website hit counter August 2008 - Posts - Chris Lanier

August 2008 - Posts

Update: Newegg Does $99 Linksys Extenders (Now $150)

Newegg has jumped on the cheap Linksys Extender bandwagon with $99 DMA2100 Extenders (Via The Green Button).  There is now no doubt that Linksys is looking to drop all of their stock, but the question still remains are they getting out of the market or introducing a new SKU?

Update: Now they are selling for $150.

Update: Newegg is out at the sale price, but Dell.com has them for $127 again.

Niveus Media Teams Up With ADI To Deliver Media Servers To Custom Electronics Installers

Award-winning Niveus Media Server – Vail Edition integrates technologies to provide a high-performance entertainment experience.

Milpitas, CA – August 27, 2008 – Niveus Media is teaming up with ADI to distribute the newest Niveus Media Server – Vail Edition to custom electronics installers across the country. This media server will allow dealers to provide a scalable, energy efficient solution to access, store, manage and distribute digital content throughout a home.

“ADI is a highly experienced vehicle with a proven track record for providing innovative products and impeccable service to dealers,” said John Trimbach, Vice President Sales, Niveus Media. “We’re extremely confident ADI will provide first-class distribution for Vail, while providing increased brand awareness for Niveus.”

Referred to as “Sierra” in the pre-release beta version, Niveus’ award-winning Vail Edition media server is based on Windows Vista® Home Premium featuring Windows® Media Center.

Key Features:

  • Pictures & Videos – Digital photograph and video collections are securely stored while offering easy viewing access throughout the home.
  • Music – CD collections are merged with downloaded tracks to create a uniform and all-encompassing music library.
  • Movies – Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD support and an abundance of classification capabilities offer a comprehensive, extremely intuitive, and completely unique movie experience.

The Vail Edition is engineered with the proprietary Niveus ConvergencePanel™ high-performance audio and video ports to ensure a simple installation and seamless integration into the home network. With Vail, ADI dealers now have direct access to Niveus Media’s lowest power consuming and most compact media server to date, which easily integrates with many security and home automation products currently available through ADI.

In a sleek and slender chassis, the CES Innovations 2008 Design and Engineering Award winning Vail Edition incorporates: powerful Intel® processing; an optional Blu-ray Disc drive; Seagate® hard drives; Nvidia’s GeForce Series 8 graphics featuring PureVideo™ HD technology; and proprietary Niveus technology.

All Vail Editions sold through ADI will be bundled with an exclusive content package from MusicGiants, the authority in HD music and video downloads. Vail includes the proprietary HD Media Store which enables instant access to MusicGiants, and includes 2 HDNet films and credit towards the purchase of MusicGiants downloads.

“As a distributor, we are committed to providing our dealers with access to cutting-edge technology from industry-leading vendors,” said RJ Hirshkind, Senior Product Manager for A/V at ADI. “We are excited to offer the Niveus Media Server at our branches, and help dealers provide completely integrated home entertainment solutions.”

For more information on Niveus Media, Inc., please visit www.niveusmedia.com. For more information about ADI, visit www.adilink.com.

Short Bits: Storage Pack, CE Pro, Media Center Show, More

Microsoft is planning to release a Storage Feature Pack for Windows that will include Blu-ray mastering support among other things.  Sadly this is still very far from Blu-ray Playback support which has its own set of issues.

CE Pro has had a number of Media Center posts gearing up for CEDIA.  Julie says that Microsoft’s focus at CEDIA will be the custom integrator channel and not so much on the OEM only TV Pack.  I know a lot of people are waiting for CEDIA because they think Microsoft is going to drop some big news about DIRECTV being included or something like that, but that is not going to happen.  Everyone knows what is in the TV Pack, and there are not going to be any surprises.  On the same topic it looks like Microsoft and partners might be planning a “Media Center Integrator Alliance,” which I’m sure we will hear about in the next two weeks.

Ian Dixon has had Ed Bott and Scott Bahneman, CEO of MusicGiants on The Media Center Show.  I was able to catch a few minutes of the Ed Bott interview when it was on live and agree with a lot of the concepts that he was talking about.  After CEDIA I will have more posts on the TV Pack.

Not sure how much I’ve highlighted some of the newer Media Center blogs that have popped up over the past few months, so here are a few that everyone might be interested in (sorry if I missed any).  Olcay Buyan’s Blog, My Network Project, and Entertainment 2.0.

D-Link Releases DSM-750 Firmware Update

D-Link has released the first firmware update for their DSM-750 Extender.  Based on the release notes it appears that most if not all fixes in the new version 1.01 apply to the MediaLounge software and not the Media Center Extender aspect of the product.  That said it does appear to add 1080p output as an option which should apply to both the Extender and MediaLounge modes.  Other changes are below, you can download the updated firmware here and upgrade via the front USB port on the DSM-750.

  • Support for 1080p TVs and video files
  • Look of the Home page altered to improve navigation & readability
  • Online Media icon added to the home page
  • Support for Rhapsody music service
  • Support for Live365 Internet Radio service
  • Support for vTuner Internet Radio service
  • Remote control support changed to support Xbox 360 remote
  • DVR-MS playback A/V sync issue in MediaLounge mode resolved
  • Control point (aka "slave mode") access enabled for playing video and music files from a compliant UPnP server
  • Browsing music & video media files/folders now supports only List mode (no thumbnail browsing).
  • Photo files/folders supports browsing by thumbnail or list mode
  • "16:9" and "4:3" renamed "Widescreen" & "Normal" in A/V Settings Menu
  • Default device name is now "D-Link DSM-750"
  • Audio tracks button improved to support multiple audio tracks in supported video files
  • Entering a wireless security key is now readable until entered
  • Reduced the amount of marqueeing text in the music player page

$150 Linksys Extenders Hit Amazon.com

Don’t have a Circuit City nearby to get in on that $150 Linksys Extender deal?  No problem.  Amazon.com is pushing out those same Linksys DMA2100 Extenders for $150 as well.  As always Amazon has free shipping options if you can wait a few days to get it in your hands.

The recent crop of Extender deals has me wondering, is Linksys the first to finally understand that $150 is the magic pricepoint for a standalone Extender (as I’ve been saying for years), or are they getting ready to drop the product and move on either to a new unit or out of the Extender market all together?

Embedded Automation Announces mHome Power Management Module

New Module Makes Power Monitoring and Control Within Reach of all Homeowners

Surrey, BC – August 20, 2008

Today, Embedded Automation announced its mHome Power Management Module. The mHome Power Management Module, which provides real-time energy usage information and control functionality, is available as an add-in to Embedded Automation's mHome products, including the award-winning mControl Digital Home Software and soon to be released mPanel Digital Home Portal. Initially supporting the TED (The Energy Detective) energy monitor, the mHome Power Management Module will scale to support other power measuring devices and future technologies such as "Smart Meter" solutions.

The mHome Power Management Module offers the following benefits:

  • Available as an mControl plug-in module - no user programming is required.
  • Real-time status display, allowing users to view current energy consumption and historical usage from any mControl user interface.
  • User-configurable power management conditions for use with mControl macros based on any of the following properties: current power usage (kW), peak power usage today (kW), total power today (kWh), total power month-to-date (kWh) and others.
  • Live view on mPanel for view-at-glance status information.

"The mHome Power Management Module represents a big step towards conserving energy. The solution is affordable and easy to install. All a user needs to do is enter where the device is located on the network and the information is automatically presented in a easy to understand format on a variety of user interfaces – including on their Vista Media Center, from any Internet Explorer browser session, on their cell phone or on any mPanel connected to the home network,” said Ted Singh, C.E.O. of Embedded Automation. “Not only have we given our users the key first step of having a live reading on their energy usage with which they can use to localize energy waste, but via mControl’s automation engine, users can also create energy-saving macros.”

The mHome Power Management Module will be available in August 2008.

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Inteset Movie Collection Module Now Supports Blu-ray

Hanover MA, Aug 13, 2008, Inteset, has updated its Movie Collection server module to fully support Blu-ray movies. 

One of the major selling features of the Inteset media server has been its ability to store, search, and play back movies seamlessly within the Windows Media Center interface using the proprietary Movie Collection module. Inteset has offered this feature to its dealers for years and has now improved the capabilities by adding full Blu-ray support. In addition, movie profile lookups are simpler than ever. The system will scan the inserted DVD or Blu-ray disc to identify it, and then retrieve full profile information from Inteset's all-new movie database. Lookups can also be performed based on UPC code and movie title.

"We're happy to make available this exciting new upgrade of our Movie Collection module," states David Hirsh, Inteset's Director of Business Development. "The module with additional Blu-ray support works perfectly with our new 15 terabyte A/V NAS storage server and Vana advanced extender systems as well," explains Hirsh.

The Inteset Movie Collection module is available on all Inteset media servers. Blu-ray playback is now standard on the Inteset Maximus media server and optional on the Denzel and Vana media servers. The module upgrade is free on all prior and new Inteset servers running Vista Media Center.

To learn more about how to obtain the latest Inteset Movie Collection module and other Inteset products and services, visit www.inteset.com. Get a live demonstration by visiting Inteset at CEDIA 2008, Denver, CO, booth 452.

About Inteset

Inteset, LLC has been creating high-end home entertainment products since 2003. Inteset offers four categories of products: media servers, media extenders, high-capacity storage devices, and exclusive software for its systems. The near silent media servers come with up to 8TB of internal, 15TB external, protected storage. The advanced media extenders are independent systems as well as A/V distribution clients. All systems are shipped with an enriched Microsoft Windows Media Center interface that includes a movie management module and a multi-zone music module among other exclusive software offerings. These systems appeal to A/V dealers and integrators domestically and internationally for their high-integrity construction, reliability, ease-of-use, unique entertainment modules and services, price point, and interoperability with advanced control systems.

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$150 Linksys Extenders at Circuit City

Circuit City has the Linksys DMA2100 Extenders on sale for only $150 (Via Missing Remote).  If you are in the market for a Media Center Extender then I would check your local store to see if they have any in-stock.

According to Circuit City’s website they are sold out online, so your local store might be the only place to get a deal (not sure about raincheck purcahses). All three of my local stores around Houston are showing them in-stock, so check it out.

Cannon PC To Ship Windows Media Center TV Pack

Houston, Texas - August 15, 2008 – Media Center PC innovator and Microsoft OEM Partner, Cannon PC, announced that it will begin shipping the Microsoft Windows Media Center TV Pack with its line for Media Center PCs.

Cannon PC will begin shipping systems with the new TV Pack beginning in early September.  The Microsoft Windows Media Center TV Pack adds native support for up to 4 TV tuners (including digital cable tuners), ClearQAM (Unencrypted Digital Cable) tuners, sharing of unprotected digital content via PlayReady enabled PCs and more.

Cannon PC has always been a pioneer in the Media Center industry.  As a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and an authorized partner for Digital Cable integration, Cannon PC was first to demonstrate the ability to have 6 Digital Cable Card tuners in their Media Centers recording 6 HD digital TV signals at once.

“We are exciting about this new enhancement to the Media Center technology.  It shows the levels of commitment that Microsoft and it partners are taking to make Media Center a powerful and solid success in the home.   We look forward to many more innovations coming from the eHome Group.” says Gregg Cannon, President of Cannon PC.

About Cannon PC

Cannon PC Media Centers are specifically designed for custom installers and integrators in the home automation or home theater business.  Cannon PC Media Centers include features like Blu-Ray drives, RAID storage configurations, 1080p playback and HD audio.  Cannon PC Media Centers are sold through our authorized dealer network as well as through our online store.  Our customers and dealers have access to years of proven, reliable Media Center installations to ensure reliable and trouble free enjoyment.

To learn more about Cannon PC and their Pro A/V line and Home Series Media Center PCs, visit them on the web at www.cannonpc.com.

sales@cannonpc.com

832-364-6608

Fluid Digital Integrates Additional TV Functionality in Windows Vista Media Center

Specialty media server company among licensed Microsoft Partners to deploy Media Center TV Pack 2008

The Woodlands Texas-August 13, 2008– Microsoft OEM Gold Partner and authorized digital-cable media server OEM Fluid Digital is proud to announce the integration of Microsoft’s Media Center TV Pack to enable an enhanced TV viewing experience.

“We’re excited about delivering even more value to our customers with native support for four digital cable tuners, an enhanced electronic program guide, and the ability to share non-protected digital cable content across PlayReady-enabled PCs and portable media devices,” says Chris Morley, Executive Vice President, Fluid Digital. 

Fluid Digital Media Servers will begin shipping with the Media Center TV pack in Q4 of 2008.  In addition to four digital cable tuner support, Fluid Digital will be able to integrate additional Clear QAM tuners in a heterogeneous manner, with the ability to remap channels to various tuners within the system.

“In my 32 years of designing and integrating home theater solutions, I have never experienced a technology progress so far and at such a rapid pace,” said Kevin Buchanan, President of Fluid Digital.  “What Microsoft has been able to accomplish in the living room has been awe inspiring and we are pleased to be a part of the story.”

Fluid Digital media servers are sold through a vetted dealer network and are professionally installed to ensure years of hassle-free TV and media enjoyment.  Fluid Digital Media Servers are a perfect combination of technology, art, and experience in the audio visual industry.

About Fluid Digital

Fluid Digital is among a handful of Microsoft Partners authorized to integrate Windows Vista with Digital Cable support.  Fluid Digital was the first to market with AMD’s 780G chipset integrated in a digital cable media server.  Fluid Digital is the only media server in the business that is wholly owned by a custom A/V hybrid (retailer/installer) that enables them to have the fastest response time in the industry. 

Contact:

For dealer inquiries, please contact Kevin Buchanan at 281-298-8778.  For technical and capabilities inquiries on Fluid Digital media servers, please contact Chris Morley at 512-535-2659.  Please visit our website at www.fluiddigitalmedia.com.

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Short Bits: Vongo, VistaView QAM

Last a few days ago I talked about the quickly depleting online streaming section in Media Center, and today we officially have another one to go.  Vongo was the Starz-owned subscription download service that will now be history at the end of September (Via Ian Dixon).  A new service called Starz Play appears to be taking its spot, but it is not clear how or if it will integrate with Media Center.  The marketing genius in me questions why Vongo was not branded Starz Play to start with, but I guess catchy names are all the rage these days.

VistaView has released a patch to enable QAM support on their Saber DA-1N1 series of cards under the Media Center TV Pack.  Just install and reboot and you are said to be able to setup QAM within Media Center (TV Pack required).

Posted by chrisl | with no comments

Microsoft's Interactive Online Streaming Dilemma

Microsoft’s partners seem to be having a hard time finding success in Media Center with interactive streaming plug-ins available through the ‘Explore’ (Online Spotlight) section of Media Center.   Several partners have seemingly dropped support for Media Center without notice over the past year and with the lack of a worldwide presence for the applications you have to wonder about the future of Media Center as a streaming platform.

MTV Networks pulled their applications for MTV, MTVU, VH1, and Comedy Central months ago with no reason as to why.  Just last month the Queensberry Fight Network launched a Media Center application, yet today it is nowhere to be found.  And finally with the downfall of Yahoo! and AOL web properties, Microsoft is having a hard time keeping third party content available within Media Center.

So my question is, with Microsoft clearly targeting streaming as the future (and present) of the digital home, is it hurting the Media Center platform and Microsoft’s long term goal for streaming dominance to have all these companies come and go with such limited success?

Microsoft Makes Fiji Official, TV Pack for OEMs Only

Today Microsoft made the Windows Media Center TV Pack official.  Formally codenamed Fiji, the TV Pack is meant to add support for various TV signal types within Vista Media Center.  News about the TV Pack has been leaking out for the past month, and instead of waiting for CEDIA as originally planned Microsoft let the cat out of the bag today so people will know exactly what to expect and not to expect within the TV Pack.

First of all, yes the TV Pack is OEM only.  The official word for the OEM only release has basically centered around the installation method, which according to Microsoft was designed for a clean install of Vista Service Pack 1 (plus a few patches) before the new software bits can be loaded.  As some have already figured out, it is possible to avoid the clean install method and just install it on your existing Vista SP1 install, but of course it isn’t suggested.  Outside of the install method the TV Pack is very dependent on new hardware (TV Tuners) and thus that likely played into the decision to make the product OEM only.  Sadly, Microsoft seems to have forgotten the big splash they wanted to make by including Media Center in two of the Vista SKUs and getting away from the OEM only release.  By providing the TV Pack as an OEM only release they have (once again) kicked all existing news while they were already down.

Next up on the list, DIRECTV and H.264 support which will not be shipping in the TV Pack.  I don’t believe an official reason has been given, other than the previously leaked “more complex then expected” but I wouldn’t count on seeing it until Windows 7.  As I’ve said in the past, the chance of another Media Center release this year and/or DIRECTV support shipping separate is very doubtful (read: not going to happen).

So what is in the TV Pack?  Depends on where you live (there are some other features I will talk about in another post).

Japan

  • Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting – Terrestrial (ISDB-T)
  • Broadcast Markup Language (BML) Support

Europe

  • Digital Video Broadcasting – Satellite (DVB-S)
  • Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial (DVB-T)
  • Multimedia and Hypermedia information coding Expert Group (MHEG) (MHEG5)

US

  • ClearQAM (Unencrypted Digital Cable)

Short Bits: Fiji, Media Center Show, Olympics

Mary Jo Foley covers the mess that has been Fiji.  I’ll have more soon, but Fiji will go down in history as one of the worst coordinated projects to come out of Microsoft in a long time.

On this week’s Media Center Show Ian Dixon has Automated Home's Mark McCall talking Home Sever, Media Center, and of course, home automation.

This is the first time the Olympics is making a big splash online, and if you have followed any of the press around it there are a lot of players involved this year.  Microsoft is clearly one of the top partners showing they have Olympics coverage on Media Center, Xbox, Zune, and more.  I find it odd that you are going to have to pay for access on Xbox and Zune content on a per episode basis.  Why not just give it away like you are on Media Center and other Microsoft/NBC web properties?

Music Plug-in Allows for Folder Based Browsing

While ID3 tags generally make the for the best music browsing and collection experience, the lack of ID3 tags in your tracks can do just the opposite.  Now you can get around the need for 100% perfect ID3 tagged tracks using the new Music Browser plug-in for Vista Media Center.  The simple plug-in allows for folder based navigation of your music, ditching the need to have the Artist and/or Album Artist tagged correctly in all of your files.

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TV Pack Questions Answered by Charlie Owen

Charlie Owen will be answering questions about the Media Center TV Pack (Fiji) as soon as Microsoft makes the official announcements, so if you have any questions about things that may have been rumored now would be the time to submit them.

I will also finally be able to talk in depth about stuff including what is in/out of Fiji, the possibility of a second Media Center release, and Windows 7 around this timeframe.  If you have questions or comments for me to get a non-Microsoft response let me know.

Engadget HD Shows Off TV Pack

Engadget HD has gone hands on with the Media Center TV Pack (Fiji) showing off its new features like native QAM support, heterogeneous tuner support (mix and match tuner types), subchannel support, and more.

Their conclusion is that the TV Pack is a “pretty nice upgrade, but most definitely not everything we wish it was.”  This might have something to do with DIRECTV support being nowhere to be found, and maybe that there is no where you can actually get the TV Pack if you are willing to pay.

The official announcement for the TV Pack is set to be at CEDIA in September.

Posted by chrisl | 12 comment(s)

VidaBox Unveils the RACK24 Server - Supporting up to 22TB of Storage for Multizone AV Streaming

Westbury, NY – August 15th – VidaBox proudly announces the arrival of another ground-breaking product – the RACK24 server system. This super-high density storage device can store up to 22TB with RAID6 protection, and is ideal for a dedicated multimedia server for multizone distribution of massive music, pictures, Blu-ray, and DVD movie collections.

“With up to 24 field-serviceable hard drives and quad-core processing, the RACK24 sets a new standard for rack-mountable Media Center-based servers,” states Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “Unlike our other RACK series servers, the RACK24 is designed solely as a centralized storage device, allowing the system’s processing power to be dedicated towards delivering full-quality, high-definition streams of movies, music, pictures, and other multimedia content for more than 10 VidaBox extenders.”

Like its smaller cousins, the RACK24’s storage array can start with as little as 2TB of storage, and gradually be upgraded over time as a client’s multimedia collection grows in size. This array is protected with RAID6, which allows the system to still keep running without interruption or data loss even when two drives have failed. Before shipping, every enterprise-level hard drive on the system is pre-tested with a 72 hour burn-in, making sure the array is safe and secure, hardening the array against failure.

“We take downtime prevention very seriously here at VidaBox,” Cheung emphasizes, “and to minimize downtime due to hardware & mechanical failures, the RACK24 also features a redundant power system with three removable modules, eliminating system failure due to power supply issues. Furthermore, running all of this hardware is a choice of two operating systems – Windows Server 2008 or Linux – both known for their uptime and reliability."

In the rare event of a hard drive failure, the system will automatically alert the installer via email through its 24/7 auto-monitoring service. In the meantime, the system will still keep operating normally, making the failure totally transparent to the customer and give the installer plenty of time to schedule an appointment to replace the failed hard drive, which usually takes less then five minutes. Similarly, a failed power module can also be replaced in the field in a matter of minutes, allowing the system to return to its optimal operating condition.

“With this level of engineering and protection safeguards available on the RACK24,” Cheung continues, “high-end integrators now have a clear-cut choice when they’re looking for a media server that offers the best of the best in features, flexibility, and reliability.”

About VidaBox LLC
VidaBox LLC is a premium manufacturer & designer of AV and integration hardware. Specializing in multiroom audio-video distribution and automation equipment, VidaBox is focused on providing professional installers and integrators with complete solutions that include media servers & extenders, touchpanel hardware and interface software, as well as predesigned, customizable AV packages that are scalable to meet the needs of a wide range of projects & installations.

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Posted by chrisl | 1 comment(s)