Sony EX308 Internet Enabled TV

By now, if you’ve read this, you know our family is well adapted to the Netflix streaming bandwagon. So, how do you think I reacted when my wife says, “We need a new TV for the kitchen”. It didn’t take me long to do some research and find a winner. I first tried the Vizio 22 inch widescreen with internet apps. Now, it was pretty cool as far as features, but the screen quality was just too blah. I have a Vizio in the bedroom and it’s much better – even at 3 years old.

So, I went to the old guard, Sony, to see what they had cookin’. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a very similar setup in their new Bravia Televisions. I read some great reviews of the EX308, so decided to take it for a spin. Sony is moving them out (2010 models) at sonystyle.com. Plus, they make it too easy with financing!

All in all, this is a great TV. Sony has had a solid running in the picture quality department and this one does well (it’s no Panasonic, but their prices were out the roof). I can stream Netflix, Amazon Video, Pandora, Slacker . . . and the list goes on and on. I can even stream from my home network (haven’t set that up yet though.

The set is 720p, but actually I like that in this size (22 inch). The Vizio was 1080p, but everything seemed “softer” on the menus and text. The Sony just feels crisper for whatever reason.

Speaking of menu, the Sony has a very slick interface. It mimics the Playstation 3 menus and is quite easy to use. It does take some time to boot, but you can set the tv to keep power full at certain times of day to avoid boot up times.

All in all, this is a great kitchen (or maybe bedroom) tv. It’s not the cheapest, but is well priced for what it does. It’s not LED backlit, but is plenty for our bright room. It has built in WiFi (usb adapter included). It’s at the far end of the house away from the router, but pulls in streams ok. I might use wired ethernet later (it does offer this).

Good to be a Sony owner again . . . they still got it . . .

WeTransfer.com

So, I’ve been recommending Yousendit.com for a while to transfer large files without using FTP. Enter http://www.wetransfer.com – it’s the most bare bones, easy to use system I’ve seen to date. There’s one thing on the screen and it’s as simple as adding files, then entering 2 emails (to and from) and comments.

They fund the system through advertising, but use large, full screen imagery (quite good looking) to promote the advertisers.

Bonus: You can send up to 2 Gigabytes and keep them available for 2 weeks.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

OK, so I was quite excited to give my wife a nice little happy by way of the HP Mini 1000 computer a few years back. It was small, stylish and would even fit into her purse for her to use at a moment’s notice when she needed to get online. She LOVED it. Windows XP worked at a nice clip, the smallish, but ample 8 GB Solid State drive was totally silent . . . it seemed like I nailed it.

Enter the “Windows XP + Time = Piece of Junk” phase. After a few months, this darling of a computer turned slower than my 5-year-old on the first day of school. It was unbearable just to get running and could barely even open the web browser (which is the main reason I got it – for her to surf and tinker on the web for email and such).

So, there it sat for almost two years. I re-installed Windows a time or two, but it quickly slowed to the same sad state.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the upcoming Google Chrome operating system to try out, since it claims to be lightweight and nimble on small “netbook” computers, but then I remembered another solution. I tried Linux (Ubuntu) a few years back on an old Pentium II 450 MHz machine. I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of getting around even on that ancient computer. So, I headed back to http://www.ubuntu.com to see about a copy for this netbook. Well, they had a flavor tailored just for it – cool!

I was debating (for about 5 seconds) about the install since I had only USB (no disc drive) to install with, but then saw the simple set up through making an installer out of a USB drive. Seriously, anyone who barely knows how to run a computer could do this process. Kudos to Ubuntu for making it so painless.

So, I downloaded the ISO file of Ubuntu (took about 30-40 minutes on a decent broadband connection), created the USB drive, and even got to try the system out by running it from the USB drive first to see if everything worked. There is a testing app built in to see if things like sound and other basic hardware are compatible. For the HP Mini I’m on, everything was ready to go, save some WiFi issues (see below). Ubuntu hit a home run this time, it seemed. On my previous install (the old PII computer), there were several drivers missing and some patchwork to get it running right.

The one hurdle of the whole process, getting my wireless card to work, was actually not so bad, thanks to http://www.ubuntuforums.org. There are so many great users and developers in this community, you can find solutions to most any issue. I simply searched “HP Mini Wireless” and found a solution within the first few threads.. It was a sort of advanced move using the terminal and some code, but was straightforward and fixed my wireless issue (now, I’m writing this from the couch rather than the office tethered to ethernet).

So, how does it run? Let’s just say I’m impressed. I counted seconds during boot time and it was just over 20 from off to fully running. I’m anxious to see how this stacks up over time. Even the Firefox browser is quick to load – this is encouraging, since the same program on my work computer, with much more horsepower, is a beast to open. The use of the menus and programs is smooth and satisfying. They’ve done a great job with the look of the icons and layout. It’s similar to using a Mac, in my opinion. Of course, there aren’t allot of swooshing graphics, but the minimal use of fades and highlights is really effective.

The layout of the menu is along the left side in the Netbook edition and gives you a good, concise layout of all of the software options (games, office, internet, settings, etc.). There’s a nice “Favorites” folder at the top to place your most used programs – I like this already. I’ve read that I can switch to the default view of Ubuntu if needed, so I might try that later.

There’s the software app that lets you choose from various applications (most free!), so I’m excited about digging in. I probably won’t get too crazy – I only have 4 GBytes left on the machine, so I might give some time to add things to see how performance progresses. Oh, I mean, my wife might give time . . . it’s her machine, after all, right?!

I’ll leave it at that for now and come back later for an update. I’m glad Linux is progressing as it has. This is a major improvement over even 2 years ago and I look forward to seeing their progress. If you have a machine to fool around with, I highly recommend trying Ubuntu. I don’t advise using it for your main machine (yet), but it’s a great alternative to Windows for light duty computing. Enjoy

FYI, to set the driver for the HP Mini wireless chip, head to the terminal app in Ubuntu, then enter the following command:

sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Reboot and you should be good to go. You’ll need to be hooked in via Ethernet to enter the above command, btw.

Update: August 2nd

Wow . . . I mean, seriously, this machine has a whole new usefulness now. Standby mode is snappy. When you open the lid, the screen zips back to life and connects to the wireless by the time you open the browser. Good stuff. Chromium is still my favorite browser and on linux, it’s no exception – super fast. I’m tempted to use the bookmark sync feature in Google.

DVPRemote App

So, what’s really impressing me about the iPhone app development community is the fact that there’s pretty much ANYTHING available should you have the notion. Of course, I love my Roku player for streaming Netflix. My son “relocated” the remote the other day. Thankfully, I had the 99 cent DVPRemote app.

Simply put, the app controls my Roku player through the network in my home. No lag time – works just like the remote. Now, I don’t necessarily want to replace my rubbery buttoned remote, but this sure is handy when it’s not immediately available – and for some reason I don’t lose my iPhone as easily.

Wii Netflix Player

Thanks to great games like Super Mario Galaxy and Wii Sports, our family game system stays pretty busy each day. Recently Netflix released the Wii Netflix player disc free of charge to customers. I, of course, use my Roku box often to view Netflix movies online, but they’ve done and even better job with the Wii. The interface is superb and finding new movies is almost fun. So, the stream isn’t HD, but it’s borderline DVD quality and the convenience far outweighs the resolution difference. This option made the Wii a whole lot more valuable. If you have Netflix and a broadband account (um, and a Wii), don’t pass this up.

iPhone 4

OK, I don’t have much time, but here are some things I’m really excited about with the upcoming iPhone 4:

  1. Facetime video chat – I’m not sure how much I’ll use it, but a really cool feature I’ve wanted since forever!
  2. A4 chip – they say this dude’s a hair faster than the 3GS, but anything will blow away my aged 3G!
  3. Glass and more glass – the look of this guy is super slick. What thrills me is that my 3G has nary a scratch on the front glass . . . scuffs galore on the back. I might just go caseless . . . riiiight.
  4. That extra mic for noise cancellation just might be the sleeper feature . . . I’ll give it a good test in my Jeep (top’s off!)
  5. Video features – the iMovie app really got me excited. I use a Kodak Zi8 and love it. Add built in editing and I just might use my videos for once!

So, needless to say, I can’t wait. See you June 24th!

3D Cinema not worth it for me

Ok, so I LOVED Avatar. And, yes, it was in 3D. And, yes, that did enhance my depth of field a bit. But, even then, I think I would have enjoyed that movie in standard 2D.

Enter “How to Train Your Dragon”. I saw it yesterday with my wife and my two older children in 3D and it was all I expected – the movie, that is . . . Not the 3D.

I spent half the movie worrying about the haze around my periforal vision than the effects themselves. Not to mention a 4:00 Matinee cost $50 for 2 adults and 2 children.

And, I know, I paid the fee so I can’t complain. I just think I’ll save a few bucks and the let down that is 3D at this moment. Maybe they’ll fix the vision wrap around lenses, but until then, a good story line is really all I want to pay for . . . that and stuff blowing up, of course. I’m not THAT cultured!