Saturday, July 18, 2009

GeekTonic Week in Review – July 18

Kindle breaks through the news this week along with Windows 7 talk, WHS and SageTV.

Below is a quick 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, be sure and follow me on twitter under the name GeekTonic.  Thanks for Reading GeekTonic!

Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 Beta Arrives – With New MediaCenter Features

Microsoft announced their Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 Beta this week.  The update includes better Windows 7 support, improved netbook support and some nice new features for Microsoft Media Center users.  It doesn’t allow you to use WHS as your one, MediaCenter “server”, but it is a step in the right direction.
The MediaCenter bloggers were abuzz yesterday about the new WHS Media Center features so we’ll focus on those today. 
First you’ll need to install (or update) the Windows Home Server Connector software on your Windows Media Center PC.  Once installed, you’ll notice a new Home Server selection in Windows Media Center menu.
WHS Media Center

The new Power Pack brings the following new features to Media Center:

  • You will now have Music, Photos and Videos shared folders from the WHS available to Windows 7 Libraries.  This makes that content available for Windows Media Center as well as other Windows applications like Windows Explorer, Windows Media Player and others that use Windows 7 Libraries.
  • A new Media Center menu option on the main menu of Media Center called “TV Archive.”  This menu item allows you to transfer recorded TV programming to your WHS machine.  There is an option to select individual shows or entire series.  A nice feature is the ability to transfer future, scheduled episodes of a given show as well.
  • As part of the “Move TV Recordings” function described above, you can also choose to compress/transcode those shows to save hard drive space.  That includes compression into Zune and other portable media formats.
  • A new Media Center menu option on the extras menu to View WHS stats.  Stats include: Storage available, hard drive stats, computers being backed up & their status, list of shared folders, media count, network health, and home server hardware & manufacturer info.
  • All of the new menu items do work on Media Center extenders

Other Power Pack 3 Beta Features Include:

  • Image-based backup
  • Windows Search 4 implemented for faster search and indexing times.
  • Better WHS support for netbooks with low resolution screens. 
Sign up for the beta at

If you would like to see the new WHS features for MediaCenter in action, check out this post by Adam at for a nice screencast.

Media Center Updates are Good Step – But More is Needed

I love the new updates this beta brings to WHS – especially the Media Center-centric updates.  But it’s only a good first step.  To make the WHS a true, Media Center Server, it really needs to be able to be the one, single Media Server for the entire HTPC setup – think WHS = digital media hub.  What I mean by that is this:  Microsoft needs to enable WHS to be the HTPC server for the home.  This means allow the tuners to be installed on the WHS computer and not require another computer to do the MediaCenter work.  Then you could add on one or more extenders to the setup without needing another PC.  And if Microsoft implemented softsled (using a PC as an extender) it would be that much better.
SageTV has been doing this with their SageTV WHS software since 2007!  Yes, 2007 and there are many happy SageTV owners using their Windows Home Server computers just like this.  That is the ideal I think Microsoft should be going for with WHS – no not everyone will use it that way, but what better way to leverage two Microsoft products to build synergies! 
via Windows Home Server Blog

Friday, July 17, 2009

Big Brother = Amazon? The Kindle Books That Disappeared

This evening this story evolved with additional facts.  While the quote below from Amazon Customer Service was in fact true, it was missing one important additional fact.  The two books WERE in fact unauthorized copies of the book.  This of course changes things dramatically.  While it still is a little unnerving to know Amazon can remove a book from your Kindle just like that, it is much more understandable.
Here's the rest of the story according to the WSJ:
The issue, says Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener, is that the Orwell books had been added to the company’s catalog using a self-service platform by a third party that did not actually have rights to sell the books. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.
 The WSJ article goes on to quote an Amazon representative to say this:
“We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,”
 Exactly what I want to hear from Amazon.  While they didn't communicate the situation all that well earlier in the day - I had the story wrong much as everyone else did including the New York Times where I first caught the story...

Now on to the original post:

Kindle owners take note – this isn’t a pretty picture…
A thread on the Amazon forums started this morning like this:
I've received emails today notifying me of refunds for $.99 for Animal Farm and 1984, and both have disappeared from my Kindle archived items. I didn't request refunds, and I also don't remember purchasing the titles - I'm thinking they were free downloads. It's been several months since I ordered them. Anyone else have any unsolicited refunds lately?
At first it was thought to be a mistake or an “unauthorized” copy of Animal Farm.  But after a while the official Amazon Response arrived saying:
The Kindle edition books Animal Farm by George Orwell. Published by MobileReference (mobi) & Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell. Published by MobileReference (mobi) were removed from the Kindle store and are no longer available for purchase. When this occurred, your purchases were automatically refunded. You can still locate the books in the Kindle store, but each has a status of not yet available. Although a rarity, publishers can decide to pull their content from the Kindle store.
So basically those who had copies of Animal Farm or 1984 (quite appropriate don’t you think?) on their Kindle’s were removed via wireless “whispersync” and those customers received credits on their accounts.
1984 George Orwell
I guess you could look at this as a positive since most of those readers probably had already read the books and got all of their money back for free.  But in reality it sends a very bad message to those that spent $299 or more on their nice, electronic book readers:
You do not own those books you are paying for and Amazon and the publishers can yank them right off of your Kindle whenever they choose.  Kind of takes a little of the Kindle charm away doesn’t it?  My wife (and now my dad) both will continue to enjoy their Kindle eBook reader, but I would imagine they’ll always wonder what “rights” will be used against them and the books they have purchased for their Kindle.  Sad that I had to post this right after complementing Amazon… Kind of Orwellian isn’t it?
Amazon Kindle Forums via NYTimes

New Version of MyMovies for MediaCenter Coming September

My Movies 3

The developer of “My Movies” for Microsoft Media Center announced on the MissingRemote Forums that a new version of My Movies (3.0) is planned for September.

MyMovies 3.0 was written in MCML for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Brian Binnerup the developer of My Movies has posted in the MissingRemote forums that a new version of My Movies will be coming in September and will be the first version that is a native Windows Media center application (written in MCML). Brian sent me a some work in progress screenshots (which I can’t show yet) and it is looking very nice.

Brian is going to be talking about the features of My Movies 3 on The Media Center Show when the beta is available in September so keep an eye out on the blog for details

“This might be as good as any place to mention the specific release plans.
My Movies 3, in MCML, for Windows Vista and Windows 7 will be released in a beta on September 1'st.  The final version will be available late October with Windows 7.”

Brian went on to tell a few more details of the planned release in the MissingRemote Forums


Boxee Gets Updated

This week Boxee released an update (version 0.9.14) to their HTPC software.  The update focuses mostly on bugs and stability issues.  They also released a “Find Your Frieds on Boxee” page that allows you to search for other Boxee Members based on your gmail, twitter, yahoo, windows live and friendfeed friends.

Find Boxee Friends

The Find Friends Interface works much like other social network apps and looks like this:

Boxee Find Friends

If you’re a Boxee user, you can use the “Boxee Find Friendsinterface here


Updates to Boxee Software

New Features:

  • Geo-based filtering of Apps - enables app developers to indicate in which countries the app works, so people who can’t access the content will not see it in the app box (the user can disable the filtering by going to Settings > Appearance > View options)
  • Adult content filter for Apps and RSS feeds - applications, RSS feeds and specific items can be marked as adult by the app developer. The user can control whether he’d like to see adult apps or not (default is hide adult content) by going to Settings > Appearance > View options.
  • List of unresolved videos - under browse there is now an option to view unresolved videos, there you will be able to view the latest video files boxee found on your home networks, but could not determine whether they are specific TV Shows or movies. You can use the “recognize” feature to try and manually tell boxee what this video is.

Bug Fixes:

  • Windows: crashes on ProjectM (still known issue with shutdown while playing music)
  • Windows: fullscreen toggle (still when going to windowed mode - the ratio is wrong and a user has to”drag” the window to fix it)
  • Windows: installer now removes obsolete dll-s in the flashplayer folder (those were crashing Flash playback when a user updated a previous install)
  • OS X: system’s screen saver was taking over with no way to remove it using the remote
  • Occasional deadlock when playing video and toggling between “now playing” screen and other screens
  • Occasional deadlock when starting to play something while something else is playing
  • When adding a feed default to “rss://” if nothing was specified
  • Python apps and scripts could corrupt one another while running in parallel (example: lyrics when playing from pandora)
  • Crashes, hangs and mem-leaks on image loading

Read more at the Boxee Blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Save Money on Windows 7 by Skipping Pro and using Mesh

The guys at theDigitalMediaZone explain how to save a little money if you’re thinking of using Windows 7 Pro version just to get the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) for your HTPC.  Instead they recommend using Microsoft Live Mesh.

Read the entire article on the DMZ and let me know in the comments if you think Live Mesh is sufficient to replace RDP.  I personally use LogMeIn for this sort of thing, but I also am testing Live Mesh for another purpose which is a very nice program that I agree you should check out.

SageTV Adding Wireless N Option for HD Theater


SageTV HD200

One of the few shortcomings of the SageTV HD Theater (can be used as an extender to SageTV HTPC software OR as a standalone Media Player) is that it had no way to connect to a wireless network.  This was never much of an issue for me as all of my TVs have ethernet connections nearby.  But for many, there was a strong desire to have Wireless.  Soon, SageTV will release an update to the HD200 Theater device that will add Wireless N connectivity with a add-on dongle.

SageTV is working on a solution for this problem that eliminates nearly all of that headache and makes the installation and setup as easy as booting from a USB drive.  You supply the computer and hardware and this product handles most of the setup.

Wireless N Dongle for PCH

Coming Soon: Wireless N for the SageTV HD Theater

In an interview GeekTonic had with Jeff Kardatzke, CTO of SageTV we learned that the flagship CE device, the SageTV HD Theater (aka HD200) will be getting Wireless N support via firmware update.  This update should arrive in the next beta cycle in the coming month or so.  There currently aren’t many details on how it will all work or what specific hardware will work with it, but my bet is on a WiFi dongle.  Something like the Atheros-based WiFi dongle as used on the PopCornHour and other devices.


When I asked Kardatzke about an estimated arrival date he said this:

“The current beta program will finish up to release first and then another beta will come out shortly afterwards with wireless support."

I’m expecting this could mean we’ll see this in a beta firmware in the coming two months and in a final version soon after.

Adding Wireless N capability should address one of the concerns reviewers mentioned when reviewing the HD200 as a Media Player.  While I always recommend using a wired connection for the best, most reliable connection – especially with HD content, it’s always nice to have options as some homes just don’t have the option to add holes in the wall.


Stay tuned to GeekTonic for more in-depth and informative articles and news about Media Gadgets, HTPCs and SageTV.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Windows 7 Upgrade Process Will Suck a Little More than with Vista

Last week I reminded GeekTonic readers that the Windows 7 preorder 1/2 off special was about to end.  Being one who tends to “take doses of his own medicine,” I preordered my own copy as well.  Today I learned of a little change in the process of the upgrade process that sort of stinks – it’s at least less friendly than before.
Let me explain.  Before, when you wanted to upgrade from XP to Vista, the verification process – the way Microsoft verified that you really owned a previous, valid version of Windows was to simply insert a qualified copy of Windows and move on.  Well now, to upgrade from Windows 7 you’ll actually need to have an activated qualified version of Windows (like XP) installed and running on that PC to continue with the upgrade process.
Now I know that will probably be fine for most people, but what if you didn’t know this little tidbit and you had already formatted your OS drive?  Or maybe you’ve been using Linux for a while even though you have a copy of XP for that computer, but want to go with Windows 7?  In these cases you would need to install XP and THEN do the upgrade to Windows 7.  This extra step will be more than annoying for some people and in the end probably won’t deter any wrongdoing by those that are trying to “beat the system” anyway.

via Computerworld


Update: Perhaps a link to WinSuperSite will help this conversation.  Paul Thurrott says this about the upgrade from XP:

“In order to install the upgrade version of Windows 7, you must have a qualifying Windows operating system installed and activated.  You cannot install an upgrade version of Windows 7 on a blank hard drive.  The installation procedure does not ask you to insert a Windows disc in the drive for verification, the actual qualifying operating system must be installed.

If you do not have a qualifying Windows operating system installed with a genuine license activated, then you cannot use the upgrade version of Windows 7 - you would need a "full version" Windows 7 license.”

Hopefully that helps clear up the confusion in the comments

Kindle Credit - Another Reason I Like Amazon


Last week I reported about the price reduction on the Kindle from $359 down to $299.  It just so happened that my dad had just purchased a Kindle and it was to arrive at his home the day after the price reduction.  Amazon came through on delivering great customer service on the Kindle in this case:

We ordered the Kindle for 2-day delivery so my dad would have it in time to use on his trip.  But something went wrong with the delivery and it arrived on the 3rd day after he had left for the trip.  Fortunately he had someone pick up the package for him, but when he returned he promptly called Amazon Customer Support at 866-321-8851.  There is a bit of a “phone tree” to wade your way through, but the customer support person handled the call quickly and politely.

The Official word from Amazon on the Credit is this:

Amazon said customers who ordered a Kindle that had shipped within the past 30 days would receive a $60 credit on the price difference.

It’s not that I expected Amazon to not give the credit, but they made it easy to do.  In addition, they automatically removed the shipping charge due to the one-day delay as well.  Nice Job Amazon!

You can get the Kindle from Amazon (affiliate) with this link Kindle: Amazon's 6 $299 with free shipping

Blockbuster OnDemand on Samsung HDTVs


SamsungBlockbuster On Demand

Blockbuster may be way down, but they certainly aren’t out yet.  Blockbuster and Samsung just announced a partnership to provide Blockbuster OnDemand service on nearly all new Samsung video devices including new Samsung HDTVs, Blu-ray players and some home theater systems starting this Fall.  No details of which specific devices at this point, but it’s notable that Blockbuster made this deal in a sea of Netflix-enabled devices.

via Bizjournals

Media Center Movie Managers – Comparison

Missing Remote has a nice rundown of the many movie managers available for MS Media Center users.  They compare MyMovies, Collectorz, Salami/Meta Browser and YAMMM.  I still use DVD Profiler although SageTV has a nice, automated media manager called Batch Metadata Importer that is continually being improved on and integrated in numerous add-ons for SageTV.  What do you use to manage movies on your HTPC?

Battle of the Media Center Movie Managers via MissingRemote

Monday, July 13, 2009

SageTV How-To: Edit a Show Title or Metadata or Import Video into Recorded TV

I see this question asked over and over on the forums. 

“How do you rename a TV show in SageTV?” 

or “How do I add basic synopsis info to my movie or show in SageTV?”

or “How do I make a video file show up under TV Recordings in SageTV?”


The answer is a simple one.  Here are the basic steps required:

1. Be sure you have installed the SageTV Web Server.  Download & forum here with the GeekTonic Overview of SageTV Web Server here


2. Once you have SageTV web server installed and set up, open up a browser and start up WebServer


3. Select “Media Library” and then “Search Imported Videos”

SageTV Edit Media Info 1


4. Check the box for videos and type in all or part of the filename you’re looking for.

SageTV Edit Media Info 8


5. From the list of results click on the title of the one you wish to edit.

SageTV Edit Media Info 2

6. Click on “Edit Show Info”.

SageTV Edit Media Info 3

7. After “checking” the edit show info box, the fields will no longer be grayed out and you can edit any of them including show title, category, etc.

SageTV Edit Media Info 4

SageTV Edit Media Info 5

8. Once you have completed all of your edits, click on the update button.

SageTV Edit Media Info 6

That’s it!  Go back to SageTV on your TV and the information for that show will reflect your changes.

To demonstrate, I changed the Show Episode Name for this NCIS show to say “GeekTonic” at the end of the name:

SageTV Edit Media Info 7


Import Video into TV Recordings

This same procedure can be followed to import a video file that wasn’t recorded by a SageTV tuner into recorded TV listings.  No need to edit anything (unless you want to) – just click that “edit show info” box and update.  This simple step “fakes” SageTV into thinking it is a TV recording by giving it an EPG ID number.  I use this on occasion when I have a video file obtained from a DVD or other place that I want listed in SageTV recordings instead of just Videos.

There are additional ways to automate obtaining metadata and fanart etc.  We’ll cover those steps in future SageTV How-To’s.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ask The Readers - Firewire for Channel Changing - Are You Doing It?

Firewire on Cablebox


I'm preparing an article explaining How to use the Firewire Port to change channels on your Cable or Satellite Box with SageTV.  But before I complete the how-to, I'm looking for input from GeekTonic readers that use any HTPC solution (SageTV or others) who use Firewire.

  Firewire Cable

Please answer in the comments section the following:

  • Let me know if you are currently using firewire to change channels on your HTPC OR even to tune channels on your HTPC.
  • Let me know if you've attempted to get a firewire-enabled cable or satellite box, but couldn't.  I'm interested in stories about any difficulties of obtaining a firewire-enabled box.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about (that happens a lot here in the GeekTonic Home) I'll explain everything shortly.

TV Premieres: What To Watch 07/12 - 07/18

Our last few weeks of summer TV premieres arrive.  Read on for all of the details.

Note:  Download the free, PDF of all summer 2009 TV premieres



                Leverage returns to TNT Wednesday Night

NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST

Sunday 07/12/2009

Meteor (9pm on NBC) - Two-part Miniseries with the premise of: A collision between two massive rocks in outer space sends a large meteor hurtling toward Earth.  My guide isn't showing that it will be available in HD which has to be wrong - doesn't it?

Drop Dead Diva (9pm on Lifetime) -  New series for Lifetime where by a twist of fate, a shallow wannabe model must learn to live in the body of a plus-sized attorney.

Entourage (10:30m on HBO - Available in HD) - Season 6 begins tonight.


Monday 07/13/2009

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (10pm on Travel - Available in HD) Season 6 begins in Chile.

Hearings on Supreme Court Justice Nominee Sonia Sotomayer (All Day on C-Span) - If you're in to that sort of thing (keeping up on what's going on in the U.S. govt.)


Tuesday 07/14/2009

Miami Social (10pm on Bravo) Series Premiere of yet another realityTV show - and it's not in HD.


Wednesday 07/15/2009

Ted Williams (8:30pm on HBO - Available in HD) - What looks like a very well done documentary on baseball great Ted Williams.

Leverage (9pm on TNT - Available in HD) - Season 2 of TNT's popular drama series

Dark Blue (10pm on TNT) Series Premiere of a new police drama on TNT.  Dylan McDermott is Carter Shaw, head of a very deep, undercover police team.

Mike & Mike Have Issues (10:30pm on Comedy) Series premiere of a new comedy bit



Thursday 07/16/2009

61st Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations (8:30pm on E!)



Friday 07/17/2009

Catch It Keep It (9pm on Science Channel) Sigh... A reality show on Science Channel.


Saturday 07/18/2009

The Bill Engvall Show (9pm on TBS - Available in HD) - Season 3 premiere

Dirty Sexy Money (10pm on ABC) - Dirty, Sexy, Money returns from hiatus for a few more episodes before it's death.


Season Finales this Week:

(only one for this week)

  • 7/13 10:02pm "Here Come the Newlyweds" on ABC


The GeekTonic Ultimate Guide to the Fall 2009 TV Season is ready and should be available very soon so stay tuned.

Click Here If You Would Like to Get a Weekly E-mail for GeekTonic TV Premieres & News

GeekTonic Deals Update

On this lazy Sunday I wanted to remind GeekTonic readers of GeekTonicDeals, the companion site to GeekTonic.

The site will keep a steady stream of good deals, coupons and discounts for tech stuff at this site with a link to the latest ones here at GeekTonic.  For instance, here's a few recent deals that are still live:


I'll be updating the site daily and it will include all things tech (including HTPC and Media Gadgets) from your favorite online sites such as Newegg, Amazon, ZipZoomFly and more.