Saturday, November 14, 2009

TV, Netbook, and Google toys

Well, yesterday was Friday the 13th, but as usual it was a reasonably good day for me (paraskevidekatriaphobia usually isn’t a problem for me, since my parents were married on Friday the 13th). The Pampered Chef party last night was fun, and I got to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

But what you’re here about is most likely my new toys, so let me tell you about what’s been going on toy-wise.

First toy is the ATI TV Wonder 650 Combo Hi-Speed USB Tuner. To be honest, I’m not too impressed so far. I got it because it has two tuners, one for NTSC broadcast, and one for cable, ATSC and Clear-QAM broadcast, which is unscrambled digital HD broadcast on cable, like Comcast does with the local channels. Either the box needs a very high gain on the Clear-QAM signal, I’ve got a lot of loss in my digital cable signal, or I’m doing something wrong, because I couldn’t get the Clear-QAM broadcast to pick up. I got signals, but none of them were strong enough to show an image. So, I need to spend more time with it.


I have that box connected to an HP Windows-XP Media Center box. I’ll have to try putting the Windows 7 x64 version on it (the RC, not the purchased copy). Maybe that will help matters. That and putting it on an amplifier or a shorter cable run. We’ll see what happens. No recommendation on that yet; I need to do more playing first.

So, This week I bought an Acer Aspire One from my friend Shawn at work. It came with Windows-XP installed, an outdated version of McAfee anti-virus that wouldn’t scan the computer, and a few apps. The first thing I did, after the procedure I have to connect a computer to my network, is install the Comcast McAfee AV software and scan the computer. Not surprisingly, it found 9 infected files, which I deleted. Shawn says there’s more (he’s a penetration expert (read as “white hat hacker”) but McAfee hasn’t figured them out yet.

Next thing I did was connect it to my home workgroup, then to the Windows Home Server. Windows Home Server has the ability to backup computers on the network, and provides the ability to boot off a CD (or thumb drive that “looks” like a CD) to restore the entire system from the last good backup. I thought this would be a good idea, since I was going to wipe the entire hard drive and put Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) on it.

I’m very impressed with UNR on the Aspire One. XP was S-L-O-W on the netbook. I’d move the curser on the touchpad and I wouldn’t know when it was going to catch up with my finger. But with UNR, no problem. Also, UNR found all my devices (so far), including sound, Wi-Fi, wired networking, etc. My next test is to put a USB to Bluetooth dongle on it and see how that works out. Hopefully I’ll let you know next week. Highly recommend UNR if you have a netbook; if you just use Internet and email, it’s spot on and easy to configure (and fast!). If you do more, there’s a few issues with screen size and things, but it’s workable (like, say, FarmVille on Facebook. The screen’s a bit small to do any real harvesting!).

I also highly recommend the Acer line of netbooks. The keys are a bit small for real work, but in a pinch you could edit a document or do spreadsheets and graphics. But for travel, nothing beats is for me so far. It could use longer battery life. Maybe a bigger battery?

I’ve also been playing with Google Voice. If you’re interested, I have 5 invitations I could send out. Let me know and I’ll pass it on to you. Shawn has played with it more than I have. One of the cool features I like is that I can SMS people (that’s “texting” for the non-techies our there) from my computer. So I can text with my youngest daughter in Louisiana, her on her iPhone and me on my computer! I need to play more with this, too.

Another item in the “more to follow” category is Google Wave. I’ve been invited to sign up (got the invite yesterday) but with work blocking the install of the Chrome add-in for IE and no other browser available, doing PT after work, and the Pampered Chef party, I didn’t get the chance to do anything yet. More to follow.

As a personal note, my back is starting to do better; either that or my meds are completely masking the pain. I do still have sciatica in my left leg at times. The worst it’s been is like having a wrong-side-out cactus on my leg and foot. Some days I have issues getting in and out of the car, most of them self-induced because I do something like twisting my torso without moving my hips at the same time. Not a good thing to do. I have 10 more PT visits (that’s about 5 more weeks, so almost to the end of the year). I don’t notice any improvement, but my upper body strength has been improving. I also got a Back2Life to try (don’t start on the snake oil comments) and also I have an inversion table that I’ll start using on a regular basis. The neurosurgeon said he didn’t want to see me again, so no surgery which is a good thing. I’m also getting trigger point injections at pain management. I’m beginning to doubt I will get back to 100% of who I was 2 years ago, but I’ll do anything I can do to get closer.

Oh, yeah, I’m using Windows Live Writer to compose these blog posts now. New toy. So far, I’m on the edge with it. I don’t like the way it does paragraphs, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t read the distructions like always. Maybe if I read, I can learn something!