Saturday, February 07, 2009

SageTV HD Theater Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to GeekTonic Reader "Clift" who won the GeekTonic SageTV HD Theater Giveaway.  You were chosen out of 276 entries (wow that's a lot of entries to go through!)  The winner was chosen at random with the assistance of  An e-mail is on its way to "Clift" to arrange shipping of the HD Theater.


Congratulations to Clift and thanks to everyone who entered!  Thanks also to the guys at SageTV for providing the HD Theater for review and especially for allowing me to give it away at GeekTonic.


I'll have another couple of reviews this coming week with a couple of giveaways.  They'll be a bit different than the HD Theater, but should appeal to the HTPC crowd so stay tuned.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Last Chance To Enter SageTV HD Theater Giveaway

Win the SageTV HD Theater! If you haven't heard, I'm giving away the SageTV HD Theater review unit to one luck GeekTonic reader.  You still have time to enter, but after today it will be .  I'll be compiling the entries (currently over 200 entries) very late tonight and will announce the winner Saturday morning (tomorrow) by 8am.

If you haven't entered yet, go do it:  Simply post a comment in the giveaway thread (one entry per person) and I'll pick the winner random.


Enter to Win by commenting in the Giveaway Post

Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching - Episode 4

It's the fourth week of the new, GeekTonic "Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching" feature.  Now that you know how to hook your netflix streaming movies to your remote control, its time to watch some of these flicks


It’s Friday 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 be highlighting 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.

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


West Side Story - Winner of 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  One of my favorite musicals (yes I catch the occasional muscial) set among the tenements of New York City with Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) caught in the midst of a turf war between rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets.

The Fourth Protocol - This movie based on a best-selling book by Fredrick Forsyth.  In an effort to shatter NATO alliances, Russian spy Valeri Petrofsky (Pierce Brosnan) plots to explode a nuclear bomb in Britain and blame the act on America. It's up to British agent John Preston (Michael Caine) to foil the plan, despite the skepticism of his superiors.

Parker Kane - Low ratings on this one, but it stars David Caruso, Jeff Fahey and Patti LaBelle.   It's a made-for-TV crime drama so take it for what its worth and not much more.

Heaven's Gate - This one was raked over the coals by the critics but has some big names in it including Sam Waterston, Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken.  The story is about some wealthy cattlemen useing brutal tactics to drive immigrant settlers off their land.  And as you can imagine, Kristofferson plays the sheriff who intervenes. 

Heaven & Earth - An Oliver Stone directed movie, Golden Globe winning score, this movie is Stone's third installment in his Vietnam trilogy.  Tommy Lee Jones stars. 

Original Gangstas - I didn't care for this one, but many like it.  The story is about gangs and a former NFL star. 

Deal of the Century - A slapstick comedy with Chevy Chase, Sigourney Weaver and Gregory Hines.

Superbad - Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen (40-Year-Old Virgin) team up again as producer and co-star/co-writer (respectively) of this high school comedy as best buddies facing separation anxiety as they prepare to go off to college. Attempting to score alcohol for a party (believing that the babes will follow), the boys' evening quickly dissolves into chaos. Bill Hader ("Saturday Night Live") co-stars.

Serenity - Have you ever seen the Joss Whedon TV series Firefly?  This movie picks up where "Firefly" left off.  Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the transport ship Serenity, and his scrappy but loyal crew. When the ship picks up two new passengers- fugitives from the powerful coalition ruling the universe- "Mal" and his mates find themselves at the center of a cosmic conflict, pursued by military forces and space-roaming savages.  By the way, if you haven't seen the "Firefly" series yet, rent them now!

The Green Mile - An excellent movie.  This movie is an adaptation of Stephen King's supernatural tale is set on death row in a Southern prison. The cellblock's head guard, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), develops a poignant relationship with inmate John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a gentle giant who has the power to heal people's ailments. Edgecomb soon recognizes Coffey's gift and desperately tries to help the falsely convicted man stave off his execution.  If you haven't seen this one, I highly recommend it.

The Shawshank Redemption: Special Edition - A classic movie I recommend watching.  Tim Robbins plays an upstanding banker that is framed for a double murder in the 1940s and begins a life sentence at the Shawshank prison, where he's befriended by an older inmate played by Morgan Freeman.

Presumed Innocent - Harrison Ford is a Chicago prosecutor assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a beautiful co-worker. 


Other New, Netflix Movies:

Airport / Airport 1975: Double Feature

Casual Sex?


Tequila Sunrise

Mad Dog and Glory

The Skeleton Key

A Scanner Darkly

The Matrix: Reloaded


Tango & Cash

The Great White Hype

Men Don't Leave

The Animal


That's it for this week.  Let me know if you hated, loved or even watched any of these.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Control Netflix Streaming with your Remote Control - Silverlight Edition

Watch Now

Nearly a year ago, I showed you how to control Netflix streaming with a remote control.  The process involved some keyboard mapping with EventGhost or Girder, but the end result was a way to start up, play, pause and totally control Netflix Streaming on your PC with your remote control.  Since Netflix released the new Silverlight version of the Netflix Player, that hack stopped working.  Today, I'll show you how to do this with Netflix Silverlight.

Harmony Remote

Introducing Netflix Control

Netflix Control is a remote control script for controlling Netflix's Silverlight Media Player.  Netflix Control is basically just an AutoHotKey script that allows you to control the Netflix Silverlight Movie Viewer running under Internet Explorer with any remote control.

Works with SageTV, Vista Media Center and pretty much any computer that can run the Netflix Silverlight Player

The script was created by brian at the SageTV forums to help users of the SageMC NetFlix Import who have converted their Netflix account from the old version of the player to the new, Silverlight verison.  Even though it's original purpose was to be used with SageMedia Center's Netflix plugin, it doesn't require SageTV or the SageMC NetflixImport to function.  All it requires is AutoHotKey, a Netflix Silverlight account, and Internet Explorer!

How Netflix Control Works

Netflix Control runs in the background "watching" for the Netflix Player to become active.  Once it "sees" the Netflix Player, it forces the Netflix Player into full screen, translating keystrokes into the necessary mouse movements for controlling the viewer.

Netflix Control Features:

  • Skip forward and backward during playback
  • Change episodes for multi-episode series such as telvision shows
  • Play/Pause
  • Mute/Unmute
  • Adjust Volume
  • Close the Netflix Movie Viewer


Key definitions in Netflix Control:
CTRL-a or Left Arrow: Jump back in the time line
CTRL-s or Right Arrow: Jump ahead in the time line
CTRL-f : Change to next episode (for titles that have episodes)
CTRL-b : Change to previous episode (for titles that have episodes)
F10 : Increase Volume
F9 : Decrease Volume
F8 : Toggle Mute/Unmute
CTRL-p : Toggle Play/Pause
CTRL-e : Close Netflix Viewer / IE window

If you have a remote or keyboard that use the standard windows media keys/buttons, the following also work:
STOP : Close Netflix Viewer / IE window
Next Track: Change to next episode (for titles that have episodes)
Previous Track : Change to previous episode (for titles that have episodes)
Volume + : Increase Volume
Volume - : Decrease Volume
Mute : Toggle Mute/Unmute

Installation Process:
1) Download and install AutoHotKey
2) Download Netflix Control (see link below)
3) Extract Netflix Control to an appropriate location
4) Run Netflix_control.ahk (I add a shortcut to it in my startup items)
5) Make necessary changes to configure your remote. This will be different for each type of remote.

So if you have a PC that you use to watch Netflix Watch Now Video on and want to use your remote control instead of keyboard to control it, try the Netflix Control Script and let us know how it works for you.  This should work great especially for those who have HTPC computers at their TV! 


Download and Read more about the Netflix Remote Control for Silverlight at the SageTV forums

Home Theater PC - The Case for Computers over Extenders

 Antec Case I use for my HTPC
Last week I made the case for "Extenders over Computers" and definitely touched a nerve with the HTPC community.  Today I'll make the case for the other side of the argument:  The case for computers (HTPC's to be exact) over extenders.  Home Theater PCs are by design (and by name) Personal Computers and there are still many good reasons to use a computer by your TV instead of an extender I'll explain why today.


What?  All HTPC's are computers right?

I thought I should point out that this discussion is to debate the pros and cons of the computer at the TV, NOT the computer HTPC in general.  All HTPC software programs require at least one computer to run the software, store the media on its hard drives and drive the TV tuners etc.  We're talking about the case where you have one computer serving the media.  This server, HTPC computer may be in your study, basement or a closet and "serving" your HTPC or extender in the living room.  It is this Media Center device at the TV being debated here.


 Why Use a Computer HTPC at the TV?

While I've become a major proponent of using a extender for your Media Center "gateway to the TV", I do still have a HTPC that I use nearly every day.  And I also agree that there are many reasons a computer HTPC still makes sense for the DIY HTPC user.

The advantages of using a computer over an extender in a HTPC setup are many including:

  • Flexibility of HTPC platform - Extenders lock you in to a specific HTPC software so if you buy a SageTV HD200, it only works with SageTV; want a Linksys Extender? - you're locked in to Media Center.  This gets to be an even bigger issue if the HTPC software stops supporting a given "generation" of extenders - just ask those who purchased the generation-1 extenders that didn't work with VMC.
  • Upgradable - Want to update your setup with the latest hardware such as video card, memory, optical drive (DVD, Blu-Ray or whatever), even the CPU?  You can do that with a computer, but would have to purchase the newer version of the extender.
  • More Features - web browsing, e-mail etc is typically not possible on an extender.  Depending on the HTPC software you're driving your setup with, some plugins might not work - for example the Netflix & Online Radio Plugins for SageTV don't work on the HD Theater.  With Media Center, the file types the extenders can handle are more limited with the extenders versus the PC.
  • With an extender, updates to your device are dependant on the company who makes it.
  • Keyboard - Using a computer means you can pull out that wireless keyboard on occasion to enter a long search string or enter other information that is a bit unwieldy with a remote control even with the best of user interfaces.  You can't use a keyboard with most if not all extenders.  Speaking of keyboards, I'll have three different ones reviewed next week with my favorite of the bunch going to one lucky GeekTonic reader!
  • Online Video - Want to pull up that Netflix online video or Hulu TV show onto your TV?  Right now, your best bet it via the web browser on your computer.  Hulu is coming to SageTV extenders, but for now the computer is the way to do it.
  • Blu-Ray - Yes, you can rip Blu-ray discs to your hard drive and with some extenders (SageTV HD Theater I'm talking about you) you can view those Blu-ray rips, but the process is time consuming and takes up hard drive space on the server.  If you have a HTPC computer at your TV, you can also have the optical drive of your choice (these days that would be a Blu-ray player) and watch that media right from your HTPC box.


Those are the big points on the pro-computer side of the argument.  The computer does give you the most flexibility, feature-set capability and upgradability you can get with your HTPC setup.  The question for you is this:  Are these enough to sway you towards just using a computer at the TV as opposed to a small, silent, plug-n-play extender?  I think the answer all depends on you and whether you are willing to deal with the trade-off's either way.  I personally have both a computer and extender in different places in my home, but If I had to choose between the two I would go with the extender and give up those advantages mentioned above.

The comments last week were great on both sides of the aisle.  I'm looking to hear from you on these points for pro-HTPC computer.  Did I miss any advantages either way?  Any advantages/disadvantages particular to Media Center or GBPVR users?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

PlayOn Released from Beta - Netflix & Hulu Streaming



PlayOn has closed their beta and released the streaming software for full release. PlayOn lets you stream Hulu, Netflix CNN, ESPN and may other online content sources to your XBox 360, PS3, Popcorn Hour and many other players.  I use it with the SageTV HD200 which isn't officially supported by PlanOn, but does work for Hulu (not for Netflix unfortunately) and some of the other sources.  I'm not a huge fan of the interface you get with PlayOn, but if you need Hulu, Netflix or the other streaming on your hardware, it's hard to argue against it.

You can pick up PlayOn for$29.99.  They have plans for some new features and Wii support in early 2009.

Download a Free, 14 day trial at MediaMall

Win a Free Subscription to Slacker Radio Plus at ZNF

Slacker Radio

My friend Dave Zatz is giving away a one-year subscription to Slacker Radio Plus this week.  Slacker offers free service similar to Pandora, but Slacker also offers a Radio Plus subscription worth $3.99 per month that is entirely without ads.  The premium subscription also enables unlimited skipping and song requests.

Both Dave and Mari at ZatzNotFunny are fans of the Slacker Radio service which works on both a desktop browser as well as multiple mobile clients such as iPhone and Blackberry.

Leave a comment in the ZatzNotFunny! Slacker Radio Plus Giveaway post to put your name in the hat.  Good Luck!

GeekTonic on the EngadgetHD Podcast

EndgadgetHD PodcastAs I've said before, the EngadgetHD podcast is one of my favorite podcasts – Ben Drawbaugh & Steve Kim cover all things HD including topics such as HD gadgets and HD content.  This week Ben invited me back to the show for the second time (my first time on the podcast was to review the TV premieres) as a guest on the EngadgetHD Podcast. 

We covered a bunch of topics including several HTPC-themes such as Windows Media Center, Boxee, SageTV and the SageTV HD Theater.  While Ben Drawbaugh (EngadgetHD team member) uses Vista Media Center to drive his Media TV at home, but he's been reviewing the SageTV HD Theater so it was really intereresting to get his perspective on the HD Theater and SageTV itself.

If you're interested in Media Computers or High Definition Media in general, be sure and check out the EngadgetHD Podcast.

Listen to the EngadgetHD Podcast Episode 121

Hauppauge HD-PVR on Media Center Arrives

Hauppauge HD-PVR
Wouldn't you know, it wasn't Microsoft that brings Hauppauge HD-PVR support to Media Center - instead it was the crafty user-developers who hacked together a solution for us.  Yes it's true, Media Center users can now use Hauppauge HD-PVR with their Media Center software!

All TV Channels including those Encrypted Thanks to the "Analog Hole"
For those two of you who don't know the significance of this, the Hauppauge HD-PVR allows you to take your cable box or satellite box and connect it to your computer to tune live and recorded TV to your media center.  [Read More about the Hauppauge HD-PVR here].  That includes HD, SD, encrypted or not thanks to the HD-PVR's use of the analog hole.  The HD-PVR can take any component out and convert the analog stream into h.264 video with AC3 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound.

The hack uses DVBSBridge which was originally designed to enable DVB-S channels in Vista Media center and XP MCE 2005.  The new HD-PVR functionality for DVBSBridge adds the following features:

  • High-Definition H.264 Video with AC3 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound
  • Set-top box control from Media Center though HD-PVR's own IR Blaster
  • All the goods that Windows Media Center has to offer... DRM free!

System Requirements

  • Windows 7 or a Windows Media Center with H.264 support for Live TV
  • For SDTV (480i) capture, H.264 decoding using a software-only codec might be enough, depending of your CPU
  • For HDTV (1080i/720p) capture, H.264 decoding might requires hardware accelerated codec, since your processor might not be able to cope with the decoding of the stream. As a result, Media Center’s rendering might starts lagging frames
NOTE: Windows Media Center uses different codecs depending on the H.264 input source. The Live TV/Recorded TV uses Microsoft’s own codec and external media (AVI, MKV) uses the codecs from DirectShow. Note that under Windows Vista TV Pack, the H.264 hardware acceleration is restricted and thus we recommend using Windows 7 for HDTV usage.

You can view the entire DVBSBridge procedures here:
For more information on DVBSBridge, check out their forums at
Download the HDPVRBridge program here and let me know how it works for you!  Thanks to GhostLobster for the tip!

NOTE:  Their server is getting hit pretty hard right now so it could take you a while to get the download.

Feel Free to DIGG this story ;)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

SageTV 6.5 Released from Beta

The team at SageTV has been releasing beta's for SageTV 6.5 at a frequent pace since November.  Today, they released 6.5 out of beta so if you've been holding out for the release version, today is your day.

We've covered most of the high points from 6.5 during each beta release, but here are the more notable feature updates for SageTV 6.5
Some of the major changes for V6.5 are:

  • Full support for the HD200 as a media extender
  • Optimized bandwidth usage in the Placeshifter
  • Beta support for Hauppauge HD-PVR on the Mac
  • EVR (Enhanced Video Renderer) support on Windows
  • Optimized HDHomeRun network usage on all platforms
  • Support for HD YouTube videos
  • Various bug fixes and performance enhancements

The full list of changes are contained in the latest release notes topic (v6.5.9 changes are here) & earlier release notes from the v6.5 beta.


Owners of SageTV 6.x can upgrade to this version for free.  Get the download from here

Deal of the Day - SiliconDust HDHR Dual QAM Tuner $140

SiliconDust HDHomeRun Network-based Dual Digital HDTV Tuner Ethernet Interface


My TV favorite tuner of all time, the SiliconDust HDHR Dual QAM tuner is on sale at Newegg (affiliate) for $159.99 $139.99 with free shipping.  Next cheapest price is at Amazon for $166 and is sold for about $178 with shipping from SiliconDust direct.


SiliconDust HDHomeRun Network-based Dual Digital HDTV Tuner Ethernet Interface $159.99 $139.99 with Free Shipping! [Coupon Code EMCLNLP65 (Exp 2/9)]


The HDHomeRun works with the following Software:

  • Windows Media Center:
    • MCE 2005 32-bit
    • MCE 2005 64-bit
    • Vista MCE 32-bit
    • Vista MCE 64-bit
  • SageTV - HTPC software for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Home Server, Mac & Linux
  • SnapStream BeyondTV - DVR for Windows
  • Elgato EyeTV - DVR for Mac
  • MythTV - DVR for Linux
  • MediaPortal - DVR for Windows
  • GB-PVR - DVR for Windows
  • VLC - Multi-platform media viewer
  • TSReader - MPEG-2 transport stream analysis
To check which channels are available to you through clear QAM, check out SiliconDusts Clear QAM database by inputing your zipcode and selecting your cable provider.
If you want to research the HDHR a little more before buying check out my review of the device from last year

Monday, February 02, 2009

The SageTV HD Theater Extender/Player Giveaway

SageTV HD200 Front

SageTV HD200 Back

Now that you know nearly everything there is to know about the new SageTV HD Theater, you probably want to try the HD200 for yourself right?  Well this is your lucky week because GeekTonic is giving away the review unit (SageTV HD Theater) complements of SageTV and GeekTonic!

In case you missed it, read the full, GeekTonic review of the SageTV HD Theater.  Remember, this device can be used as a SageTV extender OR as a standalone media player so this giveaway should appeal to everyone - including those without SageTV.

To enter, simple leave a comment below (in this post).  Thanks to SageTV for the donated HD Theater.  I'll pay for shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S. (if you're farther then that we can work out the difference in shipping cost)  Only one entry per person.  Winners will be determined at random later this week.


I'll have another nice giveaway in the coming days so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

GeekTonic Month in Review – January 2009

GeekTonic Logo

January was a very good month at GeekTonic.  Lots of good posts and some excellent comments made it the best January at GeekTonic yet.  It was also second in terms of pageviews and visitors in a month at GeekTonic so thanks to all readers – I couldn’t do it without you!

The GeekTonic Bus

To wrap up the month I wanted to share the most popular posts (as measured by Google Analytics) of GeekTonic for January 2009:


If you have any topics or questions you’d like to have covered in February, let me know in the comments or send me a note.

TV Premieres: What to Watch 2/1 - 2/7

Week 5 of the Winter 2009 TV Season is here.  Overall this will be another "light" week in terms of number of new TV shows, but there are a few good ones in there.  Read on for all of the details.

Note:  Download a free, PDF of all premieres and returning TV shows.  Download includes two sections - one sorted by release date and another sorted by title.  This has been updated with many additions and corrections from the last version - only those shows from 1/18 and later are included in this version.

Chuck Returns Monday - in 3-D

Season Premieres For this Week:
  • Medium (10pm Monday on NBC - Available in HD)
  • Dog the Bounty Hunter (10pm Wednesday on A&E) - Part 2 of Season 5 begins to continue the decline of civilization as we knew it (as Monk would say at least)....
  • The Exterminators (10:30pm Wednesday on A&E) - Series premiere 
  • Jockeys (9pm Friday on Animal Planet) - Series premiere 

Premieres and Returning Shows For this Week:

NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST

Sunday 02/01/2009

Road to the Superbowl (12 Noon Sunday on NBC - Available in HD) - For those wanting to listen to endless football hyperbole, you can start at 12 Noon on NBC.

Superbowl Pregame (1PM Sunday on NBC- Available in HD) - Yep, 5 more hours of Superbowl Pregame.  Gotta love it.

Superbowl Pittsburg vs Arizona (6pm Sunday on NBC- Available in HD) - The game everyone seems to watch either for the game, the gathering or the commercials. (A one-hour special episode of the Office follows the game)


Monday 02/02/2009

Chuck (8pm Monday on NBC- Available in HD) - Chuck is a great show if you don't take it too seriously.  Chuck returns from its Holiday hiatus for a special 3-D episode.  I'm not too into the whole 3D thing, but consider Chuck a very watchable show.

Heroes (9pm Monday on NBC- Available in HD) - Heroes is back!  Whether you think it's too complicated, too many characters or something else.  It's still one of the best shows on TV right now in my opinion.

Medium (10pm Monday on NBC- Available in HD) - Season 4/Part 2 premiere.  Brenda and the team get involved in a seemingly simple case when the Medical Examiner believes that a suicide is actually homicide.


Tuesday 02/03/2009

No premieres


Wednesday 02/04/2009

Life (9pm on NBC - Available in HD) I haven't seen this one, but I've heard it called one of the best shows you're probably not watching.  Returns from the holiday break 

Dog the Bounty Hunter (10pm on A&E) I'll admit, I haven't watching this one.  Someone tell me if I'm making a mistake :)

The Chaser’s War on Everything (9pm on G4) A sketch comedy show that lives on the edge.  This is an import from Australia and they bill it as “Australia’s Most Controversial Show.”  From what I’ve read it sounds like “Jackass” with a bit of a political edge.  Not something that appeals to me, but for those that actually watch G4, it might be worth a look.


Thursday 02/05/2009

No premieres


Friday 02/06/2009

Jockeys - (9pm on Animal Planet) A new reality TV show by Animal Planet


Saturday 02/07/2009

No premieres


That’s it for this week.  Stay tuned for many more premieres including Survivor, Dollhouse, Reaper, Kings and more which you’ll find on GeekTonic this coming Sunday morning and each week on Sundays.