Monthly Archives: November 2005

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I love my Media Center PC. No, really, I do. Sure, it’s a frequent source of frustration, but overall it works pretty well. Sounds like alot of products from Microsoft, huh?

One source of frustration is that the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) for OTA (over the air) digital TV has errors. For PBS, it shows the program listings for standard definition rather than the hi def version, and it doesn’t show any listings for subchannels (for those not familiar with ATSC TV, channels can have subchannels, like PBS Encore, PBS Kids, etc.). I tried a hack that had me faking the MCE box to believe I was receiving digital cable and changing the OTA listings to point to their digital cable counterparts. This actually looked like it was going to work and it indeed fixed my PBS HD problem, but the listings for the subchannels just showed the listing for the main channel. So all 5 PBS subchannels now show the PBS HD listing. Not very useful, huh? I tried using some third-party hacks to download listings from zap2it.com and convert it into MCE format, but I ended up hosing the OS and having to reinstall it. There went another weekend lost to my MCE box. Thank God I have an understanding wife…

Just bought this little point and shoot gem after the usual loads of research. Being a Canon family, I was tempted to get the SD450 or 550 when looking to upgrade my S400. Then I read Ken Rockwell’s review of the Casio EX-Z750. It’s a 7.2 MP P&S that’s just a hair smaller than the SD550. Why did I opt for this camera? Well, first, it actually has a manual mode. No, really, a real manual mode. It can do shutter and aperture priority as well as full manual. You can set the shutter up to 60 secs and I’ve already taken some night shots with it successfully. It also records 640×480 30fps video encoded in MPEG-4. Most P&S cameras record using MPEG-2, which is clearly inferior from a compression standpoint. I can fit about 3x the recording time on this little Casio than I could have on the Canon. That equates to over an hour on the 1GB SD card I got for it. That said, there are a few gotchas. There have been some reports of a “Lens Error” that occurs when the mechanism that extends and retracts the lens goes “off track”. This can happen if the camera inadvertantly turns on when in your pocket or with your hand blocking the lens. I’ve turned off the setting that allows you to turn the camera on using the Play and Record buttons to limit exposure to this. Also, the default settings for sharpening and saturation were a little extreme for me. Casio released a firmware fix that reduced this a bit, but it wasn’t enough for me. No biggie, I just changed the defaults in the settings to -1.

All in all, I’ve been very pleased with my new toy.

Update: over two years later, and I’m still loving the Casio. They’ve come out with newer models, but screwed up many of them with inferior image quality. The manual mode has been great and I’ve taken a number of night shots with shutter speeds of several seconds. Of course, a tripod or someplace to rest the camera is needed and you have to activate the 2 second self timer, but it works great. I’m still looking for the perfect point-and-shoot (Panasonic is getting close), but for the meantime, the Casio does the trick.