Jan 28 2009

Blog - Transition Trip-ups

digitaltv.jpgThe digital TV transition is a rather interesting problem for America.  People want their TV, but the digital transition is going to confuse many people when it takes effect.

Let's discuss the foremost issues: funding and timing.

As of this morning, January 28th, unlike the Senate, the House of Representatives voted 'No' on the extension of the DTV transition to June. This means that time is of the essence when it comes to replenishing the DTV coupon funds and making sure the right citizens get their coupons.


Problem #1: Coupon expiration

The vast majority of coupons that have been given out are now expired. Coupons issued from February 2008 through October 2008 are now all expired. These funds need to be recycled ASAP. There is a rather steady trend of approximately 55% redemption rate for every wave of coupons.


Problem #2: Who are redeeming the coupons?

The data gets more interesting when it is filtered by households that are using OTA only (what the NTIA calls "OTA Reliant"). Here the redemption rate is closer to 60% and went as high as 65% in the last few weeks of 2008. So that means that quite a few people who claimed to be using OTA only on their request form are indeed getting the coupons, but not enough, it would be nice to see the numbers higher -- into the 70% range.

There is a second group: those that are redeeming coupons when they are not OTA reliant. Their requests make up 40% to 50% of the overall coupons requests. According to the data these people are redeeming coupons at about 55%, the same as the overall rate.

Jan 27 2009

Blog - Will green push people to home automation

I admit it, when I first started thinking about home automation I did not have the environment in mind. Instead I was focused on convenience, wife acceptance factor and of course another fun geeky pursuit. The more I am drawn into the home automation world, it isn't hard to see that convenience and being green are often intertwined. As I documented my plans, I began to realize each HA task I planed on implementing had a positive effect on my utility bills and ultimately the environment.

Where I live, I know the capital cost to implement a home automation system will never be paid out by lowering my bills, however it is satisfying to know that part of my project will be and I will be a little more green in the process. A good example of this is simply having remote access, that most home automation systems have, and being able to shut off a light I inadvertently left on. 

Beyond simple remote access, you can expand a home automation system to respond according to external simuli. An irrigation system can respond to a rain sensor or lights will turn on and off according to a level of activity in the room. Ultimately, you can connect every object that may have an impact on your utility bills such as blinds, lights and your HVAC system

Here is a summary of a few home automation scenarios that I had in mind.

  • Lights - Remote access to shut off a light I inadvertently left on or turn on a light before I get home
    • Motion sensor - Lights will shut-off after a set period of time with no inactivity
    • Dimming - Dimming lights will save on electrical and increase bulb life
  • Irrigation - No plans here. I manually water my lawn but if I change my mind (get off my lawn you whipper snappers), I would implement a time control and a rain sensor
  • Security - No green plans here
  • HVAC - Remote access to turn control the temperature when I get closer to home
    • Programmed based on times
  • Demand logging - I am not sure of the practacility of this, but I would like to see an instantaneous review of my power use to get a better handle on where it goes.
I am certainly aware that there are methods to control all of the above scenarios but home automation will certainly make this a lot easier and smarter to implement.

What other energy saving ideas do you guys have?
Jan 27 2009

Blog - Why I love SageTV

I know everyone here probably already knows I'm a SageTV user, and I have been for the past many years. But today I had one of those moments that reminds me why I love SageTV, and in particular it's developers. The development team's dedication to providing timely, friendly responses to inquiries is probably one of my favorite things about this company.

Now that I actually have modern tuners, extenders, and other equipment (instead of the stuff from circa 2003), I have been updating my version of SageTV frequently throughout the current 6.5 Beta. At some point, a bug was introduced that broke the way the system read the tags from my flac files. Yesterday after trying a suggestion from tech support first, and then doing a complete rebuild on my own which I had been planning (new apt = new build :) ), I followed up to tech support by sending them a sample file to try and debug from. This was probably about 10pm EST last night.

Here's the email I received early this afternoon:

OK, this is fixed for the next build now. :)  (the one we're putting out today)

SageTV Support Team


Does it really get any better than that? File bug report, wake up around 11, eat breakfast, get email that devs have already figured out problem, and included it in latest build which happens to be going out today. I don't really think it does. So thanks to the Sage dev team for being absolutely great!!!


P.S. If you're a Sage user and paying attention, this probably means a 6.5 RC2 or 6.5 Final to be out today Cool

Jan 23 2009

Blog - jinni Review

A few of you may seen my "HTPC - Start page" blog a little while ago. In that post I was trying to decribe a move away from the traditional menu based system for your "start page" and move towards a system of recommendations, social aspects and interacting with newly added media such as music, movies and TV. Boxee has made some moves in that direction which I certainly appreciate and I will be following development closely. However, my primary HTPC platform will remain Windows Media Center, at least until a replacement for OEM-only CableCards come out.

In the mean time, I am on the look out for different recommendation engines to help me get the most out of my Netflix subscription :). I just haven't had the time to follow the movie scene as closely as I would have liked and so I am not really in tune with what movie is a stinker or not these past few years. Enter jinni, a website that aims to take what has been perfected from the music world and apply it to movie and TV recommendations. 

I can forgive their obvious borrowing from Pandora's Genome project if they can apply the basic building blocks of a movie to the same level of success Pandora, Zune, and other music recommendation services have had. As with most preference services, you have to apply a bit of training before the service will begin to act like a mind reader.

<Insert movie>

Jan 22 2009

Blog - Test

Jan 20 2009

Blog - A Few Weeks With Windows 7 Media Center

Everyone and their dog has had a chance to donwload Windows 7 beta. For various reasons including promises of fame, fortune, performance and a few crazy folks like us are trying out the Media Center portion of W7MC. I have had a few weeks to play with Media Center with most of my use focusing around Music, Movies & TV's. Here is the good and bad of Microsoft's Vista Redu. Enjoy the pictorial and video fun of W7.

Digg It

The Good

Improved mini-guide - I absolutely love it. This is how all mini-guides should be, one show at a time is near useless.


Hit the read more button to continue this fine saga.

Jan 20 2009

Blog - The story of my life

Well, I'm kinda depressed this morning.  I admit that things were finally going smoothly for once.  Everything was set up the way I wanted.  None of my scheduled recordings were being missed.  Things were actually calming down around here for once.  Then, about this time last week, the UPS on my HD server/development system beeped on me, and when I went to check on it wouldn't you know it?  The system won't turn on anymore.  It wasn't a power flux in the house.  Only that one UPS beeped.  I imagine that the PSU went out and spiked the UPS.  I guess that's not too unreasonable though, because after thinking about it for a while I realized that that system was about 9 years old at least.  

But the reason that I'm depressed is that this is the system that housed my HD tuner and I now find myself with only an SD recording of Monday's episode of The Big Bang Theory.  So I have a bit of a dilemma.  Do I spend the time and money trying to revive the system so that I can continue to use the same configuration and not have to do a new OS installation on a new system or do I spend a bit more money and build a new system to do the same function as the old system.  Or, do I ditch that system all together, throw the HD tuner in my frontend system - making that a frontend/backend - and then use my laptop for development?  I could probably build a new system for around $500.  What to do, what to do...  Hmm...

Until I figure out what I want to do going forward, I imagine that I will at least start by throwing the HD tuner into my frontend for now.  I would really like to have something functional by the time the Super Bowl comes around in a couple weeks.

Feel free to offer an opinion.  What would you do in this situation?  If you'd build a new system, what would you use for parts?  Let me know!

Jan 18 2009

Blog - 3DTV updates

Back in October I started to talk about how 3DTV was going to be the next big technology to hit the home theater experience.  Now that more time has passed, I thought it would be a good idea to see how things sit today.  Many companies were sharing their products and plans at CES2009  so lets take a look at where things are now.


Jan 18 2009

Blog - Transition Time

Those of us who have the privilege of having a significant other also have the distinct joy of ensuring our media system design meets their specific requirements.  This has been referred to in the past as the "Wife Acceptance Factor" or WAF.  I'm not talking about whether it's a 720p or 1080p display or what RAID level the drives are running, but rather something much more important.  Let me give you an example; "Why does it go to that screen when I click this doohickey?"

After time has passed and they have been sufficiently trained in the system's operation, the questions become less frequent and the impatient sighs diminish.  So, why would you ever think about rocking the boat?  There are a million reasons and eventually the time comes to bite the bullet and make the leap of faith.  Days of planning, testing, and tweaking culminate in the evening of the great unveiling.  You sit her down, explain the vast improvements that the new system will provide (her eyes roll into the back of her head half way through), and you hand her the shiny new remote.  What happens next can be best described as "shock and awe".  Nothing is as it was before.  "Where's my recordings?",  "How do I watch a DVD?",  "This remote feels funny", and my personal favorite, "Can you put it back the way it was?"

Yes, the WAF just took a plunge deeper than the crashing stock market.  With some careful planning, your next HTPC software platform transition can be a little less harrowing.  Read on for some tips.

Jan 17 2009

Blog - Home Automation Shopping List

When I pitched the idea of Home Automation to my wife, all she asked was, "Why does our house need to be automated?". Not a good start to my home automation project. Starting off with a negative WAF can be a hard hole to climb out of. The good news is that after several years of marriage, I am ready to climb another everest. I hope this one is as successful as the HTPC w/CableCards & extender route.

For more information on getting started I recommend checking out Chris Lanier's Guide to getting started with Home Automation . He summarizes the available standards, hardware installation and use of mControl. I won't duplicate his fine work :). A quick search of "getting started" on his site will reveal more useful posts.


Mike raised a good point in his comment. I really didn't outline my intentions and I sort of left it vague because I wasn't sure where it would lead pending my evaluation of the software, expense and economics of the situation. I do have some very general goals in mind that I will share. 

  1. Convenience - Lving in a two story house with kids is the perfect storm for lights left on all over the house. It would be nice to have the convenience of checking to see what lights were left on in the basement, outside etc. I am not sure the reduction in my powerbill for this will ever payoff my investment but I think it is worthwhile.
  2. Security - There is no window in our door so you have to open the door to see who is there. Not only for security but not having to answer the door when a sales person is there :)
  3. Temperature Control - Though I have a programmable thermostat, I think remote access (all over house) and Internet, will have a big impact on gas and AC bill. As a family we tend to manually change the thermostat and forget about it, this should help resolve that issue.
  4. Cool Factor -A lot of my project is driven my the inner geek in my. I want to have the lights dim when I start a movie etc :)
  5. Remote Access - Access via the internet to check up on things while I am gone is important as well. I have had one house flood, that is enough for me :).

Hit the read more for more my shopping list. Update 1-18-2009 to include Zwave shopping list.

Jan 15 2009

Blog - BoxeeTV - Day 3 - Configuring AppleTV with Harmony Remote

After using Boxee with my Apple TV for a few days (Day 1 Setup | Day 2 First Use ) I noticed the one downside about using AppleTV as my platform of coice--I absolutely hated the remote. I don't have abnormally large hands, yet the remote would constantly get lost in my hands and pushing buttons was not very comfortable.


So knowing that I have a Harmony 890 for everything else, it only makes sense to try to pair that to the AppleTV. I was already curious how this would turn out given the vast difference in buttons from the AppleTV remote versus the Harmony's, as well as the setup process. Some simple google searching showed that it could be done, albeit with some workarounds. By the time I launched the Harmony software, low and behold they had already updated their database not only to include the AppleTV, but even a dialog box with apparantly a known issue in regards to pairing.

Here is how I set up my AppleTV for an eventual "Boxee" activity: Add Device > Media Center PC > Apple > AppleTV, and it found it right away. Then I was prompted the following popup alerting me on what to do if I encounter pairing issues:


It's nice to see Logitech incorporate this type of FAQ into the product setup--it was the first device I had seen that with and should help in reducing the number of support calls they receive. Once that was completed, I synced my remote just to confirm it worked.

For creating an activity, I used the "Watch LiveTV" configurator to go through the manual process, and had to manually select each option individually (sorry, there's not yet a "Use AppleTV for Boxee" pre-defined activity). This was as painless as normal, and then I was up and running.

Using the Harmony after using the AppleTV takes a bit of an adjustment, but the buttons seem to press faster for me, and the entire experience is just smoother. Of course, there's only a few buttons you need to use--Menu, OK, and then the arrows. The only option on the screen is "Aspect" to adjust the aspect ratio. I occasionally found myself pressing the wrong button, but for the most part it was acceptable.

My only gripe is that the Activity takes an awful long time to start and for the life of me I cannot figure out how to speed up the process, or even how to change the order in which the devices are turned on. A minor quibble sure, and more of a complaint of Harmony's software than Boxee....of course Cool

Jan 15 2009

Blog - My Experience Using HP's Server Recovery

For those of you that read my Home Server challenge review , you will know that I have been living with HP's original EX475 for several months now and have really had fun playing with it, and of course upgrading its memory to be a wonderful and reliable server. I had since taken the system and replaced all three of the available data drives--replacing the 2nd 500gb Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 drive with a quieter 1tb version, and adding two 750gb drives in the other two slots. My only complaint was that the operating system drive was MUCH louder than the other drives, with lots of seeking noise that I could hear from my bedroom during heavy activity. In an HTPC environment, that simply would not do!

So I did some research and saw my available options. Even though the HP does not include a video output, it still is capable of doing system recovery in the case of disaster. There's mixed reviews on the forums, with some very nightmarish reports, but for the most part fairly positive.  After weeks of deliberating (literally) I decided I would take the plunge. I purchased a special Seagate drive optimized for home theater environments and read the instructions online very carefully.

The process is quite simple, inserting the Server Recovery disc FIRST, and then just following the step-by-step instructions. I connected my laptop wired just to make sure there were no other issues. I selected to do the 1st option of recovery, which is meant to recover the data, versus the Server reset which restores the entire server to it's blank original configuration. The process completed relatively quickly (~20 minutes) , but then the data recovery portion took about 90 minutes longer before beginning the original WHS setup configuration where you set the name, password, updates, etc.


The updating software portion froze initially for some unknown reason, but since the Connector software had installed, I just cancelled and restarted without even the need of a CD. I eventually had to restart the WHS box, but then everything worked fine, and guess what....all my data appears to have remained intact! I was even more surprised to see that all my individual computer backups also were still there!

Of course I have to re-update to Power Pack 1 and re-add all my user accounts and add-ins as those are all lost as well, but overall I would say this was an overwhelming success. Within 2 hours I was able to completely replace the operating system hard drive and recover the WHS back to functional use while still keeping every bit of my data. Another impressive victory for this already overwhemingly successful machine!

Jan 15 2009

Blog - BoxeeTV - Day 2 - Using and Loving

Following up on part one of setup of Boxee on AppleTV , is the actual living and using the software in a home theater environment. Luckily my receiver has multiple inputs, so I didn't necessarily have to CHOOSE to migrate 100% over to Boxee, as I still have a need for my cablecard and blu-ray abilities that my main Media Center provides.

I ran into a launcher 2.2 bug (serves me right for hacking appleTV!) which prevented ther resolution from changing from 480i. Fortunately, a quick hardware reset of the AppleTV made things right and within no time I was ready to go in HD on my 32" LCD. Since my internet and cable TV has been down for the last few days, I figured it was the PERFECT time to test Boxee to be able to catch up on my favorite shows.


My initial feeling about Boxee is there's no central search ability. I understand this is the limitation based on all the multiple providers and not having clear APIs for each, but it is challenging if you are not familiar with the content all the sites provide. If anyone knows of a guide which helps you on this voyage, it would be greatly appreciated. For example, I was looking for the latest episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" (Great Show!) and was confused--do I start at CBS, Joost, Hulu or something else? The Videos > Internet is wonderful because of all the options available, but it's also a bit overwhelming as well. I struck out at CBS right away, but luckily had more luck on Hulu and was able to watch my show. The quality was good (what you would expect), and browsing over to CBS the quality was even better--near HD! I was able to watch a full length episode of "Worst Week"with 2 commercial interruptions. The only odd thing in that experience was that the Pause feature did not work at all. I'm sure it's just a bug, but just a heads up.

After the first day, the main message I left with was "I need more friends!" The reason being, the main portal of Boxee has social networking integrated quite well. On the top, you get "Recommendations" and after that you see "Friends Activity." Why is this so important? Well, lets say you have some friends (who are using Boxee, of course) who are more religious about promptly finding and watching the very same shows you like. Once they watch a show it will show up in your "Friends Activity" section--meaning you would not even have to drill down into the Internet Videos. My request would be that they expand this to also have a "Top Viewed" feature from all Boxee users, just in case people like me only have 1 friend.


Stay tuned for more info as I continue to learn, live, love and write about Boxee!

BTW, if any MissingRemote readers want a Boxee invitation and haven't received theirs yet, feel free to ask in the Comments and I'd be happy to oblige. 

And of course, if you are a Current Boxee user, add me as a friend (Shadymg).


Jan 15 2009

Blog - Defining The Fight

There has been a bit of hub bub in the Media Center world with Chris Lanier lashing out against Microsoft for lack of online content and the apparent lack of market focus Media Center has. Posts can be found on his blog here . With that came a number of response from various other ehome blogs such as Ian Dixon and Brent Evans and even had Charlie Owen from Microsoft commenting.

I am not really here to rebuke or provide agreement with articles, rather I would like to try and define the fight and provide perspective. As always, I would like to encourage everyone not to worry to much about marketing. Ultimately the software will be what you make of it. 

Regarding the online content to the TV. I am trying in my mind to define the battle that has been raging but from where I am sitting I am a few days early to a skirmish that has yet to take place and the main battle is still a couple of years away. It is easy to get excited when we see websites like Hulu pop up and alpha versions of software pop up to take advantage of it. As of right now, there are no commercially available software that enables online content. Its easy to compare XBMC to Media Center but they are two different animals. One with licensing agreements, one with out. Without a doubt online media is in its infancy (maybe toddler) years.

On the flipside, its easy to get frustrated when a gaming platform gets alot more love. Media Center should be a part of the Xbox experience not in addition to it. The marketing opportunities are far greater.

The battle for HD content from a TV source provider is roughly a tie between Windows 7 and SageTV. One has CableCards and the other has the HD PVR. I fully expect to see HD PVR support as it is only a matter of driver support at this time. Hauppauge would be silly do let this market go. It certainly isn't the cheapest or best option in the world but it certainly works. 

The extender front basically became a non-issue with Windows 7 support of many mroe CODECs. The 360 is a very viable extender and should support most anything you throw at it. 

There are many ways Microsoft can improve the Media Center product and I will outline my thoughts as I spend more time with Windows 7 and what it has to offer. Do keep in mind that we are in beta mode :).

What do I think of TV on the PC marketing? Eh? The marketing people fell asleep. Why would I use a 10' UI to navigate anything on a desktop when I can do it much more efficiently via the Zune software or another 3rd party product.

I don't believe the battle has even started and I am looking at throwing a few swings in the coming months ;)

Random suggestion for the day. Microsoft buying Netflix.

Jan 15 2009

Blog - Windows 7 Media Center - Music Library


The music library, a place where an HTPC application can live or die. Microsoft has managed to keep the music library in good health with a few needed tweaks but has failed to take it to the Olympic level.

Let me start by saying I think Microsoft has really shined with their music library. All of the possible sorts you would want are their including auto-generated playlists of what music you listen to the most. Navigation has improved significantly with the Turbo-scroll option, making it a lot easier navigate through a large library.

The visualizations got a nice addition in the form of a music wall and picture wall. This animation will be a love it or hate for most people. If you get motion sick, avert your eyes ;).

The revamped "more information" screen continues to the music library. The improvement isn't huge but it does flow a bit better in my mind and gives easy access to actions you can perform.

I can't say much about albumn art at this time as I have yet to confirm if they are moving to higher resolution cover art or if they are sticking with the lower 200X200 artwork. So far it looks like they are sticking with the lower res artwork but I have seen a few bits of info to indicate they are moving to better covers.

There are a couple of things I would like to see improved on the Music Library.

  • Add support to add your own podcasts and radio stations
  • Integrate the Zune Marketplace, it is coming 
I hope you enjoyed the second Windows 7 video music and all. Stay tuned for future videos.


Jan 12 2009

Blog - Windows 7 Media Center TV Strip


The TV strip in Windows 7, while similar to Vista, did receive several tweaks that alter the appearance and functionality of viewing and recording TV. The major changes to your TV viewing experience will be the revamped details screen. This concept is applied throughout the program and allows for content specific interaction such as program info, actions and other showings type of information.

The guide has been revamped in a couple of different ways. The obvious one is the inclusion of InternetTV channels that allow for easier access to the InternetTV content. This is a great idea IF they open it up to 3rd party developers. As well, you can edit the channel directly from the guide.

The mini-guide and program information, both accessed from LiveTV has received similar UI changes as seen in the video. One less button press to get to the synopsis is a good thing in my opinion. Of course, the inclusion of a "full" mini-guide is another improvement over the one show mini-guide of vista.




Jan 10 2009

Blog - Hauppauge 1600 & QAM With Windows 7

I was hoping to see QAM enabled by default when using a Hauppauge 1600 and W7MC, however this is not the case. The good news is that a couple of quick fixes will have you on your way.

First up, apply this registry key that is linked here.

After that, install the latest drivers from Hauppauge's website and you are good to go :).

As always, you will have to do the guide data shuffle to get the correct guide data to show up. As you can see from the shot below not all is right with that guide. On a seperate note, the integrated services is a huge win now that I have had a chance to use it.

To add any missing channels, head on over to the setup portion of W7MC and have your way with the data. Add missing channels is a good place to start if you think you are missing QAM channels. You can review all of the channels that the QAM scan picked up. 

Jan 10 2009

Blog - Plugin Status For WIndows 7

While setting up Windows 7, I am testing a few plugins that I have in my Vista production machine. Some are working out of the box and others are taking tweaks to function correctly and some are just downright refusing to work.

Here is what I have tested so far:

If you have updates to any VIsta Media Center plugins working for W7MC, let me know in the comments and I will update this post :).


Jan 06 2009

Blog - The HTPC Software Start Page

There has been lots of talk in the Sage world about UI's and what folks like to see in order to gain mass adoption. While not specifically related to the entire UI, my thoughts driffted to what I would like to see for the intitial screen when I sit down to use my HTPC.

The menu structure has long since been the start screen of choice for all HTPC programs. This somewhat makes sense as it should offer the fewest amount of clicks between the start screen and your desired HTPC function. RecordedTV->show-->Play or Music->Artist->Album->Play All. Something along those lines :). This approach while comforating like an old shoe really does not do much to ease access to the media you want to interact with.

What's New?

In my case, I assume this to be true in most house holds including mine, I want to interact with shows I record the most, shows I recorded recently, videos and music I added recently. I am not sure of the exact ratio but I would guess that I use my HTPC to interact with newly added media 80 percent of the time as compared to the stale rip of Vertical Limit that I watch every few years.

So let's make that feature #1 on our start page and make the newly added media available. This could be a "New Media Menu" item with sub-menus for different types of added media. With all the fancy networking gizmos W7 is to offer, you should have a solid catalog of what media has been added to your network. Just don't dig to deep into the dusty confines of others personal folders. You might not want to find "everything". This would tie into new media from various marketplaces that exist and in general make it easier to discover new content.


I assume since we are adding, recording and editing media, we like to see what is out there in terms of new media. Both Apple and Microsoft have fairly good recommendation engines in their respective marketplace software. It would not be a stretch to include this for all types of media. 

This is feature #2. Right beside the New Media button, lets put a Recommendation menu item with recommendation sub items based on different types of media. This could included recommended shows to watch & record, recommended audio to buy from a marketplace or listen to a Internet radio station, recommended movies to buy or watch. The important aspect in this feature is to have the API open so all plugins can take advantage of this feature. My movies, Netflix or even a Hulu plugin should be able to send the proper metadata to the software to organize what is new based on your viewing habits or some predefined genre preferences.

The Social

The social is coming, at that is what everyone tells me. I am generally writing to busy writing articles to notice if people are social or not. What would be interesting is to see what my friends are watching. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see what the community has a whole is watching. Various Top 10 lists and other social aspects would be a pretty good idea. Alright, let's make menu item #3, The Social. Sub menus could include friends, community and expert recommendations & critics.

This strategy heavily relies on having the proper data from your added media and having thirdy party plugins provide proper data to the HTPC software. Since this is no longer a controlled environment it maybe difficult to implement with third parties.

Ultimately, I would like to see a move away from the start page and move towards interacting with the media AND making it easier to discover soemthing a little different. It is getting a little hectic to browse Hulu, the EPG, Netflix, Movie Collectorz to find stuff to entertain :).


What do you guys think? Stick with the menu system? My vote is for this type of start page just because most remotes in use offer one click access as opposed to navigating a menu system. If you need to navigate the menu system, the start button is just a click away.
Jan 01 2009

Blog - Hulu and XBMC

Hulu has been a very elusive creature on our beloved HTPCs. Sure we can hop on PCs to get slightly outdated shows but we are a picky bunch on want to do everything with a remote :). Sure there is Boxee, the social crotch fruit of XBMC, but that isn't available to everyone and has a ways to go. XBMC, the open source whore that has spawned a few projects itslef, has come through with in spades thanks to contributions from a couple of kick ass users in the community.

Enabling Hulu on XBMC requires a special build that can be found here.

The feature required for Hulu to work can also be found in the latest SVN's. This option would probably get you improved stability, though I can't say for sure until I test it.

There are multiple scripts in the above thread. The one I used with success on the above build can be found here.

 Various ways to browse Hulu
 Top movies by the week

You will want to copy the script to the  plugins->video directory to install the script :). Yes, its that simple.

 xbhu3_thumb.jpg  xbhu4_thumb.jpg
 Phsych by season  Popular shows, view by icons

In order to access Hulu from the XBMC menu click on videos->video plugins and then Hulu :). As you can see from the screen cap above, browsing with your remote is actually very similar to using the webpage. You are typically 3 to 5 clicks away from selecting the media you want to view. Endless drill-downs are a no-no in plugin navigation land, and this plugin avoids it for the most part.

 Select quality based on your bandwidth

Good luck with Hulu on your big screen :). Here is to hoping 2009 brings Hulu to all of the major HTPC platforms. 

Dec 30 2008

Blog -

First off, why didn't I get the memo that scrubs was moving to ABC? Seriously? I guess I should have been more loyal over the past couple of years. Yah, you guessed right, I am typing this while watching an episode of Scrubs with's built in web player.


The selection seems pretty resonable but like most websites. is acting as a limited archive for their current shows. It is a mixed bag on what episodes are out there. As an example, LOST has the entire current season on it while Grey's only has episodes 2,3 and 9 from this season.

Hit the read more button for the full rundown.

Dec 05 2008

Blog - Lothar's transition to digital tv

By now you have more than likely heard that February 17, 2009 all analog OTA tv transmissions in the US will cease and become digital transmissions.  In order to use them with your older analog TVs (or analog TV tuners as the case may be) a new converter box is needed.  In order to help out, the US government is subsidising purchase of these units by $40.  Today I am blogging about my experience in acquiring the rebate card, soon to be followed by acquiring, setting up and using the DTV converter bot itself.

As I mentioned already, the government is subsidizing the purchase of up to two digital converter boxes.  Here is an excerpt from

Between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, all U.S. households will be eligible to request up to two coupons, worth $40 each, to be used toward the purchase of up to two, digital-to-analog converter boxes. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has responsibility for administering the coupon program. (Please note that these coupons will expire 90 days after mailing). More information can be found at

So, I decided that since the changeover is only a little over two months away it was time that I get up off my rear end and order a couple of rebate cards.  In order to do that, you need to head over to and fill out the application.  The application is very simple to complete; on the right side of the main page, click on the section that says (1) Apply for a coupon then fill out the four sections.  You need to give them a name and address, whether or not you get all of your tv OTA (this does not affect your eligibility as far as I can tell), how many coupons you are requesting (one or two), and check the box verifying that everything is correct.  Then just enter in the anti-spam text and click submit.  A few weeks later you will receive a card in the mail.  I applied for mine on 11/12/08 which fell into the batch mailed on 11/28/08 and received it on 12/05/08.  It was all very easy to do.  There is no reason why you can't order your own as well.

The next step is to choose a converter box and order that.  If you have any input or recommendations of what works and what doesn't please leave word in the comments section.  There are a number of options to choose from spread over a wide price range so I could use your help in narrowing it down.  The coupon is good for 90 days but I'd like to already have a couple months use of it by then.

Thanks for reading this and please share your experiences with this as well!

Nov 12 2008

Blog - My Favorite Bond Films

007_gun_barrel.jpgWith the release of the next chapter in the Daniel Craig reboot of James Bond coming to theatres this Friday (Nov. 14th), I thought I'd put up a list of my favorite Bond movies. It gets pretty hard to pick, and I've actually made two lists one of my top picks as an adult, and one with an eye to nostalgia, as I've been watching James Bond since I was about 8 years old. My my second list is made with an eye to my love of action and adventure. Lastly, I'll mention a few total turkeys in the franchise as a "bonus" third list.


The Serious List

Goldfinger -- Goldfinger is widely regarded as the most popular Bond film. 'nuff said.

Thunderball -- Thunderball is a close second ;-) The underwater battle was a huge undertaking that is still considered a benchmark in underwater stunt planning and execution.

GoldenEye -- GoldenEye took Bond into to the 1990's: the mess that Russia had become just after the fall of Communism, the pathos of the Bond character as his macho attitudes no longer "just worked". 
Also while watching it in the movie theater in middle school my friend and I, being huge computer dorks, caught an OS/2 boot screen logo during flash on one of the workstations in the end sequence when the pen grenade goes off.

From Russia With Love -- Early Connery, but fairly true to the literary Bond, and pretty darn good suspense moments on the famous Orient Express. The gagdets aren't really gadgets, rather they are fairly realistic and practical spy gear that would have been used in the era.

Doctor No -- Connery is a bit rough around the edges in his first outing but is a pretty hardcore realistic secret agent, no fancy gadgets yet.

Casino Royale -- A much needed reboot of the series made Bond relevent to the 21st century and gave him the chance to let audiences see him in a raw, less worldly, state. The only gripe is that the gambling game was changed to poker to pander to the craze that was sweeping the USA circa 2005/2006.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service -- A pretty darn good film, which follows the novel fairly closely. It looks at a different side of Bond, he gets married! Also kudos to Australian model George Lazenby who was given a crash course in Bond style and then told to fill Sean Connery's shoes.

Syndicate content
Website design by Yammm Software
Powered by Drupal