Cool Tech Reviews

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February 28, 2006

TiVo vs. Windows Media Center: Which one is right for you?


digital501 has a great review of the TiVo and Windows Media Center PCs with the objective of helping the end user choose which one is right for their needs:

There are two basic ways to enter the world of the Personal Video Recorder (PVR): through a dedicated hardware unit, like a TiVo or ReplayTV, or through a software-based PVR that runs on your home computer, like Windows: Media Center Edition (WMCE) or MythTV. In this article I will compare the most popular form of each platform, TiVo and WMCE, to help you figure out which one would be best for you.

To summarize, WMCE currently has more features than TiVo, though TiVo is catching up. WMCE requires a large cost up front, but no monthly fee, while TiVo is a lower (or no) cost up front (for basic models) but has a monthly service fee. MCPCs can also be used as home computers. Finally, TiVo is much easier to install.

Hit the link for the full details. Thomas Hawk adds to the review with details on HDTV:

Media Center can record HDTV, but only through over the air transmissions, TiVo Series 2 cannot record HDTV at all.

On the other hand, the DirecTV TiVo can not only record satellite premium HDTV (which MCE cannot) but it has four tuners (two HD, two standard def). This is the unit that I personally own and watch most of my TV on at the present time. Be careful with this unit though in the longer run as DirecTV very well could stop supporting it someday or force a trade in as they have recently begun a move from MPEG2 to MPEG4. The DirecTV HDTV TiVo supports the outgoing MPEG2.

Both Series 3 TiVo and CableLabs approved Vista Home Premium machines will record HDTV coming up later this year. Comparing a Series 3 CableCARD enabled TiVo with a Vista Home Premium CableCARD enabled PC will make for a very exciting comparison when the time is right.

More by following that link as well, including a pointer to Hawk’s earlier comparison of Media Center with the DirecTV HDTV.


Posted at 9:17 am. Filed under Companies, Microsoft, Personal Video Recorders, Software, Software PVR, TiVo

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February 27, 2006

AskJeeves dumps the “fat butler”


Shelley Solheim at InfoWorld:

Search engine AskJeeves.com has rebranded itself as Ask.com, ditched its namesake butler icon and added several new search tools in an effort to woo more users, Barry Diller, chairman and chief executive officer of Ask Jeeves’ parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp announced Monday.

“It needed not be any radical change, we just needed to drop some baggage,” Diller said in his keynote address Monday at the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo in New York.

In addition to losing what Diller referred to as the “fat butler,” Ask.com streamlined its Web site with a new “non-cluttered” look and added a right-hand sidebar for searching different sources — such as images, weather, dictionaries, and local sources — that Ask.com officials say enables “search on speed dial.”

That seems a little harsh – Jeeves was about the only reason to head over to AskJeeves, although admittedly not a big reason for me or most others:

According to the latest data compiled by comScore Networks, Ask Jeeves only gets about 6.5 percent of total search queries. Google was the most used search engine in the U.S. in November, followed by Yahoo, Microsoft’s MSN and America Online.

We’ll see if dumping the “fat butler” makes any difference, but I expect it’s one more descent on the downward spiral for Ask.com.


Posted at 4:29 pm. Filed under Internet, Internet Search

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Wallpaper changer based on Flickr


(Via Thomas Hawk) There are all kinds of utilities to vary your Windows wallpaper, but how about one based on the Internet photo storage site, Flickr? John Conners is the author and has the details:

I wanted a way to periodically change the wallpaper on my computer at set intervals and couldn’t find any decent software to do it, so I wrote my own. It’s simple, powerful and once you’ve told it what to do, it sits quietly in the system tray going about its business.

It can draw the wallpaper from pictures on your own computer or:

You can use Flickr (almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world) – you can choose to select pictures by person, tags, sets or just plain random and there are a host of options to narrow down the pictures and increase the quality of those chosen. You never know what you’re going to get next!

Follow the link for more details and the download.


Posted at 3:54 pm. Filed under Companies, Flickr, Software, Utilities

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