Saturday, August 15, 2009

SageTV HD Theater Beta Update – WiFi Improvements & USB Keyboard Support

The SageTV team has obviously been paying attention to their customers and critics because over the past week they’ve addressed two of the most mentioned negatives of the popular SageTV HD Theater extender & media player.


With the latest beta firmware “20090814 1” we now have basic support for USB keyboards.  I’ve tried two different wireless USB keyboards and one wired USB keyboard all of which just worked – no setting changes or anything else required.  Note this is currently only in extender mode and not media player (standalone) mode yet.  But it’s an often mentioned missing feature that will be welcomed by many a SageTV user.

Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard

Just less than two weeks ago SageTV added support for wireless via a USB adapter (I’ll have more on that soon.)  And also included in the beta firmware is a WiFi settings fix for those that use the WEP wireless protocol.

Full Changelog for beta firmware 20090814 1

Core changes:

  1. Fix hexadecimal key support for WEP
  2. Basic USB keyboard support in extender mode

Media Player (Standalone) UI changes:
  • Search menu: The Search command refreshes the search results.
  • Search Menu: Update the search results if a video is deleted.
  • Changed maximum CC and subtitle font size to 50.
  • The CC and Subtitle font sizes can be changed via the left & right arrows while in the "Caption & Subtitle Options" dialog during video playback.
  • Fixed bug where thumbnail preloader threads did not correctly pause after user input.
  • Added hidden option for CIFS Browse Debug Logging to Detailed Setup -> General.


Remember, these updates are still in beta so to get the updates you need to follow this procedure: While using the HD200 as a Media Player (standalone mode), use the remote's number pad to enter the code 2382 ('beta') on the HD200's Settings -> System Update menu in order to tell it to look for the beta version

Read more about the firmware update at the SageTV Forums

More discussion regarding the new USB keyboard support here

GeekTonic Week in Review – August 15

Half way through the month of August!  How did that happen so quick?


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!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Multi-Channel Audio With HTPCs

HTPC Dolby Digital

With Home Theater PCs, the first place most focus on is the video side of the equation.  Getting HD video to your TV is always one of the first concerns of the HTPC enthusiast.  Many times the audio side of the equation is either ignored or pushed down on the priority list and forgotten.  Andy (known as babgvant) has written a very detailed how-to on how to enable multi-channel audio for your HTPC – formats beyond AC-3 and DTS.  Here’s a quick excerpt of the guide:

“If you're fortunate enough to have a PC with multi-channel LPCM output enabling full fidelity audio output is easy (and there's not much point in reading the rest of this) but for those using a SPDIF or stereo only HDMI connection getting multi-channel audio working can be challenging.  This guide intends to explain two different options and how to configure each to attain this goal.

While there are many multi-channel audio codecs around (AC-3, DTS, AAC, WMAPro, and FLAC to name a few) most* AVR will only decode bitstreamed AC-3 and DTS variants, so even though technically possible to send other compressed multi-channel formats to the AVR it won't know what to do with them.”

I’m definitely guilty of leaving the audio side of HTPCs as a leftover, ignoring the audio stuff or at least leaving it for last.  My favorite viewing room currently has a 6.1 Stereo Receiver, but only 2 speakers!  Yes you read right, TWO!  Guess what is on my list to take care of this winter ;)

Andy’s guide is a long and detailed one, but I promise you’ll learn something from the read.

Read the detailed how-to at MissingRemote

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ZuneHD Pre-Orders Available Today

I’ve been incredibly impressed with the ZuneHD UI and the look & feel of the ZuneHD hardware.  It’s simply a beautiful device.  Starting today you can pre-order one from Amazon (affiliate) for delivery September 15th.

I’m on the fence on whether to purchase.  I definitely do not need it as I have a perfectly fine iPod Touch 2g.  But my gadget envy is pushing me to pick one up…


You can pre-order the Zune HD 16 GB Video MP3 Player (Black) for $219.99

or the Zune HD 32 GB Video MP3 Player (Platinum) for $289.99


Are you getting one?

Keeping the Analog Hole Open

With the popularity of the Hauppauge HD-PVR which records video & audio right from the unprotected component cable outputs of any device such as your Cable box, satellite box or even HD game machine, I am often asked this question:  What happens if they “close the analog hole?”  The analog hole refers to the “unprotected” component outputs of these devices used by the Hauppauge HD-PVR.  This article addresses this question and shows that there is at least one solution to that problem if the analog hole is ever closed.


NOTE:  This is a guest post by JarkHD, a GeekTonic reader and MythTV user.  If you would like to write a guest post for GeekTonic, you can find basic guidelines for writing and submitting a guest post at GeekTonic can be found here.

One of my main reasons for first building a HTPC was so that I could record HD and SD programming and then do anything I wanted with it. No DRM, no expiration dates, and no hassles. At the time I was also worried about the broadcast flag courtesy of the EFF and I wanted a system that would totally ignore anything similar down the road. I also wanted to stop paying Tivo a ransom every month.  I succeeded in building a MythTV that records HD with the SiliconDust HDHomeRun using QAM and records SD from basic cable using a Hauppauge PVR-150. This has served me well for the last couple of years with no problems except the occasional rebuild and updates.  But then I started getting jealous of all the new HD content provided by digital cable or satellite that I could not receive or record with my MythTV.

These glorious HD channels were always provided by a set top box that is tightly controlled by the content provider.  I justified my lack by knowing how much it would bother me not to be able to control the content and therefore waited for a solution.  I knew that Cable Labs would never allow Cable Cards on any Linux OS other than the HD Tivo's locked down OS.  These cable card enabled HTPC's also had to be bought with the right hardware and bios (until recently) and this did not appeal to me.  I thought eventually that the HD Tivo would be hacked like the 2nd Generation Tivos but that may solve the content problem but not the price problem with Tivo.  I was really looking for a hardware solution that would be hard to defeat rather than playing the software hack cat-&-mouse game whenever some update by the company breaks your solution.

Using the Analog Hole – The Hauppauge HD-PVR

You all know what happened next…  Hauppauge released the HD-PVR taking advantage of the Analog Hole.  Now one could record the unencrypted HD from the component out that all digital cable and satellite boxes had readily.  I like you was very excited about the possibilities of this USB based tuner.  I also guessed the backlash would come from content providers with a solution so available and so comparably cheap to professional solutions.  I was strong for a change and did not early adopt and go out the day this came out and buy it.  I was waiting around hopefully for the MythTV boffins to come up with some drivers to add this into my current setup.  I saw some alpha drivers come out with some promise but I still see that these have some stability issues and are not for the faint at heart.

The HDFury


While I was trolling the news on the MythTV and the Hauppauge HD-PVR keeping an eye on the driver progress I noticed that someone had posted about a device as a possible solution to recording HDCP protected content.  This was called the HDfury and was designed to provide older CRT projectors and TVs the ability to display new content by stripping the HDCP content using what I would call a man in the middle attack.  The HD Fury would execute the HDCP handshake with the content source and then decode and pass through the analog content.  This was not yet a perfect solution because the HD Fury went from DVI with HDCP to VGA.  One needed the HDMI to DVI cable along with a device that converted VGA to component.  This component could then be feed into the Hauppauge HD-PVR for recording.  This solution was expensive at ~700 dollars and the HD-Fury had some problems of the picture not being centered, heat and power issues, and some handshake issues with certain devices. 

HDFury 2


The second HDfury had just come out around the time I was researching this solution.  I saw that it solved the problems of the first hardware revision and best of all had an actual HDMI input and a selectable cable provided component out.  One can see the improved specs and comparison on the vendor's site. This meant that the combination of this and the HD-PVR was like chocolate and peanut butter; they just go together.  This was the hardware capability I was looking for; the ability to record any source through HDMI.  I caved and bought both devices to experiment with.

A Solution For When/If They Ever Close the “Analog Hole”

I am here to report that pairing the HDfury 2 with the HD-PVR works beautifully.  The HDfury 2 gives a very impressive picture up to 1080p.  The device also has an analog audio out as well as a S/PIDF digital out from the same connector similar to the way Apple does this on laptops and the Airport Extreme.  This audio is pulled from the HDMI audio stream which is very handy and saves some wire clutter.  The audio is down mixed to 5.1 over S/PIDF as far as I can tell but that can go directly into the HD-PVR which is all the channels it can handle in the first place.  The only issue I have ever had was a bit of overscan showing up on the recordings but this was solved by cropping the slight green line on the very edge in post processing.  I love the fact that I can use an HDMI splitter or matrix switch to split the HDMI to this device and the projector or TV that I have and record while or what I watch.  I have gone ahead and signed up for premium digital content because I can finally it without DRM.  Even if they turn off the component outputs with selectable output control I can record in the full quality.

I would say that the best application of this HDfury is that fact that it safeguards the ability to use the Hauppauge HD-PVR even if there is a decision to turn off the analog component HD.  It keeps the analog hole open so to say.  Hauppauge would never build this functionality into the HD-PVR and the HDfury manufacturer is small enough to not really be on the radar and made for a different purpose that "may" be legitimate.    The HDFury 2 vendor is Curtpalme where it can be purchased for 200 dollars in full retail packaging.  You can choose the output cable that you need and obviously the component output is best when pairing it with the HD-PVR.  VGA output comes standard and is what these other output adapters plug into.  I also noticed the HDfury 2 can now be found for about 150 dollars at Monoprice sans the power adapter that is needed only when the HDMI current is not enough to power the device.

HDfury2 Firmware Upgrades

While writing this I noticed that Curtpalme is offering a kit that allows one to upgrade the firmware on the HDfury2 and play with some advanced features here such as EDID programming and BTB/WTW support for example.  This will be next on my list to purchase and experiment with.  I would say this bodes well for firmware updates in the future that can fix nagging problems or and "new challenges" as long as they can stay in business. 

I am left with the challenge of how best to implement these solutions into one HTPC that does it all which is what I am still working out. Of course SageTV is on my list to try out on my Mac based on Brent's advice.  I like aspects of MythTV, SageTV and even Vista/Windows 7 Media Center but none does everything I would like because of feature set or lack of drivers.  Anyone who has played with the Hauppauge included Windows software included with the Hauppauge HD-PVR also knows how lacking it is and it does not work with the Mac. 


During this search I have found a Mac based solution for scheduling and recording with the HD-PVR written by Steven Toth who happens to also work for Hauppauge.  I am currently using his solution called HDPVRCapture you can buy for 30 dollars to record the premium content off of my digital box onto my Mac Pro.  My compromise is to record with HDPVRCapture and pull these files onto the MythTV where the files can be displayed on my TVs throughout my house.  I am looking forward to the new project trying out SageTV on Linux and OSX during the trial period that I just activated.  My wife just loves when she finally figures everything out and I change everything!

Recording PS3 Output via HDMI

Below is a “real-life” example of the HDFury connected to the Hauppauge HD-PVR with component and optical audio out directly from the HDFury connected to the HDMI of the PS3.   
The blue glow behind the desk in the one picture is a HDMI splitter from Monoprice that connects my Dell monitor and the HDFury-HD PVR for recording while watching at the same time which is very handy. 
This lets you record while using the HDMI for output to your TV set if you would like.  Of course you could use the component and audio out from the HD PVR just as easily.

About the author:  JarkHD is a reader of GeekTonic and long-time MythTV and HTPC enthusiast.  His real job involves engineering and information assurance.  Recent interests include helping friends plan home theaters and research in wireless hacking.  You can find jarkHD on twitter and at his blog

If you would like to write a guest-post for GeekTonic, please read these  basic guidelines for writing and submitting a guest post at GeekTonic can be found here.

Have questions about the HDFury2 or anything else regarding this article?  Ask JarkHD or I in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ultimate Fall 2009 TV Premiere Schedule

The summer is nearing its end.  That means kids will soon be back to school and new TV show episodes hit the airwaves.  The Fall 2009 TV Premieres begin in full swing next month and I have compiled a complete list for you.  Included are the premiers for all major networks and even some of the not-so-major nets.  I worked to make the listing as accurate and complete as possible, but let me know if you notice anything out of place - it's very difficult to get these right as the networks tend to change things around quite a bit.

Flash Forward Cast

                                    The Cast of “Flash Forward”

Also available is a free, printable PDF version of this Fall 2009 TV Premieres listing
As of 8/30/09 I've updated the PDF version a great deal - please re-download for all of the updates.  A Premiere Listing sorted by show title is also now available 

NOTE:  The PDF Downloads (see links above) have the most up-to-date listings

Premiere Date Day Time  (Eastern pm) Network Season Premiere Title
8/16/2009 Sun 10 AMC 3 Mad Men
8/16/2009 Sun 10 VH1 1 My Antonio
8/16/2009 Sun 10 E! 1 Reality Hell
8/17/2009 Mon 10 BRAVO 3 Flipping Out
8/18/2009 Tue 9 ABC 1 Shaq Vs.
8/18/2009 Tue 10 WE 1 Secret Lives of Women, The
8/19/2009 Wed 9 SyFy 6 Ghost Hunters
8/19/2009 Wed 10 BRAVO   Top Chef: Las Vegas
8/20/2009 Thu 10 LIFE 6 Project Runway
8/20/2009 Thu 11 LIFE 1 Models of the Runway
8/23/2009 Sun 1 Food 1 What Would Brian Boitano Make?
8/25/2009 Tue 10 BRAVO 2 Rachel Zoe Project, The
8/26/2009 Wed 9 ABC 1 Crash Course
  Sat 8 ABC 1 Shark Tank, The
8/31/2009 Mon 8 ABC FAM 3 Greek
9/5/2009 Sat 8 ABC   Saturday Night Football
9/8/2009 Tue 8 CW 2 90210
9/8/2009 Tue 9 CW 1 Melrose Place
9/8/2009 Tue 10 FX 2 Sons of Anarchy
9/9/2009 Wed 8 CW 13 America's Next Top Model
9/9/2009 Wed 8 FOX 5 So You Think You Can Dance
9/9/2009 Wed 9 FOX 1 Glee
9/9/2009 Wed 9 SyFy 3 Destination Truth
9/10/2009 Thu 8 CW 1 Vampire Diaries
9/10/2009 Thu 9 CW 5 Supernatural
9/11/2009 Fri 10 ABC 30 20/20
9/12/2009 Sat 8 FOX 21 COPS
9/12/2009 Sat 9 FOX 23 America's Most Wanted
9/13/2009 Sun 7 NBC 4 Football Night in America
9/13/2009 Sun 8:15 NBC 4 NBC Sunday Night Football
9/14/2009 Mon 8 CW 7 One Tree Hill
9/14/2009 Mon 9 CW 3 Gossip Girl
9/14/2009 Mon 9 ABC FAM 4 Lincoln Heights
9/14/2009 Mon 10 NBC 1 Jay Leno Show, The
9/15/2009 Tue 8 NBC 8 Biggest Loser, The
9/16/2009 Wed 9 CW 1 Beautiful Life, (TBL) The
9/17/2009 Thu 8 FOX 5 Bones
9/17/2009 Thu 8 NBC 2 Saturday Night Live Weekend Update
9/17/2009 Thu 8 CBS 19 Survivor: Samoa
9/17/2009 Thu 8:30 NBC 2 Parks and Recreation
9/17/2009 Thu 9 NBC 6 Office, The
9/17/2009 Thu 9 FOX 2 Fringe
9/17/2009 Thu 9:30 NBC 1 Community
9/17/2009 Thu 10 FX 5 It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
9/18/2009 Fri 10 STARZ 2 Crash
9/20/2009 Sun 9 HBO 7 Curb Your Enthusiasm
9/20/2009 Sun 9:30 HBO 1 Bored to Death
9/21/2009 Mon 8 NBC 4 Heroes
9/21/2009 Mon 8 FOX 6 House
9/21/2009 Mon 8 ABC 9 Dancing with the Stars
9/21/2009 Mon 8 CBS 5 How I Met Your Mother
9/21/2009 Mon 8:30 CBS 1 Accidentally on Purpose
9/21/2009 Mon 9 ABC 2 Castle
9/21/2009 Mon 9 CBS 3 Big Bang Theory, The
9/21/2009 Mon 9:30 CBS 7 Two and a Half Men
9/21/2009 Mon 10 CBS 8 CSI: Miami
9/22/2009 Tue 8 CBS 7 NCIS
9/22/2009 Tue 9 CBS 1 NCIS: Los Angeles
9/22/2009 Tue 10 CBS 1 Good Wife, The
9/22/2009 Tue 10 ABC 1 Forgotten, The
9/23/2009 Wed 8 CBS 5 New Adventures of Old Christine, The
9/23/2009 Wed 8 NBC 1 Mercy
9/23/2009 Wed 8:30 CBS 2 Gary Unmarried
9/23/2009 Wed 9 NBC 11 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
9/23/2009 Wed 9 ABC 1 Modern Family
9/23/2009 Wed 9 CBS 5 Criminal Minds
9/23/2009 Wed 9:30 ABC 1 Cougar Town
9/23/2009 Wed 10 CBS 6 CSI: NY
9/23/2009 Wed 10 ABC 1 Eastwick
9/24/2009 Thu 8 ABC 1 Flash Forward
9/24/2009 Thu 9 ABC 6 Grey's Anatomy
9/24/2009 Thu 9 CBS 9 CSI
9/24/2009 Thu 10 CBS 2 Mentalist, The
9/25/2009 Fri 8 FOX 1 Brothers
9/25/2009 Fri 8 CW 9 Smallville
9/25/2009 Fri 8 CBS 5 Ghost Whisperer
9/25/2009 Fri 8 NBC 20 Law & Order
9/25/2009 Fri 9 CBS 6 Medium
9/25/2009 Fri 9 FOX 2 Dollhouse
9/25/2009 Fri 10 CBS 6 Numb3rs
9/26/2009 Sat 8 CBS   Crimetime Saturday
9/26/2009 Sat 8 NBC 19 Dateline
9/26/2009 Sat 10 CBS   48 Hours Mystery
9/26/2009 Sat 11:30 NBC 35 Saturday Night Live
9/27/2009 Sun 7 ABC 7 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9/27/2009 Sun 7 CBS 42 60 Minutes
9/27/2009 Sun 8 CBS 14 Amazing Race, The
9/27/2009 Sun 8 FOX 21 Simpsons, The
9/27/2009 Sun 8:30 FOX 1 Cleveland Show, The
9/27/2009 Sun 9 FOX 8 Family Guy
9/27/2009 Sun 9 ABC 6 Desperate Housewives
9/27/2009 Sun 9:30 FOX 5 American Dad
9/27/2009 Sun 10 SHOW 4 Dexter
9/27/2009 Sun 10 ABC 4 Brothers & Sisters
9/27/2009 Sun 10 SHOW 3 Californication
9/27/2009 Sun 10 CBS 7 Cold Case
9/28/2009 Mon 9 FOX 2 Lie to Me
9/28/2009 Mon 9 NBC 1 Trauma
9/30/2009 Wed 8 ABC 1 Hank
9/30/2009 Wed 8:30 ABC 1 Middle, The
10/1/2009 Thu 10 ABC 3 Private Practice
10/2/2009 Fri 8:30 FOX 4 Til Death
10/2/2009 Fri 9 SyFy 1 Stargate Universe
10/4/2009 Sun 7 ABC 20 America's Funniest Home Videos
10/4/2009 Sun 9 CBS 1 Three Rivers
10/4/2009 Sun 10 Sundance 1 Monty Python: Amost the Truth
10/6/2009 Tue 10 SyFy 3 Scare Tactics
10/9/2009 Fri 8 ABC 4 Ugly Betty
10/9/2009 Fri 10 SyFy 2 Sanctuary
10/14/2009 Wed 10 FX 6 Nip/Tuck
10/15/2009 Thu 9:30 NBC 4 30 Rock
10/16/2009 Fri 8 ABC 5 Supernanny
10/23/2009 Fri 9 NBC 2 Southland
10/23/2009 Fri 10 USA 1 White Collar
11/3/2009 Tue 8 ABC 1 V
11/7/2009 Sat 11 FOX 1 Wanda Sykes Show, The
11/7/2009 Sat 12 SYN 2 Legend of the Seeker
1/17/2010 Sun 9 Fox 8 24
1/17/2010 Sun   Fox 1 Human Target
1/22/2010 Fri   SyFy 1 Caprica
2/12/2010 Fri   NBC   Winter Olympics
10/2009     FX 1 Archer
12/2009     TNT 1 Men of a Certain Age
MidSeason   8 Fox 9 American Idol
MidSeason     ABC 14 Bachelor, The
MidSeason     AMC 3 Breaking Bad
MidSeason     ABC 2 Better off Ted
MidSeason     HBO 4 Big Love
MidSeason     NBC 2 Celebrity Apprentice
MidSeason     NBC 3 Chuck
MidSeason     FX 3 Damages
MidSeason     NBC 1 Day One
MidSeason     ABC 1 Deep End
MidSeason     HBO 2 Eastbound & Down
MidSeason     DirecTV 4 Friday Night Lights
MidSeason     ABC   Happy Town
MidSeason     ABC 6 Lost
MidSeason     NBC 1 Marriage Ref, the
MidSeason     CBS 1 Miami Trauma
MidSeason   8 NBC 1 Parenthood
MidSeason     Fox 1 Past Life
MidSeason     AMC 1 Rubicon
MidSeason     CBS 4 Rules of Engagement
MidSeason     ABC 9 Scrubs
MidSeason     Fox 1 Sons of Tucson
MidSeason     Showtime 4 Tudors, The
MidSeason     Showtime 2 United States of Tara, The