website hit counter February 2007 - Posts - Chris Lanier

February 2007 - Posts

Non-SideShow In-wall Media Center Control (Shipping Now)

While laying out my whole SideShow spiel the other day about in-wall keypads and Media Center control, I did leave out something.  ACS has been doing this for the past two years!  Their Graphical Media Center Remote Front Panel is a 128x64 serial controlled (RS-232) remote that also passes metadata.  It even includes a Configuration Utility so you can tell it what exactly you wish to display.  Looks to fit nicely in standard dual gang box, which is the perfect size!

And the best part, retails for only $99!  You can bet that SideShow modules will cost more than that.


Thanks to Scott for the reminder.

Posted by chrisl | 3 comment(s)

Sony VGP-XL1B2 DVD/Media Changer Now Only $200

Sony VAIO VGP-XL1B2 Media Changer ( | $800, $400, $300, and now only $200!  That’s right, has the 200-disc Sony DVD/Media Changer for only $200 now.  You should be able to get $10 off that using Google Checkout.  Works with MCE 2005 and Vista.

While you are at it check out MCEtilities which might be the first tool to support batch DVD Ripping!

Thanks Alex!

Batch DVD Ripping In Sight? MCEtilites Beta Released

ActiveAsp Software has just released MCEtilites v1.0 (Direct Download) for MCE 2005 and Vista Media Center.  Currently in beta, MCEtilities allows you to edit metadata on DVR-MS files and to view metadata for dvdxml files.  However, the software can also control DVD Changers!  Currently it can mount, unmount, eject, and even rip from DVD Changer’s like Sony's XL1B2!

Now, if you are like me you are still reading this post because you want to know if it will allow batch DVD Ripping, the Holy Grail for such an inexpensive DVD Changer that doesn’t support DVD Streaming.  Well, right now the answer is no, it doesn’t do batch DVD ripping.  According to the developer you will still need to click “Start Ripping.”  However, he is currently investigating using the Nero API’s to allow for batch ripping and transcoding.  Exciting stuff, so stay tuned.  There is also an SDK for VS2005 so people can make their own plug-ins to edit/manipule/whatever DVD Changers, DVR-MS files, and movie metadata.

Already planned features include being able to use MCEtilities to edit/download metadata for movies, and it will have integration with

Remember, it’s in beta so report bugs here.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Ricavision Intros Multifunction and Universal Vista Remotes

Speaking of Ricavision remotes, Ricavision also has some upcoming multifunction and universal remote controls for Windows Vista.

Running from left to right, the first one pictured is just a basic Vista Remote Control and only works with your PC.  The next one is a Multifunction Remote Control and will control your PC and basic TV functions (power, input, volume, etc).  The last one is a Universal Remote Control that can handle your PC, TV, DVD/VCR, and more.


Not sure what the prices will be, but these are some pretty nice looking remotes.

SideShow | Great Media Center Extender Complement

As Bryan pointed out in the comments on my Extender Concepts post, Ricavision is making Sideshow Module that will bring better 2’ control to Media Center.  Currently if you want to start playing music on your Media Center you need to turn on your display and navigate to My Music.  After you do that, your display basically needs to stay on in case you want to change what music is playing.  Considering a large majority of people are doing other things while listening to music (not glued to the screen), using a SideShow remote with an LCD screen to control the PC without having to turn on the display will be very useful.  Windows Vista and SideShow solved this problem.

Below is a picture of what Ricavision’s SideShow module actually looks like, as well as one of there SideShow remotes that will hopefully ship soon.  The SideShow module can give you access to several Music, TV, Pictures, and Video functions.


SideShow modules can have the ability to be loads of interesting things, including audio and video playback.  As far as I know, the Ricavision SideShow module is just meant to be a secondary screen for control.  Things like scheduling a show to record, or browsing through your music library for playback to occur on the PC are just a few examples of what SideShow will bring to you.

SideShow modules will not replace Media Center Extenders overall, however there are some applications that SideShow should be more cost effective then an Extender to implement.  For example, I suggested that it would be very nice to have an In-wall Touchscreen Extender that would allow you to extend Media Center into another room without having a full setup with a separate display.  However, you might just want control of your music library, in-effect creating a nice multi-zone audio solution.  A SideShow module could be nicely built as an in-wall solution and I’m sure we will see a few out there.  In wall keypads are very popular with other whole home solutions, and SideShow will bring them to Media Center.

In addition to Media Center, SideShow modules can have access to dozens of other modules including Vista’s Sidebar Gadgets.  This means things like quick e-mail access, IM, RSS, weather, and much more can also be a part of this.  Clearly, this is a huge advantage and ads a ton of value to SideShow modules.  And just as it doesn’t stop with Media Center related products, you might have already seen other SideShow devices out there like MP3 Players, external laptop displays, and even digital picture frames.  Home automation is going to get a huge jump with this too!

Since I haven’t really talked about SideShow, are you interested in what it could bring?  If you not running Vista is this one of those things that would make you upgrade?

Tablet and In-wall Touchscreen Extender Concepts

I refuse to give up on Pika.  I know, I know, Microsoft and OEMs seem to be lagging way behind were they need to be getting them into the market.  While I don’t agree with Microsoft or their OEMs for being so slow (it’s not clear if it’s Microsoft or the OEMs that are the problem) I think that Pika could bring some very interesting devices.  We already know that DVD Players with Media Center Extenders will likely show, as will Media Center Extender HDTVs.

But what about what could also be released, pending some smart OEMs.  The Pika development kit from Sigma Designs is rather small and could be put several exciting places.  If I had to guess I would say the broad is about 7x4.5in, which means it is very compact in comparison to the cases these things are put into.  This means it could be nicely made into a small Tablet Touchscreen Extender or In-wall  Touchscreen Extender!

I would love to see a $500 (or so) 10” Touchscreen Tablet Extender that I could walk around the house and view recorded TV on.  Battery life might be issue with one of these, as it always is with any portable device.   However, it would (technically) be able to decode HDTV, including that recorded on from a CableCARD.  I think if someone could manage 3 hours of battery life this concept would be great!  Removable battery would be a huge plus.

(Yes, this does not exist) 

Or what about an In-wall Touchscreen Extender.  This would be an interesting concept for an OEM to tackle, because any good way of doing this would involve smashing some holes in your walls for the install plus running power, Ethernet, and optional external speakers.  Those are instant turn-off’s for most OEMs.  However, pending that a 6” In-wall Touchscreen Extender would bring your home to your figure-tips much like Exceptional Innovations current XPe Touchscreens do (w/ Life|ware).  This would be a great addition to multi-zone audio and home automation people.

(This too does not exist, artist rendering) 

Mix the above with Sideshow (which I have not covered very well here) and your really getting into the connect lifestyle idea that Media Center should be the center of.

What do you think?  Are these devices that would interest you and are there any more that you would be interested to see?  Clearly the Zune as a wireless Media Center Extender is up there, anything else?

WebGuide Gadget Released for Vista

Doug released his WebGuide Gadget that I talked about a few days ago.

“The WebGuide Gadget allows you to connect to local Media Center or a remote WebGuide server. It allows for full access to the program guide, search, recorded TV and scheduled Recordings. You can even stream live TV when connected to a WebGuide server.”

Download it Here and don’t forget to listen to him on The Media Center Show this week.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

The Media Center Show #96

The Media Center Show #96 | 22nd February 2007 (56mins 46secs) MP3 - 19.5MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Doug Berrett author of WebGuide, the remote scheduler application for Media Center and turns out it does a lot more than that.  Doug  will also talk about version 4.0

Checkout the new Media Center Show Community site there are a whole range of forums, blogs and other resources. 

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

S1Digital Sets a New Reference Standard with ProLine Series Media Centers

New York, NY, February 20th, 2007 -- S1Digital, a leading builder of high-end Media Centers and Servers, today announced the launch of their ProLine Series which sets a new reference standard for Media Centers based on Microsoft Vista Ultimate. The ProLine Series includes S1Digital’s flagship rack mount Media Server Edition and the silent FX Edition. Designed specifically for custom audio and video installers, the ProLine Media Centers enable installers to offer their customers the latest in high-end digital home entertainment solutions.

The Media Server Edition raises the bar for Media Centers by including up to 3TB of storage in six hot swap drive bays. Managed by a dedicated 3ware RAID controller, the Media Server can effortlessly record multiple HDTV streams while simultaneously streaming content throughout the home (via Media Center Extenders) and providing full data protection. The 3U rack mount chassis fits into standard 20” depth A/V racks. Other features include HD-DVD playback, 1080p HDMI video output, Dolby Master Studio 7.1 channel audio and dual HDTV and SDTV tuners enabling recording of up to four TV channels at the same time. The Media Server Edition is powered by the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors, includes Intel Viiv technology and runs on Microsoft Vista Ultimate.

If silence is golden then the Media Center FX Edition is 24k. The FX Edition features a sophisticated European design making it a centerpiece of any living room. Extruded aluminum heat sinks draw heat away from critical components via silent heat pipe technology. Other features include one terabyte of internal storage, HD-DVD playback as standard or optional Blu-ray drive, 1080p HDMI video output, Dolby Home Theater 7.1 channel audio and dual HDTV and SDTV tuners enabling recording of up to four TV channels at the same time. The FX Edition is also powered by the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors, includes Intel Viiv technology and runs on Microsoft Vista Ultimate.

Offering unprecedented support for the installer community, S1Digital’s ProLine Series products can be customized with add-ons to enable home automation capabilities, two-way control from Crestron, AMX and other touchscreens, and integration with Russound and Nuvo multi-room audio systems (coming soon).

“We’re now able to offer customized solutions, products and support specifically to our custom installer market,” said Paul Heitlinger, S1Digital CEO and Founder. “Partnering with S1Digital really enables our resellers to offer their customers the latest in digital entertainment technology.”

The Media Server Edition will be available in March 2007 and the FX Edition will be available by the end of February. Dealer pricing is available to approved resellers.

All of S1Digital’s Media Centers and solutions including home automation, multi-room audio and video distribution and touchscreen control, are on display at the S1Digital Experience showroom in New York. S1Digital's products will also be demonstrated at the Electronic House Expo, October 8-10th in Orlando, FL in booth 1723.

For more information, please contact S1Digital via email, phone 888-632-6897 or visit their website at

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

S1Digital Introduces Home Series Line of Media Centers

New York, NY, February 21th, 2007 -- S1Digital, a leading builder of high-end Media Centers and Servers today launched the Home Series line of Media Centers that includes the popular Media Center Platinum Edition, Gold Edition and tiny Mini Edition.

The premium Media Center Platinum Edition heads up the Home Series by packing in almost everything except the kitchen sink. Created for the discerning home theater enthusiast, the Platinum Edition features Intel Core 2 Duo processors, DVD playback with upscaled video output with optional HD-DVD or Blu-ray, up to 1 terabyte of storage, dual HDTV and SDTV tuners (record or stream four channels simultaneously), 1080p HDMI video output, Dolby Home Theater with 7.1 channel audio, Intel Viiv Technology and Microsoft Vista Home Premium. The quiet Platinum Edition is designed to look at home next to other high-end A/V gear and provides unparalleled video and audio quality.

The affordable Media Center Gold Edition follows in the footsteps of its larger brother by including Core 2 Duo, DVD playback and burning, up to 1 terabyte of storage, HDTV and SDTV tuners, HDMI video output, Dolby Home Theater 7.1 channel audio, Intel Viiv Technology and Microsoft Vista Home Premium.

Rounding out the family is the “Mighty” Media Center Mini Edition, a powerful Media Center housed in one of the smallest form factors in the market.  Also running Microsoft Vista Home Premium, the Mini Edition is the size of a book, yet packs a Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 100GB of internal storage, internal 802.11g wireless and a DVD burner. The Mini Edition is great for smaller spaces such as bedrooms, kitchens, holiday homes, yachts and RVs.

All Home Series Media Centers will be shipping by the end of February and can be purchased directly from

For more information, contact S1Digital directly via email, phone 888-632-6897 or visit our website at To see of S1Digital’s Media Centers and digital media solutions in action, drop by the S1Digital Experience showroom at 116 E. 7th St, New York.


Andrew Grant Runs Down Reasons to Stay with Media Center 2005

Andrew Grant runs down his Five Reasons to Stay with MCE 2005 today.  Cost, Extenders (or lack of), Remote Desktop, Functionality (or lack of again), and Stability (or instability) are among the reasons why he is currently staying with MCE 2005.

I have still yet to upgrade to Vista fulltime.  I’ve had it install for some time now in a dual boot with MCE 2005, and everything I reboot the decision to stay with MCE 2005 overrules that of Vista.  My hardware is a bit lacking to nicely run Media Center.  That could be fixed with a cheap RAM upgrade, but still I don’t currently see the benefit of doing so.

CableCARD is a big reason to still upgrade, but considering I have DIRECTV I still have a while to wait for that to happen.

I still say that v2 Extenders will be huge, if anyone ever decides to ship them!  Once I have a $150-$200 v2 Extender that supports playback of MPEG-4 ASP (DivX, XviD, etc) and correctly playback VIDEO_TS folders then I’ll be all over Vista.  Extenders are huge for me, finally being able to have that DVD collection all around the house in the format that I choose.  $150 v2 Extenders would also get the thoughts about Softsled almost out of my head.

Lastly, the MCML Plug-ins that are coming out are really great.  However, I can’t see myself upgrading just for third party plug-ins, the core functionality needs to be there first.  Plug-ins are just that, they are add-ins that will add functionality to a platform that seems to be lacking some basic things.

Has your opinion changed?

Posted by chrisl | 6 comment(s)

Sidebar Gadget for Vista Media Center

Sidebar Gadget for Windows Media Center! (Ian Dixon) | Ian points to a Sidebar Gadget for Windows Vista that will be part of Doug’s WebGuide 4.  Very cool!  It can display the EPG, Recordings and Scheduled Recordings.  Not only that, it works on remote machines too!  That means you can have this gadget running on your Laptop half way across the world and still view and schedule recordings via the gadget itself. 

Posted by chrisl | 4 comment(s)

Life|Ware Chosen By The Momentum Group As MDU Automation System

Columbus, OH – February 16, 2007 – Exceptional Innovation, producers of Life|ware digital entertainment and automation solutions, are proud to announce that Life|ware has been chosen for all of The Momentum Group’s (TMG) Multi Dwelling Unit (MDU) projects and to interface with RITA (Residence Interactive Technology Consultant) Concierge Services.

The Momentum Group, a technology integration firm specializing in custom residential and MDU technology, investigated many different systems to control their properties, and recently announced that Life|ware and Exceptional Innovation was their top choice. “The level of technology we are implementing into our projects is designed to become part of our client’s lifestyles and the features of Life|ware and architecture stands out above all others. This platform also integrates beautifully with RITA for concierge services into our products,” states Daniel Kippycash, president and CEO of TMG.

Life|ware’s home control software provides seamless integration with Media Center based installations, creating a digital entertainment experience that allows consumers to control how they enjoy their digital content, wherever and whenever they want, as well as manage their lighting, HVAC, security and other subsystems through a single interface. The latest version, Life|ware 2.0, a Windows® Vista-based interface, expands upon its previous ability to manage a home’s subsystems to create a comprehensive digital living experience.

Exceptional Innovation also offers its own line of hardware products to make the digital living experience even greater. One of these products, Life|point, is a high definition touch panel that provides another interface to manage your home. Because almost any subsystem can be added to the Life|ware home network by the use of Web Services for Devices (WSD), you can build the ideal level of control to specifically fit your needs.

“From its very inception, Life|ware has been a compelling option for the multi dwelling unit – fast installations, robust functionality and remote maintenance all make the system ideal for large MDU projects,” said Steve Cashman, vice president of sales for Exceptional Innovation. “We are tremendously excited about working with a great, visionary partner like The Momentum Group to bring Life|ware to the MDU market.”

Logos and images available at

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When Your Xbox 360 Extender and CableCARD Recordings Don't Get Along....

Update: Update on Xbox 360 Extender with CableCARD Recordings

You’re basically screwed.  Tonight is not a good night to try and find Knowledge Base Articles.  Microsoft is failing left and right to impress me, and this one is pretty serious.  Xbox 360: You receive audio but no video for digital cable TV channels that you receive by using an OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver

When your Xbox 360 console is configured as a Media Center Extender and you watch digital cable TV that is streamed from a Windows Vista-based Media Center PC, you receive audio but no video. The screen remains black.

This behavior can occur if the Windows Vista-based Media Center PC receives the digital cable TV from an OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR).

This is a known issue with the decoder that is used on Windows Vista-based Media Center PCs and the Xbox 360 console. Currently, there is no resolution for this issue.

What?!?!  Do I really need to say anything else here?  m' yeah, I'm gonna need you to fix this, and if you could get it done by the end of this month That'd be great.

 Note: 5 Bonus Points* goes to the first one who replies with who would have said the above italicized text.

*Bonus Points are worth nothing, sorry.  Not valid in California.

Update: Update on Xbox 360 Extender with CableCARD Recordings

Concurrent Sessions Back In Windows Vista!

I case you missed it, Concurrent Sessions are back with Vista!  Thanks to some creative hacking of termsrv.dll you can now enjoy the exact same Concurrent Sessions hack that has been all over the web the same year or so in Windows XP.  This means that you can Remote Desktop into your Vista Ultimate machine without interrupting the other user session.  Before anyone asks, no this will not work in Vista Home Basic or Home Premium, either of those have Remote Desktop as a feature.  Only Vista Business and Vista Ultimate have Remote Desktop!

Mike has the step-by-steep guide over at Missing Remote.

I still don’t understand why Microsoft will not include this as a supported feature.  Considering Media Center Extenders still use a basic RDP session the core functionality is already there, and I’m not sure how many thousand “Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies” (I love that name) testers requested that this be kept when it was found to be enabled in the beta.  Do you use Concurrent Sessions in Windows XP or Windows Vista?

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I Guess I Shouldn’t Be Surprised

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that retailers can’t get it right when Microsoft can’t do the same either.  I’m interested now in OCUR + Windows Media Center support in Windows Home Basic.  I mean, “Microsoft has confirmed that this is a bug in the Microsoft products that are listed in the "Applies to" section” which includes Home Basic.

Does this mean I can start buying a bunch of copies of Windows Vista Home Basic and expect to use Windows Media Center in them at a later date?  Or I guess that I can expect to knock $200 off the price of an OEM machine with CableCARD support, see as they don't need to include Home Premium or Ultimate for it to work now.

Of course, in the real world Home Basic doesn't include Media Center.  Now I'm thinking the one size fits all approach to OS sales was the way to go.

Automatic Commercial Skip in Media Center!

Everyone should know about DVRMSToolbox that lets you do just about anything with your Recorded TV files.  However, the more time that goes by the more I see that people are not taking advantage of what DVRMSToolbox has to offer.  Today I wanted to give everyone a basic introduction to one of the coolest features, automatic commercial skipping!

DVRMSToolbox can automatically process your recordings using the Commercial Skin Add-in so that when you play them back (PC or Extender) you don’t have to touch a single button to skip commercials.

Setup is very simple, download and install DVRMSToolbox and ensure you check the option to Register the Commercial Skip Add-in as part of the install.  Reboot after this, and then make sure the rest of your setup is correct.  That’s it!

Start playing a Recorded TV program and Media Center will give you a prompt about Commercial Skip.  Say Yes to process it and before the first commercial (in most cases, generally takes 5-8 minutes) the show will be entirely processed and skip over the commercials without any fast forwarding. For newly recorded shows, FileWatcher runs in the background and automatically runs ComSkip on the files.  So the next day you go to watch them, the ComSkip scanning has already happened.

If you are in Vista, remember to read Mike’s article on getting Commercial Skip working.  Both are free, although donations for both are well worth it.  ComSkip Donations & DVRMSToolbox Donations.

And remember, DVRMSToolbox does so much more!  Convert to WMV, Convert to MPEG, Sync to PocketPC’s, etc.

So, have you tried out DVRMSToolbox and are you using Commercial Skip?  If not, what exactly are you waiting for?

Posted by chrisl | 14 comment(s)

Life|Ware Announces Four Builder Packages At IBS

Four package levels let builders quickly implement digital entertainment and home automation solutions into their upgrade offerings.

Orlando, FL – IBS 2007 – February 7-10 – Booth W3959 or NextGen Home located in West Parking Lot D2 -  Life|ware™ digital entertainment and automation solutions announces four new Life|ware Builder packages designed to let home builders quickly offer complete digital entertainment and home automation upgrade options for their homebuyers.

“Life|ware is a great solution for homebuilders because of how quickly it can be installed,” said Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing for Life|ware. “These packages really streamline the process to get builders started making more money with Life|ware.”

Ranging from a single room home theater option up through Essential, Deluxe and Premium levels of electronics and automation, the Life|ware Builder packages can fit a variety of homebuyer budgets. Builders who do not have low-voltage integration partners can be partnered with a Life|ware Certified dealer to deploy the packages in the field.

IBS will also offer a live preview of Life|ware 2.0, which introduces an entirely new, Windows® Vista™-based interface while expanding on its current ability to manage a home’s subsystems through Windows Vista Media Center to create a comprehensive digital living experience. 

Life|ware 2.0 provides at-a-glance, gallery-style view of home subsystems – lights, thermostats, and more. By replicating the distinctive Windows Vista interface look, feel and navigation, Life|ware 2.0  presents a crisp interface that is intuitive, simple to learn and easy to use.

There are also five points of instant access to Life|ware in Vista’s main menu, and 2.0 features Life|connect Media – the easiest way to make your household’s media libraries available everywhere.

At IBS, Life|ware will automate the two-story NextGen home located in the Outdoor Exhibits area in the West Parking lot. A Life|ware booth on the show floor also features hourly demonstrations in the Life|ware Theater that detail the solution and its implementation.

For more information on Life|ware by Exceptional Innovation, please visit

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The Media Center Show #95

The Media Center Show #95 | 15th February 2007 (53mins 36secs) MP3 - 18.4MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Rathe Hollingum a Microsoft developer from the European Development Center in Ireland about the center and what they are adding to Media Center to make it a more global product. Also email and winner of forum post of the week and details of a new competition.

Checkout the new Media Center Show Community site there are a whole range of forums, blogs and other resources. 

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Exceptional Innovation Previews Life|Ware 2.0 For Microsoft Vista

New interface, increased functionality, robust performance mark significant additions to new software and hardware from EI.

Orlando, FL – IBS 2007 – February 7-10 – Booth # W3959 and The NextGen Home – Exceptional Innovation, producers of Life|ware™ digital entertainment and automation solutions, are excited to announce a live preview Life|ware 2.0 at the NextGen Home at IBS 2007. Life|ware 2.0 introduces an entirely new, Windows® Vista™-based interface while expanding on its current ability to manage a home’s subsystems through Windows Vista Media Center Edition to create a comprehensive digital living experience.

Life|ware 2.0 provides at-a-glance, gallery-style view of home subsystems – lights, thermostats, and more. By replicating the distinctive Windows Vista interface look, feel and navigation, Life|ware 2.0  presents an crisp interface that is intuitive, simple to learn and easy to use.

There are also five points of instant access to Life|ware in Vista’s main menu, and 2.0 features Life|connect Media – the easiest way to make your household’s media libraries available everywhere.

Life|ware 2.0 takes customization to a whole new level, allowing you to see graphically the information you want on each menu. Life|scenes, too, can be easily re-learned – letting you continually evolve them as your life changes over time. Finally, 2.0’s forthcoming Life|connect Remote software let’s you take a standard Media Center remote places it’s never been before.

“There has been tremendous anticipation on how Vista and Life|ware will enhance digital living, and the NextGen Home at IBS 2007 will give that first public glimpse,” says Mike Seamons, Exceptional Innovation’s vice president of marketing.

At IBS 2007, Life|ware will manage the NextGen Home and numerous sub system partner products in the 2,200 square foot home located directly behind West Hall. The home will feature Life|ware connected partners, representing products from lighting, HVAC, distributed audio and security products, as well as HP Digital Entertainment Centers with Windows Vista Media Center Edition, Exceptional Innovation hardware, including Life|vision™,  Life|link™, and Life|controller™ and the award winning Life|point™ high definition touch panels. The home will be open to IBS Attendees during show hours starting on February 7th and ending on February 10th.

For more information on Exceptional Innovation, please visit

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