IR4PS3 Review

Until recently, the PS3 was one of the cheaper options for Blu-ray playback and it has high quality playback.  Today there are stand alone players which will match the quality of playback, but not the boot / menu speed the PS3.  Still, the PS3 goes beyond movies by providing game play and media center duties.

One of the drawbacks to the PS3 is integration with standard universal remote controls, not having an IR control story.  The official Sony PS3 remote uses the same bluetooth connectivity as the wireless game controllers.  To work around this there are several 3rd party solutions exist such as IR2BT, ps3toothfairy, Schmart and IR4PS3, I chose to go with the latter.

I first found out about the IR4PS3 option via, a site I’ve often referenced ever since I invested in a Phillips Pronto TSU2000.  Having a complex audio/video setup is one thing, but it becomes a much bigger problem if my wife can’t make use of it – a fully programmable remote such as the Pronto makes the whole setup easy to use.  After reading the AVSForum thread on IR4PS3, I felt confident that it would be a good match for my setup.

The short version of the review is that ordering it was easy, it was shipped quickly, and works exactly as I would expect.  You do need to provide your own power supply, but the manual lists several low cost and easy to find options.  As it uses the bluetooth module from the Sony remote, compatibility with the PS3 firmware upgrades should be a non-issue.  I now can use my IR based universal remote control with the PS3.  Response time feel good, exactly as if the PS3 actually had IR support built in.  I would not hesitate to recommend it to others.

Read on for a full review with pictures..

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CoolMax 3.5″ IDE Enclosure Review

A year or two ago, it was cheaper to pair together a USB enclosure and a drive than to buy a pre-built external drive.  Now with 1TB external drives around the $200 price point – if you want external storage, just buy a pre-built unit.

Of course, you might be like myself and have a stack of hard drives sitting on your desk.  I had a 60G drive looking for a home, and a 40G just sitting here gathering dust along with a handful of sub 10G drives pulled from older machines.  The 60G came out of an old server and it was a pretty loud drive, thus the reason I don’t have it sitting in my desktop machine which has a nice quiet drive in it.

In order to tinker with the NSLU2, I needed an external USB drive.  Instead of laying out a few hundred bucks, I figured the $21 CoolMax from ShopRBC would work until I needed more than 60G of storage.

I didn’t expect very much for the price, but the box was pretty sturdy.  Reviews on the net seemed to be pretty mixed, with a number of people having real problems with it.  I had no intention of using the one touch backup facility, or installing any of the supplied windows software – so that wasn’t a factor in the purchase.  Even for normal users, there is no reason to use the supplied software if you just want to use it as a drive – the USB enclosure should be detected and work without any problems without drivers on most modern (XP, Vista, Mac or Linux) systems.

Included in the box (working top to bottom, left to right): Power adapter, screw driver, usb cable, power cord (I got 2!), a CD with drivers, plastic stand, drive rails, manual, and the enclosure itself.

The screwdriver deserves special mention, its actually not junk.  The black plastic rails are designed to fit into the screw holes in your drive and slide into the enclosure.  Hooking things up is pretty obvious, but things are a bit of a tight fit.  Generally it feels fairly well designed.

Of course – it turns out my 1st unit was DOA which sent me back to the store for a new unit, this took a few days but the folks at ShopRBC made it pretty much hassle free.  The 2nd unit was another brand new unit, the only difference was this box didn’t have a bonus 2nd power cord – oh, and it works flawlessly.

The enclosure doesn’t provide any ventilation, and it does warm up to the touch – but no more so than the drive would running in a PC.  The power cord is a bit short, but again this isn’t the end of the world.  There are power and drive activity lights on the box.  Overall it does exactly what I’m looking for, at a very reasonable price.

If you’ve got an old drive around consider picking up an enclosure, just be aware there are IDE and Sata enclosures and you need to get the right type.

NCF DSL Review

[May 2014 – I can no longer recommend NCF as an ISP, please see the comments on the post for a link to an updated article]

The National Captial Freenet (NCF) is the 3rd ISP I’ve had high speed service from.  Originally not having cable, I chose the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) solution and went with Bell who provided my phone service.  I might still be with them had it not been for Magma changing the rules on their dial up email account causing my address to expire, so switching to Magma (which was bought by Primus) for highspeed allowed me to keep my email address active.  I don’t have much good to say about Primus.

With Bell, I was stuck on the 1Meg Nortel modem for a long time.  My neighbourhood had been upgraded to use the newer higher speeds, but due to my ignorance (and Bell’s lack of information) I kept paying the same premium cost and getting low speed.  Until I found out things had been better for many of my friends on DSL and called Bell to upgrade.  It was a free upgrade, but annoying that it took me calling to get it to happen – I also had some interruption in service in the switch-over.

Calling Bell customer service was always frustrating, you had to run through the standard script – only to get yourself passed along to the next level where you might get someone more informed.  I had an intermittent problem on the line and it was impossible to get help from them.

When I moved to Magma, the switch was smooth on their end.  Bell continued to charge me for my DSL line for a couple of extra months, even though I wasn’t using their services.  A huge thumbs down on Bell’s billing department.

Magma was a great company, and using their technical support I was able to get my intermittent line issues sorted out and fixed.  Sadly, now owned by Primus there is in my experience terrible customer support.  As a Magma customer I was grandfathered over to Primus, but apparently didn’t have full rights as a Primus customers (my customer ID wasn’t even a real Primus one).  After a 20+ minute wait on hold just to talk to someone, I ended up in a frustrating conversation which took at least another 20 minutes to determine they couldn’t give me the service I wanted (DSL + static IP) at a competitive price.

Ages ago, my Dad had pointed me at NCF offering high speed at a very reasonable rate.  I probably should have made the switch a long time ago, but I convinced myself into thinking that maintaining my email identity @magma was worth the extra cost.  Ken had also had some success with Magma as an ISP, but I suspect my recent success moving away from them will help convince him to make the leap too.

Signing up with NCF is done online, similar to many ISPs today.  They do support switching from another ISP and their website recommends a week or two of overlap to avoid losing service.  I cut things a bit fine, but the switch-over looks like it has gone ok (knock on wood).  There was a small mess up with the start of service date, to which I got a fairly detailed email reply promptly – included in that note was the line “any further questions, just give us a call” followed by the office number.  On a whim, I dialed it up to check on one more detail – and was astounded to hit “0” and almost immediately talk to someone.  Better still, they knew what they were doing – and could answer my question right then and there.

As I already own a DSL modem and line filters etc.  The only thing I needed from them was service.  I was able to switch over before my Primus account had expired, and today marks the official start of my NCF service.  When I initially switched (June 25th) I did some speedtests to see how things were.  On Primus/Magma my speeds were consistently 2500kb/s down and 650kb/s up.  On the 26th, switching to my new DSL login on NCF – I wasn’t surprised to see the same numbers.  Today I checked my speed again.  WOW!  4400kb/s down and 650kb/s up.  Maybe its a fluke, but I’m hoping it isn’t.

Summary – NCF offers DSL service for $29.95 a month, no contract.  There is no speed cap, so up to 5 Mb/s down, 800 Kb/s up (max).  They offer static IPs for additional cost.  It is run by people who know what they are doing.  This not-for-profit organization deserves your business.