I got my tuner card

In the next phase of my mediaPC project, I bought a tuner card today – I selected a WinTV-dualHD TV Tuner, because of the following reasons:

  • the price was reasonable – about 100$ from PBTech
  • It is supported by Plex for live-tv.  See this page for supported hardware
  • good features – allows recording two channels at once or watching one while recording another.    supposedly allows Picture In Picture as well but I wont be using their windows app, will need to see how well it works from within kodi and/or plex.


more to come once I get my media box.

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selected my media-box

After much back and forth, I have selected my Media Centre aka TVBox

I ended up choosing the fastest AndroidTV solution on the market that I could find.

Here it is:  the H96 Max

H96 Max

I did a lot of research into components. I really liked the look of the Nvidia Shield – fast with loads of great features, but I would have to buy from the US (so needed a converter  -not a huge deal, but was annoying) and costs a lot more than the other solutions I looked at, plus shipping would cost $ and take time.  So the H96Max won out.  It should arrive on Thursday, more then.

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selected a system

I believe I am done looking at cord cutting solutions.

There are many solutions out there, and they all claim to be superior.  Basically it comes down to the following requirements:

  •  Need a media box of some sort.  Could be a PC (Windows, Linux, Mac or a variant such as Raspberry Pi), or an AndroidTV (or one of several variants such as Nvidia Shield, Amazon Fire etc.  All have their own pros and cons
  • A tuner (either standalone hardware, a USB card, or a PCI card if using a PC)
  • A recording device (or a media PC that is capable) if you want to be able to record, along with media to record to
  • a digital antenna or a satellite dish.  Note that a satellite dish will not provide High Definition signal (at least in NZ) and offers less channels.

I have decided to go with:

  • an AndroidTV solution along with a USB tuner card (which plugs into an antenna for local Freeview)
  • Kodi software running on the media box for streaming content
  • Plex for (recorded) local media
  • Local NAS for network storage

More details in the next few days about my decisions (and whether they were wise)

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You need a VPN

You probably need a VPN.

Do you have any idea how many details of your life is transmitted over the inherently insecure internet?  There is a huge array of forces pitted against your privacy, including (foreign and/or domestic) governments, ISPs (who may be up to no good) .

A VPN creates a “virtual encrypted tunnel” between your computer and the remote VPN server.  All your internet traffic is then routed through this tunnel, securing your data from prying eyes, masking your identity by allowing your computer to appears to have the IP address of the VPN server you are using.

After reaching the VPN server, your data exits the tunnel onto the public internet.  Even better if the site you’re accessing is using HTTPS to secure the connection, in that case you’re still secure. But even if the data is not using HTTP and it is intercepted, it appears to be coming from the VPN server so it is much harder to figure out that it comes from you. 

Why does this matter?

  • If you are surfing on a connection that you do not trust (such as at a coffee shop where someone could be snooping your data)
  • If you are in a location where a government is blocking access to a website, you can appear to be in a different location
  • Spying.  e.g. mass surveillance.  There are agencies (some with 3 letter abbreviations) which try and record data you are sending.  e.g. if you are sending mail via gmail or use an iPhone, don’t be surprised if your data is included in a database somewhere.
  • Net neutrality – recent changes in the US mean that ISPs can prioritize traffic that they want.  They can for instance charge you more money to access services like YouTube, or could slow down service to a music service that they do not control

Note.  VPNs do not stop sites from looking at your cookies, and some VPNs have been forced to disclosed user activity to government agencies, so be careful to choose VPN services such as NordVPN, for example, which operates out of Panama and is not subject to laws which require it to retain user data (they supposedly keep no logs).  They are the provider that I choose – their plan is roughly about 3$ a month.


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I know what I want for a device

I’ve looked at a lot of devices now and I know what I want.  Must have:

  • As fast of a chip as I can get.  At least 6-8 core, 64bit
  • At least 3GB of (DDR3+) ram, prefer 4GB.  DDR4 would be better
  • At least 32GB of Rom
  • USB 3.0 to enable fast access to USB devices
  • Gigabit lan and dual channel wifi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Support for HDMI 2  4K@60fps

Going through a number of review websites, it is remarkable that a number of really highly rated devices are well under this spec – e.g. quad core with 3/16 or 2/32, and a number of them don’t support usb 3 or the latest version of android.

Narrowing it doesn I think I know what I want… more soon.

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confusing review of devices

I’m still looking at Media PCs and selecting one is very confusing

Trademe has a heap of AndroidTVs

Very hard to weed through all these, and even within one product, there are variations

  • some have different versions of firmware, I want the latest androidTV for instance – 7.1, where others have as old as v4-6
  • some have different chipsets (and some claim to be fast)
  • others that appear to be the same have some fundamental differences such as some support USB 2 whereas others have 3.o

Then if one were confused… ignoring Trademe, one might go the route of reading reviews to see which is best.  For example:  http://androidboxtv.review/

These reviews tend to rate devices like the ShieldTV very high, and most I have seen don’t rate devices I am seeing on Trademe at all.

It will be interesting to see what the best option is.



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NZ Freeview channels

Someone asked me today what channels you will get on NZ Freeview.

I found a list:

Using a Sat dish, the list is much smaller, and not in High Definition quality:


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NZ Freeview

I’ve been looking at NZ Freeview, to see if I will get reception.

It looks like you can get High Definition Freeview only over the air (via a Digital antenna)

The alternative is using a satellite dish, but that doesnt offer HD and also provides less channels.  I found this page that offers maps – so you can check to see if you will get coverage

They say:

Looks like that address is either situated in a valley or is near something that might obstruct signal transmission, like trees or tall buildings.

You can use an elevated UHF aerial to pick up regional channels and enjoy better pictures and sound.

So… it might be tricky.


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Cutting the Cord

I’ve been looking at cord-cutting solutions, as I want to get rid of Sky TV which costs over 60$ a month.

The plan is to get a media box and do a combination of streaming services (as we have a fast internet connection) and local NZ FreeView.  Stay tuned for more details

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website security

I’ve been playing around with websites for quite a while, and my favorite DIY platform is wordpress, because of it’s simplicity.

I have noticed a huge increase recently though in hacking attempts.  It seems that the number of bots trying to hack wordpress sites has gone way up.    For example, I had several hundred unsuccessful users trying to log in as the user ‘admin’ last night.

What is the best way to deal with this?

Simple:  Make sure you have a recent version of wordpress installed, and install the wordfence plugin.  It’s free and immediately locks down your site against most script based attackers.  refer to these instructions for details

Take a look at this review – they did a pretty good job summarizing it: https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/resources/wordfence-review-is-it-really-the-best-wordpress-security-plugin

I’ll add a followup article in the future to discuss additional tricks for locking down your site

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