website hit counter June 2007 - Posts - Chris Lanier

June 2007 - Posts

AMD Unleashes The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 Series

ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 graphics processors available at knockout price points

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- June 28, 2007 --AMD today announced the arrival of the ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series, the mid-range and entry-level graphics processors in the ATI Radeon HD 2000 series. These next-generation graphics processing units (GPU) bring premium support for Windows Vista with feature-rich DirectX 10 graphics, and built-in multimedia functions for an immersive HD video experience on the PC. Ranging from USD $89-$149 (SEP) for the ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and USD $50-$85 (SEP) for the ATI Radeon HD 2400 series2, the new graphics solutions deliver compelling performance and image quality at an unbelievable price point. The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon 2400 series have enjoyed broad customer adoption and are designed into a significant number of major OEM mainstream and value DirectX 10 PCs to be shipped in 2007.

“The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series drive high definition innovation to the mainstream with an incredible price and performance proposition,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president, AMD Graphics Products Group. “With the launch of these new products, AMD is broadening the reach of The Ultimate Visual Experience™ by putting next-generation, DirectX 10 discrete graphics technology within reach for more users than ever before.”

The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series deliver remarkable gaming performance and maximize the HD visual effects within Windows Vista and DirectX 10. The powerful second-generation unified shader architecture introduces the era of immersive HD gaming, delivering an ideal balance of high performance, advanced visual effects and breathtaking realism for both the casual and avid gamer. Gamers wanting more horsepower will discover that both series feature native ATI CrossFire technology, allowing for a wider variety of multi-GPU configurations.

The ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series provide powerful graphics performance for quick multitasking between applications with the Windows AeroTM 3D user interface. ATI Catalyst graphics management software is certified for Windows Vista and is designed for quick and easy setup of graphics, video, and multiple displays.

Both series feature the Unified Video Decoder (UVD) for advanced hardware HD video processing and HDMI with built-in HD audio controller for stunning big-screen entertainment. Home theater aficionados will be captivated by ATI Avivo HD technology that delivers sharp images and vibrant color fidelity for Blu-ray and HD DVD content.

With support for Blu-ray discs and HD DVDs, CyberLink’s PowerDVD Ultra, now offers support for UVD technology from AMD, ensuring enhanced video quality with low CPU utilization.

“Through a joint effort, CyberLink and AMD are bringing high-quality video playback for the latest ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series graphics cards,” said Alice H. Chang, CEO of CyberLink Corp. “It is quite an achievement for both AMD and CyberLink to satisfy the growing demand for high-definition video performance within the mainstream PC market.

Using an energy-efficient 65 nm process technology to reduce power consumption, certain ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series models are designed to be passively cooled for a quieter home theatre experience. Availability for both products is expected in early July.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

The Media Center Show #112

The Media Center Show #112 | 28th June 2007 (1 hour 9mins 41sec) MP3 - 23.9MB (Download Here)

This week Ian Dixon talked with Tim Ellert from Domia about their Domia Home Automation solution and how Windows Media Center can be at the heart of a connected digital home.  Also email, news items and forum poster of the week.

June 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista

Microsoft has released the June 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista. This update rollup is intended for computers that are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.

Hotfix replacement information

This is a cumulative update. This update replaces the following updates:

929011 - Windows Media Center does not correctly configure a combo TV tuner that supports both ATSC and NTSC signals on a Windows Vista-based computer

932753 - When you resize the Windows Media Center window in Windows Vista, video playback may stop

932818 - April 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista

931967 - You cannot hear the audio in Live TV or on a DVD in Windows Media Center after you wake a computer that is running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate

Issues that are resolved by this update

In addition to the fixes that are contained in the updates that are listed in the "Hotfix replacement information" section, the June 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista includes the following updates:

  • Several fixes for the Media Center Extensibility Platform
  • An update to the Digital Cable Card component to provide better support for interaction between the digital cable tuner, the CableCARD, and Media Center
Information for Windows Media Center Extenders

Windows Media Center Extenders, such as the Microsoft Xbox 360, use network ports to communicate over the network with computers that are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate. This update rollup contains updates to Windows Media Center programs that may have been configured as "approved" or "allowed" by a third-party firewall. If you use a third-party firewall, you may have to manually update the firewall to let the new versions of these programs access the ports. If you do not perform these firewall updates, any attempts to connect the Windows Media Center Extender to the Media Center computer may be unsuccessful.

Download from Windows Update | Download Individual Package Here

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Short Bits: Pika, Podcasts, CableCARD, Components Database, More

Eric Anderson has a v2 Extender (Pika) prototype that supports native DivX decode.  Good thing that know that someone is currently taking advantage of some of those formats I said that Pika could support.  Extenders seem to be officially coming along.  Last thing we really need to know, price points!

Microsoft just bought a stake in a Sichuan Changhong Electric Co, a Chinese TV manufacturer.  Sounds to me like this might be used for that Extender TV I’ve also been talking about for a while.

Be sure to add your system to the Media Center Components Database.  It growing nicely, and should provide help to all those wanting to build a working Media Center PC.

Sling Media released SlingPlayer Mobile for Windows Mobile 6.  Sling Media also announced Two New SlingLink Powerline Ethernet Adapters.

Be sure to check out my Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ if you are in the market for a CableCARD PC.

Ian might have gone out on his own, but Michael Wolf of ABI Research is picking back up the show for The Podcast Network.  In his first show he interviews eHome VP Joe Belfiore.

Back to Ian’s side of things, he has HiPe PC- In Car PC Systems and everyone’s favorite question answering machine, Jessica Zahn of Microsoft.  Wow, that’s a lot of podcasts to catch up on!

Microsoft has renamed their IPTV Platform, now dubbed MediaRoom.  I don’t think will have an impact for a few years still.  Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.

Looking for some more reading?  Let’s see, I’d suggest….

Aaron Stebner, Addicted to Digital Media (Sean Alexander), CE Pro Weblog, David Fleischman, Peter Near, Matt Goyer, Mavromatic, Ed Bott’s Media Central, Furrygoat (Steve Makofsky), Ian Dixon, Marc Policani, The F-Stop Blues (Tim Coyle), RetroSight (Charlie Owen), Peter Rosser, Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection, Media Center Sandbox, Jason Tsang's Blog, Media Center Pro (Magazine), The Media Center Expert, mceworld, Amplioaudio (Gregg Plummer), BlogCaster (Caster Communications), The HD DVD Insiders (Ben Waggoner), Big Screen Blog (Niall Ginsbourg), FloppyHead, brains-N-brawn (Casey Chesnut), Babgvant's Tools & Blog, Mike's Digital Home, Dennis Morgan MCX, Peoples Republic Of, Zatz Not Funny, The MCE Developer Blog

Broke something?  Got a Media Center question?  Check out The Green Button.

And of course, thanks to everyone who has kept me up on the latest news via e-mail! 

Vacation to Fiji Held Up

Fiji, the suspected codename for the next version/upgrade of Media Center might be held up by a lack of frequent flyer miles.  The beta program, which many of you may have registered for isn’t exactly moving along.  The invites that were supposed to be sent out on May 31th have gone no where fast.  This leads me to think that the target ship date for Fiji is no where close.

Typically, a beta program for a product as large as Media Center is going to last for at least eight months to a year, and depending on the features included even longer.  As my main feature predictions revolve around DIRECTV/Dish support, and HD DVD playback/Managed Copy I expect the beta to be a long one.  Getting something like DIRECTV tuners working isn’t going to be easy, just look at the current problems with CableCARD.

Don’t expect Fiji this year.  Don’t expect Fiji early next year.  Based on water-cooler talk I‘ve heard, I wouldn’t expect to see it released until around Q3-Q4 2008 which would bring the platform back to Sep/Oct releases as has been customary since 2002. .  Date is highly subject to change if things like DIRECTV support are to be included.

Speaking of vacations, I’m has not been held up and I’m leaving tomorrow for part of it.  Blogging will be lite as Internet access will be too, but in the mean time check out all the great Media Center blogs listed in my sidebar.  Don’t run to far though, more interesting Media Center news and notes are never far away.

Microsoft Finally Advertises Media Center

Only problem?  The ad is horrible..

Where to start with this one.  First of all, congrats to Microsoft for finally starting to market Media Center.  My first advice, don’t give up.

I’m just going to ramble here, because there is a lot to say.  The ad is attempting to appeal to women.  You can’t do this right now though.  Women are not on Xbox.com looking at the various pages.  I think the marketing team got notes about the Wife Approval Factor (WAF) are ran with the idea.  Appeal to men or just try to appeal to the masses.  This ad reminded me of the various sitcoms on TBS now-a-days that try their best to appeal to the Friends crowd.  Men could care less about planning for a party.  We get some beer and food and that’s really all you need.  I get the concept, women hold the purchasing power.  If women like it, they will allow the men to buy it.  I get it, but don’t market Media Center by trying to appeal to women if your ad is going to be on Xbox.com.  If it’s going to show after a rerun of Friends, different story.  Start by either appealing to men, or just do basic product demo ads.  iPod ads show nothing about the iPod.  Zune ads have the right idea for a new product but pairing catchy music with bright colors and thus showing off the features.  Don’t try and reinvent things here, stick to what works.

Next problem is that it’s too long.  I lost interest in the ad within ten seconds.  Maybe that’s because I already know what Media Center does, but you know what?  I still pay attention to every iPod ad.  I look at the screen every time I see an iPhone ad.  I’ve seen the ads over and over, yet I still watch.  They are 30-seconds of interesting content that leaves you with the urge to search Google for more information.  This ad didn’t do that.  Too long, too boring, and the couple never said look what Media Center can do.  They said Xbox 360, not Media Center.  The ad is for Media Center, not Xbox 360.  At least say the name of the product if you are going to have a 3-minute ad about it.  Other problems here include never saying you need Windows Vista, or even saying that it’s included in Windows Vista.  Just let people know what they already have.  It does note it at the very end of the ad in text, along with the first and only mention that Media Center is actually doing the work here.

Next is the fact that it’s a 3-minute ad and only 10 seconds of it show Media Center.  Despite that some think Media Center’s UI is a downgrade in Vista, it still is beautiful to look at from a far.  Show the product, is that really that hard of a concept?

In the whole 5+ minutes of ad time, It ever showed Media Center being controlled with a remote!

There are a few other scenes on the website, and they fail to impress also.  The photo, music, and video demos are good, but again too long. 

TV demo was horrible.  They never even showed the Guide!  What is that?  They showed the manual recording section.  Really, when she said my new digital VCR she wasn’t kidding.  This section also never showed a remote control, but rather the Xbox 360 controller and even the mouse pointer on the screen.

 They tried to show off the multi-room aspect, but failed to really describe that he could go off to the PC or another Extender and see the same thing that his new wife was seeing.

I give Microsoft an A+ for effort, but a F on everything else.  I wait to see what else they can do here as I have wanted Microsoft to market Media Center for years now.  I would say this is a good first attempt, but I fails to impression and drive me to want to know more about Media Center.

Apple Disappoints Me Today

So, I basically have my credit card ready early today pressing F5 on Engadget to refresh their WWDC coverage waiting for Steve Jobs to say something, anything about the Mac mini or any other Mac hardware updates.  Several sites have reported that they think it will be scraped, and I’ve been praying for the past month that Jobs would either confirm the death or announce an upgrade to at dump it up to a Core 2 Duo.   And yet, Apple announced no new hardware or hardware upgrades today!

The mini has been my ticket to get a Mac but because of it’s weak specs I’ve yet to purchase one.  If they end up killing the Mac mini (or effectively failing to upgrade it) I don’t get to finally try out a Mac.  I have no interest in a MacBook or MacBook Pro as my current Thinkpad X40 works just great and my next upgrade is set to be a X61 Tablet (I hope).  I also have no interest in having another monitor on my desk, so the iMac is out.  And unless someone out there wants to donate some cash for me to get a Mac (hint, hint) the Mac Pro at over $2,000 is a bit out of my price range.

So, should I start a donate for Chris to get a Mac campaign or should Apple just upgrade the Mac mini?

Posted by chrisl | 6 comment(s)
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Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ

I’ve been meaning to do a CableCARD FAQ for a while now, and yesterday I finally got around to it.  If you are interested in purchasing a CableCARD PC or learning more about the ins and outs of the various issues with CableCARD in Windows Vista I’d suggest taking a few minutes to read over it.  I’ve got over a dozen of the most frequently asked questions and it should cover most of your concerns about CableCARD.  S1Digital also has a small CableCARD FAQ on their website, so between my Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ and S1Digital’s it should be covered pretty well.

Quick Links:

Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ

S1Digital CableCARD FAQ

Update:  Microsoft actually has an FAQ that has been up who knows how long.  With their great organization of their website I had no idea it existed.

Microsoft CableCARD and Digital Cable FAQ

CableCARD Out At HP Again?

It’s been a long ride for CableCARD at HP in the last month.  First they introduced the cheapest CableCARD PCs at $1500, then the disappeared a week later, reappeared a week later, and are now gone again.

Introduced May 9, disappeared May 19, reappeared May 26, and disappeared June 9 again.  If anyone out there at HP is reading, please let me know if it’s just a stock issue with the Digital Cable Tuners.  Hard to suggest anyone buying one if they keep going on the market on a weekly basis.  Oh, also let me know when you will be selling extra Digital Cable Tuners to go with the single tuner system (Part # GL282-69001).

WinHEC 2007 PowerPoint Presentations Up

Microsoft has posted the various PowerPoint Presentations from WinHEC 2007.  Tons of stuff including Media Center Extenders, Sideshow, and Windows TV.  I looked through the Extenders presentations and there isn’t too much interesting from an end-user standpoint.  No release dates, strange feature announcements, etc.  Still they are an interesting read if you are interested in the technical side of things.

It was verified that OEMs will be able to support third party codec’s, and as I’ve said in the past the hardware platform already supports them.

Other than that, I remember already seeing most of the information in the WinHEC 2006 slides.

VidaBox Now Shipping CableCARD Systems w. Blu-ray & HD DVD Support

WESTBURY, NY – June 8th – VidaBox, a manufacturer of premium media center systems, is proud to announce that it is shipping CableCARD-ready systems for customers looking to tune & record HD Cable directly on their media centers

"We're absolutely excited to finally ship systems with CableCARD, Blu-ray, and HD DVD support – everything in one box," said Steven Cheung, a co-founder of VidaBox. “These systems answer the prayers of many of our customers who’ve been clamoring for a total, turn-key solution with the latest in HD technology. Now complete with life-like HD cable support, our customers can finally realize their HDTV’s full potential beyond just Blu-ray & HD DVD.”

The new CableCARD feature is available in the LUX & MAGNUM systems, which are already packed with a silently cooled nVidia 8600GTS video card to render back crystal clear video in full 1080p, support for up to 7.1 Dolby Digital HD and DTS HD surround sound, and options for 2 additional OTA HD tuners (for a total of 4 tuners), 4GB of RAM, and up to 5TB & 9TB of onboard VidaSafe™-protected storage on the LUX & MAGNUM, respectively.

“CableCARD-ready VidaBox systems can also act as a safe & secure digital media repository,” Steven continues. “Recorded HD Cable content can be streamed and played back on up to 5 connected XBox 360 systems, while music, pictures, video, and DVDs stored on the system can be streamed to 10 VidaBox media extenders. This is perfect for users who want to access their content anywhere at home – regardless of where they are.”

The new line of VidaBox media center systems with CableCARD support is available through dealers.

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 www.vidabox.com or call 1-516-730-7500.

Updates on S1Digital CableCARD Enabled PCs

S1Digital was supposed to ship CableCARD PCs in May, but that got pushed back likely for the same reasons as everyone else (CableLabs and ATI).

Their website has now been updated with the following…

1. We now have are now have a FX Edition with CableCARD on display in our showroom if you'd like to see a demo of how cool CableCARD is.

2. OK, so we underestimated how long it would take to get everything in order to start shipping CableCARD systems. So we're now expecting to ship this month (June). If you had ordered a system, but were waiting for CableCARD, please accept our apologies but we'll get them out to you as soon as possible.

Chris Chats with Alienware; Hanger18 Redeems Itself

[Post has been reorganized into two sections; System Updates and Alienware’s Media Center Strategy.  System Updates include CableCARD and Blu-ray as options in the next month or so along with Alienware admitting their current Hanger18 has some issues.  Alienware’s Media Center Strategy includes what Alienware is trying to do to push Media Center and pick up where other large OEMs have failed]

I talked with the guys at Alienware today discussing some of my disappointments with their new Hanger18 system.  I’m happy to say that not only is Alienware aware of the current issues with the Hanger 18, but they already have plans to improve it in the very near future and take their systems somewhere very few PC companies have succeed.

System Updates

First of all, the lack of HD in this HD Entertainment Center is on the list to be fixed and should be very soon.  The system was originally supposed to ship with CableCARD support, but like everyone else it was slowed by CableLabs and issues with the Digital Cable Tuners themselves.  The next revision of the system, due within the next month or two should include CableCARD as an option.  In addition, Blu-ray support will also be there in the next revision.  These fix the lack of HD options in the system and also gets it up to speed with other OEMs.

The 720p option runs off NVIDIA integrated graphics and the 1080p option uses a standard NVIDIA graphics card.  This explains why you can only give two tuners when the option for 1080p is selected.  They are also working to load the system with software to control the lighting on the Alien head logo, a feature that their desktops already include.  On the topic of the front of the case, there is a VFD front panel display on the system that is not exactly visible on all the photos.

These points pretty much clear up the advice I offered to Alienware in my first which read “Include HD DVD, Blu-ray, and dual CableCARD as options.  Don’t advertise as a complete HD solution until you catch up with everyone else has been doing.  Put a 8500/8600 or 2400/2600 low profile passively cooled GPU in there and allow for four tuners to be configured in all systems.”  Graphics solutions will be based what is need for playback of included features (CableCARD and/or Blu-ray).  Please read below for more information on why 720p and 1080p are advertised in the manor they are and what Alienware is trying to do in the market.

Alienware’s Media Center Strategy

That’s not all that I learned from my call with Alienware, the next part gets very interesting in terms of the future of Media Center itself.  Alienware noted that they have been doing Media Center PC’s for a few years now, and like other large OEMs have not had the success that they would like to see.  Because of this, Alienware is picking up a new strategy in order to try and succeed where so many others have failed.

Instead of marketing the Hanger18 as Media Center PC, HTPC, or other type of PC they are going for a more traditional CE device approach.  This is why when you look at the configuration page you are not necessarily presented with graphics card options or extra memory choices.  Instead “720p and 1080p HD Viewing” are used in placed.  Instead of just laying out that the system includes 250GBs of hard drive space, you are presented with “Store 60 movies or 250 TV shows or 120 hours.”  Instead of upgrading to 2GB of RAM you can pick the “20%, 40%, or 60% Faster then Standard” options.

It’s not a Media Center PC, it’s not an HTPC.  It’s sold as a CE device or typical appliance.  This may seem subtle to many out there, but it’s a step closer to being what some consider a true TiVo replacement.

Along the same track of it not being a PC, the systems are better configured for an out-of-box experience that’s not just an install of Windows Vista.  While you can get the same thing with other Media Center specific OEMs, larger OEMs like HP and Dell are just traditionally selling you a desktop that happens to include Media Center as part of Windows.  The Hanger18 is configured to launch Media Center out-of-the-box and they even have configured the correct time zone for you for correct EPG downloads.

Lastly, in typical Alienware fashion they are planning a gaming solution around the Hanger18 and future systems.  They plan to create a Media Center based frontend for gaming so you can launch the latest games from your couch.  This can both appeal to the casual gamer and the more hardcore Alienware customer.

Overall, I went from being disappointed with Alienware’s re-entry into the market into being excited about it.  I applaud Alienware for what they are trying to do.  I think many of us forget that as soon as the larger OEMs get out of really selling Media Center type PCs then Microsoft has very limited hardware partners to work with.  Even with Media Center Extenders, there is a place for PCs done right in the living room.  I’ve said before that people don’t want them in their living room, and while I haven’t changed my mind entirely on that yet I do see Alienware’s strategy as a step in the right direction.  Microsoft doesn’t seem to know where to take the platform, but in the end the hardware determines where it goes.

HP, Gateway, Toshiba and others have all failed here.  Alienware, now a subsidiary of Dell is really one of the last hopes in terms of large OEMs.  Talking with them today, I can tell you that they have really thought about this and want to succeed as well as help drive the platform into more homes.  I await to see the new revisions of the Hanger18, but wish they would have waited a month or two to release the system with full CableCARD and Blu-ray support.  Despite that, I’m now excited to see Alienware in the game, ready to work hard to provide a great Media Center based solution and thank them for taking the time to contact me to discuss the issues I previously posted.

Okoro Media Systems Introduces the 2007 BX Series with Blu-ray & HD-DVD Support

Okoro Media Systems, manufacturer of digital entertainment systems for the high end audio video market, is pleased to introduce the 2007 BX100 & BX300 digital entertainment systems. The new 2007 BX series now support HD-DVD and Blu-ray play back from a single drive allowing customers more freedom in choosing their high definition disc format. Okoro Media will be one of the few dedicated media center manufacturers to sell and support systems based on both high definition disc standards.

“We are very excited about the integration of both the Blu-ray and HDDVD Disc formats into our new digital entertainment systems. This will allow our customers greater options and choice when it comes to viewing high definition content. The functionality that the BX series provides is exactly what our customers and dealers have been requesting.” says Christopher Curry VP of Sales and Operations.
 
The Blu-Ray and HD-DVD Disc format provides up to five times larger capacity than today’s DVD’s with unprecedented storage capacity of 15-25GB (Single-Layer) and 30-50GB (dual layer). Both disc formats give you access to full 1080p HD resolution and up to 7.1 channels of surround sound. The OMS BX series will be fully backward compatible with current CD/DVD formats, delivering entertainment content in full high-definition (HD) quality, under a secure environment made possible through the most advanced copyright protection technology.
 
The OMS-BX100 and OMS-BX300 are currently available for purchase at www.okoromedia.com. Pricing for these units start at $2995.00 for the low profile OMS-BX100 and $3595.00 for the higher capacity OMS-BX300.
 
The models include the following specifications:
 
OMS-BX100
2GB of DDR2 memory: at 667 GHz
Window Vista Ultimate operating system
500 Gigabytes of SATA storage
Blu-ray/HDDVD Combo Drive
HDCP output via Nvidia 8500GT graphics board
Analog and ATSC High Definition Tuner
 
OMS-BX300
2GB of DDR2 memory: at 667 GHz
Window Vista Ultimate operating system
1 Terabyte of SATA storage
Blu-ray/HDDVD Combo Drive
HDCP output via Nvidia 8600GTS graphics board
Dual Analog and Dual ATSC High Definition Tuners

Please visit www.okoromedia.com to learn more about the new 2007 BX series.

Microsoft Goes For Deeper (Non)Integration

I guess it’s about time for my monthly look into Microsoft ignoring their own platforms.

Microsoft’s new “Ignition Program” will be help new and upcoming recording artists to reach tens of millions of consumers on Zune Marketplace, Zune.net, MSN entertainment properties and the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.  But don’t expect Media Center to get first rate access to this great new program.  They include every platform outside of Media Center, but not even a single mention of content within Media Center.  That’s "Deeper Integration” at work right there!

Mary Jo says Microsoft is about to enter the Kitchen.  Her sources say it might include things like a “family calendar, recipe center, entertainment features and a shared bulletin board”.  I wouldn’t expect those “entertainment features” to include Media Center, because that would good for the Media Center platform that is already in Windows Vista.  Clearly, Microsoft wouldn’t want to do something like push their own platforms in new products.  That wouldn’t benefit them at all, right?

Alienware Disappoints With Media Center Re-entry

Alienware got back into the Media Center game today after a few year hiatus.  The Hangar18 is what they decided to come back with, and in my opinion they should not have even bothered.  This machine is flawed is so many ways I can’t suggest that anyone look to purchase one. 

According to Alienware is this supposed to be a “HD Entertainment Center.”  Maybe someone can explain to me how an HD Entertainment Center can only support a single HD source; OTA ATSC.  No CableCARD.  No HD DVD.  No Blu-ray.  It is HDCP Ready, though it’s not like that matters as only the options they didn’t include need HDCP to begin with.

It only supports 720p output on the base configuration and it’s a $200 upgrade in order to support 1080p output.  According to the PDF product summery it uses an integrated graphics solution from NVIDIA.  Why not use an 8000 series graphics card?  They cost next to nothing and they are passively cooled, the perfect Media Center solution.  There is little to no reason to build a Media Center and not either look at the 8500/8600 series or the new 2400/2600 from ATI.

In addition, this disappointing PC starts at $2000 and only includes a single NTSC and ATSC tuner.  You can add additional tuners, but only on the low end 720p configuration.  Once you “upgrade” to 1080p “support” it locks you out of configuring more than two tuners.

I’ll give Alienware a little credit here for designing a nice case with front media controls (although it looks like it can light a room alone with its numerous LED’s), shipping systems with a Gyration remote, and including an 1000-watt amplifier which I do praise them for.

Other than that, I can’t recommend anyone purchase this machine.  All other Media Center PC vender's have been including HD DVD and/or Blu-ray as an option for months now.  Even smaller companies have been shipping CableCARD now.  Alienware, who is owned by Dell should have no issues doing the same and hopefully this doesn't foreshadowing waiting even longer for Dell to enter the CableCARD market.

My advice to Alienware: Include HD DVD, Blu-ray, and dual CableCARD as options.  Don’t advertise as a complete HD solution until you catch up with everyone else has been doing.  Put a 8500/8600 or 2400/2600 low profile passively cooled GPU in there and allow for four tuners to be configured in all systems.

Related: Chris Chats with Alienware; Hanger18 Redeems Itself

WebGuide 4.1 Beta Brings Xbox360 Streaming Support, "Prism" Interface

New WebGuide 4.1 beta brings Xbox360 streaming support, "Prism" multi-system interface
In addition to the capacity to stream DVDs, WebGuide 4.1 brings two new major features to the mix—a Media Center add-in and the "WebGuide Prism" multi-system interface.

June 4, 2007 – In addition to the capacity to stream DVDs, which was featured in the previous beta of 4.1, WebGuide boasts two new features — a Media Center add-in and the "WebGuide Prism" multi-system interface.

The new Media Center add-in connects to a WebGuide server and enables users to stream recorded TV, videos and DVDs within the Media Center interface - including the Xbox360 extender - at qualities up to 720p via WebGuide's integrated real-time transcoder.  If you have multiple Media Center systems, no problem: in Media Center you can designate each one as a separate add-in.  Or, better yet, use the new "WebGuide Prism" technology to link them all into an single aggregated interface.

"WebGuide Prism" is a new component that allows users to interconnect multiple machines that are running WebGuide.  These connections aggregate the media from multiple systems into a single interface.  Each media item (recorded TV, video or photo) that is available on another machine will show alongside the local content, but will be flagged with a customizable icon that identifies the source machine.  You can play or the view media from other machines in the same way you would media from your local machine.  WebGuide does all the work for you.

About WebGuide:
WebGuide allows you to remotely view live and recorded TV, remotely schedule and manage your recorded television programs and access your music, pictures, videos and DVDs on your Media Center or Windows Vista PC. Install WebGuide and access it from any machine that has a web browser, including your cell phone or mobile device.  WebGuide is in use in over 35 countries and is available in 13 languages.  Also available in a Windows Vista Sidebar Gadget, and coming soon, a Windows Home Server version.  For more information, visit www.asciiexpress.com

KMS Software Bites the Dust

KMS Software, makers of such products as Sudoku, World Trivia, Contacts, Calendar, and MoreTV has been sold and the Media Center unit discounted (Via The Green Button).  KMS Software had been doing Media Center plug-ins since 2004 and also published AndyC’s MoreTV application.  Sadly, it appears that any software issues or activation/registration issues with any of KMS Software’s product will not be addressed which pretty much means you are out of luck if you have any problems.

No word yet from Andy on what might become of future versions of MoreTV.

Posted by chrisl | 3 comment(s)
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MediaCenterFX Themes and Customizes Vista Media Center

MediaCenterFX is an upcoming product that will allow you to customize and theme Vista Media Center.  I have to say that this looks amazing.  You can change the fonts, colors, sounds, animations, and even things like backgrounds.  This looks to be a complete themeing package for Vista Media Center. 

Serious testers are needed, and you can register to get access to the currnet alpha version at MediaCenterFX Forums.

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Posted by chrisl | 4 comment(s)
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