Tuesday, December 30, 2008

GeekTonic Review of 2008 - Most Popular Articles

It's been a very busy year here at GeekTonic.  We've had many firsts this year including, first major update to the theme, first 800,000-plus page views year and definitely the first major refocusing of the GeekTonic Blog to a more Media-Gadget and HTPC focus.  I want to first thank you the reader for all of your support over this past year - your readership means a lot to me and I wouldn't be doing this unless I felt I could bring you the reader more value.  Please don't hesitate to tell me if there's anything you'd like to see me talk about, focus on or explain better in the coming year.

I'll have another post about some of my plans for the coming year as well as a few of my predictions for 2009.  But first, I wanted to share with you some of GeekTonic's most read posts of 2008:


  • TV Writers Strike - Ultimate Guide - Yes, it started in 2007, but carried on into 2008 and this monster post was a project of mine that I kept updated daily throughout the writers strike.  It was a lot of work, but one of the most popular single pages I've done at GeekTonic.
  • Answers to your Hauppauge HD-PVR Questions - The Hauppauge HD-PVR plugs the analog hole and this post shared as much information as was available about it before being released.  Still a popular post even today.
  • Hauppauge HD-PVR First Look and Unboxing- It wasn't a full review by any means, but it gave information to HTPC users craving for the ability to tune and record live digital HD and SD TV without onerous DRM and other protections.  I've held off on the final review of this thing and hope to have the long overdue full review out soon.
  • SageTV HD100 Review - Arguably one of the most successful and useful HTPC extenders ever made, the SageTV HD100 hit the HTPC scene with a bang.  SageTV sold them so fast they could barely keep them in stock and since have released the successor named the HD200.
  • Converting Laptop into Digital Photo Frame - I posted this in mid-2007, but it is still very popular.  Matter of fact I've been using it on a daily basis and have upgraded it a bit recently.  I have an even better solution for DIY Digital Photo Frames I'll be sharing with readers in 2009.
  • Supercharge your SageTV with SageMC - It's name is confusing for outsiders and new SageTV users alike, but the most popular add-on for SageTV is called SageMC.  SageMC over the past year has gotten so much better - for those that diss on SageTV for it's "old" look and feel, SageMC answers that and pushes the features even farther than before.
  • Ultimate Winter 2008 TV Premiere Guide and Fall 2008 Guide- I've never been totally happy with the TV premiere listings I've come across even from the big TV websites and blogs.  So I began making my own and last year started sharing that with GeekTonic readers as well.  Check out the latest one: Winter 2009 TV Guide here.
  • Automatically Embed Large Album Art to MP3 Collections - There must be a large number of folks out there with big, disorganized MP3 collections because this post continues to get lots of hits.  I still use this method to get some album art into my MP3's I rip from old CD's etc.
  • Transform your AppleTV with Boxee - Lots of interest out there for the new HTPC program Boxee.  Apple TV users were just hoping for something more than Apple gave them.
  • Microsoft Fiji Arrives - And disappoints most U.S. users of Vista Media Center.
  • SageTV HD200 First Look - SageTV replaces the popular HD100 Extender with a Extender/Player (can run as a stand-alone player if desired) that has more CPU power and more memory than the HD100.  Review coming in next few days.

That's just a sampling of the top posts.  As you can see there's a definite focus on HTPC's, Media-Gadgets and the Media you play on those devices at GeekTonic.  I'll continue on this path and plan to provide even better information and news to all of you in 2009.

Commercial Detection Software Battle – Comskip vs ShowAnalyzer

If you use Home Theater PC software, you are probably aware of commercial detection.  Unlike your cable/satellite DVR, TIVO or VCR your HTPC can automatically detect and if you want it to automatically skip commercials.  Matter of fact, this is one of the features that draws people to HTPCs in the first place.  A SageTV user (bialo is his forum name) recently did a comparison of the two most popular commercial detection programs: Comskip and ShowAnalyzer to see which one was the most accurate and fastest at detecting those commercials.  Read on for the results.

Notes about Comskip and ShowAnalyzer:

Note that this comparison did not include Snapstream’s built-in “smartskip” commercial detection.  While it is much easier to set up since it’s built into BeyondTV, I’ve found smartskip to be somewhat less accurate and definitely less reliable for commercial detection especially for those H.264 files output from the popular Hauppauge HD-PVR.  Another advantage of these two over Smartskip is that they have the ability to detect commercials while the recording is still in process.  This is a really nice feature if you tend to watch shows a bit time-delayed, but only by 20 or 30 minutes.  That way I’ll have commercials marked by the time I get to them even if the show just aired.

Another thing to note is that this test was done with the latest “donation” versions of the two commercial detection programs.  You can still get the free versions of these two, but they won’t be the latest, fastest or most accurate versions as the free version is typically several versions behind the paid versions.

For those of you unfamiliar with commercial detection in HTPC’s here’s what you see in SageTV after commercials have been detected and “marked”:

Anything in dark-green notes a detected commercial.  So when you get to that in the timeline, you can just hit the “right” button on your remote control and it will advance you to the end of the commercial.  If you have it set to auto-skip commercials it will automatically skip over those marked commercials without the user doing anything.


MPEG Commercial Detection Results

Commercial detection was run on a single episode of “Bones” (HD 720p, mpg from FOX).

Comskip Version 0.80.008 Results

5.00         133.52	0 (Note: 5 seconds padding used on comskip)
609.43 750.20 0
1259.74 1471.85 0
2019.88 2235.92 0
2677.96 2910.22 0
3154.20 3307.19 0
3734.81 3771.55 0
3839.20 3839.22 0

ShowAnalyzer Version Results

0.00300833     137.565	0
604.587 754.554 0
1254.72 1475.37 0
2014.78 2179.77 0 (Note: ShowAnalyzer incorrectly marked commercial at 2179.77 – 2193.11 as part of the show)
2193.11 2239.83 0
2677.89 2913.31 0
3148.65 3310.6 0
3729.71 3769.7 0
3837.97 3837.97 0

Bialo remarks:  I've got COMSKIP set for 5 seconds padding. So as you can tell, the results are almost identical. ShowAnalyzer had 1 false positive (2179.x to 2193.x marked incorrectly as part of the show). So for mpeg it's pretty much a draw as far as I am concerned.

So far, the winner is a very slight nod to Comskip since ShowAnalyzer made a slight incorrect mark.  In the end though it’s really too close to call for Mpeg recordings though.

H.264 Commercial Detection Results

Comskip Version 0.80.008 Results

    5.00     2.90	0
259.33 374.34 0
1071.50 1121.45 0
1728.09 1806.81 0
2364.93 2538.17 0
3135.80 3185.95 0
3565.96 3597.46 0
ShowAnalyzer Version Results

2.44643    7.6303 0
204.315 403.169 0
6670.72 6670.72 0

As you can see from the results, comskip marked a great deal more commercials than ShowAnalyzer did.  Unfortunately with Bialo’s C2D-based #4300 machine (overclocked to 2.6GHz) the more accurate comskip took a very long time on the H.264.


There is no question that if you have a Hauppauge HD-PVR, the current version of Comskip is the commercial detection program for you.  I'm a donator for both Comskip and ShowAnalyzer and have used both.  Comskip is the version I’m currently using and it’s working perfectly albeit a bit slow on H.264 recordings.  The good news is that the author of Comskip is working on a much faster version (up to 5 times faster) and his releases have been consistent and always improve with each version.  Bottom line, I recommend Comskip for your commercial detection needs and once you’ve tried out the free version and are happy with it, definitely donate to get the latest version of Comskip – it’s worth it and supports the valuable work of the author.

Read More and Download Comskip

via SageTV Forums


For more on how to set up Commercial Detection with your HTPC software, check out the GeekTonic Skip Commercial Detection How-To 

Stay tuned for more HTPC news including SageTV and other HTPC programs as well.
Want to learn more about the many add-ons and inner workings of SageTV?  Check out the GeekTonic Ultimate Guide to SageTV which is updated continually.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Nintendo Wii Video Service Coming Soon

It looks like Nintendo wants to join the online video content party.  I've never been a huge fan of video via gaming systems even with the success of the XBox 360 and PlayStation3 video streaming available today.  Throwing the Wii into the mix seems kind of silly to me when the video output is so minimal, but I guess if they focus on cartoons, television and SD quality movies and keep it cheap enough it might be a draw for the multitudes of Wii owners.

Nintendo plans on launching the video service sometime next year and will only air “cartoons and other entertainment content” exclusive to the Nintendo service.  No pricing was announced, but the press release states there will be some commercial-supported free service as well as a premium service available.

Although a set pricing model has not been announced, the original news report claims some offerings will be premium while others free but ad supported.

via FormatWarCentral and Washington Post

SageTV HD200 Theater Get's First Review

SageTV HD200

NewTeeVee.com has a short review of the new SageTV HD Theater (HD200).  This review is definitely from a new users perspective with a strong focus on the stand-alone mode (using the HD200 without the SageTV server) for mostly video stored on the network and online video.

Overall they liked the box, but felt the user interface was confusing and somewhat difficult to use.  Honestly I tend to agree that the UI could use some work for the stand-alone mode, but this review really wasn't from a HTPC users perspective at all.  Still, it gives us the first look at the HD200 from a non-HTPC person and the advice for the UI in the article is pretty good.

Read the review at NewTeeVee.com (also syndicated at BusinessWeek)


I'll have the GeekTonic HD200 Review in the next few days.  Stay tuned for more HTPC news including MediaPortal, SageTV, XBMC, Boxee, GBPVR, Meedio, BeyondTV and other HTPC programs as well by subscribing to GeekTonic

Testing The MediaPortal Waters - Experiencing New HTPC Software

This is a guest post by Ray, many know him as GhostLobster on the web

“My brain hurts!” [1]

Nearly a week and a half into my Media Portal foray and I feel as if my brain has been kneaded into a nice, squishy dough by "The Chompers" [2] and then fed through a Salad Shooter.  Jen (Mrs. Lobster) summed it up best when I was complaining about how long it was taking me to install and configure 'For the Record', a decent TV recording management plugin, by simply pointing out "It's hardcore, dude."  Yeah, that's one way of putting it.

Home Improvement vs. Tinkering

OK, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, allow me to digress.  2 weeks back, things were a bit slow around the house, so I was faced with the prospect of performing one of 2 tasks:  Either break out the tools and fix the railing on the front porch, or find some way to completely break our relatively stable HTPC implementation by performing the minor task of installing a completely new architecture and front end.  Well, the last time I took on a home improvement project it ended with a tourniquet and months of having to endure the endless ribbing of friends and family, so needless to say, the front porch still needs work, and I began tinkering!

“I’m cuuuuuuute!  I’m cuuuuuute!” [3]

I was, and am once again, a happy SageTV user.  However, I felt the urge to check out some other solutions, just in case there was something better out there.  After seeing the Media Portal mascot, MePo, I just had to check it out. 

The little guy is just plain…well…cute!  There is no other word for it.  I did some research, and found that Media Portal met my requirements by providing the following functionality:

  1. HD-PVR Support
  2. Client/Server support
  3. Integrated EPG (employing a very loose definition of integration here)
  4. Wife friendly interface
  5. Ripped DVD support

For the most part, that’s pretty much it.  So, I disabled the SageTV services on my main SageTV rig and went at it. 

Guid(ance) Needed

The initial installation was pretty simple.  Just run the setup, select the type of implementation (Client only, server only, client/server on one box, etc.) and the online Wiki was very helpful.  Once it was installed it was time to configure the TV Server.  This is where it went downhill.  I have 2 analog Hauppauge 150 TV tuners in my rig, an HDHomeRun and an HD-PVR.  For U.S. users, Media Portal’s TV Server and EPG is an absolute nightmare to configure.  I had to individually enter the channel names and numbers for every channel I receive via an analog signal.  That would be all of the channels on the 150s and the HD-PVR.  Once I got all of that typing out of the way, it was time to retrieve the EPG data.  Nothing to it, right?  Just go into the WebEPG plugin, select the guide source and let it populate using the channels I just spent hours entering manually.  Uh huh…and nuclear fusion is just a matter of building a better particle accelerator. 

MediaPortal WebEPG

The guide data available within MP’s configuration is woefully incomplete.  After trying both U.S. options available, I was left with an EPG that contained 4 populated channels and 320 channels which apparently were broadcasting the same show over and over called “No data Available”,  which has to be a Jerry Bruckheimer production to be that popular.  After spending my free time over about 5 days scouring the Media Portal forums, which are incredibly helpful, I stumbled across mc2xml which downloads the Microsoft Windows Media Center EPG in .xml format which can then be imported into Media Portal via a very simple 12 click process.  However, once it was in place, I was able to schedule a task every few days which would automatically update the guide, so it was functional.

“…No match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” [4]

Next, channel changing on the HD-PVR.  The HDHomeRun and 150 tuners were just fine when it came to changing channels, but the HD-PVR’s integrated IR Blaster was completely foreign to Media Portal.  Off to the forums again, where I found that this was a common issue for all users of the HD-PVR.  Happily, I came across ralphy’s ServerBlaster .dll which blasts away just fine with the HD-PVR.  Unfortunately, it blasted away at everything, regardless of which tuner you were using, meaning that if my HD-PVR is recording something on channel 260 and I tune one of my 150 tuners to channel 50, the HD-PVR gets blasted over to 50 as well!  Thankfully, ralphy understood my issue and generated a new .dll for me which will only blast to channels > 100, fixing my problem.

Myth:  Busted [5] (and busted, and busted, and busted, and…)

Once the guide data was in place and my channels were changing nicely, it was time to begin recording my shows.  Immediately, I was concerned with the lack of advanced recording management.  When a show is selected, you have a choice of recording just the one show, the show on that channel every time, the show on every channel every time, Monday through Friday, or every day at that time, and maybe a few others…I don’t completely recall, but you get the idea.  For my recording needs, this did not do the trick.  For example, I like to record MythBusters, which airs simultaneously on Discovery SD and Discovery HD.  When I’m watching something live on my HD-PVR, I’d like for it to record the standard def broadcast instead of taking over my HD-PVR for the recording, so I selected to record every time on every channel.  Well, Media Portal then began recording exactly what I told it to…every time, on both channels.  So, at the end of a 24 hour period, I had 8 recordings of the same episode, 4 in HD, 4 in SD.  Well, I guess that’s what I asked for!  There was no way to tell it not to record the same episode over and over again, nor was there a way to prioritize the tuners so that it would attempt on the higher quality tuner first, and if that was busy, would move to a lower quality tuner until it found a free one for the recording.  So, it was off to plug-in land to see if anyone had developed something to address this.  I discovered a great little utility called For The Record which completely replaces the TV engine for Media Portal.  Again, back into channel mapping and guide updating I go!  After another few hours of typing and tinkering and importing, I had For The Record in place and was initially impressed!  It offered very nice rules-based recording management allowing me to prioritize tuners and determine which episodes get recorded and I thought I was home free.  Until I flipped on live TV and depressed the numbers 330 on my remote, expecting the tuner to change to channel 330 so I could watch the NHL Network.  I was a little surprised to find myself looking at channel 923, the Music Choice Gospel station!  Again, back to the forums where I found that in countries other than the U.S., TV tuning is done by index ID (whatever that is!) instead of channel number.  For The Record has no way of tuning channels by channel number for U.S. users.  Ugh, now I know how European users felt about Windows Media Center.  This limitation alone would have driven the WAF down through the dirt if I left it in place.  Combine it with the intermittent, inexplicable lockups, there was no way I could have left Media Portal in place around here.

“Impressive.  Most impressive.” [6]

Upon reading the above, I realize that I’ve been a tad negative about MP here.  My experience with it was not all negative, and I do not want it to appear as such.  The user interface is gorgeous.  MePo is an amazing little critter who lends just the right amount of flash to the feel of the UI.  He happily welcomes you to each function, making it incredibly obvious that he’s just plain thrilled you’re there and he’s eager to show you what you’re looking for.  You can’t help but smile each time you see him.  Navigation within the UI was intuitive and never felt clumsy.  Everything was laid out as you’d expect, and the default remote control button assignments made perfect sense.

MediaPortal Blue3 Skin Home Page

From the plugin perspective, MP again shone brightly.  I absolutely loved the My TVSeries plugin which cataloged all of our recorded TV (including about 23GB worth of the same MythBusters episode…which was Steel Toe Amputation, in case you were wondering) in a slick interface, presenting everything broken down by series with great thumbnails, and then individual seasons and episodes with their own thumbnails.  Very high marks from the wife on that one!  Also, the iTunes plugin was seamless.  Just indicate the file extensions that require iTunes and it just plain worked.  The DVD burner plugin worked flawlessly, and a few of the others added to the experience.  I’d love to see SageTV adopt the modular look and feel of MP’s configuration application for plugins.  It was like working with Tinker Toys again, very simple but with a definite purpose.

What impressed me most about Media Portal was the picture quality with TV, videos and DVDs.  I was not expecting this one bit, and it was the sole reason I kept trying to get it configured to meet my needs.  Using the same Power DVD 7 .mpg and h.264 decoders, my SageTV picture quality has never looked as good as MP.  I’m still confused by this, as I did not think it would have made a difference, but it did.  Additionally, importing my music and ripped DVD library was quick, painless and error free.  The importing tasks are all performed via the neat configuration application that handles the plugins.  Again, HTPC front ends such as SageTV would certainly benefit from having a tool like this for handling these tasks from the 2 foot interface.

“It’s all here…in your head” [7]

Don’t get me wrong, I like Media Portal, and now that version 1.0 is out of beta and a true released product, I’m certain it will continue to improve.  A lot of good people have put a lot of hard work into this, on their own time, I might add.  The strides it’s made in just the past year are impressive to say the least.  If you’re a hardcore hacker-type with time on your hands and willing to roll your sleeves up and dive in deep, you could have a blast with this product and get your HTPC exactly the way you want it.  The open source community is there to help out every step of the way as well, with a very active and loyal core group of people.  However, if you’re a guy in the U.S. with a broken front porch railing who is looking for a relatively simple HTPC implementation, I’m not certain that you would be very satisfied with Media Portal, but then again, I’m not certain you’d fall into their target market group, either.  There is serious potential in Media Portal, particularly when you combine their UI, flexibility, and picture quality.  It was just too much work for me, though.

[1] Butters from South Park in Eek!  A Penis!

[2] Galaxy Quest

[3] Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer

[4] Han Solo from Star Wars

[5] Nearly every episode of MythBusters

[6] Darth Vader from The Empire Strikes Back

[7]  The Sorting Hat from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s [Philosopher’s] Stone


Read More About MediaPortal at the MediaPortal Website


Many thanks to Ray for sharing his experience with HTPC's.  This was the first, hopefully of many guest posts on GeekTonic - this one by Ray who goes by GhostLobster on the web.  Ray has been involved in home theater computing since 2004 and has spent that entire time searching for that perfect solution.  Ray said:  "In the Lobster world, the single most important aspect of any implementation is the overall usability/stability.  Mrs. Lobster can grab a remote and reduce an HTPC to a smoldering lump of wires quivering in the fetal position within 10 minutes.  If I can toss something into our living room that does not result in me getting “The Call” the first time I leave the house, it’s a keeper.  So, needless to say, I’m extremely critical of any product/solution that does not exceed expectations on the WAF front"

Stay tuned for more HTPC news including MediaPortal, SageTV, XBMC, Boxee, GBPVR, Meedio, BeyondTV and other HTPC programs as well by subscribing to GeekTonic

Sunday, December 28, 2008

XBMC Goes Mobile on a Mobile Internet Device

Taking XBMC HTPC program Mobile

XBMC has been getting a lot of good press lately as one of the more active, open-source HTPC programs available.  Now some are trying to take XBMC mobile.  Mobile Internet Devices known as MID’s with the right processor could make this possible.  A video has been posted on YouTube showing the XBMC HTPC interface running on a Compal Jax10 MID.  As noted in the video, only the music is working so far and I question whether HD video will work at all.

The Compal Jax10 MID has a Linux OS with a Intel Atom 800Mhz processor along with the Intel GMA500 GPU.  While taking the HTPC interface mobile is exciting, the big drawback with this concept is the lack of hard drive storage space.  The only real way to make your mobile HTPC device work the way it should is to include placeshifting of sorts with a mobile connection.  Still, very interesting and worth a view.

Check it out here:

via XBMC forums

Get Great Looking TV User Interface with SageMC TV Screen Add-on

Those SageTV users wanting more pizzazz to their Home Theater PC user interface have been getting lots of Christmas presents these past few months.  The SageMC User Interface Add-on keeps getting better with the introduction of FanArt, lots of new looks with themes have been released, the awesome new Movie Info Screen released earlier this month and now Ben (Jaminben on the SageTV forums), the author of the Movie Info Screen add-on has created an alternative TV screen as well! 



Above is a screen-shot of the new TV Info Screen for the TV show "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."  Similar to the movie info screen, the alternative TV Info Screen is an alternative “look” and user interface for viewing individual TV titles screen.  It works largely the same as the normal TV info screen, with FanArt support but the layout is slightly better suited to the FanArt layouts with a horizontal menu and the details available on the lower part of the screen.


Redesigned TV Info screen layout with a focus on the FanArt background, a horizontal menu style and redesigned details information layout.  If you’re using fanart, this add-on looks great and is another nice addition from Ben.


  • SageTV
  • SageMC Replacement STV (UI) version 6.3.8a or higher
  • Enabled FanArt in SageMC settings (not required but obviously improves the look and usefulness of this add-on)
  • FanArt image files in the appropriate folders (not required but obviously improves the look and usefulness of this add-on)

Installation Process:

  1. Shut down the SageTV User Interface
  2. Back up your SageTV/MC installation (just in case)
  3. Extract all files into your SageTV folder (eg. C:\Program Files\SageTV\SageTV). Making certain to extract while preserving the directory structure.
  4. Re-start the SageTV User Interface
  5. In SageMC, goto My Menu > Settings, and select "Import STVi" and import "TV_Info_Screen_V.1.0a.xml”
  6. Browse to My Menu > Settings > SageMC > Main > Screen Specific Options > My TV> Custom Program Info Screen.  Browse to "TV Info Screen" in the list and select it. Be sure the setting for "Screen Specific Options" shows "TV Info Screen" on it now.


Now your any individual TV Show you navigate to, you'll see the new TV layout.  Here are a few more examples:





Using TV Info Screen

  • The SageTV “Info" button/key will  minimize/maximize the synopsis/details information.
  • Customize Options can be reached via the normal OSD menu (right click mouse or use the option key on the remote and my menu is located at the bottom of the list).

When you hit the options button from the TV Screen, you’ll see all of the typical TV options as well as a new option setting “TV Info Screen Options”:



Then, after selecting “TV Info Screen Options” you’ll see the many settings you can use to customize the TV Info Screen:



Download – More Information:

For more information about this version of Movie Info Screen and the download, head to the SageTV Forum Thread for TV Info Screen

Download TV Info Screen for SageMC


Stay tuned for more HTPC news including SageTV and other HTPC programs as well.
Want to learn more about the many add-ons and inner workings of SageTV?  Check out the GeekTonic Ultimate Guide to SageTV which is updated continually.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Deal of the Day – Seagate 1TB $100 free shipping

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB 3.5

Newegg (affiliate) has the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive for $100 after $10 discount using coupon code EMCBCCGAE (expires 01/01/09) w/ free shipping.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 1TB Internal Hard Drive features:

  • Interface SATA 3.0Gb/s
  • Capacity 1TB
  • RPM 7200 RPM
  • Cache 32MB
  • Average Latency 4.16ms.


For more deals check out the GeekTonicDeals Blog

Christmas Aftermath - What Gadgets Did you Get or Give?

Well by now most of us have survived Christmas and many have some new gadgets they received (or gave) as gifts.  Tell us in the comments what you got!

Photo by SentienceCC License

My guesses are the majority of gadget gifts included these types of things:

  • Blu Ray Player
  • Movies – Blu Ray or otherwise
  • MP3 player
  • iPhone or other mobile phone
  • HDTV, HD200, new PC, monitor, wireless router
  • PS3, XBox360 or Wii
  • Video Games
  • More Storage (Hard Drives)
  • HTPC Extender like the SageTV HD200 Extender/Player
  • Media Player like the Popcorn Hour or HD200
  • Digital Camera/Camcorder
  • Computer/Laptop
  • Home Theater Components


A few of my geekier toys I received:

  • 46” LCD TV Sharp 46SB54U (family gift we found a deal of less then $900).  This is by no means the best HDTV we could have gotten and probably not up to Ben D’s high standards but it fit the bill (and budget) for us and I’m very happy with it.  Currently testing the new SageTV HD200


I gave (or recommended) a few techie gadgets too:

  • Tiny WD External drive for my teacher wife for her PowerPoint and video clips
  • Wii Fit – a bit better than I expected.  Don’t know if it will help us much, but it’s actually kind of fun
  • LG Shine Mobile phone for the kid
  • Cheap, but working DVD Player for the college kid (less than $40 at Walmart)
  • EyeFi for my Dad (I really like this one - now I’m hoping he’ll actually offload photos when he takes pictures…)

I’m still holding off on the Blu-Ray Player purchase.  No particular reason why other than the fact I don’t care at all about the extras that come with Blu-Ray players and I can’t yet integrate Blu-Ray with my HTPC setup.  Even still, I’ll probably will bite on that sometime in 2009.


Okay, it’s your turn – tell everyone what you got this year in the way of gadgets.

Try Out Windows 7 Beta Now – Leaked Windows 7 Beta ISO Torrent

The Windows 7 beta won’t be out until January 2009, but DownloadSquad pointed out that a leaked copy of the Windows 7 beta ISO can be obtained via torrent.  Looks like the ISO includes Windows 7 M1 build 7000.  Lots of new features are in the beta and of course the newer version of Windows Media Center is in there.

                            Screen-shot of Music Page via Charlie Owen


Personally, I’d rather not risk messing up my system with a leaked version (you never know who’s messed with this ISO) and just let others play with the beta version at this point so if you’re like me and want to watch from the outside for a little longer, check out Paul Thurott’s review of Windows 7 from last week.

I did some searching and found a little more info on the ISO:

ITWire goes into more detail about the ISO DVD image, which they say includes the following Windows 7 versions: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate.

Neowin has a little more including screen-shots

via DownloadSquad

Stay up-to-date on all Media Center and HTPC News and Information by subscribing to GeekTonic

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!


photo by krisdecurtis - Creative Commons License



I wish all readers of GeekTonic.com a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I hope you all enjoy time with your family and friends and possibly even get a few cool gadgets as a bonus.  Stay tuned to GeekTonic for more gadget and Media Computer talk before 2008 is over.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boxee Beta Opens to all Mac & Ubuntu Users

If you've had your head buried in the sand (it's gotten a lot of good press), you might not have heard about Boxee.  Boxee is a project based on the xbmc (XBox Media Center) open-source project.  Boxee was developed to be a “social” media center program that plays media from your home network and the internet and also allows you to stream or download movies, tv shows, music and photos. 

Starting January 8, 2009, Boxee will move from alpha to beta meaning all Mac and Ubuntu users that want to try out the Boxee Beta will get their chance (it was limited to a smaller group of alpha users in the past).  If you haven't signed up already, head over to Boxee and do it now.

For the Windows users, the windows version is still in alpha so it's still closed to a smaller group, but the CEO commented in the Boxee post that the Windows alpha program will begin in "early 2009" with plenty of invites to go out each week.


via Boxee Blog


One more thing - if you are interested in joining the limited number of early-access users for the pre-release boxee versions, head over to Boxee and complete this form to see if you can get on the list. via Boxee Blog

SageTV Beta 6.5.5 and HD Extender/Player Updates

SageTV released another beta update with a few more features and bug fixes.  This is a "release candidate" which means we'll be seeing SageTV 6.5 escape from beta very, very soon.

This is mostly a clean-up update, but there are a few feature additions that might be of interest including support for multi-audio track switching of MKV and similar video files.  A few of the more significant SageTV updates include:

  • Added windows support for the HVR-1250 analog tuner
  • Several bug fixes and improvements to the SageTV Core
  • HD Extender can now handle audio track switching for MKV, ASF, MOV and AVI files (requires firmware update on HD100 and/or HD200)
  • Improved interface support for RC5 protocol remotes (setting is now in the detaled settings page of the UI instead of requiring a change to a properties file)
  • Several other UI improvements

Read the full change list for the SageTV 6.5.5 update


HD100 and HD200 firmware Updates include:

  • Fix for some cases of audio track selection on HD100 and HD200
  • Several changes to the HD200 standalone mode on the HD200

Read the full change list for the firmware updates

MediaPortal Leaves Beta - 1.0 Arrives


                      Image from team-mediaportal.com

After many years (five to be exact) in beta development, the MediaPortal team has released the 1.0 version (read: non-beta) of their popular HTPC software.  What started as a port from XBMC and eventually grew into a near-complete redesign of the software is now a fully-featured, opens-source, windows-based media center software.

Congratulations to all of the Media Portal Team!

Download, Installation Notes and More Information on MediaPortal 1.0


Media Portal 2.0 In the Works:

Not ones to just sit back and enjoy their accomplishments, the MediaPortal team is now shifting their attention towards MediaPortal 2.0 (and of course any needed bug fixes for 1.0).  Check out this link for a preview of MediaPortal 2.0

Monday, December 22, 2008

Add Christmas Cheer to your HTPC with Holiday Themes

Want to add a little special Christmas spirit to your Home Theater PC (HTPC) this season?  If you use SageTV, MediaPortal and BeyondTV you are in luck as each of these HTPC programs have Christmas themes you can install and use on your own HTPC.



I've been working on several themes for the SageTV addon "SageMC" recently and decided to experiment with a few different Christmas themes to begin learning how to make my own themes for SageTV.  I'm fairly happy with the ones I've made so far.  The Christmas themes for SageMC include:

Holiday Sleigh Theme for SageMC


 Installation Instructions and Download for the Holiday Sleigh Theme


Next I made a Holiday Snowman Theme for SageMC:



Installation Instructions and Download for the Holiday Snowman Theme


And finally the Holiday Christmas Tree Theme for SageMC:


Installation Instructions and Download for the Holiday Christmas Tree Theme


I created the icons in each of these themes by modifying the icons from the BlueTwo theme with a little santa hat.  The background images were found at PS3-themes.comThe SageTV Christmas theme discussion thread has more information as well.



Media Portal

Media Portal seems to have a new Christmas theme each year and 2008 is no exception.  This year we have two Christmas Themes:

First up is the Blue3 Christmas Theme staring the MeePo characters:


Info and Download for the Blue3 Christmas Add-on at Media Portal


The second MediaPortal theme this holiday is the 2008 Christmas Theme by forum user "spragleknas." :


For more information and the download, head over to the Christmas Skin 2008 MediaPortal Forum Thread



Snapstream BeyondTV

Finally we have a Christmas Theme for Snapstream BeyondTV.  This one was created three years ago but still looks very nice:



BTV Christmas House Theme installation instructions and the download


Hope these add a little Christmas spirit to those of you who enjoy the holidays.  I was going to make a bah humbug theme as well, but haven't had the time to get it finished.  If you know of any other HTPC Holiday themes including those for other holidays let me know in the comments.  Merry Christmas from GeekTonic!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ultimate Guide - the Winter 2009 TV Season

Christmas time is almost here and many of you will be searching for those last-minute presents, drinking eggnog and watching Christmas specials, but its also a good time to see what's coming in the TV world in the new year.  All of our favorite shows are either in hibernation or just winding down for 2008.  But very soon, we'll again be bombarded with even more Television including many anticipated series premieres.  I've gathered as much about the Winter 2009 TV Schedule as I can and there are several premieres included.
Wanting to know when that show from the Fall season is returning?  Or maybe you're curious about what new shows are starting January - March?  The Winter 2009 season will soon be upon us so I have compiled the complete Guide to the Winter 2009 TV season for you.  I've included the premieres for Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, SciFi, CW and more.
 Photo of the cast of Dollhouse - a highly anticipated Scifi Drama by Joss Whedon
The chart below guides you through the entire Winter 2009 TV Season by date.  Season/series premieres will have their season number in the "season premiere" column as well as being marked in bold text.  All start times are U.S. Eastern time.  There are some shows that may have a special premiere date and then follow later that week in their normal time slot day - in these cases I only show the first premiere.  GeekTonic will have a weekly preview of new Winter 2009 airings each Sunday and noting those that will air in HD as well as more information about each series/season premiere in those posts as well.
New Premieres include:  Dollhouse, Kings, Castle, The Unusuals, Lie to Me, Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, The United States of Tara, East Bound and Down, The Beast, Lie to Me, Trust Me and Harpers Island.
New Reality/game-shows include: Howie Do It, Confessions of a Teen Idol, Superstars of Dance, True Beauty, Homeland Security, 13: Fear is Real, Tool Academy, RelicQuest, The Exterminators and more.
Returning Reality shows include: The Bachelor, The Real World, The Apprentice, American Idol, Amazing Race, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, Superstars of Dance and more.
Returning Drama and Comedy includes:  Lost, 24, Scrubs, Damages, Medium, Psych, Monk, Kyle XY, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Reaper and more.
It's quite obvious that the networks are moving towards fewer quality dramas and more cheap, reality-type programming.  I'll have to do some stats on the shows from the Winter 2009 listing to see what percent are non-scripted shows - I'm betting it's pretty high unfortunately.   New and returning TV shows on the most anticipated list include:  Lost, 24, Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, Kings, Reaper, Damages and unfortunately (in my opinion) American Idol.
Free Printable PDF Guides for the Winter 2009 TV Season:
NOTE:  The PDF Downloads (see above) are up-to-date and comprehensive including some changes and additions not reflected below.

Premiere Date Day Time  Network Season Premiere Show Title
1/1/2009 Thu 9pm A&E 8 The First 48
1/2/2009 Fri 10pm TLC 2 Countdown to the Crown
1/2/2009 Fri 9pm SciFi Stargate Atlantis
1/3/2009 Sat 8pm FOX Cops
1/3/2009 Sat 8pm CBS 1 Game Show In My Head
1/3/2009 Sat 9pm FOX America's Most Wanted
1/4/2009 Sun 10pm ABC Brothers and Sisters
1/4/2009 Sun 10pm CBS The Unit
1/4/2009 Sun 7pm ABC America's Funnies Home Videos
1/4/2009 Sun 8pm VH1 1 Confessions of a Teen Idol
1/4/2009 Sun 8pm ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
1/4/2009 Sun 8pm NBC 1 Superstars of Dance
1/4/2009 Sun 9pm CBS Cold Case
1/4/2009 Sun 9pm ABC Desperate Housewives
1/4/2009 Sun 9pm VH1 3 Rock of Love with Bret Michaels
1/5/2009 Mon 10pm ABC 1 True Beauty
1/5/2009 Mon 8pm CW Gossip Girl
1/5/2009 Mon 8pm ABC FAM Secret Life of the American Teenager
1/5/2009 Mon 8pm ABC 13 The Bachelor
1/5/2009 Mon 9pm CW One Tree Hill
1/6/2009 Tue 10pm NBC Law & Order: SVU
1/6/2009 Tue 10pm FX 5 (pt 2) Nip/Tuck
1/6/2009 Tue 10pm ABC Primetime
1/6/2009 Tue 10pm CBS Without a Trace
1/6/2009 Tue 8pm CW 90210
1/6/2009 Tue 8pm ABC According to Jim
1/6/2009 Tue 8pm ABC 1 Homeland Security
1/6/2009 Tue 8pm CBS NCIS
1/6/2009 Tue 8pm NBC 8 The Biggest Loser: Couples
1/6/2009 Tue 9pm CW Privileged
1/6/2009 Tue 9pm ABC 8 Scrubs
1/6/2009 Tue 9pm CBS The Mentalist
1/7/2009 Wed 10pm FX 2 Damages
1/7/2009 Wed 10pm NBC Law & Order
1/7/2009 Wed 10pm MTV 21 The Real World
1/7/2009 Wed 10pm TBS 1 Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns
1/7/2009 Wed 8pm CW 1 13:Fear is Real
1/7/2009 Wed 8pm NBC Knight Rider
1/7/2009 Wed 9pm SciFi Ghost Hunters International
1/7/2009 Wed 9pm TBS 3 Tyler Perry's House of Payne
1/8/2009 Thu 10pm NBC ER
1/8/2009 Thu 10pm ABC Private Practice
1/8/2009 Thu 8:30pm NBC Kath & Kim
1/8/2009 Thu 8pm NBC My Name is Earl
1/8/2009 Thu 8pm ABC Ugly Betty
1/8/2009 Thu 9:30pm NBC 30 Rock
1/8/2009 Thu 9pm ABC Grey's Anatomy
1/8/2009 Thu 9pm NBC The Office
1/9/2009 Fri 10pm CBS Numb3rs
1/9/2009 Fri 10pm USA 3 (pt. 2) Psych
1/9/2009 Fri 8:30pm CW The Game
1/9/2009 Fri 8pm CW Everybody Hates Chris
1/9/2009 Fri 8pm CBS Ghost Whisperer
1/9/2009 Fri 8pm NBC 1 Howie Do It
1/9/2009 Fri 8pm ABC Wife Swap
1/9/2009 Fri 9pm CBS 2 Flashpoint
1/9/2009 Fri 9pm USA 7 (pt. 2) Monk
1/9/2009 Fri 9pm CMT My Big Redneck Wedding
1/9/2009 Fri 9pm ABC Supernanny
1/11/2009 Sun 8pm FOX 7 24
1/11/2009 Sun 8pm NBC Dateline
1/11/2009 Sun 9pm NBC 8 The Apprentice
1/11/2009 Sun 9pm VH1 1 Tool Academy
1/12/2009 Mon 10pm CBS CSI: Miami
1/12/2009 Mon 8:30pm CBS How I Met Your Mother
1/12/2009 Mon 8pm FOX 24 (part 2 of premiere)
1/12/2009 Mon 8pm CBS Big Bang Theory
1/12/2009 Mon 9:30pm ABC Samantha Who?
1/12/2009 Mon 9:30pm CBS Worst Week
1/12/2009 Mon 9pm ABC FAM 3 Kyle XY
1/12/2009 Mon 9pm CBS Two and a Half Men
1/13/2009 Tue 8pm FOX 8 American Idol
1/14/2009 Wed 8:30pm CBS Gary Unmarried
1/14/2009 Wed 8pm ABC Lost (repeat of last season's finale)
1/14/2009 Wed 8pm CBS The New Adventures of Old Christine
1/14/2009 Wed 9:30pm CBS CSI: New York
1/14/2009 Wed 9pm CBS Criminal Minds
1/15/2009 Thu 10pm CBS Eleventh Hour
1/15/2009 Thu 10pm A&E 1 The Beast
1/15/2009 Thu 8pm FOX Bones
1/15/2009 Thu 8pm CW Smallville
1/15/2009 Thu 9pm CBS CSI
1/15/2009 Thu 9pm FOX Kitchen Nightmares
1/15/2009 Thu 9pm CW Supernatural
1/16/2009 Fri 10pm SciFi 4 (pt.2) Battlestar Galactica
1/16/2009 Fri 10pm NBC 3 Friday Night Lights
1/16/2009 Fri 8pm FOX Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader
1/16/2009 Fri 9pm FOX Don't Forget the Lyrics!
1/17/2009 Sat 10pm HBO 2 Flight of the Conchords
1/17/2009 Sat 10pm SHOW 1 The United States of Tara
1/17/2009 Sat 7pm FOX Hole in the Wall
1/17/2009 Sat 8:30pm FOX King of the Hill
1/17/2009 Sat 8pm FOX The Simpsons
1/17/2009 Sat 9:30pm FOX American Dad
1/17/2009 Sat 9pm FOX Family Guy
1/17/2009 Sat 9pm FOX REAL 3 Solitary
1/18/2009 Sun 8pm HBO Big Love
1/18/2009 Sun 9pm SHOW The L Word
1/18/2009 Sun 10:30pm SHOW 2 Secret Life of a Call Girl
1/19/2009 Mon 10pm A&E 3 Paranormal State
1/19/2009 Mon 8pm FOX House
1/20/2009 Tue 9pm FOX Fringe
1/21/2009 Wed 10pm ABC Life on Mars
1/21/2009 Wed 10pm SciFi 1 RelicQuest
1/21/2009 Wed 8pm ABC 5 Lost (clips at 8pm 2hr premiere at 9pm)
1/21/2009 Wed 9pm FOX 1 Lie to Me
1/22/2009 Thu 10pm USA Burn Notice
1/24/2009 Sat 8pm CMT 3 Gone Country
1/26/2009 Mon 0p TNT 1 Trust Me
1/26/2009 Mon 9pm VH1 2 I Love Money
1/26/2009 Mon 9pm TNT 4 (pt. 2) The Closer
1/29/2009 Thu 9pm FOX 5 Hell's Kitchen
1/31/2009 Sat 8pm NBC Chuck
1/31/2009 Sat 9pm NBC Heroes
2/2/2009 Mon 10pm NBC 5 Medium
2/4/2009 Wed 10:30pm A&E 1 The Exterminators
2/4/2009 Wed 10pm A&E 5 (pt 2) Dog the Bounty Hunter
2/4/2009 Wed 9pm NBC Life
2/12/2009 Thu 10pm BRAVO 2 Millionaire Matchmaker
2/12/2009 Thu 8pm CBS 18 Survivor
2/13/2009 Fri 8pm FOX Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles
2/13/2009 Fri 9pm FOX 1 Dollhouse
2/15/2009 Sun 7pm CBS 60 Minutes
2/15/2009 Sun 8pm HBO 1 East Bound and Down
2/15/2009 Sun 8pm CBS 14 The Amazing Race
2/18/2009 Wed 10pm TV LAND 5 High School Reunion
3/9/2009 Mon 10pm ABC 1 Castle
3/9/2009 Mon 8pm ABC 8 Dancing With the Stars
3/17/2009 Tue 9pm CW 2 Reaper
3/19/2009 Thu 10pm NBC 1 Kings
3/24/2009 Tue 10pm ABC Cupid
4/1/2009 Wed 10pm ABC 1 The Unusuals
4/9/2009 Thu 10pm CBS 1 Harpers Island
TBA TBA ABC 1 Better off Ted
TBA TBA FOX 1 The Goode Family
TBA TBA NBC 1 The Listener
TBA TBA NBC 1 The Philanthropist
Well, that should give you enough TV to watch for a while.  I've done my best to make this guide as accurate and complete as possible, but let me know if you notice a show I missed or if you see anything out of place - it's very difficult to get these right as the networks tend to change things around quite a bit.
Also Let me know in the comments which shows you're most looking forward to.  To get the weekly Winter 2009 premier updates be sure and subscribe to the GeekTonic RSS feed or subscribe to the daily newsletter
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