HomeWorx HDTV Digital Converter (Receiver) with Media Player

I have an ancient HDTV. It is a projection “65 inch TV which is perfectly fine with me (other than it needing to have the bulbs replaced). But it doesn’t have a receiver in the TV (it is only HDTV ready – no receiver inside the box.

Not having a receiver is actually a benefit in my opinion you are not stuck with the “smart TV” spying trackware, listening to you in the room via the smart TV speaker etc.. My unit is so old it was done separately because the receiver technology wasn’t settled yet.

After I returned from 4 years overseas the receiver was missing. So I picked up a new HomeWorx HDTV Digital Converter Box with Media Player and Recording PVR Function (HW180STB) for $30.

The recording PVR option confused me because I couldn’t find the capacity anywhere. After reading a bit I learned that you just use usb sticks to store data. This lets you recored programs over the air using your HDTV antenna and this receiver.

Many people get this when they drop cable TV. I am a bit confused since many of those people have smart TVs (meaning the TV has an HDTV receiver and you can hook up your HDTV antenna to it directly). Some people say this receiver is much better so that you can get stations that isn’t received by the expensive smart TV. You also get the HDTV recording without paying a monthly fee.

It was super simple to setup. I screwed my antenna into this box and this box into my TV (both coaxial cables – the HomeWorx HW180STB also lets you use standard video cables). By far the hardest part was finding AAA batteries. I eventually found them in a small flashlight and then it was just a matter of pushing the down arrow twice and enter: then it recorded all the signals it received).

It captured 47 stations (though maybe 20 of those are pretty fake – either nothing at all or shopping channels and other stuff I have no interest in). It gets all the major stations well (except PBS seems a bit flaky)l and all I have is the antenna sitting in my basement pointing out 1 window (I din’t try adjusting it at all).

Before I left I also had only over the air TV. Then I had the antenna setup in my attic and used the cable TV coaxial cable to hook to my TV. Now I am getting my internet via the cable company so I am not sure what would happen if I try to hook up my antenna to the coaxial cabling that is now carrying my internet feed. Maybe it would work? The antenna was unhooked when I returned (I am not sure it that was done in my absence or I did it for some reason before I left).

I haven’t tried doing anything fancy yet (not even recording) but it is nice to have access to over the air TV (mainly just for sports), I hadn’t bothered getting it hooked up for 2 months. All I used was Netflix and got a HDTV cable to view the playback on the 65″ screen.

My TV is a Toshiba built in 2005 and doesn’t have integrated lamp units you just slide out and replace, sadly. This is what you must deal with to replace the lamp. What were they thinking? I guess this can partially be excused by being a very early HDTV product. But still, not providing a decent replacement option for the lamps is pretty lame. I am trying to hire someone to do it for me, so far unsuccessfully, but I have someone that thinks they can do it.

closeup of lamps and circuit boards

Lamps inside 65″ projection Toshiba HDTV 65h84

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Multiple Screens for Your Laptop

The Slidenjoy laptop screens seem like a cool idea for mobile laptop users.

The main thing I miss on my laptop versus my desktop is screen real estate (I had 3 large screen for my desktop but just one 15″ MacbookPro screen.

The device attaches to your laptop and with 1 or 2 extra screens that can be displayed in various useful formats (extra screen while you work and also sharing screen views while presenting or working with others.

One USB connection is all it requires. Single Slidenjoy screens start at just €199 and duel additional screens start at €299.

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Boosting Wifi Signal Strength While You Travel or While at Home

One of the frustrating things while traveling is getting a weak wifi signal in your hotel room. A good tool in that case is they BearExtender Turbo High Speed 802.11ac USB Wi-Fi Adapter for Mac OS X (Windows version). Even though the mac version description says it is not compatible with Yosemite, the comments indicate an update was made January 2015 to make it work with Yosemite.

photo of Bear wifi signal extender

The BearExtender also works to provide better wifi signals around your house. Some models are designed to connect with your router (Netgear range extender, for example) and are not as suited to travel use as the others are). BearExtender can be used for travel or home.

Alternative wifi extenders: Alfa AWUS036NH 2000mW 2W 802.11g/n High Gain USB Wireless G / N Long-Range WiFi Network Adapter with 5dBi Screw-On Swivel Rubber Antenna and 7dBi Panel Antenna and Suction cup / clip window mount, D-Link Wireless N 300 Mbps Compact Wi-Fi Range Extender (DAP-1320), NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender, Essentials Edition (EX2700) and TP-LINK TL-WPA4220KIT ADVANCED 300Mbps Universal WiFi Range Extender, Repeater, AV500 Powerline Edition, WiFi Clone Button, 2 LAN Ports.

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Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is likely the most popular gadget of the year. People are still figuring out what benefits excite them about the watch. It seems to me the potential is huge but this initial effort is not quite amazing.

I embedded Apple’s promotional video for the watch which is obviously a sales piece but they do a very good job of showing what the watch offers.

There are many good reviews of the watch: The Apple Watch (Daring Fireball)Apple Watch Review: The Smartwatch Finally Makes Sense (WSJ)A Week on the Wrist: The Apple Watch Review (Recode)Apple Watch Review (Verge

My opinion is it is very expensive for what you get. But I can see the potential for some very wonderful things down the road. The health kit options I think will be a killer feature (maybe not right away but within a couple years).

Another feature that will be quite valuable are paying with a swipe from the watch (which seems to be less than perfect so far), but it will be very nice. Apple Pay is a very smart system given the relative ease at which consumers credit card details continue be stolen using conventional means (Apple Pay doesn’t turn over you credit card number so hackers can’t get it from poor IT systems at retailers).

The quick interactions with friends I think will be a big feature, again it may take several interactions to get this to be wonderful. The “tap” notifications seems to physically be done very well. Figuring out the right settings to properly filter what should generate that touch seems to take a bit of work (and not surprisingly apps are defaulting to too much bothering the user).

Being able to just speak to leave yourself notes is a nice feature, though my guess is one that isn’t used as much as people would think it would be.

Personally I see more potential for the watch that I see actually delivered thus far. I am more positive about the long term success of the watch today than I was when it was first announced.

I stopped wearing a watch years ago. And I don’t have any plans to start again anytime soon. But if I do, the Apple Watch is a likely candidate. It sure isn’t cheap but hopefully I can just use a bit of profit from Apple stock when the time comes to pay for one.

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Answer Your Doorbell with Your Smartphone Wherever You Are (and see video of who is at the door)

The Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell provides some useful features.

You can see and speak to visitors using your smartphone or tablet, whether you’re upstairs or across town.

Not everyone rings the doorbell, so the doorbell includes motion sensors to alert you of activity at your home. The sensor can detect movement up to 30 feet away. HD video recording stores all recorded footage to the cloud (it connect to your network via wifi).

I have thought about such a product since long before I ever heard of wifi (or “the cloud”). Back then I envisioned being able to see who it was and decide if I wanted to answer the door or not.

I also like the security feature of having a record of who comes to your door. If someone tries to “case” your house and check to see if you are there by ringing the doorbell, you will have a record of it (and see it in real time, wherever you are).

The doorbell can tie into existing electricity or operate using a battery.

You could rig something that does this yourself for less (it costs $199 now) but this product lets you get something up and running easily. That is actually what I figured I would do when I returned to my own house (I am busy living the nomad life for now).

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Save on Phone Charges When Traveling – Sim Card Savings

Roaming charges on cell phones are ludicrously expensive. When I travel I normally just get a local sim card but that does have hassles (you don’t have your normal cell phone number attached to your phone).

A new service provides much better roaming rates by directing your roaming traffic to their network instead of your cell phone carrier. The cool gadget that allows this is a sticker applied to your sim card.

You phone must be unlocked for this to work. It works with iOs (iPhone and iPad), Android and other systems and all sim types (micro, nano and mini).

There is an option to get a local number to let people easily call you locally.

When applied to your home SIM card, the KnowRoaming sticker can detect when you are at home or abroad. When abroad, the KnowRoaming Sticker takes over and switches you onto the KnowRoaming network, enabling you to connect to our local partner networks worldwide. After returning home, the KnowRoaming sticker switches you back to your home mobile network and remains dormant.

They take your balance after 15 months of no activity which is unnecessarily hostile to customers. But for the right people it might be worth looking into if this option would benefit you.

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Canon PowerShot SX60 HS Digital Camera

I am fairly cheap. I bought a Canon Powershot SX-60 HS camera today (with 64 Gb card, backup battery and comfortable strap) for $550. I think that is the 2nd most expensive thing I bought this year (an iPad mini I think was more expensive). In the last 5 years the only other thing I can remember buying that was more expensive was a MacBook Pro.

I am very happy to have a new camera. I started looking more than 6 month ago, at that time the updated version of the Powershot was already 6 month overdue (with no explanation from Canon) so I decided to wait. I am glad I did (though I was annoyed not to have a new camera for my trip to Hong Kong, Guilin, Yunnan and Shanghai earlier this year.

The old camera was ok, if you don’t consider how much better things have progressed in the last 5-10 years. But that is a big thing to ignore. I think the Canon SX line is the most awesome camera for people that want something better than a smart phone (by far the biggest issue for me is zoom though it is also better for various things such as low light, taking lots of photos and video without running out of room on your camera…).

photo of the Canon ax-60

The photo shows the LCD screen extended which is actually a nice feature at times (normally I just fold it into the back of the camera).

The Powershot SX 60 has an amazing 65x optical zoom (21mm–1365mm). This is just amazing. Much more expensive cameras can’t come close to competing with this. The Canon SX 60 is DSLR-like but not a DSLR. It looks like one but isn’t. It really straddles the area between DSLR and non-DSLR in my opinion.

You can watch at Curious Cat Travel Photos and see if you notice a big leap in the quality of the photos now that I have a new camera.

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PulsePoint App Gets Medical Help Where Needed Quickly

Ok this isn’t really a gadget but it is my blog so I get to do what I want :-)
PulsePoint is a crowdsourced iOS app that locates nearby help for a cardiac arrest and helps get help to those in need quickly.

view of PulsePoint screen cardiac notification

Life-Saving Crowdsourcing App Expands Reach to Stop Cardiac Arrests

[PulsePoint] on his phone warned him that someone nearby needed CPR. Brawner reportedly raced around the gym, trying to find the victim, before heading to the parking lot, where he saw a man sprawled on the pavement. He began giving the man CPR until fire and rescue units showed up.

The man’s survival wasn’t just a blessing for his family, it was a huge victory for the PulsePoint Foundation, a Bay Area nonprofit whose app is making it easier to alert CPR-trained people that someone nearby needs help.

PulsePoint’s free app connects to local 911 call centers and alerts users when there is someone nearby in need of CPR. PulsePoint users get an alert the same time as local emergency responders.

It also shows the location of the closest automated electronic defibrillator (if there is one nearby) as well as a reminder about how to do CPR, just in case the user has an adrenaline-induced brain-freeze.

Very cool. It is great to see us find ways to help improve the health care system.

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Polaroid Cube Camera

Introducing the Polaroid Cube lifestyle action camera—water resistant, shockproof, mountable (1080p HD video, 3MP CMOS sensor and 124° wide angle lens).

The Mobius Action camera is another option (that doesn’t look quite as cool, but has good video quality in a small package at a cheap price – $90).

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Add 128Gb of Storage to Your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro

Very cool device that fits inside the card reader slot of your Mac laptop to add 128 Gb of storage (it sits flush with your MacBook, you can barely even tell it is there).

Simply insert JetDrive Lite into the card reader slot on the side of your MacBook and instantly boost your storage capacity.

You need to select your laptop version so my guess is you can’t use one card for both a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro (or between some versions of MacBook Pro that have different JetDrive Lite versions).

It is compatible back to late 2010 MacBook Air 13 inch so I am buying one for my old MacBook Air. Buying via Amazon a 128 Gb version is only $80 (at least right now), list price is $120. Currently it is back-ordered for 2-4 weeks.

I would include a way to lookup the production date of your laptop if I were selling these but they didn’t do so (maybe they will be smart and update the page to do so). You can use this Apple page to determine the production date of your MacBook.

Another similar product, PNY StorEDGE 128 Gb is $75 from Amazon ($200 list price – it is a bit older so likely price to places like Amazon has dropped, even if they didn’t lower the list price, since the release).

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