Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome, TiVo!

Okay, so the FiOS picture is indeed great. And no real concerns with the internet yet though I'm still tweaking the wireless stuff. But as feared the Verizon DVR software, well, SUCKS! No nice way to put it. Still, it's functional, and since TiVo reportedly has a lot of problems working with Verizon cable boxes it still is the way to go, no matter how painful and limiting it is compared to TiVo.

The other thing I used my TiVo for was for streaming home media... I could, through my TiVo and some agent software on my PC, listen to all of my music (I've ripped all of my CDs onto a PC in my basement) and view all of our photos (on that same PC) through my living room TV and stereo. Sweet.

I hesitated on switching to Verizon since I didn't want to lose this functionality, but they offer it as well (at extra cost), so that led to me finally deciding to make the leap.

So yeah, the Verizon DVR software sucks, but functions. But their home media option... oh my freaking word, it's worthless!

TiVo simply "publishes" the folders on your PC you select, just presents them as if they were shared Windows files on a network, leaving your own file hierarchy intact. So I know where everything is, as it's organized the way I organized it on my PC.

Verizon is like so many of the newer MP3 players... it's helpful. In the worst possible way! It scans every file within the folder(s) I specify, and then it sorts them by artist, album, genre or folder. But not any combination of those categories! So, I spent five minutes trying to find a Blues Brothers song, and failed. Let's see, I've got roughly 6500 songs... 600-700 albums, 400-500 artists... 35 genres. Looking in each of those categories it's still almost impossible to find a particular song. I can't look under "Blues Brothers" and see the Blues Brothers albums... I only see every song with the artist tag "Blues Brothers". But based on the id3 tag, not on where the file was found... so I have songs from the same Blues Bros album that will show up under different artists... such as James Brown or Aretha Franklin. Ugh!

So I had to find another way. I started looking at other media server options... D-Link makes one, for instance, though it gets mixed reviews. Then I realized that hey, I have a perfectly good media server box right here, my old TiVo! Sure, I gotta pay for service again ($13/mo), but then again I don't have to buy any new hardware and I know it does exactly what I want. Plus, I'll be saving almost that same amount by canceling Verizon's home media service.

So today I renewed my TiVo service. No, I'm not canelling FiOS, other than their home media option. I won't even have a cable signal going into the TiVo box! But now I can again find any song I'm looking for in seconds. View my photos just as easily. And as a bonus I can still use a lot of TiVo's other unique features... as I type this, for instance, we're listening to NPR's "Science Friday" podcast streamed through TiVo. It's also busily downloading video podcast shows that we can watch.

God Love TiVo!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

TiVo, Adieu....

Just made a very tough phone call, when I called to cancel my TiVo service. I've been a loyal TiVo-ist for about 6 years now, but today we made the move from Comcast cable to Verizon FiOS (following in the footsteps of my friend Dog Rat!). The switch was fairly painless (despite a one-day delay in the scheduled installation), and as there have been a lot of reported problems with TiVo users hooked up to FiOS so, since my TiVo box was very old anyway, I decided to just cut the cord and go with Verizon's own DVR instead. We'll see how that goes... my very, very early impressions are that the DVR will certainly be "good enough", though I've already found it more clunky than TiVo. And one of my most-used TiVo features was the ability to view photos and listen to music from my PC. Verizon has this but it looks vastly inferior... sigh! But we'll see as I get more used to it.

At first glance picture quality does look much much better, though I haven't spent any real time with it yet... ask me again after the weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Some Blues, and Catching Up....

I had quite the post-vacation crash last month, and haven't been keeping up with the blogging thing. So some quick notes just to catch up a bit... I'll have a couple of different posts here in rapid (but "correctly" reverse-chronological order) succession.

Most recently first, Buster and I put on the Blues suits (well, the concert-going version, no ties or hats!) this past weekend to see B.B. King again in Lowell, MA Saturday night. As many times as I've seen B.B. over the past 25 years these were about the best seats I think I've ever had, fourth row center, courtesy of early ticket sales through the B.B. King Fan Club. We had a great time. Buster wasn't sure he wanted to go again, he enjoyed seeing B last year in Springfield but three hours in a concert is still a lot for a ten-year-old. But he ended up going and enjoyed it much more than he'd expected.

A few other photos from the show are here.

The highlight was when Buster went up towards the stage to take a couple of pictures of B (that alas came out a bit blurry as they were without flash and we're still getting used to the new camera)... as he walked up B saw him, stopped playing for a moment and tossed Buster his guitar pick! The pick itself, a personalized BB pick, isn't that unusual as he tosses them out to the crowd by the handful after the show, but this one was personally tossed right to Buster and during the performance. very nice!

And also very nice: when deciding what to do with it Buster decided he would like it if I used the pick when playing my guitar... as long as we were both clear that it was still his pick! Ah, gotta love it! So yup, I'm using it now to practice.

What, you didn't know I played guitar? Well, saying I play guitar is at the least a gross exaggeration, but yeah, I've been trying to teach myself a bit and indeed, just two weeks ago I bought myself a "real" guitar instead of the $90 beginner's rig I've been messing around with. The new one was still under $200 but I'm mighty happy with it, a similar style to B.B's own "Lucille", though a much cheaper manufacturer of course... An Oscar Schmidt/Washburn OE30 "Delta King". But sounds and plays much better than my first one, a much cooler sound and of course doesn't hurt that it's pretty!

Lastly, though the pictures of the BB concert were pretty blurry, I did at least get a decent (if brief, about a minute) video clip from the show!

Old Marines (Don't) Fade Away....

The last weekend of October I journeyed to Missouri to attend my brother Jake's retirement from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service. I was there when he graduated as a raw recruit from Parris Island in 1987 so it was pretty emotional to be there for this. (And apart from Jake himself, I was the only one both at graduation and retirement!) It was an honor to attend, and a challenge... Jake's wife flew me out as a surprise for this, as Jake thought none of his friends or family would be able to attend. (And he was pretty pissy about that, too!) Made for an interesting couple of months of not mentioning this to him, as his wife and I started plotting on this even before our Chicago trip back in August!

But we pulled it off... his family picked me up at the airport Thursday afternoon while Hosehead... uh, Jake... was still at work. When he got home that evening, I was nowhere to be seen, hiding out in the back yard. (Damn it though, why'd it have to be rainy and in the mid-40s?) After he's been home for about 10 minutes and they were getting ready for dinner, I planted myself outside their kitchen door and started blowing harp, quietly at first and then louder. Only took a minute or two before he opened the door... "...I don't know what that is... ELWOOD?!!!!" It was beauty, eh?!

The retirement ceremony (and follow-up party) were Friday, then Saturday was a day to hang out, mostly riding around in Jake's car, "Christine", a '75 Plymouth Fury (sister to the Dodge Monaco Bluesmobile we used to have). It was during this drive, incidentally, that we stopped by Jake's local music shop where he introduced me to the guy he recently started taking guitar lessons from, and showed me the guitar HE was considering buying... the exact same model Delta King I ended up buying! No coincidence, as I got a chance to play his blue one for a few minutes and we both agreed if he got that one, it'd be cool if I could find a black one for myself! When only days later I came across one on eBay at a great price it seemed like karma, though I still thought about it for a week before finally jumping in. (And yes, he ended up buying his as well!)

Now, if only one or the other of us can actually learn enough to really play these things!

Here's more photos from the trip:

Oh, I do still play the harp though and that's certainly still more to my style. Here's a brief video Buster took (unbeknownst to me at the time!) while I was on the phone with Jake one night about a week after my MO trip.

Sox Win!

And lastly in this series of catch-up posts.... RED SOX WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!

It sure was different this time than that amazing sensation in 2004 when we broke The Curse. Not only was the 86 years of pent-up frustration (okay, for me personally maybe only 20 years at the time!), but I wasn't actually able to see a lot of the Series this year since it coincided with my trip to Missouri. I saw all of the first game but only pieces of the others, and indeed the clinching Game 4 was played largely while I was in the air on my way home that Sunday night. I did walk in my front door in time though, around the middle of the 8th inning, to see the end and the celebrations. Wow!! And with so many of our key players returning next year (word just came out this afternoon that Mike Lowell has also now agreed to a new deal with the Sox), and some amazing young players coming into their own (see Misters Pedroia, Ellsbury and Youkilis, along with Papelbon, Lester and Buccholz, not necessarily in that order), it should be fun to be a Red Sox fan for many years to come!