Home Tech

Hands On Review of the Roku 3

Don’t make the mistake of comparing the Roku 3’s size to its capabilities. Roku 3 ( at Amazon) is a sleek, slender device that can easily fit within the palm of your hands. It is a powerful machine that is an absolute delight to use. I have been using the Roku 3 actively for the past one week and have been amazed at its speed and overall features set. Not only can the Roku 3 change channels quickly, its search and channel store library is second to none. This device is leaps and bounds above its competition and a significant update from its predecessor. Read on to see why. (Click for Larger Image) Roku Box In the box you will find the Roku 3 device, Wi-Fi direct Remote, batteries, headphones and user manual. The remote control has a headphone jack which when used, mutes the sound on the TV and enables headphones without skipping or pausing the video. This is a relationship saver for those who like to watch late night TV!   Set Up The Roku 3 is relatively easy to set up and configure. It requires creation of an account at and needs credit card or PayPal information for channel store purchases. The account is not charged until a purchase is made. To avoid unintended charges, I opted to enter a pin password before a purchase can be made.   Channels After configuring the Roku 3, I started adding (or as Roku calls it ‘installing’) popular channels such as Netflix, TED, Plex (stream media from PC), CNET, Revision3, DishTV (Premium), Pandora etc. Trying to enter text using the Roku remote is super annoying. I avoid it by using the Roku iPhone app for text entry. More on this later. Adding channels takes a few seconds. Once completed, you can quickly navigate among different channels and content with a channel. Each channel is configured differently and so far most of the channels I have added have come with basic navigation. Roku needs a lot of work in this area. There is no way to save shows as favorites or have the ability to quickly navigate to a particular one. Each time when changing shows [for different channels], the user needs to go to the home screen, select channels, navigate/search for the show and start all it takes about 5-10 clicks on average for this process which gets tiresome really fast. Roku Smartphone App You can download the Roku app on you Android or iOS device. I installed it on an iPhone 5. The app comes with a whole bunch of features such as text entry, photos and music playback on Roku 3 device, using your smartphone as a remote control, adding/removing channels etc. The feature I use the most is text entry (super convenient) and showing off iPhone pictures on the TV remotely.   Wrap Up Apart from few annoyances such as the remote control text entry, cheap quality headphones the device is great fun to use. The channel store selection, 1080p video (where available), easy to use remote and overall speed makes Roku 3 a winner in its category. Streaming content from my PC (using the Plex channel) with speed and comfort, alone makes it worth $50 for me. Listening to TV remotely on my headphones adds another $50 in value! The rest is pure ecstasy. Some Specs… Brand Name Roku Item Weight 5 ounces Product Dimensions x x 1 inches Item model number 4200R Batteries: 2 AA batteries required. (included) Item Display Height inches What else comes on the Roku… 750+ entertainment channels. Choose from the best selection of streaming entertainment on the planet. All-new on-screen experience with one-stop search. Fly through channels or search for the perfect title effortlessly. Our fastest, most powerful Roku experience ever. Remote with headphone jack for private listening. Use the included in-ear headphones to enjoy a late-night flick without disturbing the peace. Motion control for games. Enjoy tons of games with a few flicks of the remote. Get the fun started with Angry Birds Space, included free. Free iOS and Android app. Use it like a remote. Browse and add new channels. Even play your music and photos from your phone or tablet on your HDTV. Fully loaded and ready for your HDTV. 1080p HD support, dual-band wireless, Ethernet port, USB port and microSD slot. But if that wasn’t enough… Over 150,000 movies and TV shows at your fingertips from Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, VUDU and more Music from Amazon Cloud Player, Spotify, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, Vevo and TuneIn Live sports packages including NBA League Pass Broadband, NHL GameCenter LIVE, MLS LIVE, UFCTV, and Premium Family entertainment from PBS and Disney Photo and video sharing via Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa Top news sources with MSNBC, Fox News, Huffington Post, CNBC and WSJ
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Giveaway

How Would You Use $100 Amazon Bucks? Join and WIN

Have you been out to and joined the Average Guy Facebook page yet?  If yes, then great and #160; If no, then you are missing a great group of tech guys!  And now you can join and WIN!  How good is that? Here’s the Story The current group as of May 3, 2013 is at 140 members. When the group grows to 250 members, everyone in the group gets entered into a drawing for $100 gift card from Amazon for active members. Not a member, join today! So how do can you help yourself win if you are already a member?  Tell your tech friends to join us there so we can reach our goal! Once the goal of 250 members is achieved, a name is #160; It could be yours! It’s that #160; Sign up, tell a friend and #160; Don’t be #251! Bonus Entry: Leave a comment below with what you would spend the extra hot $100 on and you will be added to the list one additional time!  Easy money!
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Back Up / Storage

Taking Advantage of Free Cloud Storage for 3-2-1 Backup (Updated)

Even Backup guys need to practice and plan for good backup #160; As a Microsoft Windows Home Server MVP and podcaster with the Home Server Show, you would think that of all people, I would have my backup plans documented well and in #160; Well, I do, kind #160; I have been running a bit loose lately and I thought it was time to tightening things up. At home, I currently run a Windows Home Server (WHS) 2011 box with about 2TB of total storage space and 2 TB of storage to back those files #160; I also backup everything to a ioSafe Solo (an external hard drive that is fire and water proof) that has the most important 1 TB of my data backed up as #160; If there was ever a fire at my home, my data wouldn’t burn. I will be moving my WHS and the data to the next version (Windows Server 2012 Essentials) some time in 2013 and I though now would be a good time get it all in the cloud for the #160; Why the cloud?  First, I have been writing and updating a running post on Cloud Storage Options. Currently, cloud, or offsite data storage on someone else’s servers, is becoming more popular and #160; There are at lease 20 companies with some kind of #160; You can get more details on it HERE. Second,  In order to follow a good back up plan, one should follow the 3-2-1 #160; What is that you ask?  The simplest way to remember how to use the 3-2-1 rule is this: Keep 3 copies of any important file (a primary and two backups) Keep those files on 2 different media types (such as hard drive and optical media), to protect against different types of hazards. Then, 1 copy should be stored offsite (or at least offline). While 3-2-1 storage is the best possible method, it’s not always possible or practical. A second media type can often be cumbersome for those working with large data files such as pictures or videos. In many cases, people can make do with hard-drive-only copies of their data. Best practices, however, still require 3 copies and some physical separation between the copies. So how does 3-2-1 work out for me?  The original file (1) is stored physically in a shared folder on the WHS (my server is a HP N40L MicroServer).  I try to keep very few files on my actual desktop #160; With Gigabit Ethernet, there is really very little need for me to have the files #160; For most applications, having it on the network is just fine. The first copy (2) of the file then is stored in a back up on the ioSafe Solo or to an additional hard drive on the HP MicroServer, depending on how important it #160; Using the backup features that comes with the WHS 2011 software, I automatically back up all the files on the server twice a day to either of the two #160; Once at noon and once again at #160; What was mostly missing from my plan was the third form of back up, or something that is offsite or #160; I think I have a very inexpensive option to cover that now as well. Cloud storage has been getting cheaper while at the same time more generous in sizes over the last several #160; In many cases, it’s free and easy to access now with a WHS or even your #160; In my case, I have installed Microsoft’s SkyDrive and as two services that run on my #160; I have also installed a Pogoplug device on my network and the software on the #160; The Pogoplug has attached storage with a 1 TB #160; This will accommodate and duplicate the larger files that I create with the #160; It also keeps them local and easy to #160; Since they are in a WHS folder, backed up by the WHS and are on the Pogoplug, you could consider that 3 #160; However, since they are all local copies and one is not offsite, I do need to get a copy to the cloud for cold #160; With that folder at 114 GB, I will most likely need to move to a paid service for that. Updated 2/3/2013:  I have made some changes since I first wrote this #160; To make things simple, I am now backing up the entire WHS 2011 shared folder structure to either the ioSafe Solo for local disaster protection using the WHS 2011 backup software, the local Pogoplug via the Pogoplug software and to #160; PCs backup nightly via the WHS 2011 software so I catch any file created that was not moved to the files shares on WHS 2011 CLOUD         Data Type Cloud Company Max Free Storage Physical Location on Home Server Current Storage Size Shared Files with Friends Dropbox 9GB Dropbox Folder Scanned Documents (pdf) Microsoft Office Data Files Pictures SkyDrive 25GB SkyDrive Folder Music Amazon 250K Songs No Local Copy 2889 Songs All WHS 2011 Shares Crashplan Unlimited All Folder Shares All WHS 2011 Client PCs Crashplan Unlimited Client Computer Backup 307GB Studio PC real time sync Pogoplug 2GB N/A             CLOUD NOT USING         No Data Box 50GB               LOCAL         Data Type Local Location Max Local Storage Physical Location on Home Sever Current Storage Size All WHS 2011 Shares ioSafe Solo – via WHS2011 Backup 1TB All Folder Shares All WHS 2011 Shares Pogoplug 1TB All Folder Shares All WHS 2011 Client PCs ioSafe Solo 1TB Client Computer Backup 307GB So right now, my total storage requirements for everything I want to back up is less than 300GB Below you can see a screen shot of my current WHS 2011 shares. Currently, the Documents, Music, Pictures, Public, Recorded TV, Users and Video folders are empty on the #160; I also no longer keep music local and only store it in the cloud on #160; Since we purchase our music there, it just make sense not to have it #160; I can always download it from there if I need it. Once everything is done syncing with the various cloud locations (this could take the better part of the week or two), the plan is to back up the entire WHS 2011 box to a cloud offering that allows for unlimited storage for a third (3) #160; Yes, that means that most files will be backed up to the cloud twice!  That’s the way we backup guys roll!  You can never have enough backups. What is your backup plan?  Post a few notes here or join us for the conversation over at the Average Guy Facebook group () or for the more serious and technical conversations () .  
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Home Tech

A Review of The NEST Thermostat

I was first introduced to the Nest as I was scrolling through my large list of RSS feeds in Google Reader in the fall of 2011.  Since then my interest has grown in the product.  The idea is perfect… take one of the items in your house, the thermostat and make it better. In the past the Nest was sold only through the website but on May 8th, 2012 the Nest became available at Lowes and more recently at the Apple stores and It is always nice when a product comes to a local retail store so I can get some hands on experience and see the product in action even if it is only a demo. Recently I discussed the Nest on The Home Tech Podcast show # 72. At that time I was in the final stages of making my decision whether I was going to purchase the Nest and replace my current thermostat.  As you probably guest I did go forward with the purchase and have been using the Nest in my home for about a month now.  The reason I decided to spend the money on the Nest was because of the automation, energy/cost savings and design of the product.  I am interested in home automation and this is the first step I have made in that direction thus far.  This device has become a very interesting conversation piece when family and friends are at our house.  In the past episodes of The Home Tech Podcast I had brought on John Hughes who is the founder and developer of Code Core Technologies which is a full home automation solution.  Although, I am not at that point yet I do enjoy the automation that I am getting with the Nest already. There is not much to installing the Nest.  The first thing I did was make sure that my current thermostat wiring was going to work with the Nest.  You never know what has been done in the past by the installers.  If you go to the Nest compatibility site you can pop off the front of your current thermostat and document the wires that you have.  Then fill out the check boxes on the compatibility site to see if the Nest is going to work with your existing wiring.  I got a “Your system is compatible” message which gave me a green light to the next step.  Who was I going to purchase it from?  Like most people when you want something now and not later I was glad that Lowes was carrying the Nest and has a few stores close to me so I did not need to wait for shipping from   Now that I had my own personal Nest I started to plan how I was going to perform the install.  I knew that I was going to need to shutdown the power to the existing thermostat and this might be intrusive to the other family members so I resisted my urge to install that night and waited till morning while all but I were still sleeping. I then proceeded to shut down the power to the thermostat and furnace.  The rest was almost easier then shutting down the power.  I removed the old thermostat and installed the new Nest thermostat turned on the power to the furnace and the Nest was up and running.  The next couple of steps were configuring the device; put in my zip code, my min and max temperatures as well as get the Nest connected to my wireless Wi-Fi network.  The Wi-Fi connection allows me to see and control the Nest via a webpage or via the Nest application on my deluge of mobile devices.  The Nest also utilizes the Wi-Fi connection to measure the weather outside to optimize the performance based off the temperature and humidity. The Nest takes about 5 days to learn the behavior of the family and after that starts building a customized schedule that fits our needs and saves power when we are away automatically.  Some of the other features of the Nest that I am enjoying are Energy History, Airwave, Time to Temperature, and The Leaf.  Energy History is exactly as it sounds… the Nest gives me a simple interface to view what my trailing energy history.  Airwave is the Nest ability to shut down the compressor outside and continue running the furnace fan to save on energy while still cooling the house to the desired temperature.  Time to Temperature is also exactly as it sounds… after the Nest learns the time that it takes to get your house from the current temperature to the desired or set temperature you will start to get a time estimate that the system is going to take to reach that desired temp.  The Leaf, this is a method of coaching the user of the device to choose temperatures that help save energy. I am very happy with the Nest so far and enjoy the simplicity yet advanced feature set.  I have thought about tracking the cost savings with the Nest but I don’t think the data would be very comparable.  If meteorologists can’t figure out what the weather is going to be for the day I don’t think that previous weather data is going to compare to current and future weather patterns.  I will be sure to give updates on future Home Tech Podcasts as new updates and features come to the Nest.
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Home Gadget Geeks

The New Kindle, Amazon Prime, Ford Mustang Customizer, HD HomeRun PRIME, Home Storage, and ISP Modems – HT045

Jim and Andrew and Gary Johnson are joined by Gordon Schmidt and John Hughes for this week’s installment of the Home Tech Podcast. After a timely reminder that the podcast feed will be changed next week, the guys kick off the show. Jim starts off, talking about the new Kindle range of eBook readers, announced by Amazon this week, with the new range starting at $79 for the Kindle 6” model, all the way up to $199 for the new Kindle Fire, which is 7” has a color display, and runs Android, with the Amazon Silk Browser.  The 6” model is available now, with the larger and color units becoming available in November this year.  While talking about Amazon products, the guys discuss Amazon Prime, as well as Netflix and Redbox, and cutting the cable. Listen Mobile: Andrew talks about the Ford Mustang Customizer on the Ford website, which lets you build a completely customized Ford Mustang, complete with custom background, and burnouts!  No Knight Rider lights are available though… Gary steps in for Christian this week, and for Christians’ Corner brings us the NewEgg 72 hour Labour Day sale, where he found the Seagate XT 3TB Hard Drive at $149, using a promotional code of EMCKAHA26.  Sign up for Newegg’s Daily Deals via email, to be sure to get yourself a regular tech bargain. Gary gets the HD Home Run fans drooling by telling us about adding a Silicon Dust HD Home Run PRIME into their home network, and streaming content via their Verizon FIOS connection.  Gary gives a few tips on getting the unit for the best possible price, found over at J&R. For the security conscious amongst us, Gary shares a link over at the How-To Geek, that shows how long your cellular phone provider retains your text messages, call logs and other information – something to be mindful of if you’ve sent the odd text message you wish you hadn’t! For Christians’ Speed tip of the Week, Gary tells us about an article over at PC Stats, which talks about Intel Smart Response Technology, which boosts the performance of a regular spinning hard drive by caching frequently accessed data. John talks to us about his Synology DS411+II NAS, and the features it has, including: RAID (4 drive bays up to 12TB), PC backups, IP Camera Surveillance Station, DLNA/uPNP Media Server, SqueezeBox Server, OpenVPN and a bittorrent client, just to name a few.   Check it out over at the Synology website, and look forward to Johns’ review over at the Home Server Show website soon.  If you are looking for a solution that “just works” this could be an alternative to Windows Home Server. Gordon helps wrap up the show with some tips for getting more control over your broadband modem, and learning what the parameters you see in the configuration screens mean, to make sure you are getting the value you should be receiving from your ISP. If you are not sure if you are getting the speed you are paying for, you can always test the performance of your Internet connection using services such as , Speakeasy and PC PitStop. Don’t forget our feed location is changing this week – click on to update your iTunes library, or for other Podcast downloading applications, please click on the RSS Feed and pick your Pod Catcher of choice! Facebook Page: Facebook Group: If you’d like to subscribe to the show, click on  to update your iTunes library, or for other Podcast downloading applications, please click on the RSS Feed and pick your Pod Catcher of choice! Or, you can now stream the show online at at The Show Announcements and Schedule: Jim’s Twitter: Andrew’s Twitter: Contact Christian: Contact the show at Find us on Facebook: Find this and other great Podcasts from the Average Guy Network at
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