Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Xbox as your Cable DVR Box

I have been working on the ultimate home media theater experience. So using my XBOX 360 as a dvr is just the start of a lot of posts regarding what I consider to be am awesome home theater. PB and I are looking into ways to cut the cord if you will. For him this means getting rid of cable all together. His only road block is, his wife is addicted to the OWN network and she basically watches too often for him to get rid of cable. In my case I watch to much mindless tv like the travel channel and discovery channel. Stuff that you just cant torrent, plus I like background noise.

So my alternative is finding ways to save money on the actual cable bill. I'm not getting rid of internet. I have cut out any pay movie channels. NO HBO, Skin O Mac, showtime Stars and whatever else they have now. No extra sports packages. Sorry MLB network. Instead I'm a Blockbuster mail guy. I used to be a Netflix guy but thats an entire blog onto itself. So thats where I get my movies. I will buy the MLB package but for the apple tv, so that I can enjoy it on all my apple devices, such as Apple Tv, LG Smart Tv, Iphone, IPad. Talk about bang for your buck.

When I was moving into my new place I asked PB who his cable provider was, and he sold me hard on Att. I checked into it and it turns out it was offered in my area. So I went with them. I had previously been with Cox and Time Warner Cable and had a year stint with Comcast when I lived in the mid west and was really excited to try something new. But something even more exciting happened. I was surfing att's website and stumbled upon a tiny section that said they were working with Microsoft to use the Xbox 360 as an alternative to a dvr box.

What was really exciting was the fact that you wouldn't have to pay a monthly fee. Att gives you 1 dvr box for free. I can use my Xbox 360 as my second box for no additional charge and have the ability to watch tv through it. Score!!! That saves me at least 10 bucks a month if not 15 bucks a month. The only downside is that Att charges you a $99 dollar fee to use the Xbox as your cable box. This includes setup by a tech (which I did myself once it was activated), a XBOX remote and installation disc.  http://www.att.com/u-verse/explore/xbox-receiver.jsp#fbid=LcQm83M8_bi

What is even more exciting is that Att basically sent me $200 dollars worth of thank you for signing up with att visa credit cards. Which means basically I got the first month free and I basically got my money back on the Xbox 360 installation.

I can't lie there is a downside to this. Getting to Att Uverse on the Xbox can be complicated to the point that your significant other is not happy. You do have to go to your MY APPS tab on the 360 interface and choose my apps. From there Choose Att Uverse. This takes away from just turing on the Tv and basically watching it. There is some thinking involved. Also ATT and Microsoft  both say you need an Xbox Live Gold account to view programming. Thats an extra $60 dollars a year. But you get a lot of benefits out of Xbox Live Gold account so you can basically add another benefit to the list. However, ATT did send out a letter saying they would take the cost of a live account off of my next bill. That being said, I never bought a live account, I never connected my Att account to my Xbox account and I can still watch tv for now.

If your not a Uverse subscriber hold on. Verizon and Comcast are jumping on the platform or already on board, as far as Cox and Time Warner they arent on board but only time will tell. Plus there are other options like Tuner cards that I will talk about in a future posts.

After all is said and done, if you looking to save some some especially on additional expensive DVR cable boxes which could range up to 10-15 dollars extra a month just on cable bills why not pay an upfront cost. You'll be saving all kinds of scratch in the end.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Good Ninite

Ok so this weeks blog will be short and sweet, I used to post things like this on my facebook wall as tech tips but I figure I would just write a quick little post instead. PB will kill me if I dont get my employee review done so this week will be short.

I wanted to tell you about a  website called Ninite.com. Ninite is a collection of programs or apps that you can download from one place at one time. You need chrome, safari and firefox. Click the check marks, get the installer and in seconds your downloading and installing all three, instead of going to each website indiviually. Its a one stop shop.

Browsers arent the only option you have. Messaging, Media, Runtimes, Imaging, Documents, Security, File Sharing, Other, Utlitites, Compression, and developer tools. Some of the major apps/downloads are, Skype, Yahoo messenger, Itunes, VLC Player, Audacity, Flash, Java, Silverlight, Picasa, Sumatra PDF, Cute PDF, Open Office, Security Essentials, MalwareBytes, U torrent, Drop Box and the list goes on and on.

I know for me it saves a ton of time. When you have to go to each website and download every program individually its just a pain and really with something like this out there, why wouldnt you use it. Check it out. http://ninite.com/

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I didn't think these things worked. POWERLINE ADAPTER.

So I'm a huge movie and tv show guy. Since buying and moving into the new place I have had issues with my entire network. I choose to go with ATT Uverse which I can say I have had mixed reviews. The promotional price has been great, however I'm not a Gateway fan at all. A Gateway is basically an all in one device. Your Cable attaches to it for tv. Its also a modem. It can control your home phone. But as a topper they make it a wireless router as well. At this point I never had this before and still find it strange and I dont like having one device to rule them all. 

So after a few days, I realize that my wireless signal in the living room is terrible and fluctuates. Sometimes I will have a great signal and sometimes I wont. I also realize that this Gateway only streams B and G wireless. B & G are usually fine but I guess my living room is far enough away and there are a couple of walls in between that caused way to much interference. I tried putting a Netgear repeater in the living and while that helped my laptops get a better signal it really did nothing for my movie streaming. I would still get way to much interference which lead to constant buffering. So I attached a Cisco-Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Wireless-N Router to that Gateway and I thought my problems were solved. The repeater didnt make it any better. I took back the repeater and purchased a Linksys WES610N 4-port Dual-Band N Entertainment Bridge and to my surprise things started working. They worked well enough, so I finally broke down and bought a Mac Mini to be the hub of my home media network. I wanted full 1080p, I wanted blu ray beauty. I bought it as a gift to myself for finally graduating college with a Dual Bachelors in Networking and Network Security. 

Well, my network didnt work. As soon as I hooked up the Mac Mini, blu rays played inconsistently. Some movies would play great. Some would buffer. There is nothing worse than buffering in an important action scene. While I could get the movies to play over an Apple Tv 2. The program I use, which I'm saving to talk about in a future post, would automatically degrade the quality so that it could play properly on the Apple Tv 2. I didn't go through all the trouble I went through to watch them in 720. I want full BLURAY dammit and because I work in I.T. it was driving me crazy that I couldnt get this going. I tried everything I could think of, I was and still am considering getting rid of ATT for Cable. No matter what I tried, no matter what setting I would use there was no getting around it. I was coming to the conclusion that I was gonna knock down some walls and tear this bitch of a house down until I got the signal I wanted dammit. 

Before I decided to do that, I decided to look into Powerline adapters. I was always under the impression that Powerline adapters would never be a great solution and were basically unreliable. But as a last option before ripping down walls, I decided to try it. I'm a big Linksys fan at the moment and I usually like keeping everything the same. Linksys router, must need a Linksys Powerline adapter. But as my boss PB has taught me, you go with what does the best job at the best price. So I looked into Belkin. Belkin is about to come out with WeMO a home plug in automation adapter which I will own and talk about in the future. Belkin to its credit had a similarly priced adapter as Linksys but with the ability to have a 500 mbps connection. The Linksys only advertised at 200 mbps. For the same price I was going to try out the Belkin. 

Setup couldnt have been easier. Although you should probably setup the adapter close to each other at first and then move the second adapter to where ever you need it. After setup, I moved the adapter to where I needed it. I then connected it to my Asus 8 port switch. Connected the internet enabled LG Tv, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Mac Mini. Turned on the Tv and the Mac Mini. Streamed Epic Meal Time beautifully. Streamed, a Blu ray movie that had buffering issues with my previous setup. Played a Blu Ray Tv Show that I had issues with. Left that Blu Ray TV show running and started my PS3 and tried playing Modern Warfare 3. This couldnt possible work right??? Streaming a Blu Ray movie while gaming. No way. Well I logged in and started Team Death Match and what did I see. FULLLLLL BARS. Perfect gaming. As a  reviewer of the Belkin Powerline said on his Amazon.com review "This device was my last resort". After trying everything I can safely say this is the best solution for people who have Kryptonite in there walls like I do. If you have to go through 15 walls and 2 bathrooms and a furnace like I do you have to give this a look. It might be exactly what your looking for.


What I use at home or have used as talked about in my post..

Cisco-Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Wireless-N Router



NETGEAR Universal WiFi Range Extender WN2000RPT


Linksys WES610N 4-Port Dual-Band N Entertainment Bridge


Linksys Powerline AV 4-Port Network Adapter Kit 


Belkin F5D4085 Powerline AV500 Network Adapter


Asus GX-D1081 8-Port Power-Saving Gigabit Switch




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cutting the cost of the home phone while keeping the phone

So when I moved to my new place, the first thing I checked when I was viewing the home was my phone signal. To say it was weak was being nice. But because this place was the best one out there, I figured I would have to look into a different option sooner rather than later. I would be damned if I was gonna endure a monthly bill for a phone. Phone bills are $20 to $25 a line or you can bundle it in with your cable/dsl package which is fine but I thought there had to be something like magic jack or something similar that I could just plug in and have a VOIP. I didnt want magic jack because at the time they only offered the version which you had no choice, but to keep your computer on while it was plugged via usb. While I do that 90 percent of the time, sometimes I turn it off and I didnt want that hassle. The biggest "NO" as far as magic jack goes is that you have to pay a yearly fee. By no means is a yearly $20 dollar fee expensive, I wanted a freeeeeeee option. I'm willing to pay an upfront price for a great product but I dont want to keep paying for it. I pay monthly for internet why keep paying for something that should be free.

My search lead me to things like Ooma and Vonage, but again your running into a monthly cost. I want to cut the cord and I knew the technology was out there I just had to find it. I was talking to the writer and editor of Bauer-power.net and we were discussing options like hacking the magic jack,  however the hack was a few years old and magic jack had been able to fix the hole that allowed that hack. A few days later in my endless search, I came across a product called Obihai.

If you havent heard of google voice, they basically give you a free number that is connected to your email or cell or home phone. You also get to choose the number you want. So basically if I want a San Diego number, you put the area code and then from there you can choose your 7 digits or have them choose for you. Goolge Voice allows you to receive notifications, voicemails and make calls using google's voice for FREE.. This is where the Obihai comes in. Obihai is a VOIP adapter that allows you to use the google voice number when making and receiving calls. The setup is as simple as following the prompts. You connect it to a router or in my case gateway and as I said you follow the prompts for the simplest installation.

The Obihai adapter is 49.99 on websites like amazon.


I bought a home phone system from Costco for under 50 bucks. It came with three wireless phones and one hub with voice-mail options that that you connect to the Obihai device. So for a total of 110 bucks including tax I have a brand new phone system.  You might say well you spent 110 bucks. Well if your in the market for a home phone, your gonna have to spend money to buy the phones. So in the 7 months I've lived there I would have paid $175.oo just in a monthly phone bill.  Tthe upfront cost is well worth the savings I will continue to save.

The quality is outstanding. I have had some complaints which I think is more about the quality of phones I purchased, but 98 percent of the  calls sounds clear and perfect to both me and the people on the line. I would say the percentage would be closer to100 percent if I had purcahsed better phones but for what I need it for, I've been extremely thrilled.

Now the negative.. I could be big for people with Kids. NO E911 support. According to the Obihai website "With E911 service, when you dial 911, your telephone number and registered address is simultaneously sent to the local emergency center assigned to your location, and emergency operators have access to the information they need to send help and call you back if necessary". Its my understanding that this does not work and this could be a issue.

If I had to rate this product I would give it a 5 out of 5 rating. It does everything I need and since I dont plan on getting injured out stabbed at my house, I feel very good about recommending this product to everyone looking for a similar solution..If your looking for an option like this give it a shot and if you have any questions let me know and I will try and get to them asap.

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