Blogs

Jul 20 2014

Blog - The HTPC and why it’s worth the effort

The HTPC (home theater PC) is a great idea and one that is truly close to my heart. Many of you who regularly visit Missing Remote know what an HTPC is. For those that don’t, it is basically an entertainment center powered by a computer. Some have TV and DVR capabilities and some people choose not to have those capabilities and would rather go with a cable box. Not me, I love the TV capabilities in my HTPC. Back in 2002, I started messing around with analog TV tuners that could record cable programming directly on a PC. Being a sports and music enthusiast I could clearly see the benefits of being able to record a show that you know will never be released on video, and be able to archive it forever on a hard drive or DVD. I still have those recordings today and watch them from time to time. Back then, I was not aware of a DVR or PVR mainstream software. TiVo had come out and I thought it was pretty cool; what I didn’t like was the fees required to keep paying for the guide data and their service in addition to the hardware purchase price. My curiosity built when I saw some TV tuners coming with trial versions of a software that could do similar tasks as a TiVo and then you could later buy that software for a one time price. Those worked well and I was surprised and excited which had me building my first “HTPC” system.

Jun 28 2014

Blog - Aereo’s Flaw was Hubris

Aereo

The recent SCOTUS ruling making the service Aereo provides illegal was disappointing, but not surprising given the stakes. I was discussing this with a friend who pointed out that “The micro-antennas didn’t fool anyone, it’s the same as cable tv”. Which makes an incredibly valid point because it draws focus to what is the real problem with Aereo -- hubris.

Jan 17 2014

Blog - Questioning the Badge

This year at CES instead of the traditional badges with a barcode, we got fancy NFC enabled ones. I did some playing with it at the show, but didn’t really have the time to look to see what was actually encoded on it. With a better set of tools, and a bit more time, curiosity got the best of me so I wrote a quick app to dump and decode the content.

Jan 07 2014

Blog - Missing Remote @CES2014

We try to Tweet cool things as we find them, and don't always have time to do a full write up immediately. For those of you who don't use Twitter I've embedded the stream below.

 

Dec 08 2013

Blog - SageTV: Past, Present, and Still Future?

Over two years ago SageTV announced that it was acquired by Google 6-18-2011 at 4:57pm to be exact. Initially I didn’t know what to make of it. Look, I love Google, Android and many of their products, so I was partly excited when I heard. Perhaps SageTV can now support CableCard and will have the financial viability to compete with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center on their financial level. Then I clicked on the SageTV store later that day and found it was shut down immediately, leaving an ominous feeling in my stomach.

     At the time all of this happened, I had just purchased a Ceton CableCard because the Hauppauge HD PVR reliability (or lack thereof) had been an issue and impacted my usage of SageTV. When using the Ceton Cablecard, I loved it, however I was restricted to using Windows 7 Media Center (WMC) because SageTV did not support CableCard. I had previously purchased two SageTV server licenses and 3 HD200 extenders and absolutely loved the way the extenders worked. I had to make the switch from SageTV because I am a sports fan--seeing live TV in HD for sporting events on ESPN and SunSports was a must. Another factor was, considering the way things were closed down at SageTV and the announcement, that the guide data was going to expire in January of 2013 rendering the TV capabilities useless. So, I sold my 3 HD200’s for a very modest price and figured I would cut my losses. What a mistake that ended up being.

Oct 16 2013

Blog - Reintroduction: Wait, you have what!?!

While I'm reintroducing myself to a digital home, allow myself to introduce… myself.

I can trace the tech in me back to my childhood - I now understand why my parents gave me Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Shape-O Toy, and Rubik's Cube (I guess it could have been worse, and I'm thankful, at least my parents loved me enough to let me pick out my own Pet Rock, instead of surprising me with one). While none of them are truly tech toys, they fostered my creativity, cognitive functions and problem solving skills.

Oct 15 2013

Blog - My Reintroduction to a Digital Home

I've spent the past few years under a (digital) rock with limited space and opportunity to develop, create and maintain a digital home ecosystem. I've focused more on my trade than my entertainment, and now it shows as I'm reintroducing myself to the ideas and concepts of a digital home.

Many of you don't know me, so here's a brief background of why you may become dumber from having read what I have to say…

Mike and I go back, both personally and professionally, over a decade. We met through Craigslist (Casual Encounters) and explored the world of HTPC's together for a few years before we each moved on. A few years later, I was fortunate enough to become a Microsoft MVP for Windows Media Center and worked for one of the largest semiconductor companies in the world, providing a bridge between the Windows Media Center community and the product managers and engineers I worked with daily. I, literally, had my hands in HTPC's every day and shared my knowledge and experiences with others (since I could afford to make mistakes others couldn't).

Fast forward half a decade and a dramatic sob story not even fitting for a Ron Howard script, I return to a once familiar scene, rebuilding an ecosystem fit for my digital life and those around me.

So, for now, this space will be my reintroduction to a digital home…

Sep 29 2013

Blog - Pants

As a recent [quasi-]immigrant to the UK I've enjoyed learning the differences between American and British culture. Sometimes these gaps are obvious, making it possible to clearly discern where American expectations are inconsistent with the norms of this society and other times more subtle where our shared language doesn't equate to a shared lexicon (e.g. pants vs. trousers). In most cases a bit of time, or some help from a translator, sorts the confusion but yesterday I had an incredibility bizarre interaction with Virgin Media which, after initial assessment, it occurred to me that perhaps this was just another thing that I don't understand. My hope is that you can help me classify the experience.

Sep 17 2013

Blog - An Experience with HDMI Handshake Issues

If you have an HTPC, many of you may have experienced a problem with no picture or sound with your Home Theater setup connected through an HDMI cable at one time or another. This article is to cover some of the nuances that can come with them along with possible solutions as well as open up a discussion for better solutions. Many of you already know the many advantages of the HDMI cable and what a great piece of technology it is. As a recap, it allows one to simplify an audio and video setup for a home entertainment center by using one cable compared to several. The HDMI cable will also maximize the performance of your home entertainment systems by passing through the streams of DTS HD Master and Dolby True HD lossless audio as well as having the ability to send 3-D video to a 3D capable TV. In addition, the HDMI cable provides ARC or Audio Return Channel support which allows components to talk to each other and transfer audio without any additional cables. That being said, along with newer technology sometimes come new problems in the HTPC (home theater PC) world.

Jul 03 2013

Blog - Mystery Stash of SageTV HD300s Located and Going to be Sold @ $150

If you're trying to squeeze a bit more life out of your SageTV install this could be just the news you're looking for. Don't wait too long though, I'm sure this stash will sell out quickly.

Howdy all.

It is my pleasure to inform you that there will be a limited quantity of HD300s that will go on sale soon. Specifically, a few hundred of them.

These were extra units that the manufacturer produced a few years back when we were ordering them for SageTV. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear this news from them. These are all brand new in the box, complete units.

The way this is being handled is a friend of mine is doing all the work relating to acquiring and selling these units. We have agreed that they must be sold at the original retail price of $150 (plus shipping).

...

SageTV Forums

 

Jun 24 2013

Blog - Balancing the Tech In Your Home and the Ones You Love

For many techies that have been doing electronics or HTPC’s (Home Theater PC’s) for a while, you have definitely seen this phrase in forums and blogs. So what is the WAF or GAF? If you’re a bit new to the HTPC world, the acronym stands for “Wife Acceptance Factor” or “Girlfriend Acceptance Factor”. Ah, rings a bell now doesn’t it? Basically with all of the technical things that comes with an HTPC or other electronic projects in your house, the female genre in particular want to just have it work without fiddling around. Now in fairness, I am not trying to gender bash in anyway, so please hold your remarks in your e-mails and responses until you finish reading the article.Smile There are many men in this category as well, and I have seen many women far more apt and accomplished at handling the technical nuances of these projects, hence the GAF can be called the “Guy Acceptance Factor.”- Hopefully that will smooth out any ill feelings. J

The significance is, if your other half is not able to use an HTPC or other project that you have in your household with minimal trouble, it can make your life miserable as well as theirs, and your project won’t be accepted. That can cause all of your hard work to go down the drain, and you won’t have those cool advantages of an HTPC or other projects to enjoy and show off. Here are some tips to help your significant others..

Jun 03 2013

Blog - Ceton Echo vs Microsoft Xbox 360...A Blogger's Perspective

Since the Ceton Echo came out last November, there has been a lot of comparison and pricing justification to see if it is a better alternative than the Xbox360 or previous extenders. Through my experience with both in the last 4 months, I would like to give you my experience of the two from a consumer point of view. I myself already owned the Xbox 360 and it was O-K. I had a previous SageTV HD 200 extender and that was and still is the best extender I had ever used. My reasons for buying the Echo was to have a better user experience, to have a second extender and to have the possibility of Netflix and other streaming video apps in one device. Yes, their proposed future technology was an influence. If it worked well enough, I wanted to take my HTPC box, put it somewhere in the house that was out of sight and out of mind and have it all be ran by extenders. My set-up currently includes a gutted Acer computer sitting in an Nmedia box that has an AMD Athlon dual core 3.2 processor, 4 gigs DDR2 ram, Nvidia GT430, InfiniTV4 PCI, LG blu-ray/HD-DVD drive with a clean Windows 7 install 32 bit. Everything is wired directly to the LAN with CAT 5 or higher through a Verizon Fios Gigabite router using 50/25 gbps.

First off, my needs for a true media center extender involves TV tuner cards with DVR ability with the addition of being able to stream your movies, music, pictures and videos. Now, the reason that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the Xbox-360 was that it can be a bit sluggish. It did not play main stream media such as VIDEO_TS, MKV’s and other similar containers.  It wouldn’t fast forward or rewind unless it is in a Windows Media format and I would have to pay $60 a year for a Live Gold membership so that I can watch YouTube, Netflix or VUDU on it.

May 30 2013

Blog - Phoenix 2 for Sage TV Now Available!

While SageTV may have been acquired by Google, this has not put much of a damper on a very active user development community. New tools and plugins are still being released for SageTV all the time. The latest new release is Phoenix 2, a sleek, streamlined, and very responsive new user interface that takes advantage of the existing metadata and fan art features provided by the Phoenix APIs while still allowing the ability to build custom content libraries using your own filters.

Phoenix Landing Zone

Mar 07 2013

Blog - Quick Look at Standout Designs Haven 72" TV Stand

Over the holidays, my wife and I purchased our first home and one of the first things that we realized was that we would need a new tv stand because of the awkward location that our tv would be in. For quite a while, I have had my eye on Standout Designs. I just never had the exuse I needed to buy one of their stands until now. 

Yes - I know. I'm horrible at lighting a shot taken with my iPhone. I couldn't figure out how to get a good picture with light coming in behind the tv. I told you it was an awkward place to put it.

Over the holidays we ordered their free wood samples and found one that was the perfect match for our other furniture. Then it was a couple of week wait for the stand to arrive. 

Which it did. On a giant truck. I was very happy to have splurged on the lift gate shipping option. The tv stand is heavy. Very, very, heavy. This is why you hire movers kind of heavy. Helping lift it off a 55' trailer would have been a bit much. If you have stairs, you will definitely want the white glove option.

Unpacking went smoothly. Everything was in great shape. Here's a picture of the stand from the back.

You can see the nice large fans. They spin extremely slowly so that you can't hear them and do a nice job of venting heat from the stand. There's a temperture sensor built in so that you can have them auto on/off or just switch them to on/off all the time.

Jan 03 2013

Blog - DMZ + HSS CES Meetup

We'll have some boots on the ground at this CES 2013, if you'll be there too make sure to stop by the DMZ + HSS CES 2013 Meetup. I will be.

 We’ll be meeting in the Marriott Courtyard Bistro lounge at the Courtyard hotel immediately across the street from the convention center. If you’ve attended CES before, you know what a hassle it is to grab transportation once the show floor closes. So skip the mayhem and spend an hour or so with Dave McCabe, Josh, and Richard. We’ll be less than a 10 minute walk when you leave the convention center.

DMZ

Dec 31 2012

Blog - 2012: Looking Backwards and Forward

Well, it's that time again, 2012 is almost completely behind us. As with every year, there is a lot that's happened in the home theater world, some good, some not so good. We'd like to take a moment to reflect upon everything that happened and narrow down some of our favorites--what did we love most, what disappointed us most, and for 2013 what are we looking forward to. Hope you enjoy!

2012 Things We Loved 
  • Ceton Echo & Ceton Companion
    4 Watts and a Media Center Extender that will actually be supported. Frequent updates continue to make the experience better & better.
    • "having a solid media center platform that wouldn't require me to run a dedicated HTPC and have to support it day in and day out."
    • "I love the ability to quickly scan for new show premieres and manage my Windows Media Center using the Ceton Companion wherever I am."
  • Cases, Cases, Cases
    It's been a great year for HTPC chassis, from tiny to huge, there has been passive low profile cases from Streacom and Wesena, and then Fractal Design and Lian Li have made some great larger cases to suit your needs. For the HTPC being dead, there sure are a lot of options to build your own!
  • Dish Hopper 
    It would take A LOT to get me to give up the convenience of CableCARD + HTPC, but the Hopper is a step in the right direction. Not only because it provides a decent amount of storage, but also because it's the first mainstream DVR solution that makes ads optional - something that we've enjoyed for years. Of course the studios objected, so litigation is pending, but it's nice to see some MSO validation for something so critical to how my family consumes TV.
  • Rasberry Pi
    This diminutive DIY computer has stirred up a ton of interest in the maker community and among hobbyist developers. The Raspberry Pi has been pressed into service for arcade cabinets, custom routers, and even a supercomputer, but one of the most exciting applications has been to turn the Raspberry Pi into an XBMC-based media streamers. The next version of XBMC will come with official Raspberry Pi support, and with projects such as Xbian, Raspmc, and OpenELEC all in development to provide a turnkey XBMC solution, a fully-capable XBMC streamer can be had for the price of a Roku.
  • Home Automation Products
    "Growth in affordable, simple and low-power home automation products that can be controlled from any computing or mobile device."

 

2012 Disappointment
Nov 10 2012

Blog - How-To: Setup Symlinks for your Parallels Virtuals

Hi all, I thought I would start a series of off-topic random blogs.  If you don't like off-topic content sorry, but feel free to ignore :).  I also apologize for typos, grammar, etc...these are quick 5 minute blogs.

A little background...lately I do the bulk of my development on a MacBook or MacMini. It offers the best of all worlds, at least in my humble opinion. Very stable hardware, a stable operating system, a good collection of free or cheap essential software (Adium, iTerm2, FreeRDP, HomebrewGrowl, Sublime Text 2) along with useful native applications like Mail. I digress, my essential software may be a different post.

I do the majority of my work using Sublime Text 2 (even in Windows using MSBUILD in lieu of VS.NET) and iTerm2 but I also need access to Windows 7, Windows 8 and Fedora 17 for different builds. While I have different build slaves running on my Hyper-V 2012 server I also use Parallels Desktop for Mac so I can be self contained. This is great but a few tweaks can really make it a powerful yet simple development environment, and that brings me to the point of this blog post.

Using symlinks, both in Windows and Linux, you can simplify management of common config files like .gitconfig, .ssh, .bash_profile, etc. Parallels does a lot of the work for you so we'll start with that. If you haven't already, install "Parallels Tools" on your virtual machines. You can do that from the Virtual Machine menu.

Parallels Tools

Aug 28 2012

Blog - ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 - Refresh Rate Issues

ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 Refresh Rate IssuesWe lauded ArcSoft when it added automatic refresh rate switching to a beta version of TotalMedia 5 as they moved us closer to the standalone player experience, and while the feature has been fleshed out significantly since then (it's optional now) there's one thing that they've never really gotten completely right with the implementation - the frequency selected for 24p content. I don't want to get too far into the weeds (those unfamiliar with 24p should start here) so we'll just stipulate that almost all Blu-ray sourced content, including 3D, is actually 23.976 frames per second (FPS) and players should therefore select 23Hz for proper output from a HTPC. The problem here is that in the original implementation ArcSoft made the newb [but completely understandable, having done it myself back in the day :)] mistake of tying 24p to 24Hz when selecting the refresh rate in the original implementation. Later realizing the mistake, an INI setting was introduced to correct the behavior, but unfortunately the engine doesn't universally respect the setting leaving 3D playback broken.

Jun 24 2012

Blog - Congratulations Jace & Rob Wright - Winners of the Ceton Father's Day Contest!

Congratulations go out to Rob Wright, winner of the Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB Tuner, and Jace, winner of the Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCIe tuner!! I'll be sending an e-mail to both of you to confirm shipping address. 

Thank you to all who participated! Hope everyone had as much fun with the responses as we did reading them!

Jun 15 2012

Blog - Contest - Win a Ceton InfiniTV4 USB Quad External Tuner

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED!!! THANK YOU ALL WHO PARTICIPATED AND GOOD LUCK!

Two contests at once, has Missing Remote lost their minds?!?! Yep! But our loss of mental capacity is your gain!

For those of you that are still slacking, you still have time for the Father's Day sale from Ceton! In honor of Father's Day Ceton is currently running a save $30 when you buy two InfiniTV4 (USB or PCIe) over at Amazon.

Generously, they've provided us a USB external model to help you (or your dad) have an awesome way to celebrate paternity via a give away here at Missing Remote. Thanks Ceton!

Buy From Amazon

HOW TO ENTER

We have made some changes, so please READ all the rules.

Jun 11 2012

Blog - Contest - Win a Ceton InfiniTV4 PCIe

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED!!! THANK YOU ALL WHO PARTICIPATED AND GOOD LUCK!

 

Ceton InfiniTV4 PCIe

In honor of Father's day Ceton is currently running a save $30 when you buy two InfiniTV4 (USB or PCIe) over at Amazon. Generously, they've provided us a PCIe model to help you (or your dad) have an awesome way to celebrate paternity via a give away here at Missing Remote. Thanks Ceton!

Buy From Amazon

HOW TO ENTER

We have made some changes, so please READ all the rules.

To change things up, we've also added several other methods to increase your chances of winning by adding more entries possible.

The only requirement to enter is to reply and answer the following:

  • What are the top three shows you and your dad enjoy (or would enjoy if you had a InfiniTV 4)?

Add your comment below to enter, plus you can gain up to two additional entries to increase your chances of winning:

May 25 2012

Blog - Disney Movie Club Redux

So just about a year ago I wrote up an article on how to get 10 Disney BDs for about $13 each.   A year later shows you how slow the BD market is as Disney has lowered the commitment to just 3 more movies at the regular price and allows you to knock off one of those in the original offer for 8.95.

Mar 14 2012

Blog - InfiniTV on Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Have a Ceton InfiniTV? Testing Windows 8 Consumer Preview? Check out the new Ceton blog post InfiniTV on Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Don't have a Ceton InfiniTV? Buy one from our Amazon store via http://www.amazon.com/Ceton-InfiniTV-Digital-Cable-Quad-tuner/dp/B003B4VLJQ/. Smile

Disclaimer: I think most know this already but I work for Ceton and this is a shameless plug. But hopefully it is still helpful to any brave enthusiast willing to risk death threats (it happens, I know) from their significant other by using a "Consumer Preview".

Feb 21 2012

Blog - 2011 Fall TV Conclusions

In a previous blog, I lamented the new fall season of television programs and laid out my intentions of not watching any new shows until they proved themselves.  I actually broke down and recorded a couple of new shows, but have yet to watch any of them.  I also spoke about what I was still watching.  Particularly, I had a pretty scathing review of Ashton Kutcher's acting and his character on Two and a Half Men (Charlie Sheen actually seemed to agree with me <scary>).  I may actually need to rescind my comments and I'll explain why.  I'm also interested in what people thought of the fall season.

Feb 07 2012

Blog - Lilyhammer - I Hope This Is The Future

Lilyhammer

Netflix has provided over the top (OTT) video streaming via its "Watch Instantly" service for quite sometime, but until yesterday there was little to fundamentally differentiate that service (besides convenience, and the need for high-speed Internet) from a trip to the video store or the mailbox. Introducing original programming changed that - moving the company in a more interesting, welcome, and potentially disruptive direction.

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