Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Online episodes on big screen TV

As discussed here there are plenty of online content available for canadians for free. Long story short - every station that broadcasts signal over the air in Canada can (and they do!) have latest episodes of TV shows online. Free and Legal! Just a couple of examples:

And bunch more.

Go to the website, pick your show, episode and here we go. It's on your computer screen. But as it goes to watching this online content on your flat screen TV we had a problem. It's really tricky to get it to the TV screen, unless you physically bring your laptop to the TV, run the cable etc. Media Centre PC the called it.

Until recently. Now you can broadcast everything you watch on PC to your TV without any wires.

You'll need two things - Google Chromecast. Little dongle you stuck at the HDMI port of your TV. CAD $39 at the time of writing or US $29.99 for these south of the border.

Chrome cast out of the box would get you going with Netflix and Youtube, but to watch online content from these TV stations you'll need one more thing. Most if not all of these stations would ban you from watching their series on your mobile device unless you install their own app. And that app is not Chromecast friendly.

The solution - Google Cast. The Chrome browser extension that would let you to broadcast any content you have in your browser to the Chromecast.

After installing Google Cast you'll see the "cast" icon in your chrome browser.

Select your episode, turn on casting, maximize player window and off you go! Your TV show is on your big TV, broadcasted right from your computer.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DIY Home Theatre for under $200 dollars

We are planning a party with a bunch of kids and adults. While adults enjoying their drinks and conversations in the living room - kids need to be entertained in the basement. How? Bring TV down to the basement?.. hire an entertainer?

There is a better way - Big Screen Movies! DIY Home Theatre.

You would need a projector, screen itself, unless you already have unobstructed white wall to project to and some way to push video signal to the projector.

So, here is my setup...

In my basement walls are not exactly white and with support columns here and there I do need a screen. 66x110 inch white blackout cloth. $39.95 . 66x110 it's like 130 inch diagonal screen. That's like adult human height screen!!!


Yes, you can buy projector for under hundred bucks! It might not be perfect for your next business presentation, but for kids watching cartoons - more than enough. I got mine for $89.99. It has build - in speakers that might be good enough for couple of kids, but if you hosting a big group you better get external speakers. I dusted off my old computer speakers - worked just fine.

And finally - Chromecast . That little dongle sticking out of the projector is the Google Chromecast. Currently retails for $31.59. No wires, plug it directly to HDMI slot of the projector, USB slot for power, select Netflix or [add your favourite online media provider here] movie from your phone, click the cast button and off you go!

Do the math - little over $160 dollars gives you remote controlled home theatre and bunch of happy kids and parents. Want to save few bucks - use white wall instead of projector and DVD player or your laptop as a signal source.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sony PlayStation Store vs. iTunes in Canada

With Hulu not rushing into Canadian market seems like we have two major news in online movies and TV shows availability for canadians.

Sony finally launched Movies section in PlayStation Store for Canadians on July 1st 2010.

Yes, now you can buy and rent movies and tv shows right from your game console.

Prior to that the only options to buy and rent movies purely online (without waiting for DVD arriving at your mailbox from was Apple iTunes.

That's a pleasant July 1st surprise. Unpleasant one - both iTunes and Sony now charge HST for movies, bought/rented online.

Here we compared prices and offerings from both iTunes Canada and Canadian PlayStation Store.

iTunesPlayStation Store
Movies (new releases) buy:
$19.99 SD
$24.99 HD
Movies (new releases) rent:
$3.99 SD
$4.99 HD
TV Series (new releases)
buy per episode:
$2.49 SD
$3.49 HD

Green Zone and Breaking Bad are posing as "new release" here.

For oldies, prices on both iTunes and PS Store are the same - $3.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy. $1.99 seems to be universally acceptable price for older episode of TV series.

So, first of all - there seems to be less HD movies on iTunes. There are some, but out of the box just few popping up. While PS Store makes a big accent on HD content.

Second - renting new releases are cheper to rent from Sony. One dollar less or HD version for the price of SD at iTunes.

Where iTunes beats PlayStation is variety and special offers. Way more content available from iTunes and there are some special deals like $0.99 rentals weekly, special price on selected titles, free episodes etc.

More content for consumers and competition is good. Hooray!!! Sony for that... Now the next big thing to watch - Netflix streaming service is coming to Canada this fall. 2010. If they would follow US model here in Great White - you'll be able to get access to unlimited movies and TV series for low flat subscription fee. It's $8.99/month in US. How much it would be up here? Can't tell... Any insight would be appreciated.

Another good thing about Netflix - PS3, XBox, iPhone, iPad and even Wii could be your Netflix box. Can't wait, can't wait!!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Real IPad

I visited customer in Vancouver yesterday. While working with them I overheard the conversation about few guys there working on "iPad integration"...

Knowing couple of guys there being an Apple geeks wasn't that surprising at all... Having piece of software working on Apple's latest gadget is cool.

To my large surprise - they were doing integration with "the real thing" MagTek IPad card reader device.

I'm wonering now if and how Apple and MagTek would settle "IPad" trademark dispute.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CityTV - major update to Video site

As of January 2010 CityTV Video site went through major upgrade and now full episodes for dozens of shows, including 30 Rock, Mercy, Cougar Town, Murdoch Mysteries, Trauma, Supernanny, The Biggest Loser and others are available online in Canada.

Ugly Betty is still there for sure.

Check out list of other Hulu alternatives in Canada


Monday, January 18, 2010

Problem 2016 hits Canadian Gas Station

I took my car to the wash today and while waiting in line - stared at the receipt with the car wash code. You know, these fully automatic, touch-less carwash where the only touching one has to do is to key in the “wash code” from the receipt at the washing chamber entrance.

The expiry date for the ticket 16/07/16!!! Well… maybe it’s a SUNCO policy to sell car wash tickets with 6.5 years expiry, but extremely unlikely. 16th month? Well… that may be explained by the fact that DD/MM/YY date format is OK in Canada (not in the US)...

Bug 2016 aka y2k16 was previously reported in Aussie POS and Cell phone operations (Windows Mobile users received SMS messages dated year 2016).

Now we have it at Canadian Gas Station.

Either case does not have the official explanation yet, but most probable one – some “smart” developer just arbitrary converted HEX number into Decimal and back as a string. Literally taking last two characters of the number and stuffing them into another format.

Hex 0x01 is 01 in decimal
Hex 0x09 is 09 in decimal
Hex 0x10 is 16, not 10 in decimal.

So if you’ll try to convert years 00..09 – it works just fine, but fails miserably with year 10, translating it into 16!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rogers on Demand - Canadian Hulu?

Clearly not now. And unlikely in the future.

But anyway - one more source of online TV for [at least some] Canadians. Just launched this week (first week of December 2009) at the moment hosts few dozens of TV shows and movies.

There are couple of gotchas. First of all you have to be existing paying Rogers customer. To create an account you first should authenticate yourself either by using Rogers Cable Modem (I suppose they just detect your IP address or something), via SMS over Rogers cellphone or presenting your rogers account #. If you are not subscribed to any Rogers services - you are out of luck. No Rogers on demand for you.

Gotcha #2 - even if you are the Rogers customer, you can not access all the shows. For any shows that require subscription to "speciality channel" you'll be offered - yes, to subscribe to that channel. See that "lock" icon on the screenshot? Yes that's restricted channel.

Gotcha #3 - # of the programs available online. Not really a lot. Other non-restricted canadian hulu alternatives do provide more programming online than Rogers. Though - here I'll give Rogers benefit of the doubt - they just went to beta stage and promise to make more programming available soon. Will see...

As far as picture quality goes - good enough. Can't find any HD content there, but for SD - no complains.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

DIY Beer Can TV Antenna - How To Improve Antenna Signal

I've been playing with my Beer Can TV Antenna for a while and upgraded my TV to full featured 1080i HDTV model since original post in 2008.

Read orifinal post on Beer Can TV Antenna for details - but in few words - beer can antenna is made of two beer can halfes, connected to TV cable. One half to inner core of the cable and another to the outer sheilding.

There are two simple improvements that would boost your diy antenna signal receprion:
- Reflector
- Location, Location, Location

As for location - if direction is right (beer can halfes are perpendicular to TV tower) the rest is - the higher - the better

Reflector - just an arbitrary piece of metal, placed right besides the antenna (3-5 inches). If you have indoor antenna - you can try to put sheet of aluminum foil there. The important thing is to avoid electrical contact between a reflector and antenna. Do not use any metal to hold them together. In a picture below I'm using cardboard to separate antenna and reflector, and antenna is mounted on a stair's rail.

Foil is good for Proof Of Concept excersize, just to convince yourself that with reflector receprion is better than without one. You may go for something more robust like dish drainer from the dollar store.

Depending on the type of the dish drainer you may use it as is, or assemble final reflector from two draines, by connecting them (with guess what - beer cans and ductape!!!) so they form about 30 degrees angle.

Place beer can antenna inside the reflector, 3-5 inches from reflecctor, affix it together using some non-metal material as a base (card board, plastic bottle, plastic cookie box in my case.

Hang it as high as possible and enjoy your improved free OTA HDTV.

From Newmarket Ontario I was able to get 5 HDTV channels with antenna without reflector and up to 14 with one, equipped with dish-drainer reflector and hanged right below the roof.

Warning: youy should never place antenna outdoors without proper surge protection due to hazards, associated with lightning.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hulu in Canada - update

Apparently Hulu figured out how to block HotSpot Shield users from accessing Hulu from Canada.

So we now have no choice, but to use legal Hulu alternatives in Canada from CBC, Global, CTV and others.

Couple to additions to the list:

  • CTV launched beta version of HD Video site Only Flash Point and Corner Gas are there so far.

  • YouTube now hosts full-length movies without any restrictions for Canada. Most if not all these movies are pretty old, but anyway - I glad to see some developments there.

  • Another thing to check out - Not sure if and how to take it from the legality standpoint, but there is bunch of interesting stuff out there.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Free calls to Canada/US with Google and Skype

    Or how to make free calls to US and Canadian businesses from anywhere in the world.

    Recently Google introduced Goog411 service - free telephone business directory. From anywhere in US or Canada you can call 1 800 GOOG411 (1-800-466-4411), name province/state and town and then name of the business you want to reach.

    Here is how dialog normally looks like:
    Google: Call is recorded. What city and province?
    You: Newmarket, Ontario
    Google: Say business name or category
    You: Southlake Hospital
    Google: Top three related results... (speaks out three top matches)
    You: One
    Google: I'll connect you.

    Bingo!!! You dialed toll free 800 number and as the result you are connected to the phone # that normally would be a long-distance call.

    Obviously works for businesses only but anyway - cool freebie, eh?

    Normally you can not call 800 number from outside US or Canada. But that is not true for Skype. Even with free Skype account you can call 1 800 numbers. So, you can call GOOG411 from free Skype account from anywhere in the world! Just dial 1 800 GOOG411 using Skype, speak (or type) you state, town and business of interest and get connected to US or Canadian phone number free of charge. From anywhere in the world!

    If you have Skype installed just click on the following link to start a call to GOOG411:
    Call GOOG411 using Skype

    So, you can call any US or Canadian business phone # from anywhere in the world, using Skype and Google.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    No HULU in Canada? Try Joost!

    Tried to find some compliments for Hulu Canada post, looking at websites of canadian TV broadcasters... Found some limited content available from E! Canada and A Channel

    Thanks to their iPhone application, I discovered the perfect free and legal TV content source for Canada -

    Joost, like Hulu, would limit content canadians can watch, but unlike hulu - joost would allow some shows to be watched in canada online right now.

    Among the TV programming available to Canadians via Joost online you'll find canadian-created comedy like: Chilly Beach and The Red Green Show. Whole set of National Geographic programming, classic western and horror movies and much much more.

    My favorite so far - Australian Food TV - full episodes of australian cooking show. So entertaining Australian accent, eh?

    Hulu, watch out!

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    No HULU in Canada? No problem! - the internet superhit of last year, delivering tonns of TV programming on-demand online to your PC is not avaliable in Canada. Not yet. The official version is there is legal paperwork to be done in order to "clear" the content for distribution in Canada.

    Anyway - whatever real reason is - no hulu for canadians as of january 2009.

    However - you still can whatch a lot of your favorite TV shows on your computer here in Canada. Legally. Yes, there are couple of tricks you can play to full so it would think you are whatching it in US, services like - we are not discussing these here. All below is 100% clear TV content available over internet in Canada.

    What hulu can't or not willing to do - Canadian TV broadcasters can and willing to. Publishing full episodes of TV shows online. CTV, CBC, Global - they all are making their shows avaliable to watch over internet.

    - The Border
    - Little Mosque On The Prairie
    - Sophie
    - Coronation street
    See all the shows avaliable online at CBC Television website Each show has it's owm site with videos to watch.

    CTV Video page if you'll figure out the navigation part - tonns of shows are there including South Park, Corner Gas, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Desperate Housewives, ER, Grey's Anatomy and much more. Best content, but tricky UI.

    Global Full Episodes Page Features House, 24 and few others like Family Guy and Prison Break... Though, for some show it may display just "episodes coming soon". The only nasty think about Global's online videos - there is no way to get them to real full-screen. You have two options "small window" and "larger window". No full-screen...

    City TV
    No joy there. Just couple of episodes of Ugly Betty and Priveledged As of January 2010 CityTV Video site went through major upgrade and now features tons of shows, including 30 Rock, Mercy, Cougar Town, Murdoch Mysteries, Trauma, Supernanny and others.

    And don't forget about Antenna. You can whatch all of these broadcasters for free over the air. Super-Bowl weekend is here. Sunday February 1st, 6:20 PM ET. CTV would broadcast game in Canada, NBC in US. All you need to get it for free - DIY TV Antenna.

    Update: Sep 11, 2009 - For Kids
    TVO KIds hosts full versions of Arthur, Little Princess, Miss BG, Mighty Machines and many other shows here...

    TreehouseTV finally get some rather limited set of full episodes online here....

    Update: Feb 15th 2009 E! Video Page has few shows like Knight Rider, Secret Millionaire, Deal Or No Deal, 5th Grader and some more. A Channel hosts Last and Private Practice (also available at CTV)

    Update: Dec 1st 2009 Rogers Just launched - promising video-on-demand project, but for Rogers' subscribers only.

    Update: Jan. 19, 2010 Major update on CityTV website.

    Update: Nov. 18, 2010 video site features video od series like Weeds, Trailer Park Boys, Rent a Goalie ant others.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    HD-TV Antenna. Free HD-TV - $34.99

    Tonight I walked down College street near Spadina and came across hardware store, advertising "Free HD-TV". Obviously selling TV antennas for $35. Store owner also made The Smart Thing indeed posted list of HDTV channels you can receive in Toronto on this antenna.

    Not sure if his list is accurate, but here is what the guy advertised:

    CityTV - channel 57
    OMNI1 - channel 47
    Global - channel 41
    CBC - channel 5
    SunTV - channel 52
    CTV - channel 9
    PBS - channel 17

    Hmm... there is surely CBC in French there which is not listed here.

    The last one (PBS) is US channel from Buffalo, NY. Not sure why only one US channel made this list. If you'll make an effort you probably can get 15-20 HDTV channels from US from Toronto. The challenge would be an antenna orientation since direction to CN Tower and to Buffalo antennas may not be the same if you live east or west of downtown Toronto.

    Earlier this year blogger inne posted in LiveJournal Toronto community list of HDTV stations she can receive from Toronto:

    4.1 WIVB HD (CBS)
    5.1 CBLT HD (CBC)
    7.1 WKBW HD (ABC)
    7.2 WNGS SD (RTN 11)
    9.1 CFTO HD (CTV)
    23.1 WNLO HD (CW 23 BUFFALO)
    25.1 CBLFT HD (CBC FR)
    29.1 WUTV HD (FOX)
    29.2 WUTV SD (FOX)
    36.1 CTS HD
    43.1 WNED HD
    43.2 WNED SD
    43.3 WNED TH
    43.4 WNED TH
    49.1 WNYO HD ("MY TV" BUFFALO)(previously affiliated with WB)
    49.2 WNYO SD ("MY TV" BUFFALO)
    57.1 CITY TV HD
    66.1 CKXT HD (SUN TV)

    Anyway - you may spend $35 for "HD-TV Antenna" or make TV antenna from a beer can - the free signal is out there, go, grab it!

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    OTA HDTV channels Madison, WI

    Went to Madison, WI recently and got the following list of HDTV channels with beer pop can antenna. Yes, I din't have a beer can in my hotel room, but managed to grab two coke cans, so attached a can to each end of matching transformer and got myself a good old dipole antenna.

    Here is the list of OTA DTV channels I got, along with bunch of analogue channels, which you shouldn't probably care about anyway due to Analog TV shutdown in States in February 2009:


    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Energy consumption of a cable box

    Or another reason to dislike your cable company

    Abstract: Cable TV box apperently responcible for 1% of my entire household energy consumption.

    I recently bought Energy Meter - the device you can plug between electrical/hydro outlet and your appliances and it shows you exactly how much power this or that device/appliance consumes. Not that I'm too concerned about my hydro bill, I'm paying about $100/month for a big house with 6 people living in. Wouldn't call it a unreasonable bill.

    So it's more about curiosity. Tried simple things - my laptop - 50 Watts. Desktop lamp with Energy efficient bulb – 9 Watt. Microwave Oven 1475 Watts!!! Scary, but you run it few minutes a day. TV – 50-70 Watts depending on volume level.

    How does all that translates into the electricity bill I got at the end of the month? Relatively simple. What you pay for is kWh – or Kilo Watt Hour. Kilo stands for one thousand, so you need to run an appliance, consuming one watt of energy an hour for 1000 hours to consume 1 kWh. Now in Ontario, where I live, consumer pays about 10 cents a kWh. Let’s calculate, amount of energy that would consume energy efficient bulb running 24/7 for a whole month:

    9 Watt * 24 (number of hours in the day) * 30 (number of days in the month) / 1000 = 6.48 kWh.

    So, giving the price of energy about 10 cents per kWh – you’ll pay about 65 cents at the end of the month.

    Rule of thumb – every 10 Watts of energy you consume on ongoing basis cost you 70 cents a month.

    If you’ll do the same calculations for microwave oven – replace 9 with 1475 and you’ll get 1062 kWh or $106 hydro bill. For sure you are not running you microwave 24/7, normally it sits idle and consumes only fraction of watt of energy, enough to light up electronic clock on a control panel. Let’s say you run microwave only 10 minutes a day:

    1475 Watt/60 (minutes in the hour) * 10 (minutes a day) * 30 (days in the month) / 1000 = 7.375 kWh or 74 cents a month.

    With very few exceptions like refrigerator or electric water heater your electronics and appliances do not consume a lot of energy on ongoing basis. But a lot of them are guilty in what is called idle energy consumption.

    Idle Energy Consumption

    TV, waiting for a wake-up signal from a remote control. Microwave oven, radio clock, wireless telephone base – they all consume a little, but, unlike light bulb or microwave oven warming your milk - they consume this idle energy 24/7. And this 24/7 can add up.
    So I’ve tried few of my home electronics and appliances for this idle energy. TV and microwave did great. Energy Meter was just unable to catch any activity unless you let it run for at least half an hour. Wireless telephone 3 Watts. Well probably it have to listen all the time for a phone to wake up.

    What really surprised me was my Rogers cable box. It consumes 15 watts than up and running and 12-14 while idle. Do the math we did above for a light bulb, you'll get 86 cents a month just for idling cable box. Sounds not that much, but at the same time it’s almost 1% of my total monthly bill!!!

    There is this black thing, doing nothing most of the day and still responsible for 1% of my entire house’s energy needs. Looks really wired! You may try to think of it another way – every 100 Roger’s customers without their knowledge consume electricity enough to keep single household up and running. Just because this Rogers box is there.

    Take a look here for details on Energy Meter: In Kingston, ON you can actually borrow Energy Meter for free in a local library! Such a great idea.