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All posts tagged "media center"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Have An Extra $500? Build A Dream Media Center

Posted by Brad Wasson in "Digital Home Talk" @ 04:00 PM

"Between the Blu-Ray player, cable box, laptop, and everything else hooked up to your TV, your home theater situation is a mess. Here's how I rolled all those devices into one awesome media center-the media center of my dreams-for under $500."

Who wouldn't like to have the perfect Media Center working effectively at home, all for under $500? Over at Lifehacker they've made a list of ingredients, written out the recipe, and added some anecdotal information to help you get it built, up, and running. Their claim is that the recipe will enable you to play all of your ripped or downloaded movies, TV shows, and music, your DVD and Blu-Ray discs, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime streaming (depending on your geographic location, of course), plus nearly any other streaming channel you can imagine. In addition, they claim you will be able to play any video game you can install on a computer, from old school emulators to modern PC materpieces. Ok hobbyists, let's get cracking.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How I Got TV In To Any Room I Want: DVBLink in Action

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Talk" @ 07:00 AM

Two months ago I made the decision to ditch satellite TV in my house and revert to using the standard free terrestrial TV as well as the free satellite TV I could still get via my dish. With the savings made from no longer paying for a monthly subscription I built a new Windows Media Center pc with two satellite TV cards, one of which can accept a terrestrial signal as well. Overall, that project went well and I now have a fully functional set-up that gives me everything I had before, well, everything except the live pay per view football! However, I was constantly having problems with the in-built TV guide being wrong or not showing any details about what TV shows were scheduled. I tried a number of fixes found on websites such as The Green Button, but to no avail. Whilst in my search for a solution I discovered a software product called DVBlink which caused me to open my eyes a bit. Not only can it handle importing guide data from third parties direct in to the Media Center guide, but it could also allow me to stream live TV to other devices around the home via my local LAN.

What? No extra TV cable needing to be fed to the bedroom? No extra satellite LNB's? No extra TV cards? It all sounded too good to be true but I did some more reading and finally decided I would give it a try. I thought that the software would be expensive but it's actually very reasonable. There is a special offer on currently to buy the server and network pack together for $50.72, and to make the deal sweeter there is a 20 day trial period so I could try it out and prove it works before paying for it. Read more...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gigaom Asks: Will Microsoft’s Living-Room Quest Finally Pay Off?

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Talk" @ 05:00 AM

"Most of the digerati remain skeptical about Microsoft's long journey to becoming a key player in the digital home. I can't really blame them, given that the sheer number of swings and misses the company has undergone over the past decade may only be second to that of its hometown baseball team. But recently the company has been swinging a hot bat, not only with its Xbox 360, which has been picking up momentum, but also with a legitimate holiday hit in the Kinect. A few months of resurgence doesn't excuse a decade of lost opportunity. But the Kinect, the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live do illustrate that, while Apple and Google are often seen as much more innovative and nimble when it comes to the digital home, Microsoft actually does offer compelling innovations that, every once in a while, it actually executes on. And execution, of course, is key when it comes to staying relevant."

An interesting article was posted on Gigaom discussing Microsofts position in the digital home and how they have succeed or failed with various products such as Media Center, Windows Home Server, and Xbox. The Kinect is proving to be a massive hit I wonder if Microsoft will focus on this the Xbox, and start to push this as the core of the Digital Home, possibly integrating those earlier technologies such as Media Center, and Web TV. However, as we have seen with Microsoft, so often, they get a good idea but never seem to realise the full potential of it

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Windows 8 Media Center to Abandon Broadcast TV Tuners?

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 PM

"A week or two ago, details of Windows 8 leaked.... The pages that have been posted on various sites are marked 'Windows 8 discussion, this is not a plan of record', so they must be taken as such and not necessarily as what might eventually appear in Windows 8. That said.... one page in particular caught my eye, titled 'Consuming TV in Windows'. The page states 'Our view is that broadcast TV for PCs via tuner cards will be replaced by Internet-sourced TV and broadcast TV via DLNA-connected tuners.'"

It seems too early to get excited about Windows 8 yet, but already some writers appear to be up in arms about the possibility that the Windows 8 Media Center will drop support for broadcast TV tuners in favor of web-based television. Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows provides "A First Peek" at Windows 8 (apparently due in mid-2012), and does mention that it will likely mark a "move away from traditional TV tuners in Windows"; but that statement is open to interpretation, and is hardly in the category of "We will no longer support...!" Do you currently use a broadcast TV tuner in conjunction with Windows Media Center? And, if so, how worried are you about the possibility that eventually, maybe, some day Microsoft will no longer support that functionality?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Free Tool To Customise Windows Media Center

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Software" @ 04:00 AM

"Windows only: Media Center Studio allows you to create your own custom themes for Windows Media Center, allowing you to create a cooler, more customized WMC look more akin to what you'd expect from popular media center, XBMC."

I've always thought the interface of Windows Media Center is a bit bland with it's plain blue interface, and that it could use a bit of colour or a background. Now you can customise the interface to your own taste using the free Media Center Studio for Vista and Windows 7. As well as changing things like the backdrop, it allows you to change the menu items which has always been one of the things I've wanted to do. Take a look at the tool and if you do customise the look of your Media Center I'd love to see screenshots of what you have done.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TiVo? What TiVo? Media Centers Presented for your Consideration

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 03:00 PM

"We focused on three widely available, and generally popular, media centers for our comparison and review. We're certainly aware there are many alternatives out there, as free software or stand-alone hardware boxes, but these are the three media centers that receive ongoing development, and can be installed on the widest number of TV-connected computers."

The whole media center market is becoming very crowded. My main complaint about them though, is that in Canada, our online options are still quite limited, unless you want to go the route of finding stuff that fell out of the back of a bit bucket. As such, I am stuck with media center choices that can record TV signals. The media centers that record are much smaller in selection, and the hardware options provided by my cable or satellite provider is less than stellar. I am actually partial to Windows Media Center, largely because it is easy to set up, use and manage. It was designed with the idiot in mind, and I like not having to pour over details anymore. However, I can see that once I can shrug off the cable/satellite tether, options like XBMC become considerably more attractive. What is everyone using these days and why did you pick it?

Sync Your Media Center, Zune And Windows Home Server

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Software" @ 02:00 PM

"Windows Home Server was a large part of CES this year. I was pleasantly embraced by all you fellow Windows Home Server users and I joyfully shared the new features sets that Power Pack 3 empowered your home server with. The beautiful thing about our booth is the ability to walk everyone step by step, on how to take advantage of these new features. For those of you who were not at CES, I'd like to take the time to share with you those steps that I shared with CES attendees. One of the key scenarios that got a lot of interest at the show was how a Zune music player can benefit from having a Windows Home Server around as well. This post goes into more detail about why and how it all works together."

When Microsoft released Power Pack 3 for Windows Home Server, there were a number of new features added that perhaps not everyone realised was included. This article from The Windows Home Server blog, explains how to make full use of one of those features if you have a Media Center PC, a Windows Home Server and a media player such as the Zune. The ability to access your music, videos and pictures on both your Media Center PC and your Zune is nice, but to be able to record your TV shows and automatically create a copy compressed especially for the Zune so you can watch them on the go is brilliant. No more having to encode the TV shows specifically for the Zune, just record your show on the Media Center as normal and one extra copy encoded correctly for the Zune or other media player of your choice will be made. If you didn't know about this, then take a read and see how easy it is.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Windows 7 Media Center Gets EngadgetHD Love

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:00 PM

"Once you switch to Windows 7 Media Center there is no going back. It might not seem like that much at first, but when you try to go back to Vista or even another solution like Moxi or TiVo, it is like going back in time. The fact is that Microsoft has been in a league of its own with Vista Media Center and while the competition is still sitting idle suing each other, Microsoft has yet again raised the bar. There is no doubt in our mind that it is the all around best DVR solution available today, but we recognize it isn't for everyone."

My thoughts have to echo EngadgetHD. Having lived with the original Windows Media Center and watching it evolve over the years, I've found it to be very easy to use. I like tinkering with tech as much as the next guy, but when it comes to watching movies and tv, I don't want to roll up my sleeves and fix things. Every few months, I get ambitious and try out another option, like LinuxMCE, or MediaPortal, and they just don't seem to have the same kind of polish. Windows 7 Media Center builds upon Vista Media Center and really puts it ahead of the pack in terms of support and usability. EngadgetHD has a great breakdown of all the changes you can expect when you make the migration, and yes, for those of you using a Windows based Media Center, it most certainly is worth the upgrade.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Boxee Alpha Comes To Windows

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:30 PM

"The latest release also introduces a handful of attention-getting web apps like, officially supported and offering full access to baseball games around the country. Others, like Current TV, Digg, some clever Twitter/Tumblr mashups and niche video sources, came from the providers themselves or the just-ended dev challenge."

Boxee has made quite a name for itself, though with my desktop PCs running Windows (I have a couple of Linux servers, and I cannot afford Macs) I've been standing on the sidelines, looking longingly at the media player. Finally, a Windows client has arrived, though it is very much an alpha version. After playing with it for a few hours, I find the interface quite pleasant and more intuitive than Windows Media Center or those which come on media playerback devices like the WD TV. I had no problems immediately accessing content, both locally and on the net, though being in Canada, I did hit a few roadblocks with several applications telling me that I'm not allowed to watch Babylon 5 of Macgyver. The alphaness of the Windows client also shone through in some places with some spawned programs crashing, but overall, its been pretty pleasant experience. I would like to see some more customization options, and some regional presets so that if some applications cannot be accessed from where you are, it does not display them. I can only hope that as more content becomes available online to Canadians that Boxee will dedicate enough resources to add some polish, or I'll have to look towards setting up yet another computer just for media playback!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Digital Cable Recordings Now on Your HTPC

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:00 AM

"Access to premium HD on computers has eluded most for way to long, so as soon as we heard that it was finally possible for anyone to add a CableCARD tuner to just about any Media Center, we just knew we had to try it for ourselves, and more importantly, share with you exactly how to do it. This doesn't really require any hacking, or anything illegal for that matter -- we're not lawyers -- but it isn't cheap."

If you have the urge to spend a penny and your recorded shows are looking a bit fuzzy, EngadgetHD has the perfect way to lighten your wallet. The process is not for the timid and could cause a few small hassles with your HTPC, but the reward will be an HTPC with no need for an external cable box and a much cleaner setup for your home theater. I'm using a cable box myself and the latency and picture degradation are noticeable but I'm afraid that I can't see this as worth the effort. Accessing shows online is becoming easier by the day, and in a few years, it will be all you need, and you won't have to choose which shows have priority in recording!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Record All Your TV With the Hauppauge HD-PVR

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 PM

"After more than a week with my HD-PVR I can now say that my excitement has not waned. This thing brings all the channels: HD, digital, SD – everything to the HTPC user without needing to worry about CableCard, broadcast flags or other DRM issues. I’m still working out the final details for my complete review of the device, but had a few points I wanted to mention to the readers on the HD-PVR. I just watched the movie: “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” this week so bear with me as I follow that theme…"

Those of you with media centers should be well aware of the ugly problems that DRM can cause. From incorrectly set broadcast flags preventing you from saving your favourite TV show to problems with CableCard, DRM and related technologies make it difficult for those who want to benefit from what media center software can offer. GeekTonic has posted a workaround that uses the Hauppauge HD-PVR to circumvent all these problems through use of the analog hole. It works by taking the digital signal, converting it to a purely analog signal, and then re-encoded into a digital format. The process pretty much strips the video of any DRM and with this hack, the apparent loss in quality is minimal, letting you record and enjoy anything from your cable box, satellite tv, etc. without any worries of that ugly message telling you can you can't record, or even worse, finding your recorded tv shows folder empty!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lifehacker Picks The Best DVR Software

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 08:00 AM

"Earlier this week we asked you to share you favorite DVR applications, and now we're back with the six most popular answers. This week's Hive Five Call for Contenders was one of our tightest races yet, which is why we're featuring six popular DVR apps instead of the standard five."

Lifehacker's most recent Hive Five asked their readers what their favourite DVR applications where and the results are in! Their six choices will not surprise anyone who has looked into setting up their own media center, however, only one hardware solution made the list. I am a Windows Media Center person, but I've used all the choices they have listed at some point or another and they are all solid choices. It should be noted that two of the choices are also free, meaning all that is required to set up your existing computer as a DVR is a capture card. Is anyone out there looking to set up a home media center?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

VuNow PoD Finally Available

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 12:00 PM

"Just in time to snag some of that cash you're sure to have showing up right about now via greeting cards from around the world, Verismo Networks is officially launching its diminutive VuNow PoD. We've seen the device evolve quite a bit since June, but with a smorgasbord of competitors already grabbing market share left and right, we're left to wonder if this one won't be sitting on the outside looking in. The internet TV streamer hooks directly to one's TV and internet connection in order to deliver web content (YouTube, of note) to the tele. While specifics are conveniently omitted, we're told that users will have access to "a broad choice of online video content -- from movies, global Live TV channels, to user-generated content and viral videos." It's available now for $99, but can you stand yet another set-top-box beneath your flat-panel?"

I recently mentioned that this diminutive video player would be available on December 15th. Well, Verismo missed that date, but not by much. Nothing appears to have really changed upon launch, including the price at $99. While it can't record, it definitely seems to be an attractive playback device you can use if you've got multiple televisions around the house. There's no word on how easy it will be to use, but with a focus on just playback, I imagine it to be as easy as any other third party device, meaning it'll be no iTunes, but it'll get the job done. For me, I've got laptops that allow me to play anything I want to watch around my pad, but maybe some of you can find use for this over a towering media center.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Going Vertical

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 PM

So, I've been experimenting both at home and at work with switching my monitors to portrait orientation. I've found that even on a widescreen monitor, putting two windows side by side does not always quite cut it, but it is pretty easy to work in portrait orientation with one window above the other. On a standard monitor, like I use at work, the portrait mode is much better for working with typical office applications.

Overall, I really like the setup, but have a few issues that may make me revert, at least on my home machine. First off, Windows Media center will not even open when you are in portrait mode. Granted the experience is optimized in landscape, but it seems shortsighted that the software should not even open. Second, is there any way to move the Vista Windows Sidebar to the bottom of the screen? I know it is called the sidebar, but it would be nice if there were options other than left and right. Any suggestions?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kodak Bringing Media Hub To Your Living Room

Posted by Tim Williamson in "Digital Home News" @ 06:00 AM

"ROCHESTER, N.Y., July 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) today unveiled the KODAK Theatre HD Player, a High Definition (HD) media player that enables consumers to interact more freely and creatively with their most valuable possessions -- their memories. Harnessing Wi-Fi and HD technologies, a wide array of organizational and display features and access to online content through unique partners, the KODAK Theatre HD Player turns consumers into the directors of their own show with a wireless remote control pointer in-hand. The device will roll out in stages, with a market trial commencing in September 2008."

It looks like Kodak will be bringing their own HD media hub to your living room, the KODAK Theatre HD Player, which appears to be in competition with Windows Media Center and Apple TV. I haven't seen any pictures of the interface or actual hardware, but it will be really difficult to compete with Media Center's interface and Apple TV's hardware. Right now it looks like it will only be able to display video at 720p, why wouldn't they have this device future-proofed and give it the ability to display at 1080p??? I'm not too excited about this device, but I'll have to see the final hardware before making final judgement.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend Project: Streaming Netflix On Your Xbox 360

Posted by Tim Williamson in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 06:00 AM

"Netflix subscribers, if you've got an Xbox 360 and a Windows Vista PC, you don't have to shell out $99 for Roku's Netflix Player box to get your Watch Instantly library on your TV screen—you already have everything you need. Using the free Windows Media Center plug-in, vmcNetflix, you can turn your Xbox 360 into a Netflix Watch Instantly box. Here's how."

So a couple weeks ago we posted a link to a review of the $100 Roku Netflix Player, but this week we bring you a way to stream Netflix movies for free on your Xbox 360+Windows Vista PC! Lifehacker has posted detailed instructions for setting up the vmcNetFlix plugin on Vista and how to get going in a few minutes. Keep in mind this is beta software, so it may be a little buggy, plus there's a very good chance it violates the Netflix terms of use (since it downloads the video to your PC), but if you're feeling like a daredevil, willing to take a risk, try it out and let us know how it works!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Barb Says: Need a Media Center Extender? Skip Linksys, go for the D-Link

Posted by Jeremy Charette in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 10:00 AM

"Out of the box, the DSM-750 blows the dinky Linksys DMA 2100 out of the water. Solid construction and a nice looking peripheral that doesn't look like cheap plastic in my living room. The DMA 2100 has no optical SPDIF (RCA flavor digital SPDIF only) and worse, does not see Atheros based SSID's and probably some other brands. The DMA 2100 only has two antennae. D-Link has all the ports and three antennae, which really helps with wireless connectivity ."

A Pinto and a Ferrari will get you from A to B, but you're going enjoy the ride in the Ferrari alot more Seems like Linksys has made a Pinto. I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't given manufacturers a reference design to use. It would seem to make for a much more consistent user experience.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Linksys DMA 2100 Media Center Extender Reviewed

Posted by Jeremy Charette in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 07:00 AM

"Thus, every now and then you'll find a file that you'd like to play, but Media Center won't play ball. You either won't be able to see it, or it simply won't be able to decode it. And, though there's often a way around any problem through a variety of registry hacks and tricks, these aren't user friendly solutions. It is this that really gets to the crux of the problem of the whole Media Center Extender concept. In theory it has endless potential, but it's held back by Microsoft's wish to control every aspect of it. So, if you're knowledgeable and patient and understand the ins and outs of what's required to get what you want, then you may find the DMA 2100 a device that gives you almost everything you desire."

Trusted Reviews has taken a look at Linksys' latest Media Center Extender, and gives it mostly high marks. Unfortunately, it's still limited by the very operating system that makes it so enticing in the first place. If all you want to do is record ad watch TV from a Media Center PC, play MP3 music files, and view pictures, then the Media Center concept could be just the thing for you. If you want to do anything more advanced however, you'd be better off brewing your own home-built solution. And besides, at this price why not buy an Xbox 360 instead?

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