Friday, May 08, 2009

Deal of the Day – Hauppauge HD-PVR $165 Free Shipping

Hauppauge Computer HD PVR High Definition Personal Video Recorder

This one was set to expire yesterday, but Dell has extended this deal.  Dell has the Hauppauge HD-PVR component tuners (read more about it here) for your HTPC setup now for $164.99 with free shipping:

Dell has the Hauppauge HD PVR Component Video  Recorder for $164.99 (219.99 less $25% coupon code 7WD7KLJJNSZX44 - and free shipping!


If you're planning to get one don't wait - the offer expires May 20th 2009. 

HD 101 - An Acronyms Primer by EngadgetHD

Ben Drawbaugh posted a nice primer on High Definition Acronyms over at EndgadgetHD.

What is ATSC, PSIP, QAM and 8-VSB?

Prepared to geek out a little with Ben (he's insanely good at this HD technical stuff) and learn a bunch about the basic terminology of HD Technology.  I consider this a highly recommended read if you're interested in High Definition at all.  At least skim it and read up on the terminology you might not know or understand.

Read the article: HD 101: What is ATSC, PSIP, QAM, and 8-VSB? at EngadgetHD

GB-PVR Works to Improve Popcorn Hour as GB-PVR Extender



If you're looking for a good HTPC software that has a powerful extender for all media playback, SageTV isn't the only kid on the block.  GB-PVR is making strides in the extender category with a custom GB-PVR client made for the Network Media Tank's PopcornHour media players.

As many of you may already know, some developers for GB-PVR created a project to use the popular media player PopcornHour (PCH) device by Networked Media Tank as an extender with GB-PVR.  This project is an extension of the same project they used to modify the Hauppauge MediaMVP's as extender in GB-PVR.  They announced this month that the project was adding some new features to improve the extender performance and usefulness that will make many GB-PVR users very happy.

PopcornHour A-110

Updates include:

  • Comskip Support - commercial detection will work after the updated PCH
  • Video File Remote Navigation - You will be able to use GB-PVR style navigation in recorded programs, in-progress recordings and LiveTV.  Fast forwarding, rewinding and skip forward/back all will work.
  • MPEG TS/PS Video File Handling
    Support for .ts, .tp, .mpg, and .mpeg files.  Movement in a file is now primarily controlled by GB-PVR, so if you jump randomly you can typically blame sub or me, and not the PCH. The vast majority of problem files for the NMT that I have gathered play properly too, including some I stated were "junk" on the NMT forums.
  • OSD
    The standard GB-PVR on screen display (OSD) is now available while playing videos. This include the guide, mini-guide, program details, and timeline bar.
  • Live TV Improvements
    I find that LiveTV is now much smoother on the PCH than on the MVP. There are 2 second channel changes, the OSD doesn't have to run with the minimal OSD option, and some of the things that have caused me problems in the past (ie jumping to liveTV from the EPG while playing from the Video Library) just work like they are supposed to.
  • Resume
    There is resume from the Recording menu popups and also an OSD resume from Video Library. No PCH limits like the last 10 files played or that the device must stay powered on.
  • Audio
    Full background mp3 play as released in the last trial.
  • PCH Integration
    With all of above, access to the PCH player for all non-mpeg files, including mkv, dvd, avi files, continue to be available directly from the GB-PVR menu.
    I hope to be be ready to release for public beta soon, maybe this weekend. For those of you who said you'd try component video this is a good time to get ready. For this version 1080i settings are preferred over 720p. If you have an SD TV, it took about a year, but now the MVP is 100% obsolete. There still is some work to do especially on h264 1080i video and very high bitrate mpeg files in general but it is running pretty well.

Read more about the GB-PVR PCH update at the GB-PVR forums

Thursday, May 07, 2009

XBMC Babylon Beta 1 Ready for Download


The very popular, multi-platform XBMC HTPC application released their first beta of XBMC Babylon (9.04) with a bunch of new features and bug fixes packed in.

This new version includes:

  • Karaoke Support
  • Skinning framework improvements
  • Music and Movie Scraping tool improvements
  • Support for PowerPC Macs
  • Additional filetype support

This version update is available for Windows, Linux, AppleTV and that old standby the Xbox (old Xbox).

via XBMC Blog

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

SageTV 6.5.15 Beta Available

It's only been a few weeks since the last one, but the SageTV has released another beta for their Windows, Linux, Mac and Extender HTPC software programs.  This one is packed full of bug fixes and a few other tidbits.  Highlights include:

  • Fixed bug where playback of idx/sub files with SageTVPlayer didn't show the options for subtitles the first time they were played back
  • Fixed bug on Vista/Win7 where SageTV would fail to properly resume from standby sometimes when using the Hauppauge HVR-2250
  • Fixed bug where an error in the subtitle parsing could crash the entire UI
  • Fixed bug where the CC text wasn't always properly vertically centered inside the background
  • Support for automatic logins on Win/Mac/Linux and HD200 Placeshifter clients
  • Add DVB-T constellation data into dvb-T tuning entry for Windows clients
  • Fixed issue on Windows where new performance optimizations to use larger push buffer sizes with the extender had negative impacts (optimizations are still there; its just done slightly different now) - for extenders
  • Fixed bug where the aspect ratio was wrong on 4:3 DVDs during the main movie content for extenders
  • Added support to recognize BluRay disks in the video browser & other places. Also added themed generic BluRay icon.  All on the default STV.
  • Added persistent option "Play slideshow in random order" to the photo browser's dialog shown when starting a slideshow.

For a full detailing of the update, check out this thread at the SageTV Forums


There's also new beta firmware updates available for the HD Theater (HD200) and the HD Extender (HD100) that I mentioned earlier this week.

The Kindle 3 is the Kindle DX - Bigger and still expensive

KindleD DX

Today Amazon had their Kindle event and announced their new, bigger, more expensive Kindle.  The focus for this one is definitely on the newspaper, periodical and textbook consumer.  More details below.

The Kindle 3 Name

The new Kindle is named the Kindle DX.  I sure would like a name like "Kindle Extra!" or something a little more catchy, but oh well.

Size - It's Bigger

The Kindle DX sports a 9.7-inch display which is two and a half times the size of Kindle 2.  This will definitely help for those reading newspapers or magazines on the device, but I fear it puts it a bit too large for the avid reader that the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 appeals to.  Not quite as easy to hold in a single hand for extended periods of time.  The Kindle DX keyboard looks more compact and that certainly makes sense to me.

Look, it Rotates

iPhone users will be familiar with this one.  As you turn the Kindle DX it automatically switches between portrait and landscape.  A nice feature that again tends to lend itself to the newspaper, magazine or textbook readers.

Native PDF Support

This is a great new feature - something I really wish the current Kindles could handle better.  The new Kindle DX has native PDF support although I wonder how fast that screen refresh will be for PDFs when you have that big of a screen to deal with.

Price - It's Not Just Bigger, its Even MORE Expensive!

I sort of suspected the price of the new Kindle would be about the same as the Kindle 2 unless they threw in a color screen or something really new.  Amazingly the price is even higher than the Kindle 2.  Kindle DX is $489 while the Kindle 2 remains at $359.  I'm sorry, but they will not sell many of these at a price of $489 - it's just too expensive.  Watch for a fire sale of these devices with a much reduced price come Christmas when they still haven't sold out of their first inventory.

Reduced Subscription Prices on Major Newspapers with LT Commitments

If you definitely will be reading your favorite newspaper on the Kindle DX, several of the newspapers will be offering reduced prices for long-term commitments.  This makes sense, but so far I haven't seen pricing on that yet - and my local paper, the Kansas City Star still isn't on the list of Kindle Newspapers.

It does Textbooks Too

Amazon announced agreements with three major textbook publishers (I didn't see names yet) who will supply their textbooks (not sure how many or which ones) on the Kindle platform.  The following Universities announced agreements with Amazon:  Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University Princeton, Reed College and University of Virginia Darden School of Business.


We have many of the same positives with the Kindle DX as with prior Kindles:

  • Wireless Whispersynch delivering books to your Kindle quickly and effortlessly
  • Light and fairly easy to carry and hold
  • Much easier on the eyes than a computer or netbook screen
  • Great battery life - especially over a computer
  • The new Kindle DX has a bigger screen and therefore easier to read and navigate for newspapers, periodicals and textbooks

And we still have the negatives:

  • Price is prohibitive for most people.  The higher price of the DX will push most who are interested to the Kindle 2.
  • Bigger isn't better for all readers - The Kindle 2 is about perfect in size for the avid book readers.  Those will continue to prefer the smaller and less expensive Kindle 2
  • No Color still
  • Not enough newspapers available

That's my early take.  I see the Kindle 2 selling much better than this new Kindle DX.  Its definitely a step in the right direction in some ways, but I'm watching for some steep competition coming Amazon's way soon.  I'm shocked that we don't see a subscription model to reduce the price.  I imagine that has more to do with the difficulty in getting the publishers on board than anything else.

If you want one, you can preorder the Kindle DX for $489 now on Amazon.

via Engadget

DVRMS Toolbox Gets New Early Access Version

The popular multi-HTPC platform, DVRMS Toolbox has a new early-access version available for download.  This version includes several new improvements and bug fixes for the popular tool. 

This version is currently only available to donators as an early access version.  Updates for version include:

  • FW logs to a single file per process
  • ConvertVideoFile uses system clock
  • ConvertVideoFile can skip commercials (experimental)
  • ConvertVideoFile supports MPEG if AVIVO is installed
  • added MetadataWait action to create metadata (i.e. start/end time) based waits, can be used with ticks and string based time values. UTC is assumed
  • fixed time based localization bugs when converting sage xml metadata
  • Add media type (codec, frame size, audio channels, etc) information from non-sbe files to metadata
  • added setting for video file filters in open/save file dialogs (registry only)
  • added setting to have FW watch recursively
  • FW cleanup supports ext appends (file.mpg.ext)
  • if UseSage = true, RecordedTV path will no longer return the MC recorded tv path
  • if UseSage = true, WatchedTV path will no longer return the MC watched tv path
  • MC addin will not install on Windows 7

More information at Andy VT’s Blog

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Kindle Extra! A New, Large-Screen Kindle Arrives today for Newspaper and Textbooks

Kindle DX Extra!

UPDATE:  The New, Kindle DX Available for Preorder - More Details Here


We’ve seen rumors of a new, large-screen version of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader for months now and this past week those rumors have become very likely.  The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have both had stories leading us to believe that tomorrows Amazon “Event” announcement will be for the new, bigger Kindle that I’d like to name the “Kindle Extra!” 

Pay attention to tomorrows event and we’ll see if I’m on the money for the name, Kindle Extra!  It’s way better than the rumored “Kindle DX” name.

Questions abound about this new version of the Kindle including:

  • Will it be in color?  This would undoubtedly help in the adoption rate of the Kindle for newspaper and periodical readers.  Illustrations must be well implemented and color is a part of that let alone everyone's beloved cartoons you find in both newspapers and magazines.
  • How much bigger will the screen be?  Navigation of a newspaper is inherently different than it is with a book.  A somewhat larger screen will assist in the adoption of a eBook readers use for newspapers and magazines.
  • Will it be cheaper than the current Kindle?  By far, the biggest stumbler to Kindle adoption is the current steep cost of the Kindle 2.  Bring it down to the $150 range and you’ll see it “kindle” a firestorm (pardon the pun) of adoption.
  • Will they announce new newspaper and periodical support for the Kindle with this new version?  I currently can’t get my Kansas City Star (a McClatchy company) on the Kindle.  While the NYTimes is nice and the Wall Street Journal is essential, I really need to have my local newspaper the Kansas City Star arrive on the Kindle to make it a true, newspaper reader.  Rumors of cheaper subscriptions exclusive to this device abound.
  • How many textbook publishers will support the Kindle?  If you want a school or student to foot the cost of a Kindle for textbooks, it really will need to support most or all textbooks.  I can’t see purchasing one for half or fewer of a students textbooks – it has to be more than that.
  • Will the new Kindle allow new annotations within text – especially useful with textbooks
  • Will the new Kindle include a PDF reader?  I’m going to guess it will.
  • Is Amazon serious about making money from the Kindle, the content or both?

Amazon’s time to fend of the oncoming tidal wave of new, competing eBook readers is coming very and soon.  They have to be on their game and evolve extremely quickly or they’ll quickly become a dinosaur despite their current success in the small, but expanding eBook reader world.

Image via Engadget

Story via WSJ NYT

SageTV Releases HD Theater (HD200) and HD100 Extender Beta

It’s only been a week since the last one, but SageTV developers don’t let that keep them from another HD Theater update.  This one includes a few fixes and support in Media Player mode to recognize BluRay disks in the video browser and other places.

Complete Changelog for beta version *20090505 0* include:
Core changes:
1. Fix playback of some mkv and wmv files
2. Improve performance of streaming from network shares when using a windows server.
Media Player (Standalone) UI changes:
1. Disabled editing NTE number assignments because there is no keyboard, which is needed to enter the letters & symbols for each number.
2. Remember last workgroup entered in network file browser & restore the last workgroup path when returning to the parent of the server currently being browsed.
3. Added support to recognize BluRay disks in the video browser & other places. Also added generic BluRay icon.
When using the STP-HD200 as a SageTV media extender, it is recommended that SageTV server beta v6.5.14 or newer be used.

More info at the SageTV Forums

And for those still using the slightly older SageTV HD100 Extenders there is a beta firmware update for them as well.

Changes for beta version 20090504 0 include the following:

  • Fix playback of some mkv and wmv files

More Info on the HD100 Update at the SageTV Forums

Windows 7 RC Available to All - With a Catch

If you still want to check out Windows 7 RC, it's now available to the general public for download.  Microsoft made it available via MSDN and a few other sites to members last week, but now everyone can get their hands on it.

You can download it now from here


Now for the catch.  This isn't surprising to me, Microsoft has put in a bit of a "timer" in these versions so you're encouraged to purchase the real thing eventually.

  • Beta versions of Windows 7 will get an hourly shutdown beginning July 1, 2009
  • Other version of Windows 7 will get an hourly shutdown beginning March 1, 2010

I gathered this tidbit from the Microsoft partner website thanks to tomshardware:

To avoid interruption, it’s recommended that you and your customers rebuild test machines by using a valid Windows operating system before Windows 7 Beta and Windows 7 RC expire. Windows will automatically notify you that the expiration process is about to begin. Two weeks later, your PC will shut down every two hours. For Windows 7 Beta, the bihourly shutdowns will begin July 1, 2009. The software will expire August 1, 2009. For Windows 7 RC, the bihourly shutdowns will begin March 1, 2010. The software will expire June 1, 2010.

I don't really see this as a problem - if you like Windows 7 enough to still be using it by those dates, you probably should purchase it by then anyway right?  Just be sure you remember to save all of that stuff you have on the PC with the beta (or unofficial) Windows 7 installed before the deadlines.

SageTV HD100 Extender Gets Update

I reported this last week, but many might have missed the importance of the update.  SageTV last week released a firmware update for the older HD extender HD100.  The HD100 is no longer sold, but there are many boxes out there.  This latest update includes some features that many SageTV HD200 owners have been enjoying, but HD100 owners couldn't get.

A few of the more interesting updates for the older HD100 include:

  • Improved playback for blu-ray rips and blu-ray drive playback
  • DVB-T Playback
  • Most core updates for the HD200 that the hardware will allow

HD100 limitations vs. HD200 capabilities using the latest firmware include:

  • does not support placeshifter login caching
  • does not support BluRay subtitles
  • does not support WMAPro audio
  • not all embedded/external VobSub subtitles are positioned properly

It's nice to see SageTV continue to support and update their older hardware even while they are selling a new, improved model.

Read more about the HD100 firmware update at the SageTV forums

Monday, May 04, 2009

New BeyondTV Theme - BTV Reactor

We've seen many HTPC themes for the various HTPC programs out there, but you don't see them for Snapstream's BeyondTV very often.  Last week a new one was released that looks pretty interesting called BTV Reactor. 


BTV Reactor replaces the original BTV skin and icon elements and leaves you with a unique look for BeyondTV.

BTV Reactor Recorded Shows

BTV Reactor EPG

BTV Reactor Main Menu

Check it out at the Snapstream Forums