Just me! Random thoughts, ideas, hobbies and likes.

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I’m no longer using Tumblr. Blogger.com just has more options. Visit my new blog at http://www.hometechdad.com

Yummy. I think my cold just went away.

Yummy. I think my cold just went away.

Finished building my guitar stand. I looked into buying one, but they were way to expensive. I still need to paint the room.

Finished building my guitar stand. I looked into buying one, but they were way to expensive. I still need to paint the room.

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I was tired of using several remotes for all of my devices and was in the market for a universal remote. I was originally going to purchase the Logitech Harmony 600. I was shopping at Walmart and didn’t see the one I was searching for. I however did see a Philips universal remote that peaked my interest.

I drove home and preceded to do a little research on the Philips remote. Come to find out, the remote is also a learning remote. It had not even crossed my mind because the price was so cheap. I headed back to Walmart to purchase the remote control. The remote itself cost less than $13.00.

After I went home I preceded to start programming the remote. It was so easy to program because all you have to do is program one code for the particular device and then just press the power button until the device powers off.

Another reason I wanted a learning remote is so I could program it to control my Roku streaming player. Not too many universal remotes have Roku codes. All you have to do to program it is hit the learn and the button you want programmed after selecting the device. Aim your original device remote at the front of the Philips remote and tap the original button you want programmed. Now the new button is programmed.

I highly recommend this remote to anyone that’s looking to consolidate remotes. You can’t beat the price nor the features.

*I noticed Walmart no longer had the remote on their website.  You can purchase it at Amazon.com.

Link to Philips universal remote control website.

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Plex is a piece of software that allows you to stream media from your PC to  TV, tablet or smartphone device. I’ve been waiting for some software tht would do this every since I bought my Roku. It was the one thing the Roku was lacking. I’ll break this review down into 3 sections.

http://www.plexapp.com/getplex/

Plex Media Server

As the name applies, the Plex server will serve your files to your other devices. First you will need to install the free Plex server software from http://www.plexapp.com/download/win-download-new.php. Chose download Plex media server from the right side. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the server, you’ll need to add items to your server. For anyone that hasn’t used similar software this may be a bit tedious. You can figure it out after clicking around a bit. I’ve notice sometimes the wrong DVD cover is displayed. What I did was move each movie into its own folder, then I search Google and find a DVD cover that I like, then add it to the same folder as the DVD movie file.

Screenshot of my Plex media server.

Plex Roku

The Roku allows you to view your media on your TV. Just browse your channels and add it to your list. I’ve had a few problems with my Roku recognizing the Plex server. To solve this problem I added my server manually. Within the app you have the ability to add other channels as well. I’ve watch several movies on my Roku and playback is smooth. I even have it installed on a laptop connected to my wireless network. If you have a Roku, this channel is definitely worth adding.

Plex Android

The Android app allows you to view you media on your smartphone or tablet. The app cost $4.99 from the Google Play store. Just like on the Roku, you can add channels from the app. The app works well on Smartphones and Tablets. The app is pretty simple and easy to use, pick a movie and enjoy.

Get Plex for Android on Google Play

Plex on my HP Touchpad running Android ICS.

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Products:

  • Roku XD - Streams great in HD over wireless.
  • Nintendo Wii (Not Pictured) - Great for standard or 480P streaming.
  • Samsung Transform Ultra Android Smartphone - Downloaded and installed APK. Not officially supported.
  • HP Touchpad Tablet running Android - Downloaded and installed APK. Not officially supported.
  • Nintendo 3DS - Coming Soon.

Hulu Plus has to be my new favorite and most used service. I use it on my phone, tablet, and Roku. You can watch many programs free using the Hulu website on a laptop or desktop. The downfall with the free service is that you can only watch the last 5 episodes. Due to licensing issues by the studios, you need Hulu Plus to view the service on smartphones and other devices. The good news is that Hulu Plus is only $7.99 a month and you can cancel at any time. The other advantage of Hulu Plus is that you get to watch more than just the last 5 episodes of many programs.

I use Hulu Plus the most on my Roku XD streaming box.  The menu is easy to navigate and use. I found that it’s easier to add and search TV shows using the website.  You can add your favorite TV shows and it will show the latest episode in your queue.

The only major network that isn’t on Hulu is CBS. So you’ll miss out on Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and others. You also won’t find some major cable channels including Discovery Channel, History Channel, A&E, and some others. Go ahead and give it a try, you can cancel if you don’t like it.

Favorite Shows:

  • The Finder
  • Whitney
  • New Girl
  • Raising Hope
  • Last Man Standing
  • Touch
  • Alcatrez
  • Awake
  • Tosh.O
  • Who Do You Think You Are
  • Prison Break (finished the final season)
  • Outsourced (1 season)

Website: www.hulu.com

Don’t fight it. Cool Google + video.

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What is Roku you ask? Roku turns you plain TV into a smart TV. It allows you to stream videos over the internet through your television. I chose the XD model because it can play up to 1080P. They do have one more model higher that allows you to play games from your Roku. I wasn’t interested in that model because I have enough gaming systems in my house.

There is an initial setup and you do have to provide a credit card for the Roku. You will initially see a $1.99 charge on your bank account that will go away after a couple of days.  It’s just part of Roku verifying your bank account information. When you first start up your Roku and setup your wireless, you’ll be prompted that the unit needs to update.

The different services provided by Roku are called Channels. On the home screen you’ll see a Channels selection. This is where you’ll select what you want to see, Netflix, Hulu Plus…etc. This is great because you don’t have to have a bunch of things that you don’t watch installed on the device, unlike many other devices. 

The 2 things I watch the most are Netflix and Hulu Plus (currently $7.99 a month for each). Both channels run smoothly and offer tons of programming. On both you can also select shows using the web service and they show up on the device. This makes it much easier and quicker than trying to find shows using the search with the remote. I also watch App Judgement on Revision 3. It gives updates about the iPhone, Ipad, and Android devices including games and apps.

I have a 42” HDTV and the picture quality is outstanding with HD and the HDMI output. It’s just like watching anything else in HD. The Roku software is super responsive to the remote when making selections. 

I definitely recommend the Roku if you don’t plan on upgrading your TV to a smart TV anytime soon or you just want to watch some programming in another room of your house. 

Features

  • 400+ entertainment channels available, including hundreds of free movies
  • Works with virtually any TV
  • RCA or HDMI (cable not included)
  • Built-in wireless (Wi-Fi b/g/n)
  • Expandable memory slot plus Bluetooth
  • Plays video up to 1080p
  • 16:9 anamorphic / 4:3 standard
  • Uses less than 2 watts

Popular Channels

  • Netflix (fee)
  • Hulu Plus  (fee)
  • Amazon Instant Video  (Amazon Prime or per video fee)
  • Crackle (free)
  • Popcorn Movie (free)
  • HBO Go (free through TV providers)
  • Epix (free through TV Provider)
  • Revision 3 (free)
  • Cnet (free)
  • AOL TV (free)
  • and many more Link

Channels I use

  • Hulu Plus
  • Netflix
  • Crackle
  • Epix
  • Popcorn Movie (slow initially load program)
  • Revision 3

Hulu Plus Shows Currently Watching

  • Prison Break (trying to finish season 5)
  • The Finder
  • Alcatraz
  • Outsourced (just finiished)
  • Raising Hope
  • Awake
  • Touch
  • Grimm
  • New Girl
  • and many more

Update: They now have Plex for Roku.  I’ll give a review at a later date.  It allows streaming movies, TV shows, music, and pictures from another PC. This is just what the Roku was missing.

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I use 3 different services to keep track of my money, pay bills and to track bills. I use Wells Fargo to pay bills, Mint to keep track of where my money is going, and Pageonce to remind me when my bills are due. I recommend giving these apps a try.

Wells Fargo

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www.wellsfargo.com

The Wells Fargo android app is great for seeing your balance and paying bills.  Once you have your bills set up it’s easy as just selecting who you want to pay and entering the amount.

  • check balances
  • view account activity
  • pay bills
  • make transfers between accounts or to other Wells Fargo customers
  • locate Wells Fargo ATMs and locations via GPS.

Mint

www.mint.com

Mint is a great app to keep track of your money.  The first thing you do is sign up and link your bank account to Mint. You can also setup budgets and alerts.

MANAGE YOUR MONEY ANYWHERE
• See all your personal finance accounts—checking, savings, and credit cards.
• Automatically categorizes transactions.
• Charts and graphs show you at a glance where you’re spending. (tablet only)
• Track your budget.
• Track your cash spending.
• View finances offline. The app stores information from your latest download. (tablet only)
• Get email or text alerts that notify you of upcoming bills, fees, low balances, unusual activity and more.

Pageonce

www.pageonce.com

Pageonce is a great app that reminds you when your bills are due. You can also track the history of your bills. Once setup you’ll get email and app reminders when a bill is due.  It does have most major utility company’s. Never miss a bill again.

• Track all your money and bills in one place
• Receive bill due date reminders
• Get important account notifications
• Protect your account with real-time alerts
• Monitor credit card & bank transactions
• View detailed bill & account statements
• Track your investment portfolio
• Track frequent flyer miles and rewards
• Track mobile minutes, text and data usage
• Add an unlimited number of accounts
• Safe and secure - trusted by over 4 million people
• Enjoy well deserved financial peace of mind

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Nextbook 7 Premium

http://www.nextbookusa.com/productdetail.php?product_id=7

I bought the Nextbook a month ago for my 6 year old to use for $129.99 at Big Lots. Up to this point he had been using my HP Touchpad (running Android) to watch videos and play games. I was looking for something to keep him occupied and to get him off my Touchpad. When I saw that it had a capacitive screen I figured I would give it a try.

The Nextbook has the following features:

  • Bright, crystal clear Capacitive 7″ touch-screen
  • Android-powered 2.3 OS system that is Flash 10.1 ready (can be updated)
  • Built-in 802.11 WiFi
  • eBook Reader + Kobo for purchasing more eBooks
  • SlideME application manager
  • OfficeSuite Pro
  • ASTRO File Manager
  • 1GHz processor
  • 4GB of built-in flash memory
  • SD/MMC card slot for up to 32 GB
  • SD memory card slot for expansion purposes
  • G-sensor
  • Task Killer app
  • Mini 2.0 USB
  • Earphone jack
  • integrated speakers (in the back)
  • Protective suede-like cover
  • wall power adapter unit with cable
  • USB computer cable

What the Nextbook doesn’t have:

  • Bluetooth
  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • Multi-touch
  • GPS
  • Android Market (can be added)

The first thing I did after purchasing the Nextbook is install the Amazon App Store. I’m not going to go into details on how to install because it comes with instructions on how to install it. Having the Amazon App store already makes this thing worth having.  My son loves to play Angry Birds and it plays fine on the Nextbook.

One of the next things I did was install Getjar (you can Google instructions). It also has more games and things to install.  My reason for getting Getjar was because it had Cut the Rope and it was a game my son wanted to play.

I’ve had an itch for a while to get the Android Market installed on the Nextbook so my son could play Angry Birds Rio. There is a good tutorial located here. I followed the tutorial but couldn’t get my laptop to recognize the adb devices. So what I did to get it to work was took the apps:

  • GoogleBackupTransport.apk
  • GoogleFeedback.apk
  • GooglePartnerSetup.apk
  • GoogleServicesFramework.apk
  • MediaUploader.apk
  • Vending.apk

and installed them to the SD card (I had picked an 8 gig up at Big Lots for $10.) Then I took the file manager app Astro File Manager, located the .apks on the SD card and installed them one by one.  The next step was to restart the Nextbook. After restarting I open the Market app, signed in and it worked.

Instead of using the stock launcher I decided to use ADW Launcher.  I went into the ADW Launcher options and took out the application launcher buttons and set it up so that when you swipe up, the application drawer opens. This gives the Nextbook a much cleaner feel. I also set it up to have 1 screen instead of 3.

I do recommend getting a SD card for the Nextbook. The 4 gigs really isn’t a lot, especially if you start installed games such as Angry Birds. The device takes a standard size SD card up to 32 gigs. I picked up an 8 gig to use.

Games and Apps That Work (I’ve tested on the Nextbook):

  • Angry Birds
  • Angry Birds Seasons
  • Angry Birds Rio
  • Cut the Rope
  • iStory Books
  • CN Video
  • Bubble Buster
  • Air Hockey Championship 2
  • Drawing
  • Kids Doodle
  • Rollerball
  • UNO Free
  • Whacky Moles
  • Netflix

Games and Apps that Don’t Work:

  • Where’s My Water
  • Fruit Ninja

Overall the Nextbook is a great buy and my son will have hours of fun with it. It also works great when traveling.

Accessories Worth Purchasing:

  • SD Card - at least 8 gigs
  • Headphones - picked up a pair from Big Lots
  • Case - just ordered 1 from Amazon.com for $10.