Friday, January 16, 2009

Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching

Time for a new weekly feature.  It’s Friday, the economy (your countries economy as well as your own) is stinking it up and you’re looking for some inexpensive entertainment right?  Well all you need is a one-out-at-a-time Netflix subscription and a Netflix Watch-Now Playback device or a compatible browser.  Each Friday, I’ll highlight a selection of the newly added Netflix Watch Now titles you can check out – I’ll try to screen out the worst of the bunch and just leave the better quality ones or at least some of the “broader appeal” titles.

It’s not as difficult to find a good flick to check out on Netflix’s Watch Now movie streaming service these days, but it still can take some time since most of the available titles are not new releases.  Still, there are plenty you might find worth watching and I thought I’d point out a few new ones on the Netflix Movie Streaming list with link included.

(Disclaimer: Not all of these will appeal to everyone – I’m simply pointing some of the more popular titles ;)

Lord Of The Rings

Oh and Tons of Mary Kate and Ashley movies are available for watch-now these days too ;)


It’s definitely not as nice as Blu-Ray, but the quality isn’t too shabby for the price and for me the streaming is pretty darn good.  Let me know in the comments what you think about the list above and/or if you think the weekly feature like this is a good or bad idea.

New Tuners at AverMedia

I’m still catching up with the Media-Gadget and HTPC related news from CES.  One of the announcements was from AverMedia.

AVerMedia announced several new TV tuners at CES this year.  Here’s the new lineup:

avermedia hybrid pocketexpress

  • AVerTV Bravo lists for $49.99 handles NTSC Analog, ATSC Digital and Clear QAM via the PCI Express x1 slot 

AverTV Bravo Hybrid

  • AVerTVHD Volar Max lists for $69.99 and handles NTSC Analog, ATSC Digital and Clear QAM via USB 2.0

AverMedia Max

  • AVerTVHD Duet tunes two digital signals (ATSC and Clear QAM) at once and lists for $79.99.



For more check out the entire press release

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Check Your Thursday Night Recordings - 15 Minutes Preemption

The President will be on most of the prime-time networks for fifteen minutes tonight (1/15) at 7pm Central for his final address to the nation.  Most DVRs and HTPC guides should reflect this preemption, but you might want to check your scheduled recordings to be sure you don't miss the last 15 minutes of those shows.

What are Microsoft's Intentions for Media Center?

Two Microsoft enthusiasts are questioning Microsoft's Media Center product this week.  Chris Lanier and Paul Thurrott both made comments that raise the question of Media Center and the direction Microsoft will be taking with it going forward.



First off, Chris Lanier has a post that will likely stir the emotions of Media Center users as well as the Microsoft Media Center team.  The post is called "Microsoft Focuses Media Center Marketing, Platform to Follow". 

That title sounds harmless enough, but Chris is arguing that Microsoft is basically giving up on the DIY center of the home media.  In Chris's words:

"Not whole home connected entertainment, not Media Center in your living room, not Extenders, not high-end theaters, but “TV on your PC.” In other words, the days of Media Center being billed as the do-it-all center of your home are over (except for the custom market)."

The article focuses on the future of Media Center and the direction Microsoft is taking it.  The post itself is an excellent read and the comments section is even better.  Don't miss it if you're even slightly interested in Media Center.  The response from Ian Dixon is also worth a look.



Secondly, Paul Thurrott argues that Microsoft isn't good at consumer electronics products and states "every single consumer electronics product that Microsoft has made has lost money."  The comment that is sure to raise the ire of Media Center fans is this excerpt from Paul's post:


"The list of Microsoft consumer stinkbombs is a mile high. Media Center. MediaRoom. UltimateTV. WebTV. PlaysForSure/Windows Media DRM. Zune. That Outlook-compatible phone from years back. Any product with the words "Microsoft" and "Home" in them. The Teddy Ruxbin bear thing. (And you thought I'd forgotten.) Don't get me wrong: Many of these are good, even great products. But if it's just me and 17 other people using them, what's the point?"

Paul goes on further to say "they can't have lost their way.  They've just simply never made it work." 


Even though I don't use Media Center (I currently use SageTV on my setup), I would argue that Media Center is a product that has tons of potential, that Microsoft still has yet to tap in to that potential.  To me, a few of the major things that would make Media Center know all of the competition out would be the following:

  1. Separate Media Center from the OS.  With Windows 7 coming it doesn't look like this will happen in the next few years or possibly ever.  There are so many reasons to do this in my opinion including faster updates, less OS red-tape, ability to evolve faster with the market etc.  OnlyDarksets has a great article on why this is a great idea.
  2. Quit the DRM stuff.  CableCard can have the DRM, but don't push DVR-MS or the new DRMd format on the users for non-CableCard channels.
  3. Allow Server/Client architecture- this is a big one for me.  I could never go to Media Center without it allowing a true, Server/Client architecture that allows a single server and multiple clients all with the same functionality and no need for synching etc.  SageTV, BeyondTV and many of the freeware HTPC programs have this - why not Microsoft?  And while we're on that topic, why is it that SageTV is the only HTPC program that has true, Windows Home Server (WHS) support?  Seriously, WHS is Microsoft's product for goodness sake!
  4. Allow hardware extenders to do nearly everything the server can do.  See number 3 above, but it's really more than that.  The codec support in the SageTV HD100 and HD200 extenders are a great example of extenders done right.  Yes, the Xbox360 does an okay job of acting as an extender, but you have to be honest with yourself and admit that the XBox360 is a game machine that can also act as an extender as long as you use the proper formats and do this and that to get it to work - it's not a complete extender solution in my opinion.
  5. Open up to the Hauppauge HD-PVR and possibly a DishTV tuner.  Will this happen?  Could it possibly be coming with Windows 7?  If they pull this off, they'll make many Media Center fans very, very happy.


What do you think?  Is Media Center going anywhere good?  Will Microsoft just let it die on the vine or is it an important part of their future?


Read the first Article at Chris Lanier's Blog

Read Paul Thurrott's article at SuperSite for Windows

Windows 7 Media Center Music Library In Action

Alan at MissingRemote did a nice walk through of the new Windows 7 Media Center Music Library.  Music is one area where I see Media Center ahead of the competition in features and UI.

Windows7 Music

Alan liked what is there, but also would like to see addition support for adding your own podcasts and online radio stations as well as integration with the Zune marketplace.

Check out the video at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Windows 7 MP3 Bug - Get the Beta Patch Fix

If you've been trying out the new Windows 7 Beta, you should know there is a major bug that corrupts your MP3's imported into Media Center or Media Player.  There is now a fix.

Head over to the Microsoft support page, install the patch, and your system should be fixed.

If you've experienced the corruption issue, that same page tells us that you might be able to restore those corrupted files by right-clicking the file, selecting Properties, then use Windows 7's file versions list to restore to a previous version of the file.

via Gizmodo

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Touching Your Media Center 7 – Video of the Windows 7 Media Center Interface

EngadgetHD had the best scoop for Windows 7 Media Center from CES.  They did a great video of the Media Center 7 interface used on a touchscreen UI.  While I’m not sure I would want my family reaching out and touching my LCD or Plasma TV to change the channel,  there’s not denying the fact that this has the cool factor.  And the interface isn’t too shabby even without the touchscreen interface.

To view the video on a FeedReader, click Here


SageMC has its own touchscreen interface that I have yet to use myself.  I’d probably use touchscreen on a kitchen or secondary display, but not on my livingroom, bedroom or theater display.  What do you think?  Would you use touchscreen on your HTPC?


Via EngadgetHD

GBPVR 1.3.11 Update

Last time GeekTonic checked in with GBPVR it had just released a major new release with 1.3.7 that included a new User Interface and skin among other nice features.  Now in January 2009, GBPVR has updated to 1.3.11.  Most of the updates between 1.3.7 and 1.3.11 are bug fixes and tweaks, but definitely important updates if you’re a GBPVR user.
GBPVR is a popular open source Home Theater PC (HTPC) software that includes TV/PVR, Movies, Music and other media features

Changelog includes:
  • fixed a couple of problem with multi-record (recordings that could continue recording after they were supposed to stop, and recordings that could try to record on the wrong frequency when there was a back-to-back recording with only a padding overlap)
  • fixed a problem with .ts playback on files over 4GB
  • fixed a problem that could cause slow half speed audio
  • added logic to only try multi-record when no encrypted channels were being recorded with the device
  • fixed a problem with metadata or cover art not updating in some situations
  • fixed a bug where multiple video/music library directories are defined, and folder.jpg wouldnt be shown in icon view for the top level
  • MENU_EJECT_CD key working again
  • added popup to warn if no dvd was in the drive
  • updated EWA build. Thanks UJB. (see
  • added new events to let plugins know when startup is complete, and when the app is about to shutdown. This is useful for plugins that own external limited resourses, like LCD displays etc
  • fixed problem where .ts file duration reported during playback would vary widely until a good average bitrate could be determined (timeline OSD jumping all over the place until a good way into the file)
  • improved .ts playback compatibility with certain audio decoder (MPA, ffdshow etc).
  • updated the 'check for renamed recordings' to handle .ts files
  • failed recordings are now listed in the 'whats new' section of the Recordings screen. Previously they were only listed in the 'ready' section.
  • fixed a PsiParser bug that could cause occasional crashes
  • fixed a bug with DVB EPG parsing which could access violation crashes.
  • extended the current selection remembering to work with the top level selection when multiple video/music/photo directories have been specified.
  • no longer showing the tray icon options to restart the recording service on Vista machines, since permissions wouldnt allow it anyway
  • tray icon tuner status popup now compatible with Windows desktops using large fonts
  • should no longer need the various "BDASubmitTuningRequestTwicexxxx" config.xml settings set to true.
  • if you delete the last recording in a group in the recording ready screen, it now returns to the group list, with previous item selected (instead of returning to top of list)
  • fixed a problem that could cause some channels to not be found during a channel scan
  • fixed a jitter problem that could occur in the last build on the MVP and PCH.
  • added a few minor tweaks to slick skin to avoid some text clipping, and to make text more readable
Check out the latest GBPVR 1.3.11 update at the GBPVR forums

Monday, January 12, 2009

Boxee Working on iPhone - iPod Touch Remote App

An iPhone and iPod Touch Remote Control application has been requested several times on the Boxee Forums and based on a twitter post by a boxee rep, it looks like boxee is actually working on their own iPhone/iPod Touch app that does just that.


Boxee, a popular HTPC project based on XBMC is reportedly testing the iPhone remote app internally and are waiting for Apple to approve the app for the iPhone app store.  According to the “tweets” the first version of the Boxee/iPhone app will be a simple remote – so probably will not include playback functions within the iPhone at first.


If you can’t wait for the official app, there already is an iPhone web interface you can use with boxee.  Just be sure your web interface server option is turned on, under settings -> network –> servers.  Then point your iPhone (or iPod Touch) to http://appletv.local:8888/iphone/.  It’s a simple web-based interface and is fairly limited – similar to the offering for XBMC (can’t access any of the native Boxee content such as social feeds, integrated content such as hulu, revision 3, or rss feeds, ect.), but it does list the content and provides play controls to launch the media in Boxee.

via Twitter

Divx 7 Arrives with H.264 MKV and AAC


With all of the CES news last week, some Media Electronics News was overshadowed a bit including the fact that Divx released version 7 of its popular video/audio compression software.

Divx 7 introduces support for full HD H.264 videos.  Divx7 comes in two forms, the freeware edition with video playback support and a $19.99 version providing additional creation and conversion tools for DivX videos.  The software also includes the DivX H.264 decoder filter and the DivX MKV Demux filter (both DirecShow filters that extend playback support for MKV files.)  MKV is quickly growing in popularity for HD downloads as an open standard format that allows an unlimited number of video, audio, picture and/or subtitle tracks inside one single file.  Another new feature is the integration of AAC audio (digital audio format with multichannel audio support).

Also of note for Media Gadget Fans: DivX also also announced the launch of the Divx Plus Certification program enabling the implementation of Divx technology on game consoles, televisions, mobile devices, and more.  I noticed that Windows 7 is set to have Divx built into it natively.


 Download DivX 7 here with a 15-day trial to sample all the encoding goodies as well.


via DivX & PR Newswire

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vote for the Best DVR Application at LifeHacker

Lifehacker is running another "hive five" Poll that will interest GeekTonic readers.  This one is "The Hive Five: Five Best DVR Applications" that includes SageTV, BeyondTV, MythTV, GB-PVR, TiVo and Windows Media Center.

This is a poll LifeHacker is running based on comments made late last week of the most popular apps.
Here's the current results (keep in mind this post at LifeHacker has only been up for an short while today):


Polls like this aren't the most scientific by any means, but they do tend to give us an idea of what LifeHacker readers are using for their HTPC application.
Be sure and let your favorite app be known whether it is SageTV, Windows Media Center, XBMC, MythTV or another one.

Vote Now at

If I were to choose the best DVR applications listed, my favorites would be SageTV, BeyondTV and then TiVo in that order, but every single one of those five are great applications all with their own pros and cons.  I'm expecting to see TiVo win the poll with Windows Media Center follow closely just due to the fact that TiVo and Media Center both are very well known and probably have the most users represented as Lifehacker readers.

TV Premieres: What to Watch 1/11 - 1/17

Week 2 of the Winter 2009 TV Season is upon us with plenty of new and returning shows to keep your DVRs busy.  This week will be another busy one with "24" returning, Kyle XY, American Idol, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights and several other premieres.  Read on for all of the details.

Note:  The complete guide to the Winter 2009 TV Premieres with a free, downloadable guide is here.  The PDF downloads have been updated and an additional by-title sorted listing was added as well.

24 Season 7 Screen-shot
                             Jack from "24" is Back!

Season Premieres For this Week:
  • 24 (8pm Sunday on Fox - Available in HD) - Season 7 premiere starts tonight and continues to its regular timeslot on Monday.  One of my favorites on television.
  • The Apprentice (9pm Sunday on NBC - Available in HD) Season 8 of The Apprentice begins with another Celebrity Edition. Correction: 2-hour episodes begin on Sunday, March 1 at 9 pm/ET.
  • Tool Academy (9pm Sunday on VH1) New Reality TV Show
  • Kyle XY (9pm Monday on ABC Family – Available in HD) Season 3 Premieres
  • American Idol (8pm Tuesday on FOX) - Season 8 of one of the most popular reality TV shows.
  • America's Best Dance Crew (10:00pm Thursday on MTV) - Season 3 Premiere.
  • Sober House (10pm Thursday on VH1 – Available in HD) - Series Premiere - yes, another reality show
  • The Beast (10pm Thursday on A&E) - Series Premiere of what looks to be a dreadfully bad reality program
  • Treasure Quest (10pm on Discovery – Available in HD) - Series Premiere
  • Battlestar Galactica (10pm Friday on SciFi– Available in HD) - Season 4 part 2 begins
  • Friday Night Lights (3pm Friday on NBC – Available in HD) - Season 3 begins for most of us (this season actually was aired on Satellite only last year, but most will be seeing it for the first time on network TV)
  • Solitary (9pm Saturday on Fox Real) - Season 3 Premiere
  • The United States of Tara (10pm Saturday on Showtime) - Series Premiere
NOTE: Times are EST

Sunday 01/11/2009

24 (8pm on Fox - Available in HD) - Season 7 premiere  
Dateline (8pm on NBC - Available in HD)
The Apprentice (9pm on NBC - Available in HD) Season 8 of The Apprentice begins - another Celebrity Edition.  Correction: he 2-hour episodes begin on Sunday, March 1 at 9 pm/ET.
Tool Academy (9pm on VH1) New Reality TV Show   

Monday 01/12/2009

24 (part 2 of episode continued from Sunday) (8pm on FOX – Available in HD)  
Big Bang Theory (8pm on CBS)  
How I Met Your Mother (8:30pm on CBS – Available in HD)  
Kyle XY (9pm on ABC Family – Available in HD) Season 3 Premieres
Two and a Half Men (9pm on  CBS – Available in HD)
Samantha Who? (9:30pm on ABC – Available in HD)  Correction: Begins next Monday

Worst Week (9:30pm on CBS)  
CSI: Miami (10pm on CBS – Available in HD)

Tuesday 01/13/2009

American Idol (8pm on Fox – Available in HD) - Season 8 Premieres and be on way too many nights a week starting with this Tuesday.

Wednesday 01/14/2009

Lost (repeat of last season's finale)    
The New Adventures of Old Christine (8pm on CBS – Available in HD)  
Gary Unmarried (8:30pm on CBS – Available in HD)
Criminal Minds (8:30pm on CBS - Available in HD)   
CSI: New York (9:30pm on CBS – Available in HD) 

Thursday 01/15/2009

Bones (8pm on FOX – Available in HD)  
Smallville (8pm on CW – Available in HD)  
CSI (9:00pm on CBS – Available in HD)  
Kitchen Nightmares (9pm on FOX – Available in HD)  
Supernatural (9pm on CW – Available in HD)  
America's Best Dance Crew (10:00pm on MTV) - Season 3 Premiere  
Eleventh Hour (10pm on CBS – Available in HD)  
Sober House (10pm on VH1 – Available in HD) - Series Premiere - yes, another reality show
The Beast (10pm on A&E) - Series Premiere
Treasure Quest (10pm on Discovery – Available in HD) - Series Premiere

Friday 01/16/2009

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader (8pm on FOX)  
Don't Forget the Lyrics! (9pm on FOX)
Battlestar Galactica (10pm on SciFi– Available in HD) - Season 4 part 2 begins.  This will be the final 10 episodes of the series - ever.
Friday Night Lights (3pm on NBC – Available in HD) - Season 3 begins for most of us (this season actually was aired on Satellite only last year, but most will be seeing it for the first time on network TV). NOTE:  For those of you recording Friday Night Lights with a DVR or HTPC, be sure and set it to record all shows - not just new shows since season 3 was aired already on DirectTV.

Saturday 01/17/2009

Holes in the Wall (7pm on FOX – Available in HD)  airs on Sunday, 1/17

The Simpsons (8pm on FOX – Available in HD)
King of the Hill (8:30pm on FOX – Available in HD)  
Family Guy (9pm on FOX – Available in HD)  
Solitary (9pm on Fox Real) - Season 3 Premiere
The United States of Tara (10 on Showtime) - Season 1 Premiere

That’s it for this week.  Stay tuned for many more premieres including Lost, the Closer, Lie to Me, Hell's Kitchen and more which you’ll find on GeekTonic this coming Sunday morning and each week on Sundays.