May 30

Boxee1

I’ve struggled along with free satellite channels on my old tube TV for a few years now and it’s time for a change. There’s less and less that interests me on TV these days and the thought of streaming internet TV on my PC in my home office doesn’t thrill me… after spending the day working there already.

So it’s time to part with some hard earned cash and bring the web and streaming media to my couch and telly. I hope to have it all in place by the end of the summer. I’ve read a number of posts and bookmarked lots of pages and I’m looking to buy the following:

Flat screen TV

I can’t stream to my old CRT TV – it has an S-video connector and doesn’t have digital inputs like HDMI so I need a 32” (that’s big enough for me) flat screen that takes HDMI input.

Set-top box

I was originally thinking along the lines of a PS3 but more recently a positive assessment of Boxee software on a podcast by Knightwise got me interested in Boxee.  So perhaps I should go for a  Boxee Box to get internet and my media to the TV, but a recent reader recommendations post on Lifehacker on set-top boxes saw the Boxee Box way down in popularity behind a home theater PC, Roku, Apple TV, etc.

Router

I should get a wireless N router to replace my G-router while I’m at it.

NAS

I’ll need a 1 TB NAS to store my downloaded movies and other media (and backup my data from my PC) and I’ll stream from this to my TV or set-top box.

Are you streaming media to your TV? I’d love to hear your recommendations on TVs, set-top boxes, routers and NAS. What’s your set-up? Would you do anything different if you started again? Has any piece of hardware been a nightmare to work with? What are your tips and things to watch out for? As I build the set-up I’ll post about it… but it’s your turn to have your say first.


May 28

A few weeks ago, there was a flurry of posts about the Chrome extension Super Google Reader which lets you read RSS feeds in full form in Google Reader. Some blogs only give truncated feeds and you have to visit their website for the full post so I thought I’d give it a try. Once I had reopened Reader, I had access to full RSS feeds using the Readable tab which Super Google Reader had added at the top of the posts as shown below.

Super Google Reader

But I noticed that Google Reader had slowed down considerably after I enabled that extension. Refresh, Mark All as Read and changing folders were all unacceptably slow so I ran through my slow Reader checklist which I’ve already posted just to ensure that the Google servers weren’t at fault. They weren’t. When I disabled Super Google Reader, speed was back to normal.

So if you’re experiencing Google Reader to be slow and you’re using Super Google Reader, try  disabling the extension and see if that helps.


May 24

Soon after I started blogging, I wrote a post on my Top Tech Podcasts. That was back in 2008 so I thought I’d revisit it with the tech podcasts I now listen to. I’ve moved on a bit since then but some old faithfuls are still there. These are mostly all audio podcasts as I like to listen while walking.

Podnutz

Podnutz has burgeoned into a great network of tech podcasts – and not just for computer techs either. The originals are still there but Steve has added shows on Linux, Android and others. And then there’s Nutz at Night, as Steve says late night tech talk about nothing, yet something. You might even call it a show about Tech and Life… but no-one’s made that connection yet! Anything can come up here – tech, YouTube videos, likes, and dislikes. There’s a regular band of co-hosts now and strangely, it’s one of the first shows I listen to after downloading it.

CNET to the Rescue – great tech advice and tips dispensed by Rafe Needleman and co-hosts. Like Carey Holzman, Rafe is another podcaster whose advice I always look forward to hearing.

FrequencyCast

FrequencyCast – UK centric podcast on digital TV, technology, media news and gadget reviews, presented by the inimitable Carl and Pete. A monthly show with shorter mid-monthly updates. Good show notes and full transcripts as well! Show 61 focused on Streaming Media and is well worth a listen if you want to stream music and video to your TV.

The Home Tech Podcast – Just discovered this one a month or two back and it seems pretty good – tips, how-to’s and simple solutions to your not so simple technology questions with a revolving panel of hosts fronted by Jim Collison, The Average Guy.

WNYCs Radiolabs – I had to mention this one again, one of my favourites. If you don’t try any of these podcasts, give this one a go. Professional, great presenters and thought provoking stuff. And a terrific archive of podcasts you can dig into.

Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow. Bring your curiosity, and we’ll feed it with possibility.

evernote2

Evernote – Obviously a podcast about the latest developments in Evernote but the banter and off-beat humour between the hosts are a feature here.

Tech Stuff – From the guys at How Stuff Works, Jonathan and Chris delve in some detail into some of today’s top tech topics.

I should also mention TechVets with Carey Holzman and Mike Smith. Covering PCs, PC repair, PC utilities and info for repair techs, it’s just returned after an 8 month break. Perhaps now that Carey has left Computer America we might see a more regular schedule again.

Well that’s my current list. What’s yours?


May 16

I’m off on holiday to the west of Ireland once again in a couple of weeks time, hoping to keep in touch with the tech world using my trusty old Acer Aspire One netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Yes I know it’s old school – I don’t have a 3G smartphone yet so I have to go this route. I use Google Reader as my RSS reader but this only works when you have an internet connection as it’s an online reader. As I’ll be away from public WiFi most of the time, I need to be able to update the feeds when and where I can and then browse them at my leisure offline. When travelled there 2 years ago, Google Gears was still supported so I could use this to read my feeds in Google Reader offline.  But since then, Google has withdrawn Gears so I looked at the alternative they suggested in that post – Liferea (Linux Feed Reader), a desktop RSS aggregator for Linux.

No problems installing Liferea using

sudo apt-get install liferea

at the command line. To update Liferea with your Reader feeds, just click Subscriptions, New Source and select Google Reader from the dialog. Then enter your Google username and password. I have about 180 subscriptions in Reader and Liferea took about 20-30 minutes to read in all the feeds. And then I deleted the example feeds which weren’t of any use to me.

I’ve installed version 1.6.3 but I get the impression Liferea is very much work in progress or else it doesn’t play nicely with Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. It doesn’t update feeds in alphabetical order although I note this had been added in later releases. Also there’s no indication when it has stopped updating, other than the hard drive LED stops flashing. But apart from that, it seems to present my latest unread posts clearly in offline mode so it’ll do the job I want on holiday. Doubtless I’ll learn much more on how it works ‘at the coal face’.

Liferea

If you use WiFi, how do you browse your RSS feeds offline? Or is it time for me to get a smartphone? Or should I just switch off on holiday? Drop a comment below.


May 6

On 4th and 5th May, I found Google Reader to be suddenly significantly slower than usual in Marking all feeds as read and opening new folders of feeds. I use Chrome browser. Of course the first thing that crosses your mind is what have I done? Is it my fault? Have I done anything or added anything new (eg browser extensions) which may have slowed it down? I know that buggy extensions can cause slow-downs and I’ve blogged about this before.  I hadn’t installed any new software or any new browser extensions on my desktop PC and none had been updated. So I loaded Google Reader in Firefox – still slow. Okay, so I booted up my Acer Aspire netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Edition and Chromium browser – Reader still painfully slow. All other sites including GMail seemed to be okay, so the problem seemed to lie not with me but with Google’s servers. How could I double check?

First port of call, the official Google Reader blog – but no mention of anything there. So then I turned to Twitter and searched for “Google Reader” slow. I counted about 18 tweets on 4th May reporting something along the lines of Google Reader is painfully slow for me today. Most seemed to indicate a recent slow down and weren’t rants about Reader being generally slow.

Google Reader slow

So that seemed to confirm it. Just sit tight and put up with it and see how things are tomorrow before taking more drastic action like changing feed reader. Sure enough, things were much better the next day. Running the same search on Twitter as before, I found only 2 relevant tweets on 5th May and none on the 6th. So the ‘Twitterverse’ seems to be a really good mirror of slow online services.

So that’s my quick diagnostic on a slow online service. Just a pity that the official Google Reader blog didn’t take the time to alert us of the temporary problem.

Is there anything else I might have tried? Have you any tips on troubleshooting a slow online service? Drop a comment below.


May 4

Tech tweets

I recently published my list of great tech bloggers. Now here’s a list of folk to follow on Twitter who consistently tweet great tech links. I follow many tech bloggers on Twitter but so that I don’t get overwhelmed with tweets, I send everything through SiftLinks to Google Reader. SiftLinks checks your Twitter stream every 30 minutes and stores the last 50 links that it finds. That way I get a nice feed of tweets with links. Over time, you get a feel for the people whose links you are clicking, retweeting and bookmarking the most and here they are:

@BlogPowerTool

@mrpaladin

@sujith_web

@WebTechWise

@dollars5

@Flipbooks

@TechZader

@Jankovitch

@2cre8

@kovshenin

@ruhanirabin

They’re all in my Twitter Tech List so you can follow that list if you like. And please add @techandlife too. I try and regularly tweet the best of what I see around the web – web apps and services, Windows, Linux, Photoshop, WordPress and blogging tips.

Do you follow anyone who tweets great tech links? Drop a comment below.


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