website hit counter January 2006 - Posts - Chris Lanier

January 2006 - Posts

Is Allchin Mistaken?

“According to my contacts at ATI, the OCUR device will be included as part of a "kit" that will be the box and a new PC. The PC is not certified by CableLabs in any way, instead MS publishes a minimum system configuration and the system has to meet these specs in order to be sold with the OCUR device. The OCUR device itself is the only thing that is actually certified by CableLabs.


Take care,
Anand”

__________________
Editor in Chief & CEO, AnandTech, Inc.
www.anandtech.com

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Stop Ignoring Small OEMs, Microsoft

Matt Wright has a bone to pick with Microsoft with how they bring out features in Media Center that can’t easily be accessed by smaller OEMs. For those who don’t know Matt helps run HTPCnews and is a consultant for 2partsfusion and CreatureHTPC (Formally MonsterHTPC).  These are both smaller OEMs that build Media Center PCs and other HTPCs.

Matt: Most you all know me, I have been in the HTPC community for years, and I am big proponent of DIY. More recently I am also a key member in the small HTPC system builder 2partsfusion. The announcement that even a properly designed Vista PC that meets the criteria for CableCARD must be certified individually is a huge problem for anyone building their own HTPC, and is a big issue to OEM's that are smaller then say HP/Sony/Dell. Certification is never a cheap process. You as an OEM have to pay the mighty certification holder to even bother to look at your pitiful little product.

Microsoft is not totally to blame in this regard as CableLabs is clearly making the demand. However this is the 3rd improvement to Media Center that has effectively been limited to a top tier of OEMs. Two features of Rollup 2 are "elite" functionality that need a custom BIOS design (Away Mode) or an investment in an expensive custom DVD-ROM changer that cannot be found off the shelf.

Microsoft advertises features like Away Mode, DVD Changers, and CableCARD as huge selling points (as they should be, and are), however smaller OEMs can’t take advantage of the features for various reasons.  We just found out for sure that OEM PCs will need to be certified by CableLabs if it is to use CableCARDs.  That’s not too much to ask, CableLabs does the exact same with STBs, TVs, TiVo’s, etc.  Where the problems start to popup is the amount of money it costs to get CableLabs to test the product.  Below is the pricing set by CableLabs for testing of all Digital Cable products.

UDCP Testing Fees
Verification:
  $30,000
Practice Run:  $20,000
Development Lab Use:  $12,000/week or $2,500/day.  Additional $1,500 per day for extended hrs (5-10 pm).
Digital Output and Recording Technology Review:  $35,000

Digital Certificate and DFAST Licensing Fees
Device Certificates for Host: $20,000 annually; plus $0.07 per certificate
DFAST Patent/Secrets (DFAST): $5,000

Adding up the prices here, that’s near $150,000 and that price would assume it got certified on the first run!  Now, we don’t know if CableLabs and Microsoft are planning to cut a deal where the prices might be decreased, but even $50,000 is still an extreme amount of money for smaller OEMs.  Jim Allchin did tell Thomas Hawk that “Microsoft would fight clawing and scratching for these smaller OEMs” and I would very much hope for the best with this.

The DVD Changers with Update Rollup 2 are a great answer to ripping DVDs, however with only Sony and Niveus in the game we are locked into either having a Sony XL1 or a Niveus Media Center.  Powerfile, the marker of both the Niveus and Sony Changers don’t a version retail that will work with Media Center.  Then there is that price tag, Niveus sells their Niveus Disc Changer (Ice Vault 200) for $2500 and Sony only sells theirs with a XL1 Digital Living System for $2300.

Away Mode is a new feature in Update Rollup 2 that allows for instant on/off functionality of CE to Media Center PCs.  Great idea, instant on/off is something that many people would like in their Media Center PCs.  However, Microsoft apparently did clue in smaller OEMs on the subject with most left not able to provide the feature due to lack of software/hardware information.

Microsoft needs to realize that they have over 130 PC manufacturers shelling out Media Center PCs and they can’t just give all the features and attention to the big 5.  I’d be interested in what other smaller OEMs think or if you have had better luck getting access to these features.  Please feel free to post comments or contact me directly with your thoughts.

MCEBrowser Public Release

MCEBrowser | MCEBrowser is a plug-in for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition which allows you surf the internet using a Media Center remote control. The Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system is required to use this software.

Some of the features include:

  • Browse to home page or favorites
  • Scroll around within web pages
  • Highlight and select links within web pages to navigate
  • Zoom in and out for 10-foot style surfing
  • Compatible with Media Center Extender devices
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CableCARD On Approved PCs Only, Thomas Hawk and Jim Allchin

My (Thomas Hawk) Dinner With Microsoft Exec Jim Allchin | Thomas Hawk got the chance to have dinner with Jim Allchin again a few days ago.  I would encourage everyone to read Thomas’ write-up since I’m only going to cover part of it.

Thomas: "Although as a platform Vista has been approved by CableLabs at this point, an important step that will still be necessary for the PC/CableCARD reality is CableLab's approval for finshed individual OEM PCs as well. Although Vista has been approved, OEMs will in fact still need to get their individual machines certified by CableLabs as well. Central to this certification according to Jim is the idea of a "protective path." "

So, Allchin has confirmed that OEM PCs as a whole will have to be certified.  This likely means that you will not be able to build a PC yourself that will work with CableCARDs.  Apparently Jim said “protective path” is a big part of this, and if you have ever read my blog you should know a thing or two about that.

Thomas: “Getting something approved through CableLabs is no easy task and this will very much favor the larger OEMs who have the funds, resources and clout to get this done. Jim said to expect to see the CableLabs approved PCs out from the big guys first but reiterated his commitment to smaller OEMs in fighting for them to also get their machines CableLabs approved as well. Jim said that Microsoft would fight clawing and scratching for these smaller OEMs. It will be interesting to see between now and Fall what that will mean.”

Funds?  Interesting part there.  Are we to think that for a PC to be certified it will have to be submitted to CableLabs on approved testing dates and pay to have it tested?  I don’t remember the amount, but having a product tested by CableLabs comes with a rather large price tag.

Update: Is Allchin Mistaken on CableCARD Facts?

SecurHome Security Recording Software for Media Center v2.0

SecurHome Security Recording Software for Media Center v2.0 | SecurGen LLC, has released Version 2.0 of their highly successful Security Recording Software which allows full video surveillance recording from within Microsoft Media Center 2005. The latest software release will work with all SecurHome systems and is also available in a standalone package for IP cameras in conjunction with most other MCE machines. With the release of the new v2.0 software comes a more intuitive and dynamic user interface as well as many new and exciting software features including export, a setup menu, and sensor alerts.

AVI Export - JPEG and AVI export have been added to v2.0 allowing users to export still images and video from within the search menu in Windows MCE. Images and Videos are saved in My Pictures and My Videos allowing easy playback and backup to CD or DVD.

Setup Menu - With the addition of the setup menu you will now be able to set the number of cameras displayed on the Main Menu, name cameras from within MCE, enable sensor pop-ups and view labeled diagrams of the

MCE remotes button function for each menu.
Sensor Pop-Up (only on SecurHome systems) - Of special note is the new Sensor Pop-up function. The Sensor Pop-up will display a notification in the lower right hand corner of the screen in Windows MCE whenever a sensor event occurs. You may choose to ignore or view this event and upon selecting view you will be taken to the live video feed of the camera the sensor is linked to.

About SecurGen, LLC.
Spokane, WA based SecurGen LLC. specializes in enterprise storage and the next generation in digital video recording, IPVM. Using some of the most cutting edge technologies on the market today, SecurGen is constantly bringing new products and ideas to market ahead of the curve. SecurGen has recruited the best from both the traditional digital recording and security industry to ensure our employees have the experience our customers deserve.
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Help Get Christoph Buenger Software In OnSpot!

Christoph Buenger Software | Christoph Buenger has apparently tried several times to get in contact with Microsoft US for adding his applications to the Online Spotlight.  His attempts however have not paid off with his requests going ignored.  For those who don’t know, Christoph Buenger Software devleloper mcePhone, mceAuction, mceContacts,  mceWeather, mceTapiRex, and more!  His applications are also featured on Download.com.

Please reply here requesting that Christoph’s products should appear in the US Online Spotlight!

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The Media Center Show #42

The Media Center Show #42 | 26th January 2006 (1hour 2min 22secs) MP3 - 21.4MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Joe Belfiore, VP of the eHome Division at Microsoft. Ian talked to Joe at CES and they chatted about how Media Center started, where it is now and where it’s going in the future.  Joe is very passionate about Media Center and was good fun to interview.

DRM Update for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB910393)

Update for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005  | Update to prevent Windows Media Player 10 setup from overwriting digital rights management (DRM) files installed by Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

Overview
Microsoft has released KB910393 Update. This update is intended for systems running Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

Install this update to prevent Windows Media Player 10 setup from overwriting digital rights management (DRM) files installed by Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB900325).

For more information about this update, read Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 910393.

ATI Windows XP Media Center Edition Encoder

Windows XP Media Center Edition Encoder | This Encoder contains PVR and capture functionality for ATI TV Tuners and All-in-Wonder Cards. It is required for fully functionality of My TV within Windows XP Media Center Edition. The Encoder also allows you to run Windows XP Media Center Edition with an All-in-Wonder card without ATI Multimedia Center.

ATI Retail Products

  • All-in-Wonder® 9600 and higher

Windows XP Media Center Edition Encoder
Posted: January 18, 2006
File Size: 1.7 MB
WHQL Certified

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Playing Around With Flickr

I went out with my girlfriend last night so she could get some pictures for her photography class.  Of course, I also brought along my new EOS 350D (eg. Digital Rebel XT) and shot some pictures myself.  I'm just learning how to use the camera and all the functions, but I managed to snap a few that I liked.

IMG_1552
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Update Rollup 2 for eHome Infrared Receiver

Update Rollup 2 for eHome Infrared Receiver for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB912024) | Install this update for the latest IR support for keyboards and remotes on machines with Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 installed. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.

Overview
Microsoft has released Update Rollup 2 for eHome Infrared Receiver for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB912024). This update is intended for systems running Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

For more information about this update, read Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 912024. (This site may be in English.)

This update replaces Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 888795

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January 2006 Update Rollup for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005

January 2006 Update Rollup for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB912067) | Install this update to resolve video issues in Windows XP Media Center 2005. This update rollup addresses issues with suspend/resume, video freezes and black screens on machines with Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 installed. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.

Overview
Microsoft has released Update Rollup KB912067. This update is intended for systems running Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.  For more information about this update, read Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 912067.

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Changes In-store for ActiveX Controls? Webmasters/Developers

Activating ActiveX Controls (MSDN) | This was posted on MSDN a few days ago and might have a major impact on any site using ActiveX Controls.  It sounds like Microsoft is updating ActiveX so that users will have to “activate” the control before it can be used.  This would however effect any webpage using ActiveX Controls for something as simple as Windows Media Player.  Webmasters should read the MSDN page to better understand these new changes.  Thanks Bryan!

“This ActiveX Update will be making minor changes to how Internet Explorer handles some web pages that use ActiveX controls. Examples of ActiveX controls include Macromedia Flash, Apple QuickTime, Real Networks RealOne, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Sun Java Virtual Machine, and Microsoft Windows Media Player. With this update, users cannot directly interact with Microsoft ActiveX controls loaded in certain web pages. Users can interact with such controls only after activating their user interfaces. Web developers will have the ability to update their web pages using the techniques we suggest on MSDN at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/workshop/author/dhtml/overview/activating_activex.asp, so that controls will function without user interaction.”
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PhotoConnect for Microsoft Windows Media Center

Mediapoint Technologies, developers of leading Digital media software have released their flagship product “PhotoConnect for Microsoft Windows Media Center”.  PhotoConnect is a Windows Media Center hosted application that significantly extends the “My Pictures” functionality by allowing the user to customise slideshows, create favourite lists, email pictures directly to friends and family and manage metadata for pictures (titles, tags, ratings, descriptions and EXIF data).

PhotoConnect for Windows Media Center allows user’s to easily publish their Digital media content online to a secure portal service (WebMediapoint). PhotoConnect provides integrated compression and image resizing automation to easily reduce the overall size of the digital media when publishing online. The integrated client provides the user with total control of the quality and size of the automated compression settings; this can be easily configured through the clients Media Center interface.

Once the Digital media content is published online to WebMediapoint, it can be easily and securely accessed by the user’s contacts by simply sending secure invitation tickets to each user via this service. An account holder can also create customised folders, favourite lists and manage metadata of images (including titles, description, ratings and tag information). Digital images can also be easily viewed online through folder based or custom slideshows or individually in full screen mode. A user or invitee can also simply download full size images or even email them to an external user.

WebMediapoint provides users with the ability to publish their content to their favourite blog or external web site or securely link to specific images within their account without fear of unauthorised user’s viewing pictures. Image tracking and usage is managed through the web interface that allows users to easily gather image viewing information or number of hits to an image.

Users of the WebMediapoint and PhotoConnect service are invited to join the online public Gallery community. Users can easily publish their Digital media to an online public service for other Windows Media Center users to view. Users of Windows Media Center and PhotoConnect will be able to easily search through the community gallery and play slideshows of Digital media stored within categories or user accounts for PhotoConnect. Publishing and viewing content to this service is at the discretion of the user.

PhotoConnect and WebMediapoint are available for immediate registration and download at www.webmediapoint.net where we are offering an initial FREE 14 day trial (upload limits do apply). Mediapoint is also offering an initial discount off the purchase price of the client (PhotoConnect). PhotoConnect normally retails at USD$29.95, currently only USD$19.95 (discount expires 19 February 2006). Pricing varies for WebMediapoint depending on which service option you choose.

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The Media Center Show #41

The Media Center Show #41 | 19th January 2005 (54min 26secs) MP3 - 18.7MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Lynn McCrosky from Zon Audio about there multi-room audio system as shown at the NextGen house at CES.  Then Tim Cutting CEO of Niveus talks about there range of Media Center PC’s, DVD Changes and products launched at CES.

Q & A With Dave Alles: eHome Product Unit Manager

Q & A With Dave Alles: eHome Product Unit Manager | "Dave Alles runs a team responsible for a set of products in Microsoft, including the digital media features in the upcoming Xbox360, the Media Center Extender family of products, and is one of 4 leaders of the Media Center Edition version of Microsoft Windows."


Full Q & A is on the second page!

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/mceDivX360 - Transcoding DivX to WMV9

A month ago I posted about Transcoding DivX to WMV9 for streaming to Extenders and asked if any developers could help out in creating a solution.  Well, it looks like Casey Chesnut did just that with /mceDivX360!

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Media Center CES Pictures

Media Center Related Pictures from CES (Ian Dixon) | Ian Dixon posted some pictures from his CES adventure all related to Media Center.  Check them out.

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Microsoft Stops Windows Media Player For the Mac

Microsoft Stops Windows Media Player For the Mac | “Microsoft Corp. has stopped developing Windows Media Player for Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X, choosing instead to direct people to a third party that offers components for playing Windows Media files in Apple's QuickTime player.”[…]” Instead of providing a player, Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., directs Web site visitors to a page where they can download a free version of Flip4Mac.”

It’s about time!  Windows Media Player for Mac sucks, and Flip4Mac should make the experiences better for WMV/WMA playback on the Mac platform.  Now, if Apple would just work with Microsoft so WMRM could be updated past v1, Mac users could play protected WMV and WMA files.

Media Center Center of Next Gen Home Design

Exceptional Innovation, Intel, HP & Microsoft Star in Next Gen Home | Media Center is making a splash in the Next Generation Home Design.  Check out CE Pro’s article on the subject for photos of some concepts and ideas with many centered around Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

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