now on.

Neil Berman

Oct 7, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, News | Leave a comment

Logitech Revue: Is $299 realistic?

logitech-revue-google-tvGotta say, I’m more than a little skeptical about the chances of the Logitech Revue wth Google TV package, which was announced today at a niche-looking price of $299.  That price places it squarely in baby-HTPC territory and miles away from the Roku or Apple TV ballpark.  Granted it offers more than the Roku or Apple units (although less than an HTPC).  But will consumers really be willing to shell out close to $300 for something that might not be perceived to offer that much more – especially since Roku is getting Hulu Plus on its $59 impulsebox.  While the world might be ready for that kind of give-it-a-try expenditure, Logitech might have a harder time convincing the mass market to part with a lumpier sum.

Neil Berman

Oct 6, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windows Media Center 7 crashing on Recorded TV scrolling?

Minor freak-out at theONbutton HQ today when Windows 7 Media Center insisted on crashing when trying to scroll through recorded TV.  A quick System Restore to a few hours earlier failed to resolve the issue and panic ensued.  Fortunately this thread at The Green Button suggested simply finding where the scrolling crashes and deleting the offending file.  Problem solved and calm restored :-)

Neil Berman

Oct 3, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft | , , , | 2 Comments

The new Battlestar Galactica is now on Netflix streaming

Why are you still reading this…it’s BSG marathon time!

Oct 2, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Apple TV channel apps

For the last couple of weeks on TWiT, Leo Laporte has been proposing an interesting idea about the Apple TV. Prior to Apple’s press conference last week many people were expecting the new Apple TV to launch with apps, similar to those on the iPhone and iPad. Leo went further, suggesting that those apps would include individual channel apps, so for example we would watch ABC programs through the Apple TV ‘ABC app’ just like on the iPad.

Apple TVFirstly everyone should watch/listen to or download TWiT; it’s great. While Leo certainly gets it right a lot of the time, and the idea of individual network apps is a logical extension of the model that exists for ABC on the iPad, I’m not sure it holds for Apple TV. The fundamental app model does hold, and I definitely agree that we will see Apple TV running the App Store one day. But I don’t believe we will get to the stage where individual networks have their own apps on Apple TV. It just doesn’t work for the channel-hopping armchair consumer and if there’s one thing we know about Apple, it’s that the company cares deeply about the user experience.

It just about works on the iPad because we are still figuring out how best to devour content on that device; while aggregators like Hulu Plus and Netflix work best on the iPad, the ABC app is free unlike the others. However armchair viewers want a simple remote control with a simple program guide. Having to navigate multiple apps with different interfaces won’t convert them away from a cable set-top box.

In time I think even the ABC app will fade away as cable company aggregators push that content to the device, and I mean currently non-existent aggregator apps from the likes of Time Warner Cable for use by their subscribers. The cable companies will not give up their revenue streams without a fight and I think they’re more likely to develop their own streaming aggregators for subscribers than allow the TV networks to go it alone.

I would dearly love to see the ad-supported online content continue to flourish, but I fear we are enjoying a heyday that will disappear when the cable companies enter the online streaming market more forcefully.

Now go and subscribe to TWiT, TWiG, MacBreak Weekly and all the other ones!!

Neil Berman

Sep 7, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EFO iPazzPort review (3rd generation)

The EFO iPassPort is now in its third iteration and it’s been great to see how this HTPC keyboard/trackpad combo controller has developed over the past year.  In my review of the version 2 iPazzPort, I had some lingering questions about the typing experience and said that “…I’d actually love EFO to take something like one of the larger BlackBerrys…and place the left and right buttons where the call buttons normally live.” Well that’s exactly what EFO appears to have done, fitting the new iPazzPort with a keyboard that looks very similar to that of a BlackBerry 8800 series smartphone.  So let’s see if third time’s a charm for the iPazzPort.

At first glance the 3rd gen iPazzPort looks similar to previous iterations, but this version has some significant enhancements.

The keyboard design and layout has been completely reworked. Keys are now closer together and with better ergonomics. Whereas the previous gen iPazzPorts had keypads arranged with flat horizontal key rows, the new model is far easier to type on if you’re used to typing on a BlackBerry-style smartphone.

The keys themselves offer slightly better feedback than previous versions of the iPazzPort, although the experience is still far from a BlackBerry for example. I was able however to type far more fluently with this iPazzPort compared to previous ones. The backlight is still present which means typing in a dark home theater living room is no problem.

The key layout is also a big step up from the previous model, with media keys now included as well as all the useful secondary keys such as Ctrl, Tab and Fn 1-12. There are also dedicated page up & down buttons that make webpage navigation much easier. Most of the important keys now feel like they’re in the right place, although I’d love to see standalone up & down keys or support for two finger scrolling, which leads me to…

The trackpad – no changes here unfortunately. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the trackpad; it works perfectly well, is a good size and support tap to click as previously. However in a world of multitouch trackpads it would be great if the iPazzPort offered two finger scrolling for effortless webpage navigation. There might be a hacky way to enable this, I’ll let you know if I discover anything.

The third gen iPazzPort now has a red laser pointer built-in, which makes it ideal as a presentation device. The pointer light is bright and is easily viewable in well-lit rooms. It also doubles as the most amusing toy my cat had ever seen, he chased the thing around the apartment non-stop for an afternoon.

The build quality of the iPazzPort seems largely unchanged. It feels light and well put together but lacks the premium feel of something like the Logitech diNovo Mini. It also costs a fraction of the price, so that needs to be taken into account.

The iPazzPort retains the mini-USB charging port and internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery of its predecessor. It comes with a USB charging cable. The iPazzPort goes to sleep after a few seconds if not used to save battery, and consequently the device gives plenty of use between charges. Whereas the 2nd gen iPazzPort used Bluetooth, the 3rd gen model goes back to RF transmission. This might also contribute to the good battery life of the device.

Overall the 3rd generation iPazzPort represents a bigger leap than the changes between the 1st and 2nd gen models. The redesigned keyboard, inclusion or media keys and laser pointer now make the iPazzPort even more compelling as a great HTPC or presentation controller. Now if EFO can get two finger scrolling going in the next version and reverse engineer the key feel of a BlackBerry Bold, this will become a truly great product.

The EFO iPazzPort 3rd generation costs $45 and is available here.

Neil Berman

Aug 19, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The cost of iTV

A rumor circulated this week on Engadget that Apple might be planning to rebrand Apple TV as iTV. As someone who grew up in the UK this looked immediately problematic for ITV, which is one of the larger UK television networks.

ITV subsequently announced that it has “vigorously defended” its IP in the past, which signals that it may be ready to do so again if necessary.

Let’s look at this another way: Business is all about money. While customers often become emotional about products, the Mac vs PC phenomenon being a recent example, companies are more concerned about maximizing shareholder value.

There is intangible value that can be crystallized out of brand IP in the form of goodwill, estimated loss of future opportunity and rebranding costs. If Apple does choose to go ahead and use the iTV name for Apple TV then any discussions with ITV about taking over the brand name would most likely include a quantification of these items. The outcome of those discussions would probably be determined by whether each party felt satisfied by the investment required (Apple) and compensation received (ITV) to make the trade.

So while ITV has made comments about its IP, I expect these are probably aimed at setting a starting point for negotiations if Apple elects to make a play for the iTV brand name rather than an outright dismissal. Everything has its price.

Neil Berman

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Aug 14, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , | Leave a comment

When critical systems fail: ITV HD shows an ad during England’s World Cup goal

Having lived in London and enjoyed the passion that the English have for the beautiful game, I can only imagine what might happen if a World Cup soccer broadcast became interrupted. Especially one in which England was playing. In fact it would be so disastrous that English broadcasters probably treat their systems as highly critical during such programming.

Yet that’s exactly what happened during England’s first World Cup game today, in which they faced a spirited Team USA. Four minutes into the game, while over on this side of the pond we were depressingly watching England score the opening goal, the English were enjoying a Hyundai commercial on ITV HD.

I haven’t seen an explanation for what caused this monumental blunder, which is akin to getting no signal during the first touchdown of the Superbowl. Whatever the cause, I’m sure there will be some changes in the control room before the next game.

How about installing War Games style double keys which would have to engaged before the ‘Go To Commercial’ missile button can be activated?

Neil Berman

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Jun 12, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , | 2 Comments

Catch World Cup games live on espn3.com…if you have the right ISP – Update: Univision

As the soccer World Cup approaches, it is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that the games will be live on espn3.com. Why the sad face? Well due to licensing restrictions, you can only view live content on espn3.com if your ISP has an agreement in place with the site. My ISP is Time Warner, which may well be the second largest in the country but it does not have said agreement with espn3.com. That means no live games for me online, and much sadness. If you’re a soccer fan and are based in the US, give the site a try to see if it works with your ISP. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than me!

Update: The World Cup games are also live online for US viewers at Univision, regardless of your ISP, so on a personal note it’s been great practicing my Spanish again!

Neil Berman

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Jun 9, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google TV: Out of control?

GoogleThe announcement of Google TV yesterday is exciting, both for TV addicts and those who want a full living room internet experience without using a dedicated computer.  After following an impressive press conference, the question in my mind is how a regular person will control this thing.

It looks like Google TV seeks to aggregate content from various delivery channels and offers the end user multiple options for viewing said content.  For example during the presentation a portal page for House was shown offering episodes from Fox HD, USA HD, Bravo HD, and online from Fox, Hulu and Amazon.

While this kind of optionality is great from the point of view that the market can choose which delivery mechanism it wants, I’d say that most people want to flop in front of their TV, press a button and watch their favorite show.  The idea of presenting a regular viewer with so many viewing options, might just end up being too much choice for a simple end user decision.  I think the platform will ultimately need to prioritize certain delivery channels, either through configuration by the user or through agreements between Google and its content partners.

Of course we have all of this choice today and power users would probably love what Google TV looks like today by offering these myriad options through one remote control and one interface.  Windows Media Center provides a similar service but without a usable TV interface for browsing the internet, unless you have a wireless keyboard and a large screen for viewing small text at a distance.

So definitely five stars to Google on this one from the likes of me, I just hope that it’s straightforward enough for the average consumer to control when it hits Best Buy on Main Street.

Neil Berman

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May 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netflix iPad app security

I’ve often wondered about the security of some iPhone OS apps.  Compared with using a browser where it’s clear if your session is being encrypted with HTTPS, it’s often not apparent if iPhone OS apps are transmitting data securely.

So with Netflix coming to the iPad and transmitting account details to Netflix’s servers out of operational necessity, some people have been concerned about the implications of using the app at a public WiFi hotspot.  I put this question to Netflix directly and here is the answer supplied by their VP of Corporate Communications:

“Netflix account information for the iPad is sent over https — so Netflix members are assured of the same level of security that as with the PC Website.”

Good to know.

Neil Berman

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May 5, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Help for 1080p (1920×1080) black border full screen issues over HDMI

Some HDTVs leave a black border around an HD 1920x1080 image

There seems to be an issue affecting many people whose HDTV does not display a full screen 1080p image when connected to a computer over HDMI.  It goes something like this…

  • Excited person buys 1080p HDTV with dreams of experiencing PS3/Xbox/PC/Mac 1920×1080 viewing heaven
  • HDTV duly arrives and gets setup
  • HDTV connects happily over HDMI and displays 1080p but with a black border around the edge of the image
  • Excitement fades as the 42 inch TV is only displaying something like a 38-40 inch image

I’ve seen this on many LCD TVs, and not only those offering 1080p resolution.  I used to have a 32 inch screen with a native resolution of 1366×768 and it would do this.  My current 42 inch LCD screen, which is a Vizio SV420XVT1A does this too.

If you have spent hours playing with video card or game console setting to no avail, do not despair – there may be an easy solution!

The image now fills the screen

Most LCD panels have settings buried in their menu which allow the user to move and stretch the image being displayed.  These menu settings are sometimes described as Horizontal and Vertical Size and Horizontal and Vertical Position; often in the menus the orientation words are reduced to H and V, which helps to save space but not confusion.

In both of my cases I have found that by increasing the horizontal and vertical size of the image I was able to fill the panel with a pin sharp full screen image.

Some TVs have zoom settings which allow the image to be resized in broad steps, but I find the small increments of horizontal and vertical resizing can deliver a more accurate image fit to the panel.

Check out the gallery below for the steps I followed on this Vizio SV420XVT1A.

Neil Berman

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May 2, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Gaming, Guides, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brando HTPC Wireless Keyboards Review

Brando 800M-BRF 2392RF

Brando wireless keyboards 800M-BRF (top) and 2392M-BRF (bottom)

Brando makes a lot of keyboards, mice and all manner of computer accessories. Within that arsenal of gadgets are a selection of wireless keyboards, some of which also have a trackball or trackpad. This makes them good candidates for the Home Theater PC (HTPC) market or other use-cases where portability is important, as with the EFO iPazzPort which we recently reviewed. So here we have are a couple of Brando’s wireless controllers under review, let’s see if they’re any good …continue reading

Apr 25, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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