Saturday, February 14, 2009

Find The Best Prices on Hard Drives

Most media gadget junkies like myself consume a lot of data and many of us store a bunch as well.  Thankfully, prices for hard drive storage continue to plummet so that your average internal hard drive is pretty darn cheap.  Because hard drives are an integral part of your home media setup these days, I’ve monitored prices and deals for internal SATA drives each week. 

Starting today, I’ll be sharing these deals with you each week over at my very-young, brother site GeekTonic Deals.

Internal SATA Hard Drives

I’m starting this series with the 1TB drives.  Yes, the 2TB is available, but a bit too high on the price-per-gigabyte for me.  The 1TB is near the perfect size and price—per-gigabyte.  This week, the best deal is for the Hitachi 1TB SATA drive which just happens to be available for $85 after mail-in-rebate or $87.99 at NewEgg if you don’t want to mess with those mail-in-rebates.

Check out the Best Prices for 1TB Hard Drives at GeekTonicDeals!


To stay up-to-date on the best gadget deals subscribe to the GeekTonicDeals Thread

GeekTonic Week in Review

I've been churning out quite a bit of news and information this past week.  In case you missed any, here is a summary of the past week's news and stories on GeekTonic.

Stay tuned for more in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at  If you’re in to the Twitter thing, you can follow me on twitter under the name GeekTonic


Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Get More GeekTonic on Twitter

Are you interested in Media Gadgets, TV Talk or just a little random small talk?
If so you can follow me on Twitter to catch my more pithy comments that I don’t have time to blog.  You’ll get the normal (whatever normal is) twitter stuff mixed in, but I often twitter the "hotter" topics (I do not repeat on twitter everything I blog here) sometimes faster than you’ll see them in your RSS feed for GeekTonic.
Recent discussion include SageTV, Media Center, TV Talk (shows being canceled or renewed), gadget news and yeah you'll have to put up with the occasional Big 12/SEC sports talk among other random topics.  I've made a lot of friends via Twitter and gotten to to know many of my readers and the wider community so I highly recommend it.

UPDATE:  If your new to twitter or even a hard-core twitter addict, I highly recommend you read this ZatzNotFunny article on "1100 word comprehensive Twitter software, tools, and etiquette post"

Here’s a screen-shot of my more recent twitter “posts”:

GeekTonic on Twitter

If you’re so inclined you can follow GeekTonic on Twitter HERE

I encourage readers of GeekTonic to comment on the posts here and I'd love to include you in the conversation at Twitter also.

Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching - Episode 5

Another Friday has arrived which means it is time for the GeekTonic "Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching" feature. 


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 ;)


Night of the Living Dead

It's Valentines Day this weekend.  So how about some flesh-eating corpses to get everyone in the mood?  This is a very silly, but popular flick from 1968.  Considered a classic in some circles.

Enter the Ninja

It's a Ninja Movie!  Yeah, it's not my favorite genre, but I know some will like this one.

Dirty Little Billy

Looking for a "nontraditional" western?  This should fit the bill.  Young William Bonney learns the tricks that will make him famous as Billy the Kid.


Martin Short plays Clifford, the big red dog. For the kids... of course.   UPDAGE:  Okay, since Robert "called me out" in the comments I'll come clean.  This movie is NOT about clifford the big red dog.  It's a sort of unfunny movie, that some will like and some won't.  It isn't really for the kids either so now you know.  Happy Friday the 13th :)

The Visitor

An Indie drama where widowed professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, in an Oscar-nominated role) discovers an immigrant couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira), squatting in his Manhattan flat and becomes wrapped up in their lives when Tarek is thrown into a detention center. 


Looking to cash in on a Brazilian gold rush, ne'er-do-well George Kuffs (Christian Slater) heads to San Francisco to hit up brother Brad (Bruce Boxleitner) for a loan. Instead, George gets a job offer -- to join Brad's police department civilian adjunct. Milla Jovovich and Tony Goldwyn costar.

Marvin's Room

The tables are turned when straight-laced Bessie (Diane Keaton) -- who devotes her life to caring for her chronically ill father (Hume Cronyn) -- must ask her estranged, bohemian sibling (Meryl Streep) for help after Bessie suffers a health catastrophe. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Gwen Verdon all star.

Norma Rae

In an Oscar-winning performance, Sally Field is unforgettable as Norma Rae, the Southern millworker who revolutionizes a small town and discovers a power in herself she never knew she had. Based on a true story.

State and Main

When filmmakers come to Waterford, Vt., they shoot first and ask questions later. Writer-director David Mamet doesn't miss a target with this scathing satire of moviemaking. There's the egomaniacal star (Alec Baldwin) who can't keep his pants zipped, the starlet (Sarah Jessica Parker) who won't take off her top and the impotent writer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) ignored by everyone.

The Counterfeiters

Facing an ethical quandary, Jewish master forger Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) must choose between abetting the Nazis and saving his skin in this taut Oscar-nominated drama based on a true story. Assembled at a death camp, a cadre of printers, artists and chiselers -- led by the opportunistic Sorowitsch -- is tasked with counterfeiting currencies to weaken Allied economies. But will Sorowitsch's conscience begin to gnaw at him as the war draws to a close?


When James's (Nick Stahl) sister Joleen (Charlize Theron) shows up on his doorstep with her 11-year-old daughter, Tara (AnnaSophia Robb), he doesn't think twice about welcoming them into his home. But when Joleen skips town without Tara, James is thrust into a role he's grossly unprepared for. At risk of losing the girl to foster care, James hits the road with Tara, where the pair develops a genuine bond and discovers a true sense of family.

Say Anything

The budding romance between noble underachiever Lloyd (John Cusack) and high school valedictorian Diane (Ione Skye) is threatened when Diane's overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their future. With her prized scholarship to study in England hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy. Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Good Will Hunting) writes and directs this classic 1980s teen film.

Soldier of Fortune

Clark Gable risks his life to save a beautiful woman's husband in this adventure drama filmed largely on location in Hong Kong. When her photographer husband goes missing, Jane Hoyt (Susan Hayward) implores Hank Lee (Gable), an American mercenary who runs a smuggling operation from Hong Kong, to help find him. Swayed by his attraction to Jane, Hank agrees -- but he may regret his decision when the quest lands him in dangerous communist territory.


Shadowy U.S. intelligence agents blackmail Robert Redford and his eccentric team of security experts into stealing a code-breaking "black box" from a Soviet-funded genius. But Redford uncovers a bigger conspiracy, and he and his "sneakers" (Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix and David Strathairn) must save themselves and the world economy by stealing the box back from the blackmailers.

In Too Deep

Rookie Cincinnati cop Jeffrey Cole (Omar Epps) poses as a drug dealer to take down a powerful crime lord named Dwayne Gittens -- known on the streets as "God" (LL Cool J). But soon, Cole gets caught up in God's underworld of bribery, intimidation and murder. Michael Rymer directs this action thriller; Stanley Tucci, Veronica Webb, Nia Long and Pam Grier co-star. Musicians Nas and Jermanie Dupri also make appearances.

Elizabeth R

Based on six plays, this Emmy Award-winning miniseries from the BBC depicts -- with deft attention to historical detail and style -- the extraordinary life of Queen Elizabeth I (Glenda Jackson). Also known as the Virgin Queen, she challenged the status quo (most notably in her refusal to marry), and survived plots to overthrow her, local politics and family turmoil to build the British Empire into the most powerful military force in the 1600s.


Other New Netflix Streaming Movies:


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

Thursday, February 12, 2009

SageTV HD Theater Gets it's First Custom UI for Standalone Mode

Well that didn't take long.  The SageTV HD Theater (read review here) has it's own, unique user interface for standalone mode (when not being used as a SageTV extender), but it can be customized just as the SageTV UI can be customized.  Until today no one had released one, but as of now the first custom UI is here.

Gerry, the user/developer for many SageTV add-ons including the SagePro Theme has created a SagePro Standalone UI to match.

SagePro Theme for HD Theater


Instructions for installing are very easy and it looks quite nice.  Watch for many more custom UI's for the SageTV HD Theater Standalone in the near future!  Thanks to Gerry for his work on this and for being the first one to do this.


Check out this forum thread to read more about the SagePro Theme for SageTV HD Theater Standalone


Download for the SagePro Theme

Netflix Subscriber Base 10 Million-Plus

Netflix If you're still wondering who is winning the battle of the Movie Rental business, wonder no more.  Netflix announced today that they have passed the 10 Million Subscriber milestone and that includes 600,000 net additions since 1/1/2009! 

Amazing progress for certain and their streaming service stands to make a real difference this year.  Integration with multiple hardware devices gives Netflix the leg-up on the competition and gives households one more reason to keep that monthly Netflix Subscription going.  I own a lot of movies, but still subscribe to netflix's unlimited, one-out-at-a-time subscription to keep up on the latest movies and give me access to the online streaming service.

How about you, are you a Netflix Subscriber?  Do you use the online streaming yet?


Read the full story: Netflix Press Release

iTunes Getting Replay Video On Demand to Compete with Netflix?

iTunes There are rumors cropping up that Apple is preparing to add a Video On-Demand type service to iTunes 8 that would allow iTunes users to access and stream their iTunes video purchases directly from Apple's servers at any time.  If true, this would arguably be a move to compete more directly with the Netflix streaming service.

The original story broke at AppleInsider and was later "confirmed" by an undisclosed source at CNET.  The service would purportedly be called iTunes Replay.  If they pull this off without ticking off the content providers I can see this as a direct salvo to Netflix & Amazon Unbox and their streaming services.  The one problem with this would be the fact that Apple only has one "real" extender device usable at the Television set - the AppleTV.  I know there are those that consider the AppleTV fine for what they need, but I have to wonder whether this is another sign that Apple wants to step up their "hobby" they call the AppleTV and take it to the next level.

What do you think?

Video Editing Power Tools

This is a guest post by ZetaVu

Video Editing Power Tools
I have been an avid user of Snapstream’s Beyondtv for years now. I like it because it takes care of my guide information, is very user friendly, works with all my tuners (hardware mpg encoders, over the air HD, and the Hauppauge HD PVR), and has a lot of great features. It generates smartchapters to identify commercials (some people prefer Commercial Cutter, both have similar success rates in my testing) and has a built-in showsqueeze feature to convert videos to divx, wma, or ipod H.264. I’ve also used or tried SageTV, Media Portal, Mythtv and several other PVR programs, and each have positives and negatives. However, none of these programs will do all the video editing and conversion I need to do so I've put together this discussion on some of the other editing programs I've use or have tested out.


Now I have a few different types of video files to work with. Beyondtv records either mpg2 files, mpg transport streams (.tp files) or H.264 transport streams from the HD PVR.  In addition, I capture DV (avi) files from my camcorder and convert those to mpg2 files for making dvds. I also showsqueeze files to Divx or ipod H.264 using Beyondtv (for archiving or loading on my ipod) and make Xvid files with Autogk for archiving. (I go back and forth between Divx and Xvid, depending on what I do with that file). That in mind, I look at other software to edit and link files together (mostly removing commercials) convert formats, repair issues with recordings, and in the case of my home movies; capture, edit, transitions and titles. The bulk of these applications are freeware or open source, but I’ve listed some pay applications that I use as well. I think 90% of what I do can be done with freeware, and almost all can also be done on Linux as well as Windows (one of my goals is to eventually migrate everything to Ubuntu).




Here I want to focus strictly on format converters. I won’t go into too much detail on Snapstream’s Showsqueeze, even though that is my top converter. As a result I really don’t look into many Divx converters.
Auto Gordian Knot
My main conversion program is Autogk  which does both Divx and Xvid, but I use it mainly for Xvid conversion.  I’ve had a few issues with the latest version, as a result I stay with version 2.27.  Autogk is actually a collection of programs and a front-end that simplifies the whole process. It lets you input mpeg2, TP, VOB or even INF files from dvds for conversion.  You can convert based on quality, percentage reduction, or a specific file size. Depending on the amount of compression Autogk can keep 5.1 audio intact or convert to mp3. Speed wise it is similar to Snapstream’s showsqueeze, and depending on compression files look good on my 46” LCD. I archive standard definition shows to about 350mb/45min (1 hour show without commercials) and HD shows to about twice that.



I accidentally omitted Handbrake  from the original
draft, not by ignorance, just rushing the article out without checking
my notes. As many users pointed out, this powerful tool will let you
convert almost any format, accepts mpegs, transport streams, H.264 files
(yes, those HD PVR monsters that seem to befuddle other converters) etc
and convert them to a variety of formats (H.264, xvid, ffmpeg, did not
see divx). You can choose audio (my test files would let me choose mp3
or ac3), choose compression (size or bitrate) constant, variable, 2pass,
etc. You can crop your frame and on some files resize. It works with DVD
files, allows you to insert chapter points, etc. Like one commenter
posted, its what Autogk would have been had development not been stopped.
I’ve tested this with H.264 files from my HD PVR and it was able to
convert them to Xvid in about the same time BeyondTV was able to
showsqueeze them to Divx. Quality was comparable so as a result I use
the BeyondTV showsqueeze mainly for convenience (I expect a handbrake
plugin to be in the works as well). I can forsee eventually replacing my
Autogk installation with Handbrake. The fact that it is also
multiplatform (Windows Linux Mac) will pretty much put an end to my
searching for the ideal converter for Linux as well.


Another handy converter is Pocketdivxencoder I use this to make quick conversion of videos for my PDA, and it is designed to work well with TCPMP (the Core pocket media player I use this because it is fast and lets you setup multiple jobs at a time.
ABC 3gp Converter

My last portable converter is ABC 3gp converter Install-ABC-3GP-MP4-Converter.html. I use this for the rare times I want to convert video to play on my cell phone (which only supports 3gp, it’s getting dropped hard soon). I’m sure there are other and better programs out there, but this was free and it worked. I expect with newer phones won’t be so limited so this app won’t be needed as much.
HDTV to MPeg2

Another App I used to use is HDTV to mpeg2 .
I used to use this program until Videoredo started supporting transport streams. This lets you convert a any of the subchannels of a transport stream to mpeg2 files.
Other Convert Applications

I have a few other converter applications in my arsenal, most of which have been replaced by Avidemux. I also tried a few FLV converters, but now I just use the Firefox plugin Downloadhelper (even that has some issues). For the most part I just play those files in Vlc. I also looked at a few WMV editing and conversion programs, Apex video converter and ASFtools stand out in memory but I cannot recall if that is good or bad. Either way, most of these functions are obsolete because of the programs in the next section.

Note, all of these are primarily Windows converters, I have a lot of catching up with Linux converters, and fortunately the editors below handle most of this.

Editors - Editor/Converter/stream repair

First off I have to list Videoredo. For the most part editors here are freeware or open source, but Videoredo has served me so well over the years it deserves not only mention but to serve as a benchmark for other editors. Videoredo does very fast rendering, faster than any other program I had seen until then (Avidemux is faster now). It lets you cut or trim videos, recognizes projects based on Snapstream Smartchapters or Commercial Cutter, lets you join files together, and most importantly will run quickstream fixes that can identify dropped frames, repair files, correct audio sync issues, etc. It is limited to mpg files and transport streams, does not work with Divx, Xvid, or H.264 files at this time. It is also not freeware, but you can get a 30 day trial.

Avidemux  (alt site)  is now my new favorite editor.  First off, it is multiformat, available in Windows, Linux or Mac. Secondly, it handles most formats. I’ve been able to edit everything except a few H.264 formats (but those should get upgraded soon). Third, it is fast (for rendering anyway, opening files sometimes requires rebuilding). It does not however recognize Smartchapter or cutter projects, and does not seem to have quickstream fixes like Videoredo (however I’m still learning what I can do with it)

Opening files is slow as it may need to rebuild data. Xvid files need you to rebuild frames (say 90 seconds for a 90 minute file) but then saving changes takes less than 10 seconds. Divx require unpacking which is about the same time. Mpg-2 and transport streams need indexing to open which is much faster.

Like Videoredo, Avidemux lets you set start and end points and either cut out the section or trim to that section. Combining files together is much simpler using the append command, however video shape needs to be the same (which is easily done with in Avidemux as well). I mostly use this to remove commercials in Divx files I make from my HD PVR recordings. While there are H.264 editors available, I am happy using Beyondtv’s Showsqueeze feature to archive my file, then use Avidemux to remove commercials from that Divx file. It’s also great for joining fragmented files together, converting between formats and properties, and is almost up to the Movie Maker Editor. For a free editor, this is by far the best, and better than almost all pay editors.

All in all, while I still use Videoredo to remove commercials from mpg or tp files, and as a quickstream fix when needed, I forsee a day when I replace it completely with Avidemux and mpeg2repair.

Speaking of which, I have become a quick fan of Mpeg2repair.  This was pointed out to me by one of the Snapstream devs when I was having issues with HD recordings over the air.  Even though I was seeing high signal levels, my capture cards were getting errors causing me to see frozen video for a few seconds. Mpeg2repair is limited as it is used to scan and repair these transport streams. The benefit, running a transport stream (HDTV) recording though this utility will identify, log and repair errors. So instead of frozen video you get minimal pixilation at each error point. One of my tuners has poor reception on some channels, so if that tuner is needed for those channels, I fix the recording with Mpeg2repair before watching it (takes about 10 minutes for a 1 hr recording).

Tmpgenc used to be a favorite of mine. I used it when converting or building DVD’s, and it was especially useful for splitting or combining audio and video in mpg files. It is limited to that format (hence the name). However new DVD ripping and burning software really has made a lot of these functions obsolete, and I don’t even keep a copy of this on my computers anymore. Plus, I’m not sure if the free version is as functional as before or if it is time limited.
h264 TS Cutter

H264tscutter  is the first freeware app I found to cut and edit H.264 files from the HD PVR. This lets me edit down the HD PVR files. Its a lot clunkier than Videoredo, for example the skip frames are 3 seconds (100 frames) at the most, otherwise you need the slider to navigate. It is also less stable and can lock if you click too many times at once. You can enter time in manually in seconds, which if you know the times of commercial breaks will help a lot. Also, it only works with the .ts extension files, if you record as .tp files you need to change to .ts to edit (then set start to iframes, etc, you'll get a warning when you open) I prefer converting my files to divx and then edit in Avidemux, but this will work with H.264 files, just a lot more effort

Note, if you enter values in the timeline, say 72 for 1 min 12 seconds, you will have to let the software correct for slight decimal values. Use one of the next/prev buttons (I use the 5 frame button) so it can sync itself correctly, some value like 72.1435. Otherwise when you try and cut your project you get an exception. I have not seen a newer version yet but I hope they correct this soon.

Movie Maker/Editor/Converters

This section is for what I consider the movie making application a.k.a. home movies. These programs are a little more intensive than just editors, apply effects, animation, filters etc, and their main purpose in my opinion is to capture firewire DV from you video camera, edit and make home videos.
Kino, Jahshaka and Cinelerra

In Linux you can get Kino which is the best I’ve tested so far (and I have a lot of catching up to do) but I’ve also heard Jahshaka  and Cinelerra show promise. There are others that I have not had a chance to look at, and all are showing more promise. Kino looked like the best at the time of this article, allowing firewire capture editing, adding audio, effects, transitions, most of the same features of the pay Windows programs.

Vivia & Ulead VideoStudio
For Windows, the only freeware application I’ve looked at is Vivia  mostly because it available for Windows and Linux. I currently have Ulead Videostudio which I use routinely so I haven’t delved much in Windows freeware for Movie Making. As of the writing of this article Vivia only supported PAL, NTSC will be available in version 0.2, so I won’t do any more testing until then. I thought they were worth a mention since they were multiplatform and open source, and slowly building transitions, effects, and other features.

As I’ve stated, I personally use Ulead (now Corel) Videostudio. The reason? I’m just comfortable with it. It is pay software, much like the industry standard Adobe Premiere. As such, I won’t go into too much detail about these two products. My main use for them is to capture video from my camcorder, edit, apply effects as needed (contrast, color adjustment mostly), add transitions, titles, and make mpg files for my library and for DVDs. What I like about Videostudio is that I can make several small mpg files or scenes, and then when I’m ready to build a DVD I can combine them together in a project, and build a DVD with a single VOB series, and each clip will automatically have a chapter associated with it. Most DVD authoring programs make separate VOB’s for each movie clip, or if you combine the clips into a large file it won’t preserve the chapter points. The negative is that Videostudio takes a long time to render the movies, sometimes several hours to make a 2 hour DVD. However, I’ve tried a lot of program combinations (Tmpgenc, Videoredo, DVD Moviefactory etc) and in the end this has been the best for me.

Notable Mention
Here are a few utilities that I think are worth mentioning.
  • DSFMgr -  Direct show filter manager – useful to check your installed filters and add/remove or change priority of them.
  • Gspot codec appliance  great for checking files and getting info on compression and format.
  • Videoinspector is another popular choice for checking files and getting info on compression and format.
  • Media Info another application which gives details on files, this one works well with transport streams.

Useful Media Players

I typically like to keep VLC and Zoom player available, VLC ideally for streaming and Zoom makes it easy to choose filters and decoders.

Many thanks to ZetaVu for sharing his experience with video editing tools.  This was the third in the series of many guest posts on GeekTonic.  Those of you who read ZetaVu's first guest post understand that ZetaVu knows his stuff and is a frequent commenter at GeekTonic with a great deal of knowledge with HTPC's and other media gadgets.  I've gotten to know him from the many hours spent on the Snapstream, MediaPortal , AVS and other Forums where you'll often find him (under the same online name).

Coming Soon for XBMC – Aeon Stark Skin

XBMC fans are very familiar with the Aeon skin for XBMC.  It is one of the most striking HTPC “skins” available.  I’ve been following the XBMC forums about a new skin being developed by the creator of the original Aeon skin – an even more amazing-looking theme/UI called “Aeon Stark”

XBMC is a popular open-source media center application for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and XBox.

Dunkan Harris (known as djh on the XBMC forums) has been hard at work on Aeon Stark and posted his projected release date for Aeon Stark as March 30, 2009.  The XBMC forums are in a frenzy to learn more about this new skin so I thought I’d share with GeekTonic readers what all the fuss is all about.  Here are a few of the screenshots from the new theme posted by its creator:


These screenshots show the amazing work being done for XBMC.  If you’re looking for beauty in a user interface, this should be one of your first stops.

Read more about the Aeon Project at the XBMC forums and the Aeon Project website.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Deal of the Day: Hauppauge HD-PVR $173

For those of you who are thinking of purchasing one of those Hauppauge HD-PVR component tuners for your Media Center setup, your time has arrived.  Dell has a sale going for the HD-PVR's for $173 after coupon code B0FP12N2JW5L2L.   COUPON EXPIRED 2/12

If you're planning to get one don't wait - the offer expires tomorrow, February 12th. 


The next best price is at Newegg who has the Hauppauge HD PVR for $209.99 with free shipping



Windows 7 Hauppauge HD-PVR Add-on Updates to Beta 2


Last week we told you about third-party addon, DVBSBridge that has bridged the Windows 7 Media Center with the Hauppauge HD-PVR component tuning device.  While that news was exciting and welcomed by the Media Center enthusiast crowd the details on actually getting it to work - especially on North America Media Center setups was sketchy at best.  Today an update to the add-on answers some of those questions.

Why the Hauppauge HD-PVR Matters?  Access to All TV Channels

The Hauppauge HD-PVR allows you to view and record all channels from a cable/satellite box whether encrypted or not since it uses the analog hole.  Great news for Media Center users because it provides an option for the masses to add HD and digital content to their media center PC even if it's not OEM.  Today, the DVBSBridge team released a new version with some significant improvements.

Working on XBox360

According to one Media Center user who has tried this solution, this works on the Xbox360 as well.  Here's the post from digitalman161 on the GreenButton Forums:

"I got it working quite well and streaming to my XBOX 360.  It was a nice treat to be able to watch live HD TV and be able to pause and ffwd.  It actually seems to perform better streaming to the XBOX then it did on the MCE machine itself.  Oh, and it was via wireless!
I was hoping someone tried it on a DMA2100/2200 to see if it works as well.   Once the EPG issue is sorted out this appears to be a totally viable HD PVR solution."

So it looks like this will work on at least some extenders (XBox360 at least) and could be a nice solution for many Media Center users at least until Microsoft brings official support for the Hauppauge HD-PVR.


Caveats with DVBSBridge and HD-PVR

Well you knew there was going to be some caveats with this solution right?  The issues I can see with this solution for Windows7 Media Center thus far are as follows:

  • No Extender Support Limited to XBox 360 (could possibly work on other extenders depending on their ability to play h.264 files)
  • Not an integrated solution - requires a third-party add-on and some extra work to get this to work. 
  • Once this add-on is released from beta it will be a paid-app (confirmed on the DVBS forums)
  • EPG (Guide) support requires the use of XMLTV.
  • Only works with a single HD-PVR and therefore a single channel at a time

Bottom line, this is a hack and you'll be dealing with third-party support that may or may not be sanctioned by Microsoft.  It won't be as easy to set up on your Media Center computers as your other tuners.


DVBSBridge for HD-PVR Beta2 version New Features:

  • EPG (TV Guide) support from an XMLTV file
  • Support for any MCE-Compatible IR Blaster
  • Scheduled launch of an external script or program to update the XMLTV file
  • Unicode channel name support in Config.xml
  • Includes a tool that wisely imports/updates Config.xml's channel list from an XMLTV file
  • Includes a tool that learns IR Code from any MCE-Compatible IR Receiver

For instructions on installing the update head over to the DVBLogic Forums

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Media Center Getting Hulu via 3rd Party Developer

Microsoft Media Center users have been watching from afar as Hulu support was added to Boxee and XBMC and announced for SageTV.  The envy is about to end though as just this week it was announced that will provide a third-party application to feed Hulu, Fox, Comedy Central and other online content to Media Center.

Comment from the application developer:

"Its a native plugin for Media Center and I really like that way it is coming together... when I first stumbled across Hulu I couldn't believe that no-one had developed a plugin for media center yet... again... it doesn't do just Hulu and its not a direct interface into Hulu but most of the video right now comes from Hulu... I plan on expanding it to work with all kinds of video sources but I am concentrating on getting Hulu content up and running primarily."


Screen-shots from the app preview



SecondRunHulu Family Guy


No official word on whether this will work on extenders, but my guess at this point is it will not work on extenders.



Richard Miller is reporting that the app should be donationware.

You can watch a videoclip of the "coming-soon" application at SecondRun.TV

 More information at the GreenButton Forums



via IanDixon's Digital Lifestyle

SageTV HD Theater Beta Firmware Update

SageTV released a new beta firmware for the SageTV HD Theater (HD200).  The list of changes is pretty small, but will be important to many users.

SageTV HD Theater


  1. Improve compatibility with some NAS devices requiring username share
  2. Partial fix for some types of AAC audio (standalone mode only until server update).  I believe this will address the issue some were experiencing (Mostly New Zealand users) with no audio on LATM HE-AAC files.
  3. Test fix for hdmi state updates

To read more about the firmware update and how to apply the beta update to your HD Theater, read this SageTV Forum Announcement

Report of CableCard Tuner working on Non-OEM Windows 7 PC - Fluke?

CableCard Tuner Will Windows 7 allow CableCard tuners on non-OEM computers?

The details are pretty sketchy, but a GreenButton Forum member is reporting that he was able to he has a Digital Cable Tuner (CableCard Tuner) to a non-OEM PC with the Windows 7 beta on it and it worked!  Here's an excerpt from his post on GreenButton:

"I connected the tuner and booted up. The system detected it and installed it hardware wise. I then started MC and proceeded to TV Signal Setup. It proceeded to produce TWO EULAs for acceptance - EPG v5 and PlayReady. It proceeded to download and install PlayReady. (I was waiting for it to tell me I didn't have OCUR BIOS at any moment but it did not) After that it detected the CableCARD tuner and prompted me for a Digital Cable key. Since I'm testing this I figured I might as well follow through and input my VMC's Digital Cable Support key. It connected and then reported it successfully activated. I selected my lineup and let it download the guide. I couldn't wait to see if it worked. So I started by trying ESPN-HD. There it was. So I figured I'd go for the gold and selected HBO-HD and up it came. (Order above may not be perfect, working from memory) Checking other channels it appears I get everything I should."

A few very important things to note about this:

  1. Microsoft thus far has limited CableCard Tuners to OEM PCs only - no exceptions
  2. I have no way to confirm that this really did work for this forum member, but it it's entirely possible that his story is true.
  3. Even though he was able to get this working, he still needed a DCT key from a purchased OEM computer.  So in the end, you currently still need an OEM PC

To me, this appears to be a simple "fluke" that will be corrected by Microsoft as currently CableCard only works on OEM PCs.  But since this has not been officially addressed it does beg the question "Is it Microsoft's intent to eliminate the OCUR-compatible BIOS requirement for Digital Cable support with the release of Windows 7?"

While my guess is that CableCard will continue to be on OEM (pre-built) computers only, it would be a huge boost to Windows 7 to open up CableCard to non-OEM PCs.  Perhaps they could sell a separate license/Digital Cable Key for use on non-OEM PCs or something like that.  If they don't do this, it's very likely that DishNetworks yet-to-be-announced Satellite tuner will be available to non-OEM PCs which would make CableCard even less used than it is today.

via GreenButton Forums

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kindle 2 Preorder Ready - Is this the Electronic Book for You?


Today, Amazon officially announced their second iteration of the Amazon Kindle electronic book device.  I'm really tempted to try this thing out and review it but had to walk back from the ledge based on the still pricey $359 cost.  Here's some details on the Kindle 2


  • Slimmer (think really slim)
  • Super Lightweight - just over 10 ounces
  • New buttons for page turning - now 20 percent faster then on the original Kindle
  • New 5-way controller - for precise note-taking, highlighting and easy jumps between articles and newspaper sections
  • 6-Inch, 600 X 800 electronic paper display - 16 shades of gray (original Kindle had 4 shades of gray) so it should have more crisp text and sharper images
  • 2GB memory that can hold over 1,500 books (original Kindle could hold about 200 books)
  • 25% Longer Battery Life - 4-5 days of battery charge with wireless on is very nice.  Over 2 weeks of battery life without wireless on.
  • More portable power charger
  • Instant dictionary look-up powered by the New Oxford American Dictionary with 250,000 word definitions built-in
  • Read-to-Me feature - converts written text to spoken word so customers have the option to read or listen hands-free (choice of male or female voices)
  • Delivery system is Amazon Whispernet (same as before) so you can shop the Kindle Store wirelessly, download new content and read from the store library.
  • Auto-sync with original Kindle

If you want to preorder the Kindle 2 now (Amazon is an affiliate) it's $359 and will start shipping February 24, 2009

Pre-Order the Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) $359


I'm waiting for the day we see a similar device for $150 with WiFi included.  I asked my wife yesterday what it would take for her to want a Kindle as she's an avid reader.  She told me it needed to read to her (do audiobooks) and should be pretty cheap since you have to still buy the book after getting the reader.

After the announcement of the text-to-voice feature today, she told me that she wants the text to voice feature to sound like Jim Dale (he did the Harry Potter series audiobooks).  So what do you think?  Is it time to get a electronic book device?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

TV Premieres: What To Watch 2/8 - 2/14

Week 6 of the Winter 2009 TV Season is here.  This week brings us the long awaited Dollhouse, the return of Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and the latest edition of Survivor among others.  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 from the last version - only those shows from 2/8 and later are included in this version.

 Dollhouse TV Series
                  Dollhouse Premieres on Fox Friday Night

Season Premieres For this Week:
  • Oragutan Island (7PM Sunday on Animal Planet)
  • Nitro Circus (7pm Sunday on MTV)
  • XIII (9pm Sunday on NBC - Available in HD) - Miniseries on NBC
  • The Collegehumor Show (9:30pm on MTV)
  • Rob Dydrek's Fantasy Factor - (10pm on MTV)
  • How's Your News? - (10:30pm on MTV)
  • Dark Days in Monkey City (10pm on Animal Planet)
  • Important Things with Demetri Martin (10:30pm on Comedy Central)
  • Survivor: Tocantins (8pm on CBS - Available in HD)
  • Millionaire Matchmaker (10pm on Bravo)
  • Aaron Stone - (7:30pm on Disney)
  • Dollhouse (9pm on Fox - Available in HD) - The long anticipated premiere of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse series.  Eliza Dushku plays a woman who has her personality reprogrammed by a secret organization.  I've heard the premiere isn't as strong as had been expected, but the show gets better as the season goes on.  I've posted a video preview of this show at the top of this post.
  • Before You Say I Do (9pm on Hallmark) - A sappy Hallmark Movie Special
  • Splinter (9pm on Sci-Fi) - A non-sappy made-for-TV Sci-Fi movie


Dollhouse Preview #1

The Dollhouse/Terminator "Grindhouse" Promo




Premieres and Returning Shows For this Week:

NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST

Sunday 02/08/2009

The Grammys (8pm Sunday on CBS - Available in HD)

Oragutan Island (7PM Sunday on Animal Planet) - This series starts out with a 1-hour special and follows Lone Droscher-Niesen as she & her team race against time to save & protect the oragutans.

Nitro Circus (7pm Sunday on MTV) - A reality TV series returns to MTV with stupid stunts.

XIII (9pm Sunday on NBC - Available in HD) - Miniseries on NBC where an amnesiac (Stephen Dorff) faces accusations of assassinating the first female U.S. president.

The Collegehumor Show (9:30pm on MTV)

Rob Dydrek's Fantasy Factor - (10pm on MTV)

How's Your News? - (10:30pm on MTV)


Monday 02/09/2009

American Experience (9 pm on PBS) - PBS offers us the best-selling book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer in a TV version.  This is a documentary timed to coincide with Lincoln’s birthday.


Tuesday 02/10/2009

Dark Days in Monkey City (10pm on Animal Planet) - An animated series on Animal Planet which by itself is a unique happening.  This series is set in Sri Lanka's deserted city of Polonnaruwa, once ruled by Buddhist and Hindu kings, but now overrun with gray langurs, toque macaques and hardened gangs and troops trying to survive.


Wednesday 02/11/2009

Important Things with Demetri Martin (10:30pm on Comedy Central) - Comic Demetri Martin offers his comedic perspective on a different topic each week. 


Thursday 02/12/2009

Survivor: Tocantins (8pm on CBS - Available in HD) - Believe it or not its time for another Survivor.  This one is set in the interior of Brazil for 39 days.

House of Cards (7pm on CNBC) - A 2-hour special documentary  that questions the concept that the housing/foreclosure crisis was caused by naive homeowners not reading the fine print.

Millionaire Matchmaker (10pm on Bravo) - Here we have another reality series and wouldn't you know they figured out another way to get rich guys and attractive women on another reality TV show.


Friday 02/13/2009

Aaron Stone - (7:30pm on DisneyXD "formerly known as Toon Disney") A new "sci-fi" show on Disney.  It says 7:30pm but it will be re-run so many times you could pretty much find this episode at any time on all of the Disney channels.

Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles (8pm on Fox - Available in HD) - Terminator returns from its holiday hiatus.

Dollhouse (9pm on Fox - Available in HD) - The long anticipated premiere of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse series.  Eliza Dushku plays a woman who has her personality reprogrammed by a secret organization.  I've heard the premiere isn't as strong as had been expected, but the show gets better as the season goes on.  I've posted a video preview of this show at the top of this post.


Saturday 02/14/2009

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (8pm on ABC) - Thanks to Charlie Brown we can be assured our kids will understand the crazy holiday we call Valentines day.

Before You Say I Do (9pm on Hallmark) - David Sutcliffe plays a man who travels back in time to change his girlfriends negative outlook on marriage.  Sounds like the perfect antidote for the girl who's stuck at home because her boyfriend/husband didn't take her out for dinner on Valentines day ;)

Splinter (9pm on Sci-Fi) - Thanks to the Sci-Fi channel, we guys have something anti-valentines day we can watch Saturday night...


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