Knight Blogger

The Musings of a Fourth Degree Knight

An Inexpensive Way to Add Media Content to TV

Posted by Steven Richardson on February 25, 2009 is a great site for viewing all sorts of current and archived TV programming content, but people often dismiss it by asking, “Who wants to watch TV on your computer?”  My response now is, “You don’t have to!”  I found a great way to enable me to watch Internet video content on the flat screen in our family room, and you can do it too.

Do you have a laptop with wireless Internet access?  Does its manufacturer sell a docking station for it?  If the answer to both these questions is “yes,” then say hello to Hulu!  I got a docking station for my HP laptop and plugged it in next to the TV.  From that station I ran audio and video cables to the TV, along with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.  Then I attached the docking station to the laptop.  That’s it!  Now you can use the TV as your monitor and control the PC to watch any streaming video through the Internet.   Since then between On Demand content from our canble provider and Hulu, we never miss most of our shows.  Now I just have to figure out how to watch shows recorded on my media PC in the den over the home network.

In addition to doing that, I added the Shared Pictures folder on my den PC to the watch list for Windows Media Center on the laptop to run slide shows on the family room TV.  Plugging in the USB infrared receptor  to the docking station also allowed me to use my Media Center remote to control the PC, rather than the mouse.  Now, at parties, we can both impress our friends and bore them to death at the same time!  The next big project is to figure out how to run audio from the laptop to the stereo system in the family room, so we can stream mp3s as well.

Give it a try!  You’ll never leave your family room again!

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My Favorite Relative: Uncle Jay!

Posted by Steven Richardson on December 31, 2008

Yesterday I posted on a terrific video that a friend of mine put on his Facebook page spoofing the Christmas carol Silver Bells and talking about the bank bailout.   Well, this friend has come through once again and posted a terrific “year in review” video from one “Uncle Jay” from his video blog,  This guy is very clever and worth watching.  Click on over to his web site after enjoying the sample video below.  With that, Happy New Year!

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Enjoying the Humor of the Situation

Posted by Steven Richardson on December 30, 2008

My last post was all about my initial experiences with Windows Vista and was rather long; this one will be short and solely for the purpose of sharing something a friend of mine posted on Facebook.  With Congress handing out money like candy to greedy, incompetent CEOs of floundering banks and auto makers, one wonders sometimes what is going on!  This group recorded a video that they posted on YouTube that really hits the nail on its satirical head.  Have a good laugh!

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Starting to Love Vista

Posted by Steven Richardson on December 23, 2008

Okay, so I got myself an early Christmas present in an HP Pavilion m9400t desktop, which came with 4Gb of RAM (expandable to 8Gb), a 2.66GHz quadcore processor, a roomy (for me) hard drive, a TV tuner with an IR sensor built into the front of the case, a 15 in 1 digital media card reader, and yes, 64 bit Windows Vista.  The computer I had been using was over five years old and, from a usage standpoint, my needs had grown beyond its capabilities.  I needed something that could handle multimedia better (and be a TiVo replacement), and since the old computer ran XP Home, and not Media Center Edition, I had to make a change.

Unfortunately, historically, change hasn’t been easy for me.  I tend to be very set in my ways, and I resisted the change to XP for years!  I just didn’t like what I called the “Fisher Price” interface.   Susan even had it on her computer, and I only used it when I had to.  It wasn’t until I was forced to adopt it when I got a new desktop for my office two years ago that I finally decided to install it on my old Windows 2000 desktop (with a RAM upgrade, of course).  I was soon asking myself, where has this been all my life, and regretting having waited so long to change.

For this reason, I decided that, with Vista, I would jump in with both feet.  So far, I am pleased that I did.  Although changes in the interface are one thing I have been most resistent to, I love the way Vista looks.  The colors and effects are way cool, and the Taskbar looks much better than XP (so not Fisher Price).   I also like the way that Vista organizes user files.  One thing that annoyed me about XP was that it had an overall “My Documents” folder under which was “My Pictures,” “My Music,” and “My Videos.”  These are not documents, and there was no separate folder for those (“Let it go, OCD Boy,” I hear you say, but it mattered to me).  Vista has an overall master folder with your user name on it with subfolders for photos, music, documents, downloads, even saved games!  Much better!

The way the Start Menu lists programs is better too, as you are not navigating through lots of submenus to find what you want.   I do miss the “Filmstrip” view in Explorer for looking at my pictures, but a good photo viewer with that feature can take care of that.  I suppose we can’t expect the OS to do everything.  As to the UAC security feature, I just do not understand what all the fuss is about.  You are required to click on a button to confirm an action that might harm your computer if you do not know what you are doing (or are malware up to nefarious activities).  This is nothing compared to Ubuntu Linux, which requires you to type in a password.  One thing that I do agree with Vista critics on is that there is not nearly as much innovation in Vista over XP to justify its development time.  Vista is cool, but it took Microsoft six years to come up with this?  You have got to be kidding!

As for the problems it has had, Vista has been out for almost two years now, and has resolved most of the driver issues.  In fact, it told me for more than one device that I was trying to install an old driver and directed me to the proper subpage of the manufacturer’s web site to download an updated one (and one for a 64 bit OS, so I had to be even more particular).  Another issue is that, although people acknowledge that Microsoft sells bloatware that requires more and more computer resources, some insist on trying to install it on hardware that can’t handle it.  From what I have read (and from my personal experience so far) Vista works just fine if you have: at least 2 Gb of system RAM, a dedicated video board with at least 256Mb of RAM, and at least a dual core CPU.  I would recommend getting the 64 bit version of the OS for three reasons: 1) it is forward looking in technology, so your system will last longer; 2) it allows you to address more than 3 Gb of RAM, so you can add more later and your system will last longer; and 3) there is no price differential.  Just be careful what drivers you install.  They must be for 64 bit Vista.  As for the publicized lack of adoption of Vista, and the cries for Microsoft to keep supporting XP, people forget that XP went through the same thing when it came out in 2001.  Businesses also have traditionally taken a long time to upgrade: it wasn’t that long ago that I was in my local bank and saw that they were still running Windows 98SE!  I guess I’m not the only one resistent to change.

So far, Vista only has a small foothold in our household.  My wife’s desktop and my laptop still run XP (as does my office machine) and my old laptop, and an old desktop, run Linux.  However, I must say that I am glad I was not resistent to change this time around, and jumped in with both feet on Vista.  The only problem is, Windows 7 will probably be out before I am ready to upgrade any of our other machines!  Oh well!

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Not So Lonely on the Social Network

Posted by Steven Richardson on November 4, 2008

In August of last year I posted on how social networking just wasn’t working out for me.  I had signed up for Facebook, Plaxo, and Orkut, yet virtually no one I knew was using them.  Unfortunately, these sites become useful in direct proportion to how many people you know are on it.  To my amazement, however, this all changed over the summer.  Suddenly all sorts of people that I knew from high school, college, and the Knights of Columbus, are on Facebook.  Alumni from both schools have Groups, as well as one for the Knights’ Supreme Council.  Some friends are taking to it more than others, updating their statuses, sharing pictures, links, etc., and keeping in touch.  Even with those that don’t, there is that potential there to reach out if I want to.

Social networking has now become fun for me, and I have become quite the “Facebook junkie,” checking the site several times per day.  If you look to the left margin of this blog, you can even see a Facebook widget that gives my status and the Events I am attending.  Feel free to use it to click on over to my Profile (just become my Friend first; I have a thing about online privacy).  People can go crazy with this stuff, and so I am probably going to stick with just Facebook, canceling my Orkut account.  Plaxo has my Universal Address Book and is my “cloud” for various information that I sync with Outlook, so I’ll stick with that.  However, I will most likely not keep up with their “Pulse” social network.  I have only so much time to spend when I should be working <grin>.

If we know each other, and you have an account, send me a Facebook Friend request.  If you don’t have an account, consider getting one; give it a try.  Then send me a Friend request.  It’s great fun, and a wonderful use of technology.

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