SG!TV – Plugin for XBMC and Plex for Singapore TV

The SG!TV Plugin or Channel for XBMC/Plex is launched.  SG!TV allows you to re-watch or catch up the local Mediacorp (Singapore) shows that you have missed direct from your HTPC client. Miss last night channel 8 drama serial?  Fire up the app and look for the show or find it through the latest highlights.  This is the current beta version but both browsing of channels and the latest shows are all working. It is currently working for Singapore viewers only as I believe the website does check for the IP location before allowing access to the stream. Also, it works great for our overseas friend as well, so if you are a Singaporean staying aboard, this is a great way to watch or catch up your favourite Mediacorp shows. The screenshots below show the XBMC client and the local channels  that are available.

XBMC – Channel Select
XBMC – Episode Select
XBMC – Playback

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Some major updates to the SG!TV Plugin.

It now shows Channelnewsasia video and live feed if you are based in Singapore.

There’s also local wahbanana channel for some random laughs.

Lastly, there’s Viddsee.

Viddsee is a local Singapore start up that curates the best short films from Asia. Viddsee serves up seven recommended short Asian films for your viewing pleasure each week on the home screen.

Currently, both the XBMC and Plex plugins are at a similar stage of development. It has currently been tested on both the Windows version of XBMC and Plex. As XBMC uses a unified software base, it should work across all the platforms. As for Plex, there are some problems in playing the stream directly through clients that do not support the stream protocol and the transcoding option should be set to preferred. This was verified on my Android devices. Next up are the screenshots of the Plex channel.

Plex – Channel Select
Plex – Episode Select
Plex – Playback

As for the bugs / Upcoming feature list:

  1. Unable to get episodes of shows if it span across multiple pages.
  2. Option to select stream quality. Currently it plays the highest available.
  3. Search function to be incorporated.
  4. to be discovered!

Download:

Appreciate if you do not direct link to the files, instead refer them to my website, thanks. Also, if you like the plugin, help me share or like this page on Facebook so that the word gets around. Thank you!

(PLEX) – SGtv.bundle

Installation instructions:

For Plex :

  1. Go to C:UserUsernameAppDataLocalPlex Media ServerPlug-ins
  2. Unzip the folder
  3. Restart your Plex Media Server
  4. Start your Plex Media Client and navigate to the channels directory
For XBMC :
  1. Get it from the official XBMC repository

Thanks for reading. I hope you like the Plugin / Addon and if you have any comments or suggestions, I look forward to receiving your feedback.

Unlimited Photo Storage with PicasaWeb

Picasa Web Albums offers 1 GB of free storage for photos and videos. However, files under certain size limits don’t count towards this free storage limit. This is crucial. Photos up to 2048 x 2048 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes won’t count towards your free storage and uploads to Picasa Web would be automatically resized to the dimensions. You would need a Google+ account on the same ID to activate this. The free storage sizes are good for sharing photos on the web and for archival, and allows for up to 4R prints. All photos uploaded from the Picasa software or in Picasa Web Albums over the free size limit will count towards your 1 GB of free storage.

It comes in handy in events when your hard drive crashes and there goes all your photo collection. I do not have a habit of backing up my data to a external HDD. Anyway, the chances of the backup failing is actually not that low too. I prefer to trust my backup with one of the biggest technology leader today, Google. I used to use Skydrive for my backup purposes as it offers a whopping 25gb, but I have since started to migrate over to Picasa Web to combine all my data under the Google cloud. As I was going through my collection, I encountered a “Error: Longterm bandwidth exceeded”. This was approximately after 2000 to 3000 photos that had been uploaded and Google has a cap on the monthly bandwidth per account. The exact limit is still unknown but I had to wait for a month before I stopped receiving the error message.

Other handy things about Picasa Web and Google+ is well, photo tagging. This very Facebook-like feature lets anyone in your extended network in Google+ tag people in your public photos. The person tagged is given the option to view the album and share it. If you’ve been tagged by someone in your Circles, the tag is automatically approved. You can remove tags on the photos homepage in Google+ or the Photos tab on your Google Profile. And if you would rather have more control, you can adjust this setting to enable manual approval of tags. If you were already using tagging in Picasa previously, all existing name tags in Picasa remain when you join Google+.

In Summary:

Google Picasa Webs

  • Photo Resolution: Max 2048 x 2048
  • Photo Qty: Unlimited
  • Qty per album: 1000
  • Video: 15 min
  • Privacy: Controlled (Linked to Google+, can be fully private)
  • Face Tagging: Yes

Other options are:

Facebook

  • Photo Resolution: Max 2048 x 2048
  • Photo Qty: Unlimited
  • Qty per album: 200
  • Video: 20 min
  • Privacy: (Linked to Facebook, can be fully private)
  • Face Tagging: Yes

Flickr

  • Photo Resolution: Unlimited
  • Photo Qty: 300mb per month
  • Qty per album: Unlimited
  • Video: 2 videos per month
  • Privacy: Controlled
  • Face Tagging: No

Microsoft Skydrive

  • Photo Resolution: Unlimited
  • Photo Qty: Capped at 25gb
  • Qty per album: Unlimited
  • Video: Capped at 2gb
  • Privacy: Controlled
  • Face Tagging: No

 

Google Now for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)

Of the new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS features, none have been more talked about than Google Now. Google has promised a “more than just another” virtual assistant that competes with Apple Siri and it has the ability to advise you on certain actions through smart “cards”. These cards will help monitor the weather, showing the location and the recommendations of nearby places, recommending information that you need at the right time. They are meant to be unobtrusive, appearing only when you need them.

What the cards do?

  • Traffic, to help users to arrive at the desired place, it works together with the calendar to tell you what time to leave for your destination.
  • Public Transit, presented information on public transportation such as transit terminals, bus stops and so forth.
  • Next Appointment, serves as reminder that will remind users of appointments made and mark the corresponding location on the map.
  • Flights, flight schedule information presented.
  • Sports, to bring the information up-to-date about the sport.
  • Places, helps users find a restaurant or a hotel around the attractions visited and add reviews about the place.
  • Weather, weather information present residential users.
  • Translation, online dictionary based on Google Translate.
  • Currency, presenting information on the currency exchange rate countries.
  • Time at Home, to present information at the time the user is in another time zone.

The idea is that these cards appear naturally as you go about your day, giving you information that you were about to search for anyway. Within the interface, you can swipe them away or tap on them for more details, but you cannot directly re-order them. Rather, you’re just supposed to use Google search as you normally would (preferably extensively) — to search for restaurants, get directions, check sports scores, and the like. As you do, Google keeps an eye on your activities and then offers up the cards it believes are relevant to your interests. The idea is that simply through organic use of your phone, Google Now will be able to predict what kind of information you may need and have it ready for you with a simple swipe up from the home button — and in some cases Google also gives you notifications that there are new cards available.

The feature impressed me so much that I wanted to load Google Now but my Optimus 2x was still running on Gingerbread. Hence, when I realised that the folks at XDA were able to create a package for ICS, it spurred my decision to install Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.3 on my LG Optimus 2x. While not the most ideal OS, the ability of Google Now, the offline voice searches has won me over. So if you are using an ICS phone, do check out the following instructions to install Google Now. The latest version is amazing and is well-integrated into ICS, with almost all features enabled and generally bug-free. The only problem I have so far is that at times you can’t exit Google Now! with the Back button and have to use the Home button instead.

Download Here!

  1. Download the selected GoogleNow version
  2. Reboot your device into recovery. See your device’s specific instructions on how to do this if you are not sure.
  3. In CWM, navigate to “Install zip from SD” and select that.
  4. Next, highlight “Choose zip from SD card” and select it.
  5. Scroll down to the Google Now zip you loaded onto your SD card, then select it.
  6. Scroll down and select the option that says “Yes – Install Google Now….zip”
  7. Once it has flashed, go back to the main CWM menu and select “Reboot system now”.

I am very impressed by Google Now and as it is, even out of the United States, it is still very much useful to me. It has no problem finding the Esplanade and telling it “Navigate to 238464” for example works as well. Just about an hour ago, I asked my phone where is the nearest gas station and it accurately showed me the way to my nearest Caltex Station. Its off to a great start and I am sure it will only get better in future. Go ahead, load Google Now on your phone and ask it to do a barrel roll!

Accessing the eLibrary (Singapore)

Overdrive allows you to borrow and download eBooks and audiobooks from public libraries that support this system. I have a Nook Color and while it is quite useful and functional as a Nook Color android tablet, I still read on it pretty often. I used to think that we had to buy the eBooks and transfer it to over to the eReader device. One of the more amazing things that had caught my attention was the idea that I could check out books from the library electronically. The process is slightly complex the first time, having to go through the Overdrive Media Console and creating an Adobe ID and also, it is plagued by the same queuing system as per the physical books whereby you have to wait till the previous person is done before you can borrow it. However, it becomes much simpler to use once the initial setup is established, and is a nice, cheap alternative to refresh your e-library.

Impressively enough, the Singapore National Library Board has a digital catalogue and it can be accessed through http://singapore.lib.overdrive.com/. The collection is slightly small but some of the top fiction books can still be found. So if you have an iPad, Android Tablet, Nook, or Kindle, do check out the local e-library and start borrowing. The eBooks have an electronic signature that automatically disables the file once it passes the loan date, and once you have For parents, there are picture and audio books that you can borrow to keep your young ones entertained. Start reading away!

LEGO Hacks: Simplistic yet Functional

DIY lego keyholder

credit: http://www.minieco.co.uk/diy-lego-key-holder/

At GadgetReactor, we are constantly on the lookout for brilliant ideas. This idea is so simple and functional. Concurrently, it brings back good childhood memories. Lego, a simplistic toy, yet the nature of it brings forth so many possible innovative ideas. Just imagine, with spare lego bricks, how about a lego iPhone or Samsung Galaxy SIII dock?

This is so going to my new home.

There’s an entirely new world of possibility that can be DIY-ed with the simple Lego block. If only we still have the imaginative powers of kids.

Or.. how about taking the original key holder mod and combining it with a thumbdrive?

SSD Fever

Solid State Disks or SSD Prices have been on the downtrend with discounted prices reducing from approximately US$1 / GB to the current US$0.75 / GB. Amazon is currently selling the Crucial M4 SSD at less than $200. The Crucial M4 SSDs have been on the market nine months, and have built a good track record around mainstream value and reliability in that time. It has fantastic read speeds and strong write speeds as well. The Marvell controller is one of the better reliable ones and at the 256GB price range, this is currently one of the best deal.
However, prices in Singapore are still significantly marked up compared to US! A check on prices in Sim Lim showed that the same model Crucial 256GB SSD is currently retailing at S$379! That’s a significant $120 or 50% more expensive. Foregoing the warranty does seem like a viable alternative to buy from the US. Furthermore, with shipping concierge companies like VPost and ComGateway, make full use of their services plus the lower prices in the US to get an SSD for yourself. The average shipping price should be around S$15-$20 and for first time subscribers to both services, the initial discount should offset the price by approximately S$10, so do make full use of the first time offer! (DBS offers $10 off and 10% for first time ComGateway user.)

If you are considering a lower price point, another alternative for a great SSD is the Mushkin Chronos 120GB. You can buy it directly through Amazon through our Top Deals page. The Mushkin Chronos 120GB is an excellent performer and is currently one of the lowest priced SSDs around. I am using one myself and I am amazed by the speed boost it offers over a traditional SATA harddisk. After shipping, you would still save approximately 40% off the local retail pricing.

Most people tend to neglect hard disk speeds and focus on the storage capacity. An SSD, compared to a normal HDD, has no moving parts which limits the speed of the normal HDD. Similar to system memory, SSDs are microchips designed to store information. However, these are nonvolatile memory chips that can retain information the way hard drives do. For this reason, a computer that uses an SSD as the main storage device boots and shuts down very fast and can resume from sleep mode instantly. Software applications, including heavy ones like a 3D game or video-editing application, also take significantly less time to start and operate, compared with when the computer uses a hard drive as the main storage. For the amount of time we spend infront of the computer, application loading times, waiting for access to files, they all add up. Adding an SSD would reduce this time significantly and with the lower prices available today, now’s a good time to join the SSD fever and find out what you have been missing. A number of my colleagues have hopped on the bandwagon recently and they are enjoying the new found speeds!

A new SSD would help to speed up your computer in several ways:

  • Boot times will be significantly reduced.
  • Launching applications will occur in a near-instant.
  • Saving and opening documents won’t lag.
  • File copying and duplication speeds will improve.
  • Overall, your system will feel much snappier.

Getting Google Music out of the United States

Google Music elevates your music media to the Cloud. It allows you access to all your songs anywhere in the world, purchase music (only when based in US), and download them back to your computer or phone for offline access when needed. The only catch: Google Music would not work in Singapore as you would need to be ‘based’ in US for the initial registration. And location can easily be spoofed.

The following is a quick guide to enable Google Music

  1. Download and install Hide-My-Ip which comes with a 14 day trial. Choose a US Proxy.
  2. Alternatively, try out http://www.superfreevpn.com/win7-free-vpn/ – preferred method
  3. Turn on Incognito mode or Privacy mode for your browser. This ensures a clean new connection without any pre-existing cookie or cache.
  4. Visit music.google.com or through play.google.com and start using the service. You can try adding a couple of the free playlists and upload a couple of songs through the music manager. The upload feature continues to work even after you deactivate the proxy.
  5. And that’s it. Google music activated. The Play Store limits access to the Google Music application if you are not in US but you can download it separately through the XDA Forums.Note: You can probably use other VPN services such as anonymisers or hotspot shield, but the easiest way for me was through SuperFreeVPN and then Hide-My-Ip.
Did it worked for you? Let me know through the comments, thanks!

I am in the process of moving my music collection on to Google Music.The free online storage locker for music has space for up to 20,000 songs that can be streamed through a browser on any computer or mobile device (including even iOS). With all my devices connected to the net, I don’t see a need for storing them on my hard disk offline and well, for those devices that I need to transfer music to, it shouldn’t be that much of a hassle to download a couple of albums or play lists for offline access. The quality of the music through the browser interface is good and it has a Pandora-esque instant mix function for quickly finding similar songs catered to your taste. It looks like it will take at least another two more weeks before I finish uploading all my songs, but the cloud does indeed seem the way to go.