website hit counter April 2008 - Posts - Chris Lanier

April 2008 - Posts

Short Bits: HD PVR, mceShoutCast, My Movies

Brent Evans has confirmed that Hauppauge's HD PVR has officially been delayed until at least mid-May.  Check out the full post for exact expected ship times based on order number.

eHomeUpgrade points to a new ShoutCast plug-in for Vista Media Center (English translation).  It's MCML that has several features including favorite streams, top 500 listing, and even recording!

Brian has opened the backend services from My Movies to third parties.  This means that other plug-ins or applications can tap into Brian's backend database as well as the My Movies Collection Management program.  Check out the full announcement here.

Thanks Ryan!

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

ATI Digital Cable Tuner Firmware Update Posted

ATI/AMD has posted version 1.17.1 firmware for Digital Cable Tuners (OCUR/CableCARD).  The update is said to fix several issues including Multiple OCUR having the same IP address and “No TV Signal” errors when tuning twice on the same channel.

You can download the 32-bit update here and 64-bit update here.  Release notes (PDF) are here.

Also seen on Missing Remote.

mControl Gains iPhone/iPod Touch Control Interface

Embedded Automation is on the urge of releasing mControl v2.1 which already adds several new features and improvements, but it looks like one last feature it sneaking its way in, an iPhone/iPod Touch UI!

image

I will have more about mControl later this week.  I have read several comments about people being interested in getting started with lighting control and home automation, so with the help of Embedded Automation’s mControl I’m going to see if we can help everyone get started.

Thanks Dan!

Short Bits: Lifeware, 64-bit HD-PVR, Dragon

Audio Video Interiors has a great article on Life|ware, more specially the Life|ware install in Exceptional Innovation founder Seale Moorer.  If someone wanted a prime example of how MCML has impacted third party products then look no further then the UI for Life|ware.

Hauppauge reps are now saying they will have 64-bit drivers for the HD-PVR upon release...in two days.

The Green Button, Ian Dixon, jkOnTheRun, Barb Bowman and 27 other sites are set to give away HP HDX Dragon Entertainment Notebook’s worth over $4,500.  I’d keep an eye on all the 31 sites for more. 

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Must Have Media Center Plug-ins?

Everyday more people come over to the Media Center side of things, most recently Dave Zatz and Ben Drawbaugh have made the switch/addition to Media Center and have been wondering what are some of the must have plug-ins.  Well, I’ve been slacking on compiling a list but today I thought what’s “must have” for me might not be “must have” for them.

So, I want to know (as do Dave and Ben), what are your must have plug-ins?  There are always the classics like My Movies, but what other plug-ins do you install before your Media Center is complete?

Posted by chrisl | 21 comment(s)

DVD Library Hacked to Run on Extenders

Not offical from Microsoft, but you are going to want to watch this space for more.

Update: Click here for instructions

This hack will enable Microsoft’s DVD Library that comes bundled with Vista Media Center to work on Media Center Extenders.  VIDEO_TS folders (VOB files) are playable by creating a symbolic link’s to the VOB files, and then a WVX playlist is used to link the separate VOB files into one.  A special DLL is used to enable the DVD Library to show over Extender sessions.  Enjoy!

Posted by chrisl | 13 comment(s)

Hauppauge HD-PVR Letdowns

The much hyped HD-PVR (Component capture device) from Hauppauge has hit its first snag. First of all, it ships with no 64-bit support, and worse only single tuner support!

I wasn’t surprised by the 64-bit news, but I’m shocked at the single tuner.  I’m not exactly sure if the single tuner support is with the bundled application that they are shipping or if it will also apply to SageTV and BeyondTV.  If it does apply to all software, this product has lost all of its value.  Maybe SnapStream can add to this

Update: Brent posted that the drivers are supposed to support multiple tuners, so most likely it is just Hauppauge’s bundled software that will only support the single tuner.

Update 2: Missing Remote says Hauppauge has confirmed multi-tuner support for “all major software packages such as BeyondTV, SageTV, MythTV and Vista Media Center.”

Now they have said it supports multiple tuners at the driver level, that it only supports one tuner per system, and they it will work with all major software packages.  Sorry Hauppauge, I don’t believe your reps anymore.  With a product of this value they need to put together a Q&A and clearly states who will be providing support, for what applications, and when.  Saying flat out that it support Vista Media Center is also very misleading.  There is no possible way for them to support it until the next Media Center release.  Their HD-PVR ships next week, at this point they really need to get their story straight.

Update 3: 64-bit drivers are now said to be there upon release.

Short Bits: FUZE, Omaura, Mesh, more

I’ve been really busy lately, but that doesn’t stop news from flowing in.

Chris Morley posted an update on recent questions about the Omaura series of cases for those interested (you should be, they look amazing).

CE Pro has an article about FUZE Media Systems taking their software to OEMs instead of just pushing their own hardware.  This is a great move consider FUZE has some really cool software for things like multi-zone audio, without the need for third party audio distribution hardware.  Look for the first OEMs to start shipping FUZE software mid-2008.

Tons of news today about Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Mary Jo has a great rundown.  I’m really interested to see how this goes, it is really a make or break concept for Microsoft’s future.

Missing Remote has a good article on things an HTPC can do besides bring a PVR as well as the news that Xlobby is planning native Blu-ray support which is quite a shock to me.

Short Bits: Niveus Movie Library, Avideus

Niveus Media released an updated build of their Movie Library plug-in.  You still need a Niveus PC, but major changes include support for MyMovies XML & Artwork files/folder structure and support for DVD Profiler XML structure.

Missing Remote has the scoop on PCAlchemy’s new PC line; Avideus.   “The Avideus product line consists of a wide range of digital home products, from the small form factor MiniMCE Media Centers, to the affordable and beautifully engineered and crafted Avideus Media Centers. Additionally the Avideus HSE Home Server was just announced; the first Avideus product designed for Windows Home Server.”

I’m pretty sure you will be able to win some of these products, so watch Missing Remote for more.

Dell Drops Prices on CableCARD Tuners

A few weeks ago Dell ended their special pricing on Digital Cable Tuners, taking them from $180 for a single tuner to $255 for a single tuner.

That didn’t last for too long though.  Now Dell has lowered the price to $199 for a single tuner and $379 for dual tuners.  This move puts an entry level XPS 420 with a single CableCARD at $1,248 and dual CableCARD at $1,428.

There is still a bit of a price war going on between Dell and HP, but this move puts Dell back into the mix.  Dell is still the only top tier OEM offering PCs with dual CableCARD, an option that puts them on top of HP who only offers single tuner configurations.

D-Link Addresses DSM-750 Extender Issues

Turns out many D-Link DSM-750s are “defective” and will need to be sent back to D-Link to be fixed by a “factory-trained technician” because of an “issue with a corrupted security certificate" (and possibility because the firmware they shipped was from 6-months ago).

If you have a DSM-750 and your attempts to connect it as an Extender to a PC running Vista Home Premium or Ultimate result in a “Communication Error” then you can call 888-900-3939(Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm PST) to get in direct touch with D-Link CSR.

Short Bits: Managed Copy, Media Center University, Sideshow

The dream of legally copying a Blu-ray Disc to your hard drive and streaming it to other devices might be over before it starts.  Managed Copy, the cornerstone of the AACS content protection system might never actually get off the ground, reports Consumer Electronics Daily (CED).

While the finalized AACS specifications could be done as early as summer (well over a year late), it is not likely to include Managed Copy according to the report.  The issue appears to be content licensing, with studios having not always having the content rights to allow for a Managed Copy.  Such a good idea that might never be....

Update: I've heard conflicting reports about this, CED has yet to publish anything to the contrary however.

Sideshow remotes and devices are not coming fast enough in the consumer market, but it looks like the high end guys are getting into the market.  Crestron now has Sideshow support in their ZigBee-compatible MLX-2 handheld remote and the APAD keypad. Sure would be nice if we could get some Sideshow love in the consumer market.

CE Pro also has a collection of articles and guides for their Media Center University geared toward integrators and installers. You need a CE Pro account to download them, but lots of good stuff in there especially if you’re a CI looking to get started with Media Center.

HP Releases MediaSmart HDTV Extender Update

HP has released the Media Center Extender firmware update for MediaSmart HDTV owners.  If yours hasn’t checked for updates automatically, you might want to force an update check to see if it is available.

HP also has their MediaSmart HDTV Extender webpage up for troubleshooting and instructions.   Remember that you need Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate to take advantage of this feature.  In addition you need Windows Vista SP1 or KB938126 (x64).  Vista SP1 highly suggested instead of just the update patch as it has been known to improve Extender performance.

Update: Press Release was issued today, read it at eHomeUpgrade.

Movie Browser Does Cover Flow in Media Center

Another day, another movie cataloging plug-in for Media Center!  This time, it’s a beta Flash-based plug-in that uses a Cover Flow type display to cataloged DVDs.  Dubbed Movie Browser, it runs on Media Center 2005 and Vista Media Center, and is available for download now (beta).  The source code is also available.

image

On that topic, things are looking good for a mega-DVD library plug-in for Media Center.  Over the weekend Open Media Library was put up on Google Code, and since then things have expanded quite a bit.

Other developers, including Treas0n (the developer behind the above Movie Browser) and Sam Saffron (the developer behind Video Browser) has hinted at joining forces with the Open Media Library project to create a killer DVD Library for Media Center.  This is going to be very interesting to watch.  One of the critical downfalls of Media Center development in the community has been single person projects that end up dying over time.  The concept of an open source project with three very active developers could result in an amazing project.

Posted by chrisl | 4 comment(s)

Microsoft at NAB Show 2008

Microsoft Announces New Support for Silverlight by Content Companies Worldwide

Today at the NAB Show 2008, Microsoft Corp. announced significant momentum for Microsoft Silverlight resulting from new customers adopting Silverlight to deliver richer, more interactive media experiences on the Web. Building on recent support from major content providers such as AOL and NBC Olympics.com on MSN, Microsoft announced new adoption of Silverlight by media and content companies worldwide, including Madison Square Garden (MSG) Interactive, Tencent, Abertis Telecom, Terra Networks Operations, SBSi, MNet and Yahoo! JAPAN.

“It’s exciting to see broad industry recognition and rapid adoption of Silverlight across the world,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division at Microsoft. “Silverlight offers customers and partners the highest quality creation and delivery of media, protected content, advertising and rich Internet applications, and we are committed to making it easy for partners to integrate and extend Silverlight capabilities.”

Read Full Press Release

Microsoft Extends Its Vision for Creating, Managing and Experiencing Content at the NAB Show 2008

This week at the NAB Show 2008, Microsoft Corp. is showcasing its offerings that support the entire content life cycle from content creation and management to delivering end-user experiences highlighting the technologies and solutions that media and entertainment companies need to align business and content creation processes.

Microsoft made several announcements at the show, including solution updates to Microsoft Interactive Media Manager (IMM) and Virtual Earth, updates to and new customer deployments of Microsoft Silverlight, a new collaboration between Microsoft Mediaroom and Sigma Designs Inc., new customers implementing Microsoft Dynamics to manage customer relationships as well as their supply chains, and a strategic alliance with Ascent Media Group.

“It’s great to see the debate in the industry shift from whether media companies can create profitable businesses in the digital age to how technology can be used and deployed to manage business processes and fully monetize content across multiple distribution channels,” said Gabriele Di Piazza, managing director for the Media and Entertainment Business in the Communications Sector at Microsoft. “The media industry can expect Microsoft to continually develop and deliver the solutions that tackle the unique challenges unfolding as digital media and the Internet take on greater importance in nearly all facets of life.”

Read Full Press Release

Microsoft, Ascent Form Strategic Alliance to Build New Solutions to Serve Entertainment Industry Transition to Digital Supply Chain

This week at the NAB Show 2008, Microsoft Corp. and Ascent Media Group announced a new strategic alliance that will result in new solutions that will automate and streamline the supply chain for the media and entertainment industry and help them transition the digital age.

As part of the alliance, Microsoft will work with partners to create a new solution that Ascent Media Group will use to manage its business processes as well as offer new services to media and entertainment companies. Composed of new media and entertainment functionality built on the Microsoft Dynamics AX platform, the new solution will integrate and streamline media production processes. Ascent will offer a hosted version of this solution along with integrated managed services to film studios, broadcasters, global media enterprises and advertising agencies, all of which are demanding capabilities that allow the immediate distribution of digital content to outlets around the world.

The new Microsoft Dynamics AX functions are tailored to address typical business processes in media and entertainment organizations including work order management, library management, resource scheduling, element tracking, digital ordering and distribution, among others. Ascent Media Group is uniquely positioned to be the preferred digital supply chain provider for Microsoft solutions for media companies, with its expertise in asset management, metadata tracking, billing and notifications and strong media industry relationships.

Read Full Press Release

Microsoft Helps Media and Entertainment Companies Move Into the Digital Distribution Age

This week at the NAB Show 2008, Microsoft Corp. is showcasing several innovative deployments of Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM that help enable media and entertainment companies to streamline and automate manually intensive processes in the digital supply chain. These deployments span the film, broadcast and music industries, all of which share common challenges arising from the explosion of digital media. Microsoft Dynamics is a line of financial, customer relationship and supply chain management solutions that help businesses work more effectively.

“The need for integrated business systems is more critical than ever as the media and entertainment industry transitions from distributing content through single channels to repurposing and delivering content for multiple user experiences,” said Gabriele Di Piazza, managing director for Media and Entertainment in the Communications Sector at Microsoft. “Integrating automated business processes and systems, such as accounting, contracts, licensing and broadcast program management, with content workflows helps media companies react more quickly and intelligently to changing consumer demands, and can enable them to more effectively distribute and monetize content.”

Read Full Press Release

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

HP Winning CableCARD Price Battle

With Dell’s ending of their Digital Cable Tuner sale, HP has taken the lead in the mainstream CableCARD desktop price battle.  You can now pickup an HP m9200t that includes a single CableCARD tuner for as low as $1,099.  Dell on the other hand will cost you $1,304 for the lowest spec’ed XPS 420 with a single CableCARD tuner (an equal spec’ed HP m9200t is $1,189).

Of course the main problem with HP has been CableCARD support, which for the most part is non-existent.  Pair that with HP still only offering single CableCARD and the on again off again availability of Digital Cable Tuners from their site and it might still be a tossup.

One key advantage of HP is use of standard ATX (Micro ATX?) hardware.  Dell on the other hand uses BTX which makes case transplants near impossible.

Update:

Dell Drops Prices on CableCARD Tuners

Sigma Designs and Microsoft Collaborate on Advanced IPTV System-on-a-Chip for Microsoft Mediaroom

Powerful Sigma Designs SMP8654 Media Processor improves cost/performance range for Microsoft Mediaroom deployments.

LAS VEGAS — April 14, 2008 — Sigma Designs (Nasdaq “SIGM”), a leader in digital media processing system-on-a-chips (SoCs) for consumer electronics, and Microsoft Corp. today announced a collaboration to enable the Microsoft Mediaroom Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and multimedia platform to operate on next-generation set-top boxes using the new Sigma SMP8654 SoC. The solution will provide a high-performance, cost-effective design that will give service providers the ability to offer innovative connected TV services, such as PC-to-TV photo and music sharing and also DVR Anywhere, which gives consumers the flexibility to watch their recorded programs on any TV in their home.

As a second-generation SoC platform for Microsoft Mediaroom, Sigma’s SMP8654 builds on the successful legacy of its predecessor, the SMP8634, while improving overall performance by approximately 50 percent. The new collaboration reflects the strength of Microsoft and Sigma’s continuing technology partnership and expands the range of partner solutions available within the Microsoft Mediaroom ecosystem.

“Sigma’s new system-on-a-chip technology gives our customers new ways to reduce costs and improve the performance of their IPTV service deployments,” said Christine Heckart, general manager of marketing for Microsoft TV. “Sigma has been a key partner in the Microsoft Mediaroom ecosystem for more than two years. Our latest SoC collaboration with Sigma will give our customers the ability to offer their subscribers new ways to get the best in TV plus all their media, such as photos, music and favorite shows, in one place.”

The SMP8654 includes a 500 Mhz Mips 24k main CPU, which enables crisp user interaction and a wider range of application-based features that enhance the “future-proofing” of this platform. A second Mips processor called the IPU manages interrupt operations and offloads system tasks, such as portions of the network stack, to further optimize main CPU utilization. In addition, the SoC also maintains software compatibility with the Sigma Multimedia Library to uniquely build on the proven performance and reliability of Microsoft Mediaroom.

“We are very pleased with the success we’ve experienced as a key technology partner within the Microsoft Mediaroom ecosystem,” said Ken Lowe, vice president of strategic marketing for Sigma Designs. “Microsoft is a key driving force in the development of the IPTV industry, and we are energized to be moving into our second-generation platform together.”

About Sigma’s SMP8654 System-on-a-Chip Solution

Sigma’s SMP8654 media processor integrates a complete complement of next-generation capabilities for a single-chip system-on-chip (SOC) solution with a multi-core architecture, powerful multimedia processing, robust content security system, and a full complement of peripherals. The SMP8654 features a powerful 500-Mhz Mips host CPU, a second processor called the IPU for offloading burdensome real-time tasks, and a third processor dedicated to managing security functions. Its advanced decoder engines support high-definition video decoding of H.264 (MPEG-4 part 10), Windows Media Video 9, VC-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 (part 2), the new AVS standard, and can support up to 16 independent streams on screen in different formats. High-performance graphics acceleration, multi-standard audio decoding, advanced display processing capabilities, and HDMI 1.3 output round out its multimedia core. Powerful content security is ensured through a dedicated secure processor, on-chip flash memory, and a range of digital rights management (DRM) engines for high-speed payload decryption. Additional functions including dual 32-bit DDR-2 memory controllers, dual Gigabit Ethernet controller, dual USB 2.0 controller, NAND flash controller, and SATA controller provide for a single-chip solution for most set-top boxes and consumer players.

Posted by chrisl | 1 comment(s)
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Media Center Gets First Taste of Interactive Advertising

Interactive advertising is something that I’ve always imagined would come to Media Center and frankly I’m amazed that it has taken so long.  There have been a few examples in the past, but nothing major.  This is changing however with Media Center getting its first taste of interactive advertising via the Internet TV plug-in  Amazingly, I want to congratulate Microsoft for getting it right.

Internet TV is a US only plug-in that is supported by 15-second or so video advertising prior to the featured video starting.  This has worked nicely and over the past few months Microsoft has gained more and more advertising partners.  They have now taken the next step, adding interactive features to those ads.  Best of all, it works perfectly without being intrusive!

Basically what happens is a small “Learn more” button is displayed in the lower left hand corner of the video ad.  It displays for 15-seconds with a small countdown timer just below. If you select the button you will be taken to a nicely design product page for more directly within Media Center.  These product pages feature additional videos, more information about the products, links to the products homepage, and more.

If you don’t select “Learn more” the ad will finish as usual, and display the interactive product page for 3-seconds or so, and if you don’t interact with the ad your intended video start immediately. 

Why am I excited about this?  This signals a belief that I have about Microsoft getting ready to blur the lines between broadcast and broadband in Media Center.  In order to move to Internet-based delivery of video, content owners need a platform for advertising.  Video ads are just one part of this; interactive ads can give you a major leg up on the competition and Microsoft appears to be preparing for this (Coincidently, the AP covers the online video ad market today).

There are concerns here however.  Microsoft must make sure they handle interactivity in Media Center correctly.  If you intrude on the user experience there will be a backlash.  That said, I have no problems with the way it is currently handled and I’d even welcome an (opt-in?) personalized service in the future where ads are targeted to my interests (think of how Cookies work today). 

Screenshots below. 

   
 

Movie Library Clone Goes Open Source

The third party clone of Niveus Media’s Movie Library has now gone open source.  Currently know as Open Media Library, the project is up on Google Code now.

The one major change that I’d like to see is for Open Media Library to take more of its own path, rather than trying to be a 1:1 copy of Niveus’ plug-in.  While the cover display is hardly a new idea, it would be nice to see what other display techniques people can come up with.  Even at its early stages, I think this plug-in has great potential and being open sources I hope others contribute to the project.

The plug-in does use collection database software from Collectorz.com to generate XML files for each movie, this is the same approach being used by a few other plug-ins as well.

Not to be outdone, My Movies will be getting a lightweight MCML release soon.  “I can assure you that it will not be three months before you are able to use My Movies in MCML”

Posted by chrisl | 4 comment(s)

Big Screen Giveaway Winner…

Thanks to everyone who entered to Big Screen Plug-in Giveaway, but sadly I don’t have 60 copies to go around.  So, without further ado the winner is….Dennis (rhody_fan [at] yahoo)!

Congratulations to Dennis, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on claiming your chosen plug-in, Big Screen Weather v2 this weekend.

For everyone who didn’t win, its okay, you might have another chance later.  Until then, check out all the Big Screen products including Big Screen Weather v2, Big Screen Photos v2, and Big Screen Headlines v2.  They all have free trials available so what are you waiting for?

Posted by chrisl
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