Category Archives: HDTV

Logitech Harmony 650 Remote

Lori could not learn the process I had for watching a movie on the blu-ray or on VUDU.

Geeez what is her problem?  Using a combination of three remotes, 27 button pushes, and moving one wire (just kidding)….it was easy!

She wanted me to write the process down….well, I do not have time to write a book, so get over it.

Luckily, Lifesize (a Division of Logitech), had a contest recently that someone at Lifesize entered one of my blog entries for (Anytime, Anywhere…) and I won 3rd prize!!!!

A Logitech Harmony 650 remote!  How cool is that!  🙂

This remote promises to replace up to 5 remotes!  Well, there ya go….maybe the Harmony 650 can simplify the movie watching process and give Lori the ability to watch movies in case I croak sooner than expected.

My Home Theater Configuration

An old (see this blog entry…one of my very first!) 55 inch Sony projection HDTV (only about 720p resolution, but, still good), an older Bose audio system, a Comcast cable box (HD), an old VUDU box for movies, an old Sony Blu-Ray player, and finally a Black Box HDMI switcher. Lots of old stuff (I really need to start making money again) but everything is working fine.

All of these devices need a separate remote!

Thankfully, I could make the Comcast remote work with the Bose, and the Cable box.

And I figured out a way to keep the TV on line 7 for the Blu-Ray, watching TV, and VUDU so the TV remote is not needed all the time.

<–See the pic for the three remaining remotes I hope to replace with the Harmony 650.

(No wonder why Lori was having such a problem, I am having a hard time keeping it easy to understand here….)

Harmony 650 Remote

OK, so I open the box, and read the directions very carefully….yeah, and if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona you can buy (thank you, George!).

I did know (from reading the back of the box) that the Harmony 650 could be configured using the Internet assuming you have a Windows or Mac computer and the CORRECT browser (see my browser bitch further down).

Very cool!

Sooooo, I plugged the USB cable (supplied by Logitech) into one of our laptop computers and fired it up.

Oooops, wrong browser (see my browser bitch further down).

I switched to another browser, and I was allowed to enter the devices (very cool by the way) and I was damn surprised that it had VUDU (even though the VUDU is on all the time, and I still am using it’s remote….so far).

After I was done naming my “activities” (Watch TV, Watch Movie, and Watch Movie VUDU) I hit the “Sync” button and waited…..and waited……and waited…..then fell asleep……woke up the next morning, unplugged the remote from the computer and brought it to work.  Arrrghhh…..(see my browser bitch further down).

Syncing at Work

Firing up my new Toshiba laptop, I plugged in the Harmony 650 to finally get it synced.

Shit….wrong browser again (!!!!!!!) (see my browser bitch further down).  So I tried another browser….damn….that did not work either (see my browser bitch further down).  Finally, I used the worst browser known to man and it worked!  Yeah……Arrrghh….(see my browser bitch further down).

Taking the remote home that night, I tried it.  I had to answer a few inane questions on the remote, and it had to try each of my devices again…but, in the end, it WORKED!

Joy to the World!

Using the Remote

This is the best part.

Pick up the remote and the display comes on (motion sensing…cool).  Hit the soft buttons on either side of the “activity” and magically….the correct devices turn on!  WhoooHooo!

Hit the top left button and all the devices turn off!  Wheeeee!

I tried all three of our “activites” and the remote turned on the appropriate devices every time!  Lori tried it and…..drum roll…..it worked for her too!

Life is good!

The Browser Issue

As promised, there is one major issue (major to me anyway).

I had to use the awful, terrible, Internet Explorer browser to finally get the remote synced up and working.  The latest version of IE absolutely sucks….it is just awful.  Terrible.

As a tough little hairy guy with big ears would say:  Total crap, that is.

Logitech REALLY needs to fix that, and get it working with Chrome and Firefox (they say Firefox works, but, not on the version I have…the VERY latest, 6.0).

Conclusion

The browser issue aside, the remote so far is working fine.

It has simplified the process for Lori and it works much better than the Comcast remote (faster, and the button pushes feel better).

I like the Logitech Harmony 650 remote!

Just gotta fix that browser issue and it would be nearly perfect.

So much for that (a few weeks later):  it died.  Arrrghhh……

 

VUDU Review 2

my-vudu

Rating:  5 WaterTowers (still nearly perfect)

After you are done here:  See my original review of VUDU.

This weekend we recieved our new Vudu system.   As you may already know, we love Vudu and we used it for a long time before I actually had to remind Vudu that we had the demo unit.

Life was miserable without Vudu.  Now we have our own, and in the two months or so we have been without it, there have been some cool additions to the service.  Not surprising since they update a lot.

Cool New Features

The first new feature I noticed was the addition of a rating by the “community” in addition to the rating by the “critics”.  In my opinion, the “community” rating means more to me.

The next feature I noticed was “Vudu Labs”.  This is an area where Vudu is testing new applications.  I really love this!  Figure 1 shows a screen shot.

Vudu Labs Experimental Features

Figure 1: Vudu Labs Experimental Features

Within Vudu Labs, we can:

  • View YouTube videos (including our own)
  • View publically available Flickr pictures (again, including our own)
  • Watch special streamed video from categories such as New, Sports, Entertainment and more.  For example, I watched a CNN update for Sunday. Very cool.  🙂
  • There are games.  The old Asteroid game from, I believe, the Atari (how many of you remember that?)  days has been upgraded….and I still lose.  There are also several versions of solitaire.

Adult content has also been added.  I suppose to be totally objective, I will have to review this portion as well.  😉  Stay tuned.  What I have seen so far is that Vudu “After Dark” takes you into a different set of tabs.  I believe (I will check and update) that that can be password protected to keep the young’uns away.

Installation

Installation proceeded normally until I got to the page that said it was “Updating Content”  (see figure 2).  I got to that stage pretty late at night and decided to let it run over night.

Updating Content Page

Figure 2: Updating Content Page

Unfortunately, when I woke up it was still on that page.  I pondered what to do and finaly rebooted Vudu.

After the reboot, it found my account, did a bandwidth test, and took only about 10 or 15 minutes to move past the offending page.

TelBitConsulting says:  Not sure if this happens a lot, but, it would have been nice to have the option of getting out of that mode without rebooting.

Updated Diagram

Figure 3 shows the latest schematic.  The video and audio from every component is terrific.

Schematic Diagram of Home Entertainment

Figure 3: Schematic Diagram of Home Entertainment

We now have a full complement of clickers lining up under the TV (Figure 4), and the new Black Box 3 to 1 HMDI interface box is now full.

Clickers Galore

Figure 4: Clickers Galore

I connected the Vudu to port 3 of the Black Box, and to the Cable / Sat audio input on the Bose since my TV inputs have run out.

Summary

We now have our own Vudu.  How cool is that!

Let’s hope that Vudu can stay in business in this awful economy (I have seen some web pages referring to this).  From my point of view, escaping reality by watching movies, is something we all need.  Our own stimulus package.

Vudu ROCKS!!!

3D TV Will You Buy?

Is a 3D TV on your list of must buys?online survey

Comcast Buys NBC

Interesting development this morning as Comcast purchased NBC Universal from General Electric.

The technology mergers continue.  In recent weeks we have seen the marriages of Tandberg and Cisco, Logitech and Lifesize, and now Comcast and NBC.  Very interesting times…

A NY Times article says:

“Almost immediately, the transaction reshapes the nation’s entertainment industry, giving a cable provider a huge portfolio of new content, even as it raises the sector’s anxieties about the future.”

Click here for the full NY Times article.


Comcast Tracy, CA Adds More HD Channels

This past week, Comcast in Tracy, CA added a bunch of  new HD channels to their line-up and moved several around.

Here is the current list:

903–KCRA NBC
904–KQCA My58
906–KVIE PBS
908–KTXL Fox
910–N10HD ABC
912–KMAX CW31
913–KOVR CBS
914–HGTV
915–NGCHD (National Geographic)
916–HISHD (The History Channel)
917–NFLHD
918–A&EHD
920–CSNHD (Comcast Bay Area Sports)
921–CSNCD (Comcast Bay Area Sports)
922–HDT Discovery HD Theater
923–ESPND (ESPN)
924–ES2HD (ESPN2)
925-GOLFD (Golf)
926–TNTHD (TNT HD)
927–UHD (Universal)
928–PLDHD (Palladia High Def Music…they have Country too)
929-MLBHD (Baseball)
930–HBO (Need to pay extra)
931–ENCHD (Encore HD)
932–MXHDW (Need to pay extra)
933–HALLD (Hallmark Movies HD)
934–SZHDW (Starz) (Need to pay extra)
935–BRVOD (Bravo HD)
936–SHO HD (Need to pay extra)
937–USA HD
938–DSCHD (The Discovery Channel)
939–SCIHD (Science HD)
940–E!HD
941–FOODD (Food HD)
942–SyFyD (SciFi Channel)
943–SPKHD (Spike)
944–TLCHD (TLC)
945–CMDYD (Comedy)
946–CNNHD (CNN)
947–CNBCD (CNBC HD)
948–FAMHD (Family Channel HD)
949–DISHD (Disney Channel)
950–TOOND (Cartoon Network)
951-APHD (Animal Planet)
953–TBSHD
954–QVCHD
957–FNCHD (Fox News)
958–FBNHD (Fox Business)
960–FXHD
964–TRAVD (Travel HD)
965–SPDHD (Paid Programming)
966–VSHD (Outdoor stuff)
967-NIK (Nick)
976-TWCHD (Weather)
978-CMTHD (CMT)
981-VH1HD (VH1)
982-MTVHD (MTV)
985-NFLRD (NFL Red Zone, need to pay?)
995-LIFEHD (Lifetime)
998-AMCHD (AMC)

Sony Blu-Ray Player Review

blu-ray-logo-on-hdtv1

Rating:  4 WaterTowers

For Christmas this year before we run out of money (remember starving blogger and substitute teacher) my wife gave me a Sony Blu Ray player.

Prices have come down and apparently she got a really good deal at Best Buy in Tracy, CA.  She also purchased a few movies to watch (Batman, Indiana Jones, 27 Dresses, and The Mummy 3).

I promptly got to work setting it up and watching a movie.

Really Quickly

The video and audio quality are outstanding. Even though my HDTV is old and does not have the full resolution needed to see the full video quality…I can see the jump in quality from what I am used to.  Extremely impressive.

Quick HDMI Lesson

The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable gives you the highest possible quaility between your set-top box, DVD player, etc and your HDTV (followed by, in order of decreasing quality:  component cables, S-Video, then RCA).

The main reason for this is that HDMI delivers full bandwidth digital signal to your TV.  With component, S-video, or RCA connections the signal would have to be changed to analog then back to digital again.  This process results in losses that can be visible.   With HDMI the signals stay digital all the way thus….no losses (well not really but good enuf for our purposes here).

Our HDMI Situation

Before I start with the Blu Ray, there is one other piece of information.  Our 4 year old Sony HDTV only has one HDMI port (port 7).  If you are going to buy an HDTV, make sure you get one with at least 3 HDMI ports, and more if possible.

With 1 HDMI TV port I had to make some decisions, but, it also gave my wife something else to get me for Christmas…an HDMI switch that alows me to connect multple HDMI capable devices to the one TV HDMI input.

Knowing my dedication to Black Box Catalog, my wife surprised me with the SW214A, 3 to 1 HDMI Switch from Black Box (what a geek…I like getting a Black Box switch for Christmas….how funny is that?).  It cost a bit more than other solutions, but, my experience with Black Box over the years has been nothing but good, so I figure this will last for a very long time.

black-box

In my final configuration, I have our new Comcast Cable Box and the Sony Blu Ray player connected to the TV via HDMI.  To use one device (Cable or Blu Ray), the other needs to be turned off.  Not a problem once you get used to it.

The following schematic shows our “final” home theater configuration.

home-tv-configuration-with-cable-box-and-blu-ray1

Installing the Blu Ray Player

Once I gathered the needed HDMI cables (three of them), the Black Box switch and the Sony Blu Ray player, it was a simply a matter of connecting it all together and powering it up.

The HDMI cables are easy to connect (they only go in one way), as was the audio cable (fiber) to our Bose audio system.   The Sony Blu Ray player has an Internet connection for “BD-Live” interactive services (more later on that) and since I had a cat 5 cable at my TV for VUDU (see my review of VUDU), I connected it as well.

sony-blu-ray-back-full-view1

sony-player-back-11

With this version of the Sony player (BDP-S550) there is a 1 Gig memory stick for the interactive BD-Live stuff.  I plugged that into the appropriate slot in the back.

sony-blu-ray-1-gig-memory-c1

With everything connected, I fired it up.

Delays

When you put in a disc, I noticed that the Blu Ray player takes good bit of time getting ready to get to work.  With my old DVD’s it was ready to go very quickly, a few seconds.  With Blu Ray, it a few TENS of seconds.  Not that that is a problem, just something to be aware of.

Audio Issue

Putting the disc in and playing it, I noticed that my Bose was on “PCM 2.0”.  Although the sound was very good, I knew this was not right.  Referring to the Sony Blu Ray manual (I hate reading manuals…) I found several audio settings that needed to be changed because our Bose is quite capable of handling advanced audio protocols such a Dolby Digital Surround Sound, 5.1 channels, DTS, etc.

Once those changes were made, the Bose displayed “Dolby Digital 5.1” or “DTS 5.1” for the movies we watched.

BD-Live

This is a new interactive capability that comes with Internet capable latest versions of Blu Ray players.  With this you can watch trailers, find out information on upcoming movies, and share the movie experience with your friends (I have read where a web cam can be set up somehow and you can watch the movie with your friends on-line).

I used BD-Live twice and was not impressed.  I watched a few trailers and the video stopped many times and a few times completely restarted.  Very poor, expecially when I have the nealr y perfect video streaming VUDU experience behind me.

Overall, I will hold judgement on BD-Live.  I am not excited about it, but, maybe as time goes by I will warm up to it.

Watching a Movie

Wow!

Eye popping video, ear splitting audio quality.  The quality of our home theater is 100% better than the quality at our local theater.  The only thing lacking is popcorn, cell phones going off during the show, and the proximity of our most beloved store:  Barnes and Noble (see my Book Review Blog).

If you want a great experience buy “Batman: The Dark Knight” in  Blu Ray.  OMG….it is unbelievable.  And remember, this on a lower resolution HDTV than a new one.   The times when the IMAX camera is used the video becomes full-screen and crystal clear (even more than it was before…which is amazing).  You can see every shard of glass….every facial nuance (Heath Ledger was amazing!)….every little bullet hole or fire ball.

Unbelievable….did I say that already?

UPDATE:  Jan 5 2009.  We finally watched an old, standard definition, DVD (Ratatouille).  The up-conversion capability of the Sony Blu Ray surpasses that same ability on our old Sony DVD player.  The video quality was excellent.  No need to trash your old DVD’s !!  🙂

Summary

I have been waiting for HD since the mid 1980’s.  Back then we would go to a conference and see demos and dream of the day we could have it at home.  20 some odd years later, I have it at home and I am sooo glad I made it this far.

This is incredible.

Internet Movies and Blu Ray

next-web

I’ve been thinking.  

A very dangerous thing, I know.  But I was wondering how the likes of VUDU (see my review), AppleTV, the Blockbuster (see my blog entry) and NetFlix (see my blog entry)  streaming video players will effect (hmmm, is that right?  effect, affect?) the life of Blu-Ray.  

A few weeks ago, I posted a more formal written opinion that I have copied below. 

Let me know what you think.

Overview

1. Streaming of movies (and other content) over the Internet will grow in the coming years.

2. High speed digital services to the home (DSL and cable modem) continue to increase.

3. High definition movies can be viewed at home without the need to rent a DVD or Blu-Ray DVD.  

This is an important future direction that could shorten the life of Blu-Ray or at the very least lessen the impact Blu-Ray could have in the home.

Tel Bit Consulting’s View

Several companies are now offering high definition movies over the Internet.  These movies can be viewed on a high definition TV and require only a DSL or cable modem connection to the Internet, and a player.  There are technical issues the homeowner must overcome (for example they will need to bring DSL or Cable Modem Internet connectivity to the Family Room) but, the ability to rent a movie and watch it in high definition two to eight hours after renting it (without the need to go to the store) is compelling.

 

Apple TV came out with a set-top box over a year ago.  Although that required a computer to work properly, the latest versions do not, thus, in my opinion increasing the usability for the average person.  In the past year, more (non-computer based) devices (or players) have been introduced:  VUDU has advanced rapidly from standard definition and a small selection of HD movie titles to a significant number of high definition movies that rival the quality of Blu-Ray (they call their latest HD technology HDX).  More recently, NetFlix, Sony, and Blockbuster have announced players or Internet streaming of movies, or both.  Comcast (and other cable companies) have their own on-demand services.

 

In short, as these new Internet streaming players come into the marketplace, and more movies become available in high definition, the need (or desire) to purchase, or rent, a Blu-Ray DVD could diminish or never reach its full promise. 

 

One stumbling block for Internet streaming of video concerns the fact that Internet providers have been clamping down their connections (i.e. restricting the number of bits).  If that practice remains in place, or increases, that could spell trouble for Internet streaming of movies. 

 

But, if free and open Internet connectivity remains, and Internet streaming technology improves and more widely available, the life of a “Blu-Ray DVD” may be shorter than the life of the old, original “DVD”.

Comcast Tracy, CA Upgrades HDTV Channels, Part 2

I was breezing through the HD channels a couple of nights ago, and found new channels. Interesting that I never seem to be aware that this is going to happen…is it just me?

Fourteen new HD channels have been added and we lost MOJO….but, if you ever watched MOJO you may agree that that is no loss.

I do hear that our rates are going to increase in Jan 09…so I suppose this is a good move on Comcasts part. Now we have more HDTV to watch for the extra $$ we will be paying.

I’m not complaining…I love HD!

Here is the current list:

903–KCRA NBC
904–KQCA My58
906–KVIE PBS
908–KTXL Fox
910–KXTV ABC
912–KMAX CW31
913–KOVR CBS
914–HGTV
915–NGCHD (National Geographic)
916–HISHD (The History Channel)
917–NFL (Need to pay extra)
918–A&E
920–CSNHD (Bay Area sports, mostly blue screen logo) Comcast Sportsnet
921–GOLFD (Golf and other sports)
922–HDT Discovery HD Theater
923–ESPND (ESPN)
924–ES2HD (ESPN2)
926–TNTHD (TNT HD)
927–UHD (Universal)
928–PLDHD (Palladia High Def Music…they have Country too)
930–HBO (Need to pay extra)
931–ENC1H (Encore HD)
932–MXHDW (Need to pay extra)
933–HALLD (Hallmark Movies HD)
934–SZ1HW (Starz) (Need to pay extra)
935–BRVOD (Bravo HD)
936–SHO HD (Need to pay extra)
937–USA HD
938–DSCHD (The Discovery Channel)
939–SCIHD (Science HD)
940–E!HD
941–FOODD (Food HD)
942–SFHD (SciFi Channel)
943–APHD (Animal Planet HD)
944–TLCHD (TLC)
945–AMCHD (AMC)
946–CNNHD (CNN)
947–CNBCD (CNBC HD)
948–FAMHD (Family Channel HD)
949–DISHD (Disney Channel)
950–TOOND (Cartoon Network)
953–TBSHD
954–QVCHD
957–FNCHD (Fox News)
958–FBNHD (Fox Business)
960–FXHD
964–TRAVD (Travel HD)
965–SPDHD (Paid Programming)
966–VRSHD (Outdoor stuff)
995–HDMUS (HD Music??? it says it is “coming soon”)

So not bad….we get about 12 new watchable channels, not including the reality based very depressing financial channels.
Tracy, CA continues to reach to the future.  Even if it is a Triangle…

Comcast HDTV Cable Box Installation

 

As many of you know, I had a cable card installed in my Sony HDTV. That card has given me very good service for the past 4 years, but, in the past year or so, I have periodically lost signal to many stations we watch. To get those stations back, I have to call Comcast and ask them to “reboot” my cable card. Luckily, nine time out of ten, I get someone at Comcast who helps fix the problem immediately. Great service from Comcast.

The last time this happened (Dec 1, 2008), I asked one particularly knowledgeable person (Eric in the Livermore, CA call center) what I could do to avoid these “reboots”. He told me I could get a cable box for free. Hmmmm, I know the cable box cost extra four years ago, and, a few months ago, I went to the Comcast office in Tracy, CA and again they told me I would have to pay (starving blogger remember), so I kept the card.

I went to the Comcast office again (with Eric’s name in hand) and asked again. To my great surprise, I ended up bringing home a FREE cable box (Motorola) to hook up (and the promise I would bring in the cable card the next day when I knew everything worked ok).

Hooking up the cable box, I ran into some problems. The most glaring problem was lack of HDTV service, with an additional audio issue on the non HD channels. Interesting. After struggling a bit (mostly to make sure I was not doing something stupid), I called Comcast and was told that they rebooted the box and to wait 15 minutes for it to take effect. I waited…and waited…no change. So I called again and the next person looked at my cable box and said “You do not have an HD Box”. Ah….that explains some of it. I put my cable card back in and he reset it so I could watch TV until I get a new box.

Back to Comcast in Tracy, CA to get an HD capable box.

The High Def box is about 4 times as large as the standard box.   Really quickly…it is working fine…here is what I did:
1. Took out the cable card from the TV
2. Connected the Cable into the cable box
3. Connected the RF Out to the Cable in (a coax) to my TV
4. Turned it on and saw channels but did not hear audio
5. Pondered what to do then connected the fiber audio cable from the cable box to my Bose.  This worked great…I now had audio….BUT….
6. The picture was not taking up the entire screen…arrrghhh.
7. Pondered what to do then connected the HDMI from the cable box to my TV’s one and only HDMI port on input #7.  Worked great!
8. Worked and pondered a bit more and finally came up with a new scheme for watching recorded video (House and Fringe), DVD’s (our VUDU trial time ran out and I’m a starving blogger with no $$), and watch HDTV.
Summary

First of all I have to give kudos to Comcast support.  I almost always get a friendly (even when I’m not) helpful person who has the ability to reboot or advise me what to do.  Also, for the bit of trouble I had getting HD Comcast gave me StarZ for a year, for free.  I need to call them however because I also have every other premium movie channel as well…and I do not want to be charged (starving blogger).
The picture quality is every bit as good as the cable card and I seem to have picked up a few channels that the card did not.  Good stuff.
I am a happy Comcast customer…we will see over time if the need to periodically “reboot” is a thing of the past.

Comcast Tracy Upgrades HDTV Channels

Comcast has once again upgraded their HD offerings in Tracy, CA. I posted the last change here. Now they have made a few changes to their existing channels (mostly in naming conventions) and added nine more channels, some of which could be interesting.

Here is the current list:

903–KCRA NBC
904–KQCA My58
906–KVIE PBS
908–KTXL Fox
910–KXTV ABC
912–KMAX CW31 (NEW)
913–KOVR CBS
914–HGTV (NEW)
915–NGEO (NEW–National Geographic)
916–THC (NEW–The History Channel)
917–NFL (Need to pay extra)
918–A&E (NEW)
919–MOJO
920–FSN (Bay Area sports, mostly blue screen logo) Comcast Sportsnet
921–VSGLF (Golf and other sports)
922–HDT Discovery HD Theater
923–ESPN
924–ESPN2
926–TNTHD
927–UHD (Universal)
928–MHD
930-HBO (Need to pay extra)
932–MXHDW (Need to pay extra)
934–S-HDW (Need to pay extra)
936–SHO HD (Need to pay extra)
937–USA HD
938–TDC (NEW-The Discovery Channel)
939–****** (not me this was entered by Comcast) SCHD (Science HD)
941–FOODHD (Food HD)
942–SCIFIHD (SciFi Channel)
943–APHD (Animal Planet HD)
944–TLCHD (TLC)
945–AMCHD (AMC)
946–CNNHD (CNN)
948–****** (Disney Channel HD)
949–****** (ABC Channel)

Wow! 36 HD channels. Not bad. Someone oughta let CNN know that if they have an HD Channel they should pop for some HD cameras! Oh, as I look up, Anderson Cooper is in HD…very cool.