May 31 2011

Guide - How to Watch TV without Cable

There’s a lot of talk these days about folks wanting to cut down on their bills and configuring their homes to be able to watch TV without a cable subscription, or “cutting the cord” as it’s called, for a number of reasons. All which seem to be related to a feeling that maximum value is not being derived from a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription. The rise of new content delivery mechanisms utilizing the Internet also is contributing new options that supplement and, for some, rival traditional cable and satellite TV. For all you prospective cord-cutters, this guide will try to help you understand what options are available to watch TV without cable, satellite plan or other residential service. This guide is primarily focused on the US market as there are differences in the availability of content on a per-country basis.

Examine Your TV Viewing Habits

Take stock of the TV programming you currently watch and determine what you can and cannot live without. It may be helpful to compile this information in a spreadsheet. For example, if you watch an entire season of Mad Men, take note of that and the fact that a typical season is thirteen episodes per year. If there are certain things you just can’t live without like ESPN or CNN, you are not a good candidate for cutting the cord because the programming is simply not available sans a cable subscription.

Content Sources

Terrestrial Broadcast Programming / ClearQAM

  • Pros: No monthly subscription fees, High Quality HD with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Access to Major Network Affiliates
  • Cons: Requires purchase of antenna, installation and placement of antenna can be challenging and even prohibitive in some situations

In many cases, you have access to high-quality broadcast programming with just the use of an antenna. This programming, often referred to as over-the-air (OTA) programming, is completely free. Depending on the content the programs are in many cases high-definition (HD) and contain Dolby Digital surround sound audio. Typically, network affiliates of ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC will broadcast in each metropolitan region.

May 25 2011

Guide - GPU Comparison

GPU ComparisonSelecting a graphics processing unit (GPU) (aka video card) that has exactly the right feature set for your home theater PC (HTPC) can be a time consuming task if you're starting your search from scratch. In the ever-changing landscape of home theater and HTPC, AMD, Intel and NVIDIA respond by implementing new features in their GPUs to keep up with the latest and greatest audio and video innovations. That is why we've got you covered here at MissingRemote with our brand new GPU comparison guide.

We plan to keep the guide updated regularly and add new information as it becomes available. If you've got some ideas for items you would like to see compared in the chart, please feel free to let us know in the comments below. We've tried to sift through all the vendor specifications and parse out the vital information that you need to know. While trade names such as AMD's Unified Video Decoder (UVD), NVIDIA's PureVideo HD and Intel's Clear Video HD are interesting, ultimately, it's all about the feature set and that's what you will see in the video card comparison chart. 

We're starting out with what we'll call today's "modern" desktop GPUs though we plan to add some of the older GPUs for comparison sake since many are still running strong.


May 18 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to Assembling an HTPC

We recently covered some recommended parts for Building a Home Theater PC and today we are taking that one step further by taking you through the process of how you can build your very own HTPC. The process is not going to be identical to what you will experience as parts will vary depending on what you select, but hopefully this will give you the knowledge you need to have the confidence to try. And, as usual, remember that our forums are here to help you if you hit any snags in the process.

Build HTPC

Where Brian went with an AMD-based system, I had some Intel pieces around so that is what will be used here; but the assembly process will be similar enough that there is no reason to feel intimidated. First, let's cover what components were used for these videos:


May 13 2011

Guide - Media Players Comparison Guide

Media Players Comparison Guide

It seems in this day that every company under the sun has their very own media player with various features, but how can you differentiate them? We're here to try to help!

I was at work when a buddy of mine asked me which Media Player device he should buy in order to play all his content. I thought for a moment and then realized how badly even I needed something to compare. This will be a living guide, in that we will constantly be adding devices to it. If you have or know of a media player not listed below, please let us know in the comments below!

Update 3: 1/16/2012 - Added links to Roku, Netgear, Dune & Pivos Reviews

Update 2: 5/11/2011 - Embedded spreadsheet (hope you like it) and added Netgear 550

Update 1: 1/7/2011 - Added Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD, ASUS O!Play2 Mini, AC Ryan PlayOnHD! Mini

Media Players Reviewed by @MissingRemote:

May 02 2011

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

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

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

Jan 31 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to HTPC Basics

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

1. Dedicate a physical drive for recording TV:


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

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

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

3. Reduce/disable the Recycle Bin:

Jan 26 2011

Guide - Video Frame Rates and Display Refresh Rates for Beginners

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

Jan 17 2011

Guide - Beginners Guide to Controlling your HTPC

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

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

Jan 04 2011

Guide - Video Resolutions for Beginners

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

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

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



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


What about the “i” and “p”?

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

Dec 29 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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