Thursday, 25 April 2013

Home Media Streaming

Ever wonder how to put your downloaded videos onto a television without hooking up your computer? Or maybe you followed a previous blog post of mine, packed up your DVD collection and have everything stored onto an external hard drive or USB drive. This post is sparked by my Uncle Jim who is a great man...but not the best with computers. He asked me how to put Netflix on his television without hooking up his laptop and to answer his question; there are many ways of doing so. And here it is, the top two media streaming devices that you will find...the Apple TV and the Western Digital TV Live (WDTV).

With the Apple TV you are apple to put your mac screen directly on your television and do some amazing things. NHL actually has an app, followed by a subscription, in which you can watch almost any game on your TV through your internet connection and there is a Netflix app as well. The Apple TV has a library in which you can rent/stream movies from an online iTunes database. This makes it a lot easier and cheaper than renting a film. You can also stream media from your Mac and PC's onto your TV, except they have to be a specific format. Apple loves MP4 formatted movies and the Apple TV does not let your stream other video formats. However, it does take everything from your iTunes on your computer which is a great organization tool. This makes it a lot easier to play music when people are over, as you do not have to worry about re-creating playlists on the device. Overall, without getting into a full review, the Apple TV is an amazing product even though it has its limitations. The extra features are handy, but are really only if you have a mac. The WDTV is a very competitive product.

The WDTV is amazing as you can get some apps such as MLB TV and Netflix with it. It makes for a great media streamer from macs and pcs on the same wireless network. The best part is that you stream a lot easier because it is not file format specific like the Apple TV and this means less converting. Basically, download a video or rip one as an mkv format and put it into the folder that is connected to your WDTV. I like this concept because some formats such as flv and avi are popular and readily available, but they take some time to convert to MP4. It is not the best music player in the world, as it cannot connect to iTunes directly, however, it will read many formats that the Apple TV will not. It is bad when it comes to making playlists and playing them on the WDTV, but if you want to do this, copy a playlist onto an usb stick and put it into one of the two available USB ports, this is a very large advantage as Apple TV does not have this feature. This means you can also put external hard drives into it as well to make it easier to play your movies. The WDTV also makes your regular external hard drive and USB sticks networkable and you can use it like a network storage device. Pretty handy if you ask me; think of all the room you can save on your pc and macs this way.

The short end of it is that the WDTV is more powerful with more features like USB ports and file compatibility. However, Apple TV is stronger with Apps and the Mac features, if you are a mac owner. If you are looking for video and Netflix, grab the WDTV; as it will play more with less hassle. If you are looking for the all-around multimedia experience and playing a lot of audio through your home stereo, purchase the Apple TV; just be aware that it doesn’t have USB ports and your computer must be on at all times.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Snap and Flash!

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Let's Pick a Camera!

Spring is almost here and, for some people around the world, it is already summer. This means many vacations, fun times at the beach, hiking, outdoor parties, bon fires, night events and the list goes on. You are going to want to take pictures and chances are you will use your phone. But there will be a day when you want to take nice quality pictures with a little bit of zoom because there is going to be that image out in the distance that is beyond your cellphones reach. So I guess you can say you will be in the market for a camera. In this post, I will talk about what kind of camera is suitable for different situations. Oh, and before we continue, your tablet is NOT an acceptable camera because it is just too big. If you are using your tablet as a camera, then I suggest you pay attention...please.

The Basics

Sony Cybershot DSCW610
Your phone will probably be fine for the quick snappy pictures, especially if it is over 5 megapixels (MP). Don’t forget, your camera probably doesn’t have optical zoom (the lens does the moving for the zoom).
Your phone will then use digital zoom (the computer zooming for you). This creates a pixelated or blurry effect when you go to print images or crop them later on. If the image you seek to take a picture of is off in the distance, you are going to need something better. If you want something with a little bit of zoom then I recommend 3-5x optical zoom. Never use digital because it will make your pictures blurry. There are many affordable and basic point and shoot cameras out there that will do this for you. And just an FYI some still use AA batteries. Recommendation: STAY AWAY! They are lousy at holding a charge for a long period of time (150ish pictures), they get bulky and you will have to replace them every 10-12 months. Lithium batteries tend to be expensive but they last about 300 pictures and I’d recommend replacing them whenever you feel like it. I have one that has been lasting 5 years and that’s not a joke.

Mini Zoom

The basics won’t cut it and you need some zoom. That is not a problem considering these cameras have come down in price and size over the past couple years. I have seen cameras with 16x optical zoom that are as small as the basic cameras for $200 CDN. This is great because you can still carry it around with ease and grab an object within 50 feet with ease. If I may say so, it sounds perfect for concerts. There are some that are not so thin because they use AA batteries. I repeat, STAY AWAY! This will not be repeated again, I promise. In all honesty, the main difference between here and the basic camera is that zoom cameras have more range as compared to basic cameras because size can be very comparable.


Canon SX500is
I call this set the biggies because they are bigger than the other two categories. These cameras generally start with 26x optical zoom and have many features to play with. You can change lighting, shutter speed and a lot more functions. This type of camera is recommended for the family. Why? Because they are a lot better for sports, distance and can do higher end video recordings. The issue is that they are bulky and do not fit in pockets. However, if you have a big purse you can probably fit them in there. These cameras do take better pictures then the smaller cameras. Once you learn how to master this, it is on to the professional grade cameras, Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR).

All-in-all, I would recommend you go with a zoom camera. They are small, compact and have a decent zoom for the price. They are more than the basic ones, but not that much. So here we go, the cameras I would recommend you purchase this summer season. I picked these three for the following reasons:
  • One from each category
  • Lithium batteries
  • They all use an SD memory card
  • The lens quality is what makes the picture and they have great lenses

My recommendations:

  1. The basics – Sony Cyber-shot 14.1 MP DSCW610
  2. The zoom – Nikon COOLPIX 16MP S9300
  3. Biggies – Canon PowerShot 16MP SX500IS

Before you go, I think you need to know why you don’t need a new camera. If you camera is a few years old and is over 8 MP, then you can already print up to 8x10 inch pictures. If you really desire the HD video recording then I understand. If your images are getting “dirty,” purchase a camera cleaning kit from a retail outlet because you probably haven’t cleaned it before. Now go on out and have fun. Don’t forget to price match if you can!