Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Deal Of The Day: Windows Home Server $99 With Shipping

Newegg (affiliate) has a great deal going on the OEM version of Windows Home Server.  Have an old computer just gathering dust?  WHS is a great option for putting that machine back in service - and it works with SageTV HTPC software too!

Microsoft Windows Home Server 32 Bit 1 Pack (Power pack 1)

Microsoft Windows Home Server 32 Bit 1 Pack (Power pack 1) $99 Free Shipping

Recommended Read: The State of Blu-Ray in HTPCs

For those of you Home Theater PC enthusiasts wanting Blu-ray (with lossless audio and the best video compression) on their HTPC, I recommended an article by Carlton Bale on the subject.

Carlton disucsses the difficulties of getting Blu-ray on the HTPC, the fact that there is no protected audio path (PAP) available on any computer, AACS protection and the many other issues.  It's an excellent read on a subject that I think will become more-and-more important to HTPC users in the coming year.

The State of Blu-ray Lossless HD Audio in Home Theater Computers by CarltonBale

SageMC Movie Library Part 2 - Organize SageTV Movies with DVD Profiler

People choose to use Home Theater PCs for different reasons, but most often, those reasons start with advanced PVR functionality, Music and Movies not necessarily in that order.  For me, having a movie library with all of my owned movies saved on my HTPC server accessible from each of my TV's without needing the physical media was the primary reason I entered the HTPC world in the first place.

In part 1 of my SageMC Movie Library Spotlight I showed you how SageTV can organize & play movies stored on your server/hard drives and/or those movies on physical media.  We used SageMC's IMDB to import movie metadata one-by-one into SageMC.  With a large collection, you might prefer a more automated way to import movie metadata all at once.

Now in Part 2 of the SageMC Movie Library Spotlight I'll show you how to easily organize your movies with covers and metadata (titles, genre, overview, actors etc) in SageTV with DVD Profiler - one at a time or better yet multiple movies imported at once.  In the end, you'll have a Movie Library that has your movies organized and accessible all from any SageTV interface whether it's on your HTPC computer, an extender or your over the internet. Home Theater PC Movie Nirvana is here.


DVD Profiler helps you catalog your DVD collection.  This program catalogs and organizes your DVDs and other movies with metadata, covers and more.  DVD Profiler has many other features, but for this article, I'll stick to the task at hand.  Basically we'll use DVD Profiler to add each movie to it's catalog list, import the metadata and image covers and then export that data into a usable format for SageTV.

You can download and install DVD Profiler from their website

Run DVD Profiler
DVD Profiler 1

Add a DVD by selecting DVD>Add to Collection from the Menu
DVD Profiler 2

DVD Profiler can scan your UPC code from your DVD itself or you can input the UPC.
DVD Profiler 3 add by upc

Alternatively you can add the DVD by typing in the title.  Once you've found the proper movie title, select that title and select the "Add DVD" button.

DVD Profiler 4
DVD Profiler 5

You'll then see the movie in the "Pending Additions" section at the top-right of the DVD Profiler program
You can add as many DVD Titles as you need and then select "Add Now to Owned" button to add all of the movies to your collection.
DVD Profiler 6

Once added, you should see the movie listed in your movie collection on the main DVD Profiler screen

DVD Profiler 7

Make sure the DVD Title agrees with the folder name (or file name for video files) where those movie files are located.  These must match.

In DVD Profiler each DVD has the following properties:
Movie Title - this is what SageMC displays in the user interface
Sort Title - not used by SageMC
Original Title - if you want the movie title to be something different than the name of the movie file or folder name, make this match the movie name/folder name and use "Movie Title" for the displayed name.

Note that the first two Genre's you choose will be used to organize that movie in SageTV.  Check these to ensure you agree with the Genre category.  Once finished, select the OK button at the bottom right.
DVD Profiler 8

Once you've added all of your movies, select File>Export Profile Database from the DVD Profiler Menu.
DVD Profiler 9
Make note of where the "collection.xml" file is being exported.  This file contains the metadata that SageTV will be using to organize your movie collection.
DVD Profiler 10
You select what metatdata gets exported.  Be sure you select all profiles, overview, tags, and any other data you want accessible in SageTV for your movie collection.
DVD Profiler 11
Once you select Export it will one-by-one export all movie metadata into the collection.xml file.
DVD Profiler 12


Now in SageMC (the user-made replacement UI for SageTV), go to SageMC Options.
Under Paths, select "collection.xml" which should be in the following directory:
"C:\Documents and Settings\PCNAME\MY Documents\DVD Profiler\Databases\Default\"
If you exported to a different directory you will need to point to that directory.
SageMC Settings1

Under Paths, select "DVD Profiler Path"
This will tell SageTV where to find the Movie Cover Images saved by DVD Profiler.  The default location for this is:
"My Documents\DVD Profiler\Databases\Default\"
SageMC Settings3

Now from the main SageTV menu, select "My Movies"
Select the "options" button.  You can use the right-mouse-click or "escape" button to get to options.  This will bring up the Video Library Options menu.

Select "Rescan Import Folders" to import the actual video files and/or movie folders (ripped movie files) into SageTV.  Once you have done this, you should see all of those movies listed under "unassigned" genre.
Now from that same menu, select "Meta-Data Options".
This will bring up a new menu - from here select "DVD Profiler Refresh"

This should import all of the metadata from your DVD Profiler list and match that data up with your movies you've imported into SageTV.  You will now have all movies listed in SageTV by title, genre and folder.  Also imported will be the description and other metadata from DVD Profiler.

You now should have your movies imported into SageMC all organized by genre with metadata and cover images.  Open up any of your SageTV client PC's (softsled), your extender or even SageTV Placeshifter or Web Server to view across the internet.

Note the following rules to follow if you're using SageMC and DVD Profiler to Import Movie Data:

Rule #1
Your Media Import Directory with ripped DVDs must not be a subdirectory:

eg. if your movies are organized this way:
then your import directory should be mediaserver\media\movies\ and not mediaserver\media\

Rule #2
Your ripped DVD must have the video_ts.bup and the video_ts.vob file

If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments or head over to the SageMC forum thread for more information.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Deal of the Day: Logitech 520 $47 or Logitech 360 Remote Control $70

Lots of talk about Remote Controls today.  I posted a review of the USB-UIRT for receiving the remote signals into the HTPC (free giveaways of these available if interested) and thought it would be nice to share a few remote control deals out there.

Logitech Harmony 360 Universal Remote

Logitech Harmony 360 Universal Remote
for the Xbox 360 is $70 after a $30 instant rebate & free shipping at (affiliate)

Next up is a great deal on the Harmony 520

The Logitech Harmony 520 Universal Remote Control is $47 plus shipping at (not an affiliate, but a great deal anyway)

Remote Control your HTPC - A Review of the USB-UIRT

If  you delve very far into the world of Home Theater PC's (HTPC's) you'll soon find out that one of the first things you'll want to tackle is freeing yourself from the keyboard and mouse.  If you really want to trasform your HTPC as more a TV box and less of an HTPC, you obviously want to control it with a remote (aka 10-foot interface).

Last week I gave you a peek at a way to create your own USB IR receiver to do this very thing, but if you aren't quite up to messing with electronic components and such, there's a much easier way.  The most popular and arguably best way to do this is with a simple little device called the USBUIRT.  This IR receiver/transmitter may not be the most exciting part of the HTPC, but it certainly is one of the more important components.  I know many today will be trying to find out whether Obama or McCain is ahead in the exit polls, but there's plenty of room for controlling the HTPC as well :)

Read on for more on the USB-UIRT as well as a chance for a free USB-UIRT (4 available for giveaway complements of USB-UIRT and GeekTonic!)


The USB-UIRT is a IR (infrared) receiver and transmitter.  In plain speak, this simple-looking device lets you control your PC with a remote control and lets your PC control your Cable or Satellite Box.  The name comes as an acronym of Universal Infrared Receiver Transmitter.  The USB-UIRT connects to your computer through the USB port and allows your computer to receive IR signals from any IR remote.  I've used it with my old TV remote, a Hauppauge remote, the SageTV HD Extender remote, a URC MX-500 remote, Haromy 880 remote and many others - you should be able to use about any remote control that emits IR which would be most of them.

Another important feature of the USB-UIRT is that it can send (blast) IR signals to control your AV equipment such as a cable box, DVD Player, receiver etc.  You can also program the USB-UIRT to handle "discreet codes" (power on only or power off only for instance) that aren't found on your remote control - check out RemoteCentral for a nice database of device codes.  I use a USB-UIRT to control the channel changes from my Hauppauge HD-PVR "tuner" to the HD Cable Box - this is a very important feature and an advantage the USB-UIRT has over many other IR receivers.

The USB-UIRT works out of the box with many programs out there including SageTV's HTPC software.  Even if the program you want to control with a remote control doesn't have USB-UIRT support built-in, you can use Eventghost, LMGestion, Girder, Intelliremote and a whole host of other software to help you control any IR device you want with the USB-UIRT.  With this device  your computer can be controlled by any Infrared-based remote control. 


I asked the maker of the USB-UIRT, John Rees how he became a maker and seller of USB-UIRT's.  The answer is very interesting.  John was an early adopter of HTPC's.  When I say early adopter, I mean VERY early - like 1999 which is well before most of us entered the HTPC world!  He told me he was so impatient to get a progressive-scan DVD solution, he tore apart an old CD player and converted it into a progressive scan DVD Player himself.  He did this by packing a computer into the DVD player.  As part of the project, he wrote software to manage the DVD player and wanted to manage the other TV & AV equipment in the setup.  So he designed the UIRT based on code from another pioneer in the field, enhanced it & incorporated the USB-UIRT into his personal HTPC.

What John found was that many others were looking for a similar solution.  He ended up corresponding with other users struggling to get their own hardware up-and-running and also struggling to use the serial port to make everything work (serial IR receivers were the standard at the time - and there were few of those even.)   So he decided to design a USB version from the ground up and build a few for those interested.  He designed the hardware, built about 25 UIRT's and the rest is history.  John tells me that the USB-UIRT's largest market is actually the "vertical market."  The USB-UIRT design has been incorporated into many dedicated hardware boxes that you'd never know were the USB-UIRT.  In addition the device is used by many test houses and AV companies to test their equipment on production floors.  That should be a testament to how well designed and useful the USB-UIRT is.


Main Features
  • Infra Red Extender Port, for external IR transmitter
  • USB Connection
  • USB Wake-from-Standby Capability
  • Fully Plug and Play
  • Driver Support for Win98, WinME, Win2K, WinXP & Vista
  • Developer API for simple integration into other products
  • Flash-Upgradable Firmware
Programs that Support the USB-UIRT:
  • Girder (3.2 or higher) Plugin available
  • Intelliremote Support
  • EventGhost Plugin available
  • SageTV support out-of-the-box
  • 100 + other public programs and probably another 200 or more non-public programs that use the developer API
Features for IR Reception (Receive IR signal from remote control to control HTPC and computer)

  • Infrared Receiver
  • 34-40KHz Frequency Range reception
  • 56KHz IR Receiver Add-On Optional
  • >26 feet Sensitivity
  • IR Wavelength Filtered
  • Built-in wide band IR detector for accurate Learning, including carrier frequency.
  • USB Wake-from-Standby Capability
Features for IR Transmission (Send IR signal to control cable or satellite box for example)

  • Infrared Transmitter
  • 20-60KHz Frequency Range
  • Two built-in High-Power Emitters
  • 1/8" Mini-Jack for External Emitters
  • Extended-length code support in hardware (up to 96burst-pairs)
  • Max-length burst code support in driver (up to 2048 burst-pairs)

Hardware Details
The USB-UIRT is a small, 2.4" W x 1.5"D x 0.7"H black plastic case with a 6' long cable that attaches the receiver/blaster to a USB device.
On the back of the USB-UIRT is a 1/8" jack

For those of you curious of what's inside, here's a screen-shot of the device without it's black-plastic shell:

Software and Drivers for USB-UIRT available online
USB-UIRT Support

BeyondTV Setup:
The USB-UIRT website has a nice how-to on setting up the USB-UIRT with Beyond TV

SageTV Setup:
To use the USB-UIRT to receive remote control IR codes, go to Detailed Setup>Commands>"Remote Control Configuration: USB-UIRT Configuration"
After that, use the "Link Infrared/Keystroke to SageTV Command" function in the same menu
Here you can assign the buttons on your remote to each SageTV command that you wish to use.

To use SageTV and the USB-UIRT to control channel changing on a Cable/Satellite box, follow the new tuner device setup and select USB-UIRT/External Box.  It's very easy.  Below is a screen-shot of a 1/8" jack from a IR emitter (not included) that you plug into the back of the USB-UIRT.  You then place the IR emitter near the cable/satellite box you want to control.

This photo below shows the IR emitter plugged into the 1/8" jack on the back of the USB-UIRT

Multiple Zone Control
You can control 3 separate external devices since the USB-UIRT has 3-zone output control Read This for SageTV instructions for multple, USB-UIRT zones.

USB-UIRT Java Wrapper
There is a Java Wrapper for the USB-UIRT with native dll provided by the developer of the USBUIRT.  The project also includes a User Interface to transmit and capture signals from the UIRT device.  Check out the UIRT-J

I've controlled SageTV, BeyondTV, Media Portal, GBPVR, Meedio, PowerDVD and many other programs with the USB-UIRT.  Some of these include built-in control with the USB-UIRT and others will require girder, eventghost or another program of your choice to help control your computer.  My experience with the USB-UIRT has been flawless.  It just works and works all of the time - for IR receiving and IR blasting.  I use a USB-UIRT today to control my cable-box via the Hauppauge HD-PVR instead of the Hauppauge blaster that came with the HD-PVR because the USB-UIRT works that much better.

If you need a device to receive and/or blast Infrared, to control your PC or your cable/satellite box; you can't go wrong with the USB-UIRT.  I believe in this product and highly recommend it.  I use two of these for my everyday HTPC tasks and have never had a problem with them.  This product is worth the $50 ($55 with the extra 55Khz sensor) for anyone using a Home Theater PC or even anyone who wants to use a remote control to control their computer.


Giveaway - 4 free USB-UIRT's To Give Away!
Now that you know nearly everything there is to know about the USB-UIRT, you want one right?  Well you can buy one at their website or post a comment below by midnight, November 9th to tell me how you currently use or plan to use the USB-UIRT - I'll be pretty lenient on the comments so don't miss this opportunity.  Thanks to USB-UIRT for the donated hardware.  I'll pay for shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S.  Only one entry per person.  Winners will be determined at random on Monday, November 10th.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Find Circuit City Stores Closing in Your Area

The 2 Circuit City stores near me are both closing as part of the newly-announced Circuit City closures.  Circuit City was never my favorite store, but I'd rather not let Best Buy be the only electronics store in my area - competition is a good thing.

Want to see if the CC stores by you are on the closure list?  Check out this CircuitCity Closure map that Paul Kedrosky put together.

HD Audio Everything You Need to Know

I know many GeekTonic readers are Home Theater Geeks and some are serious about the audio side of their media.  MissingRemote has a very useful cheat-sheet breaking down what each audio codec is, what it can and can't do as well as information on how to wire your ideal setup.

Blue-ray audio, Dobly Digital, DTS, S/PDIF, HDMI, analog and more - their all covered.  And since there are plenty of HTPC fans here, you'll want to check out the HTPC playback section.  Even if you are already a little familiar with this audio stuff, I highly recommend this article as a must read.

High Definition Audio Wiring Guide at MissingRemote

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Deal of the Day - Free MP3's at Amazon

I've been sharing a few of the media and media-gadget deals I run across that I think readers of GeekTonic will be interested in.

Today, I have a very nice deal for you.  Head over to to check out over 500 different MP3's available for free.  As in free of DRM and free for the downloading.  Click on the link below to find a few MP3's for your collection.  If you're interested, don't hesitate as these freebies at Amazon typically don't last long.

 Over 500 Free MP3s from Amazon

Amazon is one of my favorite places to buy music - no DRM, easy to use and priced about right. I always choose Amazon over iTunes if I have a choice.  So while you're there, check out their music offerings - it's a great way to buy MP3s

TV Premieres: What To Watch 11/02 – 11/08

The Fall 2008 TV season premieres have basically all shown themselves over the past few months, but we're into the mid-season replacement/winter TV season.

Note:  The complete guide to the Fall 2008 TV Premieres with a free, downloadable guide is here


NOTE: Times are EST
SUNDAY 10/26/2008

Brotherhood (8pm on Showtime)  Season 3

MONDAY 11/03/2008
First Class All The Way (9pm on Bravo) New "Docu-Drama" by Bravo

TUESDAY 11/04/2008
Bad Girls Club (10pm on Oxygen) Season 3 of the reality program on Oxygen that follows various women with psychological and personality issues.  Haven't we already seen this show on a bunch of daytime and nightime soap operas :)
WEDNESDAY 11/05/2008
Law & Order (10pm on NBC - Avail in HD)  The longest running crime series, Law & Order returns for a 19th Season!  A stockbroker is beaten to death.

FRIDAY 11/07/2008
Survivorman (9pm on Discovery - Avail in HD) Discovery Channel’s host and survival expert Les Stroud is back for his third season of Survivorman
Whale Wars (9pm on Animal Planet) New show that documents anti-whaling activists.

SATURDAY 11/08/2008
My Bare Lady (10pm on Fox Reality)  Think the reality TV shows you've seen are bad?  This one pushes the limits of stupidity even farther.

What’s coming up in the TV world for the remainder of the year?

  • Summer Heights High 11/9 on HBO
  • Ruby 11/9 on Style
  • Cha$e 11/11 on SciFi
  • Extreme Trains 11/11 on History
  • Estate of Panic 11/12 on NBC
  • Top Chef 11/12 on Bravo
  • 24 “Redemption Movie” 11/23 on Fox
  • Secret Millionaire 12/3 on Fox
  • Momma’s Boys Reality Series 12/16

GBPVR Gets New Version 1.3.7

The developer of GBPVR has been hard at work updating the free, HTPC software GB-PVR and this weekend released the latest version of the software GBPVR 1.3.7
                    Screen-shot of the new GB-PVR “slick” Skin
  • New UI Skin settings allowing easier customization to make the nice-looking user interface just the way you want it
  • New skinning support for specifying the number of buttons to show, and offset between them, and background mask, in the horizontal menu.
  • Includes a new “experimental” skin called slick.  It’s loosely based on the XBMC “Aeon” skin
  • Ability to record multiple channels from the same multiplex with the same digital card (only possible with the ‘TS Mux’ option.)
  • Ability to play ITV HD recordings
  • Internal TS reader updated to handle H.264+AC3 (AVCHD) streams generated by the latest HD-PVR firmware
  • Added PID filtering for the HDHomeRun to improve network efficiency
  • Photo Library caching of thumbnails fixed
  • Netradio screen fixed
  • Improved handling of mp3 playback that were a problem in the past (mp3s with embedded album art)
  • Many other misc fixes
To go along with the new version of GBPVR, there's an updated version of the Web Admin program for GVPVR users as well.

For the full change log, more screenshots and the download link check out the announcement thread at the GBPVR forums