August 5, 2012

HBO has a video streaming service called HBO GO which allows current HBO subscribers with certain Cable providers to watch their content on-demand from the Internet. Yesterday, I realized that I am an HBO subscriber with Comcast through a special Cable-TV-Internet package deal I have with my home service. So, I decided to give HBO GO a try.

First, the service is on-demand so you can watch HBO shows whenever you want. They don’t have everything available that they show on their regular schedule, but they do have a lot of content. For example, they have most of their own HBO Series available (old and new stuff), as well as lots of different movies and popular shows. Also, you can watch these programs either on a PC or Laptop via a Web Browser or on a portable device like an Android phone or tablet (I haven’t tried on the Apple devices, but I’m sure they have it also).

The interface is actually pretty easy to use, and the videos I watched stream well if you have a fast Internet connection. I haven’t tried to stream a video to my Android smartphone using a cellular connection, but I imagine it may stutter a bit depending on the actual cellular signal. In any case, this is a great way to watch a movie or show on your iPad or Tablet at home or on the road (with a WiFi Connection) if you’re an HBO subscriber.

EyeTV Recorded Shows: Upgraded Resolution for Nexus 7 Tablet

July 29, 2012

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I use a device called EyeTV HD to record TV shows on my iMac. The software that drives this recording hardware will automatically export the recorded show in a format that is smaller and viewable on a iPhone, iPod Touch, or Apple TV. Since my new Nexus 7 Tablet has a screen resolution of 1280×800, I wanted to update the resolution of my converted videos so they look as good as possible on my Nexus 7. I started by using the “Apple TV 2” (1280×720) setting in the EyeTV HD software, but the picture quality  just wasn’t very good (especially when compared to the free Transformers movie that came with my N7).

So, I decided to use an Applescript to customize the video conversion of my recordings. Fortunately, EyeTV has a hook where it will call a script called RecordingDone.scrpt after a TV show has completed recording. It is in this script I added my Applescript commands to process the video. I basically use a freeware product called Handbrake to convert the video from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4 format with a resolution of 1280×720 HD. The Handbrake software is normally driven by a standard user-interface, so I used an add-on product called HandbrakeCLI to do the processing in batch mode.

Below is my RecordingDone.scrpt script: Read the rest of this entry »

Apple Support Experience

June 17, 2012

My primary home computer is an Apple 27″ iMac (self contained monitor and system), which has worked flawlessly since 2010. However, over the past three days I’ve noticed at times a rather loud clicking sound coming from the back of my iMac. It’s somewhat random, and may last for 3 seconds one time and 12 seconds another. I know from past experience that such sounds aren’t good, as they probably mean my hard drive is about to go bad. Since I purchased AppleCare (Apple’s hardware warranty) when I bought my iMac, I decided to find out what could be done about this annoying clicking noise. I checked and from their support page initiated an “Apple Express” service request, which resulted in a live person calling me about 2 minutes later. Mind you, it was Sunday morning when did all this, so I was surprised to get a live call so quickly.

The Apple support rep was very helpful and asked a few questions, and had me do some checking on my iMac. I rebooted a few times, ran the Disk Utility Check (which didn’t reveal anything bad), and ultimate determined that I should take my iMac into my local Apple store to have one of their “Geniuses” take a look at it. So, the rep made an appointment for 11:15 am and packed up my iMac and drove down to the store.

After lugging my big iMac through the mall, I arrive at the Apple Store to find it packed full of customers. I had never seen it so full, and this was on a Sunday 15 minutes after it first opened for the day. In contrast, I walked by the Microsoft Store which was twice the size of the Apple Store and had virtually no one in it. Hmm, what does that tell you? Read the rest of this entry »

Streaming Videos using Apple TV

March 25, 2012

My wife and I normally don’t have time to watch live TV shows, so we resort to recording videos using our Macs and the EyeTV HD external device. Then later we watch our videos on our respective computer screens, iPads, Android Tablets, etc. As you may have read from my previous posting, I like to stream my videos from my iMac to my Android Tablets at home for viewing.

We recently decided that we wanted to find a way to watch our recorded videos on a big-screen TV in our main living room. Unfortunately, our living room doesn’t have a coaxial cable jack so we can’t hook up a TV to it. But, after some exploration we determined that we could connect an Apple TV device and stream videos from our iMacs to a connected TV very, very easily.

So we simply connected the Apple TV to our new Visio 42″ LCD TV via the HDMI port, adjusted a setting in the iTunes application running on my Wife’s iMac to allow for file sharing, and started up the Apple TV interface app on our LCD TV. Next, we scrolled over to the “Computers” icon and clicked it with the Apple TV remote, and was able to scroll through all available video files on my wife’s iMac. Then we just selected a video and it started playing on the TV!

Very simple to setup and use. So, we have video files streaming across our home WiFi network from my Wife’s iMac to the Apple TV, and the videos are played on the TV screen. No cable TV connection required. In addition, we can stream any music from the iMac to the Apple TV and hear it from the TV’s speakers as well.

Netflix is also available through the Apple TV in case we wanted to stream videos from the Internet to the TV screen. Very much worth the $99 for the Apple TV device.

Syncing Apple iCal with Google Calendar

June 24, 2011

Now that I’m back to using my Palm Pixi smartphone, I’ve got to re-evaluate my personal and work calendar syncing options. I’ve got my Apple iMac (running the iCal app), my Palm PIxi smartphone, and two different calendars to sync (along with my contacts). So, what’s the best solution?

After exploring several different options, it seems my best solution is  product called SpanningSync for the Mac. This app runs in the background on my iMac system and periodically syncs my personal and work calendars in the Apple iCal app with two different calendars in Google Calendar in the cloud, of which my Palm Pixi has the ability to sync with. What’s nice about SpanningSync is that I can control which specific calendar in Apple iCal will sync with which specific Google calendar. I’ve setup 2-way syncing, so wherever I make an addition, deletion, or change all the calendars are updated. SpanningSync also will sync my contacts between Apple Address Book and Google Contacts, and subsequently the contacts on my Palm Pixi.

This system works surprising well. I’m currently running the 15-day trial version, but if all continues to go well I’ll pay for the $25/year subscription.

iPhone no more!

June 24, 2011

I recently resigned with the company I was working for and had to return my company-owned iPhone 4. So, I’m now back to using my old Palm Pixi (WebOS) smartphone on the Sprint network.  After using the iPhone 4 for the last several months, I’ve really grown accustom to the great apps (a lot of them missing from the Palm Pixi). In addition, I really loved the virtual keyboard of the iPhone 4, especially the auto text correction. My Pixi has the physical keyboard, and it’s a pain to click away on those bubble keys compared to the iPhone.

Sure, I could always run out and buy my own iPhone 4, but I won’t for these reasons:

  1. The iPhone has some great apps, but the phone itself isn’t the greatest. On the Verizon network I often dropped calls for absolutely no reason.
  2. The Verizon Navigator app wasn’t very good compared to the Sprint Navigator on my Palm Pixi. The Verizon app would often take me to the wrong location or would simply give up on an address and close down.
  3. Although the iPhone 4 had great battery life, it is pretty heavy and somewhat fragile with glass on the top and bottom surfaces.
  4. Verizon has expensive cell and data plans compared to Sprint.

As such, I’ve decided to possibly get an Android phone on the Sprint network. Sprint has better voice/data plans and their service seems to work better in my area. The two current candidates for phones are the Samsung Nexus S and the Samsung Galaxy S II. The Nexus S seems to be a really fast phone but there are lots of reports of weak and bad radios for phone reception. Unless this can be fixed soon (either via hardware or software), I’m afraid I’ll need to exclude the Nexus S from my consideration list.

That leaves the Galaxy S II ( named “Within” for Sprint) which is rumored to be released sometime at the end of July. The specs on the GS II look great, so I’ll have to hold out with my Palm Pixi until later next month and read the reviews on the Sprint version of the GS II. Hopefully it will be good, and I can replace my aged Palm Pixi with a faster, more modern Android smartphone.

Acorn – My new graphics app!

April 24, 2011

Since moving from a Windows 7 PC over to my Apple iMac, I’ve been struggling with finding a suitable replacement for my favorite graphics App: This freeware app only runs on the Microsoft Windows OS, so I couldn’t continue using it on my iMac. I tried out Gimp, Seashore, Pinta, etc. and none of them really worked for me. Either they were cumbersome to use (e.g., Gimp runs on top of X11) or they didn’t have the features I needed, or they just crashed a lot. Pixelmator was one that had the most promise, but I found it a bit difficult to use and it crashed way too much for a paid app.

Finally, I came across an app called Acorn which seems to fit the bill for my needs. It’s a Mac app that can be purchased from the Mac App Store for $29.99. I was able to download a trial version from the developer’s web site, and the app really works well. It’s also very easy to use and most importantly, the developer has some great tutorials on his/her web site. In my opinion that is a smart thing, and it helps users get up to speed on using Acorn for the most common activities.

So, I’m going to keep using the trial version until it expires and if all works out well, I’ll purchase it from the App Store.