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Chris Karson
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Lives in Osgoode, Ottawa, ON, Canada
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Chris Karson

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Universal Remotes for Geeks

I remember back in the mid-nineties when I woke up one morning to find the proprietary remote for my Sony VCR in a half-full glass of water (it actually survived the dunking).  I bought a cheap universal remote, but I got very, very lucky.

You see the remote I bought was a particular remote by the Òne For All`remote company -- A Cinema 6).  It was a great remote with a comprehensive set of device codes, but it have other layers.  At the beginning, I used advanced codes (from the great hifi remote website and a now-obsolete Yahoo group, remember those?) to customize the layout... later on I built a cable that allowed direct programming of the remote using freeware.  Not bad for a remote that cost about $15 (in 1995 or so).

That`s the thing that bugs me about the so-called high end remotes like the Harmony.  They cost a ton, and in the case of the harmony its over-rated.

So eventually I replaced my cinema remote with a UHF model that included a UHF transceiver that allowed me to send video to my bedroom and change the channels upstairs using the UHF remote.  I always liked the idea of a remote that didn't rely on line-of-sight.  I bought two of these UHF remotes on ebay, and they were $10 each.  Including the transceiver (these were obsolete models when I bought them).

The funny thing is that Logitech has a UHF model, and it costs $400.  Even the cheapest Harmony remote are around $40.

Many of the older-model Radio Shack universals are actually designed by the One-For-All company and they too are excellent remotes.  I have two Radio Shack model 15-133 remotes (these need a JP 1.3 cable rather than the old style my other remotes use) in use and I think they are great, plus I upgraded the old "Cinema" style UHF remote to a more contemporary model, the 9810, which is features on the wikipedia page for JP1.

The JP1 software allows complete control over the remote, and allows virtually any kind of customization you can imagine--macros, key priority, etc.  Personally, I keep things simple, but it's important that all discrete functions work so that I don't need an original remote.  the JP1 software allows you to save the profiles and effectively back up the remotes, though the OFA remotes do not lose their settings when the battery goes dead.

Interesting trivia here is that Nicola Salmoria was one of the guys who worked on the freeware extenders for JP1 and he the driving force behind the M.A.M.E. arcade emulation project as well.

http://www.hifi-remote.com/ofa/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP1_remote
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Streaming Media Devices (Apple TV, Roku, etc.)

I often get asked which streaming media device to buy... Apple TV or Roku or Chromecast.  The quick answer is none of them.

I own a whole whack of these devices including AppleTV, Chromecast and a Popcorn Hour, but I don`t use any of them.  My favorite units are the Sony Blu-Ray players by a landslide.  I`ve tried some other Blu-Ray players and I prefer the compatibility quality and interface on the Sony unit, which generally cost between $75 and $125 depending on the features (wi-fi being a major differentiator)

The advantage of the Sony unit is that it`s multi-purpose: supports DVD, Blu-Ray, data disks, USB, etc.  All major internet streaming services are supported (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)  I also liked the old school remotes that Sony provides, though I tend to use universals anyway (I use ``JP1`` remotes by the way).

Most importantly, the Sony devices support DLNA, a widely adopted standard for sharing media.  I use various home media servers and the Sony works with all of them via DLNA.  I have found that the Sony DLNA profiles are fairly compatible and rarely have any issues with weird files types or HD content.

There are a ton of other features, like Sideview and software remote, but I personally don`t bother.

In fact, I`m not too sure what advantage the other devices truly offer.  I suppose some of them offer games and apps in a limited fashion, so that`s okay, but if they can`t stream local media they are pretty much locked to the cloud.

I think Sony have discontinued them now, but they had a series of inexpensive network media streamers (N100, N200) that offered identical features, but without the Blu-Ray.  I have one, the N200, and it`s fine, but the remote sucks (easily replaced with a universal I suppose).  These units are generally available for under $50.

The units I have BDPS370, BDP-S3100, SMP-N200.

I can anticipate that some folks will extoll the virtues of XBMC.  I`ve been a loyal XBMC user since I hacked my first Xbox and I still use it, but less and less.  It`s just easier and faster to plow through the Sony XMB menus.

There is a downside to the Sony devices using DLNA: the software does not recognize all metadata or thumnails, and in this regard quite inferior to XBMC.
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Yes, occasionally, but I use Serviio (which I prefer to Plex) and it has profiles for the Sonty devices and transcodes as needed.  everything plays.  I previously had an LG unit that didn't work well enough, I find the Sony superior to Samsung and LG units (unless they have improved substantially in the last year or two).
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My Take on Apple's Beats Audio Acquistion: It's Dumb

First off, let's get one thing straight: Beats are not amazingly good headphones, they are very average sounding with a premium price.

For years Beats were sold by the monster cable company.  Anyone in electronics will tell you that Monster cables are a complete scam: they "Monster cable advantage" was miniscule-to-non-existant in the analog cable world, but with digital cables, they have no technical merit at all.  But yet they dominate the HDMI cable industry thanks to the ignorance of consumers and unscrupulous retailers.

Beats are no different: the speakers they use are very average and the specifications weak (in fact Beats usually don't publish meaningful specs in order to avoid comparison).  Apparently the headphones use some compression and equalization techniques to change the sound... but these methods do nothing for fidelity.  Still beats are a runaway success with over 50% of the headphone market.  And to some its perceived as a quality brand.  Funny thing is you can buy Sennheizers for much less and get better sound.

So why would Apple buy Beats?  Personally I think Apple could design and release high end audio headphones and earbuds and get top dollar, especially to their Apple minions.  They don't need Beats to do that.

Then there is the streaming service.  Apple already owns digital media publishing, so why do they need more?  Beats me (I couldn't help myself).

This whole deal makes no sense and Apple has made a huge mistake.  But then again they can afford it... maybe it's all a big tax write-off.  Still, it's hard to believe that a product which is little more than a scam will do anything to improve Apple's incredible bottom-line.
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Apparently they are going to get rid of the analog headphone jack and go with a proprietary port... I guess they intend to sell a lot of headphones going forward.  Too bad for them that Beats are a fraud.
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Rogers, You Suck!

So Canada's ISP's are rated by Netflix based on performance, and guess what?  Rogers is dead last.

Now that's surprising because they advertise as being the fastest... and technically, I would have expected cable internet to be faster than DSL.  Not in Canada... even pokey old DSL beat out Rogers.  No surprise that fiber was the leading service.

The funny thing is that Rogers customers are often staunch defenders... I guess you defend the one you went with.  Oddly enough, Rogers is almost always the most expensive option and has the most limiting caps around.  Human nature I guess.  Rogers does have congestion issues on their network, and I think they may be limiting speeds to Netflix to push their own online services.

i don't have any of these services by teh way, because out here in farm country it's wirelss or dial-up.  Yay.  I'd kill to get even Rogers, Canada's crappiest ISP.





http://www.thestar.com/business/tech_news/2014/05/12/bell_first_rogers_last_in_netflix_ranking_of_canadian_isp_speeds.html
This is the first time Canadian ISPs were included in the monthly ranking.
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I just dropped Rogers because of their monthly caps. Teksavvy is a better option
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Atari Dig Hits Paydirt!

So they found E.T. and other over-produced cartridges... I wonder what hardware they will find?  I'm curious if they keep going... there should be thousands of games in there.

The condition of the games has been remarkably good too... better than i would have expected.

Some urban legends are true...

http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/27/et-atari-dig-in-pictures/?ncid=rss_truncated&utm_campaign=socialflow&utm_source=sf&utm_medium=sf
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I wonder when these games are gonna pop up on Ebay and what they will go for (working or not).
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Chris Karson

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very similar to full time lover by the fabulous thunderbirds in the 70's...
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Chris Karson

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Origin Giveaway: Peggle

on the heels of the Plants vs Zombies giveaway, Origin is giving away Peggle until Aug 5.  Hopefully its not the limited version that Steam gave away a while back.  Yes I like free stuff...

http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/06/17/peggle-is-now-free-on-origin/
EA have revealed the next game in their ongoing 'On The House' promotion series. First, they gave away <a href="http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/03/28/dead-space-is-free-on-origin-until-may/">Dead Space</a>. Then, it was <a href="http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/05/28/battlefield-3-and-plants-vs-zombies-are-on-the-house-at-origin/">Battlefield 3 and Plants vs. Zombies</a>. Now, it's Peggle—making this either the best or worst of their free-game offers, dep...
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Evernote Hacked Again

...and most enterprises have users who keep work-related documents in Evernote whether they like it or not.

Not good...
 
Evernote forum hacked, some users warned passwords could be exposed

 http://grahamcluley.com/2014/06/evernote-forum-hacked/
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I've never had any desire to use this. Glad now I don't.
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Support for decade-old crypto program pulled, touching off Internet firestorm.
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I'm actually surprised that Ars Technica would have such an out-of-context representation of such a complicated technical issue in a headline. Of course, the TrueCrypt site really says "Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues".

To me that is like reporting "the water is unsafe" when I really said that "drinking the water is unsafe as it may contain toxins". Of course, you wouldn't want to drink water if you were not reasonably sure it was safe for consumption, as erring on the side of caution is generally a good idea. However, I do think that's a bit different from claiming (or really implying in this case) that I said that I know it to be unsafe... or, maybe couldn't even be used in limited situations. Eg, I wouldn't drink the water out of my aquarium, though my fish seem quite healthy in it.

Edit/update: or is it merely unsafe because no one is going to monitor it anymore?


In other words "TrueCrypt is not secure" with respect to whom (this is the big question, regardless of sloppily quoted headlines)? The casual thief that may steal my laptop or pick up my forgotten flash-drive, or the a government agency with far more sophisticated resources? Given that I personally only really care about the former, I plan on continuing to use TrueCrypt, at least until the completion of the ongoing security audit... as it still seems to be the only convenient way to secure my flash-drives in a manner that works pretty well under both Windows and Linux. 
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If I Could Play Video Games I Bet It Would Be Atari!

I still giggle every time I see this.  If it is real (and it sure looks it), it's no wonder they had to bury those E.T. cartridges...

Stevie likes E.T. the video game too I'll bet.  Why wouldn't he?
 
Stevie Wonder in a classic ad for the Atari 2600! #TBT #Throwbackthursday #atari #steviewonder
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Still funny... and if you actually read the paragraphs its pretty clear its a joke.  Reminded me of those Isaac Asimov Radio Shack ads.. 
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First XP non-patch

I suppose those who do not use IE or Flash are safe...
 
First security flaw since XP's demise hits, all current XP users at risk

Earlier this month Microsoft finally put Windows XP to rest after 12 long years. A new security flaw targeting all Internet Explorer (LOL!) has hit the Internet. The vulnerability could allow full user permissions over your computer, allowing programs to be installed and data to be compromised, all just by visiting a website. While Internet Explorer users on Vista and up will see a patch, Windows XP users will not. This is the first time that this has happened...and won't be the last.

#security   #Windows   #WindowsXP   #internetexplorer  
If you're still using a 12-year-old operating system, a new security flaw discovered in Internet Explorer should cause you quite a bit of consternation. Microsoft published a security advisory...
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    Government Mule, 1995 - present
  • Reset Magazine
    Managing Editor, 1986 - 1988
  • Ottawa Sun
    Editorial Assistant, 1989 - 1989
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Technology guy who likes the geeky stuff.  Also likes guitars and tube amps and little pluggy things with shiny lights.
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