Blogs

Jan 28 2007

Blog - Using a Dremel to mod your case

For Christmas this year, I received a new power supply for my HTPC. But lo and behold, when I opened up my PC to swap power supplies, it didn’t fit. What was I to do? I could have returned the perfectly good power supply and swapped it for a different model which would fit…or I could go to the hardware store, buy some power tools and take care of the situation. Clearly, the second choice was the way to go. 

My trip to the hardware store was uneventful and I came home with a brand new Dremel 400 XPR 4/41 (4 attachments & 41 accessories). It was $79.95 plus tax. There were less expensive packages, but this one included the Flex Shaft. The Flex Shaft allows you to work in tighter spaces and hold the grinding/cutting tool of your choice like a pen.

Digg it if you enjoyed this article:

 

Dremel in the box
What's Included 
My brand new Dremel
Stock photo of everything included

 

Jan 13 2007

Blog - HQV Benchmarking the GeForce 7-series

The HQV Benchmark DVD is probably the best and most objective video processing test available today. Unfortunately there are still subjective comparisons that need to be made to give a final rating. Of course reference images are given to compare against, and if you see something that has totaly failed it is obvious. The less obvious is when the scores allow a middle value: what does this middle ground look like? To answer this you need to have some real comparisons, say for example against a sampling of DVD players. I did this testing while working on my review of Oppo's new kick-butt DVD player.

General testing notes
In case you've been under a rock NVIDIA has made large strides in exposing PureVideo functionality at the display driver level and less tied into their own decoder filter (PureVideo Decoder). Thus having it work in basically the same manner as ATI's Avivo technology. What that means is that using ForceWare 91.47 or newer is the key to better deinterlacing and video post-processing. In the screenshot at the bottom of my post are the settings I used for testing. NVIDIA has done something rather stupid (ATI is just as guilty it turns out): they have Inverse Telecine support turned off by default! You must go into the new NVIDIA control panel choose 'Video & Television', then 'Adjust video color settings', and make sure you're in 'Advanced' view, click the 'Enhancements' tab and check 'Use inverse telecine'. Without this checked you won't be using the advanced PureVideo technology, leaving this unchecked will also lead to most video cadences failing miserably when the HQV test is run. Similarly, any detail enhancement or noise suppression technology is also off by default. You do get sliders to control the level of processing which is great for adjusting to personal taste. I found 50% for 'Edge Enhancement' and 75% for 'Noise Reduction' to be ideal for the passing the HQV tests.

 

  GeForce 7-series
Color Bar/Vertical Detail (0/5/10)  10
Jaggies 1 (0/3/5)  5
Jaggies 2 (0/1/3/5)  3
Flag (0/5/10)  5
Picture Detail (0/5/10)  10
Noise Reduction (0/5/10)  10
Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction (0/5/10)  10
3:2 Detection/Film Detail (0/5/10)  10
Film Cadences (8 different) (5 points each)  40
Mixed 3:2 with video titles horiz. (0/5/10)  10
Mixed 3:2 with video titles vert. (0/5/10)  10
Total (130)  123

 

It's the little differences...
If you compare my chart to hardware.info's tests from 9/5/06 my scores have very similar results, however the hardware.info folks give the Flag a full 10 points which I don't think it deserves, the Oppo did better then what I've seen from PureVideo. Likewise Jaggies Test 2 is source of disagreement. It deserves a 3, Hardware.info which also tested against standalone DVD players agrees, Tom's Hardware's recent tests gave it a full 5, the Oppo did better on this test, I question whether Tom's really has seen modern video processing chips in action. Interestingly, like me, Hardware.info also arrives at a score of 123, they remove points in the Mixed 3:2 with Horizontal Video Titles which I don't think is deserved. They are also lenient with their score of the 3:2 Detection test giving it a 10. Using their settings this actually deserves a 5, Tom's testing corroborates this.

The PureVideo Decoder's 'Smart' Setting 
If you use a general DXVA decoder, such as PowerDVD or WinDVD, or set the PureVideo Decoder to 'Automatic' the 3:2 detection has an approximately 1/2 second lag. However when you use NVIDIA's own PureVideo Decoder in 'Smart' mode you don't even see the lag as it enters film mode. The lag means you get a 5 on this test. The testing procedures are quite clear: if the video processing locks on to film mode in under 0.2 seconds that's a 10, in 1/2 a second -- that's a 5. Anything longer is a failure.
What I found interesting is that this seems to go counter to the recommendations Hardware.info has. They say to use 'Automatic', I presumed that somehow 'Smart' used different logic then 'Automatic' and it might disable the much improved cadence handling that NVIDIA now shows. So I tested this by running the tests in 'Automatic' and in 'Smart'. There is no difference to the scores aside from the very important 3:2 detail test. 'Smart' is incredible, it never even batted an eye. It looks like with the newest ForceWare builds the cadence detection is ready to be used by any DXVA decoder filter. However having the proprietary 'Smart' mode of the PureVideo Decoder sweetens the deal. NVIDIA's own decoder is considered to have the best image quality of any commercial DVD decoder product and added to this is the fact that it also has the unique deinterlacing mode -- 'Smart'. Thus my scores presented here and in the upcoming Oppo review represent the 'Smart' mode scores.

HD Material
Interestingly, I found 'Automatic' performed properly with HD material while 'Smart' occasionally made odd hitching in HDTV playback. It looks like 'Automatic' is the middle-ground here if you watch a mix of both SD and HD or if you watch solely HD material.

Settings Used for Testing

 

nvidia_enhancements 

Jan 12 2007

Blog - Thoughts on building a high-def ready HTPC

Just kicking around some ideas for what would be an ideal next gen optical format (HD DVD and/or Blu-ray) ready HTPC. This is of course somewhat hypothetical as, alas, I don't have the hand's on knowledge... yet. This is culled from what I know from informal testing, user reports, and decoding performance benchmarks available on the web. Feel free to comment.

Full details and build notes after the "read more."

Jan 02 2007

Blog - 939 HSF To AM2 Socket Adapter

    While purchasing parts for my latest MythTV frontend client, I ran into a dilemma.  I wanted to take advantage of the upgrade path that an AMD socket AM2 system would provide, but I also really liked the performance of my tried and true Zalman CNPS7000B-AlCu heat sink fan.  Unfortunately, this fan is not directly compatible with the AM2 socket.  My search for a clean solution brought me to this page advertising a socket 939 HSF to AM2 motherboard adapter.  I was intrigued and figured $13 wasn't an over the top price if it worked as advertised.

 

 

939_am2_adapter

 

Dec 31 2006

Blog - Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2006 was a great year for you all and may 2007 be even better. Look for a lot of great things to come from MissingRemote.com this next year :).

new_years_eve

 

Nov 30 2006

Blog - New MissingRemote.com Team Member

I would like to welcome Tony to the Missingremote.com team. More then a few of you know Tony as Crim on the missingremote.com forums. He will be coming out with a couple of Antec HTPC case reviews in short order.

If you need to contact Tony, you can email him at Tony <at> missingremote.com.

Nov 28 2006

Blog - Open Letter To HTPCnews.com Readers

I have read a few comments in the past few weeks that have finally prompted me to write a letter to the HTPCnews.com readers. I want to start off thanking everyone for creating such a great HTPC community. It is by far the friendliest and most down to earth group on the Internet. It was fantastic to see that even as the site grew there were no flames or fanbois to ruin it for the rest.

 

A few of you may know that Brad changed jobs over the summer and due to extensive travel and other commitments has has not had the opportunity to be involved in HTPCnews.com. Due to the very infrequent communication between Brad and the rest of the staff, I decided to quit HTPCnews.com and form my own site to continue to provide fresh news and content to the community. I discussed this at length with John and Matt and they were in agreement that we needed to move to a new site to continue the work we were doing at HTPCnews.com.

 

It was an extremely difficult decision to make! However, we do feel as though we made the right one because MissingRemote.com will have the right people and resources in place to make this new community as great as HTPCnews.com's is. Don't get me wrong, our goal is not to compete with HTPCnews.com but continue where it has left off. 

 

We also did not want to close down shop at HTPCnews.com as the forums and articles are a valuable resource to people getting started with Media Centers. John elected to stick around to keep the lights on and provide system admin services on an as need basis. As a matter of fact, he has beefed up security quite a bit to eliminate the hacking problems we experienced earlier on in the year. However, both Matt and John spend the majority of their time writing articles and contributing to MissingRemote.com.

 

In closing, I would like to thank everyone for making HTPCnews.com the great community it is. I look forward to working with everyone at MissingRemote.com! Comments, questions, suggestions and egg throwing are all welcome.

Nov 20 2006

Blog - I Lost My Remote!!!!

We have a winner!!!! The contest is now closed. That was way to quick ;)

As I mentioned last week, I lost my remote and now I need someone to find it!!! Somewhere in the website is my Harmony 880 remote!!!! All you have to do is find the picture below somewhere in the website (besides this article of course). The first person to post a screenshot  in this thread will get 25 US dollars via paypal or a $25 gift certificate to Target or Best Buy (US only for the gift certificate).

lost_remote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rules:

1. Contest ends when someone finds the remote.

2. You find the remote by posting a screenshot in the proper forum thread.

3. This news posting (or the forum thread) does not count as finding the remote. Posting a screenshot of it will get you a "special" title.

4. Prize is $25 US dollars via paypal or a $25 gift card to Best Buy or Target (US only for gift card)

5. Gift Card is mailed via USPS within one week of winning

6. The remote you are trying to locate is the same picture shown above somewhere ELSE on the website. 

Nov 15 2006

Blog - I have lost my remote

Ack, I have last my remote! CoolIts been happening a lot more frequently these days and I expect this unfortunate event to keep happening. I was wondering if you guys could help me out a little this coming Monday. Somewhere in missingremote.com you will be able to find my remote (or at least a picture of one).

However, there is no good TV on until Monday, so don't bother searching until 9:00 am PST. I repeat, do not bother looking for my remote until Monday morning 9:00 am PST. The remote could be anywhere on the site and all you will have to do is post a screen shot in a forum thread letting me know you found it. The first person to find it will receive $25 via paypal or a $25 gift card to Target or Best Buy. Happy Hunting on Monday!

 

I also wanted to take this chance to let you guys know about a new feature we have. We will be providing additional information and resources for a few news stories on a daily basis. You are able to tell which news stories have the additional information by seeing if there are comments on the news stories and at the end of each day we will provide a roundup of the stories we added the extra information too. The extra information will come in the form of links to additional reviews, informative articles and definitions of certain terms.

Nov 06 2006

Blog - Analyst (Me): TiVo Should Buy SageTV

Well, it wouldn't be a blog without a little bit of armchair analyst going on. Whilst browsing for news over the past few days, I stumbled across PVRWire's article about things TiVo could do better to improve their product. One of the items was to have TiVo PVR software for the PC available. 

 

Now I would like to say that it took me more then a few hours on my special thinking place to figure out this marriage but it really didn't.

 

Sage would be a perfect fit for TiVo. They have the whole placeshifting, media extender, PC PVR software, and even a few media center tricks figured out. Both products are very PVR orientated and are well reviewed among TV nuts, so it only makes sense that these two would get along just fine.

 

The good is that TiVo lovers, would get placeshifting love and hopefully cheap extender love as well. The bad is the loyal Sage community might get squashed in the process as Sage get swallowed up by a much larger corporate entity.

 

What does it boil down too? TiVo needs to freshen up its products and Sage has the answer. 

 

0.0.logosagetv_mark

 

 

Nov 01 2006

Blog - Contest Winner!!!

We have a winner!!

jennyfur! Come on down, you have 72 hours to contact me via email, pm, or pony express!!! Of course, you have to take pictures of your goodies once you get them!!! Please include your shipping information in your email. Thanks to all who entered, I consider it a pretty dang good success considering this site is less then a month old. Thanks to those who tried to bribe me, but it just wasn't enough so I had to do it the old fashioned random number generator way.

Oct 31 2006

Blog - Snapstream Contest! More Chances To Enter!

The contest is set to end at 11:55 PST tonight! You can check out the original contest details here. You must have your entries in prior to that to get counted. Since I am a caring guy, I wanted to give you guys a few more chances to entery! Here are a couple of ways to make sure you get an extra entry in.

1. Submit news. It has to be HT/Media Center type news.

2. Be creative! Show something about BTV! A couple of screenshots, a mini-review, whatever you want. Don't be lazy!

 

Good luck!!!!!!

Oct 27 2006

Blog - Home Theater Power Protection

Recently, we had a user ask about the effectiveness of AC power conditioners in regards to their HT experience.  Are they "all that" or are they just the latest mumbo-jumbo fad to try and extract cash from your wallet?  Here's where I put on my day job hat (Electrical Engineer/Hardware Designer) and comment.  The opportunity for smoke and mirror marketing in this area is tremendous.  In fact, it is matched only by the wire and cable interconnect industry.  Due to the stringent regulations by which the power companies have to adhere, you can depend on the AC entering your home to be 120VAC @ 60Hz in the US.  The only conditions where this won't be true are:

1.  If you are experiencing a power outage
2.  If you have a heavily loaded circuit in your home and the voltage sags.
3.  If there is an electrical storm in the area and you get a spike.

Item 1 can be temporarily avoided with a battery backed UPS, but who has enough capacity to last through a movie?  Item 2 can be solved by taking an inventory of what is on the circuit and either upgrading the wiring or moving some of the load to another circuit.  An on-line UPS can also help with this, but more on that below.  Item 3 is always a gotcha.  The best surge strip in the world can still be foiled by a bolt of lightning.  You don't honestly think that a lightning bolt which arcs across the sky can be stopped by a 10 cent MOV?  That's right.  Surge suppression is primarily accomplished with a 10 cent part.  Kind of makes you wonder what the rest of the money is going toward doesn't it.

The power conditioning company's marketing department would have you believe that it is important to highly regulate the AC to ensure that it is a pure 120VAC sine wave.  Any sags or distortions will cause imperfections in the performance of your high tech A/V gear.  It is my opinion that all this filtering and correction are not necessary.

Lets start by talking about how a typical A/V component converts the incoming AC power.  Most media players and PCs require 12VDC or less to operate.  This is typically accomplished by a switching power supply.  The power conversion steps involve rectifying, filtering, chopping and regulating to a lower voltage, followed by more filtering.  In the end, variations on the original 120VAC line are easily adsorbed and dealt with leaving no traces of these variations on the output side of the power supply.  Some of these switching power supplies are designed to be "universal" or able to use anything from 90 - 265 VAC without issue.  Some high quality A/V devices use a linear power supply.  These can be identified by the large & heavy transformers that they require.  Even these have filtering and regulation stages that easily compensate for input voltage variations.
In short, unless you have a large sum of cash that you don't know what to do with (I accept donations Smiley ), I would recommend that you purchase a surge strip that you feel comfortable with and use the money elsewhere in your system.  Yes, these devices may do a really good job of regulating everything to 120 VAC, but I submit that it is not necessary with today's electronics.

Please Digg.

Oct 21 2006

Blog - HT Basics: Small Versus Large Speakers

HT Basics is a look at basic Home Theater setup and terminology. From time to time I will post a topic and let the community have at it. The goal is to come up with a meaningful discussion to help people coming here for the basics. Eventually, each topic will get moved to the HT Basics forum for easier searching.

The first topic, one critical to getting the most out of your system, is setting up your speakers as small versus large in your receiver.  Say, for instance, that you have a nice sub and a decent set of main speakers.  Is it better to configure your surround setup in the receiver to label the main speakers as "large" thus routing some bass to the mains rather than the sub, or should one configure the mains as "small" allowing the sub to do all the work?

Feel free to start the discussion in this thread.
 

Oct 16 2006

Blog - 100 Members!!!!

John just informed me that we have reached our 100th member!! Before you ask the questin; Matt did not register 42 times. We will save that 007 type strategy for our 500th member. Thats about it, no contests or anything like that. You could enter that lil contest we have going on right now.

In other news, you may have noticed that we have a new member to our fantastic team. Mike has joined our team helping on the news front and will be helping develop a new portion to the site. I won't let the cat out of the bag quite yet :). 

 

 

Oct 09 2006

Blog - missingremote version 1.0

As I mentioned in a forum post earlier today, after 1 week of being live we are officially releasing version 1.0 upon the masses. As with any 1.0 version, the majority of the work was getting all of the widgets and sprockets to work together in a harmonious manner. In this, was getting SMF and Joomla to work together, and more importantly look alike. John was the man responsible for most of this hacking  programming and it was quite the chore to get some of this to work.

The basic features we started out with is the news, navigation and of course the forums. For version 1.1, we plan on implementing a gallery for everyone to post pictures of their setup. Its always fun to brag :). If we hit a fat advertising contract, or I win the lottery, I would love to implement an Ajax gallery+virtual home theater setup. I think that is a little ways down the road though. However, we are always open to suggestions for site features :).

We have a few people helping out around here to keep the unruly forum crowds in control. Tony (crim) and Brett are moderators that will lay the smackdown if you get out of line. Mike (shadymg) will be posting news from time to time and will back me up when I am out of town.

If you know me from HTPCnews.com, you will know that I REALLY appreciate it when people submit news. So much so, that during the contest, it is worth a second entry :D.

So in wrap up.

Site Suggestions = good

Submit News = good

Forum spam = bad

 

Oct 08 2006

Blog - Snapstream Contest Details

Only a week old and here we are having our first contest!!  First off, I would like to thank Snapstream for sponsoring this contest!, without their generous sponsorship this contest to give back to the community would not be possible.  Head on over to this thread for further details on how to enter. Place your entry in this thread.

snapstreamtest_1914_5387646snapstreamtest_1913_302580snapstreamtest_1914_4768620

 

The Grand Prize (the only prize) in this contest is a bundle of products from Snapstream that will have you in PVR heaven. It is a complete suite of products that will your turn your ordinary PC into a Media Center of epic proportions.

How to Enter:

1. The first step is to register at missingremote.com. After that, click on the Snapstram advertising banner above and find something you like at Snapstream.com. Copy and paste what you find in the contest thread, and that is your entry. Suggested things to look at would be clicking on buy on their main menu and looking at one of their bundles, or head on over to their forums and take a look at the plugins available for use. Be original.  If I think you have copied and pasted an entry from another person, your entry gets deleted.

2. If you have registered at missingremote.com prior to entry, you are automatically entered once. You are free to enter a second time as stated above.

3. If you submit a news item, you are entered. You are free to enter a second time as stated above in number one.

Contest Length:

Contest closes on October 31st, 2006 at 11:55 pm PST. Currently the contest is open to USA residents only.

Prize Details: 

 

Beyond TV:

  • No Subscription Fees. Ever.
  • Skip commercials and other parts of TV shows
  • Search for shows by actor, director, or title
  • Intelligent Electronic Program Guide resolves conflicts
  • New! Record HDTV from free, over-the-air digital TV signals
  • New! Record in DivX, MPEG-2 and WMV formats
  • New! Search for movies and sports, as well as by other categories
  • New! Play and pause FM radio stations
 

 

Beyond Media:

  • Access all your photos, music and videos from one, user-friendly interface
  • Access movies on-demand with SnapStream Spotlight
  • Access weather information and Caller ID
  • Have fun with photo slideshows
  • Watch DVDs with Dolby 5.1 channel surround sound
  • Sort and browse your music by genre, title, artist and keyword
  • Seamlessly integrate & access Beyond TV
 
 

Beyond TV Link:

  • Watch live television on computers without TV tuner cards
  • Enjoy the Beyond TV experience on your wireless laptops
  • Get the Beyond TV experience on older, less powerful PCs
  • Enjoy all of Beyond TV's features like SmartSkip™ and instant replay
  • Watch the same recorded or live show simultaneously in different rooms
 

FireFly Remote:

  • Advanced radio frequency (RF) technology that works through walls
  • Comfortable and cutting-edge industrial design
  • Beyond Media Basic, free bundled software for photos, music and videos
  • Fast access to movies, TV shows, music, and photos with media buttons
  • Compatibility with more than 80+ 3rd party PC applications
 

 DVICO Bundle:

  • DVICO FusionHDTV5 RT Lite ATSC TV Tuner (PCI)
  • FREE Philips PHDTV1 Indoor HDTV Antenna ($39.99 value)*
  • FREE high-quality RG-6 coaxial (6-ft) ($5.00 value)*
 

HDTV Antenna:

  •  High-quality "silver sensor" style indoor HDTV antenna from Philips (Model #PHDTV1). Includes FREE RG-6 coaxial interconnect cable.pad

 

Oct 05 2006

Blog - DirecTV, HDTV, and the Resolution Question

99pr_01108_hiresIf you all don't remember way back in 2004 a DirecTV customer filed lawsuit saying that he had signed up for HDTV service and was soon getting sub-par results. He claims DirecTV is engaged in unlawful or fraudulent business practices by not delivering actual high definition signals. As most of us in the audio/videophille world know DirecTV started cutting bit rate and then scaling down the resolution of their HD feeds to squeeze more bandwidth. This quickly became known as "HD-Lite" in videophille circles. The drop in bit rate resulted in exacerbated MPEG2 mosquito noise, and posterization. DirecTV's odd 1280x1080i feeds resulted in a softening of the image as the horizontal detail was lost and then stretched back out at the satellite receiver to 1920x1080.

This fella's lawsuit finally came up on the docket on September 20th when a judge ruled against DirecTV's request for arbitration, meaning that this will at some point go to court and be settled by a battle of lawyers.

 

This lawsuit raises an interesting question: Just what constitutes high definition television?

Oct 04 2006

Blog - Welcome

First off, I would like to welcome everyone to missingremote.com. I hate to use the term beta, but we do have a few bugs to iron out, but I am very happy with the first go around considering our limited time and resources. John (Bubba) did an excellent job pulling the server and site together. We hope to get everything working in short order and the focus on adding new features to the site. A few of the items we are contemplating is a gallery, news discussion in the forum rather then a comment system, and a small redesign to the forums.

If you would like to get involved with the site in anyway, please let me know. You can go through the contact page at the top to get a hold of me or email me alan <do not spam me at> missingremote.com. Further down the road, we will be looking for qualified A/V enthusiasts to do reviews for the site. :)

Our first contest will be announced this weekend. I have yet to finalize the details, but you can be sure something will be up this weekend. Monkey Boy has boldly claimed the prize before the contest even starts. Are you going to let this guy win?

 

I think thats about it. Again, welcome to the site!! Tell your friends!! Smack Lothar for not signing up yet, and if he has smack him anyways.

 

 

Oct 03 2006

Blog - SageTV

You can take the Alan out of the HTPC but you can't take the HTPC out of Alan. Its probably fitting that my first post be about SageTV and their new beta. After having time to look through the new manual and some of the threads on Sage's forum, it has become apparent to me that this isn't the break through release Sage was looking for.

Sage has been taking so many small incremental steps in its product development its almost hard to notice new features. Its like watching yourself grow old. However, even though it is a small step, it is still their biggest step since they released version 2.0. The have made some nice improvements to their "Media Center" and Online Services portion of the software. All of the basic functions are now there, now that they have the stepping stones in place, hopefully they can use their incremental strategy to improve in these areas.

 

I would especially like to see more tie in with additional google services. Sure the video service is nice, but they have a whole slew of other products just waiting to be integrated. Their music platform has gotten a nice lift, although it is just finally gotten even with SageMC. In fact, a lot of SageMC users will have no reason to upgrade unless they want integrated compression and conversion of formats.

 

Would I upgrade? I know I am going to, its tough not to when one has the upgrade fever. I hope by version 7.0 I see more online services integrated, a new UI with sexy animations, integrated way to purchase movies and music, and of course the moon.

What about the PVR portion, well its still one of the, if not the best out there. Its as simple as that, their bread and butter is still good stuff. While I complain about online services and the like, what keep a lot of people around is its client/server architectures that allows you to stream your content anywhere in your house with Sage Client and Media Extender and anywhere in the world with Place Shifter.


Read our news posting for full release details. I remind you, this is not a news post, and is personal opinion. As always, my personal opinion is full of errors, factual inaccuracies, and a wicked desire to buy more electronic goods.

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