Guides

Jul 28 2010

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

Continuing MissingRemote's tradition of providing you guys the patches necessary to enable Concurrent Sessions, we've created a new thread for Windows 7 Service Pack 1. The process below has been confirmed working with the Beta versions of Windows7 Ultimate, Professional, Home Premium and Enterprise Editions, x86 & X64 build 7601, Service Pack Build 178.

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.

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 Continue Reading...

Jul 07 2010

Guide - Replace the ArcSoft Splash Screen

If you have been a loyal ArcSoft user like many of us have for the past few years, you may have noticed the amount of logos on their splash screen continuing to increase. It has come to the point where when you want to play a Blu-ray movie you are forced to stare at these logos while it loads. Well that time is no more!

MissingRemote's very own Mikinho has developed a quick little application which allows you to remove ArcSoft's TMT3 default splash screen with a blank blue background.

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The app itself is very simple. Just download the file below and run it. Click Replace to remove the default logo, and then you can click Test to see it in action before exiting the application. It's literally that simple. If you changed your mind, you can simply click Revert and the splash screen will return as if you never did anything.

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Above is a screenshot of the application, and below is a picture of the after.

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We hope you have enjoyed this quick guide and application, brought to you by MissingRemote.com! As always, leave your comments/feedback/suggestion/complaint with us below, and remember...try this AT YOUR OWN RISK!!! We of course test and use everything we recommend, but we are not responsible for your system!

Jun 28 2010

Guide - Bitstreaming HDMI HD Audio Formats from your HTPC

HD Audio

The question has been posed more times than I can count, and part of the fault lies on the HDMI specification itself which took computer manufacturers seemingly forever to figure it out. The holy grail of getting Blu-ray from your HTPC to your home theater was always being able to bit stream HD audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. When HDMI devices first started appearing for computers, they were extremely crippled--often times they could not pass any audio natively, requiring an internal S/PDIF cable from the motherboard to the graphics card to get any audio to the audio video receiver (AVR).

Before we get too technical, let's setup a definition of terms we'll be using throughout this guide:

  • HTPC - Home Theater PC (which if you found this site, you probably already knew this)
  • DTS Master Audio (DTS-MA) - Lossless High Definition audio compression format used on some Blu-ray discs, capable of passing through 7.1 audio signals at a very high bit-rate. Wikipedia
  • Dolby True HD (THD) -  Dolby's lossless HD audio formats, very similar in features and specs to the above from DTS. Wikipedia
  • Linear Pulse Code Modulation (LPCM) -  Uncompressed lossless audio format also capable of transmitting 7.1. Just doesn't light up your receiver with the pretty DTS or Dolby logos.
  • Multichannel - More than two (stereo) channels of audio, usually refers to 5.1 or 7.1.
  • S/PDIF - Digital audio connector known as TOSLINK (optical S/PDIF) or coaxial audio connector (RCA), this is the method of connecting to your receiver to transmit up to 5.1 compressed audio or stereo LPCM.
  • Bit streaming - This is the process where the original audio stream is transmitted digitally in its original format to the AVR for decoding.
  • High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) - HDMI's copy protection scheme designed to eliminate the possibility of intercepting digital data midstream between the source to the display. 
  • Protected Audio Video Path (PAVP) - Security designed to protect the path of audio and video during playback of Blu-rays. Wikipedia

Okay, now that we have the terms defined, let's get on with some history. As receivers have continued to support more and more speakers, so too have the audio transmitting devices. The HDMI specification, once it hit its 1.3 version, brought about support for some higher bit-rate audio formats and increased the amount of channels supported to 7.1. This was exciting for all home theater users but came with some hassles due to the complexities behind HDMI's security requirements (HDCP). When HDMI devices were initially released for HTPCs, they only supported up to the 1.1 or 1.2 standard of HDMI. This meant that while they could easily pass the HD video signal through a receiver or display, it was severely limited in its audio capabilities.

Feb 16 2010

Guide - Migrating SageTV from XP to Windows 7 (64-bit)

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I have had 2 copies of Windows 7 lying around the house ever since it was released.  One version is Home Premium and the other is Professional.  I had been debating whether to go with a 32-bit or 64-bit install on my HTPC client and with some gentle nudges, I decided to take the plunge into the 64-bit pool. For those who aren't aware, retail copies of Windows 7 come with two DVDs and a single product key.  The key is good for a single install from either the 32-bit DVD or the 64-bit DVD.  In fact, you can even switch back and forth, deactivating one and then activating the other.  Kudos to Microsoft for this!

Finding myself with a day off, due to another major snowstorm here in the Northeast, I decided to give the Windows 7 upgrade a try on my HTPC.  This would involve not only upgrading the OS from one version to another, but a simultaneous change from 32-bit to 64-bit...  all while attempting to maintain my theater setup, which includes SageTV with SageMC, a USB-UIRT, a Harmony 880, and then there's Windows Home Server.  Keep in mind that because I have a client/server setup, I don't need to worry about SageTV "losing" my recordings or its wiz.bin database during this upgrade.  For me, all of that critical information is safe on my server (and backed up nightly).  However, if you do not fall into this group, SageTV has a great FAQ which covers just about every scenario.  So, will this adventure turn out to be a piece of cake or cruel and unusual punishment?  Actually, you might be surprised.  Read on to find out how this all turned out and whether I'm still happily married or moving in with Tiger Woods...

 

Feb 13 2010

Guide - A Basic Overview of GPU HD Video Processing

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CHARTS UPDATED January 7, 2011!

With all kinds of questions about what GPU can accelerate what codec? and how much acceleration does it offer? I've been working on helping to answer these questions in various revisions of this guide off and on since 2008...

Updated with Flash 10.1 and HDMI 1.4 information!

Nov 30 2009

Guide - Replacing the VFD in an Ahanix D4

I have an older Ahanix D4 case housing my main HTPC, one of the main reasons I bought this case over some of the completion was that it was one of the few full ATX cases with a parallel port (LPT) based Vacuum Florescent Display (VFD) at the time.  Recently the display started to fade and some pixels have gone missing while we can debate how useful a VFD is on a HTPC (I still love it BTW), I think we can all agree that if it’s there it should work.  Looking towards my next HTPC build, the reality that needing a motherboard with a built in LPT port drastically narrows the pool, where using a quality LPT card not only takes up valuable real estate but also costs about as much as a replacement display.  So I took a chance and picked up the nMEDIA PRO-LCD (rebranded VLS L.I.S MCE), which is USB based, instead of trying to find another LPT based VFD.

Nov 23 2009

Guide - Troubleshooting Standby

Proper standby support is an essential part of the HTPC experience, something that can help transform the “PC” experience into one much closer to “CE”. While it’s not great when the HTPC in the living room wakes up for “no reason”, when the one in the bedroom does it in the middle of the night – it can be a serious SAF problem. 

If you haven’t already read the MissingRemote guides “Configuring Standby on your HTPC ” and “Keeping your HTPC Awake ” this guide picks up where those left off. Some information will be repeated for completeness, but a basic knowledge of the topic will be assumed.

Nov 12 2009

Guide - Updated Guide: Compensating For Rectangular Pixels (1024x768 TVs)

This guide was originally posted for Windows Vista, but I think I've got the proper pieces here for it to work on Windows 7. Please let us know via the Comments button at the bottom if you have concerns/issues/feedback! As always, proceed at your own risk!

The problem is when you have a 16:9 display that has a typical 4:3 resolution. For example, my Pioneer 4280 has a 1024X768 native resolution To avoid having set Windows to 1360X768 and have the TV rescale it back (thus muddying the picture), I found that the following works to tell VMC that the display device has non-square pixels. I imagine that a similar setup would work for non-square pixel displays other then 1024X768.

  1. Set your desktop to 1024X768 and run Media Center
  2. Go to Configure Your TV or Monitor
  3. Go through the steps and choose 16:9.
  4. On the next screen, it will complain that you are running 1024x768 and yet you chose 16:9. It will ask you if you want to change your resolution. Say Yes.
  5. On the next screen, it lists various resolutions. Choose 1024x768. That is not a typo. Go ahead and choose it.
  6. When it asks for preview, go ahead and say Yes. If you don't do this, it may not work. It didn't for me.
  7. The screen should now change aspect ratios, but not resolution. In other words, text will stop looking stretched out. Say Yes to the question if you want to keep this resolution.

You should be set. Your resolution in VMC will stay at 1024x768, but Media Center will know it needs to compensate for the TV being 16:9.

The problem I kept having was that doing it this way is completely confusing. It is not a way anyone would guess. I actually got to this point by choosing 1360x768, then poking around at the registry and editing by hand. Armed with the knowledge of what this was doing, I went back and figured out how you are "supposed" to do it. 

 

Now, the only question I have left in my mind is if I should fiddle with the resulting registry settings.  [CHANGED IN WINDOWS7] It changed some settings under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Settings\DisplayService

PhysicalWidth=1024

PhysicalHeight=768

LogicalWidth=1365

LogicalHeight=768

I can change LogicalWidth to 16 and LogicalHeight to 9 and the results are pretty much identical to the above settings.  I wonder if there's any benefit at all to having one over the other.

Nov 09 2009

Guide - Installing Mythdora 10.21

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Mythdora 10.21 Installation Guide

It’s not scary, it’s easy.

 

 

 

 

 

There seems to be a misconception among HTPC users that Mythtv is scary to use because you need to run Linux and Mythtv needs a little configuration in many cases to get what you want out of it.  Well, hopefully this guide will illustrate exactly how easy it is to get Mythtv onto a system.  In addition, a follow-on guide will go through all of the configuration steps once Mythtv is loaded and another will show exactly how powerful Mythtv is because of its configurability.  This guide is not intended to be comprehensive should be enough to get just about anyone started.  Nearly every screen that you will run into should be illustrated here so there should be nothing that you haven’t already seen when you go through the installation process yourself.

Read on to see exactly how easy it can be to put Mythtv to work for you.

Getting Started

Starting the installation process is very simple.  The first thing that you need to do is go to the Mythtdora website and download the install media.  If you have a slow connection or just want official media, you can also spend a couple of bucks and they will send it to you on DVD.

 

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Mythdora boot menu

 

Once that has been done, insert the installation media and boot from it.  To start a new installation select Install or upgrade an existing system.  Alternatively, you can also select Auo-Install default system which will create a Mythdora installation using all of the default options.  In many cases, this is all that you need.  Feel free to examine the rest of this guide, and if you find that you do not need to adjust any of the settings then this will give you a quick installation with no user interaction necessary.  Mythdora includes Memtest as a boot option, allowing you to test your system memory prior to installation.

 

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Media test

 

Once the installer has started, the first thing that you will be asked is if you want to have your installation media tested.  If this is the first time that you have used this media then it might not be a bad idea to test just to make sure it’s good.  It does take a few minutes to complete but there is nothing more frustrating than spending a good deal of time getting everything configured just the way that you want only to have the installation bomb out at 90% due to a corrupted file on the disk.  The same is also true if you have used the media a lot and it has developed numerous scratches and nicks.

Setup Choices and Partitioning

 

 

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Mythdora welcome screen Choose your language
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Choose your keyboard layout
Pick a host and domain name

 

Once you get into the main installation portion, the first screen you see is the Mythdora welcoming screen, followed by a language selection screen and keyboard layout screen.  This is followed up with a screen asking you to choose a host and domain name.  The host name can be left as localhost if this is the only system on that domain but it is generally a good idea to choose a unique name for your system.  If you belong to a domain then enter that in place of localdomain.  If not then you can use the default domain.

 

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Select your timezone
Create a root password

 

In the next steps you must select your time zone and choose a root password. To select your time zone you can either move your mouse to the correct location on the map or select the closest major city from the dropdown menu. When choosing a root password make sure that it is something that you will remember because you will likely need to switch to the root (administrator/super user) user to utilize the super user privileges.

 


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Linux partition screen Partition layout
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Confirm partitioning
Set boot loader

 

This is the step that I think scares the most people away from Linux: Partitioning. Well guess what? It’s not that bad! For most users the default setup is all you need. One thing to say about this though, if you are not starting with a new drive, I.E. if you have already installed Windows on it or something, change the first dropdown option to Remove all partitions on selected drives and create default layout. By default you can only delete other Linux partitions so if you want to use a drive with a Windows partition on it you will need to change to this option.

Another thing to watch here is which drive(s) you are using for this installation. If you have multiple drives in your system and you have any data that you want to protect make sure that you deselect that drive in the section labeled Select the drive(s) to use for this installation. This causes the installer to only use the drives that you want for installation.

If desired, you can check the box labeled Review and modify partitioning layout. When you click next, that will bring up the second screen above. Here you can see exactly how your hard drive space will be used. The /boot partition contains the GRUB boot loader as well as the kernel and init scripts that you will be loading at boot time. The /swap partition is swap space, similar to a Windows pagefile. Next is the / partition which is the equivalent to a Windows C: drive. This is your root directory that everything else is relative to. Finally, Mythdora also creates a /storage directory which is intended to hold all of your Mythtv media. This is where the bulk of your hard drive space is put.

Once you are satisfied with the partition layout click next and confirm the changes. This is your last chance to back out before the new partition information is written to your hard drive.

Finally, you can select where to install your GRUB boot loader. If you have only one hard drive installed you can ignore this part. The boot loader will install onto your hard drive. However, if you have multiple drives installed, it is generally a good idea to make sure that the boot loader is loaded onto the same drive that contains your /boot partition.

Package Selection and Installation

 

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Base packages and Repo config

 

Once the drive has been formatted to your liking the next step is to select the packages that you wish to install. First you are given major categories to include specific packages that are installed by default. If you would like to customize what is being installed you can click the Customize Now radio button at the bottom. Additionally, if this system is attached to the internet you can also add additional repositories. The advantage of using the additional repositories is that you get the most up-to-date packages installed if any changes have been made since the distribution was released. The disadvantage is that you need to download the updated packages so the installation takes much longer. If you can set it up to run overnight or something this isn’t a bad option.

If you decide to use the extra repositories a window will popup to help configure your network interface. By default it will be configured to use DHCP, however due to the end nature of the system, it is a good idea to use a static IP address. The reason for this is that it is hard to connect to a system to watch a recording if the address changes every time it is powered on. If it is a static address you can always find it in the same spot.

 

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Mythdora packages
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More Mythdora packages
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Lots of Mythdora packages


If you choose to customize the packages you will see the screen shown above. On the left side of the screen there is a list of all the major categories of packages that need to be selected. These include the Desktop Environment, MythTV related, Hardware Support, Applications, Servers and Base System.

By default Mythdora uses XFCE as the Desktop Environment. Alternatives include Gnome and KDE. Once the Desktop Environment has been chosen next up is the Mythtv related packages. By default all packages are selected. For a first time user it is a good idea to leave the defaults selected.

If you are using an Nvidia chipset, under Additional Hardware Support highlight Video Output Drivers, click on the Optional packages button and check the box called xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-177.82-1.fc10.i386 (if you have opted to use the additional repositories you may see a different version here). Mythtv uses MySQL as the database for its system so make sure that the MySQL Database box is checked under Servers. In most cases nothing needs to be modified under Base System.

Once you have confirmed what you want installed, click the Next button. The installer will make sure that all of the dependent packages are installed for the packages that were selected. Once that is done the actual installation is started.

 

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Installation progress Time to reboot

 

The installation process will usually take around an hour to complete depending on which packages you have selected. If you opted to use any repositories for your installation, that may cause the process to take longer because the packages need to be downloaded as well as installed. The benefit to doing it that way is that your system will be up-to-date right from the start. Once the installation has completed it’s time to reboot the system and complete the last few steps.

Final OS Steps and Mythtv Choices

 

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Welcome screen License info
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Date/Time setup Hardware profile
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Hardware profile confirmation

   

The first screen that you see after Mythdora has booted for the first time is a welcome screen. After that you will see a screen showing license information that you are agreeing to when you click “Forward”. Next up is Date and Time configuration. If this box is connected to the internet, the easiest way to get your time set right is to use the NTP (Network Time Protocol) servers available to you. Done this way, an external server will make sure that your date and time are always correct so that you do not miss the start of any important shows. If you do not have network access there is a Date & Time tab that can be used to manually set the information. Once that has been configured you have the option to anonymously send your hardware information to the Fedora Project so that they can know what hardware people are using and what needs to be supported. If you opt out you will see a popup window asking you to reconsider.

 

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Mythtv Setup
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Mythtv configuration

 

This last step is where all of the Mythtv specific fun starts. Mythdora uses a web interface for the configuration setup.

The first choice that you need to make is what type of configuration this box will be. Your options are A Master Backend with Frontend, A Slave Backend with Frontend, A Master Backend w/o Frontend, A Slave Backend w/o Frontend, or A Frontend Only.

Now seems like a good time to describe how Mythtv is arranged. Mythtv works in a client/server configuration. The server is called a Backend and the client is called a Frontend. The Backend contains your TV tuners, the large hard drives to record onto, and usually the database. The Frontend is your playback system. Mythtv is setup so that you can have both types of configurations on one system or you can share out the roles between multiple systems. Mythtv also allows multiple Backends to talk to each other as well as to all of the Frontends. Mythtv requires you to have at least one Master Backend. The difference between a Master Backend and a Slave Backend is that the Master Backend usually also contains the MySQL database that Mythtv uses as well as controls all of the Slave Backends as far as when various tuners are used for scheduled recordings and live TV.

If you intend to have one system do everything then the correct choice here would be A Master Backend with Frontend. If you already have a Backend setup elsewhere and this system will be used only for playback then the option to select is A Frontend Only.

 

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Mythtv setup

 

The next step in the process is to choose a username and password for your Mythtv user. The default username and password is mythtv and mythtv. It is a good idea to at least change the password to something else, especially if your box is accessible from the internet. The last thing you want is for someone to hack into it using the default username and password and delete your recordings or schedule random stuff. It might not be likely to happen but it still sucks if it did.

Next you have the option to have Mythtv automatically launched at startup. You can have it either launch the Frontend, MythWelcome or a regular desktop. If this is a dedicated HTPC I would recommend launching the Frontend.

Following this you get to select which modules of Mythtv you want to install. By default all components are checked.

  • MythArchive is used for burning your shows to DVD or for ripping DVDs to your system
  • Mythweb is the Mythtv web interface
  • MythFlix is a Netflix interface
  • MythGallery is a picture gallery
  • MythGame is a plugin for playing old NES, SNES, etc ROM images using emulators
  • MythMovies is a plugin that lists what’s playing at the local movie theaters, including showtimes
  • MythMusic is the music interface for Mythtv
  • MythNews is a news reader for Mythtv
  • MythPhone is an interface to your phone line that can pop up notifications when people call (I believe that this no longer exists in Mythtv 0.22)
  • MythVideo is the plugin that is used to play back your recordings and other movies that are available on your system
  • MythWeather is a Weather interface for Mythtv displaying your local forcast
  • MythZoneMinder is a frontend for ZoneMinder which is a security camera interface

If you’re not sure which parts you will need it certainly won’t hurt anything to leave them all checked. If you know that there are some that you will not be using, like MythPhone in most cases, feel free to uncheck the box to save a bit of space on your hard drive.

 

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More setup

 

Once you’ve decided which parts of Mythtv to install, the next step is to configure your IR devices, if any. The first step is to choose which remote you are using. There is a dropdown menu with a fairly extensive selection. If your remote is not listed, all is not lost. You can configure it later although that is outside the scope of this document. Once you have selected your remote you can optionally choose an IR module/receiver if you are not using the one that comes with your remote. If you are using an IR blaster and STB there are dropdown menus for selecting those as well.

The next section is for choosing a MythWeb username and password if you decided to install the MythWeb plugin. The MythWeb interface defaults to port 80 although you can select a different port if desired.

 

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Yet more setup

 

The last step on this page is configuring the network shares. If you wish to share a directory from your Backend onto a Windows network you will need to enter the username and password of the user that will be accessing the drive. If you wish to share a directory from your Backend with a Linux system then you need to enter the IP address(es) of the systems you want to share with.

 

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Even more setup
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Finished

 

Once the initial configuration steps have been completed Mythdora brings up a screen letting you know that mythtv-setup will be run and how to complete the Backend setup. Click “Finish” to complete the initial configuration and you will be greeted with the Mythtv-Setup screen. From here on in the configuration follows any other Mythtv setup. Those details will be covered shortly in another guide here at MissingRemote.com.

 

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Mythtv

 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please leave them in our discussion thread.

Oct 22 2009

Guide - Enable Commercial Skipping on Windows 7...and even CableCard

When the announcement came that ATI would be releasing a new firmware for its cable card devices which would properly support the Copy Freely protections of shows, I got excited. For the past 2 years, I have been a dedicated cable card user within my Vista Media Center to enjoy high definition recordings via Comcast, even though it meant ditching my favorite (and I do mean favorite) plugin, DVRMSToolbox, commonly referred to as DTB. Seeing people who have used the firmware already got me thinking happy thoughts...

You see, DTB is what gave me the magical power to analyze television recordings, find the commercials, and then skip instantly past them when I watched. And with ShowAnalyzer, I was even able to start this process while the recording was still going on! The original firmwares for the ATI tuners however had a copy protection flag on all recordings--whether the broadcaster flagged the show or not--which prevented the ShowAnalyzer from being able to scan the file. According to reports, with this new firmware anything NOT flagged as Copy Protected should be able to be scanned and thus allow me to use DTB and ShowAnalyzer once again!

Since it has been several years since I used the applications and much has changed, I decided to write up a little guide for those of you new to the scene (or maybe you just forgot as I did). With the news that cable card OEM restrictions will soon be dropped, I imagine there will be a lot more of you cable card users out there to take advantage. 

Now just as a preface, this new upcoming firmware does NOT mean that ALL of your television recordings will work with this. This will strictly work for recordings which were not flagged as "Copy Protected" by the broadcaster. How can you tell such a thing you may ask?  

See the screenshots below:

 DTB_TV_unProtectedTV-thumb.JPG  DTB_TV_ProtectedTV-thumb.JPG
Show with NO COPY PROTECTION, WILL Work
Show WITH Copy Protection that won't work

Continue onward for the full guide. I separated it into a few sections to make it easier to follow and keep track of where you are. 

Sep 28 2009

Guide - Getting Lossless Audio off the PC

While video quality is important, I find that it's the audio that really transforms a good movie into an immersive experience.  As challenging as it can be to get flawless video playback working on the HTPC, enabling proper lossless multi-channel audio playback adds another layer of difficultly into the mix.  In this guide we will discuss the different options available for getting full fidelity HD audio off your PC and into the Audio/Video receiver (AVR).

As you've probably guessed the crux of this guide is about converting compressed lossless audio formats into LPCM (Linear Pulse Code Modulation) for output over the HDMI or analog connections to an AVR.  So if your PC isn't setup to support one of these connections stop reading and fix it; take your time, we'll be here when you're done.  Also if you're using an application like Power DVD or Total Media Theater for all your media needs, while you probably need to reexamine that choice (unless the player is being launched per media item from another application like Media Center or Sage), you've already covered.  Both applications support lossless multi-channel LPCM output without much effort, just configure the audio settings to 6 or 8 channel (depending on your setup) and it's done. 

Sep 21 2009

Guide - Installing Ffdshow Software

AntiPack was intended as a starting point in that it only includes high quality hardware accelerated codecs for the most popular A/V formats, but does not support everything.  If you need more, ffdshow should be next on your list.  It provides the most full featured software video and audio decoder of any OSS or free DirectShow filter; because of this when installed and configured properly it is an excellent complement to what we started earlier.  For me, the most important feature that ffdshow provides that isn't found anywhere else is DTS-MA support.  While only core (i.e. DTS) is supported because the underlying libdts/libca does not yet support full MA, ffdshow will connect to splitters that present the proper DTS-MA media type (like the beta SageTV demuxer) without needing to transcode or recontainer the content prior to playback.

Aug 27 2009

Guide - HTPC System Guide: High End

It's been quite a while since we released a system guide with our recommendations and price analysis on building your very own Home Theater PC, so we figured now is as good a time as any. We'll start with the high end and next week will release the low end system. While some websites or magazines go pretty absorbant with the high end systems, we wanted to be a bit realistic here, so what you see is a combination of parts aimed at getting you a pretty beefy system all for under $2000. It's funny when I think back to my very first PC, an Austin PC with a 486 chip which cost well over $2,000....that same money buys you a lot more system these days.

 

Aug 24 2009

Guide - Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid with your HTPC Build

Remember the feeling you had when you would pack for a nice long vacation, only to arrive at the hotel and realize you forgot your toothbrush? That feeling can be 100 times as bad when it comes to building out a Home Theater PC (HTPC) where components cost a lot more than $3, not to mention the effort involved with each step.

With the help of the gang at MissingRemote.com, we have compiled a list of the top 10 mistakes people most commonly make during their build process of an HTPC. I can't stress that this applies for novice users as well as experts, as its usually the obvious things that are forgotten that cause the most hassle!

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1. Buying a case that doesn't fit your needs

The chassis is one of the most important components of a build, not just stylistically but also functionally. Go to small with a chassis and you may not be able to use that 2nd hard drive, or fit that full size ATX motherboard. If the chassis measurements are too deep, then you have a gorgeous case that's hanging out the back because your entertainment shelf is only 18" deep and the chassis is 20"!

Aug 18 2009

Guide - Keeping your HTPC Awake

Yesterday when we discussed how to make your HTPC use S3 standby I pointed out that my preference is use fairly aggressive idle timers on my client and server PCs, the downside to this approach is that it can cause some undesirable side effects.  Today's topic is how to workaround some interesting design shortcommings in two popular applications to keep the PCs awake when you want.

Media Center:

One of the more frustrating moments in my Vista Media Center experience was the first time the PC when to standby 5 seconds after a show finished playing.  As it turns out one of the features (and yes I was able to confirm that this behavior is "by design") is that VMC does not reset the display/system idle timers during playback.  So if for example you watch a 60 minute show without interacting with the PC (and why would you if DTB is doing it's job) and the system is configured to standby after 30 minutes of inactivity the machine almost immediately turns the display off and goes into standby.

Aug 16 2009

Guide - Configuring Standby on your HTPC

My main HTPC uses around 130 watts at idle, 7 watts in standby (S3), and 4 in hibernate (S4) so the case for having it take a nap whenever it can is quite clear.  There was a time when getting S3 standby working properly was a black art involving careful motherboard and device selection, regsitry hacks, and some pixie dust.  When Vista came out and even low-end motherboards included full standby support all of that changed; setting up your PC to properly take a nap, and wake up when you need it, is something anyone with a few minutes can do.

Aug 11 2009

Guide - Enabling Multi-Channel for Other Audio Formats

Dolby Digital  

Enabling Multi-Channel Audio for Other Audio Formats

If you're fortunate enough to have a PC with multi-channel LPCM output enabling full fidelity audio output is easy (and there's not much point in reading the rest of this) but for those using a SPDIF or stereo only HDMI connection getting multi-channel audio working can be challenging.  This guide intends to explain two different options and how to configure each to attain this goal.

Aug 10 2009

Guide - Unlock Hidden Startup Switches for Windows7 and make MCE Start Your Way

Did you know that there are more options to launching Windows Media Center in Windows 7 than just arriving at the start menu? Microsoft has tossed in a bunch of hidden switches (not sure why they're called switches) that fellow Media Center MVP and MissingRemote contributor Andrew Cherry has discovered and passed along.

The purpose of these is simple--say you absolutely hate the new startup sound and animation that the new Media Center loads with (like myself). Changing the way ehshell launches (ehshell.exe is the program name for Windows Media Center) can allow you to disable it upon startup.

startupanimation.jpg

Here's the full list we were able to find:

 /nostartupanimation

  - stops the startup sound and Windows Media Center logo "pebble" going off into the distance

 /noshutdownui  - removes the "shutdown" item from the tasks menu
 /mediamode   - starts in media only mode (no close/minimize/maximize options in top right corner)
 /widescreen   - start in widescreen mode, even on 4:3 display (windowed only)
 /nochrome
 - display windowed mode Media Center but without the window chrome
 /playallmusic  - plays all your music instantly
 /playfavmusic  - plays all your favorite music
 /playfavslideshow  - plays your favorite slideshows only
 /playfavslideshowwithmusic  - plays your favorite slideshow with music
 /playslideshow  - plays all slideshows

 /playslideshowwithmusic

 - plays all slideshows with music
 /screensaver
  - starts the Media Center screensaver
 /configuress 
  - starts Media Center at the "configure screensaver" screen

 

EDIT 8/12: If you want to start up Media Center in LiveTV, use the following (Thanks to our forum member phenomenae):

%windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe "/mcesuperbar://tv?live=true" 

 

How to apply?

Applying the switches is simple. You would find the Media Center shortcut under Start > All Programs > Windows Media Center, and right click on it. Select properties. Under "target" you will see "%windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe". Simply add the switches you wish Media Center to start with and hit OK.

For example, if your shortcut looked like the following:

%windir%\Ehome\Ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /noshutdownui /mediamode

Now Media Center starts up in fullscreen without the animation, and already in media mode (no close button), and no “shutdown” icon on the tasks menu.

Jul 23 2009

Guide - How to Decrypt and Rip your Blu-ray Movies

In looking over the guides we have on this site, it came to my attention that sometimes we take for granted the technical pieces we know and overlook some critical items which would benefit readers of MissingRemote.com. I happened to already have written an article on this, so it seemed to make sense to update and post here for your benefits.

As more and more Movie Manager software applications are developed it increases the necessity to have your movies stored on your system/server. Sure there's the option on MyMovies to have "offline" discs in your collection, but it's a pretty big inconvenience to find the movie you want to watch, only to be told you have to get up and go find the disc and put it in your system. Indeed, most users who utilize these movie managers will tell you that having the movies stored on a hard drive is the optimal configuration for a number of reasons. You have instant access to any movie from any HTPC or Extender connected to your network, and you can configure your own backup strategy to never have to replace a movie (read: No more scratched discs!).

With all that being said, let me preface this article by saying that the legality of this varies based on who you ask and where you are located, so proceed at your own risk. MissingRemote is not liable for anything you may do as a result of this guide...we merely want to help those that are capable of doing so. With that in mind, click Read More to continue reading...

 

Jul 22 2009

Guide - How to Enable Concurrent Sessions in Windows 7 RTM

In honor of Windows7 hitting the big RTM (release to manufacturing) milestone, I figured it best to start fresh with this Guide and archive the old one . The process below has been confirmed working with the release version Windows7 Ultimate AND Professional, x86 & X64 build 7600.16385. Sorry Home Premium folks, nothing for you yet as RDP is not included in that version...at least until someone figures it out.

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 toRemote Desktop into a system that someone else is on, under a differentuser account, and access the system without kicking the user off. I,for example, use the feature to have MCE running on my Television, andthen I remote into my main user account to access all my files withoutinterrupting my MCE session. All kudos go out to the original folks at WinMatrix forums (ShipIt, Pinobigbird, untermensch & Cocoa) who posted the instructions and files to edit the files as needed to work properly. Without them we would never have gotten this far!

userscreensmall.jpg

 Continue Reading...

May 31 2009

Guide - Using EventGhost to Integrate a 3rd Party App with Your Front End

 

EventGhost Logo

Most people in the HTPC community have a preferred media center application that handles 80% to 90% of the capabilities desired. Unfortunately, integrating an outside application to add functionality to your main front end and get to 100% seamless integration is not always easy. This is where automation tools can help. Automation tools are a class of software applications that can interperet inputs from many different sources, and then pass commands along to many other devices and applications. Let's look at how we can use automation tools to perfect the HTPC experience.

Girder is probably the most well known automation tool and it is well documented, with a large support community but runs $50 for the standard version. In hopes of avoiding the cost of Girder, I am going to look at using EventGhost (free as in beer) to smoothly integrate Blu-ray playback software with my media center front end. The goal is to be able to perform all actions with my remote control and seamlessly switch back and forth between applications, the same as if the third party application was integrated directly with the media center software. This write-up will use SageTV and Cyberlink PowerDVD 9 for the demonstartion, but hopefully the article will demonstrate how to do the same for any other media center front end and third party application. As I develop more EventGhost control files I will add them to the guide, giving you a starting point for your own integration.

Transition

 

May 28 2009

Guide - How to Integrate Hulu Desktop to Media Center

UPDATE 8/20/2009: This guide has been confirmed working on Windows 7 and will place the shortcut to Hulu in your Extras Library. Click the Comments post for user tips on getting the icon on your start menu.

 

If this article sounds familiar, it's because I have previously written a similar article on integrating Boxee into Media Center . With the announcement of Hulu Desktop, a lot of people will be interested in merging their Media Center world with this new application.

This is by no means the only way to do this, but it gives you ultimate control. If you want a simple drag and drop experience, I would highly recommend MC Menu Mender which allows you to create custom entry points within Media Center.

 

hulumce.jpg

 

As with last time, there are some detailed instructions you should follow, but this time there is a bit more tweaking necessary, so please pay attention. ALSO, I have 2 icons enclosed in the attached ZIP--one is a logo with transparent background, and the other (default) is the one shown above with the Black. If you prefer the clear one, simply delete the "icon.png" and rename the "iconwhite.png" to it.

Note, the following steps assume you installed into the default Hulu directory, which is C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop. If you changed the directory, simply replace the directories in the ini and xml files.

  1. Download the file attached below (login required)
  2. Unzip the folder into your Hulu directory (which default is C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\)
  3. The files should result in a HuluMCE folder (C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\HuluMCE).
  4. IMPORTANT STEP: Browse to the above HuluMCE folder, and Right Click on the HuluMCEreg.xml file and select EDIT
    1. Replace the username "Mike" from the following line with YOUR USERNAME:  imageUrl="C:\Users\Mike\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\HuluMCE\icon.png"
  5. Still in the above folder, right click on the InstallHulu.cmd and select Run as Administrator
  6. A dialog box will appear with the message Success 
  7. Close all your windows, launch Media Center with your remote, and the shortcut for Hulu Desktop will appear under the TV+Movies row, as well as in the Program Library
*NOTE: If you prefer to have the shortcut appear in the TV+Movies row, you will need to edit the HuluMCEreg.xml file (Right click > Edit). On the line which says  <category category="Services\TV"/>, replace TV with Pictures. (eg., <category category="Services\Pictures"/> You can visit the following MSDN Webpage for a full list of category entrypoints you can launch from.

And that's all! If you want to remove the icons, simply Run the "UninstallHulu.cmd" as Administrator and then re-launch MCE.

 

EDIT 5/28: Another option for you MCE users, Yaggs (creator of Secondrun.tv) has created an app to basically do all the above legwork. Check it out at his website

 

Feb 05 2009

Guide - Black Magic Antennas

With the analog to digital conversion coming in one month, many people who generally get most of their TV from Over The Air sources tend to question if their current antenna setup will be able to receive the new digital broadcasts.  Today we will be demystifying the Black Magic that is antennas and how they work.

 

antenna.jpg
Jan 25 2009

Guide - How-To: Integrate BoxeeTV for Windows into Vista Media Center

With the introduction of BoxeeTV for Windows we now have another very potent player in the home theater world. But what is a current Vista Media Center user to do--on the one hand, they use Media Center for all their live and recorded TV...but on the other, they would love to be able to access all the wonderful internet television portals which Boxee brings to the 10'. The answer for me was simple--use both! With BoxeeTV integrated, I could still use Media Center to watch LiveTV and schedule recordings, but then if I miss a recording or simply want to play around the plethora of internet portals, Boxee would allow me to do, all with a single remote.

With some help from this blog , the steps walk through how to register an application for access from within Vista Windows Media Center. What this allows is using Media Center as my main central home theater application, but then easily launch BoxeeTV from my remote from within Media Center. Alternatively, a user in the Boxee forums also mentioned some success using MC Menu Mender to create the entry point that way. Neither of these were acceptable solutions for me however.

Digg It

mce-after-install.jpg

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