Saturday, January 03, 2009

Deal of the Day: 42” Sharp Aquos LCD HDTV $850

Today’s deal of the day is a Sharp Aquos LC42D65U 42-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $850 with Free Shipping via Amazon (affiliate)

The Sharp Aquos LC42D65U 42" 1080p LCD HDTV features Static Contrast Ratio: 2000:1, Brightness: 450 cd/m2, Response Time: 6 ms, Contrast Ratio: 10000:1, and Aspect Ratio: 16:9

For more tech gadget deals follow the GeekTonicDeals website with daily tips on the best gadget deals available.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

JPG Magazine Says Farewell – Get Free Archive Downloads Now

jpgJPG Magazine has been one of the better, and more popular photography magazines out there.  JPG was a 6-times per year mag published by 8020 Media. for the past two years and is closing down in the next few days for good.  All very bad news, but one glimmer of good news is that they’re offering free downloads of their magazine archives for anyone interested.

JPG Magazine focuses on photographers and has a loyal following of over 200,000 photographers who share their photos and stories online, review the others works, and vote for their favorite photos.

Unfortunately, Jpg is shutting down on January 5, 2009 due to financial troubles.  I encourage you to check out some of the free, download  archives (PDF format) – some of the photograph collections are simply awesome.

Nominate GeekTonic for the 2009 Bloggies – I’ll be forever grateful


GeekTonic is still in its infancy and learning the ropes of the blogging world.  As part of our 2009 push to increase exposure to the tech world, I’d love it if some of our readers liked us enough to nominate GeekTonic for the Bloggies.

Here’s the introduction from the 2009 Bloggies Website:

It's time for the 2009 Weblog Awards, the annual non-profit ceremony that celebrates the best in blogging. The Bloggies are the Web's longest-running blog awards, and the nominations, finalist selection, and votes are all up to you, the blog reader. So get your votes in and discover which blogs are this year's champions.


I’m not normally one to ask for nominations or votes for that matter, but one of my New Years resolutions is to help new readers find GeekTonic and improve the community by increasing exposure.  The winner of a Bloggie gets me $20.09 and I promise to put that towards a giveaway (yeah it’ll be difficult to find that $20.09 Media Gadget) and better yet, it will be good for GeekTonic and the readers to increase the readership.

When filling out the nominations, make sure you nominate at least three different websites in any of the categories.  I’d go with Engadget or EngadgetHD for Best Computer or Technology Weblog (or even Lifetime Achievement), Wordpress for best web application for weblogs and of course, GeekTonic for Best-Kept Secret Weblog.  Hey, I know it’s a big long-shot, but you gotta try ;)

Thanks for your consideration!  Submit your Nominations for the 2009 Bloggies Here

Thursday, January 01, 2009

TV Premieres: What To Watch 01/01 – 01/03

The new year has arrived and many are on their couches watching football.  But starting tonight, the networks are getting back into their TV groove with the new Winter 2009 Television Season.  Several new premieres and returning series begin over the next few days and GeekTonic will keep you up-to-date with all of them.

Beginning this Sunday, GeekTonic will continue this “What To Watch” series detailing the new and returning shows coming up each week.

Note:  The complete guide to the Winter 2009 TV Premieres with a free, downloadable guide is here


                                               Game Show In My Head

NOTE: Times are EST
Thursday 01/01/2009
The First 48 (8pm on A&E Available in HD) Season 8 of this reality/documentary series begins on New Years Day. 

Friday 01/02/2009

Countdown to the Crown (10pm on TLC – Available in HD) This is another realityTV series premiere.  The series follows 52 state title holders as they live together on the Queen Mary luxury ocean liner and face a series of team and individual competitions to help them prepare for the pageant -- and prove they have what it takes to be the next Miss America.  Just really exciting stuff there…

Stargate Atlantis (9pm on SciFi – Available in HD) Stargate Atlantis returns from its Holiday Break to continue season 5.

Saturday 01/03/2009

Cops (8pm on FOX – Available in HD) Season 20 continues with more shirtless guys getting busted.  Did you know this reality show began in 1989!  Wow. Edit: This is a rerun so those of you Cops fans hoping for a new show will have to wait until February.  The good news is, Cops is pretty much the same every time so the reruns will be just like the new ones anyway.  Sorry about that.

Game Show In My Head (8pm on CBS – Available in HD) A new game show based on a similar British show arrives.  This one is a “hidden-camera” game show where contestants perform a series of silly and embarrassing tasks in public as they are instructed to by the host via a concealed earpiece. 

America’s Most Wanted (9pm on FOX – Available in HD) Season 22 returns from Holiday vacation.


That’s it for the last few days of this week.  Stay tuned for many more premieres which you’ll find on GeekTonic this coming Sunday morning and each week on Sundays.

GeekTonic Top 10 Media Gadget Predictions for 2009

It’s officially 2009 and time to make my Media Gadget Predictions for the New Year.  I’ve put on my future-seeing hat and gazed into the 3d future monitor to see what’s in store for everyone this year and thought I’d share my top predictions with you.  Predictions include those for Apple, Microsoft, HTPC devices in general and Blu-Ray.

Crystal Ball

       Photo by “circulating” cc license

Disclaimer:  These predictions are not intended to be used for actual expectations or choosing a company to buy stock from.  It’s entirely possible some of these came from last night’s amateur drinking night ;)  Lots of Tonic in there though so some of them will come true…

  1. Blu-Ray becomes the de facto standard as prices of players drop as low as $70 and Blu-Ray Media prices drop to $15 by years end.
  2. The first HTPC extender with a Blu-Ray drive arrives (or would that be Blu-Ray drive with HTPC extender) – possibly as soon as CES
  3. A Leading for-profit HTPC software company ends new sales of their HTPC software leaving the market to two or at most three viable HTPC software companies and a bunch of free-ware HTPC programs.
  4. Two of the freeware HTPC software programs will die and be abandoned.  The free-ware HTPC market will consolidate to two or three major forces (already has begun in 2008.)  I have my thoughts on which of those will die out in 2009, but will leave the names to your imagination…
  5. Apple will push the touch-screen platform further by releasing a iPod Touch mini (or nano) as well as a iMac Touch micro computer.
  6. Apple re-enters the living room (yeah they’ve basically abandoned it at the moment with the current AppleTV) with a new version of the AppleTV and calls it AppleMedia.  AppleMedia will bring 1080p, more online video and HD-PVR capability becoming a major force in the HTPC world in one fell swoop.
  7. Media companies continue the fight to eliminate analog outputs from all devices to remove their fear of the “analog hole”.  They fail in 2009, but make inroads to their goal.
  8. TV Networks begin to abandon the old “local TV station” model and push further to online delivery.  Hulu and other online video sites skyrocket in use and profitability as advertisers strive to find the consumer anywhere they can.
  9. SageTV announces two new hardware devices.  One is an extender/player, the other is a complete hardware-based Server/Player solution
  10. Microsoft cuts the budget for Media Center as HTPC interest wanes.  While Windows 7 is popular with current VMC users, number of consumers using Media Center stays relatively the same as with VMC.  Focus continues to shift towards the custom installers and highest-end customers.


Bottom line for HTPC market is this:  Home Theater PC’s as we know it will move even farther into the “enthusiast” demographic.  Software that serves that market will survive the tough economic conditions and competition from open-source and other freeware alternatives.  Those that simply stay the same and don’t evolve will have  a very tough go of it.

May your 2009 be the best ever.  Let me know your predictions, cheers or jeers (of the above predictions) in the comments.  Happy New Year!

PCAlchemy HTPC Store Closes For Good

PCAlchemy has been one of the more popular, HTPC-focused online stores and a great resource for anyone building their own Home Theater PC.

I’ve purchased a HTPC case, tuners and software from them in the past and always had good service from them.  Unfortunately recent financial difficulties have forced them to shut down permanently.  Over the past week or so I’ve heard rumblings of the PCAlchemy store not keeping products in stock etc (read this thread at MissingRemote for an example of that) and today, they posted this notice announcing the closure:


It could be a rough year for many companies – especially those that specialize in a very specialized niche like this.

PCAlchemy Notice

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 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 (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.