Philips Sound Bar (CSS2123)

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In additional to a new Blu-ray player, last weekend I also purchased a Philips Sound Bar (CSS2123) for our living room HDTV. The speakers included with the 32″ HDTV are OK. They’re not the worst. The ones in my smaller HDTVs are so bad they must be connected to external speakers to be tolerable.

Still, we like to watch movies in the living room. I didn’t want to deal with full-surround sound. That would require a heavier investment of money and space. Instead, I decided to add a relatively inexpensive sound bar.

Audiophiles may not care for this set but we both have enjoyed it. Music, movies, and television sound really good though movies that I have ripped from DVD to an Apple TV format do not (This was done using Handbrake. I’m not sure why – the quality may have not been good before but it’s only become apparent with the use of better speakers – my next test is to rip to a slightly different format or to try movies purchased through iTunes).

The set cost $99 at Wal-Mart. It includes the sound bar itself, a wired sub-woofer, and a remote. During the first movie that we watched I had to turn the sub-woofer down. It was actually much deeper than I was expecting and I didn’t want to annoy any of our neighbors.

I haven’t experienced any major problems though when I tried to use a coaxial digital connection only the sound effects from the Apple TV came through. None of the audio for Netflix, or from our Tivo, worked. I suspect this has more to do with the different audio formats (stereo versus true surround) and for now I only have it connected to the TV via the headphone jack, which is split out to RCA adapters that go into the sound bar inputs (stereo only).

Updated 05/22/2013: So far so good. We haven’t had any problems with the sound bar.

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Upgrading My White 2006 iMac Core Duo to a Core 2 Duo and Installing OS X Lion

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Not very long ago I added a post explaining why I didn’t think it would be worth upgrading the processor in my Core Duo iMac and also why I wasn’t in a hurry to upgrade to Lion. Well, as often happens, I wasn’t satisfied with those conclusions and eventually decided that the benefits outweighed the effort involved.

This post won’t include step-by-step instructions – just some general information and maybe a few tips. However, I do think it was indeed worth upgrading my iMac to be able to run Lion.

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iTunes: SD vs HD and Season Pass

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My wife has found a television series that she really enjoys watching. She started watching it before we cancelled our satellite television. Recently, I purchased the third season. She finished it so I looked up season four, which is currently airing and also available in iTunes.

I decided to go ahead and get her a season pass. When I first looked it up I was using my iPhone but when I went to actually purchase it I used iTunes on my iMac. I immediately noticed a huge difference in price. It seems that on the iPhone it had shown the SD price but in iTunes (desktop) it showed the HD price first.

I prefer HD content over SD when it’s at a reasonable price, but what iTunes considers to be SD seems much better than actual SD. In fact, I just don’t think it’s worth paying an additional $10 per season to get the HD version.

So I didn’t. And the SD version looks great on the Apple TV and my wife is enjoying the five episodes that have aired so far.

Monoprice 1800mAh Backup Battery Case for iPhone 4

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The Short Version: It’s worth exactly what you pay for it. If you really need a reliable, high-capacity battery case that’s worth the inconvenience of carrying a brick then I don’t recommend this case. Mine has sat unused on a shelf for months. I may just charge it up once a month for emergency use at home. It does a good job of maintaining a charge when unused for a long period of time but unfortunately I started having a problem with the case randomly stop charging and then restart, even when it was sitting on a flat surface. I suspect the dock connector is failing, which is similar to problems others have mentioned in product reviews for this device.

My iPhone 4 battery still works well but I have noticed that it doesn’t last quite as long as it used to, especially if I’m using it for power-hungry tasks such as playing a game or browsing the Web. I think I’ve treated the battery well by making it a habit to not leave it on the charger all night and instead only plug it in until it reaches 100%.

This week I started browsing iPhone battery cases. I perused the reviews for several, but I couldn’t make up my mind. The battery performance drop wasn’t enough to justify spending $60-$80.

At one point I jumped over to Monoprice.com and came across a backup battery case that had good reviews and only cost about $24. I went ahead and ordered one. It arrived today.

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Moving an iTunes Library from OS X to Windows

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This was done using OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), Windows 7 Professional, and iTunes 10 on both systems. It may work just fine on different versions of the operating systems and iTunes, but I don’t know for certain.

I wanted to move a copy of my rather large iTunes library from the Mac over to the Windows system, which is always on. While it’s easy to setup Home Sharing and then initiate an import of all music over the network, there doesn’t seem to be a way to sync the playlists. I may be mistaken, but I could have sworn that when I first enabled Home Sharing I was able to sync my entire library and playlists from an OS X 10.6 system over to another system running 10.5 (with both running the latest version of iTunes at the time).

Unfortunately, only the files synced with the Windows system. I couldn’t find an easy method for copying playlists that didn’t involve a third-party program.

I decided to take a more direct route and just copy my entire iTunes library manually. To do this I pushed a copy of everything within the iTunes folder to a network drive, deleted everything within the Music\iTunes folder under the Windows account, and then pasted a copy of my library into the Windows iTunes folder.

Note: This will only work if your media is stored within the iTunes folder. If you’ve always had have the option under Advanced to Copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to library then you may already be in good shape.

The next time I fired up iTunes in Windows I had my media and the playlists I had setup on the Mac. The only thing I had to change after copying was the name of the iTunes library – it had also copied that from the Mac.

The information and artwork for my movies transferred, but the movie files did not because they were not stored within the iTunes folder. This was expected and preferred – the ASUS hard drive isn’t large enough to also accommodate the movies (I may upgrade the drive in a few months so I can also store the movies there).

I haven’t used the library much but it appears to be working fine.

ASUS EeeBox PC (EB1006), Boxee and Netflix Experience (Unacceptable)

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I have three projects for the ASUS EeeBox PC that I have yet to spend much time on: speech recognition, text-to-speech, and serving media files as an HTPC. Tonight I finally spent a few minutes with Boxee. This was the first night that I attempted to play any kind of video using Boxee and in this case I only used the Netflix app. I have yet to try ripped DVDs or other video content in Boxee, iTunes, or XBMC.

The Netflix Boxee app didn’t perform well on my system. The audio didn’t sound great, though I had set Boxee to play audio through the HDMI connection but for some reason it only used the speakers. The video streaming was very bad. It was choppy and stuttered a lot.

It’s difficult to know whether the problem is the Boxee Netflix app, using Boxee itself, or simply the fact that the ASUS EeeBox PC just may not have enough horsepower. After all, the ASUS isn’t a high-end system and running additional software on it probably doesn’t help.

I’ll continue this experiment and post updates as I learn more. However, I may jump ahead to working with XBMC and go back to Boxee if I don’t like the results.

Updated 08/24/2011: I briefly tested Netflix Instant Watch from Internet Explorer on the ASUS EeeBox PC and it seemed to run fine. The streaming problem I experienced appears to be limited to Boxee or the Netflix plugin for Boxee. There may be other factors involved, but it’s unlikely I’ll spend any time in the immediate future to identify the specific problem.

“Installation Alert” for iTunes While Installing iOS SDK

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I ran into a problem while installing the iPhone SDK. A few minutes from the end the install paused and I was prompted with an “Installation Alert” informing me that iTunes needed to be closed before the install could proceed.

I closed iTunes but the prompt remained. Well, the install process had taken a long time so I didn’t want to quit and start over. The solution was simple.

I opened “Activity Monitor” and noticed that while iTunes wasn’t open the “iTunes Helper” process was still active. I shut down the process and a few seconds later the install of the SDK proceeded.