Windows Media Center vs. iTunes Home Sharing

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Update (Oct 29, 2013): With Home Sharing turned on and iTunes11, all my devices(iPad, iPhone, Netbook) are synced with my main PC (i3, Win7) with medias in an external HD! Sweet. No fuzz with Win Media Center anymore.

How: with your iPad, iPhone, open Music app, and look for Share in More… click your library. For other PC, install iTunes and turns on Home Sharing.

(Nov, 11,2012)So I had been using my 7 years old resurrected HP laptop as a media center with my music library residing in one of my external HDs. It had been doing a decent job, but sometimes it had been a hit and miss; for example, adding new materials, sometimes, they showed up and other they just didn’t. It took me a while to learn to play all songs with shuffle, and to do a search (it only takes up to 4 characters I remember). I used it for about a month, then I figured out it was easier to pop a CD into my DVD player to play music with my AV receiver  (Those you attach with big speakers!).

Anyhow, a light bulb moment today! Since I have to turn on my main laptop anyway for either streaming – Windows Media Center or iTunes – and I have my iPad, why don’t I use iTunes’ Home Sharing instead? Besides, my music repertoire is already in iTunes. The only worry I have is the output quality through the headphone jack to a pair of RCA plugs to my AV receiver, I test it and it sounds decent!

So what is nice about using iPad as my media center instead? Well, everything is now touch base! and the library recognition is painless and seamless. What you see in iTunes is what I get on my iPad, and ‘Music’ app is easy to use and to find and pick songs. I can also stream videos with Home Sharing.

How to turn on Home Sharing in iTunes (PC): Find the Advance Tab, Turn-on Home Sharing using your Apple ID

On iPad, iPod Touch, and  iPhone under music>settings>turn-on Home Sharing, and ‘Music’ app, under ‘more’ >sharing>select your music and video library.  This means I get the same libraries on my iPhone too, an additional tool to play my music and videos at home.

With the PS3 system, it will recognize Windows Medias automatically if you turn your sharing on in the PC. That’s another option to stream your medias at home. I guess that’s the same for the Xbox 360.

Now I don’t have a Window Surface, so I don’t know if the touch-base experience will be the same?! With an Android tablet, I believe Boxee is perhaps a good option, it works with iPad too.

There you have it, I figure it will be cool to use this setup for your Christmas Party! Sure, you can download music to your iPad and plug it to one of those extended speakers, but with my way you have access to thousands of songs !!! and additional audio settings with your AV receiver.



Free Digital TV! (Canada, Ontario)

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Since TV stations turned their signals from analog to digital in 2011, I can get signals for at least 8 channels, including PBS in Buffalo. Now I do live in a high-rise on a high floor, so perhaps, with the height and clear view of the CN Tower (though far in North Toronto, close to HWY 7) I am able to get digital signals. It costs little or none! Try it out, so you can decide whether you truly need pay-TV!  Also search the web to find amplified models that may work for house with antenna built inside your attic or on roof; that’s how I got mine going.

What you need:

1) Iron dry cleaner’s cloth hangers

2) Aluminium foil

3)  5 to 900 MHz UHF-VHF-FM Matching Transformer 75/300 Ohm Balun

4) Coaxial cable

5) LCD TV that can decode both analog and digital signals. Most models should be able to handle it. (Use “AIR” for TV setting, and let your TV search for signals… mine displays channels, e.g., 12.1 digital, when found). To get signals, just plug the coaxial cable with home-made antenna to the connector of your TV set.


Fig1. Aluminium antenna with connected transformer and coaxial cable


Fig.2:  I just attached the transformer with scotch tape to cloth hangers, violà!


iPod Watch out!

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English: The "Made for iPod" emblem ...

Image via Wikipedia

Something that watch lover like me may overlook is using the 6th generation iPod as a watch! Why?! It’s cool and way better looking that a Timex or Swatch. Don’t forget it’s also a full function iPod; it means music, radio, Nike’s fitness … In addition, 18 faces to choose from. Now that’s a watch’s enthusiast w**-dream! 18 interchangeable watches in one!

I am not saying this is for a true watch connoisseur with a Hublot, TAG, Patek, Cartier on their wrist, but someone who just likes watch as a piece of art jewelry for the moment.

It’s no coincidence that Apple store is now selling metallic wrist bands that fit iPod; they know there is a market out there, and the trend will catch on.

Since I already own multiple iPods, I think best is to get one refurbished ($99 bf taxes in Canada). The saved $ will get me a plastic watch band @ $30. A Swatch is more expensive and I can’t listen to radio.

I know it’s a geeky toy, but it’s so cool, but totally justifiable with its multi-functions.



Convergence! the last frontier?

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It’s clear there are two current marketing strategies for most TV makers: 1) OLED screen,and 2) networked console.

Contents streaming should be the norm in 2-3 years! The evidence is clear, store fronts for hardware media distributions are getting smaller and smaller. In Toronto, HMV Canada flagship Yonge and Dundas location had reduced its sq.footage by at least 40%, if not more.      While we have seen its attempt to diversify its revenue sources to video games, portable electronics and books?! I wonder how much longer before their business model becomes obsolete. (If you recall, 5-6 years ago, the talk was that HMV Canada will offer music download stations… guess that never happened when owning a computer likens having a microwave oven these-days, so most can do that with iTunes or Amazon Music).

Despite having iTunes, and HD-movie channels at home, I continued to buy DVDs,and CDs; however, I stopped two years ago! A) too expensive, B) no more desire to own crappy movies, C) save on physical storage and garbage! If this holds true for me, I am sure a few like  me who used to collect movies and music CDs have stopped too.

So back to my point, which is soon disc-players of any sort will become obsolete! Although still available, they will be the extended-type through USB or other means (look at the new laptop template: MacBook Air– no optical drive). In other words, very soon, CDs and movie DVDs, including Blu-ray, will be produced in small quantities (most likely in China) to satisfy a very small market.

This is my vision:

In 5 years (hardware becomes affordable) from now, our living room will hang a super thin WiFi enabled OLED TV that has its own OS (the tech is here already, think about iTV coming soon from Apple), all contents will be streamed through the internet and stored in the “CLOUD”! Now, you understand why everyone is talking about “the CLOUD” (other than to confuse you!), cause that is the new revenue source for companies who used to sell you a hard-copy of something! So right now, they are priming us with the concept. Honestly, no difference from subliminal messaging! of course, there will be a competition for storage ( will it be the TV makers,computer makers, or software makers?) and obviously and consistently the video format war (we still have at least 10 video formats: mp4, avi, mov, etc)…Yes, everyone in the family will also have a tablet to go with! either feeding off the TV (like PS3 and PSP) or simply through internet independently.

Forget about 3D TV, technology convergence is the next big thing! we have already seen it evolving! Smartphone replaces digital camera, land phone, voice recorder, mp3 player, video cam, … laptop! So will TV replaces cable box, blu-ray player, alarm clock, land phone, game console, …. your guess is as good as mine.


Smartphones: an evolution not innovation!

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The Android Emulator home screen.

Image via Wikipedia

Smartphone is not an innovation, but a convergence of technologies: cellular phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), a portable game console, a digital camera and recorder, and a eReader. In other words, each of these technologies exists on its own, and still has its own niche market. Nonetheless, it is a good thing cause it saves a lot of space in lieu of carrying all these stuff. What happened in the past, some of the stuff, like my pocket digital camera was just left at home… same went for my Palm III and later Toshiba E400 (colour- 256K) PDA. Simply, it was totally inconvenient to carry three or four gadgets with me.

Now, all I have is my iPhone 4. I have been telling my friends that there is really one thing that distinguish it from an Android phone: its elegance. I can say that because before I converted I was using the first generation Google Phone: HTC Dream. Three years ago, it was a great phone and so much less expensive than the iPhone, and it had so much potential. what turned me off was the fact that Google didn’t care about hardware side of thing, i.e., no support for hardware. In other words, the cell phone manufacturers were responsible for its products’ BIOS updates and Android OS updates. First, if the manufacturer had no plan to provide that, there was no way to update the phone. Second, even if it was provided, it was hell to update an Android phone without knowing much about firmware, flash BIOS, data back-up, and more importantly whether a newer version of the Android OS was compatible with the hardware (Last check, I think this is still the case with any Android phone. Honestly, I have no idea which version is the latest OS, and which phone comes with which version of the OS: buyer beware!) Now, you understand why I switch to the iPhone. True, it’s a closed system, but for average users, knowing less isn’t better than knowing more? For we just want to use the phone!

Why iPhone? everything is smooth and easy, and no tinkering under the hood. I turned it on, within second I know how to use it (perhaps because I had a iPod Touch before?!). The icons are intuitive, fast to the touch, apps open without delay, no freeze, quick re-boot… the list goes on. Yes, before iOS5, you have to plug it into your computer and sync with iTunes, but it might not be a bad thing, cause it forced you to back up your data. That’s not the case with an Android phone, you don’t backup, you lose!… everything, if you have to restore to default.

Final words: test drive the smart-phones before you settle on your favourite!