website hit counter November 2006 - Posts - Chris Lanier

November 2006 - Posts

CableCARD Recordings On Zune? Why The Answer Is No

Vista: no CableCARD streaming to other PCs (Ars Technica) | Ars Technica has a summery of last weeks No Streaming CableCARD Content to Other Windows PC's, and questions the ability to transfer content to portable device…

Quote:  It's hard to believe that Microsoft wouldn't enable this at least for the Zune (which currently has no way to transfer video back off the device, making it "safe" for content owners), but it's not clear exactly which parties are behind which restrictions.”

While this is true from the basic consumer use standpoint, it’s not hard to get anything off a Portable Media Center (and I assume Zune too).  Taking for example the Creative Zen Portable Media Center, which I have personally taken apart, the data on the device is not secured in any manor.  The hard drive used in the Creative Portable Media Center is an Hitachi Travelstar, and mixed with a simple IDE to USB adapter you can access it directly from Windows.  Its FAT32 formatted, and the files are unencrypted (though the organization method of Windows Mobile on the devices leaves a lot to be desired, relaying on ASF meta data, but this has nothing to do with CableCARD)

So, despite the fact that the Zune/Portable Media Center’s can’t re-copy content back over to Windows doesn’t mean the data is secure!  It’s going to take a lot more than the software on the PC not allowing you to, it’s got to stay secure on media too.

If you take a look at anything related to CableCARD, part of the deal is the data must stay protected throughout it's existence.  I don't know all of the reasoning behind not allowing CableCARD content onto portable devices, but there are generally loads of regulations about unsecured hardware and hardware which could allow sniffing on any bus.

I'm hoping CableLabs and Microsoft will be able to work something out using WMDRM to secure the data on the device.  However, with Zune supporting whatever new DRM method they are, I don't know if it supports WMDRM10 for example (anyone know what DRM technologies are support on Zune, please let me know).

The other concept that might work in the future is streaming to the Zune since it has built-in WiFi.  Streaming is a good option for in-home viewing, and I would bet easier to secure too.

Vote for The Media Center Show Awards 2006

The Media Center Show Awards 2006 | Ian posted up the voting page for the Media Center Show Awards for 2006 today.  Make sure to vote, it only takes about a 1 minute and gives those who spend there time working/playing/developing for Media Center a pat-on-the-back.

There is also a few great incentives to vote, including getting entered in a prize draw for free software including mNewsCenter and Media Center Communicator!

There are categories for:

  • Best Media Center Utility
  • Best Online Spotlight Applications
  • Best Communication Tool
  • Best Community Resource
  • Best Hardware Manufacturer
  • Best Enthusiast Blog
  • Best Microsoft Media Center Blog
  • Best Free application (non-commercial) application
  • Best Commercial Application
  • Outstanding Design Award
  • Best Vista Media Center Application

P.S.  I’m not saying you should vote for me, but you know….

Manufacturers Exploit Vista for Home Automation & A/V

[EHX] Manufacturers Exploit Vista for Home Automation & A/V (CE Pro) | Julie has a post with some of the great stuff that was on show at EHX.   Embedded Automation, Cortexa, Exceptional Innovation, Honeywell, Niveus, Superna, and more are showcased.  Check it out!

   (Photo Courtesy of CE Pro)

"Big Screen Contacts" for Vista Media Center

Big Screen Contacts | Niall has pushed out another application for Vista Media Center.  Big Screen Contacts is an MCML application for Vista Media Center that can sync with Windows Contacts.  Includes some cool features, such as…

  • Browse your Windows Contacts Directory by Surname, Name, or Company Name.
  • Search your Windows Contacts by keyword (with triple-tap friendly text entry).
  • Drill down to detailed Contact information such as Home/Work Address, Phone Numbers, Email/IM Addresses, Family and Personal Notes.
  • Track birthdays for your contacts - with inbuilt birthday list.
  • Toggle between 3 different browser views ( List, Tile and Large Icon) and filter by letter - using the inbuilt foldaway filter bar.
  • Displays Thumbnail photos for your contacts.

More screenshots can be found here and you can download it here.  Works with Vista RC2 and RTM.

Also, be sure to check out the rest of the growing “Big Screen” suite including Big Screen Business, Big Screen Headlines, Big Screen Weather, and Big Screen Photos.

Posted by chrisl | 2 comment(s)

WebGuide4 Now Supports Streaming Live TV (SoftSled Like!)

WebGuide4 | Homepage | Yesterday Doug announced that WebGuide4 now supports Live TV Streaming!

Doug says After more than a year of on and off development (most of it frustrating), I've finally pushed live transcoding/live tv to the point that is ready for outside use.  This feature is rather complicated, so some people may have issues getting it running right away, but with participation of the many smart users in these forums, I feel we can work through most issues. 

I haven’t played with it yet, but this is very cool.  About the closest to the mystic “SoftSled” as you can get!  Download it here!

WebGuide4 FAQ

WebGuide4 Live TV FAQ

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Still Waiting for that Digital Output (DVI/HDMI) Dongle....

It’s been over a year since I first starting writing about it and the point still stands, to output full resolution with CableCARD the Xbox 360 must have a digital connection!

Microsoft already covered part of the picture, allowing the Xbox 360 to output 1080p for HD DVD and gaming, however VGA and Component do not guarantee full resolution output for CableCARD, just as it doesn’t for HD DVD.

Just as with HD DVD and Image Constaint Token (ICT), CableLabs defines Constrained Image Trigger (CIT).  Both are really the same, and basically will downres any content that has the bit turned on unless HDCP is used.

So, unless Microsoft has worked out a "special deal" with CableLabs to allow the Xbox 360 to output full resolution with VGA/Component, we still don’t have a guarantee that we can get full resolution output on everything we record!

The Media Center Show #84

The Media Center Show #84 | 23rd November 2006 (53mins 21secs) MP3 - 18.3MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Orb co-founder Joe Costello about Orb 2.0, mycasting, the explosion of digital media and taking your Media Center content with you on the go.

Checkout The Media Center Show Extra #4, also tell Ian what you think of the “extra” shows on the survey page

Don’t forget the Media Center Show Award nominations, voting starts soon.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

No Streaming CableCARD Content to Other Windows PC's

Another MCE CableCard Shortcoming: No Streaming to Other PCs (CE Pro) | Julie is out with an article about CableCARD in Vista and how streaming to other PC’s isn’t supported.

Very true, just as with current CGMS-A protected content it can only be played back on the Media Center PC it was recorded on (inside of Media Center only, not in Windows Media Player) or a Media Center Extender.

As Julie points out the only Extender that supports Vista is the Xbox 360 right now.  v2 Extenders are on the way and will support connecting to Vista and will also support playback of HDTV recordings.

Julie says not to blame Microsoft, however I respectfully disagree.  Yes, the reason you can’t stream to other Windows PC’s is because of CableLabs, however if Microsoft had ever developed “SoftSled” or a software Media Center Extender this wouldn’t not be an issue.  Microsoft has decided to skip that side of the market (with some Microsoft employees not even knowing it’s been a wanted feature for the past four years) it doesn’t look very hopeful that it will be an addition to the platform anytime soon.

Another bit that you can not do with CableCARD recordings is convert them to go on portable devices (Zune, Portable Media Center’s, iPod’s, etc).

Windows Media Connect (or whatever they renamed it to with Windows Media Player 11) also need not apply to networked playback.

Be sure to check out Julie's full write up here.

New Silent VidaBox STEALTH Media Center with up to 1,500GB of Storage

GARDEN CITY, NY – November 22 – VidaBox LLC announces a new silent media center / HTPC system, dubbed the VidaBox™ STEALTH™. Less than 3.6" tall, the STEALTH™ is a fully-featured, miniature form factor media center featuring a slot-loading DVD±RW dual-layer burner, dual analog tuners, and massive VidaSafe™-protected storage of up to 1,500GB.

"The STEALTH™ is perfect for those who consider silence and small size as definite must-haves, without compromising or sacrificing any features," says Steven Cheung, co-founder of VidaBox. "The STEALTH™ really shines in home theaters, where noise must be kept to an absolute minimum. Our unique system design, using special heat pipes and heat sinks in conjunction with sound deadening hard drive and DVD drive enclosures, keeps the system completely silent without the use of any fans - which are a major source of noise pollution. The VidaBox™ STEALTH™ is so small and quiet – you won’t even know it’s there!"

The STEALTH™ can be configured with state-of-the-art hardware, such as the AMD AM2 5200+ Dual-Core CPU, 4GB of RAM, 7950GT video card with dual DVI outputs, or an HDMI 1.2 output with HDCP compliance. Dual analog standard definition tuners with dual high-definition (HD) tuners are also available to record up to four (4) TV shows at once.

“Best of all, the entire system is packaged in a stunningly beautiful case, featuring a black anodized finish, an acrylic glass front panel, along with premium, hi-fi style component feet,” Steven continues. “Unlike traditional, passively cooled systems with industrial-looking cases, the STEALTH™ is truly the first small form factor system that you’ll want to show off to your family & friends!”

For more details and specifications on the new VidaBox™ STEALTH™, please visit the company website at or call (516) 730-7500.

About VidaBox LLC
VidaBox LLC is an innovative systems integration company focused on manufacturing and engineering premium Media Center systems.  VidaBox is on a mission to create user-friendly, stable, compact, and quiet Media Centers that work right out of the box.  For more information, visit or call 1-516-730-7500.

Niveus Media's Rainier Demo at EHX

[Live From EHX] Niveus Media's Rainier Vista Media Server (CE Pro) | Of course two of the coolest Media Center companies at EHX where Exceptional Innovation and  Niveus Media.  CE Pro’s Jason Unger already covered Exceptional Innovation's Life|point and Life|vision and now be covers Niveus Media's Rainier Vista Media Server.

Watch it Here

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HomeSeer Releases Second Generation Microsoft Media Center Interface

Bedford, NH – HomeSeer Technologies announces the release of its second generation Windows Media Center interface. The interface is designed to allow users to monitor and control their HomeSeer-automated homes through Media Center. The new interface includes updated graphics and improved performance and was re-written in .NET for greater compatibility with HomeSeer’s other products.

“We were the first home automation company to release a Media Center interface two years ago and it’s been very successful”, states Richard Helmke, HomeSeer’s president. “The new version builds on that success and we expect our users to be very happy with the improvements “.

The Media Center interface is designed to work with the HomeSeer PRO-100 home automation controller or with any PC running HomeSeer HSPRO or HS2 home automation software. With the interface, homeowners will be able to control hundreds of devices from manufacturers such as Lutron, Leviton, Intermatic, Cooper, Russound, HAI and On-Q (to name just a few).

The Media Center interface is slated to begin shipping in November, 2006.

For the past eight years, HomeSeer Technologies has been creating some of the most popular and robust automation systems available. HomeSeer Technologies’ software and hardware controllers have been installed in over 10,000+ residential and commercial sites. HomeSeer has won numerous awards including TechTV’s Best of CES, HomeAutomation top 50, TechLiving’s HOT LIST, and was recently selected as a central integration component in all episodes of the hit FOX TV show “Renovate My Family”. HomeSeer Technologies web site is

About HomeSeer Technologies
HomeSeer Technologies is a leading provider of home control software based in Bedford New Hampshire. Our software and hardware controllers give users the ability to integrate and automate everything in their home, including lights, appliances, thermostats, audio/video, and media content. Our software is IP enabled, giving users remote access from anywhere in the world. Visit for more information.

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The Media Center Show Extra #4

The Media Center Show Extra #4 - Z | This week on Ian’s show he looks at the “Z” sample application in the Windows Media Center SDK (v5.0).

Z is a complete end-to-end sample application that really shows off the power of Media Center Markup lanungage. You get the source code to the whole application in the SDK. I hope it not only inspires developers to get developing with Media Center but content companies too, they will be able to see the potential for getting there brand to the TV.

Click Here to Watch

Vista Media Center's Improved Touchscreen Support

[EHX] Microsoft Building Touchscreen Support into MCE (CE Pro) | Once again from EHX, Julie notes that Vista Media Center has been designed to work nicer with touchscreens.  You can see the arrows on the start menu and in the Guide too.  Juile notes that last thing needed is a pop-up keyboard, sort of like Inteset's Julia.

Great for touchscreen support, however in my opinion is just made mouse navigation more difficult.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Exceptional Innovation's Life|point and Life|vision Update and Demo

[Live From EHX] Exceptional Innovation's Lifepoint and Lifevision (CE Pro) | Jason Unger, CE Pro Web Editor has got a great video up on YouTube with him speaking to Nicole Gerspr of Exceptional Innovation about Life|point and Life|vision.  Click here to watch.

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Charlie Owen Wants Feedback This Time

What keeps you from using Windows Media Center...? (Charlie Owen) | Charlie Owen is asking what is keeping you from using Media Center, and wants your feedback.  Looking through the current comments, looks a lot like what everyone has contributed here and at David Fleischman’s Blog.

Go leave your comments and get your opinion out yet again.

Posted by chrisl | 1 comment(s)

The Story of CableLabs Certification

If you listen to this weeks Media Center Show you heard Kevin Shields explain how the “certification” process will kind-of work.  Here’s a quick summary of both what Kevin said on the show and what I have learned over the past few weeks from my sources.

As Kevin said for OEM’s to ship a PC with CableCARD support they will need to be actual OEM Partners with Microsoft.  You can tell if a PC manufacturer is an OEM Partner most of the time if the see the OEM Logo on their website.  For example, Niveus Media has the “Microsoft Platinum OEM” logo their website so they can offer PC’s with CableCARD which they have already announced.  System Builders need not apply, so if you are like me and have a dummy System Builder account from (which are free) you can’t get the needed license to have a PC with working CableCARD.

Now, about the certification crap.  Let’s take a quick trip to what got us here, including some quotes from Microsoft Exectuives.

When Thomas Hawk had dinner with Jim Allchin, Thomas walked away with this "Although Vista has been approved, OEMs will in fact still need to get their individual machines certified by CableLabs as well.”  Now, those are Thomas words, not Jim’s but it was Allchin who explained the process to Thomas.

Next we have what Anand from Anandtech e-mailed me with saying “The OCUR device itself is the only thing that is actually certified by CableLabs.”  Thanks to Anand for this.

Lastly we have the Stephen Speicher chat with Joe Belfiore where Joe said “The other part is that the entire system as shipped by the OEM has to be, for the purposes of this discussion, “certified.” The PC vendor has to notify CableLabs of the model of the PC that will be “Digital Cable Ready” and indicate that its entire system from the graphics card to the OCUR will support what is needed for things like the Emergency Broadcast System.”

Could just be me, but the two quotes from the Microsoft Executives sure sounded like the “whole PC” would need to be sent to CableLabs and “certified” before it could be sold.  I went over the cost to have a device "cerifited" by CableLabs early this year and of course this added fuel to the fire.

Cut to today, and there doesn’t seem to be a certification process for the whole PC though CableLabs!  Only ATI has to get the OCUR itself certified through CableLabs, but don’t get excited about building your own machine yet, it’s still not going to happen.

As per above, you still need to be a Microsoft OEM Partner to get “everything” you would need to activate the OCUR for use in Windows Vista.  Buying an OCUR off of eBay isn’t going to cut it people.

So, after our year of waiting and some less then great quotes from the people leading the teams there isn’t a PC certification process afterall (Yay!).  However, you still can’t build your own PC with CableCARD support and it’s not likely you will ever be able too.

The Media Center Show #83

The Media Center Show #83 | 16th November 2006 (1hour 03mins 53secs) MP3 - 21.9MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Kevin Shields, General Manager of the TV Team at Microsoft about TV support in Media Center. From the original analog only support to digital standards and CableCARD. Ian and Kevin talk about TV in Vista and TV support in future editions of Media Center.

Checkout The Media Center Show Extra #3, also tell Ian what you think of the “extra” shows on the survey page.

Don’t forget the Media Center Show Award nominations, voting starts soon.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Niveus Media Announces Windows Vista Early Adopter Program

The Get Ready program is designed to provide authorized Niveus dealers early access and exposure to Windows Vista.

Long Beach, CA – EHX Fall – November 15-17, 2006 – Booth # 1313D – Niveus Media, an award-winning designer and manufacturer of digital entertainment media centers, has announced the launch of Get Ready. A Windows Vista Early Adopter program intended to provide Niveus’ Authorized Dealers with the knowledge needed to install and support Windows Vista, prior to its scheduled January 30, 2007 launch date, Niveus’ program also provides dealers the opportunity to showcase Vista’s increased functionality within media center solutions.

“We’re very excited to be offering our valued dealer network the ability to familiarize themselves, as well as their customers, with Windows Vista today; without waiting until general availability in January 2007” said Brian Paper, VP of Marketing and co-Founder of Niveus Media. “Our dealers are selling products today that will be installed months from now. This program not only allows them to gain technical expertise and installation experience with Vista but also allows them to demonstrate this next generation platform in their showrooms.”

The Get Ready program will allow Niveus Authorized Dealers to purchase a Niveus Media Center pre-installed with both Windows Vista and Windows XP and will ship with Niveus exclusive software for both operating systems. Windows Media Center in Windows Vista adds support for the viewing and recording of premium high definition digital cable TV, offers an improved menu system and new options for multi-room access to digital content. The Get Ready program will apply to Niveus’ Summit Series – Rainier Edition, Denali Edition and Pro Series – n7.

Niveus Authorized Dealers who participate in the program will be given dedicated access to the Niveus support staff and regular updates from the Niveus engineering team. All Get Ready program participants will also be eligible for the recently announced Niveus Windows Vista CableCARD program for existing customers, ensuring that they will have the latest in both hardware and software as soon as it becomes available.

Niveus Media will be demonstrating their Windows Vista-based products at this week’s Electronic House Expo (EHX) in Long Beach, CA. For more information on Niveus Media, Inc., or the Get Ready program, please visit

Niveus Media Readies For Windows Vista Launch, Offering CableCARD Program For Existing Customers

Bringing CableCARD capabilities to new and existing customers, Niveus Media continues to expand its forward-thinking media center solutions.

Long Beach, CA – EHX Fall – November 15-17, 2006 – Booth # 1313D – A leading designer and manufacturer of digital entertainment solutions based on the Windows Media Center platform, Niveus Media announces the implementation of a CableCARD program for the company’s Niveus Media Centers. Allowing existing customers the opportunity to augment the company’s preceding models, all Niveus products will be able to offer the latest Windows Vista operating system with CableCARD capabilities.

Concurrent with Window’s anticipated January 30, 2007 launch of Vista, along with Niveus' continued commitment to offer the latest in hardware and software, Niveus proudly encourages customers to embrace CableCARD technology within the Windows Media Center application. With unprecedented functionality, CableCARD allows users to view and record premium high definition digital content without the use of a set-top box, leveraging powerful DVR functionality including a robust electronic program guide.

“Niveus has been fortunate to showcase CableCARD capabilities and applications on our award-winning media centers, receiving overwhelming feedback on its benefits in this category. By extending this promotion to all of our customers, we hope to maintain our growing reputation as a forward-thinking provider of the digital entertainment experience,” states Tim Cutting, CEO and co-founder of Niveus Media.

With the convergence of computing and audio/video constantly evolving, Niveus Media has provided investment protection for its high-performance media centers in its unique chassis and upgrade programs. As Windows Vista supports OCUR (Open Cable Uni-directional Receiver), Niveus provides a seamless process; CableCARD can be easily inserted into an OCUR receiver. Niveus will be amongst the first to provide a Windows-based system capturing advanced content and capabilities by enabling users to retain the interactive EPG (electronic program guide), while also allowing them to view and record HD digital cable content that is stored and accessed on a Windows Vista-based Media Center system.

In addition to offering a CableCARD program for existing customers at the Windows Vista launch, Niveus also plans to ship all new CableCARD-enabled systems at that time.

Niveus Media will be demonstrating their Windows Vista-based products at this week’s Electronic House Expo (EHX) in Long Beach, CA. For more information on Niveus Media, Inc., or the Get Ready program, please visit

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Niveus Media Announces Pro Series - N9 Based On Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad Processor

Now shipping with Intel’s newest desktop processor, Niveus’ high-performance rack-mount media server delivers a high fidelity high definition experience throughout the home.

Milpitas, CA – November 14, 2006 – An award-winning designer and manufacturer of media servers based on the Windows Media Center platform, Niveus Media announces the company’s 2007 Pro Series - n9 media server is now shipping with the new Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme quad core processor QX6700. Continuing to solidify the company’s reputation by incorporating only the most innovative hardware and software in their products, Niveus’ n9 offers a powerful, multi-zone digital entertainment solution; all in a convenient rack-mount form factor.

Achieving unprecedented speed and performance across a wide range of multimedia and multi-zone applications, the quad core processor joins the Pro Series’ already impressive list of features, including Intel® Viiv™ technology, Nvidia’s GeForce Series 7 Graphics, and 3 terabytes of storage. Intel’s new quad core processor provides four independent cores with dedicated threads, to efficiently off-load tasks, thereby freeing the other processor; maximizing the Niveus Media Center’s effectiveness in serving up media to multiple rooms of the house.

Enabling simultaneous local HD DVD playback, and multiple, independent sessions of HD television and music playback throughout various zones, amongst other functionality, the n9 with quad core processor offers the power, compatibility, and connectivity to perform as a central media hub. Maintaining faster frame rates and improved acoustics leveraging the quad core processors platform thermal control, the n9 delivers a higher performance audio video experience.

“Intel’s Core 2 Extreme quad core processor provides boundless opportunity for the Niveus Media Center,” says Greg Pearson, Vice President, Sales and Marketing Group and President, Intel Americas, Inc. “The n9 is a fast and innovative solution targeted at media enthusiasts, and we are proud of Niveus’ commitment as an Intel channel partner.”

Niveus’ Pro Series is housed in a sleek, compact chassis (measuring 3U) with ears for fast and easy rack mount installation. In addition to being Windows Vista Capable and CableCARD Ready, features include: Niveus’ patent-pending Niveus ConvergencePanel™; HDMI; RS-232; an integrated flash card reader (SD, MMC); RAID 5 Hard Drive Data Protection; 3TB HDD storage; 4 television tuners (2x NTSC, 2x ATSC); 4GB of RAM; and 8-channel analog audio or digital coaxial audio.

On November 8th, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®) recognized Niveus Media’s Pro Series – n9 media server as a CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree within the home theater accessory category.

For more information on Niveus Media, please visit

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