website hit counter March 2006 - Posts - Chris Lanier

March 2006 - Posts

Life|ware Seamlessly Integrates INSTEON Lighting and Home Control Products

Exceptional Innovation, makers of Life|ware, hardware-friendly home control software, today announced all INSTEON™-enabled products are now compatible with a Life|ware home control solution. INSTEON is the wireless home control technology developed by SmartLabs Inc., the world's leading authority in home automation and control.

"Making INSTEON products compatible with Life|ware makes perfect sense," said Mike Seamons, Exceptional Innovation's Vice President of Marketing. "They're very popular with our dealers and provide another great option for a Life|ware whole-home control solution."

Life|ware is seamlessly integrated into Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Using the same Media Center remote they use to access and enjoy their music, movies and photographs, a Life|ware user can now easily control their entire INSTEON home control system -- including lighting, security, comfort control, consumer electronics, appliances and safety sensors from all manufacturers integrating the INSTEON technology. Life|ware integration includes all INSTEON products from SmartLabs Design including SwitchLinc, KeypadLinc, SignaLinc, LampLinc ApplianceLinc and ControLinc as well as its ICON line of dimmers and switches.

"We are continuing to drive INSTEON home automation and control into the digital home," said Rajeev Kapur, president of SmartLabs Inc. "By partnering with Life|ware, we can now offer any company looking for a way to manage home control via the Media Center an elegant solution."

"Life|ware brings a rich control experience together with digital entertainment in a compelling way, and we're pleased to have INSTEON products be part of that experience," said Seamons.

Life|ware leverages Web Services for Devices standards to be hardware-neutral, an approach that allows dealers to offer their customers more choices among available systems, and gives them the flexibility to create unique new offerings to expand their business.

At EHX-Spring, Life|ware can be experienced controlling lighting, audio, security, camera, and climate control systems from a wide variety of hardware partners in a fully-functioning, live-wired booth that features six full room vignettes with seamlessly integrated digital entertainment and control.

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New 17-Inch Media Center Touchscreen from Pelham Sloane

[EHX] First Glimpse of 17-Inch MCE Touchscreen from Pelham Sloane | CE Pro has more from EHX, this time from Pelham Sloane in the form of a 17-inch touchscreen with Media Center!  Just over 2 inches thick, it has four external USB ports, two PCI Express slots, a Compact Flash slot, up to 500 GB of hard drive, and support for 802.11g, Bluetooth, Z-Wave and EV-DO/Edge (cellular broadband).

It will sell for $2,200-$3,200 depending on your configuration, and is set to ship anytime now!

SideShow Demo on Media Center Remote

[EHX] Microsoft Demos SideShow for Media Center Remote | CE Pro has an article from EHX about a use for SideShow (Aux Displays) and this use will appeal to all Media Center users.  At EHX, Todd Rutherford, Microsoft Program Manager for eHome Control showed off the technology implemented in remote control.  Check out Julie’s article on CE Pro for more!

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The Media Center Show #51

The Media Center Show #51 | 30th March 2006 (30mins 49secs) MP3 - 10.6MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Mark Weinberg, General Manager at Microsoft’s eHome group.  He is responsible for the Media Center core features team.  Plus, Media Center Show news and e-mail in to the show.

And a chance to win One Voices’ Media Center Communicator

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Niveus Media Announces Support for HD-DVD High Definition DVD Format

Niveus Media Announces Support for HD-DVD High Definition DVD Format | Niveus Media, Inc., manufacturer of media entertainment devices for the high-end audio/video market, has announced that it will support the HD-DVD format and will begin shipping the technology in its line of Niveus Media Centers which utilize Intel® Viiv™ technology platform, designed to enhance and help manage the enjoyment of digital entertainment in the home.

“While we may have additional announcements later this year regarding the Blu-Ray disc format, we are ready to announce that product development is well underway to deliver HD-DVD in the award-winning Niveus Media Center by mid-2006” said Tim Cutting, CEO & Founder, Niveus Media. “By combining our award winning ISF-certified Niveus Media Center, with HD-DVD and Intel Viiv technology, Niveus Authorized Dealers will have a powerful solution to bring their clients into the high definition DVD era. We’re looking forward to being one of the first to offer dealers an HD-DVD experience in a Intel Viiv technology based system. ”

“Niveus Media's move to incorporate a high definition HD player into their Intel® Viiv™ technology-based platform demonstrates how the home entertainment PC continues to evolve and provide consumers with compelling home entertainment experiences, including breathtaking High Definition video playback," said C.J Bruno, director Americas Marketing, Intel.

The Electronic House Expo Spring 2006 is being held in Orlando from March 30 - April 1. Niveus Media will be demonstrating the Intel Viiv technology-based Niveus Media Center featuring HD-DVD in Demo Alley, Room 203A. More information available at: www.ehxweb.com.

Akimbo and HDNet to Deliver High Definition Programming Via the Internet

Akimbo Systems today announced an agreement with HDNet, the leader in high-definition programming, to make select titles from its vibrant library of HD content available for download through the Akimbo Service for Windows XP Media Center Edition. This marks the first time Akimbo has offered broadband-delivered HD content for viewing on subscribers' monitors or high definition televisions.

Akimbo subscribers enjoy the freedom to choose from more than 8,000 on-demand programs available through Akimbo's impressive library of original, niche and mainstream content - including travel shows, documentaries, music videos, full-length films, sporting events, television series and more. Now, Akimbo subscribers can watch fantastic programming in stunning high definition through their Media Center PCs.

"Akimbo has certainly advanced television viewing with its award-winning Internet-delivered on-demand service," said Jeff Cuban of HDNet. "The Akimbo Service offers HDNet an ideal opportunity to deliver our high-quality original HD content to an entirely new audience that has grown to expect and appreciate distinctive and cutting-edge entertainment."

According to a recent study from Parks Associates, HDTV sales will surpass $65 billion by 2009 and it is estimated that nearly half of American households plan to purchase an HDTV in the next year alone. As a result, the demand for high-definition content is expected to grow exponentially.

"Consumers are adopting HDTV at a rapid pace. Most of them immediately seek out new sources of great hi-def content," said Joshua Goldman, Akimbo's CEO. "With the addition of HDNet's content, Akimbo can offer a new and innovative way to meet this demand."

Customers can sign up for a free trial of the Akimbo Service through the Online Spotlight area of Microsoft Media Center Edition 2005 PCs. A subscription to the first Internet-delivered on-demand service is $9.99 a month. To subscribe or find more information about what's on Akimbo, please visit www.akimbo.com.

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Exceptional Innovation Brings Distributed Audio Solution to Media Center

[EHX] EI Solves the Problem of Distributed Audio through Media Center Edition (CE Pro) | Exceptional Innovation appears to have a big plans to show off at EHX next week.  According to CE Pro, Exceptional Innovation has developed a way of integrating a “whole-house audio system with two-way feedback and metadata over regular inexpensive keypads”

Previously, Exceptional Innovation has showed that this could be done using rather expensive touchscreens.  Now, using inexpensive third-party keypads that will also be able to display metadata, users will be able to control Media Center from around there home for little cost.


Photo from CE Pro (Exceptional Innovation touchscreen model)

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More on Streaming DVD's To Extenders

Update: Sadly, Windows Vista doesn't support DVD Streaming.  Maybe one day Microsoft will enable it, however as of RTM Vista will not be supporting DVD Stream from the Extenders.

Matt Goyer posted the bit on Sony's Standalone Changer for $799 and of course is now getting questions about streaming those DVD’s to Extenders.  Matt, as much as he might want to, can’t talk about Microsoft’s future products plans.  There is nothing stopping me however from providing some information on the policy of the issue.

Matt comments “…two things could happen. We could enable DVD remoting from changers to Xbox’s, or we could develop DVD Managed Copy where you ‘rip’ your DVDs to your hardware and stream them to your Xbox. …We haven’t announced plans for either of those scenarios.”

Honestly, both of the issues Matt covers need to happen.  There should be no “or” about it.  I want to cover the one that everyone wants now, which is streaming DVD's from DVD Changers to Extenders.  No doubt a killer feature of Media Center would be to have a single point of distribution to legally send out DVDs all over your house. 

I’ve said before that Vista should support streaming of DVDs to Extenders.  The reason for this is because WMRM-ND (eg WMDRM-ND) was approved streaming of current DVD’s with CSS.  There is no reason why (come Vista) you shouldn’t be able to stream DVD’s from your DVD Changer to your Xbox 360.  I will be extremely disappointed if Microsoft skips this important development.  The good thing is that it should appear, as WMRM-ND should already be supported on Extenders.  All Microsoft has to be is develop the middleware to take the DVD from 1394 (the DVD Changer), and wrap WMRM around it and send that onto the wire.  Some people might remember that Niveus Media is developing a solution that would follow the same type of path.

HD DVD's Managed Copy with Xbox 360 Extender shouldn’t be an issue at all.  I’m sure Matt works on this everyday with since he currently owns the Movies (My DVD's) feature in Media Center 2005.  I'm not sure if we will see a "Managed Copy" like feature for current DVD's, although Doherty did say in the article above that Microsoft was "evaluating" ripping DVD's to their hard drive.  In other words, if Microsoft can get WMRM approved then it might happen.

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On2Share for Microsoft Media Center

On2Share for Microsoft Media Center | On2Share [MCE] is a UPnP Control Point for Microsoft XP Media Center Edition (MCE). On2Share is running as integrated add-in enabling seamless home media networking with simple to use UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). Tap into your digital home network with your MCE remote control. On2Share [MCE] is enabling easy access to your local UPnP media server (e.g.On2Share Pro).

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ExDomus Home Automation Software for Media Center

ExDomus Home Automation Software | ExDomus is a plug-in for Media Center 2005 that allows you to control your X10 Devices (via a CM11 Controller) and Video Cameras (Axis 207) just with your Media Center Remote Control.

You can create your own rooms (Name, Icon), and fill them with devices that you've previously configured.

Posted by chrisl | 1 comment(s)

MCE Video Encoder - Encoding & Streaming DivX to Xbox 360

MCE Video Encoder | MCE Video Encoder (Via eHomeUpgrade) is a Windows application that controls encoding and streaming of all video files, including DivX and Xvid.

The application also includes a set of add-ins for Windows Media Center Addition 2005 that controls the MCE Video Encoder application.

Therefore, this allows you to not only set up and control video streams from your Windows Media Center PC, but also control and view the streams from a Media Center Extender and even an Xbox 360.

MCE Video Encoder has the following features:

  • Start and Stop Streaming from Windows Client and MCE Add-in,
  • Pause and Unpause Streaming from Windows Client and MCE Add-in
  •  Rewind and Fast Forward the Streaming (by configurable amount) from Windows Client and MCE Add-in
  • Play the stream from MCE Add-in
  •  View Progress of video encoding in Windows Client
  •  Remote control MCE Video Encoder through Windows Messages and/or Command Files.
 
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The Media Center Show #50

The Media Center Show #50 | 16th March 2006 (1 Hour 14mins 1secs) MP3 - 23MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with two Media Center MVP’s (Most Valued Professionals) about Media Center and Vista.  Also, Orb’s Ian McCarthy reports from MIX06 and e-mail and Skype messages in to the show.

There is also a chance to win One Voices’ Media Center Communicator.

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Sony VGP-XL1B2 Standalone DVD Changer!

Sony VAIO VGP-XL1B2 Media Changer | Sony has started selling there VGP-XL1B2 DVD Changer for use with Windows Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2.  This 200 CD/DVD can write and read just about all current media (CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD R DL).  It uses Firewire to connect with the PC and upto 5 changers are supported.  Price: $799.99 Per Unit.



Update:  $100.00 MIR at Amazon.com!

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Sky Through DVB-S Within MCE

Encrypted DVB-S in MCE (The Green Button Community) | The Green Button member MacBurp has posted details from AVForums member nigelbb, on how-to get encrypted DVB-S within Media Center.  It appears that there are currently a few flaws, but they are known and apparently being worked on.  I don’t have any experience with DVB, but for those not in the States you might want to look into this.

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Microsoft Sees Rapid Media Center Sales

Microsoft Sees Rapid Media Center Sales (CNET) |  U.S consumers bought more Windows Media Center-equipped PCs than the standard edition of Windows XP last month and sales of Media Center will reach 10 million by the end of March, a Microsoft executive said Tuesday.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows eHome Division, disclosed the sales numbers at a keynote speech here at Mix '06, a Microsoft conference aimed at Web developers and designers.

Belfiore also demonstrated the upcoming enhancements to Media Center, which will come out with Windows Vista at the end of this year, saying it will "blur the line between television and interactive video content."

Sales of Media Center, a higher-end version of Windows XP for handling multimedia content, were sluggish in the first few years of its life, but have picked up as Microsoft has cut prices and dropped a requirement that PCs that run Media Center come with a built-in TV tuner.

Belfiore said that sales of Media Center are now running at 1 million units per month and that the company is "highly confident" total sales will top 10 million by the end of the month.

Citing third-party research, he said that 59 percent of PCs sold through retail outlets in the U.S. were Media Center PCs. On Monday, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said that sales of Media Center PCs in December of last year made up more than 40 percent of all Windows sales.

With Vista, Microsoft doesn't plan a distinct Media Center Edition, but instead is including capabilities such as video recording in both the Home Premium version of Vista as well as the Ultimate Edition, which combines high-end consumer and business features.

With the Vista release of Media Center, Belfiore said that Microsoft is planning to improve video viewing, create close integration with its Xbox 360 game console, and significantly expand the distribution of the product worldwide.

He said that Windows Vista Media Center PCs will have support for digital cable, allowing people to view high-definition television from a PC.

Also, Windows Vista will take better advantage of large screens to help people manage large libraries of photos, videos or music files.

Belfiore demonstrated a number of applications that were written with Microsoft developer tools for Windows Vista.

He said that the Windows Presentation Foundation, the user interface toolkit to ship with Vista, will allow people to easily convert existing Windows or Web applications to run with a remote control on a television or Xbox console.

"The idea is to get content out of the PC and onto the TV and through a range of devices," Belfiore said.

One attendee who consults for a multinational media company said that the slick user interface design enabled by Microsoft's upcoming operating system will appeal to many people.

However, he said that some of the restrictions placed on video content, in the form of Windows file formats and digital rights management, could be frustrating to some people.

"If I have a video that I want to share with someone and they can't play it except on Media Center, people are going to get frustrated," said the attendee who did not want to be quoted by name.

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Vista To Support HD DVD Playback (Not Blu-ray)

Vista May Not Support HD DVD at Launch (CE Pro) | CE Pro posted a piece last week about Vista and HD DVD/Blu-ray support.  Julie e-mailed me the article and quickly I knew that something was wrong.  I went to a few sources of mine to try and figure out exactly what Microsoft’s plan is regarding HD DVD playback support within Windows Vista.  I had been under the impression from the start that Vista would support playback of HD DVD’s out-of-the-box and that Blu-ray playback would be completely left to third parties.  The story at CE Pro said otherwise, quoting a Microsoft spokesperson saying that Vista will recognize HD DVD and Blu-ray, but plans for Media Center support were unknown.

As I have said various times before, Vista will support HD DVD and Microsoft is working to make a complete solution.  Amir Majidimehr, Corporate VP of the Windows Digital Media Division had the following to say when I asked him about the subject.  “Microsoft is hard at work in developing native HD DVD playback in Windows Vista.  We have a large, dedicated team working with our hardware partners, optimizing our software infrastructure, and ensuring compliance with copy protection measures so we can stay on target for providing HD-DVD playback on Windows Vista this year.  Finally, as we have mentioned time and time again, Microsoft has no plans to provide native Blu-ray playback functionality in Windows Vista.  Such functionality will be provided by third parties, similar to the way DVD playback is offered today.”

I hope the above will clearup any uncertainty around the issue.

Update: Microsoft decided to leave out native HD DVD support from Windows Vista.  Support will be left to third parties. 

PCzapper NOT Media Center Extender Rival

Rival To Official Media Center Extender (Media Center PC World) | Media Center PC World has an article on PCzapper TV Extender.  As much as this company wants you to think it’s a Media Center Extender, this is just an analog PC to TV device.  It does the exact same thing as the dozens of analog devices you can find at your local RadioShack, etc.

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The Media Center Show #49

The Media Center Show #49 | 16th March 2006 (1 Hour 7mins 4secs) MP3 - 23MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Jury Balta from 10 Foot World about there Online Spotlight application, and other Media Center topics.  Next week Ian has Media Center MVP’s and Show 50!

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Embedded Automation’s mControl adds Support for Z-Wave

Z-Wave is now supported in mControl from Embedded Automation Inc. mControl v1.4 has just been released and with support for the popular Z-Wave protocol which is capable of automating devices including lighting, appliances, and thermostats. The Z-Wave protocol is a low-cost, two-way, wireless mesh network communications technology that enables consumers to monitor and manage their lighting and other home controls easily, conveniently and securely from anywhere in the world. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) support is also part of mControl v1.4 and has been accomplished through partnership with Residential Control System’s (RCS) and their brand new Z-Wave enabled thermostat.

mControl is a leading software application for home automation through MCE with thousands of users’ world wide. Embedded Automation attributes mControl’s success to three key product elements that drive their development: reliable – the product must perform every time requested, affordable – available to everyone with a PC, and accessible – able to be used by all household members from multiple locations.

“Support for the Z-Wave protocol and RCS thermostats was identified early on as we considered these two features important if we wanted to provide consumers a pathway to transition their homes into the digital era” said Maury Lum, Sales and Marketing Manager for Embedded Automation.

“The Z-Wave Alliance is extremely pleased to see the addition of Z-wave to Embedded Automation’s product line. We believe that Z-Wave support within mControl provides consumers with a key component for managing a Z-wave enabled home.” said Steve Troyer, VP of Marketing for Zensys.

As part of the Z-Wave functionality, mControl has partnered with RCS, a leading manufacturer of energy management control systems to support their new Z-Wave Thermostat. Mr. Bruce Wiens, VP/Sales & Marketing for RCS, stated that “it is a positive move for RCS to be extending our partnership portfolio to include the MCE environment via Embedded Automation’s mControl product. We are very happy that EA has chosen to support the new Z-Wave thermostats as these products are aggressively requested from the Z-Wave community”.


Where to get mControl
For new users, mControl v1.40 is available as a free trial download from Embedded Automation’s corporate website, download.com, or moremce.com. mControl can also be purchased directly from Embedded Automation or popular online retail outlets such as smarthome.com. Existing mControl customers are able to upgrade their existing version, at no charge, by visiting the Embedded Automation website and following the instructions outlined.

About Z-Wave
Z-Wave(tm) is a wireless RF-based communications technology designed for residential and light commercial control and status reading applications such as meter reading, lighting and appliance control, HVAC, access control, intruder and fire detection, etc. Z-Wave transforms any stand-alone device into an intelligent networked device that can be controlled and monitored wirelessly. Z-Wave delivers high quality networking at a fraction of the cost of other similar technologies by focusing on narrow bandwidth applications and substituting costly hardware with innovative software solutions.

About the Z-Wave Alliance

The Z-Wave Alliance is a consortium of leading companies in the home technology space dedicated to solidifying Z-Wave as the standard for wireless home control products. Its members lead the home controls market, providing leading edge products and systems that deliver increased comfort, convenience, safety and security. Z-Wave technology is the foundation of all products manufactured by the Alliance members. For more information about the Z-Wave Alliance, visit www.z-wavealliance.com.

About RCS
RCS is a leading manufacturer of communicating thermostats, zone control systems, energy management and home automation products for residential and light commercial use. RCS can be reached via their website at: www.resconsys.com.

About Embedded Automation
Embedded Automation was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Surrey, BC Canada. Specializing in the areas of home automation, media centers, and embedded systems, Embedded Automation designs, manufactures, and markets a range of products and services in these areas.
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Spring Break

Away for Spring Break.  Back in a few days.
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