Set up a computer for TV using OpenELEC

We previously reviewed a few options for an HTPC. So what is an HTPC? It stands for home theater personal computer and can have different requirements based on your needs. Some may also refer to it as a TV computer or a media center PC. Regardless what you call it, the most basic requirement is for watching videos from a computer on a television (typically in high definition nowadays). OpenELEC is a lightweight and easy to use XBMC media center distribution.

VIA Nano X2 U4025 Review

The ZBOX nano VD01 is the most difficult system to review. Inside the only mini PC we tested from Zotac is a VIA Nano X2 U4025 processor with VX900 / Chrome9 graphics (pictured on right). On paper it looks very promising with CPU specs that should outperform the Intel Atom D2700. However, we’re more concerned with the graphics support and performance. Testing setup For this system we used a 256GB SSD with Windows 7 Home Premium and a 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 SO-DIMM module.

AMD E-450 Review - Linux HTPC

Inside the ZBOX-AD04-U is an AMD E-450 APU with onboard Radeon HD 6320 graphics. We plan to compare it with Intel’s finest Atom processor (with Nvidia graphics) and see which wins as a media center computer. To read more about the Zotac ZBOX in general see the post analyzing the Intel board here. This post will look at the AMD technology and benchmarks against the previously reviewed ID80. We will also be featuring articles detailing the full setup of a Linux home theater PC (HTPC) and the benefits of a small computer attached to your television.

Intel Atom D2700 - HTPC Review

The ZBOX-ID80-U sports an Intel Atom D2700 processor and onboard Nvidia GeForce GT 520M graphics in a small package. Does the latest and greatest Intel Atom work well as a Home Theater PC “HTPC” or Media Center computer? Let’s take a look at the “ZBOX” package, the technology inside, and wrap-up with some benchmarks. ZOTAC ZBOX Lineup The ZBOX typically comes in three size flavors. I’ll refer to this size as a mini PC measuring (in inches) 7.4 x 7.4 x 1.73.

Nokia Lumia Comparison - Lumia 710, 800, and 900

Features they have in common: Nokia is making a new run at the US market with the Windows Phone 7 “Mango” OS. While Nokia is very well known in other countries for building quality phones, it has been awhile since they have had an impact in the states. We are analyzing the differences between the Lumia 710, Lumia 800, and soon to be released Lumia 900. First up, what they all have in common.

Symbian Belle experience on Nokia 701

Importing Contacts from Android: Nokia only provides directions to copy contacts over from another Nokia phone. However, importing contacts by other methods is quite easy. Here we are using a generic .vcf import that works well coming from an Android device. Liberating your contacts from Google First, make sure your Android contacts are synced with your phone’s Google account. Most people leave sync enabled but you may check by going to… Then sign into your Google account from a computer (signing into Gmail will accomplish this).

Asus RT-N56U review

Features: 802.11n, dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz), gigabit ethernet ports, and high throughput. With enough 802.11n products around the house (laptop, tablet, and phone) it was time to update the router. After reading many reviews the ASUS RT-N56U won the honors. It is capable of extremely high total simultaneous throughput which suggests good processing power and build quality. You can also set up separate wireless SSIDs for the 2.4 and 5 GHz radios.

VMware vs VirtualBox - Running Windows 7 on Linux host

VMware Player 3.1.4 and Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.0.10 - An initial review of two free virtual machines. A virtual machine allows basically any guest OS to run within a host OS. In this case running Windows 7 (guest OS) inside Ubuntu 10.04 (host OS). It can also be useful for testing various distributions of Linux. The goal is to find the best virtual machine for Linux. As a quick background, I currently bounce between two computers: a desktop with Ubuntu 10.04 and a laptop with ArchBang.

Memories without much Memory

Unless you feel nostalgic and want to take a ride down memory lane, stop reading now. This post is just reminiscing on old computers from the past. So I ran across the receipts for computer builds previous to my cheap desktop upgrade and had a good laugh. This actually started in an effort to find details about my current PSU…which is almost the only detail missing. To start with the recent desktop upgrade replaced an Abit KV8 Pro Socket 754 motherboard ($80) with an AMD Sempron 2800+ 1.6 GHz “Palermo” CPU ($87).

Mobile Processor Snapshot

The goal here is to break down the main differentiating features of recent, new, and upcoming mobile processors. ARM-based processors lead the superphone and tablet market. I will break-down and quickly explain fabrication and number of cores plus touch on the graphics engines each mobile processor uses. Let’s dig in. Fabrication: Starting with the original Motorola Droid, Palm Pre, Google Nexus One, Droid Incredible, and even HTC EVO 4G the chips were built on a 65nm technology.

Line2 Review for Android

Took the opportunity to load Line2 (Toktumi) from the Android market for a free 30-day trial review. After all it did receive great praise from David Pogue of the New York Times. Balderdash. Let me preface this by saying I’m not the target audience for Line2. Under certain circumstances this app could fit your needs. Although I find it hard to believe that audience would use Android…more than likely it would suit the zombies of Apple nation.

Samsung Captivate first impressions

Finally broke down and purchased one…been playing with it about a week. So now it is time for first thoughts about the phone, Android 2.1, and the network. First, the Samsung Captivate is nothing short of amazing. The size is perfect: a brilliant 4” Super AMOLED screen that easily fits in my pocket. Any smaller or larger would be a sacrifice now. The CPU/GPU (processor and mobile graphics) combo is the best currently available.

LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+: the 3.xG battle

According to Verizon, the initial LTE network will support average 5-12 Mbps down and 2-5 Mbps up. Sprint/Clear WiMAX currently supports average 3-6 Mbps down and up to 1 Mbps up. While T-Mobile’s current HSPA+ network along with AT&T’s planned rollout should fall somewhere in the middle. The two key factors to achieve any of these are actual device throughput and backhaul/tower support in a given area. Currently there are no handsets that support HSPA+ or LTE speeds.

Motorola Droid X / Droid 2 and Samsung Galaxy S

Still holding on to a Nokia e71 waiting for something that really stands out. These phones almost fit the bill but the Droid X ends up being a smaller upgrade than initially thought. Verizon fans considering a Droid X or Droid 2? Hold out a month or so longer to give the Samsung Fascinate a fair shot. First a look at the details of the new Droids. Droid 2 takes the more evolutionary upgrade route which still houses a physical keypad and a 3.7” LCD display.

Cheap desktop upgrade

Finally bit the bullet and did a minor upgrade. After exhaustive research I settled for a very low end system that is still two to four times faster than my old hardware. More on that in a bit. So without further ado, here are the parts: ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO AM3 AMD 785G - $100 G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) - $120 AMD Sempron 140 Sargas 2.7GHz Socket AM3 45W Single-Core Processor - $33 All other parts were reused from my old system plus a SATA HDD that was lying around.

2009 HTPC components and specs

Motherboard: ASUS AT3N7A-I $155 RAM: PQI Turbo 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 800 $50 HD: Western Digital Caviar Blue 320 GB 7200 SATA $50 Case: APEX MI-008 Mini-ITX $40 Case fan: Yate Loon Low Speed 120mm (28dBa,47CFM) $4 PSU: picoPSU-90 $33 and 80W AC-DC power brick $25 Cheap DVD burner Free copy of Ubuntu! I set out to create a low power living room computer capable of smooth HD playback. This system was built in September of ‘09 and has been running in the living room almost non-stop since then.

Turn USB devices into a NAS solution

Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station is out now for $99. If you have USB hard drives, thumb drives, or printers and no way to connect them all to your home network…this may be it. It draws a mere 5 Watts while accepting 4 USB 2.0 devices. The iConnect supports Gigabit ethernet and wireless 802.11(b/g/n). If they had thrown in an eSata port I may have been sold. The EMC LifeLine software installed on the iConnect can host your uPnP files for use with Xbox 360, PS3, iTunes, Roku, etc.


After mentioning Nvidia’s latest Tegra updates and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon announcement; it’s only fair to plug Texas Instruments as well. Their OMAP 3 line already does rather well for itself by powering Motorola Droid, Palm Pre, and Nokia N900 to name a few. Here is a quote from involving their visit with TI: “Of course, Texas Instruments aren’t the only company with a high-profile mobile chipset to talk about, so we asked them how the OMAP4 compares to NVIDIA’s second-generation Tegra, announced back at CES 2010.

Maemo 6 coming soon

Nokia announced phones coming out in 2H 2010 with Maemo 6. It could be a great upgrade and provide much more user friendliness than their developer oriented N900 phone (running Maemo 5 with a TI OMAP 3430). Maemo is a linux based OS (like Android) for handheld devices that is a drastic change from Nokia’s main Symbian based operating systems. Qualcomm has announced upgrades to the Snapdragon that look to compete with Nvidia’s Tegra 2 line.