Saturday, September 12, 2009

Week in Review – September 12

Lots of news and feature stories this week.

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


I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking TV this week.  The best of the premieres arrive in the next few weeks so I’ll have a detailed post on that coming this week and I’ll also be a guest on the Seen in HD podcast talking about the Fall 2009 TV season.

Stay tuned for more in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at
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CEDIA and Media Center Wrapup

Well CEDIA has come and gone and as everyone expected there were some MediaCenter announcements from the show.  Here’s my scorecard:

CableCard made a tremendous jump up on the desirable scale – Opening up CableCard tuner to be sold by themselves and not pre-installed on a PC is the biggest one.  Yes, it was able to do this with a hack but this makes it accessible to all and removes any fear of the hack being plugged.  Secondly and just as important was the reduced DRM usage.  No longer will all channels get DRM’d – just the ones that are marked as “protected” by the Cable Company.  Finally we heard that Ceton will have that multi-tuner CableCard ready for us early next year and even Hauppauge will have their own CableCard tuner.

All of these things combined mean CableCard on MediaCenter isn’t as bad as we thought.  Yes there is still DRM, yes we are still dependant on the often fumbling cable companies to mark the channels copy protected or not.  But you can’t deny that this is a huge move forward.  It really puts CableCard and MediaCenter to where it should have been when it was first released.

Where Are the Extenders?

It wasn’t all good for Media Center though.  I still wonder where are the extenders?  Yes I know those new XBox360’s are a good value and yes they are a little quieter even.  Shoot I might even be okay with one XBox360 as an extender in my house, but I definitely do not want one by every TV in my home.  And I don’t want to use a HTPC (computer) at each TV either because of the extra setup/admin, noise and electricity usage.  Because Microsoft has ignored the cries for a true Media Server/Client setup and instead force us to have a PC (with their own tuners) at every TV (or an XBox360) they have made it very difficult for a multiple TV home – at least mine.

SageTV Hd200 Extender/Player

How difficult would it be for Microsoft to release a Xtender (the X is a play on Xbox of course), their own branded extender that works with Media Center.  This would keep them from having to rely on 3rd party CE companies and put them in control of the Media Center platform.  Lets be honest here – if SageTV can build a proper HD Extender surely Microsoft could do the same.

Dish Tuner?

Another thing we saw from CEDIA was that elusive satellite tuner – this one from DishTV still exists and works with MediaCenter.  The only problem is it isn’t available to purchase and so far there are no plans for it to be put on the market.  If this thing ever becomes available it will be a huge win for Media Center.  But until that day comes I’ll keep my opinion of it – it’s only vaporware.

Media Center Looks Better Today than they did Last Week

CEDIA showed us Media Center will live on and probably prosper.  I’m seeing some users on the various forums are taking a second look at Media Center now which is definitely a change compared to the past many months when many Media Center users were looking elsewhere.  I’m looking at Snapstream and SageTV to see what move they make now.  The change in CableCard certainly doesn’t change what hoops and costs they would have to do to make their programs CableCard ready, but those changes certainly mean there would be more users interested in it – and that should make the cost/benefit of doing CableCard much more interesting for the two companies.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hauppauge Will Sell CableCard Tuners

CableCard seems to be getting some serious love this week and this announcement further nails that point down.  According to a story on Gearlog, Kenneth Plotkin, CEO of Hauppauge will be selling CableCard tuners by the end of this year!

With the recent announcement of the relaxed CableCard restrictions, it seems we’ll be seeing more players involved in CableCard.  Hauppauge, maker of many TV tuner cards and HTPC/Media products will reportedly be offering their own CableCard tuner by the end of this year.  A very interesting development especially given Hauppauge is the maker of the popular Hauppauge HD-PVR.

Not a lot of details on this one.  I’ll provide more information on this as soon as I learn more.

UPDATE:  I have received two reports from trusted sources that the ETA for any CableCard tuner made by Hauppauge is not yet determinable.  So I’ve struck the “end of this year” comment from the above story.  The comments below have a little more information on this.

via Gearlog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Multi Channel CableCard Tuner for MediaCenter Arrives from Ceton

Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card

Last night, Microsoft held a very brief press event focused on Microsoft Media Center at CEDIA.  The focus was certainly on CableCard with SDV capability, relaxed DRM restrictions and removal of the OEM requirement.  One thing they didn’t talk about though is something I picked up in the Microsoft Press Release – The new Ceton multi-channel Cable TV Card will get a tech preview this week at CEDIA and it looks like a sure-fire hit for MediaCenter fans.  I was curious so I checked in with the Ceton rep and he shared all of the details on the new CableCard tuners – yes there are 3 different versions!

CETON Multi-Tuner CableCard Being Previewed at CEDIA

Microsoft will be doing a “technology preview” of the Ceton multi-channel CableCard tuner with MediaCenter.  This product was first announced at CES earlier this year, but we hadn’t heard much about it since.  Now that SDV has been figured out it and the CableCard restrictions have been relaxed this product appears to be coming soon to MediaCenter!

The Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card will be the first-of-its-kind solution for enabling advanced cable TV services natively on Media Center (i.e. first multi-tuner CableCard tuner)  It supports playing or recording up to 6 HD cable TV channels simultaneously, including premium channels, without the need for any cable set-top boxes.  It also enables secure distribution of all TV programming, including live and recorded shows as well as premium and encrypted channels, to additional TV sets in the home via Media Center extenders.

Below is a diagram showing how the CETON tuners would work in a MediaCenter environment

Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card Diagram

The Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card enables Media Center PCs to play or record up to six live channels of HDTV at once and stream live HD channels or recordings to multiple HDTVs throughout the home, all from a single cable connection. With Ceton you finally have a solution to transform your Media Center PC into a complete entertainment platform for all your media - even encrypted cable TV - with terabytes of storage.

Facts About the Ceton Multi-Channel Cable TV Card

  • Works with any U.S. cable provider.
  • Supports all standard- and high-definition cable channels including premium and encrypted channels.
  • Play and/or record up to six live HD channels simultaneously from centralized storage.
  • Stream live and recorded HD programming securely to several HDTV sets in the home at once.
  • Watch and record from all TVs without needing multiple DVRs or any set-top boxes. Pause a show in one room and pick it up in another.
  • Supports all Media Center Extenders including the Xbox 360.
  • Eliminate monthly set-top box rental fees — a single Media Center PC can support all the TVs in most homes.

Ceton Corp Multi Channel CableCard Tuner

Updates Since the Ceton Card Was Announced at CES

  • Ceton has completed development and Windows 7 testing on the Ceton Multi-Channel CableCard
  • The Ceton card will natively support SDV on Windows 7 PCs via a Tuning Adapter
  • Since it’s CES debut, the card has been adapted to a smaller PCI low profile form factor to better accommodate slim HTPCs
  • There will be  2-tuner, 4-tuner and 6-tuner versions of the card
  • The 4-tuner version of the Ceton Multi-Channel CableCard will be entering CableLabs Certification process shortly – this certification is the final step before making it available commercially
  • The 4-tuner version will be available first, with the 2-tuner version for consumers and the 6-tuner version for pre-configured OEM PC’s available later.
  • The Ceton Multi-Channel CableCard will be available as a standalone retail offering as well as bundled in new PCs from OEM partners Ceton plans to announce in the future.  The 6-tuner version will only be available to OEM’s due to the maximum # of tuners limit that Microsoft puts on Windows 7.  OEM’s can expand the number of tuners supported in Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate to 6 tuners thanks to the AEP (advanced entertainment pack) support added in Windows 7.
  • The new Ceton Multi-Channel CableCard is expected to be available by the 1st Quarter of 2010


Ceton Multi-Channel CableCard System Requirements (subject to change):

  • Windows 7
  • Minimum Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400 Processor
  • 4 Gigabits of RAM
  • HDPC compliant graphics card
  • HDMI Out or DVI out with sound card

I’m pretty sure this will be a huge hit for Media Center fans – at least the ones who have access to Cable.  Expected pricing wasn’t available yet so that will play into it’s popularity as well.

You can read more about the new Ceton Tuner at their website

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Microsoft Media Center Announcements from CEDIA – Mostly CableCard News

Andres, Dana McCall and Ben & Richard from EngadgetHD all live-blogged the Micrsoft MediaCenter event tonight at CEDIA and there was a couple of morsels of good news including:

  1. No OEM Bios restrictions for CableCard – so any installer or enthusiast (pretty much anyone) can use CableCard with Media Center.  Let’s not kid ourselves, this is an extremely welcome change from Microsoft – one that will make CableCard much nicer for all MediaCenter users.   This will be for Windows 7 only.
  2. Looser DRM Flagging for content – The ATI Tuners will get a firmware update that will relax DRM.  I believe this means that only content flagged as “protected” by the cable company will have DRM – all other content should be DRM-free unlike current CableCard recorded content.  No ETA on when the firmware will be available.  This is something they should have done from the beginning of CableCard and will be welcomed with open arms from all CableCard users.   This will be for Vista & Windows 7 users
  3. As part of the relaxed DRM mentioned in #2 above, Microsoft and CableLabs are allowing CableCARD customers more portability for content marked as "copy freely" (CF) on other PCs, devices and portable media.
  4. Switched Digital will be supported for CableCard via Tuning Adapter – again we heard this one rumored and then confirmed in the past few weeks, but it’s definitely a needed improvement.   This should arrive about the time Windows 7 launches on 10/22.  According to Andres (reporting from CEDIA), the ATI CableCard firmware update should be available in the next two weeks – before Windows 7 Launches!  It will involve a tuning adapter being connected to your PC’s USB port with a coax CATV connection to the adapter.  Then the CATV Coax goes from the tuning adapter to the CableCard.

All of the above applies to Windows 7 only of course.  UPDATE:  The relaxed DRM firmware update will be available to Vista users as well as Windows 7 users.  All other new items mentioned above are for Windows 7 only.

My Questions & Comments about the press event:

  • When will the firmware update be available?   UPDATE: as mentioned above it looks like it should arrive in the next few weeks.
  • Will CableCard tuners be available at NewEgg, Amazon and other retailers now that the OEM restriction has been lifted?
  • Where are the extenders?  I had feint hopes that they would surprise us with this one, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.  to me this is the one big thing that will keep Microsoft from taking MediaCenter further than it is today in terms of userbase and wider acceptance in homes.
  • Canada doesn’t get much from these announcements and that’s a bummer.
  • Windows 7 Media Center is definitely a nice update to Vista Media Center and we shouldn’t forget that.  But I long for more (of course) and hope that Microsoft doesn’t give up on the MediaCenter platform.  I really want the focus to be “MediaCenter on the TV” instead of “TV on the PC”


One more news item from Microsoft’s Press Release:

During Cedia, they’ll have a tech preview of the new Multi-Channel Cable TV Card from Ceton Corp., which enables PCs with Windows Media Center to play or record multiple live channels of premium HDTV at once, and stream live HD channels or recordings to multiple TV sets throughout the home, all with a single CableCARD.  Read more about this new Ceton Card here.

What do you think?  Are you excited, disappointed or indifferent?  Is Microsoft making the right moves for the MediaCenter platform?


Microsoft Press Release

Monday, September 07, 2009

Week In Review – September 7 Labor Day Edition

Lots of news and feature stories this week.

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

  • Report: SDV Solved with CableCard Firmware Update – Chris Lanier reports that CableCard is getting a firmware update that will give CableCard users the ability to handle SDV.  We’ll find out for sure this week at CEDIA.
  • Digital Everywhere-Maker of Popular Intl TV Tuners Closes Shop – Bad news for DVB tuner users as one of the more popular tuner makers goes out of business.
  • Understanding Codecs – A great series on learning the basics of different video codecs by Entertainment 2.0
  • Review of Via NSD-7800 Windows Home Server – Thorough review of a new WHS box.
  • Speeding up Windows 7 Media Browser using a Flash Drive – Nice how-to from Hack 7MC
  • 2 Million Hits – GeekTonic passes 2 Million.  Next update at 5M…
  • Month in Review – August 2009
  • DIY HDMI and USB Over Ethernet – An Extender Alter – My favorite guest post of the month.  A must-read.
  • Another XBMC Skin Preview – Xperience
  • I’ll be watching EngadgetHD as they’ll have a couple of guys on the floor of CEDIA.  We’ll get to see what Microsoft has in store for their Media Center platform.  If Microsoft plans to invest much in Media Center going forward, this will be the place to see those signs.

    Stay tuned for more in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at
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    Sunday, September 06, 2009

    TV Premieres: What to Watch 09/06 – 09/13

    The Fall TV Season has one more “slow” week before it really hits its stride next week, but there are a few premieres arriving this week to check out.

    Don’t miss the Ultimate Guide to the 2009 Fall TV Season Premieres with free downloads by premiere date & by show name!

    If you haven’t already, be sure and check out the link above and download the TV Premiere Listings recently updated.
    Below you’ll find all this weeks premieres through next Sunday.
                   Supernatural Returns to CW on Thursday

    NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant (9pm on HBO) – a 45 minute special
    Durham County (10pm on ION) – A new, original primetime series (a first for ION) brings a family suspense/drama.  A detective moves his family to a suburb, but realizes his neighbor (also happens to be his old HS nemesis) could be a serial killer.

    Tuesday 09/08/2009

    90210 (8pm on CW– Available in HD) –  Season 2 brings what I consider a very average teen soap back to CW.
    Melrose Place (10pm on FX– Available in HD) – The coming out party for the re-make of that old (but now new) soap opera we knew as Melrose Place from the 90s.  Better than 90210, but that's not saying much either.
    Planet Mechanics (9pm on Planet Green– Available in HD) A new series where the guys from Planet Mechanics build energy efficient stuff.
    Sons of Anarchy (10pm on FX– Available in HD) – Season 2 of a great series from FX arrives.  A drama about a motorcycle gang.
    Cool Fuel (10pm on Planet Green– Available in HD) – Adventure seeker travels 16,000 miles with only alternative fuels (electric vehicles etc)
    For Rent (11:30pm on HGTV– Available in HD) – Season 2 premiere

    Wednesday 09/09/2009

    America’s Next Top Model (8pm on CW– Available in HD) Season 13 begins with a two hour premiere
    So You Think You Can Dance (8pm on FOX – Available in HD) Season 5 arrives for the Fall season after a summer success
    Glee (9pm on Fox– Available in HD) Season 1 starts.  The preview they did last year was a hit and this show has very high expectations.  Not my cup of tea, but I expect this one to be very popular.
    Inside the NFL (9pm on Showtime– Available in HD) Season 33 all about the NFL
    Nostradamus Effect (9pm on History– Available in HD) A new series focusing on prophecies.
    Destination Truth (10pm on SyFy– Available in HD) Season 3 of a paranormal reality TV show on SyFy.
    The Day Before (10pm on Sundance)

    Thursday 09/10/2009

    Vampire Diaries (8pm on CW– Available in HD) – A new shows based on the 90’s teen novel by the same name.  For those still confused about what this is about: two vampire brothers, one good and another bad are fighting for a girls soul.  That’s the gist of it.
    Supernatural (9pm on CW– Available in HD) – Season 5 starts with Sam, Dean, and Bobby dealing with theb Devil's escape from Hell while receiving startling news from the Prophet Chuck.
    Behind the Music (10pm on VH1)

    Friday 09/11/2009

    Ben 10: Alien Force (8:30PM on Cartoon Network) Season 3
    Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (9pm on BBC America) Season 17
    20/20 (10pm on ABC) – Season 32

    Saturday 09/12/2009

    COPS (8pm on FOX) – Season 21.  Yes really.
    America’s Most Wanted (9pm on FOX)  23 Seasons of bad guys.
    Citizen Jane (9pm on Hallmark) Made for TV Movie
    Lightning Strikes (9pm on Syfy– Available in HD) Made for TV Movie
    The Locator (9pm on WE) Season 3 premiere
    Robin Hood (9pm on BBC America) Season 3 premiere
    Heart of the City (9:30pm on BET)
    Adoption Diaries (10pm on WE)

    Sunday 09/13/2009

    Football Night in America (7pm on NBC– Available in HD) 
    NBC Sunday Night Football (8:15pm on NBC– Available in HD) – Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers


    Season Finales this Week:

    • 09/06/2009 8pm on NBC “Merlin” season finale
    • 9/06/2009 9pm on HBO “True Blood” season finale
    • 9/06/2009 10pm on HBO “Hung” season finale
    • 9/07/2009 8pm on ABC Family “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” summer finale
    • 9/08/2009 8pm on ABC Family “10 Things I Hate About You” season finale
    • 9/11/2009 9pm on SyFy “Eureka” season finale

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