Tag Archives: windows media center

I won an HP TouchSmart 600 giveaway by Chip Chick!

If you don’t know, Twitter‘s a great way to get involved with various communities (photography, technology, etc). Another good use of Twitter has been giveaways. Just make sure that’s NOT all you do on Twitter or if you must, set up a separate twitter account for participating in giveaways. In several giveaways based on Twitter, all you need to do is retweet a couple of sentences with a hashtag included. I’ve participated in non-twitterbased giveaways before and those are always more involved than just retweeting something. Here are the most common ways to enter giveaways that I’ve seen on the web.

  1. Leave a comment about “why you want X device/what X device will do for you/ETC” and be randomly selected. Usually done by big blogs and expectedly reduces your chances for winning due to the low barrier for entry.
  2. Post a video/picture and most creative will be selected by contest editors.
  3. Write a blog post about topic X and link back to a predetermined page.
  4. Create a video/picture/blogpost and the one with most votes win.
  5. Enter your personal details (name, email address and/or home address) for a random drawing.
  6. or Do all of the above and be selected by contest editors.
  7. or do all of the above and be randomly selected.

This particular contest I participated in was run by Chip Chick and the methods of entry were:

  1. Tweet @chip_chick saying β€œEnter me in the HP TouchSmart 600 Giveaway http://bit.ly/9FIls1”
  2. Make a comment on this post which explains what you would do with the HP TouchSmart 600 if you won it.
  3. Or send us an email detailing what you would do with the TouchSmart 600 if it was all yours.

I found out about this giveaway through Twitter and my initial instinct was to enter the contest through retweeting. This method would be great if entries were randomly selected b/c least amount of work on your part. However, I wasn’t too sure on how this contest would be judged and I decided writing an email would be my best option. I’ve done several of these that I was not under any illusions that this giveaway would be different. Giveaway contests are completely subject to the editors/sponsors rules so always read the rules. The rest, as they say, is history. πŸ™‚ Yadda yadda yadda, I got an email saying I had won the TouchSmart 600 last week.

janetalkstech-won-hptouchsmart-600.png

To say I was excited would be an understatement. πŸ˜› I have had some good luck online. Cases in point:

  1. Winning a license for Camtasia 6.0 (worth $299) via Gottabemobile.com’s contest in 2008 which involved making a video about why I needed/wanted Camtasia 6 and leaving a comment that pointed to the video I had created. The odds were in my favor because there were 4 video entries and whether you like it or not, if contests are decided by editors, they like to see some effort put into your entries! Did my video blow you away? Probably not, but compared to the other entries, I looked pretty good. I did make a follow-up video that was not so painful. πŸ˜€
  2. Last year, I participated in Swoopo.com for the first time and won an auction for my current laptop (HP dv7-3080us) for ~ $250. The retail price of this quadcore laptop is around ~$1400. To put things into perspective, my former (now hubby’s) laptop cost that much, but it’s specs are laughable compared to this current notebook. I digress, but I clearly scored a scoop with Swoopo that, much to my chagrin, I haven’t been able to recreate. This is why gambling is bad, kids. Don’t do it. πŸ˜›

So winning the HP TouchSmart 600 has been my biggest coup so far. I would peg its true worth at ~ $1200 versus the stated $1500. Who’s cares? I’m just thrilled to have won it and all that matters is this: HP makes good products. They’re well known in the blogosphere for their phenomenal giveaways and I’m glad they selected Chip Chick for hosting this giveaway. Now, I have possession of an entertainment PC that I didn’t have before. πŸ™‚ My hubby & I have already chunked our bulky entertainment center (made of wood), the 40lb TV, the old 100lb speakers, the VCR player (don’t ask. lol), the DVD player and temporarily shelved the PS2. Our living room looks great with the extra stuff moved out of the way as the HP TouchSmart is poised to become the defacto TV & entertainment spot. I do have an interesting sidenote.

First impressions about its specifications: This is in NO way looking this $1200 gift horse in the mouth, but I thought it bears noting. Nearly all online contests state that the “Approximate value of prizes may vary.” In my case, there was probably ~ $300 difference from the reviewed model which I don’t care about, but in the interest of documentation, I wanted to write about. The HP Touchsmart model reviewed by Chip Chick had a BluRay player. The eventual model I received (HP Touchsmart 600-1000t) has player for CDs/DVDs only. Update: I also noticed that this model (TouchSmart 600-1000t) lacks HDMI input. Luckily enough, my laptop (dv7-3080us) *can* play BluRay discs so I definitely don’t miss this feature although I would definitely swap out players if I could. The side-effect of missing BluRay playback on this model of the TouchSmart 600 is that HP could skimp on the graphics card installed in the PC.

On the outside packaging, I read it had “integrated” graphics and I inwardly winced thinking of the Intel graphics from my 2005 HP desktop PC. Thankfully, I was happy to note that it had an Nvidia Graphics card (Gefore G200) with 256MB of video memory and an Nvidia chipset (hence the use of the “integrated graphics” term). Putting this into perspective, my laptop’s video card has 1GB of video memory with BluRay Playback. I’ll speculate that this lower-end graphics card was put in because it didn’t need BluRay playback. The WEI score supports my suspicion as it was the ‘weakest’ link with a WEI rating of 5.3. It will be interesting to chronicle the computer’s performance. So far, I’ve had 1 incident where the screen ‘froze’ and didn’t respond to my taps while playing one of the games (Garden Pond) from the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7.

First impressions about using it as the TV replacement: I gravitated to using Windows Media Center over the HP’s custom Live TV tile in the TouchSmart software. The main reason: using the remote control while in the TouchSmart 3.0 software repeatedly brought up the Windows Media Center. This meant that to bring up things like the guide or info with the Live TV tile meant leaving the couch to do so. It’s just a small inconvenience, but enough to make me stick to Windows Media Center for now. I would actually recommend using Windows Media Center for TV watching because it’s much more mature than the Live TV tile and I prefer WMC’s method of navigating through Channels and upcoming shows. The 23″ screen is more than adequate for our TV watching needs and the sound emanating from this thing is actually better than my old TV’s! Now, I’m no audiophile, but I generally use my husband as the yardstick for audio stuff and his verdict: it sounds rich. Sold!

First impressions about using Netflix app on the TouchSmart software or Windows Media Center: Windows Media Center wins this hands-down. Main reason: Netflix software on the TouchSmart 3.0 interface is only set up to playback movies that are in your “instant queue”. This means you must already have a movie “playlist” and the Netflix app dutifully plays those movies. However, the Netflix plugin for Windows Media Center has more capabilities i.e. you can browse the Netflix library and add movies for watching. You aren’t limited to items in your instant queue and can search movies based on genre. Perhaps with time, there’ll be more improvements to the Netflix app on the TouchSmart 3.0 software.

First impressions as a desktop computer replacement: Doing a dollar-for-dollar comparison (and based on this model’s specifications), you’re better off getting a desktop/flatscreen LCD combo for less than what this TouchSmart costs. Of course, you’ll be trading space and convenience for more computing power. This TouchSmart will be great for places with lobbies i.e. nearly all establishments where users do casual browsing, document editing, etc. It’s great for eye-candy too. For me, the primary selling points would be: TV replacement, BluRay playback (which this model lacks), and Touch capabilities. Text entry with the onscreen keyboard is a fun experience. I discovered that hovering above the letters was enough to trigger the surface. For instance, hovering above the letter A with your fingertip would cause the letter A to get entered into your textbox. This is possibly by design because it should theoretically help with text entry. Windows 7 is so smart and I’m discovering little things like pinching a webpage in IE 8 will zoom out! The built-in speech recognition in Windows 7 (Home premium) is actually pretty good and I spent ~ 1 hr going through the training, but I don’t forsee using my voice to command the PC because the error rate (at this point) is 50%. Error rate = issuing a voice command / recognizing the voice command . I’m Nigerian by birth so it probably detects my accent. Still, it’s nice to be lazy and yell “close that” to close the current/active window. πŸ˜› I have the speech recognition set to listen for the phrase “start listening” in order to start issuing commands versus having it on all the time or manually activating speech recognition.

First impressions on the bundled games: The standard games for Windows 7 are available for the TouchSmart 600. With the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7, there are ~ 4 applications that are geared for being played through touch (Microsoft Surface Globe – like Google Earth, Microsoft Surface Lagoon – a screensaver, Microsoft Blackboard and Microsoft Garden Pond). The only missing item from the Touch Pack on the HP Touchsmart is Microsoft Surface Collage. The next set of games are HP games powered by WildTangent. I’m deeply mistrustful of WildTangent (see the “Wild Tangent” Wikipedia page) so I haven’t attempted playing any of the HP games. I haven’t heard of any companies making games that take advantage of computers like the TouchSmart. If you are out there, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Surely, there is a market for this in the Windows world. I mean, the iPad just came out and now has thousands of apps yet the TouchSmart (the posterchild for the future of Windows 7 touch computing until the HP Slate makes its debut) doesn’t. It makes me wonder about Seriously, I’m not installing any applications on this computer that aren’t touch-aware. That would be stupid because I’ve got my laptop for that!

In a nutshell, this latest device in our household is a huge help & relief to have. I wasn’t kidding in my contest entry when I said the TouchSmart would become the centerpiece for entertainment at my home. My husband & I are huge Netflix fans and I like my TV stations. In 1 fell swoop, the HP TouchSmart has simplified my life. That’s the best thing about this computer. Look out for my next post (with pictures!) about my feelings about the HP TouchSmart after the giddiness of owning for a 1 day has worn off. πŸ™‚

Holy Hannah!

I’m sure you knew what I was really going to say, but I’ll go ahead and say it again: holy fuck. If you suffered from the dreaded error C00D11B3 where neither Windows Media Player nor MCE can play DVDs with protected content, you are in luck if you read this page. By trial and error, I discovered what the problem was. The first clue was in the errorΒ  message in which I was told that “Windows Media Player cannot play this DVD because there is a problem with digital copy protection between your DVD drive, decoder, and video card. Try installing an updated driver for your video card.” The first time I got this message, my heart dropped. I updated my Nvidia Geforce 8600M GS graphics drivers and when that didn’t work, I took the drastic step of reformatting my computer. Thankfully, I was able to play DVDs in Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center …. for awhile. However, after installing my slew of programs, the problem of DVD playback surfaced again. This time, I had a very good idea of the culprit: Logmein’s driver. You see, I’m running the Logmein Pro version on my laptop and there is an option to “blank the monitor” whenever the laptop is being remote controlled.
blankmonitor.jpg
Well, when this checkbox is ticked, Logmein installed a “DPMS” driver which somehow integrates into the generic PnP (plug and play) monitor on the laptop. So, if you go into the device management console and rightclick the entry under “Monitor”, you’ll find that the provider of drivers for the Microsoft device is now Logmein!! I’m surmising that the decoder (msmpeg2vdec.dll) will not play nice with this DPMS driver and so I uninstalled the entry under “Monitor” which was the generic PnP monitor with the DPMS installed. I was a little scared of taking this step because I thought the screen would go dead or something. However, I discovered a neat command that makes Windows find drivers: scan for hardware changes.

Windows MediaSimply rightclick on “Monitor” or on your computer’s name and click “Scan for hardware changes”. Windows will then install the original drivers for your monitor and ta da!!Β  I’m able to play back DVDs on Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center. I can’t tell you how many hours I put into Google into trying to find what was causing my PC to go crazy and I feel like I hit the daily double. lol. I definitely am glad that I stayed away from free codec packs because by and large, I think Windows is a system that makes sense although it would help if she weren’t so reticent in letting you know what you did wrong i.e. “hey Jane, you recently installed some mirror drivers that aren’t from us?, et cetera”

Enough of my blather. I need to go to bed. πŸ™‚