I Can Has HDTV?

Yes, you can has!

After years of wanting a large screen HDTV, on Friday I finally went out and bought one. And boy was it worth it!

Sitting on the sofa in our living room, this is what our old 32” CRT TV looked like:

Old TV - Front

And this is what our new 50” Plasma TV looks like:

New TV - Front

The larger screen makes a big difference, doesn’t it? :)

What Did You Get?

For those who are interested, I ended up getting the Samsung PS50C7000, which is a 50” (127cm) Series 7 (i.e. 2010) Plasma TV:

Samsung PS50C7000

I did quite a lot of research before selecting this model and reviews like this from CNET were very encouraging:

The Samsung PS50C7000 is one of the best plasmas on the market and boasts one of the most complete feature sets available. Not quite deserving of full marks, though. [CNET Australia]

As well as this one from PC World:

The Samsung Series 7 (PS50C7000) plasma is very nearly the best television we've tested. It's got an excellent design and generally great picture quality, only falling short in overall black levels. 3D is handled well but there are still a few aberrations; it is fine for occasional casual viewing. The Series 7 (PS50C7000) does a great job on Internet connectivity as well, making it an excellent all-round performer we'd happily recommend. [PC World]

My main research source was CHOICE, though, and they recommended this as one of the best 127-132cm TVs to buy (Note: Report viewable by members only):

Choice - Samsung Ps50C7000YP

CHOICE also named Samsung the ‘Best Television Brand’ in its 2011 Choice Awards. Panasonic and Sony were the other two TV brands that received the highest overall performance and CHOICE member customer satisfaction scores.

This TV also met all of my basic requirements:

  • 40-50”, Full HD (i.e. 1080p), LCD or Plasma
  • HDMI, Component, Composite, USB, and Audio In/Out connectivity
  • HD tuner built-in
  • RGA port included (i.e. it can be used as a computer monitor)
  • LAN/wireless connector
  • DLNA certified (i.e. works with streaming media players/servers on your network)

Basically, this was last year’s top end Plasma model from Samsung so it had everything I wanted and even a few things that I didn’t want (like 3D capabilities).

Timing is Everything

The best part is that, in the annual consumer electronics cycle, April is when most new TV models hit the market. So, if you’re happy to buy the previous year’s model, March and April are when you get the best discounts(assuming the TV you want is still in stock). As it happens, I got this TV for about half its market launch price :)

LCD vs Plasma

In the choice between LCD and Plasma, I’m an audiophile and videophile so the superior picture quality of Plasmas has always appealed to me.

Also, in our price range of “just over A$1,000”, I had a choice of getting:

  • a cheaper brand LCD,
  • a better brand LCD from 2-3 years ago,
  • a more recent model of a better brand LCD that had a smaller screen (e.g. 32-40”), or
  • a better brand plasma from last year.

When you look at it that way, the choice of getting the plasma was obvious (assuming your aim was to get the largest screen size appropriate to your TV/living room).

Which Store?

Retravision Colour 1I ended up getting our TV from RetraVision, which has one of the best range of Samsung TVs.

I got there at about 8pm on Friday night and, fifteen minutes later, I was done. The TV got delivered the next morning and I spent much of yesterday (Saturday) setting it up.

Yes, this has been a fun weekend :)

What Next?

Now that we have an HDTV, we need high definition content to watch.

We already get some HD stuff from our free-to-air digital channels but my next step is to upgrade our Foxtel set top box to the iQHD and our subscription package to include HD channels (21 of them).

After that, we’ll think about getting a Blu-Ray player and some Blu-Ray discs. And, once we do that, we’ll think about getting a home theatre audio system. None of this will be any time soon, though. Certainly not till next year.

Fortunately, this is only the start of our life in HD so there’s a long way to go, yet. Let the fun begin! :)

TV.com’s 15 Most Influential Shows of the Decade

TV.com’s Stefanie Lee recently published an article called ‘The 15 Most Influential Shows of the Decade’.

It’s a good list – and the following shows are on it – but I recommend you read the article to see exactly why they’ve been selected (including where they came from and what specifically they influenced):

  • Desperate Housewives (2004-present, ABC)
  • The West Wing (1999-2006, NBC)
  • Lost (2004-present, ABC)
  • Chappelle's Show (2003-2006, Comedy Central)
  • Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009, Syfy)
  • Sex and the City (1998-2004, HBO)
  • The Daily Show (1996-present, Comedy Central)
  • The Shield (2002-2008, FX)
  • Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006, FOX) and The Office (2005-present, NBC)
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-present, CBS)
  • The OC (2003-2007, FOX)
  • The O'Reilly Factor (1996-present, FOX News)
  • Survivor (2000-present, CBS)
  • The Sopranos (1999-2007, HBO) and The Wire (2002-2008, HBO)
  • American Idol (2002-present, FOX)

Recent Life Recap

My blogging has been sporadic of late (I’ve been very busy at work) so here’s a quick catch-up on all the exciting things that have been happening in my life recently. This works quickest as a Q&A.

Q: How’s life?

A: It’s going well:

  • We’ve moved apartments so we’re closer to the city. Nadia can now walk to university and my daily commute to work is shorter by 20 minutes each way.
  • We now have high speed, large bandwidth broadband Internet (ADSL2+) at home thanks to awesome iiNet. This also means we have a land line telephone, which is nice.
  • We have a bigger TV (inherited from my sister) and Foxtel have added new channels to their line-up. I’m particularly enjoying SciFi+2 (which is the SciFi Channel time-shifted by two hours) because I can now watch shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Next Generation at more convenient times. I’m also watching a lot of Inside the Actor’s Studio, which I’m really enjoying.
  • Work is going really well. Melbourne Water is an awesome place to work and I love my job (I’m the Websites Manager there). Importantly, I’m having lots of fun.
  • Over the last six months I’ve had much dental work done from the excellent dentists at East Melbourne Dental. And, though this had hit my wallet quite hard, it has made me a much more pain-free (and, therefore, a much happier!) person.

Q: What have you been up to?

A: Plenty!

Last month Nadia and I visited the Gold Coast for the first time.

Beach at Surfers Paradise

We stayed at the excellent Watermark Hotel & Spa in Surfers Paradise and, though were only there for three days, we had lots of fun. Our trip to Sea World was particularly enjoyable.

Polar bear at Sea World Underwater life at Sea World


I’ll upload a photo gallery from that trip to my PicasaWeb account some time soon. We hope to go back for a longer trip in the future.

Right after the Gold Coast trip we attended the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Brisbane (hosted by the Queensland Skeptics) which was both exciting and hugely inspiring. More on this in a later blog post.

We also saw the fabulous Tim Minchin (official site) perform at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. In a few days’ time (3 Jan), I’ll be going to see Moby (official site) perform at the Palace Theatre on Bourke Street! :)

Q: What else is happening in your life?

A: Well, starting with the geeky side of life, I’ve made a few excellent purchases.

For backup and media storage, I bought Western Digital’s My Book World Edition external hard drive:

WD MyBook World Edition Home NAS

This gives us 1TB of storage and lets us do daily backups over the network. It’s a fantastic network attached storage solution for the home.

I bought a 7” digital photo frame (via the brilliant Catch of the Day website) which we’ve placed in our living room.

I downloaded and installed Amazon’s Kindle for PC software, though I’ve only bought one book for it so far (‘Groundswell’ by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li). I’ll probably buy more once I get myself an actual Kindle device (which I hope to do some time in the near future).

Finally, I went ahead and bought two pieces of software I’ve been meaning to get for a long time: WinAmp Professional (my favourite media player) and Webcam Saver (my favourite screen saver).

On the music side of life, I joined the Melbourne Water Choir (which was lots of fun) and I bought myself a drum kit. That drum kit is the really basic Roland HD-1 V-Drums Lite:

Roland HD-1 V-Drums Lite

I bought an electronic kit because an acoustic one, no matter how muffled, would be too loud for the apartment. I bought this particular one because it’s the quietest, most acoustic-like in its price range. It’s also one of the cheapest electronic kits available :)

I have discovered since that not playing the drums for about a year makes you a little rusty!

Q: What else?

A: That’s about it, I think (though I will probably remember more later). Well, other than the fact that we’ve been watching lots of movies, listening to lots of music, hanging out with lots of friends (including one who was here from overseas), and generally doing stuff we enjoy.

All in all, life is really busy (mostly because of work) but it’s going well and we’re having fun.

ABC is Re-Making ‘V’

ABC is re-making the 1983 miniseries V, which is referred to as V: The Original Miniseries because it was followed by a sequel miniseries called V: The Final Battle.

V - The Original Miniseries

The remake television show, called V: The Series, starts the same place the original story did, features some of the same characters, and follows the same basic premise: “Alien visitors show up claiming to be our friends, but have a hidden agenda that has grave consequences for mankind”. Let’s see where they take it from there.

The show’s pilot stars Elizabeth Mitchell, Scott Wolf, Morena Baccarin, Alan Tudyk, Morris Chestnut, and Joel Gretsch and you can read a review of it, written by “M. Bison”, on the Ain’t it Cool News website. It’s scheduled to start this autumn in the US.

I watched this show while growing up and loved it. They’d better not mess the remake up!

Also, while researching the show I discovered that Kenneth Johnson (the show’s creator) wrote a follow-up book to the series called V: The Second Generation that was released in February 2008. Sounds interesting.

Josh Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse’ = Win

This morning I finished watching episode 12 of Joss Whedon’s latest TV show Dollhouse. I can’t begin to describe just how much win there is in the latter episodes of this series (starting from episode 6, ‘Man on the Street’).

All I can say to anyone out there who got disappointed and stopped watching the show early on is: start watching it again. It’s seriously worth at very many levels. (Though I have to admit that some of my love for Firefly has been transferred to this show as well. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.)

For more on how awesome Dollhouse is, read Charlie Jane Anders article on io9 called ‘Why Dollhouse Really is Joss Whedon’s Greatest Work’. The title might be a bit of an exaggeration but Anders makes a number of good points, some of which appeal particularly to serious fans of the science fiction genre (like me). The numerous comments at the end of the article are…er, varied and interesting, too.

Meanwhile, I fear I must wait patiently till the Season 1 DVD is released because the latest news is that the show’s 13th episode, which was filmed but not aired, will go straight to DVD. And we might get to see earlier versions of the re-done pilot in the DVD extras as well.

Fox had better not cancel the show.

Science in Film & Television

USA Today’s Dan Vergano has written a good article, called ‘TV, Films Boldly Go Down Scientific Path’, on how film makers and television producers are making an effort to get the science that they put into their films and TV shows to be as accurate – or at least as internally logically consistent – as possible.

Naturally, what you’ll see in films and television shows isn’t practical science because real, practical science is long and arduous and sometimes boring. Films and TV shows, meanwhile, are entertainment so at the most you’ll get a montage of a scientist (or a team of scientists) hard at work. And these montages will range from the suit-construction-in-the-cave montage from Iron Man to the working-by-the-window-as-the-seasons-change montage from A Beautiful Mind to the evidence-collecting-and-processing montages that you see on CSI all the time.

On most films and TV shows, though, the actual scientific process gets skipped and you only get to hear the results (e.g. “the lab tests are in”, “forensics has shown”, and so on). Unless, of course, the scientific investigative process itself is part of the storyline like it is on shows like CSI, Numb3rs, Lie to Me, and House – all of which feature real science with only a few liberties taken to make the plot more interesting. All four of those are awesome shows, by the way.

Anyway, Vergano has written a good article and I highly recommend you read it. It even quotes Phil Plait! :)

R.I.P. Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton, one my all-time favourite authors, passed away a few days ago.

I loved his books and the way he wrote them: they were exciting, inspiring, and a whole lot of fun. Indeed, I've read all his fictional works though I've only read one of his non-fiction ones (must remedy that). I've also watched almost all of his films and remember being blown away by 'West World', 'Jurassic Park', and 'Twister'. Heck, I even remember the ending scene from 'The Andromeda Strain' which I watched on TV back in the mid-80s! I must now watch the three films that I've missed.

You can read more about Crichton here:

Rest in Peace, Michael.

Full Episodes of 'Heroes' on Yahoo!7

The third season of the excellent NBC TV series Heroes started last week in Australia. And, in an incredibly awesome move on their part, you can now watch full episodes of the show on Yahoo!7 :)  Woo hoo!

Now if only Channel Nine would let you watch full episodes of The Mentalist on nineMSN and Channel Ten would let you watch full episodes of House on ten.com.au. Oh well. Some day...(hopefully soon).

I Really Like 'Rush'

I am "seriously" impressed with Channel Ten's new police action/drama Rush. The premise is fun (and makes for lots of good action), the writing is good, the storylines are interesting (yes, I know, we're only two shows in but it looks good nonetheless), the characters are interesting, the cast is excellent (plus Claire van der Boom is gorgeous), and the production is fantastic (I love the immersion that handheld camera work gives viewers).

The best part: all of the show's episodes are online along with a bunch of other behind-the-scene videos -- that too for free! Channel Ten really kicks ass for doing this for so many of its biggest shows.

And speaking of good cop shows, I also like Channel 7's City Homicide but its broadcast timing is such that I haven't watch more than a few episodes of it. I guess I'll have to wait till it comes out on DVD.

'Salam Cafe' on SBS

In case you missed the first episode of Salam Cafe -- the new, very Aussie, very funny comedy panel and sketch show that debuted on SBS on Wednesday -- you can now watch it on the SBS website. I'm guessing all future episodes will be published there as well.

The show is about the funny side of being a Muslim in Australia -- which means there's plenty of Muslim and Aussie humour -- but is also about being a Muslim, particularly a young Muslim, in this day and age. Here's what The Age had to say about it.

So, set your reminders for 10pm on Wednesdays on SBS and have a good laugh.