Harmony Remotes and Xbox 360 Power on Delays

by Kyle  

It appears that there can be a handshake issue between some receivers (like my Denon AVR-2311CI) and the Xbox 360 console (like my "Fat" 60GB Pro model). The issue occurs if the Xbox 360 is powered on too quickly after the receiver is powered on. This seems like a simple fix, but from what I've been reading online there isn't a clear solution to the problem of delaying the Xbox 360 power on.

Here is my solution.

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ProcessWatcher to handle XBMC issues and crashes

by Kyle  

I've been using XBMC for enjoying video and music on my TV, but have constantly encountered a bug where the video gets choppy if I've left XBMC open for too long. To help remedy the situation without needing a full PC restart or the aid of a keyboard, I've created a simple tool that will monitor the XBMC process (or any process for that matter) and restart it if it exits.

I call the tool ProcessWatcher and have decided to release it as a free download:

It does require that you have .NET Framework 4.0 installed:

Usage Instructions:

  1. Unzip the downloaded file to a convenient location (like C:\Tools\ProcessWatcher\).
  2. Create a new shortcut in Windows. Point the shortcut to the ProcessWatcher.exe file and name the shortcut whatever you'd like (I call mine "XBMC").
  3. Right-click on the newly created shortcut and choose "Properties."
  4. To the end of the "Target" field you will need to add the full path to the XBMC.exe file. On 32-bit systems this will likely be "C:\Program Files\XBMC\XBMC.exe" (Don't forget to include the quotes) and on 64-bit systems this will likely be "C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe" (Again, don't forget to include the quotes).
  5. Change the "Start in" field to match the path you found the XBMC.exe file in (For example C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\).
  6. Change the icon using the "Change Icon..." button to whatever you'd like (I used the XBMC icon).
  7. Click "OK" in the properties dialog and double-click the shortcut to launch XBMC via ProcessWatcher.

If at any point the XBMC.exe process exits (either intentionally or via a crash), the ProcessWatcher will count down and then restart the process. While ProcessWatcher is counting down, you can hit the enter key (if the window has focus) or click "Quit" to abort the countdown immediately and exit the application. If the countdown elapses, then XBMC will be started up again.

New Games Coming to Windows Phone 7

by Kyle  

In another small step toward its competitors, Windows Phone 7 will finally be able to play some of the most popular games on other smartphone platforms. Not the least of these games is Angry Birds, whose presence on every imaginable platform represented a rather large hole in the Windows Phone 7 game lineup.

The complete list of games to be released over a six-week period starting on April 6th:

  • Angry Birds
  • Doodle Jump
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • Hydro Thunder Go
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I
  • geoDefense

It's unfortunate that the release dates seem to be arbitrarily delayed, but the real question becomes the price of these apps. In general, it seems that Xbox LIVE games on Windows Phone 7 seem to command a significantly higher premium than the same games on other platforms.

HP Envy Update

by Kyle  

Well, it's a bit late at this point, but I did end up getting the HP Envy 14 at a "reasonable" price. I didn't end up getting the "Radiance" display, which wasn't a big deal until I actually saw one.

The Radiance display is quite a masterpiece, with outstanding color reproduction and viewing angles, it's $200 premium was more than justified. Comparing my current non-Radiance display side-by-side with a Radiance model, I was instantly amazed by the quality of the picture on the Radiance and equally as amazed by just how bad my display looks by comparison. This is a disappointing symptom just how undervalued the screen is on today's consumer laptop models.

Overall, the Envy is a very solid machine with a few minor quirks, mostly around their use of Apple design choices. For one, the laptop includes no microphone port, but instead utilizes a headset port (works with the iPhone headset) that combines the microphone input with a second headphone output. A $15 adapter can solve this issue, but it's still a bit annoying. Further, the laptop only includes an HDMI and a Mini DisplayPort connector, requiring a MacBook-style adapter in order to get VGA or DVI output. Luckily Monoprice sells a cheaper version of this adapter, but it's just another thing to carry around with me and inevitably misplace.

All-in-all, the HP Envy 14 does represent an important segment of the "high-end" consumer laptop market. Although they have a few oddities in the design, the build is very solid and I'm very happy with the purchase.

HP Can't Fulfill Their Orders

by Kyle  

There was a great coupon last week for the HP Envy 14 with the awesome Radiance display. I ordered it immediately and got an instant confirmation of my order. Now today, they go and cancel the order and offer a "slap-in-the-face" compensation, the same coupon I used for the original order. In a need to vent my frustration, I drafted and sent an email to the CEO of HP and included it below.

Last week, I was overjoyed to see a coupon for your highly rated Envy 14 laptop (with the Radiance display) and purchased it immediately. I was confirmed an order for $985 shipped and my credit card was charged almost immediately. The expected ship date listed in both the email and on the site was February 1st, a completely reasonable date for such a custom PC purchase.

Today, I receive an unsolicited cancellation mail with absolutely no details about why the order was cancelled. I called the HP Shopping support and was “helped” by a clueless representative who could only tell me that an email would be coming later on today. The email was pretty generic and included a pretty awful deal on another laptop, the exact same deal I used for the laptop I had ALREADY ordered. Calling customer support again yielded even more frustration as a representative worked very hard to try and persuade me to add unnecessary upgrades to my previous configuration (now $1199 without the Radiance display) to get it over the $1399 requirement of the coupon. When I clearly explained that this was unacceptable, the representative went on to offer me another deal, $300 off of $1199. This deal, obviously, was even less acceptable as I would be paying the same price for a laptop without the Radiance display. He told me that he could offer me nothing else and we parted ways.

Extremely frustrated, I decided to try online support and spoke with a slow, but helpful, representative who pointed me to the HP Resolutions Team. That call went a little better, with the representative seemingly putting some effort into solving the problem, but ultimately stating that she would need to contact the head office and letting me know that I would be receiving a call back sometime within the next 24-48 hours.

The problem with this whole situation is that it could not have been handled more poorly. My credit card was charged even though there weren't even parts available for fulfilling my purchase; I know that other companies won't charge you until production has started. Rather than contact me, my order was cancelled in a very unfriendly manner and I was left confused and needed to call support to even get the generic "wait for the email" answer. Now when I call to try and resolve the problem, the representative will not do anything about the fact that I was not responsible for this order cancellation. They treat the order as though it’s a new order and will do nothing to actually compensate for my time, trouble, and lost interest (due to the apparently fraudulent credit card charge).

I don’t feel like my request is outrageous, I simply want the following: take my original order for $1399 minus the original $500 off coupon and remove the Radiance display option ($200 value) that wasn't even available in the first place. This brings the computer down to $699 (plus tax) shipped to me. Given the fact that my original order was supposed to ship by February 1st, I don't think it's too much to ask to throw in free 2nd day shipping to make up for the huge inconvenience that your company has caused me.

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