Sunday, August 22, 2010

Harmony 900

As I have mentioned before, we like the Harmony line of remotes, and have owned several of the models.  The buttons on the Harmony 890 remote that we have been using for the past several years started to fail.  Even though they don't seem to last, the Harmony remote line contains the best universal remote controls.

I decided to get the Harmony 900, as it is the replacement for the Harmony 890.  The Harmony 900 is a combination IR and RF remote, where it can control devices that are not in line of site of the remote.

The Harmony 900 uses the same web base configuration tool as the other remotes, but unfortunately I had to create a new account for this new remote as the tool wouldn't allow me to add the new remote to my existing account.  This required me to re-add all of my devices.

The IR repeater that is included in the Harmony 900 is different than the one included in the 890.  The IR repeaters include with the 890, could be attached directly to the devices to be controlled.  This helped improve the reliability of the remote signal reception.  The Harmony 900's IR repeaters are meant to sit on the shelf with the component itself.  This is not ideal for furnature where there isn't a door covering the equipment.  In my case, I had to disable the internal IR receiver on my Media Center PC, and use an external USB IR receiver located right next to the IR repeater.

So far the remote is working pretty well for us.  My wife is pleased as well, especially since pressing the buttons actually work.


A while ago I heard about the Fitbit on the Major Nelson podcast. The fitbit is a wearable device that you can use to track your fitness.  It syncs through your computer to upload data to the Fitbit service, where you can track your progress.

The fitbit is a multi-axis accelerometer based pedometer, but it the main draw is that it wirelessly syncs data to the service when you are in range of the base station.  Since it is a two way sync, data that you have entered on the website can affect the display on the fitbit itself.  For example, your height or stride length entered on the website will affect the total distance value shown on the device.

In addition to helping you track your fitness, the fitbit claims to be able track how well your sleep is.  Included in the fitbit package is an wristband.  To track your sleep, you put the fitbit in "sleep" mode, and then place it in the wristband.  I assume that the fitbit services calculates the quality of sleep from the percentage of time that the fitbit detects motion while in "sleep" mode.

There are one thing that I think that could be improved with yncing without a computer.  The computers that we use most are laptops that are normally not connected to USB devices, so these will not be useful for syncing.  And the desktop computers in our house are normally turned off. Using a cell phone would be a great solution. I see a few ways that this would work.

  1. Have the fitbit sync with a phone over bluetooth.  Fitbit could write an iPhone or Android application that would send the data to the fitbit server

  2. Replace the fitbit device with an iPhone or Android application, assuming that the application doesn't decrease battery life of the phone.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Network reorganization

I had been having problems with the reliablity of the Media Center Extender connection to the Media Center PC, from our bedroom.  Often, playback would pause, and I would have to reconnect to the PC.  This continued to happen even after switching to the Xbox.

I decide to reorganize my home network, to try and improve things.  I switched things around so all of the media related devices are on the same Gigabit ethernet switch.  Hopefully, this will help prevent bandwidth contention, when attempting to watch television or movies.

Next time I climb up to the attic, I need to label each of the ethernet cables, so I can know which room and port each go to.  Currently, it takes me a few tries to determine what is connected to each.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


android2cloud is a project similar to Chrome to Phone, but instead of sending links to your phone, instead you send urls from your phone to the browser on your computer.

I am not sure how often I will use it, as majority of the time that I am looking at the browser on my phone, I am not at my computer, and am most likely not logged in.  Ideally, the shared links would be queued, and the pages would open the next time that the browser is opened, but it looks like that doesn't happen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reinstalled Recorded TV Manager

Last year, I installed Recorded TV Manager to manage moving recording to my Windows Home server.  I stopped using it when the Power Pack 3 was made available for Windows Home Server, as it enabled archiving recordings automatically.  Also, Recorded TV Manager was not compatible with the recordings that Windows 7 made.

Unfortunately, the archiving feature that Power Pack 3 implemented didn't do anything to remove duplicate episodes, so I started to use a lot more space than was needed. Also, you are not able to specify different destination directories for the archived recordings, so you end up with one directory full of files.  I also never used the transcoding inPower Pack 3's archive recording feature.

Version 3.9.2 of Recorded TV Manager adds support for Windows 7's wtv recording files, so I decided to install the new version.  The instructions are very helpful for installing the Windows Home Server plugin, and the service that is needed to access the meta data from the wtv files.

I also took this as the opportunity to organize the recorded content that is on the share on the Windows Home Server. I moved some of the archived content to a share that has folder duplication enabled, and for content that I don't care about losing, I left it in a share that doesn't have duplication enabled.

Xbox 360 in bedroom

A while ago, I mentioned that my wife bought me the new slim Xbox 360. I was trying to decide where I wanted to set up the old Xbox.  We have been using Linksys Media Center Extenders on each of the other TVs around the house, to give them access to the content on the Media Center.  But the Linksys extenders do not support other content like Netflix streaming.

I decided to set up the Xbox in our bedroom.  (And got the OK from my wife too.)  I have configured it to automatically start up in Media Center Extender mode when the Xbox starts up.  Since I want to access our Netflix streaming account from the Xbox, I created a Xbox Live Gold account for the Xbox, and associated my Netflix account to this Xbox account.

With this setup, I can access:

  • Live and Recorded TV from the Media Center

  • Netflix streaming content

  • DVD content

  • Content from the Zune Video marketplace

  • Hulu, Youtube, and other internet streaming content through the PlayOn server running on the Media Center

Also, we will be able to play games on this Xbox.  (Most likely only when my wife has her woman's group over)

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