Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Increase Your HDTV IQ with the HT Guys

So, if I want to record high definition content from my cable provider, I need to record it with the cable company’s provided DVR via an HMDI cable. Or, I can record on my Windows Media Center computer provided I have firewire support from the cable box to the PC. Right?

Also, I’m not sure if I want to buy a DLP, LCD, or Plasma HDTV; or if it should be 720p, 1080i, or 1080p (and does it really accept 1080p or just up-convert a 1080i?); and I’m not sure if my receiver will work with it because it doesn’t have an HMDI interface; and I’m not sure how to hook up my computer so I can watch and stream media from it; and if I really need just a DVI connector and a digital out, or an HDMI connector… and what about those HDCP compliant cards? And… and… and…

Not sure what I’m talking about? Me neither.

That why you should listen to the HT Guys at www.htguys.com. Every Friday, they put out a half-hour podcast that you can download and listen to on your computer or MP3 player. I’ve been going through all of their old podcasts while driving to/from work or mowing the lawn and I learn something new every episode. They also give me lots of food for thought as I continue to build our new family room with a home theater.header3.jpg (which, will get its own blog entry in the near future)

Ara and Braden talk about everything home theater related. Everything inclluding audio equipment, video equipment, computers, home networking, streaming, TV shows and lots and lots about HDTV. (High Definition Television) They also  responded to an email of mine regarding managing the heat produced by A/V equipment, even though I found later that they had already talked about it back in January.

They are entertaining as well as informative, though I really don’t get the whole Magnum P.I. thing. (oh, and thanks for making me say Front Row like Scooby everytime.) *rolls eyes* 


July 24, 2006 Posted by | Home Improvement, Home Theater, Movies, Tech, TV | Leave a comment

Beef on a Weck

Blogger Wrathchild recently writes about how he yearns for his lost breakfast meal of pork roll, egg and cheese. While moving away from the creature comforts you grew up with is tough, there is an upside.

Moving to upstate New York has introduced me to some new foods like Buffalo Wings (now made popular everywhere by Hooters), Speedies, and my favorite, Beef on a Weck.

mini_6892.jpgBeef on a Weck is basically a roast beef sandwich served on a Kummelweck roll, hence the name. A Kummelweck roll is a Kaiser roll with course salt and caraway seeds. The sandwich is best served with horseradish and an aju for dipping. 

Now, not all wecks are created equally. I’ve had some pretty poor rolls, either lacking a good amount of salt or seeds; or, the roll sort of fell flat. Good thing I found a local pub that makes a great Beef on a Weck and has all you can eat on Monday’s and Wednesday’s! (Ravenswood, Clifton Park, NY) Wikipedia gives some more details on Beef on a Weck. I have a love for fine food and while a roast beef sandwich may not sound “fine”, it certainly is.

Note that the history section of the Wiki article mentions how the Germans also made the Buffalo/Rochester area a center for brewing… Coincidence? I think not! Beef on a Weck goes great with a porter; possibly appropriately, Saranac’s Black Forest porter.

July 21, 2006 Posted by | Food & Drink | Leave a comment

Why the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray Battle Doesn’t Matter

Some quick background, and I’ll try not to get too technical: The movie you currently rent or buy from Blockbuster, NetFlix, or the library on DVD is at a resolution of 720x 480. (U.S. NTSC) If you have a standard TV, DVD’s look very good because the capabilities of your TV closely matches the resolution and frame rate of the DVD. If you own a High Definition TV (HDTV), DVD’s look ok, but the HDTV is much more capable and the content is just not there on the DVD.

HD-DVD and Blu-ray are two high definition formats for a “disc”. (The “disc” is the important part for me to make my point). Each format is similar (Blu-ray has a slightly higher capacity) but they provide content for your HDTV at resolutions to match. (1920 x 1080) These two formats are incompatible with each other and are backed by different manufacturers and thus the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray battle has emerged. Many people are debating which is better, how much they will cost, and who will win.

Neither will win.news_4010.jpg

Sony, the creators of Blu-ray, are going to make Blu-ray a viable option with their Playstation 3 strategy. Simply, the Playstation 3 will be a high end game console to compete with Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft xBox 360 and also double as a Blu-ray player. The cost is expensive for a game console, $500+; but stand alone Blu-ray players will likely be $1000+.

HD-DVD will be a viable option as well, simply because it is already on the market and available. HD-DVD players are available at $500, and content is also available. I can see the growing list on my NetFlix account.

The war will fade to the background.

It doesn’t matter because the “disc” will become obsolete. High definition content is going to be stored in flash memory, network storage, and streamed over the your cable, satellite and Internet connection. It already is. Who cares about the “disc”. I have a DVR/DVD-burner and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve burned content to DVD. It’s a pain. I watch everything off of the DVR. If I wanted to keep a TV show, or show it on another device, I’d much rather copy the video file with a computer over a network. People will be watching high definition TV live, or recording to a high definition DVR, or streaming the content “on-demand” and renting “discs” will be no more.

Windows Media Center, the Mac-Mini, and Vista will continue to change how we use our home theater. Yes, I will likely have either a HD-DVD or Blu-ray player in my home someday, but it will be a secondary feature for the primary purpose of the device. It will be in the DVR, or the drive in my Media Center. Hollywood is going to slow this revolution down to stop movie pirates, but things will change.

July 19, 2006 Posted by | Home Theater, Tech | 2 Comments

Windows Vista Planning

Is anyone excited about Microsoft releasing a new version of Windows? I usually don’t care the least about the releases; it usually only means that I have to learn the new ins & outs, patch the bugs and security holes and upgrade my hardware.

I am, however, looking forward to Vista… a bit. I’ve been interested in Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 which you can currently only buy pre-installed from a PC manufacturer. Vista will change that, allowing me, a PC enthusiast, to build my own PC with the hardware I want. But, I have a concern with pricing.


I wish money were no object, but it is. Microsoft is not giving out any pricing information yet, but suspicions are that the higher end versions of Windows Vista, like Home Premium and Ultimate will be $200, maybe $300, may be more. If I have to pay $300 for Vista, there goes my savings from building my own; and, I might be better off buying a pre-built machine. I really don’t want to do that and if I’m forced to, I don’t know who is better, HP? Sony? Dell? Alienware? I’d just rather do it myself.

Any rumors on upgrade pricing? Is Windows XP Home Edition going to get me a discount on Vista Ultimate?

If anyone has good resources, podcasts, or the like on Vista/Media Center/PC enthusiast, I’m interested! (also any rumors on pricing)

July 17, 2006 Posted by | Home Theater, Tech | Leave a comment

Direct Physics (follow up)

If I may quote myself…

    What needs to happen…History needs to repeat itself. What happened to 3DFX (consumed by nVidia) needs to happen to AGEIA. I’m not saying it needs to be integrated into the video card, though that may well be the best solution, specifically for the latency problem. I’m thinking more in terms of the API. Developers don’t write to nVidia, or ATI, or Matrox, etc, but rather to a common standard like Microsoft’s DirectX or OpenGL. (one of the things that makes standards so nice is that there are so many to choose from *rolls eyes*)windows.gif

Microsoft announces “Direct Physics“, to be included in the DirectX API to allow programmers to write physics based manipulation of objects in 3D for realism and better immersion. Well, they haven’t announced it exactly, but a job posting for their “Direct Physics” team, “responsible for delivering a great leap forwards in the way game developers think about integrating Physics into their engines,” pretty much says it all.

There are two SDK’s contending for developer’s attention, the one from Ageia (see my previous Ageia entry), and one from Havok which nVidia and ATI have supported. Microsoft has licensed the Ageia PhysX engine. Hmmm, so where is this going? I can only guess at this point, it is way too early to tell. With the big GPU manufacturers behind Havok, I’d think Microsoft stupid to ignore them. But we are talking about Microsoft here… they will do as they wish. If you made me guess, I’d say that the Havok SDK will be akin to OpenGL, and the Ageia SDK will be akin to DirectDraw.

July 10, 2006 Posted by | Gaming, Tech | Leave a comment


PilsIt’s not often I find a beer that is worth shouting about. I mean, I find a lot of good beers, all worthy of conversation; but, rarely do I find a beer that worth giving a perfect 4.0 rating.

Victory Prima Pils! Go out and get some now. This beer is excellent. Light & dry, but not tart. Wonderful hop bite (German and Czech) mixes perfectly with the malt.

Victory makes several other great beers, of which, I haven’t had in quite a while. I thought I’d try the Prima Pils (in my classic etched pilsner glass) and I am very glad I did.

Few beers nail it for their style, but this one does. I’d take a guess that you would have to travel to Europe to get a pilsner this good. Cheers!

July 5, 2006 Posted by | Food & Drink | 2 Comments

Go-to Beer

My favorite, modestly priced beer, has gone up in price. Not by much, and altogether worth it, but now it is closer to the same playing field as many others.

That beer is Saranac Pale Ale. I love this beer. It is well hopped, malty, a beautiful color, and always clear and crisp. I applaud all beers brewed at the Utica Brewery (many are contract) for their quality control, an important aspect when judging a beer that is often overlooked. The combination of quality and price has made this my “Go-to beer”.

Pale AleI don’t love all the beers by Saranac… as a matter of fact, the Pale Ale is the only one I love. The others are good, but each is lacking in something for its style. But, I LOVE the Pale Ale.

I have heard it is has always been a lot pricier in other regions. I have suspected that since I’m in the same region in which it is brewed that that has helped keep the price down.

How much? Oh, it’s not bad… $6.50 a six pack, which I used to be able to get for $4.99. (by the case, the prices were relative) The price increase is my own assumption, too. I’ve only checked a handful of stores, but they seem consistent. Maybe it’s only for the summer. A great beer at a good price doesn’t come along often.

It’s not all bad. This just gives me an excuse to try more varieties again. I’ve recently tasted some Southhampton ales and I just picked up some Red Hook’s I’ve never had. Cheers!

July 2, 2006 Posted by | Food & Drink | Leave a comment