Good and cheap

One of my e-mail accounts was getting clobbered with spam, upwards of 150 pieces at a whack. The reason was that a while back, in order to enter a comment on a Web site, I stupidly agreed to let it access my Facebook account. I have since disabled the application platform on Facebook, and that seemed to fixed the problem [perhaps not!]. I wanted to add a comment to a Consumer Reports list of favorite laptops, with the assumption that being logged into my CR account would let do that but, no, it requires the FB integration that I no longer have or want. So I’ll post it here instead.

At this moment I am working on a HP Pavilion 14-ab166us notebook computer. It is running Windows 10 on a Hyper-threaded, dual-core i3, with 6GB of memory, a 1TB 5400 rpm hard drive, and a DVD reader/writer, with the Cyberlink Power MediaPlayer included, so I didn’t have to bother downloading it for $15 from the Microsoft store.

So far no problems. Screen resolution is only 1366×768, but that’s fine, as I’m more concerned about color and gray quality anyway, which was why I bought an X-Rite ColorMunki Display for $150 a couple of years ago. The only significant compromise is this particular HP won’t do 5GHz Wi-Fi. Bluetooth works great for external speakers, and the internal B&O speakers are much better than the ones in the Acer netbook that the HP is replacing.

Staples had this notebook on sale with a $50 rebate (that HP has confirmed it’s processing), taking the total price down to $330 — which, for me, is the right price for a general-purpose machine these days. A few months ago I bought a Dell mini-tower from Staples with a quad-core i5, 8 GB of memory, and a 1 TB 7200 rpm disk. That deal came to only $300! Staples may be struggling as a company, but they have been beating Amazon on computer deals.

The Mountain, Framingham

I drive past the Bose corporate offices every day on my way to and from work. I wouldn’t exactly call Mountain Drive a mountain. It’s only a hill overlooking the Massachusetts Turnpike, but the Bose address is The Mountain, Framingham. I’ve never been inside, but c|net recently was able to take a peek.

Before Bob Maresca was named the CEO of Bose he lived in the neighborhood behind mine. That was when I had the porch turned into a sun room and I bought a Bose Wave for it. I don’t know if Maresca still lives there, but I assume after his promotion he was able to afford a bigger/better house.

Doing my HomeWorx

Aereo, the “DVR in the cloud” service that I used until it was voted out of existence by the Supreme Court, is now a distant memory. So what are the alternatives? One of them seemed too good to be true — an HDTV tuner that doubles as a fully functional digital video recorder for no more than what a converter alone costs (storage and antenna not included). But expert video calibrator Robert Heron recommends it in his list of cord-cutting gear so, with my curiosity piqued, I bought one and, incredibly, the thing really does work! Keeping in mind that it’s a single-tuner DVR, which was the service level I used with Aereo, I would even say that it works quite well. At the moment on Amazon it’s going for a measly 33 bucks.

Mediasonic HW-150PVR
Mediasonic HW-150PVR

There are actually two products. The Mediasonic HomeWorx HW180STB and the original model, the HW-150PVR, which was my choice because it includes component video and digital audio outputs the newer model lacks. Also, the USB port is on the front, which a lot of people complained about on Amazon, but I prefer it because plug access is easier. There is no digital rights protection when recording, and the MTS files are supported in Windows Media Player, which was how I got the screen shots that are embedded below.

I successfully tested the 150PVR with a passive Mohu Leaf antenna, a 500 GB 2.5 inch external Western Digital drive and a SanDisk 64 GB Ultra Fit CZ43. An older flash drive I tried worked all right with SD material, but it choked trying to keep up with HD. The HomeWorx can format in FAT and play either FAT or NTFS, but NTFS is a must to get programs recorded as single large files, as seen in Windows Explorer. There are various operational quirks to get used to, and these are well documented in the reviews on Amazon, but for me they’re part of the fun.

Even if it isn’t used for scheduling recordings, the Mediasonic HomeWorx makes it possible to pause and resume while watching a live program, which is a feature I feel should be standard in HDTV tuners. The recording quality is impeccable, assuming a good signal, and for anyone thinking of leaving cable TV and going with over-the-air television, this product absolutely should be their first option for a DVR. Right now the total cost for a complete setup is about $75 — $33 + $18 + $25, for the HomeWorx DVR, Sandisk 64 GB flash drive, and an Amazon Basics 35-mile antenna, respectively. Your antenna mileage may vary. (When in doubt, Go Mohu.)

Except for the Wonder Woman picture, which is SD, these screen shots are from 1080 recordings that I resized to 720.