Aloha Friday: Shows From Years Past

Not too long ago, I was given the opportunity to review Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising for Kailani over at An Island Life.  (There’s a giveaway for that too, so head on over and enter.)  My boys loved it as did I.  For me, it brought back a lot of memories of shows I loved growing up.  I was a huge Transformers fan and always would beg my parents for a new Transformer to add to my collection.  The only rival to Transformers was He-Man.  I still have some of my old Transformers packed away somewhere.

Besides Transformers, the boys have been re-discovering some gems from the past.  They’ve watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on Roku via Netflix.  They don’t seem to get how cheesy it is and instead simply enjoy the superhero stories.  They’ve also watched Batman: The Animated Series and The Super Mario Bros Super Show.

It seems that some shows (or show concepts in the case of Transformers) don’t really age all that badly and kids don’t always need a flashy new show to be entertained.  Sometimes, an older show will entertain them just as much.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: Do you have a show that you grew up with that your kids enjoy watching?

P.S. If you haven’t already, go visit FollowerHQ and let me know what you think of my Twitter application.

P.P.S. For a bit of fun, try my other Twitter Application, Rout. It’s a +F in Fun!

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the linky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #118

My Walmart Father’s Day Wishlist

In case you haven’t heard, Father’s Day is coming.  Growing up, this meant buying my father a tie or similar piece of clothing.  (Techy gifts while I was growing up, either were beyond my monetary means or weren’t the kind of gift he was interested in.)  And while I appreciate a nice tie, my gift preferences usually skew towards the geeky side.  Sadly, though, we aren’t super wealthy.  I can’t afford to go out and buy every single piece of geeky

tech that makes me drool.  I need to prioritize and bargain shop and Walmart is always on my bargain shopping list.  Here, in no particular order, are some tech items that I’d love to get for Father’s Day.  All of these items were spotted during a recent stroll through our local Walmart.  They are also all available from Walmart’s Father’s Day electronics page or


Video Games:

Playing video games is fun.  Playing video games with my boys is extremely fun.  NHL, while not a master, has learned how to operate the controls nicely.  JSL wants to work it right, but just can’t figure it out yet.  I think he just needs more practice.  Which means I need to play more video games with him.  Oh the never-ending chores us dads must undertake!


Yes, we already have two Roku players.  One in our living room and one in our bedroom.  Why do we need a third, you ask?  Well, our upstairs room (used by the boys as a play room) doesn’t have one.  In fact, since it only has basic cable TV (and a DVD player but the DVDs are kept downstairs), that TV would benefit greatly from a Roku player.  Plus, the boys could rock out with Pandora in the larger play room space.

Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi iPad 2

Don’t ask me how we didn’t get a photo of this.  I drool over the thought of having an iPad to use.  Oh the web browsing I’d do.  The apps I’d download.  The Angry Birds I’d fling at green pigs.  Excuse me while I get my drool mop.

P1030319LCD Monitor

I recently inherited a desktop computer that my parents didn’t need anymore.  I want to set this up to be a print/file server, but I need a monitor.  I have two CRT monitors I could use but they are big, hulking affairs.  They work fine, but they take up so much desk space.  How much nicer would it be to have this slim number on the desk instead of the giant dinosaur?

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of Walmart and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Ameba Review and Giveaway: Fun and Educational Kids TV

I’ll admit it.  As much as I thought I’d be the parent who wouldn’t let their child watch too much television, my kids love the TV.  They have a dozen favorite shows that they absolutely *must* see and are constantly asking us to DVR something else.  In addition, they’ve fallen in love with Netflix on our Roku player.  NHL, in particular, enjoys picking just which episode of which show he is going to watch next.  Of course, we prefer it when their television watching habits are educational in nature.  So when I heard about Ameba, I was intrigued.

Ameba is one of the many new channels that Roku provides.  Unlike others that show old movies or anime, though, Ameba shows educational programming geared towards children.  When we first browsed the selection of shows, I’ll admit that I began to get a little nervous.  Nowhere was Dora the Explorer, The Wonder Pets or any of the other “big name” shows that my boys are used to watching.  Would they take to these new shows or would they turn their noses up at them?

We looked through the Ages 2 – 5 section for a good program for JSL.  After awhile, we found Rainbow Fish.  This was a pleasant surprise because they love the Rainbow Fish book.  We watched an episode where Rainbow Fish and his friends need to welcome a new girl to their school.  A girl who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the gang.  They both enjoyed this show.

After this, we switched over to the Age 6 – 10 section to find a good program for NHL.  I noticed Einsteinabot, a program which appeared to be about numbers and math.  NHL loves math so we tried this.  Once again, I began to get nervous.  The program had a fun song, but the look of the show wasn’t as polished as some shows on Nick Jr or Disney Junior.  I needn’t have worried, though.  NHL began singing along while JSL danced in his seat.  When the episode was over, NHL asked to watch the next one and the one after that.

It just goes to show that kids like fun shows.  They don’t care if the show uses the latest animation techniques or expensive computer generated imagery.  The shows on Ameba might not have big toy lines behind them like Dora or the Disney shows do, but they are fun and educational.  (Of course, the lack of a big toy line might be seen as another plus.)

Ameba costs $9.99 per month (though, for the month of April, they’re dropping the price to $3.99) and you can either get a set top box from them or purchase a Roku box for $60 to play it on.  I didn’t test Ameba’s box so I can’t say anything good or bad about it, but I highly recommend the Roku box for ease of use and availability of content.


Thanks to Ameba, not one, not two, but three lucky winners will receive an Ameba set top box and a 3 month subscription to Ameba. To enter, simply leave a comment below answering this question: What education programs do your children watch or did you watch growing up?

You can also earn bonus entries by doing any (or all) of the following items. Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each item that you complete.  (Don’t just leave one comment listing everything you did.)

  • Follow @TechyDad on Twitter. (1 bonus entry)
  • Follow @AmebaTV on Twitter. (1 bonus entry)
  • Tweet about the giveaway on Twitter. Be sure to include @TechyDad, @AmebaTV and a link to this post in the Tweet. (1 bonus entry per day) For example: Stream educational children’s shows from the web to your TV. Win 1 of 3 @AmebaTV set top boxes from @TechyDad #Giveaway
  • Subscribe to my RSS feed or let me know if you already are. (1 bonus entry)
  • Leave a comment on any of my non-giveaway posts from March/April. Leave a comment here letting me know which post you commented on. (1 bonus entry per comment, maximum 3 entries)
  • Write a post on your blog linking to this giveaway. Leave 3 comments about this to get credit for all of your extra entries. (3 bonus entries)

To enter, please follow the rules above within the comment section. Contest starts today, March 31st and ends at Noon EST on April 14th, 2010. You do not have to be a blogger to enter, but must leave a valid e-mail address for me to contact you for mailing address once the giveaway is over. I will select the winner using and contact you via e-mail. You will have 48 hours to claim the prize. If there is no response, another winner will be selected. Open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

Disclaimer: I was provided two month’s free Ameba service to review.  No other compensation was given. The opinions expressed above are my own. Ameba is also providing the giveaway item to my readers.

Cutting The Cable Cord Follow-up

Last year, I wrote about how I would love to cut the cable cord and stop paying for cable TV.  At the time, I assumed that DVD rentals/purchases (including services such as Netflix), in-home streaming (via purchased and ripped DVDs) and the Internet would pick up the slack from our loss of cable TV.  After all was said and done, I figured that cutting the cable cord would save us $15 a month.  Not much, really.

Later on, I actually won a Roku and tried out Netflix.  This resulted in a four part series titled Netflix, Roku and Cut Cable, Oh My!.  (Here are links to part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.)  During this series, I revised my estimates, including purchasing equipment to receive OTA signals and a TiVo box to record shows.  I also cut back on Amazon VOD and purchased DVD estimates.  At the end, I wound up estimating a savings of $40 a month.

Since it has been about year, I figured it was time for a follow-up.  First of all, our cable cord is still fully intact.  Despite our calculations of what we would save, it turns out that too many of the shows we like watching are on cable TV.  Still, our television landscape has changed dramatically in the past year and it doesn’t bode well for the future of the cable cord.

First of all, that three month Netflix trial turned into a paid-subscription.  Yes, this is $13.99 extra a month, but it is well worth it.  We get 2 DVDs out at a time and unlimited streaming.  Thanks to our Roku box, we can watch videos streaming from Netflix on our television.  The kids have taken to this the most and will watch the same shows over and over.  They even request “Roku” (by which they usually mean Netflix on Roku) over regular TV on a regular basis.

NHL and JSL have discovered classic cartoons such as Pink Panther and Rugrats and will watch their antics over and over.  (Note to Netflix and Nickelodeon: Please get more than just the first 4 seasons of Rugrats on streaming!)

Amazon VOD has gotten almost no use.  About the only time I’ve used it was when I had a credit to use up.  Even then, my purchase has gone unwatched since the boys love Roku so much.  Still, were I to cut cable, I could see buying Mythbusters this way, but not much else.  A season of Mythbusters on Amazon VOD would cost about $43.50.  At that rate, I might be better off waiting and buying it on DVD.  (I still wish Netflix could get the DVD season sets instead of the “random episode” collection DVDs.)

Paid rentals and DVD purchases have gone virtually extinct.  Yes, we’ll buy the occasional DVD, but this is a rare event.  Meanwhile, our trips to the library to take out DVDs have become a nearly weekly event.  The boys get excited to go to the DVD section and pick out 1 DVD each.  Then they can’t wait to get home and watch it over and over until it is time to return it and pick a new DVD.  This is quite a deal since it is essentially free.  “Essentially” because it is paid for via our taxes, but I can think of worse ways to spend tax money than beefing up our public libraries.  Besides, the boys almost always get books while there too.  We’ll leave with three or four DVDs and a big bag full of books.

Still, there are cable channels that we just love watching too much to cancel.  If these shows were available in a streaming model (say, via Hulu Plus, Netflix or some other provider), we would gladly subscribe to those and ditch the cable cord.  Until that happens, though, I don’t think the cord will get sliced.  Of course, as more content goes streaming and as we watch less and less non-streaming content, the cable cord’s lifespan seems more and more limited.  I’d probably be safe to declare that we won’t cut it in the next year, but I wouldn’t be as sure about the next 3 – 5 years.

Easy Linkup with LinkE

When we moved into our house, our computer systems went upstairs. Over time, though, we found that we were using the downstairs more. This was aided by the addition of a wireless router and our laptops. When we added our Roku and CinemaTube, we hooked them up to our wireless network. This was a fine solution, but wireless is slower than direct Ethernet hookups. Unfortunately, running network cable throughout our house wasn’t an option due to the age of our house and type of walls it has. That, plus we had enough home repair bills without drilling through walls just to run cable.

Enter the LinkE. The LinkE, from Brite-View, uses Powerline Networking technology to connect your devices to your router. Put simply, the traffic flows through your router, into the LinkE bridge, through your house’s power lines, through the LinkE switch and to your device. If that sounds complicated, all you need to know is that you plug the bridge into an electrical outlet near your router, connect it to the router and then plug the switch into any other electrical outlet in the house. After connecting a device to the switch, you have Internet access.

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I took the LinkE out of the box and plugged one unit in downstairs near our TV. I plugged the other unit in upstairs near our router. I was actually expecting more setup than that. I figured that I’d need to log into some administrative panel and fiddle with some settings or something. Instead, it was literally plug and play. When I hooked it up to our Roku, our Roku was able to tell that it was connected to a wired network and could use that instead of the wireless network. Before you could say “powerline networking”, Netflix movies were streaming through our power lines and onto our TV.

This was highly convenient, but it wouldn’t be much use if the speeds didn’t meet or exceed wireless network speeds. Brite-View advertises speeds up to 200Mbps, but, since my ISP doesn’t give me that much bandwidth, I didn’t expect to reach that figure. Still, I wasn’t dissappointed. The Netflix loading seemed to go faster and, when I connected it to my computer, my web page load times seemed to shrink.

Of course, I’m too much of a geek to accept “seemed to.” I want hard numbers. To quantify just how much of a boost I got, I ran six speed tests at First, I ran three using my wireless connection. This resulted in an average speed of about 1984.7 Kbps down and 988 Kbps up. Next, I ran three tests while connected via LinkE for an average of 2414.7 Kbps down and 1000 up. (I cleared my browser’s cache after each test to avoid any influence there.) The upload speeds were comparable, but the download speed improved by 22%.

Wireless Speed Test Results:

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LinkE Speed Test Results:

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I would definitely recommend the LinkE for connecting home theater equipment to the Internet. Nowadays, many electronics (Blu-Ray, Roku, CinemaTube, etc) come with ethernet ports. Not all come with wireless built-in. Instead of buying wireless adapters for each of these, you could hook up one LinkE and network all of our devices. The LinkE can be purchased from Brite-View. The 1 port bridge + 4 port switch model that I tested retails for $84.99.

Disclaimer: I recieved the LinkE 1 port bridge + 4 port switch model complimentary from Brite-View to test. No other compensation was given. The opinions expressed above are my own.

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