Saturday, August 22, 2009

GeekTonic Week in Review – August 22

Quite a bit of news this week including some downers for Windows Media Center.  I’ll have a little more about Windows Media Center, SageTV and more coming up soon.

Below is a quick summary of the past week's news and stories on GeekTonic.


  • SageTV HD Theater Extender & Media Player Now $180 SageTV seems to have dropped the price of the HD200 to $179.95.
  • Preview of an Awesome Looking XBMC Skin Called Surrface – A little teaser video of a pretty XBMC skin.
  • Rumor: Dish Network Tuner for Media Center Unlikely – Surely the biggest disappointment of the week for HTPC enthusiasts was the news that the Dish MediaCenter tuner is not going to happen.
  • Converting to SageTV from BeyondTV – A BTV user chronicles his move from BeyondTV to SageTV as well as his experiences cutting his cable bill down in size.
  • Recorded TV Manager 3 – Move Recorded TV in Windows 7 MediaCenter
  • Windows 7 Gets Dolby Digital Plus Support 
  • DVRMSToolbox New Public Release
  • How To Connect the SageTV HD Theater to your Wireless Network – A guide to connecting your HD Theater (HD200) to your wireless network along with screenshots and info about which wireless USB adapters work.
  • Okoro Announces BX300 HTPC with Windows MC & SageTV – a “plug-n-play” option for Windows MediaCenter or SageTV HTPC.
  • More Plex HTPC Plugins – The mac-based Plex HTPC announces more plugins
  • WDTV Version 2 Photos Leaked – Western Digital is updating its popular WDTV to a new version
  • Windows Media Center SDK RTM Released – Some good and bad news for Windows MediaCenter
  • TV Premieres: What to Watch 08/16 – 08/23
  • SageTV HD Theater Beta Update – WiFi Improvements and Keyboard Support

    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!

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    SageTV HD Theater Extender & Media Player Now $180

    After running several specials at this price, it seems SageTV has lowered the price of the popular SageTV HD Theater (HD200) to $179.95 – no coupon required.

    For more on the SageTV HD Theater read the GeekTonic Review

    Preview of an Awesome Looking XBMC Skin Called Surface

    As I prepare a new series on HTPC UI design, I’ve been digging through the many different user interfaces, skins and themes available for various HTPC software programs.  One of the skins that caught my eye was one for XBMC that hasn’t even been completed yet.  While not available for public consumption, I thought it was worth sharing on GeekTonic.

    If you watch closely, you’ll notice the developers are putting some serious attention to detail into this skin.  The video definitely was made with a dramatic showmanship too.

    Pretty cool stuff.  There seems to be an XBMC influence with some of the SageTV add-ins I’ve been seeing lately – lets hope they check this one out too.


    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Rumor: Dish Network Tuner for Media Center Unlikely

    NOTE:  This is not a confirmed fact at this point – but it’s my opinion that it wouldn’t have been posted in this way on EngadgetHD if it wasn’t pretty sure.

    Remember that Dish Network Satellite tuner everyone was expecting for Media Center?  Reports are leaking out that while beta testers loved the tuners and they seemed to work great – the project (Project Draco) has been killed by either Microsoft or Dish Network.

    An unbelievable result for a lot of reasons namely it seemed there was a very workable solution ready to go for Media Center.  This along with the lack of extenders seems to beg the question “has Microsoft given up on Media Center as a product?”  I’m beginning to wonder – especially with Microsoft’s tagline for Media Center “TV on the PC.”  It almost seems as if it has been put by the wayside as one more extra app available to the OS and not a real product/tool for HTPC users or even enthusiasts.  I’m getting bad “vibes” about the Hauppauge HD-PVR native support in MediaCenter as well, but don’t have anything official to report at this point.

    Read the quick downer of a post by Ben Drawbaugh at EngadgetHD

    Converting to SageTV from BeyondTV

    As many of my readers know I used to use Snapstream’s BeyondTV as my primary Home Theater PC software, but switched to SageTV in order to get an integrated PVR along with DVD, Music and Photo support as well as extenders. 

    I noticed a good write-up by Michael van der Meulen about his experience with switching to SageTV as well as his “don’t overpay the Cable Company” advice.  One of the things that strikes me with new SageTV users is how much the HD Theater (HD200) extender sells the overall SageTV experience.  Here’s Michael’s comment about the extender:

    The real hit was the media extender. Initially, I placed it in the family room. This little box, consuming just 8 Watts (can you believe it!!!!), renders perfect HD on any TV, even at 1080i. It has access to all media that is stored or recorded or live TV on the PC where SageTV is running. Initially I had a problem setting it up, but that was due to my impatience and instructions that were not all that explicit. Once I had it all up and running, I ordered two more extenders.

    I see this sentiment all the time – the extenders are a hit because they deliver an experience VERY close to the one you get with a computer, but without the hassle.  A well implemented extender like the HD200 is one of the things that make SageTV unique and something I hope Microsoft is paying attention to – that is the #1 thing missing from the Windows Media Center experience to date.  Yes the XBox 360 is an able extender for media center, but it’s not quite there with respect to the HTPC experience many HTPC users are looking for.

    Read Michael’s article Don't Overpay the Cable Company - Or - Converting from BeyondTV to SageTV – it’s worth checking out.

    Recorded TV Manager 3 – Move Recorded TV in Windows 7 Media Center

    from Hacking Windows 7 Media Center by Michael Healy

    In search of an easy as pie way to relocate your Windows 7 Media Center recorded TV from one location to another? Perhaps a storage drive or a networked server machine? Well, Recorded TV Manager 3 has got you covered. This program is somewhat light on features but it gets the job done if you’re looking for simple and easy. Installation is relatively easy and the latest version has support for the WTV file format native to Windows 7 Media Center. In addition to the ability to automatically move your recorded TV files there’s an included recordings manager with a lightweight series editor included.

    If that sounds like just what you’re looking for then look no further! Get started by downloading and installing Recorded TV Manager 3 from Drasch Software. Once installed running the program will prompt your to add your initial Recorded TV location. During my initial run I mistakenly selected the desktop and was unfortunately unable to remove this initial selection later on.

    1 Recorded TV Manager

    Once you’ve selected the proper recorded TV folder you can begin browsing your recorded series from the Recorded TV Manager interface. In the default view you can browse by location and then by series name.

    From here you can right-click any episode and choose to move or copy it from the current location as well as view a short display of information on the episode. It also provides a convent method to watch a series in the order that it was originally aired as the date is displayed as well as the last episode you’ve watched.

    2 Recorded TV Manager

    The meat of the application, however, seems to be in the AutoMove tool…

    Read the rest of this entry at Hack7MC >>>


    Catch more of Michael's reflections on Windows 7 Media Center at Hack7MC.  I’ve followed Michael’s articles for quite a while now and am pleased that Michael has agreed to contribute some of his excellent Windows 7 Media Center articles to GeekTonic for the next few weeks.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Windows 7 Gets Dolby Digital Plus Support

    Dolby Digital Plus

    News from Dolby Laboratories has arrived telling us that Microsoft is adding support for Dolby Digital Plus for Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions.

    Great news for those getting Windows 7 when it is released in October and especially good news for Media Center users.  Why?  Because many of the content providers and broadcasters use Dolby Digital Plus – a high-efficiency audio codec that aims to maintain the quality of Dolby Digital at a lower data rate.  All while staying fully compatible with the current Dolby digital A/V receivers.

    Benefits of Dolby Digital Plus according to Dolby:

    • Delivers superior audio quality for a richer surround sound experience
    • Enables up to 7.1 channels of theatre-quality sound
    • Unlocks the full audio potential from Blu-ray Discs, HD broadcast, and streamed and downloaded media
    • Ensures that you hear audio precisely as it was intended

    via – found by EngadgetHD

    DVRMSToolbox New Public Release

    If you are a DVRMSToolbox user you’ll want to check out the latest public release of the excellent HTPC software.

    Version was released today with many new features and improvements. 

    NOTE: This release is the same a R4 “early access” version.


    Highlights from the Change log:

    • ConvertVideoFile supports Native A/V container swaps (w/ editing)
    • ConvertVideoFile supports TS output if SageTV installed
    • Added ExtractCC action (uses ccextractor - included in package) dumps SRT subtitles
    • ConvertVideoFile will mux SRT subtitles into MKV if ExtractCC is used in profile
    • ConvertVideoFile file editing much more robust, works with compressed and uncompressed samples (i.e. transcoding is not required)
    • Use MediaInfo.dll for non-SBE file types media metadata
    • Setting to disable adding media type information to metadata
    • Updated version of mencoder
    • Updated Comskip to 80.023
    • Added DTBVideoEditor GUI application (UI for VideoConvertor, convertor used by ConvertVideoFile)
    • Included "MPC - Audio Decoder Filter (babgvant)"; customized audio decoder from MPC-HC project
    • Included "MPC - Mpeg Splitter (Gabest)"; MPEG-PS/TS splitter from MPC-HC project (MERIT modified)
    • Included "MPC - MPEG-2 Video Decoder (Gabest)"; MPEG video decoder from MPC-HC project (MERIT modified)
    • Included "MPC - SubtitleSource (S_TEXT/UTF8)"; SRT source filter from MPC-HC project
    • Included "MPC - Video decoder (babgvant)"; customized video decoder from MPC-HC


    There are many more Check out the entire list of changes at AndyVT’s Blog

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    How To Connect the SageTV HD Theater to your Wireless Network

    Want to make your SageTV HD Theater (HD200) Connect to your network wirelessly?  A few weeks ago SageTV made this possible thanks to a new beta firmware available for the SageTV HD Theater.  Adding wireless to your SageTV HD Theater is pretty easy – read on for the steps involved:


    Above is a quick photo I took of the HD Theater.  You’ll note that I have the WiFi adapter plugged into the front USB port – I did this only for easy switching since I was testing both adapters.  It looks much nicer to use the USB port on the back of the SageTV HD Theater – of course…  I also left the Ethernet cable unplugged and on top of the HD Theater to show that it was connected only wirelessly.


    Working WiFi Adapters



    There may be other wireless adapters that work, but these are the two confirmed to be working.  I have both and both worked well.  If you’re concerned about 2.4Ghz interference you may want to go with the more expensive DWA-160 since it is in the 5Ghz range.




    Once you’ve chosen your WiFi USB Adapter of choice, make sure you have the latest beta firmware on your HD Theater.  As of this blog post, the latest beta firmware available was version 20090814 1

    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


    Once you have the latest beta firmware installed, start up your HD Theater in Media-Player-Mode (Standalone mode) and go into settings.  Next go to Network Configuration.


    Select Wireless instead of wired for your network connection.  It will attempt to automatically configure the wireless network at this point.  If you have any security on your wireless network (which you should of course) this auto-config won’t work – continue on to the next step.


    Now select Wifi Config on the menu.


    You should now see a list of broadcast SSID’s.  The signal strength  icon didn’t seem to really register the signal at this point so don’t panic.  Also, if your SSID isn’t broadcast you can select “Enter a network name” to enter the SSID manually.  Now either select the SSID or enter it here.


    It should now ask you to enter the password for your wireless security.  Mine was set with WPA2 PSK and worked fine although I’m not all that handy with the T-9 entry method like my daughter is.  Here’s hoping they get USB keyboard support for the SageTV HD Theater in Media Player (Standalone) Mode since thats where you do the Wireless Network setup ;)  I’m sure it’s coming soon since they just added USB Keyboard support to the extender mode of the HD Theater.


    Once it’s configured and working it should look like the screen-shot below.  Signal strength should be greater than 75%.  The IP address and other network information should be populated now.




    If you happen to unplug the wireless adapter after setting it up on the HD200 you’ll see this message in Network Configuration.


    Thats it!  Your HD Theater is now wireless (or wired if you want).  This works in both Extender mode as well as Media Player (standalone) mode.  I’ve been using 2 of my HD Theaters wirelessly and had zero problems with playback.  Of course I always recommend the wired option if you can, but there are sometimes you just can’t wire a room with ethernet so it’s nice to know you have options.

    Note that my HD Theater was two floors up and across the house through many walls when I got 100%!  And I tested this for 4 nights of video and TV playback all in HD with not a single issue.

    In this post on the SageTV Forums you’ll find lots of information on the wireless options for the HD Theater including a discussion on working WiFi Adapters & chipsets

    Okoro Announces BX300 HTPC with Windows MC & SageTV MediaCenter Options

    If you’re looking for a powerful, pre-built Home Theater PC system pre-configured and packed with all the hardware you need for your ideal media center, Okoro has a very nice option for you.  Okoro Media Systems manufactures HTPCs for the high end AV market and just released their next generation system with lots of power and features.  Plus they include the option to power the HTPC with either Windows Media Center or SageTV.

    Okoro Media Systems Releases 64Bit BX300 Digital Entertainment System


    Okoro BX300 64Bit HTPC

    Okoro touts the HTPC with a new form factor, updated storage options and solid state drive technology.  The BX300 features enough horsepower to stream 4 HD streams & 4 HD playback streams simultaneously.  Blu-ray movie playback (dual Bl-ray drives) is part of the package along with your choice of ATI Digital CableCard Tuners, ATSC/QAM or Hauppauge HD-PVR tuners.

    Standard specs include:

    • Intel i7 920 Processor
    • 6GB 1333Mhz DDR3 Memory
    • 64GB Solid State OS Drive
      Dual Blu-ray Drives
    • ATI™ Radeon HD 4850 w/ 7.1 LPCM Audio via HDMI
    • Windows Vista Ultimate 64Bit w/ Free Upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate 64Bit
    • Choice of ATI Digital Cable Tuners, ATSC/QAM, or HDPVR for HD Satellite TV Recording

    Custom configurations are available as well upon request.

    Now we all know one could put together their own HTPC and load it up with lots of power and hardware goodies.  But this package was designed with the intent of simplifying the process for the consumer that wanted to purchase and start using it.  It also comes with support and warranty.  Just know that this product is for the high-end consumer that is focused on having it all ready to use as opposed to the cheapest price as the standard package costs $3,095.

     For more info on the BX300 head to Okoru

    Win Your Own HTPC from Okoro

    Want to win your own Okoro HTPC?  Okoro Media System is giving away one Special Edition “Cherry Red” Digital Entertainment System to one lucky individual.

    Okoro BX300 2


    Giveaway System Specs:

    • “Cherry Red" custom automotive paintwork with clear coat finishes
    • Intel Quad Core Processor
    • 8GB of Memory
    • Blu-ray/HD-DVD Combo Drive
    • 64GB Solid State HD for OS
    • 2 TB of Media Storage
    • Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit

    Contest runs 8/17/09 through 9/31/09.  For more information about this contest please click or visit

    More Plex HTPC Plugins

    Plex, the popular Mac-based media center software (a fork of the XBMC HTPC software) Just has a new version released a week ago and is getting more plugins.


    Watch all 27 programs offered from the PBS website, browse by topic or by collection, see what the most popular shows are, or search for videos.

    PBS Plugin for Plex


    Sub Pop Records

    Listen to music & watch music videos by the Subpop record label of Seattle.

    Sub Pop Plugin for Plex


    Stream hundreds of free, public domain movies, films & cartoons.

    iMovies Plugin for Plex


    Read more about the new Plex plugins at the Plex Blog here and here

    WDTV Version 2 Photos Leaked

    Looks like Western Digital is preparing a new version of their WDTV media player.  The WDTV has similar innards as the SageTV HD Theater, minus the HTPC extender capabilities among other things.  But it comes at a lower price (available under $99) and seems to have a pretty active user developer community.  So now the WDTV 2 is reported to add network playback over ethernet, DTS audio decoding and a component video port to go along with HDMI.  So it should be a little more comparable the the SageTV HD Theater if the reports are correct.

    via Electric Echoes by way of EndgadgetHD


    Speaking of the WDTV, you can get the existing version (not the unreleased WDTV2) of the WD TV HD Media Player at Newegg for $89.49 after applying coupon code HDDSALE15.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Windows Media Center SDK RTM Released

    Niall Ginsburg’s Mobilewares Blog has news that the Windows Media Center team has released the RTM version of the Windows Media Center Software Development Kit 6.0 for Windows 7.

    Developers can get the download here  and leave feedback at MediaCenter Sandbox

    Important notes for Media Center users & developers – Death of MCPL

    The new API added no new features to speak of.  In the words of Niall Ginsbourg:

    “All in all - this SDK is a big disappointment for developers – as while the Windows 7 platform and new versions of Media Center are great products (and a big improvements over Vista) – the minimal API changes completely missed out on taking advantage some of any of great new features (ie. no support for Multi Touch, no support for the new EPG database, etc and the list goes on.. ). It’s a laundry list of what ‘could have been’…”

    Needless to say there’s not a lot to be excited about in the new SDK for Windows 7.  Niall goes on to talk about what he see’s as the death of MCPL (Media Center Presentation Layer) as what had been expected to be a “very promising dev platform” during the days of the Vista beta.

    Some Positives – EPG capabilities

    Niall mentions that the new MXF spec and “loadmxf” functioanlity do add some nice capabilities for using the Media Center EPG (TV Guide) database.  But the SDK doesn’t add API hooks or even take advantage of the new functionality.

    Developer Concerns for the Direction of Media Center

    Niall finishes by showing his disappointment (to say the least) with the direction of Media Center Development as a whole – especially as it concerns developers

    “…going forward - I’m not sure where things are heading for Windows 8 with Media Center Development as a whole - and it’s looking unlikely that MCPL will ever be touched again with the new ‘TV on your PC’ push (rather than ‘PC’ or ‘Extender on your TV’ line) – and almost complete lack of engagement with the community of MCPL developers from the Extensibility team…”

    .  While much of the post is pretty technical for the non-developer type, I think it has some very interesting commentary from a well-known Media Center developer.

    Read Niall Ginsbourg’s complete Post here.

    via Charlie Owen’s Retrosight Blog

    TV Premieres: What to Watch 08/16 – 08/23

    We’re in the final few weeks of summer with many returning to school already.  This week’s premieres though really begin the Fall 2009 season.

    Don’t miss the Ultimate Guide to the 2009 Fall TV Season Premieres with a free download!


    Below you’ll find all this weeks premieres through next Sunday.

    Project Runway Heidi Klum

    Project Runway returns – on Lifetime Thursday with host Heidi Klum

    NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST

    Sunday 08/16/2009

    Mad Men (10pm on AMC) – Season 3 begins

    My Antonio (10pm on VH1) – Another new reality TV show where Thirteen women arrive in Hawaii with hopes of winning the heart of actor Antonio Sabato, Jr.

    Reality Hell (10pm on E!) - The subjects of this hidden-camera hybrid show on E! think they are contestants on a real reality show. They gear up for their 15 minutes of fame, only to have it turn into a time of infamy.

    Monday 08/17/2009

    Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (9pm on HBO) – 25 year old Afghan’s job was to escort foreign journalists through rough areas of Afghanistan.  He and an Italian journalist was decapitated after being kidnapped by the Taliban.  This is a documentary of sorts talking about this story as well as the role people like Ajmal play.

    Flipping Out (10 m on Bravo) – Season 3 of a show that takes a look at a real estate speculator, Jeff Lewis who lives in LA. He buys houses and "flips" them, selling them for a profit after fixing them up. He does so with the help of an unusual mix of disgruntled employees that he counts as friends.


    Tuesday 08/18/2009

    Shaq Vs. (9pm on ABC – Available in HD) – A new reality show that pits NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal against other athletes in their own sports.  The first opponent is Ben Roethlisberger

    The Secret Lives of Women (10pm on WE) – A strange reality TV (or something like that) show that goes behind closed doors with women of varying lifestyles and backgrounds to talk about their “secrets.”


    Wednesday 08/19/2009

    Ghost Hunters (9pm on SyFy - Available in HD) – Season 6.  Really.

    Top Chef: Las Vegas (9pm on Bravo) – Season 6 of the popular cooking competition/reality TV show.


    Thursday 08/20/2009

    Project Runway (10pm on Lifetime) – Heidi Klum hosts the fashion competition with it’s debut on a new channel – Lifetime.  The wait was partly due to multiple lawsuits…

    Models of the Runway (11pm on Lifetime) – A companion series to Project Runway that looks at life backstage and behind-the-scenes of the catwalk from the model's perspective.


    Sunday 08/23/2009

    The 58th Miss America Pageant (9pm on NBC – Available in HD)

     What Would Brian Boitano Make? (1pm on Food Network) – a new cooking show on Food Network.  With Brian Boitano.


    Season Finales this Week:

    • 8/16 7pm “Easy Money” series finale on CW
    • 08/18 9pm “Hawthorne”  season finale on TNT
    • 08/18 10pm “Miami Social” season finale on Bravo
    • 08/19 9pm “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” season finale on ABC
    • 08/19 10pm “The Nine” series finale on DirecTV
    • 08/19 10pm “Top Chef Masters” season finale on Bravo
    • 08/23 8pm “Who Wants to be a Millionare?” season finale on ABC

    The GeekTonic Ultimate Guide to the Fall 2009 TV Season is ready and will be posted Monday – stay tuned!

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