Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's Official: Moxi DVR is Dead

I've been expecting this news for some time now, but I went to the Moxi web site tonight to be greeted by the following:

The Moxi HD DVR and Moxi Mate are no longer available for purchase. Program guide data and technial support for the Moxi HD DVR will be available until December 31, 2013.

Hell's bells. Such a nice setup but I knew they wouldn't be around forever.

My reason for going to the site tonight is because I think the hard drive in mine is starting to die and I was going to poke around to see what's involved with replacing the drive. I guess I still have nearly two years of life in the thing if I can get the hard drive replaced.

But, this is timely also because maybe it's the push I need to get off cable anyway. Particularly with the latest announcement from Amazon of their content agreement with Viacom (and more to come, I'm sure), do I need cable? I have Netflix, Hulu Plus, PlayOn and PlayLater, computers galore, Roku ... is the DVR as we know it finally irrelevant?

Well Moxi it's been a pleasure knowing you. If my hard drive holds out or if I can get a new one put in there, I guess I have about 22 months to get this figured out. Clock's ticking.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Automatically Backing Up Directories From Windows to a Pogoplug

Since this was more confusing than it should be I thought I'd throw this out into the wild in the hopes others in this situation will come across it in their searches.

If you have a Pogoplug (and if you don't, get one! they're awesome!) you may find yourself wanting to back up specific directories on a Windows machine to your Pogoplug. Note that on Linux you can of course connect to the Pogoplug and use whatever Linux scripts/tools you want to back stuff up (rsync being my tool of choice), but since Pogoplug does have a native Windows Pogplug Uploader tool you can use that to get this all going pretty easily on Windows.

The only tricks here are figuring out the Pogoplug terminology and then figuring out how to configure things. Nothing against Pogoplug since I know they're trying to make a buck, but by default everything you do either in the browser-based tool or in the Windows application will drive you towards using Pogoplug's cloud space as your backup. This is a perfectly valid option, and gives you the added security of having an off-site backup.

For the Windows machine in question, however, I'm already backing it up off-site using Spideroak, so all I really wanted was a way to make sure every file that gets put into the Documents directory (meaning music, photos, etc.) also makes it over to the Pogoplug. This is both as a "local" (meaning in my house) backup as well as so the music and photos can be streamed from other devices.

The first thing you need to know is "backup" in Pogoplug terminology means backing up from the Pogoplug device's drive to the Pogoplug cloud. To put it another way, you cannot (at least from what I can tell) back things up from your local machine to the Pogoplug device via the "backup" section in the browser-based tool. Also note that if backing up from the Pogoplug to their cloud is something you do want to do, you have to do that through the browser-based tool since backup options are not available in the Pogoplug Uploader that runs on Windows.

What we're looking to do here in Pogoplug terminology is sync, not backup. Makes perfect sense when you think about it. Sync options are available only in the Windows (and Mac probably)-based tools, not in the browser interface.

Let's set this up.

First, open the Pogoplug Uploader on Windows. In the top menu you'll see a "sync" button. Click that.

At the bottom of that screen there's a + button which lets you add local folders you want to sync. Click the + button and choose a local folder to sync.

You'll then see that by default the destination directory on the Pogoplug will be the root of the drive attached to your Pogoplug. If you want to sync to another location on the Pogoplug's drive, simply click the "change" link next to the destination location. This will give you the option to choose another destination on the Pogoplug drive, or you can also sync directly to the Pogoplug cloud.

Hope others find this helpful!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

HP Pavilion dv7t

After my rant about Lenovo I figured I should follow up with a brief post about what I bought to replace it, which is an HP Pavilion dv7t. Overall I'm very impressed--it's a really nice laptop for the money and lightyears better than the Lenovo G770.

If you don't feel like reading my Lenovo rant, bottom line is the G770 I bought was very crashy and Lenovo wanted another $179 to fix a brand-new computer that hadn't ever worked well.

Rather than fund Lenovo's nonsense I decided to spend that additional money on a different computer and I'm very glad I did. Since Costco has an awesome 90-day return policy on computers I ordered the HP (also from Costco--they had a good deal and in addition to the great return policy they extend the manufacturer's warranty by 2 full years) before returning the Lenovo, so I had the HP and Lenovo side by side while I reinstalled all my software and transferred files.

The HP is built so much better than the Lenovo it's not even funny. The Lenovo is all really cheap plastic, whereas the HP is mostly metal. The screen on the Lenovo is really crappy (washed out and grainy), while the HP has a nice, crisp, bright screen. The keyboard on the Lenovo felt really cheap, but the HP is very solid to type on. Even the touchpad works much better on the HP; the one on the Lenovo was jumpy and sometimes non-responsive.

To put this in perspective, the Lenovo before tax was $650, and the HP was $799 (the HP was on a $200 off deal at Costco right after the first of the year). And remember that to get the G770 working I would have had to pay Lenovo another $179, and that would have bumped the price of the Lenovo up to about $30 higher than the HP.

To be fair, here's what the Lenovo had that the HP is missing:

  • Blu-Ray (don't really care, but I do have an external Blu-Ray drive anyway)
  • Bluetooth (solved with a $20 micro Bluetooth USB adapter)

And here's what the HP has over the Lenovo:

  • It works without costing me another $179
  • Screen, keyboard, and general build quality are vastly superior
  • i7 processor instead of i5
  • Better graphics card
  • This "beats audio" stuff that's in the HP actually DOES sound damn good. It's not all marketing hype. I use external speakers anyway but the built-in stuff sounds pretty amazing for a laptop on its own. There's a nice little speaker bar above the keyboard and cut-outs for bass on the bottom of the machine.
  • Fingerprint reader (meh, doesn't matter to me, but hey it's a feature the Lenovo didn't have ...)
  • It works (bears repeating)

My only complaint with the HP thus far is the fan is pretty loud when it decides to kick into high gear, but I haven't looked into whether or not that's a configurable thing. They do have some "cool sense" thing that may need some tweaking. When the fan's not running the machine is nice and quiet.

So there you have it, for $149 more I got a much, much nicer machine and I don't have to pay extra to get it working.

I still prefer System76 for my higher-end machines but for a budget laptop I'm quite pleased with this HP, and would never, ever recommend anyone buy anything from Lenovo. Their low-end laptops are pure crap whereas the lower-end HPs, if this one is any indication, are still of very high quality. Inexpensive without being cheap.

Lastly, kudos to Costco for having such a great return policy. Lenovo wouldn't take the G770 back because I was past the 21 day return policy even though the machine never did work right. Costco lets you return for any reason for 90 days, which saved my bacon because otherwise I would have been stuck with the junky Lenovo. (My only regret is running the thing over with my car and subsequently setting it on fire would have made for a fun and very cathartic YouTube video.)

Good riddance Lenovo. Never again.