Sunday, August 26, 2012

Using Netflix, Unblock-Us, and the LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 Box

I had some spare time today and was making a few changes/adjustments to my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box and I noticed that it started to partially work with the Unblock-Us service which was a pleasant surprise.

What I decided to do was to switch the region of my Unblock-Us service account to Mexico and reconfigure the network settings of my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box to use the DNS settings from my router as opposed to my ISP. I had previously set the DNS settings directly on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box to use my ISP's DNS settings instead of using the DNS settings from my router (which I set to use Unblock-Us's DNS servers since I routinely connect multiple devices to Netflix) after I couldn't get Netflix to work at all on the LG Smart TV Upgrader box because Netflix would appear in a weird state. The previous time when I checked it, the listings were the Canadian listings (my home country) but these videos were not available from the Unblock-Us Netflix country settings which was set to the US. When I would select one of the movies, it would say that the movie wasn't available and tell me to pick a different movie or try again later.

I'm not sure if what I did fixed the problem or whether the problem was fixed on Unblock-Us's side but my Unblock-Us Netflix country selection was set to Mexico (because I was watching a lot of Pixar movies), I wanted to try my Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box to see if I could get the Netflix Mexico listings. This was the first time that I was trying to use my Smart TV Upgrader Box with the Mexico listings (previously I had just tried it with the US settings).

Because my LG Smart TV Upgrader box was set to use the DNS settings from my ISP (I was using it to only watch movies from the Canadian Netflix selection), I changed it again to start using the DNS settings from my router (which was set to use Unblock-Us's DNS servers). After doing this, I clicked to test whether it properly connected to the internet and the LG Smart TV Upgrader box showed that it had an internet connection.

I then unplugged the power cable from the LG Smart TV Upgrader box, waited a few seconds, and replugged the power cable back into my LG Smart TV Upgrader box.  The box rebooted/restarted and then I turned it on and went into Netflix and noticed that the Netflix application on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box was now showing the US listings (even though the country selection on Unblock-Us's website was set to Mexico). I tried one of the movies and it didn't work (since the actual Netflix listing was somehow the US listings on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box whereas the country selection on Unblock-Us's website was set to Mexico).

At this point, I went to Unblock-Us's website and changed the country to the US and unplugged the power cable again from my LG Smart TV Upgrader box, waited a few seconds, and replugged it in. After it rebooted/restarted, I powered on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box device using the remote control and went into the Netflix application. The Netflix listing was still showing the US listings. I selected one of the movies and this time it worked.

When I have some additional time I will try my LG Smart TV Upgrader box again with the Brazil or Mexico country settings on the Unblock-Us service to see if I can get this to work properly. More details will follow once I do this.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Unblock-Us Review (comparison between Blockless service)

After subscribing to the Blockless service that I wrote about in about 2 of my previous blog entries, I discovered a new service called Unblock-Us that does the same thing and works similarly (where you change the DNS settings either on your router or your device to use their DNS service) which I decided to try.

The new service (Unblock-Us) in my opinion, after trying it for a few days, is better than Blockless. One of the biggest advantages is that whereas Blockless has 3 country selections (Canada, US, & UK) for Netflix, Unblock-Us has 6 country selections (Canada, US, UK, Ireland, Mexico, & Brazil) for Netflix.

After taking a quick look at UK and Ireland Netflix, they appear very similar so I'm not sure if there is a dramatic difference between these 2 selections. Based on my quick look, Mexico and Brazil offer a lot of Disney & Pixar movies that aren't available in Canada & the US.

I started to watch some of the animated Avengers season 2 episodes which aren't part of the Canada/US selections on my Android tablet. I've also watched one of my favourite Pixar movies (The Incredibles). The only thing I noticed about watching the Brazil or Mexico selection is that there is additional ending credits (with voice credits for the different language track) and for the selections that I've tried there were either different subtitles (in Portuguese or Spanish) or a different soundtrack/voicetrack (Portuguese or Spanish).

Both services (Blockless & Unblock-Us) cost roughly the same (~$5.00) and both work based on the same technology (change your DNS settings to use their DNS). They also both offer 1 week free trial offers.

If you are an avid Netflix user, for the additional country selections I would go with Unblock-Us.

There might be some things that Blockless does better than Unblock-Us but based on my quick usage (and since my primary usage for this type of service is to watch Netflix), I prefer using Unblock-Us.

Netflix doesn't work with both Blockless and Unblock-Us when using my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box. I suspect the reason for this is that it only works on what is considered "portable" (or mobile) devices. Both services work fine with my iPhone 3GS, my Android phone, my Android tablet, my Chromebook, my netbook, and my computers.

I am still able to watch the different country selections of Netflix on my television by attaching my Android tablet (via HDMI cable) to my television set. The DNS configurations for my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box are set to the DNS settings provided by my Internet Service Provider.

EDIT: For part 2 of my review on Unblock-Us, please check out my blog entry on Sunday November 11, 2012 (click *HERE*).

EDIT: To get the most out of Unblock-Us, please check out my blog entry on Monday January 7, 2013 (click *HERE*).

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight/Flash Mini Review

I purchased my Nikon SB-400 speedlight/flash over 1 year ago and I thought that I would write a mini review of it.

I purchased this speedlight for one of my Nikon digital cameras (Nikon Coolpix P5100) mainly because I wasn't satisfied with the built-in flash from the camera itself. I feel that the range for the built-in flash for most digital cameras (including the Nikon P5100) is very limited.

When I saw the SB-400 at a very good price I decided to purchase it.

The Nikon SB-400 is considered to be Nikon's entry-level speedlight/flash and it uses 2 AA batteries. I've used mainly rechargeable NiMH batteries in my SB-400 and find the battery life to be very good. I also like the fact that it is compact/tiny compared to the full-sized speedlights/flashes from Nikon. If I used one of the full-sized flashes on my Nikon Coolpix P5100, it would look very awkward since the flash would be larger than the camera itself.

Nikon SB-400 on Nikon Coolpix P5100
Nikon SB-400 on Nikon D5100 D-SLR
I find the recharge rate for the SB-400 to be good. It uses Nikon's i-TTL flash system so it is also compatible with my Nikon DSLR (Nikon D5100). In fact, even though I have a full-size flash (which I will write a mni-review at a future date), I still bring my Nikon SB-400 speedlight with me and will occasionally use it with my Nikon DSLR.

What I like about the Nikon SB-400 is that it is small/tiny and light-weight. I also like that it uses two standard AA batteries and has a fairly quick flash recharge rate when compared to the camera's built-in flash. The last thing that I like about it is that it supports Nikon's new i-TTL flash system. I also like that it comes with a very nice form-fitting soft case.

What I don't really like about the Nikon SB-400 is that it does not have a swiveling head. It does allow the flash to be tilted up to 90 degrees (in certain increments). The flash also doesn't have any "zoom" feature nor does it have any wireless support. It also has no on-screen display nor any controls (there is only an on/off switch, an status LED, and a flash/camera locking lever).

Based on the price that I paid for my Nikon SB-400 speedlight/flash, I've been satisfied with my purchase. I take a lot of indoor shots and I find that not only with my Nikon Coolpix P5100 but also with my Nikon D5100, the speedlight extends the range of the built-in flash. It also conserves some of the camera's battery for taking pictures instead of powering the flash.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

My thoughts on Netflix US content

I've been using Netflix Canada for about 9 months now and so far I've been satisfied with it. I watched Netflix when I was in the US (US selections) using my Canadian Netflix account and I thought that there was quite a lot of good movies as well as television shows available on Netflix US which were not available in Canada.

There are many ways of seeing the US Netflix content while outside the US and I discovered one such way about a month ago called Blockless which I reviewed *HERE*.

I find that the Netflix US selection oftentimes compliments the Netflix Canada selection. For example, currently as I write my review, Netflix US has all the Star Trek television series/episodes (Star Trek original series, Star Trek Animated Series, Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise) but none of the Star Trek movies while Netflix Canada has all the movies (except the recent Star Trek reboot with the new Captain Kirk) but none of the television series/episodes. Netflix Canada did have the new Star Trek movie (the one with the new Captain Kirk) but for some reason, it was removed a few months after I watched it. There are other examples where the Netflix US selection compliments the Netflix Canada selection (ex: Terminator appears only in the US selection while Terminator 2 - Judgment Day appears only in the Canadian selection)

There are other shows/movies that appear on both the US selection as well as the Canadian selection. For example, the NBC cancelled television show Heroes appears in both selections as does a lot of other cancelled television shows (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Family Guy, etc.) as does a lot of movies (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2, etc.)

I find the Netflix US selection to not be "better" than the Netflix Canada selection but "different". If anything, if I had to choose (and based on my personal viewing preferences), I would say that the Netflix US selection is only slightly better than the Netflix Canada selection. I would say that 50% of my Netflix viewing are only available to the US whereas 40% are only available in Canada (with 10% being available in both selections).

For me, because I use the Blockless service, I get the US selections on certain "mobile" (portable) devices in my house I like having both Netflix Canada and Netflix US available to me for the additional cost of Blockless service. I wouldn't stop viewing the Canadian selection just because I have access to the US selections on Netflix.

If you have any questions/comments related to what I've written on this blog, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments selection below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.