Guides

May 12 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - How to Change Windows 7 Media Center Recording Location

The question often comes up, "How do I change the default recording location of Windows Media Center (WMC)?" This quick guide will explain how, but before we get to that, let's understand why and when you might want to do this in the first place.

As Andrew points out in our HTPC Basics Beginner's Guide, as the duties of a home theater PC (HTPC) grow, it becomes necessary to dedicate a hard disk drive (HDD) to the task of recording TV to avoid recording glitches and maintain a responsive user interface (UI). Furthermore, if your system relies on a solid-state drive (SSD) for it's system drive housing the Windows 7 operating system (OS), it is important to use a mechanical disk as the recording drive to maintain a long SSD lifespan.

Now, let's get to it. Follow along the screen captures and you'll understand exactly how to change your recording location.

Windows Media Center Settings

May 11 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - Simple Screen Switching Using DisplaySwitch

In my current Home Theater setup, I find myself switching between a direct DVI connection from my HTPC to the Pioneer Elite PRO-141FD 60″ Plasma Monitor and an HDMI connection through the Pioneer Elite SC-07 AV Receiver depending on whether I'm watching TV or a Blu-ray disc (BD) movie. I do this because when listening to music or watching sports,  I use the S/PDIF Zone 1 & 2 outputs on the SC-07 to run audio to the other amplifiers in the house (I pulled Optical S/PDIF along side Cat 6 when wiring the house).  Unfortunately, the SC-07 does not down-convert HDMI audio to S/PDIF or analog--I don't think many receivers do--even for non copy-protected streams.  But, obviously, I want to use HDMI for BD bit streamed playback and usually do not care about the BD soundtrack in the rest of the house. (BTW: I don't recommend using an HTPC for your primary BD player, but that subject deserves it's own separate posting)

May 08 2011

Guide - Ceton InfiniTV Network Tuner Wizard: Access InfiniTV Tuners From Multiple PCs

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One of our most popular guides in the past several months has been Michael Welter’s guide and tool for configuring the InfiniTV for use by multiple PCs. Now, Ceton has released the InfiniTV Network Tuner Wizard to provide an easy way to configure and officially support the InfiniTV when used by multiple PCs. We’ve had the opportunity to use the wizard and produce a guide to help you learn what it does and how to use it.

May 04 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - Adding Sequence commands to your Logitech Harmony remote

If you are a true home theater nut like I am then, without a doubt, you will have some form of a universal remote control in your home theater setup. Over the years, I have amassed a sizable collection of Harmony remotes. I probably have every single model of Harmony remotes besides the RF based Harmony remotes. One of many things I do is constantly fiddle with the settings, tweaking them to add new button queues and screens. Recently, I've been getting into home automation and light control in my theater room. Right now I've got a Lutron Grafik Eye controlling my multiple light zones. I am also getting into Z-wave lighting control but we'll dive deeper into that subject at a later date.

The Lutron lighting control allows me to control it via IR commands from almost any remote. I've added the Lutron lighting as a device in my Harmony setup and then created a sequence so that when I hit play it will dim my lights and start playing the movie. Then, I added a second sequence that when I pause the movie it brightens up the lights and pauses at the same time.

Below are the steps to create a sequence in the Logitech Harmony setup software.

  1. Click on Customize Buttons for whatever activity you want to add the sequence to.

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 2.  Click on Add Sequence

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 3.  Give the Sequence a name

 4.  Select the device( s ) and the commands that will be part of the Sequence

May 02 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to Building a Home Theater PC

We have covered a number of Beginner’s Guides in our effort to help out newcomers to the world of home theater computers. Topics covered include the basics, video resolutions, codecs and how they affect you, media players, frame rates and more. So hopefully you have read and enjoyed those as now the fun part begins--building an HTPC!

There are a variety of reasons why you might be interested in building a home theater PC (HTPC); perhaps you are intrigued by the idea of consolidating all your music, movies, and pictures into a central location. Or maybe the cable company upped their rates again and your only means of striking back is to build your own digital video recorder (DVR). Actually it's my personal opinion that most people build HTPCs just because it's fun! It is always a great feeling showing off your system to someone who's never heard of an HTPC and they can't quite figure out how you can have so much stuff available on your TV. This beginners guide is an attempt to introduce a relative new comer to the world of building your own HTPC. Hardware was chosen with a beginner in mind; a balance of cost, performance, flexibility and simplicity were considered when choosing the following components.

Apr 29 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - Never Assume the Obvious when Troubleshooting

This tip is as much a friendly reminder as one that even the best technical people will forget--Don't Assume the obvious has been done!

Case in point, I was troubleshooting a friend's TV setup. She has AT&T U-Verse TV which is connected via HDMI passthrough to her Onkyo stereo receiver and claimed that her dog sat on her remotes and then suddenly lost all audio. I looked through all the settings on the receiver and it looked OK. Swapped inputs on the AVR and tested her Blu-ray player, and that worked correct with audio. I then went into AT&T's setup and tried messing with the audio settings. After adjusting some cables and moving things around, I was ready to GIVE UP!

Then it hit me and I asked her, "Have you power cycled your cable box?" Of course the answer was "NO," and of course, that RESOLVED the issue. In my effort of trying to think about all the complicated ways she could have lost audio I missed the most basic troubleshooting step to simply reboot the device.

So there you have it, never assume that the most basic steps of troubleshooting will not fix the problem.

Apr 28 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - Pricematch Your Blu-rays or DVDs at Fry's Electronics

Here's a quick tip some of you might actually know. While we love the support financially when you use our Amazon and Newegg ads (see right column), we all have those times when there's a movie or game title that you simply cannot wait to receive. Or maybe you only want one movie so don't want to pay Amazon for shipping. Did you know there's a healthy amount of online vendors which your local Fry's Electronics stores will price match?

An anonymous user sent me this image from a Fry's associate showing the full list (below) of authorized vendors, and it's long!

Fry's Pricematch

Apr 22 2011

Guide - MissingRemote Tips and Tweaks – HTPC Spring Cleaning

This tip probably seems rather obvious, but sometimes the obvious can be forgotten or neglected. I was recently called into action to diagnose a system that was running warmer and creating more fan noise than usual. Upon opening the case, this is what I saw:

Dusty Power Supply

Apr 12 2011

Guide - Missing Remote Tips and Tweaks #2 – Preventing Sneaky TV Overscan in Windows 7 Media Center

If you’re at all like me, you want to see the entire picture as it was originally broadcast so you calibrate your display.  One of the steps of our display calibration guide is to display a test pattern to correct for any overscan. Overscan is a vestige of the old cathode ray tube (CRT) TV days and largely no longer needed.

The overscan test pattern might commonly be played back in Windows 7 Media Center (7MC) via the videos section and reveal no overscan. However, 7MC has a dark and sneaky side to it.

At my day job, I often watch the same network content over and over again on professional monitors so it is quite easy to recognize when network tickers and logos aren’t in their usual places. Much to my surprise, when I configured 7MC for my flat panel plasma, it was obvious that Microsoft decided that 7MC needed to overscan live and recorded TV.

Take a look at the following images showing what the same image looks like with and without the overscan that 7MC applies.

 

Overscanned by WMC

Overscanned Image in 7MC

Apr 04 2011

Guide - MissingRemote Tips and Tweaks #1 - Delete Windows 7 Service Pack Backup Files

How would you like to gain almost 1GB of space on your system drive? If you've installed Windows 7 SP1, you should be aware that Windows retains a backup of the system files to allow for the uninstallation of SP1. If you're happy with SP1 on your system, you can safely delete the backup in a few simple steps. Keep in mind that after performing this procedure, there's no turning back from SP1.

Disk Cleanup 4

Mar 28 2011

Guide - Installing Pace RNG110 Set Top Box FireWire Drivers

As anyone who has used a set top box (STB) with infrared (IR) blasters can attest; while they work most of the time even a minuscule failure rate is not acceptable with spouse acceptance factor (SAF) on the line.  So when something besides IR is available to execute channel changes is available, the additional reliability is a welcome addition.  So when I swapped out a DCT-6200 for a Pace RNG110 to enable 3D I was surprised by how difficult it was to get the drivers installed compared to the Motorola cable box.  Having repeated the process and struggling with the specifics again, I figured it was time to document the process to save some trouble next time.

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Mar 07 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to HTPC Software

Welcome to the Beginner's Guide to HTPC Software. This will be an in-depth look at the software options available to you to build your HTPC. If you haven't already, make sure you read our Beginner's Guide to HTPCs for other topics.

We're going to cover only full home theater PC applications which can handle the following tasks:

  1. Music
  2. Videos
  3. Movies
  4. TV (optional)
  5. Photos

First let's take a look at the operating system options you have and a brief overview:

  • Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7
  • Apple Mac OSX
  • Linux

Each one of these has their pros and cons. If you are using Mac OSX, you don't have many choices beyond Front Row, XBMC and Plex (below). If you're using Linux, honestly you're probably not reading this guide due to limited options as well--MythTV (below as well). So that leaves Windows users . This is at least 90% of you out there, and most likely what everyone reading this is interested in.

Feb 25 2011

Guide - How to Enable Concurrent Sessions in Windows 7 Service Pack 1 RTM

Please Read

The script has been updated. The following now works properly:

  1. multi cmd line switch
  2. Home Premium
  3. Non-English Operating Systems, no need to change the script

Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

If you've been following MissingRemote for a while, you know one of our most popular series of guides is Enabling Concurrent Remote Desktop sessions. Continuing that trend we have an updated process below working with the RTM (Official Release to Manufacturing) version of Windows7 Ultimate, Professional, Home Premium and Enterprise Editions, x86 & x64 build 7601, Service Pack Build 1130.

One of the most popular articles ever at MissingRemote.com has been our guide on how to enable Concurrent Sessions for Windows Vista. For those unaware of what it is, enabling Concurrent Sessions allows you to Remote Desktop into a system that someone else is on, under a different user account, and access the system without kicking the user off. I, for example, use the feature to have MCE running on my Television, and then I remote into my main user account to access all my files without interrupting my MCE session. Special thanks to Mikinho for compiling the package below and making this all possible.

userscreensmall.jpg

***DISCLAIMER***

Feb 23 2011

Guide - Override Digital Cable Advisor in Windows Media Center 7

* * * Disclaimer * * *

I do NOT recommend using the DCA override other than the circumstances listed below.

The following files and instructions are provided to you at your OWN RISK!! Understand that it is circumventing a quality assurance test. That being said, if you do have a problem, we have a fantastic community here to help you

Before we begin, this guide assumes you know what the Digital Cable Advisor (DCA) is and have it installed already. If you do not, please refer to MCE: Digital Cable Advisor Tool Available Now before continuing.

OverrideDigitalCableAdvisor does not remove the need to have DCA installed. What it does is tell DCA to skip the tests and consider it a PASS. I do NOT recommend using OverrideDigitalCableAdvisor to get around under powered hardware. I am providing OverrideDigitalCableAdvisor for two basic scenarios (though there may be more) that I believe the DCA fails to take into account.

  1. Virtual Media Center

    I've had a virtual Windows Media Center running under Hyper-V for several years (since Vista SP1) that has acted as my primary recording HTPC.  I did this for several reasons: 1- To reduce energy consumption.  At the time my primary HTPC was left on 24\7 to ensure it was always available for Media Center Extenders.  Virtualizing it allowed me to change my power policy on the HTPC to be in standby most of the time; 2- I setup two virtual HTPCs. One dedicated to recording and another for my Media Center Extenders (MCX) to allow me to test various MCX work-arounds without potentially lowering the stability of my recordings.

    This worked great for years with my Silicon Dust HDHomeRun (x3)...until Comcast made ClearQAM next to worthless in Houston.

Jan 31 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to HTPC Basics

Continuing our series of Beginner's Guides for HTPC and Home Theater, this guide offers ten basic tips for getting your HTPC up and running smoothly.  Most of these were learned the hard way, hope that sharing means you don't have to Smile

1. Dedicate a physical drive for recording TV:

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Recording and scanning big TV files for commercials hits a drive really hard. Having at least two physical drives separates the bandwidth necessary to keep the user interface (UI) responsive and minimize the risk for glitches during recording and playback.  After adding up all the traffic caused by Media Center recording and ShowAnalyzer reading back and forth in the file while you try to watch it (all potentially multiplied by the number of tuners); then add in a couple “extenders” - you’ll be glad you put the operating system (OS) on one disk and recordings on another.

2. Don't Go Green (when choosing a hard drive):

I’m sure there will be some disagreement on this one so it is important to understand context. If you only want to store DVDs and other “light” media a green drive will work fine.  That said, I've had horrible results streaming really “heavy” (20GB+)  files off of them; both locally and over the network especially in multi-user (i.e. two clients hitting the same drive at the same time) scenarios.  Green drives are cheaper, quieter and use less power (what makes them “Green”) because they are slower, but they are not much cheaper, quieter or greener than a 7200RPM that will serve those heavy files without glitches. 

3. Reduce/disable the Recycle Bin:

Jan 26 2011

Guide - Video Frame Rates and Display Refresh Rates for Beginners

We hope you've been enjoying our series of Beginner's Guides for HTPC and Home Theater. As part of the series, we’ve previously discussed video resolutions and how video information is displayed on a screen for a frame of video in our guide, Video Resolutions for Beginners. What we didn’t delve into much was the rate at which video frames are captured, or, in other words, the video frame rate. This guide will cover the basics of frame rates and how displays deal with the frame rates. We’ll try to cut through the marketing buzzwords like 120Hz, 240Hz, 600Hz sub-field drive, etc. so that you can make a more informed decision when purchasing your next display and how to insure an optimal viewing experience.

Jan 19 2011

Guide - Change Windows Media Center Startup With Media Center Valve

Disclaimers

  1. This is a work-in-progress. I'll be releasing updates every few days. I wanted to wait and release it in its entirety but I've had enough requests for it that I'll be releasing as each part is tested.

  2. Media Center Valve or Valve for Windows Media Center (WMCVALVE) is licensed for personal non-commercial use only.

  3. Please do not redistribute the installer. It will only be available here at MissingRemote for a few weeks as I want to track usage and I will be making weekly updates.

Media Center Valve is a work-in-progress of all my smaller Media Center Add-ins combined into one. Valve will replace Extender Live TV Startup, Control Panel, Start Menu Plus, Hide Menu Strips, AutoPlay Disable, Remote Remap, YAHAA and a few unpublished add-ins I use at home.

Jan 17 2011

Guide - Beginners Guide to Controlling your HTPC

In continuation of our Beginners guide series, this guide is all about controlling your HTPC. One thing that sets a “computer connected to your big screen” and it being a HTPC is how we interface with the system. Controlling your HTPC is all about the hardware and software combination you are using. Depending on if you are using the plethora of HTPC software front ends whether it be Windows Media Center, Sage TV, Beyond TV, Myth TV, Boxee, XBMC, you name it they all require hardware to interface with it to control how it works. For more information on the aforementioned software stay tuned for the Beginners guide to HTPC software.

Now that you have read what a HTPC is and what it entails now the fun begins in how to integrate it into your entertainment setup, and how to control it out seamlessly. There are many ways to control a HTPC, it is as simple as using a traditional keyboard and mouse to as crazy and sophisticated as using home automation software and integrating TCP/IP commands to control your entire setup, stay tuned for the Beginners guide to home automation also see the HD Sports Bar setup. In this guide we will cover every aspect of HTPC controls to allow you to make the best possible decision on how you personally want to control your HTPC setup.

Jan 04 2011

Guide - Video Resolutions for Beginners

Continuing our series of Beginner's Guides for HTPC and Home Theater, this guide will take a closer look at Video Resolutions--what it means, why's it important and how to make your picture as good as possible for your particular environment.

What does 1080p/720p/1080i/480p mean?

The numbers 1080, 720 and 480 refer to the lines of vertical resolution in the picture as illustrated in the following diagram:

 

 

Note that each line is drawn to the screen beginning at the left. If there are 1080 lines of vertical resolution then there are 1080 lines drawn from the left side of the screen to the right side with line 1 located at the very top of the screen and line 1080 at the very bottom.. The higher the number of lines there are, the greater the amount of detail there is in the picture.

 

What about the “i” and “p”?

There are two ways to express each frame of video, interlaced and progressive. The simplest to understand is progressive. Progressive simply means that each line of the video frame is drawn to the screen one after the other so line one is first, line two is second, etc.

Dec 29 2010

Guide - Beginner's Guide to HTPC Codecs, File Formats, Containers, Filetypes

Codecs? File types? Oh my! If you have ever tried to watch a video you downloaded from the internet only to find it unable to be played (or maybe just audio but no video), then this is the guide for you! We're going to try to do our best to cover most of the more common file types that are out there, and what they mean to you and your home theater experience.

Before we get into the details, let's cover the basics of the terminology. Codec is an acronym for compressing\decompressing. This technology is used to execute an algorithm to compress or decompress video or audio. An example of this is playback of your PVR recordings on your HTPC; when the file plays back your PC is decompressing, or decoding,  the MPEG-2 or H.264 video and MPEG-Audio or AC-3 audio contained in the file. 

  • Decoding usually refers to "playback" of a certain file.
  • Encoding refers to taking a raw or uncompressed signal and converting to a compressed format (i.e recording a TV stream to MPEG-2)
  • Transcoding refers to changing compressed audio and/or video formats (i.e. converting MPEG-2 to H.264)

Let’s start out with some of the formats used to encode audio & video . I won't go into a lot of detail but the common ones will be covered.  To playback these formats a decoder or transform component is required, when using DirectShow this is called a filter.Flac

Dec 21 2010

Guide - Beginner's Guide What is an HTPC?

I was speaking with a friend of mine who's new to the Home Theater PC space and he brought up a great point--after saying how much he loved the new site design, he admitted to being a bit overwhelmed by some of the content that basically assumes you know some of the standard knowledge about this world of HTPC. I agreed, and thus this beginner's guide was born. For the sake of your sanity, we will break these guides up into small categories to hopefully make it easier to digest as well as continue to evolve. (If you see a Guide Link that's not a working link, hang in there, it's coming soon!)

HTPC Chassis

HTPC

Stands for Home Theater Personal Computer. This is a computer you build/buy which is designed solely for the purpose of connecting to your television.

 

Why would I want/need an HTPC? What can it do?

If you are tired of having 20 boxes on your entertainment center to each do its own task, then an HTPC gives you the flexibility of being a powerful all-in-one box. Of course that comes with it's own caveats which we cover in our (coming soon) HTPC Myths Guide. As an overview, even your basic HTPC can do the following:

  • Live HD Television
  • Record Television
  • View photos
  • View videos
  • Watch movies (Blu-ray, DVD, downloaded, etc)
  • Listen to Music

How does an HTPC connect to your TV?

Nov 05 2010

Guide - Sharing Ceton InfiniTV Tuners with Client HTPC Systems

Update

Please see our new guide for the official Ceton Network Tuner Wizard which makes the procedure outlined in this guide much simpler and virtually fool-proof.

ceton-network-static.jpg

We have good news, and we have some bad news. The good news is that Ceton has graciously allowed MissingRemote.com to publish a guide to Tuner Sharing with the Ceton InfiniTV beta firmware.  The bad news is that it is still in beta. 

What does that mean to you? Unless you are already part of the beta program you will not be able to utilize the HTPC bliss that is shared Digital Cable tuners. Before anyone starts scouring the Internet for the beta firmware, your InfiniTV serial numbers needs to be registered as part of the beta program for the firmware to install, don’t waste your time.

Assuming the bad news has not completely discouraged you, read on to see what we have in store.

Oct 19 2010

Guide - Display Calibration - Part I

Display Calibration Poll Results

Last week, we polled MissingRemote readers regarding the calibration status of their displays and here are the results.

poll.png

While the majority of you have calibrated your displays to some degree or another, roughly 25% have not and approximately 25% of you have either calibrated by viewing content or using settings found online. Almost 40% of you have calibrated with test patterns by eye and about 10% have gone all the way and either hired a pro or used a meter to calibrate. Whether you have calibrated your display or not, please read on where we will guide you step-by-step through the calibration process and explain exactly what it is all those controls in your display do to help you obtain optimal picture quality.

Oct 13 2010

Guide - Installing SageTV V7

sage teaser 

SageTV V7 Installation Guide

If you are new to SageTV getting it installed and everything like ISO playback and HD audio/video playback working can be bit of a challenge; so when I needed to do a V7 install a few days ago I decided to document the process to hopefully make it easier for everyone to get the server up and running.

When looking at the guide it is important that many of the steps are not required to make SageTV work, but they either make it work better or accomplish specific goals (like HD audio playback or ISO support).  Also note that while V7 is feature complete and very stable it is still in the Release Candidate stage, so not yet "Gold".

Please note that this guide should be considered a living document. So please let me know if there are things I missed or areas that are confusing.

Click through to get the whole thing, but get some refreshments first - it's pretty long :)

Aug 09 2010

Guide - How to Change the Default Folder for Pictures and Videos

Does anyone actually store their photos and videos on their actual Media Center PC's? If you do, then relax, sit back, and check out one of the many other guides we have to offer! If you are like me and have been storing your media files on your Server or other location, then you have probably been looking at a Media Center that looks like this:

Photos_Before_thumb.jpg

That's right, even with my Server photos directory being the ONLY folder in my Picture Library, Media Center still wants to show all the folder icons. Which means that in order to get to my photos, I would need to click Photos, then click on the folder, and THEN be at my directory of folders! Quite an inconvenience!

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