website hit counter December 2007 - Posts - Chris Lanier

December 2007 - Posts

Vote in The Media Center Show Awards

Ian Dixon reminds everyone that January 2nd is the last day to vote for The Media Center Show Awards.  The vote page is up, and just for voting you have a chance to win some great prizes like mControl v2 from Embedded Automation, Media Center Communicator from One Voice or a Vidabox Remote keyboard from Vidabox.

Vote here.

Short Bits: Worst Tech, Remotes, Ed's Extender

Apple TV scored the #1 position on Yahoo’s 10 Worst Tech Products for 2007.  I’m no fan of it, but as it appears Apple might finally be launching movie rentals in iTunes it could get a second coming.  Renting movies from the Apple TV would defiantly add significant value, but then again so would iTunes purchases in general from Apple TV. 

Microsoft Surface and Windows Vista also were included in the list.  I can see Windows Vista as the public perception of it is horrible, but not Surface.  The author of the article seemed to be taking Surface as a consumer product, complaining about the requirements and price.  At some point, when technology prices drop that will be true, but Surface was introduced as a business and public display product.

There have been a few new Media Center remotes released into the wild that I don’t think have got any coverage.  MediaGate has a silver remote that looks like all standard Media Center remotes, but they also have a black one that has an interesting design.

Philips has a nice Media Center remote with a display (Via The Green Button) for browsing your music library.  It might not be SideShow, but if music is your main goal you might want to look into it.  Of course, they also have this one which was one of the first Vista remotes seen.  I’m not sure that I’ve seen them officially for sale in the US however.

Ed Bott got his Linksys DMA2100 and seems pretty happy with it.  “It takes about 10-12 seconds to go from a cold start to the Media Center interface” says Bott.  Is it bad when the remote is nearly as big as the actually product?

Ricavision Raises VAVE100 Prices; Now $350

Ricavision has single handedly made me lose the last bit of faith I had in SideShow.  Last month I posted about their VAVE100 finally starting to take shape with pre-orders online for $274 ($24 off, regular price was $299).  That isn't a bad price considered what good Harmony remotes go for, but today I noticed that the price is now $350!

The key point of SideShow devices was supposed to be that they were going to be low priced devices and that Gadgets would continue to add value to the devices.  Ricavision started with the RICA100 being said to ship at $199, in May it was bumped up to $299 with an August 2007 release date.  Now basically in 2008 we still don’t have shipping remotes and the price has ballooned to $350, nearly double the initial price.

This is really sad as some really good gadgets appear to be taking shape, but $350 for a remote that seemingly will never ship doesn’t interest me anymore.

As a side note, Ricavision is also selling the standalone Windows SideShow Module for $120.  I’m not really sure how it is powered or what is included, but any enterprising hacker want to pick one up and build an in-wall unit?

Short Bits: VC-1 SDK, TiVo Gadget, Awards

Microsoft just released the VC-1 Encoder SDK - Professional is designed to provide file-based and/or real-time encoding capability to general content creation toolsets or dedicated encoding software applications.

Mike Swanson posted an updated version of his TiVo Gadget for Windows Vista (Via ActiveWin).

Don’t forget to vote in The Media Center Show Awards.  I believe voting ends this month, so just a few more days to get your vote in.

Linksys DMA2100 Extender Now Shipping

The first v2 Extender is now officially shipping!  The Linksys DMA2100 is available now from Dell for $250.  It supports playback of MPEG-2, MPEG-4 ASP (DivX/Xvid), and MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) along with being completely silent (no fans).  Getting DivX Working on Linksys Extenders

Update:  Galileo points to the manuals for both the DMA2100 and DMA2200 up online.

There is also a hands-on thread at The Green Button with posters who have the unit in their hands.

Gizmodo says it only support Xvid, this is wrong. (Read Update2)  It supports both DivX and Xvid as they are both really just MPEG-4 ASP.  The difference is that DivX is a registered trademark and thus Linksys would want to get DivX Inc. to certify the device before they say it will play the content.  That crap aside, it plays both DivX and Xvid.

Update 2: A few posters have said they can't get DivX content to play.  I find it hard to believe that Linksys would limit playback to a FourCC of "Xivd," but I hope to be able to find out more.  Both DivX and Xvid are MPEG-4 ASP and as long as their is an MPEG-4 ASP compliant decoder both DivX and Xvid can be decoded without any issue.

Update 3: Getting DivX Working on Linksys Extenders

When encoding DivX for this device you most likely can't use Global Motion Compensation (GMC), Qpel, MPEG quantization, or multiple B-frames.  Disable these in your DivX encoder before encoding.  Once encoded, the features can't be removed.

Digital Cable Tuners (OCURs) Not Getting SDV Adaptor?

Now that CableLabs and TiVo have announced that they will have an adapter for Switched Digital Video (SDV) on one-way UDCP devices the question has been will the same adaptor (generally refered to as a Tuning Resolver) work with Media Center and OCURs (Digital Cable Tuners/DCTs)?  My first guess was ‘no’ as OCURs are not classified as UDCP devices by CableLabs.  However, OCURs do have a USB connection and can have their firmware updated, both of which are requirements for the adaptor to work.  So where does this leave the possibility of the SDV adaptor working with OCURs?

I’ve asked CableLabs about the issue and while I didn’t get an in-depth reply I did get that they are “working on a two-way solution” [BOCR] and have “not focused on the intermediate” adaptor method for OCURs.

The two-way solution should be BOCR which I have talked about in the past.  The BOCR specs have not been finished yet (or even publicly announced by CableLabs), so this solution is pretty far off.

Does this mean that the adapters will not work with OCURs though?  Clearly CableLabs is not focusing on it, but is there really anything stopping OCUR OEMs have adding support to their firmware?  I have my doubts that ATI/AMD will focus on it, but what about Ceton Corp?

Since Ceton is more focused on CableCARD products (basically all they do, unlike ATI/AMD) they might be the first ones add firmware support for the upcoming adaptor.  We will just have to wait and see if it happens, but we now know that CableLabs isn’t focused on using the adaptor with OCURs.

Note: I never got to my post on Ceton Corp MOCUR, but it is going to rule and will blow ATI’s OCUR out of the water.  It will include M-Card support and a wicked cool add-on card functionality for multiple tuners.  They will also have a BOCR when CableLabs gets around to finishing their side of things with the specs.

First DIRECTV Tuner Details?

DIRECTV and even Sky TV support appear to be picking up speed.  Like many of you, I’ve been awaiting the DIRECTV tuner for Media Center since it was announced.  Microsoft and DIRECTV have been quiet on the subject which has made it hard to find out any details on the upcoming product.

Lucky for us, Microsoft happens to be looking for a few employees to work near the project.  Feel free to apply, but for the rest of us who just want the shipping product here are the first small tidbits of information.

According to the job posting, Microsoft is working with newly developed dual satellite tuners.  Among the basic features will be Pay-Per-View (PPV) access and H.264 HD.  These features aren’t that exciting if you understand how satellite works; you must have two-way communications for it to function so you are not going to run into the one-way OCUR issue and DIRECTV has moved to H.264 for all new HD.  That said, it is now confirmed that it will support both.

In addition, DIRECTV support in Media Center appears to support in-band EPG data.  Instead of using Internet-based EPG listings, it looks as if Media Center will use the EPG data currently delivered by satellite.  This is important for several reasons, but among the top is more accurate data delivered whenever needed.

In a second posting, Microsoft states that they working with satellite TV providers in both the US and in Europe, which could just mean Sky TV users will have something to look forward to next year as well.

Most of these details are not earth shattering, but they do reinforce some points.  First is that the Xbox 360 Extender will have to get a codec upgrade for H.264 in the future.  Currently only the Dashboard supports H.264, so except an upgrade before the DIRECTV tuner ships. Second, I personally never thought about the technical side of this product as the details are not there.  However, now that I see things like PPV and in-band EPG I can see why it might be taking so long.  Just tuning and decrypting the video is one thing, but if these details are right Microsoft taking the in-band services and developing them within Media Center is a huge undertaking.

These tuners will only come with or shortly after a new Media Center release.  We still don’t have official information from Microsoft on the Media Center update or Satellite tuner cards, but hopefully CES will bring something new this year.

Life|ware Launches Version 2.0.3

Latest release of industry-leading digital entertainment and automation software is highlighted by increased functionality, more connected partners and quicker dealer installations. Attendees can see the 2008 CES Innovations Award Honoree live at the groundbreaking Next Gen Home Experience.

Columbus, OH – December 20, 2007 – Life|ware™ by Exceptional Innovation is excited to announce the latest release of its digital entertainment and automation solution. Life|ware version 2.0.3 delivers more functionality and more choice to customers through compelling new features and an expanded roster of connected partners.

Life|ware solutions provide instant and easy access to all of your digital entertainment—photos, home videos, recorded TV, movies, music and more—as well as comprehensive home automation, delivered with at-a-glance views of home subsystems such as lights, security, thermostats and more. By replicating the distinctive Microsoft Windows Vista Media Center interface look, feel and navigation, Life|ware 2.0.3 presents a crisp interface that is intuitive, simple to learn and easy to use.

Life|ware version 2.0.3 makes the Life|ware system more accessible and functional than ever before. Want an e-mail or a text message whenever someone rings the doorbell at your home? It’s a snap with the refined scripting abilities in version 2.0.3, which also ushers in new user interfaces for satellite radio and enhanced IR control of audio video components. Life|ware 2.0.3 also allows you to see up to four security camera feeds on screen at one time.

Many of the improvements in Life|ware’s navigation and usability with version 2.0.3 were based on customer and dealer feedback from the first 1,000 Life|ware installations. “This release is particularly exciting because we could call on a large user base for suggestions,” says Mike Seamons, Life|ware’s vice president of marketing. “We heard those suggestions loud and clear. The result is the most user-friendly and installer-friendly version of Life|ware to date.”

With this release, 14 new subsystems and devices are certified as Life|ware Connected™, including the popular Zon™ audio system and the NuVo® Grand Concerto™ whole home audio system, bringing the total number of devices that work seamlessly with Life|ware to 158 devices from 42 different companies. As a result, the customer has more choices than ever before for a whole home entertainment and automation system.

In addition, Life|ware dealers will benefit from Life|ware Visual Project, an all-new configuration tool that makes what was already the fastest set-up in the business even faster and more direct. A simplified licensing structure will further streamline the system integration process. All of it adds up to more jobs in less time for the installer.

At CES 2008, Life|ware will manage the NextGen Home and numerous subsystem partner products in three fully-automated homes located in the Central Plaza across from Central Hall. The homes will feature Life|ware Connected partners representing categories such as lighting, HVAC, distributed audio and security. Also on hand will be Life|ware’s own hardware, including Life|vision™, Life|link™ and Life|controller™, as well as the award-winning Life|media media servers and Life|point™ high-definition touch panels. The homes will be open to CES Attendees during show hours starting on January 7th and ending on January 10th.

As a 2008 CES Innovations Awards Honoree, CES attendees will also be able to see Life|ware 2.0.3 as well as Life|ware’s LMS 754 media server in the Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Showcase at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Both products were honored in the Integrated Home Systems category and will be on display.

For more information on Life|ware, please visit www.life-ware.com.

About Life|ware
Based in the Westerville suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Exceptional Innovation produces Life|ware™ home control software and hardware for digital living. Life|ware creates a lifestyle experience that allows consumers to enjoy their digital entertainment, wherever and whenever they want, as well as manage their lighting, multi-room audio, HVAC, security, appliances and other subsystems, through a single interface by integrating the digital entertainment functionality of Media Center with whole-house automation and control. Led by software industry professionals with extensive experience with distributed computing based on open standards and open architecture, Exceptional Innovation combines Microsoft development expertise with years of home control experience to deliver simple, seamless, life-enhancing solutions for the digital home.

Short Bits: Zune Tool, Media Center Show, Blockbuster

Not sure if it would be helpful to users, but Microsoft just released a Zune Device Diagnostic Tool.  According to Microsoft, the Zune Device Diagnostic Tool compiles data to help Product Support Services diagnose Zune USB and wireless sync connection problems.

New Media Center Show, #136 - Steven Hughes today.  Don’t forget to vote in the The Media Center Show Awards!

Blockbuster Online is all buy dead now, they just raised their prices again!  3 DVD’s out at once (Unlimited per month) just went from $24.99 to $34.99.  Netflix anyone?  I bought a few Netflix gift certificates for holiday gifts, glad I went that way instead of Blockbuster.

I’ve got a few good posts lined up for before Christmas.  CableCARD news as always, and DIRECTV (could it be?).

Embedded Automation Developing mControl SideShow Gadget

Embedded Automation is working on an mControl Sideshow gadget which is sure to make me go out and purchase a SideShow device (Via Missing Remote).  This type of gadget will prove to be the strength of SideShow, if we can get some hardware released to make it functional.

image

Embedded Automation also has a few sneak peeks of v2.10 up on their forum and looks great.  Sneak Peek #1, Sneak Peek #2, Sneak Peek #3.

mControl is one of the only applications to make use of the new Media Center related technologies within Windows Vista and other Microsoft products.  mControl 2.0 has a beautiful MCML UI, they have a Windows Home Server add-in, and now a SideShow gadget is on the way.  What else could you want?

Passive Technologies Intros Blu-ray and HD DVD Combo lifeStation hd

Passive Technologies present the lifeStation hd, offering an immersive audiophile quality experience for all your Standard and High Definition media.

For Passive its all about being able to handle any media anytime. Whether you want to play a cd, a DVD, Standard HD or BluRay, a DivX, an Mpeg, or a WMV, you don’t want to have to worry whether your system can play it. Now with both BluRay and HDDVD playback Passive have ensured that there’s no longer any need to worry about compatibility or future proofing. With support for True HD sound and DTS aswell you can be guaranteed to get the best out of all your HD media for years to come.

And with a Passive system the same attention to detail goes from the lowest to the highest quality MP3, WMA and AAC audio files as it does for full HD Video. For audiophiles there is the custom mCrystal soundboard providing superb analogue and digital outs, bespoke power cleaning circuits, high quality gold connectors as standard and an aluminium chassis with excellent thermal and non-magnetic properties for superb quality crystal clear sound.

One unique feature of the lifeStation range in the Media Center market, is that the lifeStation hd is completely silent. Their machined aluminium chassis and their own Dynachill 3 technology means that heat from the powerful processors is dispersed passively instead of needing noisy fans. The new lifeStation hd, designed for use with Passive’s external storage solutions for multiroom installs, also uses the latest solid state hard drives which have no moving parts so that even the last whisper of a spinning hard drive is removed.

For more information, visit www.passivetechnologies.com.

Media Center Update (Fiji) Finally in 2008?

Mary Jo posted today with her predictions for Microsoft in ’08 and what do you know on the top of the list is Fiji.  I’ve talked about Fiji several times in the past, and ’08 should be the year it finally surfaces.  According to Mary Jo, it most likely has already received a new codename (she suggests Windows 6.5, or something stupid like it) and it looks like it will ship as part of a big Vista upgrade.

I would guess this will resemble the so-called “XP Reloaded” push from a few years back when Microsoft shipped Windows XP Service Pack 2 along with several other updates (Media Player 10, Portable Media Centers, Media Center Extenders, Photo Story, Remote Record, etc).  If this is true, I think the push could help pull Windows Vista off life support (still getting hammered in the press). "Vista+1" is what Microsoft hasused in several internal documents to describe this update.

Mark Jo is expecting the final release around late summer, which I believe is about what I suggested six months ago.  This release has to be big for Media Center.  We all know it and Microsoft does as well.  I’m expecting new and exciting things, but I really don’t want to build up hype so much that it all comes crashing down when something isn’t a part of the release.  I expect Microsoft to hit on some of the major problems, and still ignore others.  It will be an exciting 2008, and you know I’ll be covering it from end-to-end.

Dell XPS 420 CableCARD Q&A

Lots of questions have come up with the release of Dell’s XPS 420 so I thought I’d try and address as many as possible for anyone on the edge of purchasing a CableCARD PC.  For questions not answered below, be sure to check out my Vista CableCARD FAQ which has some more basic information covered in a Q&A format.  A special thanks to James Clardy at Dell for helping out here.

Q: Are tuners internal or external?
A: Dell is using external ATI Digital Cable Tuners, and it includes a Media Center remote/receiver so you have everything you need to get going.

Q: How quiet is the XPS 420?
A: According to James the XPS 420 is extremely quiet although not silent.  Sound is very subjective, but a few already have XPS 420’s at their homes so they might be able to give their subjective reviews of how quiet it really is.

Q: Can I swap the components to another case (HTPC style)?
A: Yes and no.  The Dell XPS 420 is a BTX system, not ATX.  You can swap the components into another BTX case, but few HTPC exist in the BTX form factor.

Q: Will Dell offer an HTPC style case in the future?
A: There are no public plans for Dell to do so at this point, but James says “If people speak, we'll listen.”  The suggested path here is for those who want to see some sort of HTPC form factor to start a campaign.  Dell already has a website for such called IdeaStorm, so I’ll leave it to others to start up some initiative.

Q: Are more then two CableCARD tuners support?
A:  Dell officially only supports two CableCARD tuners which is the max supported by Microsoft.  That said this can be hacked using a registry change that has been around forever.  That is not supported by Dell, but it does technically work.

Q: Should I get an upgraded video card?
A: James suggests an upgrade to a NVIDIA 8600GTS (+$200) over the base ATI HD 2400 Pro.  If you are doing a lot of viewing via the local PC or Blu-ray/HD DVD, this might be a good upgrade.  If you are viewing via an Media Center Extender then you should be good with the 2400 Pro.  All of the cards support HDCP.

Q: Can I change the graphics card myself after purchase?
A: If you are just changing the graphics card, it "should" work just fine.  I would personally suggest only upgrading from ATI to ATI or NVIDIA to NVIDIA.  That’s just me though.  Your card upgrade must support HDCP to work correctly locally.  Having said that, I would suggest not chaning it at all.  There are several threads at The Green Button and AVS Forum with people fighting to get their system to work again after video card upgrades.

Q: Can I change other components on the PC?
A: Changing multiple components can screw up Vista/OCUR activation which can be a pain to recover from and generally requires a reinstall of Windows Vista.  Once you reinstall, previously recorded content will not playback at all.  I would suggest changing as little as possible, there are several threads at The Green Button and AVS Forum with people fighting to get their system to work again after major hardware upgrades.

Q: Can I playback recordings on Media Center Extenders?
A: Yes.  The Xbox 360 Extender and upcoming Linksys/D-Link/HP MediaSmart HDTVs can playback all recordings made with CableCARD’s.  Dell has the DMA2100 here, and if you are using wireless a Wireless-N router upgrade is suggested (James likes the Linksys WRT600n).

Q: Will the XPS 420 work with BOCRs (or MOCURs) in the future?
A: While CableLabs has not announced anything, Dell is interested in being in the forefront with such technology and does not anticipate that you will need a new PC for MOCUR or BOCRs to work (new hardware and software updates will be needed of course).

If anyone has additional questions let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.

Short Bits: New Plug-ins

Big Screen Photos is looking very nice with the final release coming soon.  For anyone sitting on the corner about upgrading to Vista, third party applications are really one of the top reasons to upgrade.  The user experience is so much nicer then anything on Media Center 2005.

Ian Dixon has been working hard on a neat application, Media Center Health Monitor.  To me, this is something that you might not think you would want, but then realize it is something that should be built-in to start with.  I’m looking forward to trying this out later (I’m away with no Vista PC’s).

Some other applications that you might have missed: Media Center Video Browser (MCML), My Trailers SE, In The Movies SE, and more (MCML).

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Short Bits: Big Screen Weather, Omaura, SageTV

I’ve just finished up my finals for this semester (finally), so in the next week I hope to have some new posts.  I’ve got a Dell XPS 420 Q&A type post for everyone who is considering purchasing one.  What restrictions CableCARD has, what you change in the PC, how to make recommendations to Dell, and a whole lot more.

Niall posted a preview of Big Screen Weather 2 a few days ago.  The big news is that it will support global weather, not just Aussie weather.  The UI looks great, and I look forward to having a nice MCML weather application. (Via Ian Dixon)

Missing Remote posted a preview of Omaura’s wall hanging HTPC concept.  I have to say that while I’m not a big fan of the PC itself in the living room, I’d put any one of the Omaura cases in their without a thought.

Those anticipated SageTV Extenders have started to ship, Brent Evan’s has one of the first reviews out now.  I’ll have more to say about these later, but between them supporting tons of formats (including VIDEO_TS) and the low hardware price point, Sage is taking a lot of Media Center users with this release (really, go look at the forms, I’ve seen tons of familiar names).  Once again, great job SageTV!

Posted by chrisl | 2 comment(s)

Dell’s CableCARD Re-entry Is Huge In the Grand Scheme

There is no doubt that CableCARD has been a rollercoaster for most OEM’s.  HP has picked up and dropped support more times than I can count, Dell (until today) had appeared to be out of the market altogether after taking so long to get in the game, and other OEMs cater to higher end and specialty customers.

Today, Dell came back with a splash introducing that all XPS 420’s would have CableCARD as an option.  Now only that, but the performance-to-price ratio is finally right where it should be.  A Quad-Core Q6600, 3GB of RAM, and ATI HD 2400 for under $900 is fantastic, and adding low priced ATI Digital Cable Tuners at just $180/piece wraps up the whole package.

This is just the start of what Dell has done with this offer though.  For anyone who has tried to configure an XPS 420 today, you should notice that “Windows Vista (Home Premium/Ultimate) with Digital Cable Support” is the only option.  In the grand scheme of things, this is huge.

Dell is shipping all XPS 420’s with the OCUR BIOS and PID/COA (Product Key).  This means that even if you don’t pick up a Digital Cable Tuner at checkout, you can buy one at a later date and your system is ready for it.  This is huge, and effectively starts to take the CableLabs approved factor out of the picture.  It doesn’t mean you will be able to build your own machine, but anyone who purchases an XPS 420 has the ability to get CableCARD in Windows Vista.

Shipping all systems with the OCUR BIOS and PID/COA was specifically negotiated with Microsoft and truly is needed for CableCARD (and Vista Media Center) to take a step forward.  Dell is currently not shipping standalone Digital Cable Tuners.  As we all know, the limitations brought on by CableLabs and Microsoft don’t make it the best candidate for a shelf at Best Buy, so that will be interesting for Dell to target in the future and is key to the overall plan in my opinion.

As the option is standard now on the XPS 420 line, I expect Dell’s support to have significantly more troubleshooting and support information available to them.  One of the common problems with top tier OEMs has been calling for support and being told they never sold you a PC with such a tuner.  Standardizing them across the line should help significantly with that.

Dell took a huge step forward today and is pulling CableCARD and Vista Media Center behind them.

Related:

Dell XPS 420 CableCARD Q&A

Vista CableCARD FAQ

Dell Launches CableCARD on XPS 420; Starting at $1079

Forget waiting for it to launch on “high end” Dell’s as a standard feature, they officially launched CableCARD on all XPS 420’s today.  According to James Clardy, Technical Strategist, Digital Home at Dell this will be a permanent functional upgrade to the platform (meaning it's not going to disappear tomorrow).

Apparently high end is considered the XPS 420, so that story from the other day now just means that they will offer it as a “standard option” on the XPS 420 series.  This is great news, as Dell officially has the price and features to beat for other top tier OEM’s like HP.  Unlike the previous XPS 410, Dell got this right all the way down the line.

For only $1,079 you get a Q6600 Quad-Core, 3GB of RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD Burner, ATI Radeon HD 2400, and a single ATI Digital Cable Tuner.  Want a second tuner?  Just add $180 and take your order total to $1,259.  Windows Vista Ultimate is also an option, adding $149.

Configure your own here.

Related:

Dell XPS 420 CableCARD Q&A

Vista CableCARD FAQ

Dell Not Out of CableCARD Yet; Standard in the Future

Update (12/07): Dell Launches CableCARD on XPS 420; Starting at $899 ($1,079 with CableCARD)

New PC Mag article today about Dell and CableCARD, and it looks like Dell is still interested in getting CableCARD PC’s out there.  Mark Hachman talked with Jim Clardy, a digital home technology strategist in Dell's office of the CTO who said that Dell is interested in making CableCARD a standard feature in their “high-end PC’s” in 2008.

Update: Dell has officially launched CableCARD on all XPS 420 models as of today (12/07).  "High end" doesn't mean the "high end" I was thinking (eg. XPS 720), but rather "mid-range" XPS 420.  While CableCARD is not a "standard" feature on the XPS 420 (meaning, included if you want it or not), it is an option on every XPS 420 model.  CableCARD tuners are less expensive per tuner then any other OEM.  Check out the story above for more.

According to Clardy, the current XPS 420 got certified for CableCARD last week but it will not ship because of “unrelated issues.”  CableLabs has not updated the listing to tell me if that is true or not, currently only the XPS 410 is listed as certified.  (Rather, Clardy it should of, but didn't.  Sorry, I misread that).  Not that it really matters, as they don’t plan on shipping the XPS 420 with CableCARD anyway.

I’m not sure this is the best strategy for Dell.  To me, there are two big groups of people who buy “high end” PC’s from Dell.  The first group is the gamer, and the second group is the average guy who has been told he needs to top of the line (and clearly doesn’t).  Since I don’t fall into either of those groups, I really have no idea if the buyers would even make use of the CableCARD tuner. 

If Dell keeps this strategy, I really don’t see it helping much.  Those who want a PC with CableCARD will just turn down a high end Dell and go with another vender.

The smarter path to me would be to include it as a more common feature on the mid-range PCs.  Even better I would rather see them include the OCUR BIOS (and OCUR COA) on all PC’s with CableCARD tuners as an option.  This way, Dell would flood the market with a ton of CableCARD Ready PCs and would only be reliant on their customers picking up a Digital Cable Tuner online for it to work.

I applaud Dell for wanting to include a CableCARD tuner as a standard feature, but not sure the “high end” path is the best to take.  Of course, if their definition of "high end" is more "mid-range" then it isn't really much of a change from what they had in the past.  My definition of "high end" for Dell's current line-up would be the XPS 720.  Mid-range would be XPS 420.  If it is indeed "mid-range" they are targeting for, this will work much better in the long run.

Thanks Mark!

Update (12/7): Dell Launches CableCARD on XPS 420; Starting at $899 ($1,079 with CableCARD)

Short Bits: Media Center Show Awards, My Movies

Ian put up the vote page for the Media Center Show Awards a few days ago.  Just for voting you can win yourself some cool stuff, like a Vidabox Keyboard, mControl 2.0, or One Voice Communicator.   Voting for me to win Best Media Center Enthusiast Blog isn’t required, but you know you want to.  I’m going for the Hat Trick this year, so it should be fun.

My Movies 2.42 was released a few days ago as well.  On the major list of things, it now supports Vista x64.  It is also now broken up into a Client/Server architecture for easier database management.  Things are looking good, and I can’t wait for 3.0 which will hopefully be MCML.  Remember to always back up your database before upgrading just in case.

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Media Center’s Newest Enemy

With the new Dashboard update offering a host of new video codecs and fixes, the Xbox 360 Dashboard has essentially become Media Center’s number one enemy.   More and more I’m reading comments online from would-be Media Center users and “more average” consumers who are basically content with video playback via the Dashboard instead of the Media Center Extender functions of the Xbox 360.  This is Microsoft’s latest issue, and the problem is yet again Microsoft not understanding the market.

Those who really want a Media Center based solution can’t because Microsoft doesn’t understand what features to include, what formats should be supported where, etc.   Everyone else who would consider accessing their media in the living room is happy with being able to playback content using the Dashboard.  The market for a Media Center based solution is shrinking fast.

In addition to the Xbox 360 actually supporting the formats people want to play, the Dashboard boasts HD DVD playback and even HD downloads (IPTV too, but that’s not as big of a deal as people make it).

Microsoft needs to hit a run home with the next Media Center release, along with advertising it the slightest bit in order for Media Center to stay at all relevant.

Posted by chrisl | 23 comment(s)