Blogs

Aug 12 2010

Blog - Introducing TunerSalad! (aka I need more tuners…)

Introducing TunerSalad! (aka I need more tuners…)

Now that the Ceton InfiniTV 4 has been released, are four CableCARD tuners just not enough? The My Channel Logos (MCL) Development Team has answered your prayers (well complaints).

Tuner Salad

Aug 11 2010

Blog - Getting your Ceton InfiniTV 4 this week? Some hints to a successful install...

 

First, let me start off with an apology.  I've been burning the midnight oil but still have some tests left for Part II of my Ceton InfiniTV 4 review.  It is getting there and if you do have any questions, please ask.

With the delay in Part II and consequently Part III I wanted to share some hopefully helpful hints for a successful install.

 

Ceton InfiniTV 4 

 

Aug 04 2010

Blog - I bought a new HDTV...and it's not 3D

8/10 UPDATE:
The unit arrived this morning! Absolutely beautiful. Haven't had a chance to play with it much yet, but thought I would share the picture!

plasma2.jpg

A bit of a history lesson--I have been putting off buying a new HDTV for quite some time. When I first moved to the bay area about 4-5 years ago, I bought a used 32" Westinghouse 720p LCD television, knowing that I would be moving several times and only having it in my bedroom. Shortly after, I got a job working for a home theater company which loaned me a 40" Vidikron for me to test with, 1080p of course, so that also helped with the postponement of my own purchase. That TV was in the living room and the good ol' Westinghouse went in the bedroom. Long story short, that job ended, the TV was returned and I was stuck back to my 32" in my main living room at a lower 720p resolution. The resolution downgrade actually didn't affect me as much as dropping a mere 8" from 40" back to 32".

I decided to have a conversation with our resident AV Expert Andrew Van Til, the very proud owner of a Panasonic VT25 3D 1080p HDTV television set, who once again encouraged me to purchase a new TV to "properly test and evaluate for MissingRemote." This would come to be the most expensive instant messenger conversation of my life, as that was a good enough sales pitch for me...and thus the hunt for the right TV began!

Let me establish my own guidelines I setup before doing any actual research:

  1. I did not want to spend over $1000 -- I know I will move at some point within the next few years since I'm a renter, so not worth a bigger investment to me; plus I knew at that price I could get a pretty awesome set that compared to either Vidikron or Westinghouse which are both older models would blow it away.
  2. No 3D --  This is a combination of factors. Price as noted above was going to make it difficult to budget and get 3D technology, and if the TV hit my price WITH 3D, it probably wasn't going to be a high quality set. The main reasons however are that I would have little use for it, seeing as I only subscribe to basic cable...so I would essentially be paying the extra cost for the few Blu-rays I *might* rent that would be in 3D. I know the future can hold blah blah, but that's where budgeting only $1000 comes into play. If 3D takes over the world in 3-5 years, I can graduate this one and be able to justify buying a new one with 3D THEN.
  3. No frills/extras needed -- I rent an apartment, so wall mounting was OUT so it must have a stand. But as far as any technical extras go, I don't need Netflix, Yahoo or any other crazy pointless widgets these TV companies are coming up with these days--that's why I use an HTPC!
  4. 24p Not required -- This heavily would hit up against my #1 point, as it's a very expensive feature, and I just don't feel I would notice the difference enough to justify the price hit. Also since I'm running an Intel HTPC, I would have to deal with some issues there as well with handling the automatic rate switching.
  5. Tuner not necessary -- obviously since I have everything going through my HTPC, all my content goes through that including television tuning.
I was hoping to make this a quick blog...but it's not :-) So click Continue reading to read the rest!
Jul 07 2010

Blog - Update: HD PVR for Windows Media Center

Minor update, Hauppauge added another registry key so the version being released will be 1.0.28190. The only change is that the FlushOnChannelChange registry was split into two settings, FlushOnChannelChange and PauseOnChannelChange.
 

We were lucky enough to get early access to a forthcoming updated beta driver, 1.0.28188, from Hauppauge for their HD PVR support for Windows Media Center. Normally we would update our original Preview: HD PVR for Windows Media Center and leave a comment or two about what was new—that would not do it justice.

HD-PVR

So what is new?  Honestly not much.  Before you question my sanity let me explain. The currently available beta driver, 1.0.28171, is fairly stable and works as intended. For those that are already using the beta, there simply isn't much to add.

What they did add is huge for those hesitant to try the beta, in particular they have 1- added support for external blaster applications; 2- added the ability to toggle whether channel changing stops the encoder and flushes the internal queues or not to.

I am a 64-bit fanboy, but for those using 32-bit versions of Windows 7 this means you can continue using firewire channel changing via Tim M. Moore's FireSTB or any command line based channel changing method you currently use with DVBLink.

For those sticking with the internal HD PVR blaster, you can optionally choose to continuing using it in addition to an external blaster application.  This can help troubleshoot any channel changing issues that may occur by logging channel change requests.

For existing beta users there are a couple of fixes and new options.  The most prominent being the ability to toggle whether channel changing stops the encoder and flushes the internal queues or not to.  What does this mean?  By default the drivers will stop encoding when changing channels, this can cause a delay in Windows Media Center and consequently the dreaded low signal error.  You now have the option to turn that off. 

On a negative note, the external blaster application is currently only available via manually editing the various registry settings.  If that isn't improved by the public release I will provide an easy tool to configure the various settings.

There are a few other settings available so I urge you to read the upcoming release notes in detail.  If you have any questions please let me know.

A big kudos to the Hauppauge team working on the HD PVR for Windows Media Center support.  It is clear that they are listening to feedback and making progress towards an official Windows Media Center driver.

Update

I've gotten the OK from Hauppauge to share the change log.  Please note that it is subject to change.

1.0.28190 Change Log

- Include latest WHQL’d HDPVR analog driver. 

- Include latest IR support for compatibility with other Hauppauge products. 

- Added “Blaster” registry key 

 

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\PSWTuner\SWT_HDPVR\Blaster] 

 

And several values to control blaster operation (defaults shown): 

 

• "ActiveBlaster"=dword:00000001  

0 - no blaster 

1 - use HDPVR blaster 

2 - launch external blaster application 

 

Used to select the active blaster.  This is a bitwise value so multiple bits can be set.  

When set to “external” the application specified by "ExtAppName" will be launched with 

the command line parameters specified by "ExtAppArgs". 

 

• "FlushOnChannelChange"=dword:00000001 

0 - internal queues are not flushed after blasting 

1 - flush internal queues after blasting

 

• "PauseOnChannelChange"=dword:00000001 

0 - encoder is not paused before blasting 

1 - pause encoder before blasting 

 

• "IntOpenMode"=dword:00000000 

 0 – internal blaster port is opened once and handle saved for subsequent use. 

 1 – internal blaster port is opened/closed on each use

 

Opening the blaster once provides faster operation but the saved handle will be 

invalidated if any other application accesses the blaster hardware. Once the handle is 

invalid the MCE software will not be able to blast. For example, if you test the blaster 

operation using BlastCfg.exe you must reboot the PC (or restart the service) or the 

blaster will fail when MCE next tries to change the channel. 

 

• "ExtAppName"="D:\MyTests\blast.exe" 

Used to specify the full path and name of an external blaster application.  External blaster 

mode must be enabled in "ActiveBlaster" for the application to be executed.  Do not 

include opening and closing quotes in the value you specify. 

 

• "ExtAppArgs"="-c%c" 

Use to specify the command line parameters passed to the application specified in 

"ExtAppName".  The MCE software will replace the first occurrence of %c in the 

command line with the channel number to be blasted. 

 

Jul 01 2010

Blog - Sage My Movies Preview

PluckyHD has done some amazing things with SageTV, the most popular being Sage Movie Wall.  Instead of converting the wall for Sage V7, he's been working on a port of MyMovies for Sage V7 conveniently called Sage MyMovies (SMM).  The private beta has been running for a couple months now and what he has accomplished not only gives V7 users a fantastic replacement for the stock video library but also highlights what the new animation and rendering system in V7 is capable of. 

Now SMM isn't quite ready for a public beta (probably not until the end of July), but Plucky has decided it's time to share some screen shots and a video that will give all the Sagies out there something to look forward to.
Jun 29 2010

Blog - What's happening?

It seems that it's been a while since I last updated my blog. At that time I was looking at running the various Mythtv-based linux distrobutions.  Among the distrobutions that I had mentioned are Mythdora, Mythbuntu and LinHES.  At the time, I had tested Mythdora. Well, I recently found myself with a bit of free time so I decided to load up Mythbuntu 10.04.  I have to say that if you're new to Linux and want to take Mythtv for a test drive, it doesn't get much easier.  It was litterally a matter of answering a couple of questions during installation to determine which pieces you want installed (frontend, backend, etc) and then a regular Mythtv configuration from there.

Looking at these newer distrobutions made me start thinking about upgrading my production Mythtv network.  It is currently running version 0.21 and Mythtv is up to 0.23.  So this got me thinking, what distrobution would be best for a dedicated Mythtv backend?  The reason that I'm in this situation is because my current system is based on Fedora Core 8.  Mythtv was installed from packages provided by atrpms.net.  Unfortunately, this repository only supports the three most recent versions of Fedora and Redhat.  Fedora is now up to 13, with Fedora 14 coming soon I'm sure.  This means that in order to get support for my current Mythtv setup I would first have to update the OS from Fedora 8 to Fedora 13.  With a major jump like this I just know that I'm asking for trouble. 

One option would be to backup the Mythtv database, wipe the system clean and start with a fresh installation of Fedora 13.  However, I don't want to find myself in this situation again in a couple of years.  So I thought that I would throw this out to the community: What Linux distrobution would you recommend for a backend system?  I'd like to be able to keep Mythtv up-to-date without having to update the OS itself every six months or so.  Whenever I do an upgrade it inevitebly causes something to break, which brings down WAF for a couple of days. 

So what should I do?  Leave a comment!

Jun 17 2010

Blog - What Do You Want to See Turned Into a Movie?

As a consequence of George’s [Skirge] well deserved ridicule in this week’s Blu-ray Releases thread, I realized I was a sucker for epics and I am guessing George is as well (*cough* Waterworld *cough*).  You may further mock me for leaping from Waterworld and Dances with Wolves to timeless classics such as The Battle of Algiers, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, Ben-Hur and Braveheart but I did just that.  While reminiscing, my mind wandered to thoughts of what other epic films I would like to see made.

I realize everyone’s definition of what entails an “epic” film will vary but here is my list.

  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  • Imajica, by Clive Barker
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein
  • God of War, video game series
  • The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester (no Jumper was not good enough)
  • Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • The Dark Tower Saga, by Stephen King (broken into at least 3-4 movies)

What book, video game, comic book, graphic novel, cartoon, etc do you want to see turned into a movie?

Jun 17 2010

Blog - Comcast Flubs ESPN3D Rollout

I love soccer – watching, playing even coaching is fun most of the time :).  So when Comcast announced that they would be carrying ESPN 3D in time for the World Cup I was very excited.  But even though ESPN 3D went live on Friday June 11th for South Africa v. Mexico I still haven’t watched a game.
May 07 2010

Blog - HTPC Client Woes

Recently, my normally rock-solid HTPC client has been locking up and turning off every so often.  I had been thinking it was a memory issue and swapping some of the chips out and/or putting them in different slots seemed to make it work again.  This, in spite of the fact that memtest showed no issues at all.  I was beginning to think the slots themselves might be bad in the motherobard.  However, it's still happening.  Now, I'm beginning to suspect a failing PSU, so I'm looking for some options.  That Enermax reviewed earlier this week by SPCR sounded ideal, but it's simply not available here in the states.

I'm currently thinking about the Seasonic X-650 due to the modular cables and SPCR's glowing review .  I definitely want quiet, efficient, and modular.  650W sounds like overkill, but it's my understanding that you generally want to run a PSU at about 50-60% of its capacity.  A 450-500W unit would be ideal for my HTPC, it would seem that, based on the chart on this page , the Seasonic is my best bet.  Any other suggestions?  I'm also trying to find a decent price ($160 seems the going rate at reputable stores).  Newegg isn't usually an option for me because of shipping and sales tax.

Apr 08 2010

Blog - Heatwave HTPC fun!

I've been happily chugging along with my SageTV server /client setup for some time now.  After 2 major snowstorms here in the northeast, accumulating a very unusual 48+ inches, only to be followed shortly thereafter by 2 rainstorms, which wound up with FEMA assistance coming in to some areas, we are now coming to the end of our first--quite early in the season--heatwave this week.  Monday started off in the low to mid 70's, ramping all the way up to nearly 90 yesterday.

Normally, this heat would be very welcome at this point, but it managed to bring about an issue in my SageTV setup.  It would seem that one of my HD-PVRs is having heat-related issues.  I have two of them side-by-side and only one was acting up around 10pm last night.  I had to reboot every time because it was a hard lock.  SageTV threw up a recording error in the middle of the show we were watching, so I immediately knew something was up.  The other HD-PVR was recording fine through all of this.

Luckily, I purchased a spare HD-PVR when I was initially having issues getting them working and was able to swap them out quite easily.  I set the backup HD-PVR to record something for the next hour and it did so without any issue whatsoever.  Given the heat we're due to have again today, I'll be watching this very closely to see if the backup has any issues.  If not, it's RMA time!

Apr 07 2010

Blog - Vacation Update

Hey guys.  Here's a little tidbit that I thought I should share.  I was at Sea World yesterday with the family and while we were waiting to get on one of the rides in the kids play area the ride attendant directed that we "secure all cameras, video cameras, cell phones and Ipads."  I don't think that this is part of the official script yet but still...  It's been what, four days since they were made available?

Apr 04 2010

Blog - Vacation time

Hello to everyone from California.  This week my family is on vacation in California.  Yesterday we thought it would be fun to take the little tyke to Disneyland.  She loved it.  So did I.  But the reason that I'm writing this post is because while we were there we went to the Innoventions exhibit in the Tomorrowland section.  It looks like they recently updated the facility because they had Media Center systems all over the place.  Everywhere you looked was another Media Center PC or a Control4 wall panel or a digital photo frame in one size or another.  It was all based on HP equipment - touch screens, monitors, printers, etc, etc.  There were a bunch of Xbox360s and lots of other displays like that. 

The other thing that caught my attention there was the Microsoft Surface.  If you aren't aware of what it is, it's a multitouch input/display device.  It is able to track as many fingers as you want to use.  This is the first time that I've seen one of these in person although I've been following the technology for a number of years.  In fact, it has interested my so much in recent weeks that I've started collecting pieces to build my own over the last two months.  So although it will probably take a few months to build it up, keep your eyes on the website here because I plan to blog about my build process.  When it's all done I intend to do a guide that you guys can all follow if you find yourself interested and want to build one for yourself.

That's all I've got for now folks.  Back to the warm sun.
Tim (Lothar)

Mar 31 2010

Blog - Kudos to Monoprice

I've been a huge fan of Monoprice.com as a company, due to their fantastic products and prices, for a long time now.  I now have another reason to love this company.  Recently, Monoprice was notified of a potential security breach when a few of their customers notified them "that information from credit cards they used on the Monoprice website had been misused".  While they had no indication that a breach had happened, nor any proof from customers that something was awry, they chose to stop taking orders entirely, notify all their customers of the situation via their website, and contacted numerous 3rd parties to conduct an investigation on their system.

According to Monoprice, as of 3/25, no security breach has yet been found, however, they have made numerous changes to their systems:

We rebuilt our network using new hardware and software. We reviewed all web application source code and all databases to ensure there are no security holes. Our network security is professionally managed. We have deployed an improved firewall. We're performing vulnerability scans using service provided by two vendors, Trustwave and McAfee Secure.

...

Additionally, we've contracted with a Qualified Security Assessor, Accudata, which is assisting us complete the formal steps to become a certified Level 1 PCI DSS merchant. Accudata staff told us the certification process may take several weeks.

Click through to read the rest of my blog entry.

Mar 30 2010

Blog - Another Nail in the Coffin for Media Center?

Over the last year we Media Center enthusiasts have slowly seen Media Center, piece by piece, slip away. Last year at CES we saw the rise and fall of the Dish Network Media Center tuners. We saw Linksys discontinue their V2 Extenders , with the likes of Dlink and HP following suite right after. Last week at the Electronic House Expo (EHX) it was announced that the Media Center Integrator Alliance was abandoned. The Media Center Integrator Alliance website no longer exists, while Microsoft's own custom installer landing page is re-directing the custom installers to enthusiasts forums like The Green Button.

{joomsay link=http://mynetworkproject.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/back-from-ehx/ [My Network Project]}The other bit of interesting news is that the Media Center Integrator Alliance has been dissolved. This group was formed about a year and half ago I think to really push Media Center in the custom integrator channel and provide custom integrators with exclusive training, tools and educational resources. The website is already down and custom integrators are being pushed over to the Green Button. Microsoft is still hosting a Custom Integrator landing page for Media Center but it links out to other sites such as the Green Button.{/joomsay}

I've come to realize one thing in the world of HTPCs, Media Center, and the likes will always be a niche product and will never become main stream. This news is just one more proverbial nail in the coffin when it comes to making Media Center main stream. If custom integrators can not get behind it then how can the average Joe get behind a product that custom high end installers are not even using?

While I do not see Media Center going anywhere any time soon, with the advent of the Ceton cable card tuner and the plethora of innovative third party plugins being developed by the community, and innovative new hardware solutions , I just don't see it being enough to sustain the future development of Media Center.

Have any thoughts? Leave a comment and discuss.

Mar 17 2010

Blog - ATI Digital CableCard Tuners End of Life?

ati-tv-wonder.jpgIf you have been following the CableCard tuner for Windows Media Center PC's news recently, you have seen announcements from two vendors--SiliconDust and Ceton--who are developing their own M-cards (multi-stream) CableCard tuners which will enable access to premium content on multiple tuners with only a single CableCard.

What has been missing from news for quite some time, is where ATI is in all this buzz. For history, ATI produced the first (and still only) Digital CableCard Tuner (DCT) back in early 2007. For quite some time, those tuners were only able to be used via a few select OEMs which went through the process of being authorized to do so, as ordered by Cable Labs. That first generation product suffered from a plethora of bugs and instabilities which eventually led the larger OEMs like Dell to stop selling them altogether.

After many requests--and even a hack to bypass the OEM restriction--Microsoft was finally able to remove the OEM restriction and open up the CableCard tuners to all users with the release of Windows 7 (Vista users are still SOL). Great news, but then it became clear that ATI’s DCT were becoming increasingly harder to find. News of the Ceton and SiliconDust tuners is great, but still those are not expected until late May at the EARLIEST. So this would seem like the perfect opportunity for ATI to capitalize on, right?

Well, the reason they haven't is probably one you have suspected (I sure have) by now--ATI is getting out of the game, and maybe tuners in general. A source inside AMD/ATI has revealed to me that the CableCard tuner (and possibly all other tuners) is EOL, meaning End of Life. When a product hits EOL status, that means no more are being produced, and they will be available only until current inventory sells through.

I was unable to discover just how long the tuners have been EOL. Are the available tuners ones that have been floating around the distribution channels for years now? It also isn't even clear when the most recent shipment was. Either way, once they're gone--which they are already hard to find--they will be gone for good. And along with this, don't expect another firmware update (although in fairness the recent one fixed a ton).

I think what saddens me about this is the way ATI was treated. They suffered through all the early growing pains and were rewarded with ridiculously low sales for their tuners, which I'm sure cost a fortune to develop since they were the first. The restrictions to who could use their products, combined with the awful reputation they garnered I'm sure made the EOL decision that much easier. While everyone involved should shoulder some blame, no doubt it was ATI who took the biggest hit with inventory which probably took them years to run through. Given the news, you have to wonder if they even sold through their original stock.

Mar 14 2010

Blog - Fry's Electronics - Admits to Lying, Still Won't Provide Customer Service

I don't normally post these types of blogs, but I experienced some of the most outrageous customer service at Fry's Electronics today, I had to share with everyone since a lot of you shop there. Click read more to continue.
Mar 01 2010

Blog - A look at Solid State Drives (SSD) v. Hard Drives (HD)

Like rocket cars, moon vacations and watchable online video we all know that solid-state drives (SSD) are the future.  Of course it will be a long time before any of us can afford to replace that 2TB drive with one, but with prices for smaller SSD finally approaching a reasonable level it makes sense to start thinking about how to fit one into the HTPC (especially a client).
Feb 21 2010

Blog - Upgrading to the Harmony 890

As my wife and I planned the new layout of our TV room (which I know I still need to post about), I quickly realized that I would need to replace my Harmony 880 with an RF remote.  Due to cost constraints, I couldn't go with my Christmas wish of the Universal Remote MX-880 and settled for the Harmony 890, which is simply an RF version of the 880.  This upgrade was fairly painless, except for the screwups I brought upon myself.  What I can tell you right away is that the 890 is just as good as the 880 and the RF aspect works fantastic!  The rest of this update is posted with my HTPC Client Blog, so head on over to read and see the rest of this upgrade.

880 vs 890

Read more...

Feb 16 2010

Blog - Simple Blu-ray Playback with SageTV, SageMC and Total Media Theatre 3

Sometimes I forget how much I love SageTV, SageMC, and TMT 3. This forgetfulness usually occurs when I have started tweaking things but not found enough time to set things up properly. I had experimented with various methods to launch Blu-ray playback on an old SageTV install before I moved to Windows 7. I had gotten ripped BR folders to play on my HD200, and discs to playback on my full client. However my method of setting this up wasn't the most straight forward. Sometimes things are easier than we make them.

Tonight everything changed. I took a look at SageMC's External Player capabiliites. Suddenly eveything fell into place. In less then ten minutes I had my SageTV launching TMT 3 for playing back both ripped Blu-ray folders and discs. If you have SageTV, SageMC, and TMT just follow these simple steps.

Edit the following file in C:\Program Files\SageTV\SageTV\STVs\SageTV3\SageMC\

- dvd_player.cmd : Replace existing text with this (including quotes, alter drive letter as necessary): "C:\Program Files\ArcSoft\TotalMedia Theatre 3\uMCEDVDPlayer.exe" %1

Save and Close the file. Then launch SageTV, goto SageMC Setup->External Programs, and then enable External DVD Player.

Ta da! Full support for Blu-ray folders and discs from SageTV on your HTPC. Only issue I seem to have is that when SageTV wakes back up the W7 menubar is on top of it. I'm pretty sure I can resolve that.

EDIT: Solved the problem with focus, used EventGhost to do a Bring to Front on SageTV.exe.

Jan 11 2010

Blog - Is Bit streaming more efficient than LPCM?

The recent update to the Haali Media Splitter (enabling Dolby TrueHD in DTS-MA MKV) got me thinking about revisiting our guide to getting lossless audio off the PC.  When an interesting discussion got started about the benefits of bit streaming v. LPCM over at AVS Forum it was time to do some testing.

To setup the test I muxed TrueHD, DTS-MA and FLAC (converted from the TrueHD track using eac3to) tracks into separate mka files and played them back in GraphStudio using ffdshow for bit streaming TrueHD/DTS-MA and decoding TrueHD/FLAC and the ArcSoft Audio Decoder to decode the DTS-MA track (ffdshow can't decode DTS-MA yet) while tracking power usage and CPU utilization.  Check out the results below.

bitstreamvlpcm.jpg

To be honest the results were somewhat surprising.  I had expected bit streaming to always be the most efficient way to push audio off the PC.  While we can see that it is marginally more efficient than real-time decoding TrueHD and DTS-MA during playback, at least when it comes to ffdshow and TrueHD converting to FLAC before muxing the MKV is the better option for CPU performance.

Given the numbers achieved bit streaming BD using PowerDVD and Total Media Theater on the platform (0-5%) and what ffdshow is capable of with DTS-MA I expect that there is some room for improvement, so we will have to revisit this topic again.

Jan 11 2010

Blog - Is Bit streaming more efficient than LPCM?

The recent update to the Haali Media Splitter (enabling Dolby TrueHD in DTS-MA MKV) got me thinking about revisiting our guide to getting lossless audio off the PC.  When an interesting discussion got started about the benefits of bit streaming v. LPCM over at AVS Forum it was time to do some testing.

To setup the test I muxed TrueHD, DTS-MA and FLAC (converted from the TrueHD track using eac3to) tracks into separate mka files and played them back in GraphStudio using ffdshow for bit streaming TrueHD/DTS-MA and decoding TrueHD/FLAC and the ArcSoft Audio Decoder to decode the DTS-MA track (ffdshow can't decode DTS-MA yet) while tracking power usage and CPU utilization.  Check out the results below.

bitstreamvlpcm.jpg

To be honest the results were somewhat surprising.  I had expected bit streaming to always be the most efficient way to push audio off the PC.  While we can see that it is marginally more efficient than real-time decoding TrueHD and DTS-MA during playback, at least when it comes to ffdshow and TrueHD converting to FLAC before muxing the MKV is the better option for CPU performance.

Given the numbers achieved bit streaming BD using PowerDVD and Total Media Theater on the platform (0-5%) and what ffdshow is capable of with DTS-MA I expect that there is some room for improvement, so we will have to revisit this topic again.

Jan 11 2010

Blog - Is Bit streaming more efficient than LPCM?

The recent update to the Haali Media Splitter (enabling Dolby TrueHD in DTS-MA MKV) got me thinking about revisiting our guide to getting lossless audio off the PC.  When an interesting discussion got started about the benefits of bit streaming v. LPCM over at AVS Forum it was time to do some testing.

To setup the test I muxed TrueHD, DTS-MA and FLAC (converted from the TrueHD track using eac3to) tracks into separate mka files and played them back in GraphStudio using ffdshow for bit streaming TrueHD/DTS-MA and decoding TrueHD/FLAC and the ArcSoft Audio Decoder to decode the DTS-MA track (ffdshow can't decode DTS-MA yet) while tracking power usage and CPU utilization.  Check out the results below.

bitstreamvlpcm.jpg

To be honest the results were somewhat surprising.  I had expected bit streaming to always be the most efficient way to push audio off the PC.  While we can see that it is marginally more efficient than real-time decoding TrueHD and DTS-MA during playback, at least when it comes to ffdshow and TrueHD converting to FLAC before muxing the MKV is the better option for CPU performance.

Given the numbers achieved bit streaming BD using PowerDVD and Total Media Theater on the platform (0-5%) and what ffdshow is capable of with DTS-MA I expect that there is some room for improvement, so we will have to revisit this topic again.

Jan 09 2010

Blog - Video: MissingRemote's Boxee Beta Walkthrough!

I had some time and was playing around with the fantastic new Boxee Beta and thought you all might enjoy a quick video walk through of all the different aspects it has to offer. The video is about 9 minutes long, but if you want to skip through I start with Photos, then music, movies, app store and finally the file browser. And just a reminder, the beta is now publically available at http://www.boxee.tv and is of course, free!

 

Jan 06 2010

Blog - Well How About That, Steve Talks about Media Center and Cable Card

Sometimes you have to wonder what's going on at Microsoft. I just got finished watching the CES keynote from head Microsoft honcho Steve Balmer, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did he mention Media Center but they even mentioned Ceton and cable card. Of course using their "TV on your PC" motto, but in an odd fashion--the presenter mentioned it and then followed it up with saying he has his PC connected to his TV. Somewhat conflicting given what we've been hearing but pleasant nonetheless. Of course going through the rest of Media Center like Videos and the TV Guide....but did anyone else catch the "Silverlight Movies" row? I'm very curious as to what that is. Either way, hopefully the fact that so much time was invested by the head of Microsoft will calm some down from calling for the death of Media Center.

ADDED: Here's a link from Microsoft with more details on what was mentioned. Enjoy!

Dec 21 2009

Blog - All I Want For Christmas, by the MissingRemote Staff

With all the holiday gift purchase guides out there we felt we would do something a tad different. We have gone through all our MissingRemote staffers and have asked them each for what is tops on their holiday wish list. The results were interesting...hope you enjoy! Feel free to add your own items to the list and don't forget to tell us if Santa brought what you asked for!

For: Babgvant (Andrew)

Item: Panasonic TC-P65V10 Plasma Television

Why:  When Panasonic announced the V10 series at last year's CES we all knew it was something special.  Of course we didn't know the whole story until the HDGuru® gave it the once over; sporting better contrast and black detail than the Kuro (only losing out when representing the deepest of blacks), a 96Hz 24p mode, and all of it at 1/2 the price of the old King.  I hope to find a 54" or 58" under next to the tree this holiday, but if I were a dreamer it would be the 65".

The King is dead. Long live the King!

tc-p65v10.jpg

harmony_1100_advanceduniversalremote.jpg

For: CrAzY

What: Logitech Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal Remote

Why: I’m sure you could program this thing to make you popcorn! With a 3.5” full color touch screen that is fully customizable to control all of your devices! Add a RF Extender (sold separately), you can stash all of your other remotes and reduce the clutter on your coffee table, plus it looks pretty sweet!

 

For: David Norman

What:  All-in-One PC Wind Top AE222

Why: I want to use the AE222  in my kitchen to schedual 7MC recordings via a HDhomerun, play music with out turning on the projector in the livingroom and in the future use either homeseer or mControl's Media Center plugins for home automation.  I would also use it to watch recorded TV stored on my WHS, specifically FoodTV channels via ATI Digital Tuner.  This All-in-One has a discrete GPU, C2D CPU and capacative touch screen, all which combine to equal a nice HD capable machine.

multitouch.jpg

 

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For: Skirge01

What: Universal Remote MX-880

Why:  My dream gift from Santa would be a Universal Remote, model MX-880.  This is one of those high-end remotes the pros use.  While I love my Logitech 880 and my recently purchased 890, they're scum compared to this baby.  The layout is fantastic and the buttons are unique, so you can do everything by touch.  The Pièce de résistance is the MSC-400, though.  This brings it all home via RS-232 control of your devices.  No more IR blasters to stick on and hope they stay; this is a simple serial connection to ensure things happen as expected.  Whereas a Harmony remote tries to keep things in sync and will guess what might be wrong, the MSC-400 actually verifies each piece of equipment's state first and reacts accordingly.  Santa?  You're listening, right?  Don't mess this up!  It's an MX-880 plus MSC-400.  I need them both or they're useless.  A compass in the stock would be great, but not required.

 


For: Mike Garcen

What: Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Player

Why:  At exactly $500, the Oppo Blu-ray Player is arguably the highest quality and performance for Blu-ray playback on the market, and is also one of the more affordable. You can keep your Denon's and other reference players, just hand me one of these that can play not only Blu-rays but everything under the sun as well, and I'll be a happy camper.

oppo_bdp_83_player.jpg


sim2_lumishostc3x-projector-reviewed.gif

For: Tim

What: SIM2 C3X Lumis Host Projector

Why: Ah, if money was no object...  The SIM2 C3X LUMIS HOST projector is alittle something that I would like to have in my basement-made-home theater.  With a sleek design and great performance, I think that I can
give this little projector a good home.  With its 1080p goodness, high
brightness, and quiet operation offer a very pleasurable viewing experience on the huge screen.  This little baby would be on all day, everyday for all of my multimedia viewing (TV, movies, video games).  A 2000 hour bulb replacement would be worth it here.  Now if only it only cost about 10% of what it does...

For: Dan

What: Paradigm Signature Series Speakers - 7.1

Why: Santa would definitely have to bring this one. Looking great and sounding great is no problem for the Paradigm Signature series of speakers. I'm pretty sure there's no room in my apartment for a 7.1 set of these speakers, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't try. But with no kids yet I could run them with their speaker grilles off :) I would definitely have to ask Santa for a darker colored wood finish than seen in the picture to the right though, maybe cherry, or mahogany.....

Speakers
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