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December 2013
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February 2014

January 2014

Manage Your Kindle gets facelift

I'm a big fan of Amazon's Kindle (as you all know). I'm less of a fan of Amazon's management tools for said Kindle, all found at Manage Your Kindle.

If case you haven't used Manage Your Kindle before (and I'm willing to bet most Kindle users haven't) it allows you to delete ebooks, send them to particular Kindles and even download a book to your computer and transfer it to your Kindle via USB.

Here's what it used to look like (and still does in Chrome for me):


The design isn't very exciting, but that's not my main issue with the old MYK site. You couldn't perform actions on multiple books, so if you wanted to delete 3 books from your library you had to click on the drop down for each and then click delete. I don't have time for 6 clicks!

The new version makes that a thing of the past, and looks much nicer (at the moment I'm only seeing this in Safari):


A lovely gird of your book covers is displayed by default. Click on a book and it gets a little green check mark. Click on another one, and another check mark appears. Then you can click on one of the action buttons and have that action apply to all the selected items. Magic:


Amazon has also made it easier to find details about your Kindles by displaying all of your them along the top of the page. Clicking on one Kindle allows you to deregister it (if you want to have someone else use it with their Amazon account), your Kindle's email address (you did know you can email documents to your Kindle, right?), and the type and serial number.

It is also now much easier to turn off Special Offers (i.e. ads) on your Kindles that sport them, just by clicking a link and paying a few bucks:


Well done, Amazon!

Best tech upgrade: our livingroom

Bb13I watch a lot of television and I don't mind saying so. TV has a bad reputation, but there are plenty of great things to watch (and plenty of not so great things... I watch my fair share of vapid TV as well, and I like it!).

We've had a perfectly fine setup for awhile now. A 42 inch HDTV connected to a home theater receiver with an Apple TV and Bluray player attached to round out our options. The whole setup was fine, if a bit fiddly. You had to change inputs on the TV and switch the inputs on the receiver if you wanted to watch Netflix via the Apple TV and then switch to another set of inputs for the Bluray player.

This isn't the biggest deal in the world, of course, but it was a bit of a pain. I purchased a fancy Logitech universal remote that would do all the switching with the press of one button, in theory. Sadly, it worked about 70% of the time. This drove Marisa crazy, and I wasn't too thrilled with it myself.

I longed for one box to rule them all: be my DVR, Netflix box, and Amazon Instant box. I've often considered a TiVo but none of the models really seemed worth it until the TiVo Roamio Plus.


We've had the TiVo for 3 months now and I never want to go back to those dark days before the TiVo was in our lives (and Marisa even likes it!). It makes watching Netflix a breeze, and the Guide is great. I also enjoy the fact that the TiVo just goes out and records shows it thinks we might enjoy (and sometimes ashamed of what it thinks I like to watch!).

The only issues I have with TiVo are minor: it doesn't support Amazon Instant video, just rentals (though I hear there might be some news about added support soon) and some of the screens aren't in HD which boggles the mind.

Now that we had a new fancy TiVo my mind starting to think about the TV attached to it. It had served us well, but there was a line across the top of the screen that could only be seen from a certain angle. Now, I never watched TV at this angle but it was one of those things that can't be unseen once seen. It bothered me, but Marisa thought it was silly.

Thus began the great campaign to convince that we needed a new TV. Things were going poorly, I must admit, until Marisa's royalty statement arrived. A new TV was in order, and I knew just the TV to get: Panasonic VIERA 50" Plasma.

V2 TC in P50ST60 3 700

This one of them fancy smart TVs with 3D (which is kinda neat, but more annoying since the TV seems to get easily confused about what a 3D signal is and alerts us far too often that 2D content is 3D).

The picture is fantastic, and while it is larger than our old TV it is much lighter which is nice.

Now that we had a lovely new TV and a wonderful TiVo our setup was streamlined a bit, but we still had that cumbersome receiver. I asked Joe, my AV go to guy, what I should replace our home theater with and he said to go with a sound bar.

That settled it, and I picked up a Sonos Playbar which was lovely. But I missed surround sound, so I bought 2 Play:1s. And then I had a chance (thanks to my friend John) to pick up some Sonos gear at a discount so I bought a SUB. I am now living the Sonos dream, as depicted on their website:


Sonos stuff is pricey, but it is a breeze to setup and so easy to use. Plus, it sounds pretty darned good to me.

Overall, 2013 made for a gigantic upgrade to our home theater setup. And best of all: Marisa likes it and can easily switch between all of our different media options.

Score one for the inevitable progress of technology.

Best Gadget I don't use: Chromecast

Bb13I'm celebrating all the things I liked in 2013 with a series of posts I'm cleverly calling 2013 in Review. Click that link to see all the entries.

I'm a bit of a gadget hound, and I've bought a bunch of them over the course of 2013. Some I love and use everyday, others not so much.

ChromecastThe odd duck of the group is the gadget that I love yet have no real use case for: Google's Chromecast.

The Chromecast is a $35 doohickey which you plug into an HDMI port on your HDTV. It connects to your WiFi network and then you can stream a variety of things from your computer/smartphone/tablet with a couple taps.

Setup is simple, it works like a charm, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a simple way to stream Youtube videos of Maru or Netflix to their TV (especially if that person is an Android user).

If I love the Chromecast so much why don't I marry it? Or at least, why am I not using it regularly? Well, I'm already married and my TiVo has replaced the Chromecast. The TiVo trumps the Chromecast for me because it does live TV, records stuff, streams Netflix, and allows me to throw a YouTube video on my TV all without having to change sources (it is also much, much more expensive than the Chromecast so there's that).