A TV That Doesn’t Spy on You?

Most (all?) “smart”/spy TVs spy on you many different ways. Some even record what you say and save that information and send it over the internet. So often these days companies say we don’t do x or y only to later say that oh well we do… And even if they say you can opt out of being spied on if the device has the capability of spying on you relying on them to actually honor request not to be spied upon seems unwise.

It seems much safer to just have monitors that display the content you requested be displayed and don’t have spying capabilities built in.

What large screen TV monitors today are free from spying capabilities imagined by George Orwell in his book, 1984?

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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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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Turn Windows Into Sound Cancelling Filters

Sono is a conceptual gadget to turn windows into sound cancelling filters (similar to noise cancelling headphones). A microphone listens to noise coming in and then a speaker sends out sound waves to cancel the noises that have been set to cancel. In this way they are even cooler than noise cancelling headphones as you can tune the filter to let in birds singing and filter out car alarms, etc.

diagram of pieces of the sono device

Very cool, I hope this becomes a gadget we can buy (it is only conceptual now). Read more at Dyson design award site.

Noise canceling works not by blocking sound but by using properties of the wave pattern of sound to send sound waves that add to the existing sound waves to effectively eliminate the sound wave – thus we don’t hear anything. This is know as Active noise control or active noise reduction. It isn’t blocking the noise but adding other sound waves that combine with the noise you want to filter to eliminate the sound wave – it actually doesn’t eliminate it, as countering the sound wave exactly is not likely possible, but it results in a very limited sound.

Active noise reduction is best for low frequency sound (due to the nature of waves – low frequency has longer wave lengths). My guess is this will mean this product has difficulty blocking high frequency sound nearly as well as it will do with low frequency sounds.

Related: Gadgets to Mask Noise and Help You Sleep or ConcentrateDealing with Noise Pollution in Your CondoZeo Personal Sleep ManagerUniversal Translator on the Way

Make Your Own Chalkboard Paint

photo of colored chalkboard paint

How To Mix Chalkboard Paint in Any Color

Supplies: 1/2 cup acrylic paint (choose any color you like, or mix colors together to make the perfect shade!), 1 tablespoon unsanded grout (this can be purchased at most hardware/home improvement stores, we got ours at Home Depot), mixing cup or bowl, spoon, paint brush and an object or board you plan to paint on.

Once your chalkboard has fully dried be sure to slate the surface before using it for the first time. To slate a chalkboard lightly rub chalk along the surface and then lightly rub it off.

Very cool. I suppose paint might stretch the definition of a gadget but one of the nice things about having your own blog is you get to decide what fits. This is a pretty cool idea so I included it.

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