Sunday, July 29, 2012

Watching US Netflix while outside of the US

I've been using a service called Blockless in order to get access to the Netflix US content while in Canada. They offer a 7 day free trial so I decided to give it a try before subscribing to their service.

The first thing I want to mention about their service is that they do NOT give you free Netflix service. You have to be an active Netflix customer in order to watch Netflix using their service. As long as you haven't subscribed to Netflix before (or within 1 year), Netflix has a 30 day free trial offer.

The way that their service works is that you either configure your individual device or you configure your router to use their DNS settings and you log onto your blockless account with your PC in order for their service to determine that you are either on a trial membership or you are an active subscriber. Because their service requires the changing of the DNS settings, their service will probably not work with some public WiFi access points especially if the access point requires a type of logging-in (or accepting the terms of service).

I find their service to be very good as it allows me to watch Netflix and get the US content when physically I am not located in the US (similar to a VPN service). The Blockless service works with other geographical IP restricted content/websites as well such as Pandora, Hulu, etc. but I mainly use their service to view Netflix US content while outside of the US on my mobile devices. You can also use their service to access Netflix Canadian content or Netflix United Kingdom content while you are outside those areas as well by logging onto your Blockless account and then configuring the Netflix content to point to either Canada, US, or United Kingdom. So far I haven't accessed the United Kingdom Netflix selection since I have plenty of things to available to me with Netflix Canada and Netflix US but according to the Blockless website, Netflix United Kingdom selections are available as well.

I noticed that the Blockless service only seems to work on "portable" or "mobile" devices. By this, I mean that after configuring my home router to use their DNS and I access my Blockless account on my computer, I'm able to watch Netflix US content with my Android tablet, my Android phone (over WiFi), my iPhone 3GS (over WiFi), my Chromebook (over WiFi), my Windows computer, and my Windows laptop/netbook. It did not work with Netflix my LG SmartTV Upgrader ST600 box even though my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box was using the exact same router and as such it had the same public IP address information/settings.

When I tried to use my LG Smart TV Upgrader box while it was connected to the same router, the Netflix on it would be in a weird state. I would see the titles for the Canadian content (which is where I am physically located) but I would not be able to watch any of the Canadian content because they were not available (in my area). I reset the LG Smart TV Upgrader box and tried changing the settings on the box itself to the US but it still didn't work. I also contacted Blockless' technical support department but they couldn't help me (although they were very helpful when their service stopped working for Netflix on my Android devices). Instead, what I decided to do was to configure the box so that it used the actual DNS settings from my internet service provider. This way I could continue to use Netflix on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box and watch Canadian Netflix content while if I wanted to watch US Netflix content, I used one of my "portable" devices. When I want to watch US Netflix on my television set, I plug in one of my "portable" devices to my television (in my case, I plug my Acer Android tablet using an HDMI cable) and I start the Netflix application and then select the Netflix video that I want to watch.

So far I've used their free trial service and it worked for me enough that I decided to actively subscribe to their service. Based on the cost (~$5/month), I found that I was using their service enough to watch US Netflix content to make it worthwhile for me to subscribe to their service.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nikon D5100 D-SLR Mini-Review

Even though I don't get a lot of hits for my reviews/thoughts on digital cameras that I've used, a few of my friends asked me about the D-SLR that I used and what I thought about it.

I wanted to get a D-SLR late last year and when the opportunity presented itself, I purchased the Nikon D5100 based on a the specifications and a few of the reviews I read or saw on YouTube. At the time that I purchased it, I was looking for an entry level or mid-entry level D-SLR. Since I've never had any major issues with any of the Nikon cameras that I've used/purchased, I decided to go with a Nikon camera.

At the time that I purchased my Nikon D5100, there were only 4 entry-level to mid-level Nikon D-SLRs available. There was the D3000, the D3100, the D5000, and the D5100 (the new D3200 was not available when I made my choice). Based on these four Nikon D-SLRs, I decided to go with the D5100.

In terms of the specifications for this camera, it is a 16 megapixel camera that takes pictures with a maximum resolution of 4,928 x 3,264. It saves in 14 bit RAW format (NEF - Nikon's proprietary RAW format) and the industry JPG standard. It uses SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. For taking pictures in continuous mode (especially in RAW format) or for taking HD quality video, it is recommended to use Class 10 cards. The camera does have an internal memory buffer so you can take photos in continuous mode in RAW+JPG formats and it will move these photos to the memory card (in case your memory card is not fast enough to store the photos immediately). Once the internal memory buffer is filled, it won't allow you to take any photos. The camera is capable of taking full HD video at ~30 fps. For further detailed specifications, you can refer to Nikon's website on the product.

What I like about the D5100 is the vari-angle LCD viewscreen monitor. I also like the fact that it uses SD memory cards and that fact that the entry-level Nikon speedlight (SB-400) that I purchased for my Nikon P5100 is fully compatible with my Nikon D5100. I also like the weight and size/feel of the camera although compared with Nikon's professional series of D-SLRs, you do notice the difference in material and weight.

What I don't really like about the Nikon D5100 is that it uses proprietary Nikon batteries (like most of Nikon's digital cameras). It uses the Nikon EN-EL14 format. However because of a computer-chip on the battery (and the fact that the Nikon D3100 & D5100) actually look for this computer-chip, 3rd party EN-EL14 batteries are not likely to work in this camera so you are stuck purchasing the more expensive authentic Nikon battery. There are reports that using a 3rd party Nikon battery grip for this camera (Nikon doesn't make a battery grip for this camera), you can use a non-authentic Nikon battery as long as you have an authentic Nikon battery as one of the batteries in the battery grip. I have not tested this yet since I don't really see the point in purchasing a battery grip that basically allows for 2 batteries that that camera accepts by default since it is very easy to swap out the battery in the camera once it is exhausted but have seen various video reviews on YouTube showing this to work. The only benefit that I can see to getting this 3rd party Nikon D5100 (or Nikon D3100) battery grip is if it does accept 3rd party EN-EL14 batteries and/or if you plan on taking a lot of long videos where it isn't very practical to swap out the battery once it is exhausted. Having mentioned what I dislike about the Nikon D5100 battery issue, even though I have 2 authentic Nikon EN-EL14, I have never run out of power during a day of shooting photos requiring me to swap out my Nikon EN-EL14 battery so in my opinion the original Nikon EN-EL14 batteries do appear to last a long time between charges.

Other than my complaint about the battery, I don't have any major complaints about this camera. The built-in flash is not that powerful but this is the same with all digital cameras that I've used.

If you have any questions/comments regarding my experience with my Nikon D5100 (or anything written on this blog), please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comments that contain a URL link or hyperlink will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nexxtech Wave Wireless Digital Stereo Headphones Review

Because I live in a somewhat busy/noisy area, I decided that I needed a pair of headphones in order to enjoy my television viewing (without having to increase the volume every time it got noisy only to have to lower it when the noise went away). I wanted to purchase something wireless since I didn't want a cable going from my television set to wear I was sitting. What I wanted from my wireless headphones was something under $50 that would include all the necessary accessories in order to work out of the box almost immediately and for it obviously to have decent sound without any background distortion/humming noises coming from the headphones. I also wanted something that used standard rechargeable batteries.

When the Nexxtech Wave Wireless Digital Stereo Headphones went on sale for roughly half price, I decided to purchase it. I believe that this brand/unit is only being sold at The Source / La Source in Canada. The thing that I was a little worried about was that it wasn't what I would consider to be a name-brand device (or well known name brand device like Sony, JVC, etc.). Another thing that I was a little worried about was the store that had these headphones for sale (The Source / La Source) also had a policy against accepting returns for the headphone products due to hygienic reasons). I wondered whether this policy also applied to exchanges in case there was a problem with the unit and was told by the store employee that I could exchange it if it was defective with a similar product but would not be able to exchange it for a different product or return it for money (or store credit).

The unit comes with the wireless headphones, the transmitting recharge base unit, a 3.5 mm headphone plug to 2 RCA phono-type cable (Y cable), 2 rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries for the headphones, and a very simple instructional/usage paper. The transmitter accepts the standard red/white male RCA phono-type cables so you will need the included 3.5 mm headphone to phono-type cable in order to plug it into most computers, laptops, and headphone jacks. If you want to plug it into device like a satellite receiver or a Tivo/PVR, you will need to purchase the audio cables separately.

When I got home, I plugged the base unit into the back of my television set's headphone jack using the included cable and plugged this cable into the transmitter base. I then plugged in the base to the electrical outlet and put the rechargeable batteries into the headphones. I turned on the transmitter as well as the headphones and the headphones indicator showed that it was on and there seemed to be enough power for the unit to work. However, there was a very loud/annoying humming noise from the wireless headphones and the television volume coming into the headphones was very low. I raised the television volume control to the maximum and the television volume got a bit louder on the headphones but the loud humming background noise didn't go away. Worried that I had a defective unit, I read the instructional sheet and it mentioned that the unit should be fully charged for 24 hours before using it. Since I didn't have a spare set of AAA batteries that were fully charged, I left the headphones charging on the base unit and went to sleep. When I woke up ~8 hours later with the headphones charging on the base unit, the wireless headphones worked perfectly.

The headphones come with a volume control, an on/off switch (with LED), and a button to toggle to a different wireless band/frequency/channel in case there is interference. The base unit comes with an on/off switch that also functions to change the band/frequency/channel as well as an LED indicator showing whether the headphones are properly docked in order to charge. One thing that I didn't mention is that the base unit must be plugged into an AC outlet and does not have a battery compartment. This isn't a big problem for me but some people might have issues with this.

I"m not an audiophile so for me, I find the sound quality to be good for my purposes. I'm able to listen to my television without any noticeable distortion or background humming noises coming from the wireless headphones.

The only negative comment I have about the headphones but I've experienced this problem with all headphones that cover the entire ear is that I find that they make my ears warm (similar to earmuffs).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to place a comment in the comments section. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) is flagged as spam and won't be posted.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Google Play Store selling Nexus-7 Tablet to Canadians

I was looking at the upgrade for my Samsung Nexus-S (Galaxy Nexus) at the Google Store and noticed Google is accepting orders from consumers who want to purchase their new tablet the Nexus-7. Surprisingly when I went to the Google Play Store, I noticed Google was actually shipping this product (once it is available) to Canadians as well as to some other countries outside the US. This is somewhat unusual because generally a lot of the other products that Google releases isn't available in Canada (ex: Chromebook, Google Voice, Google Music, etc.)

I already have an Acer Android 7" tablet (Acer Iconia Tab A100) that I use but having something that is pure Android (without the customizations of the manufacturer) is something that is appealing to me. The Acer tablet doesn't have a lot of Acer customizations but I prefer using devices (cellphones, tablets, etc.) that don't have the carrier add-ins or the manufacturer's add-ins. It was actually one of the reasons why I opted to purchase a Nexus-S as opposed to purchasing another Android phone.

The Google Play Store seems to be using UPS to ship the item to Canadians and if the item is actually being shipping from the US to Canada using UPS, I will definitely not purchase it because of UPS's high brokerage fees when receiving items that were shipping from the US.

I'll continue to read the reviews about the Nexus-7 before I decide whether to purchase it or not. The hardware specifications look very nice and are better than my current Acer Iconia Tab A100 but then I've never really ran into a problem with my Acer Iconia Tab A100 (except that I consider the battery life to be somewhat on the weak side). The expected battery usage for the Nexus-7 seems good but normally I don't trust the values posted by the manufacturer since I often find these values don't represent real usage. If I do manage to get my hands on one either as a testing unit, I'll probably write a blog review on it.

If you live outside the US and you're interested in purchasing the new Google Nexus-7 tablet when it becomes available, check it out the Google Play Store. They have 2 models (8 GB & 16 GB). In my opinion, the price point for the 8 GB model ($210+taxes) is also good.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to place a comment in the comments section. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) is flagged as spam and won't be posted.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

iomega StorCenter ix2-200 Cloud Edition Review

I've been testing the iomega StorCenter ix2-200 Cloud Edition for a few months. Prior to testing this item, I used a no-name NAS (network-attached storage) drive which was problematic when transferring files to/from the device.

With the iomega StorCenter ix2, I find the performance to be very good. I've rarely had problems transferring files to/from the device.

I set my StorCenter ix2 as a Mirror RAID-1 storage device so the files that I place onto the device is replicated between both hard drives.

As of this review, the firmware is at the latest version ( The firmware is very easy to update. The only thing that I don't really like regarding updating the firmware is that it requires logging into iomega's website. After downloading it, you basically open up a browser to the IP address of the NAS drive and you go to the proper menu option to upload the TGZ file into the device.

The firmware appears to be updated regularly since I've been testing it. I would say that there are about 3 firmware updates since I've been evaluating it for approximately 1 year.

I haven't been using the iomega StorCenter ix2-200 Cloud Edition to its full extent since it has a lot of features that although I think is useful to have (like automatic uploading of photos to photo sites or Facebook), I personally don't currently need it. I basically use the device to store pictures, audio files, documents, and some videos. The good thing about this device is that my network media devices (mainly my LG SmartTV Upgrader Box & Aluratek Internet Radio Alarm Clock) have absolutely no problems accessing the information from it.

The iomega StorCenter ix2-200 Cloud Edition specs are located *HERE* so there is little point in me detailing all of the items.

Personally I've found the iomega StorCenter ix-200 Cloud Edition very easy to configure and very easy to use. The only thing that I've read is that even though it has user replaceable hard drives, if you replace the hard drive yourself, you basically void the warranty. I've also read that only certain hard drives can be used in the device and the hard drives are not "hot-swappable". In any event, I am hoping that I won't have to replace the hard drives any time soon.

I've connected an external USB drive to the iomega StorCenter ix-200 Cloud Edition (there are 3 USB ports on the device) and was able to access the information from the external USB drive (format of my external USB drive is FAT32 and NTFS). I also tested it with a USB thumb drive and I also didn't have any issues accessing information from the thumb drive. The USB ports can also be used for a USB printer (since it supports printers) but I didn't test it with my printer since my printer is WiFi capable and is located away from the ix-200 drive.

Something that the iomega also supports is torrent downloads without a dedicated PC. I have not tested this since I generally don't use torrents.

All in all, I've been satisfied with the performance of the iomega StorCenter ix2-200 Cloud Edition NAS drive. It is a considered a "home office / small office" device and I can't really see it being used in a real office environment.

If you have any questions regarding this blog entry or on my experience with the iomega StorCenter ix2-200 Cloud Edition, please don't hesitate to leave a comment/question in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comments that contain a URL link (whether embedded or not) will be flagged as spam and will not be posted.