Soon your TV will be getting media directly from the Internet, and the world will be a happier place.

The other day we mentioned Voter Registration Comes To The Xbox that you could now register to vote via the Xbox 360, and how we felt this was a sign of things becoming more interconnected and interactive.  Well, now comes news that Samsung, the world’s largest electronics maker, is abotu to unveil TVs that plug into your Internet connection to deliver information around whatever television show you are watching.

Besides these televisions being high definition, they will also deliver information via RSS, see the weather, get stock quotes and more.  Within 5 years, Samsung sees even regular content being delivered in this way, so that interconected world may not be all that far away.

We have already seen it in DVD players, placeshifting equipment, video game systems and more, TVs were the next logical step, and it seems that time has arrived.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

I’m in the middle of doing some major rearranging of my electronic gear in my family room, and a lot of this involves running the electrical cords again so that they make more sense.

The house is 23-years-old, and we are in severe need of more outlets.  We did wire the house pretty heavily, so running power strips isn’t a problem for us, but if you are going to do it in your own home, do check out how heavy your wiring is before you try running too much through any given outlet.

Going with this in mind, there are two things I have been looking for in power strips, and luckily it seems I am now the only one who wants new features.  Most important is surge protection in case of storms, and second is the ability to rearrange the plugs somewhat because of all the various cords I have to deal with.  Nothing is more frustrating that losing an outlet due to the cord in the next plug being too fat.  As luck would have it, there are more coming out that pivot, extend, rotate and more to meet that very demand.

Again, I stress to make sure you aren’t running more juice than your house can safely handle, but if you need, and can, run a power strip, make sure it has a surge protector built in, the moving parts is just a nice bonus.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

sling logoWhile we normally don’t cover software updates on products here at StarterTech, this new release from Sling Media is worth it.

Sling Media makes a line of placeshifting hardware called Sling Boxes that allow you to watch your home television from wherever you may be in the world via your computer.  While this has been a great tool up until now, it was very straightforward in how it worked, and if anyone should be at home while you were watching, it was a pain to call them and have them pause it if you should get a phone call.  The new SlingPlayer version 2.0 beta software adds a nice new twist in that you can pause whatever you are watching for up to an hour without effecting what is happening on the TV at your home.  Essentially you are getting DVR like fuctionality wherever you may be at the time.

This may be a small thing, but as an avid Sling Box (“Slinger” to those in the know), I couldn’t be more excited about such a small thing.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

When the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD format war ended some months ago, the digital media industry expected consumers to flock to the Blu-ray format.  Six months later they seem to still be waiting.

While the two high definition formats duked it out for superiority, it made sense that no one flocked to one or the other.  We here at StarterTech finally ended up going with HD-DVD… just a few months before the format died in February 2008.  While there were options for us to switch over to Blu-ray without much cost, we decided to wait to see how much it really got adopted.  According to a recent study of 1,000 people to see if they were adopting Blu-ray, it seems we aren’t the only people who are waiting to see what happens.

Perhaps it is due to needing an HDTV to play a high definition format, possibly the price point as the players are still fairly expensive, the movies are still more expensive than a standard DVD… it really can be any number of factors that are keeping it from wide adoption.  With all of this in mind, we are actually recommending to friends and family that they wait a while longer to see what happens.  The methods by which movies are delivered to our homes is changing with more and more streaming devices, downloads, portability on the iPhone and iPod Touch, it may just not be Blu-ray that fails, but physical media in general.  While there is something to be said to physically owning an item, as houses get more and more cluttered, why not eliminate physical movies all together and just go to downloads?

I don’t see this happening overnight, but I do see people using standard DVDs to carry them through to the next format beyond Blu-ray, be it physical or virtal media is still be determined.  For now, I am just thinking you are better off spending you money on a nice HDTV, upgrading to an HD receiver, or even a realtively cheap upconverting DVD player to make your standard DVDs look as nice as possible.  Blu-ray is probably never going to gain wide acceptance, so it is probably best to just hold out and wait for the industry to change everything for you.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

We recently talked about Knowing When To Buy Apple Products, but what about other electronics that don’t have as many warning signs or indicators?

A good example of this is home video game systems.  Between August and the all important Thanksgiving shopping season in the USA, it is never a good idea to buy a new major electronic, espexially video game systems.  Typically there will be some sort of special bundles for the day after Thanksgiving, or just a general price drop may happen.

Thanks to recently leaked images from inventory computers of various retailers, it is known that the XBox 360, Microsoft’s popular video game console, is getting a price drop for sure in September.  It is unlikely the system will drop again before the holidays, but whenever one game system drops, the others are sure to follow in the not too distant future.

So, if you have a hankering to buy a major new electronic device, perhaps you will be better off waiting at least a month or two, because this is the time of year the prices begin dropping.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

We’ve all had that scary moment where our cable modem stops working with no real explanation, but the question is what you do about it.

Most people will think to call their cable service provider first, but that can take up quite a bit of time waiting on hold, but there are things you can try before you go through that.

- First, if you have a router, unplug it’s power source.  If not, just go to step 2.

- Second, go to the cable modem and unplug the power.

- Unscrew the coaxial cable from the back of the modem because you can sometimes get a static build up in the connection.

- Count to 10.

- Screw the coaxial cable back in.

- Plug the modem back in and wait for all the lights to go on and the “Activity” light to start blinking.

- Plug your router back in if you have one.

9 out of 10 times, this will solve the connection problems.  It can be static in the line, a power blink that didn’t quite register with the modem and so on.  These are all steps that your cable company will ask you to do first thing, so you may as well save yourself the time and try it on your own first.  If all this fails, then call the cable company and feel confident in informing them they have an outage and it isn’t you.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

With each passing day your VHS tapes are getting more outdated, but what can you do to get rid of them without hurting the environment?

There is certainly nothing wrong with keeping your VHS cassettes if you want, but if they are just taking up too much room in your life, what can you do with them? Sure, you could throw them away, but think about the environmental impact of that much plastic being tossed out.  So you need to look at alternatives of people who may benefit from your tapes.

- Local libraries can always use them to increase their inventory, or they can sell them off at annual fund raising events to raise cash.

- Salvation Army can take them as donations.

- Halfway houses, youth centers and anywhere that takes in children or families.

- Sell them to pawn shops.

I am currently in the process of boxing up all my old tapes to take them to the public library and let them do with them as they please, but please try avoid sending them to the landfill!

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

I think you all know by now that I am not a true techie. A lot of the tech I have been exposed to is at the behest of my son who IS a tech lover to the nth degree. I do have the advantage on him though of having seen much technological advancement in the olden days that are the grandparents of the technology he now enjoys.

My family had one of the first TVs on our block in the early 50’s—small screen and large cabinet. Only a few hours of viewing pleasure and then the National Anthem which was my favorite in my toddler mind. Everyone had to stand up and salute if I wasn’t asleep yet. My parents really loved me at that hour. Since then I have seen portables, rabbit ears, color and now HD (high definition).

This past weekend I had to make a quick trip to St. Louis and stayed at my favorite hotel chain in one of their brand new locations. After I got past the shock of their view of cutting edge I finally noticed the large (42”) flat screen TV in the living area. Once I turned it on I was really impressed. Now I happen to own a flat screen with HD but my receiving equipment for all my other gadgets doesn’t cut the technology requirements. I know you all have heard or seen the ads about HD as it comes closer to being provided by law but it really isn’t that scary. If you have a satellite dish or cable and are watching tv at this point you are safe. What you should be concerned about is taking full advantage of HD. Wow!! The picture was crystal clear even for my old bi-focal eyes. Absolutely breathtaking color and clarity and it really did enhance my viewing. I actually watched an old movie that certainly was not filmed in HD and it was gorgeous. While I realize that this may sound trivial in light of the volatile economic situation we are in all over the world I would ask you to take a moment and realize that you might just be watching a few more hours of telly as your entertainment choice and I would suggest to you that you embrace HD and enjoy it.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

warrantiesSean recently wrote why he was against the majority of extended warranties, but now it’s my time to argue for them.

I just recently read an article regarding extended warranties and why you shouldn’t buy them. The article actually pointed out the idea of planned obsolescence and its negating the worth of such extended plans. On the whole I agree with that theory but recent events in my life have proven to me that such plans do indeed have merit.

Now I know you think this blog is just about techie things like computers and such but in my vision it is really to help all of us benefit from anyone of our experiences in this world regarding things that hum, run or befuddle us. Take my refrigerator—please. I researched this purchase for months and finally bought a favorite brand. Great—no. It freezes everything and because I did not get an extended warranty I am subject to the phrase ‘Well, as a courtesy’ Courtesy my foot. It is a poorly designed unit and you know it or you would not have a ‘fix’ available for the problem. I have had five repair calls and two ‘fix’ plans and it is not fixed. Now it is time for them to step up and give me a new refrigerator because the time for ‘courtesy’ has passed.

Will they do it? I don’t know but I am ready for the phrase I have heard after every call “Do you have an extended warranty?’ I really shouldn’t matter if the item is poorly designed but evidently it does. I paid a lot of money for this impersonator of a fridge. The extended warranty was only $89.00 for three years –not bad. Or I could have paid for it with American Express and had the first warranty doubled for free. I am now paying for almost everything with my Am Ex card. But if you don’t have an Am Ex what do you do? Save all paper work and get ready for a fight.

And then there is Apple. We happened to have an opportunity to purchase a barely used iPod Touch and upon adding an application the thing went wonky. I know that is not a tech term but when you realize that even their engineering department was stumped wonky it is!! Their customer service has been exemplary. We have even had progress reports on their research of the problem. No ‘as a courtesy’ bs—just good customer service. So in light of this great customer service should we have bought an extended warranty? My thought is yes. Even though Apple is proving themselves to be a good corporate giant things do go wrong and with a unit that has already gone wonky I would feel better if I had an extended warranty.

To take the problem of extended or no to its most base level I feel you have to look at not only original price of the item but also its importance to you. I need a working fridge—it is a cornerstone of my kitchen and yes it was expensive. On the not too expensive side was the Touch and yes I need that too—it is the basis of my road warrior organization. If you find that you can’t accept the idea of planned obsolescence as I can’t then I suggest extended warranties are the plan for you.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 

analog televisionThere has been a lot of talk about the end of analog television, and the transition to all digital transmission on February 17, 2009.  Are you ready?  Will you still be able to watch television after this date?

In short, if you currently receive your television via a cable company or satellite TV provider, this will have absolutely no effect on you.  Your television is already receiving digital signal, and you will see no change at all in how you receive your transmissions.

For people who are still receiving their television over the air via antennas, then you will be effected by this change over.  You will need to either have a digital television, or you will need to purchase a digital-to-analog convertor to be able to play the signal on your TV.  The Federal Communicatiosn Council has set up a website dedicated to helping you make sure that you are ready for the change.  You can visit it at DTV.gov, but it is a fairly simple process to prepare for the change, and it only sounds scarier than it really is.

Categories: Home Electronics   
 
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