Saturday, May 01, 2010

Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD Player Nearing Release

It’s been a whole fourteen months since we mentioned it, but Hauppauge appears to finally have their MediaMVP-HD Media Player ready for the masses. 

NOTE:  Read below for info on how to win your own Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD

Hauppauge MediaMVPHD Front

Hauppauge is the company that brought us many HTPC tuners and devices (Hauppauge HD-PVR anyone?) and also was the company who brought us the now aging MediaMVP media player.  This media player is a new, HD-ready version called the MediaMVP-HD.

The MVP-HD is set to compete with comparable stand-alone media players such as the WDTV, D-Link, Asus and many others that work to connect media from your home network or USB drive to your TV.  It appears to handle all the popular file formats including DivX, H.264 and many others.  It has a built-in UPNP client to play from any UPnP servers including Windows 7.  The MediaMVP-HD sports a Sigma 8655 processor running a Linux OS.  It of course handles standard definition and high definition video up to 1080p.

Hauppauge MediaMVPHD Rear

Here’s the detailed specs of the MediaMVP-HD:

MediaMVP-HD decoder specification
  • Dedicated hardware decode support for MPEG-2 Transport and Program Stream up to 1080p, H.264 streams up to 1080p
  • Video output: HDMI, Component high definition out. Composite, S-Video standard definition out.
  • HDMI formats: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 720i, 480i, 480p. 120Hz, 100hz, 60hz and 50hz.
  • Outputs NTSC and PAL video, software selectable.
  • Volume adjustment for all audio outputs
  • Briteness, contrast and saturation adjustment.
MediaMVP-HD file formats
  • MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264 SD or HD
  • H.264 in MP4, MT2S or MKV
  • AVI
  • VOB
  • Divx SD and HD
MediaMVP-HD audio decoder specification
  • Two channel audio output.
  • Optical audio out (5.1 channel)
Included in the MediaMVP-HD package
  • MediaMVP-HD digital media receiver device
  • Wall mounted power supply
  • MediaMVP-HD remote control with batteries
  • MediaMVP Installation Guide
  • 1 meter HDMI cable
  • 1.5 meter Ethernet cable
Power consumption
  • Approximately 6 watts when playing HD video from network
  • Power supply: 5v at 2amp

Finally, I’ve included a few screenshots of the very simple user interface:

Hauppauge MediaMVPHD UI

Hauppauge MediaMVPHD UI Video

I don’t have the suggested retail price or the ETA, but according to the Hauppauge experts at SHSPVR, it will be shipping very soon. UPDATE:  Thanks to an anonymous tip, I found the MediaMVP-HD for sale Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD for sale at Amazon for $139.99 w/free shipping.  Amazon has it listed as shipping within 1-2 months, but I’m guessing it will be much, much sooner.

Speaking of SHSPVR, if you’d like to get your hands on one of these MediaMVP-HD’s for free, head to the SHSPVR forums to enter for a chance to win one of five he has available for giveaway!  Get over there by May 15th when the contest ends.

Official Info at Hauppauge

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Microsoft Shows It’s Hand – Embedded Windows 7 Could Mean HTPC Extenders and More

Windows 7 Embedded

Microsoft spent the week pulling surprises out if its giant hat this week with a couple of significant announcements.  The first one was a positive – embedded Windows 7 for CE devices which holds some promise – especially for Media Center fans.  The second a total disappointment albeit not an entirely shocking one where they admitted their awesome, courier Tablet PC concept was just that – a concept that will never see the light of day.  Since I’m a bit ticked about the courier announcement, we’ll focus on the positive, embedded PC concept today.

The biggest tech news sites have sort of glossed over the announcement, but don’t for a second discount this one.  Microsoft has unleashed an embedded version of their hot-selling Windows 7 operating system to be used by OEMs in consumer electric devices such as TVs, set top boxes, DVD/Blu-ray players etc.  If this sounds a little Linux-like to you, you’re not crazy.  Embedded W7 is targeting Linux front-on since you can find Linux in many CE devices today – especially those things like set-top-boxes, TV firmware, DVD and Blu-ray players and HTPC extenders.  And because Microsoft included Media Center in the embedded W7 mix this is definitely a big deal.

Microsoft has been calling the embedded Windows 7 project by the codename “Quebec”.  But starting this week it will be known as Windows Embedded Standard 7 (yeah, that’s a better name isn’t it…).  It will only be available to OEMs – original equipment manufacturers so you and I won’t ever get our hands on it directly, but we will likely see versions of it on some electronic device we purchase in the future.

On Microsoft’s WindowsEmbedded 7 Site, you’ll find Media Center as one of the main features available to CE manufacturers:

Enhanced TV experience: Windows Media Center functionality allows OEMs to merge broadcast TV, Internet TV with personal multimedia and photos and provide a unique integrated experience for the end user.

This is a significant shift for Microsoft who for quite a long time has been touting Media Center as “TV on your PC.”  A saying that seemed to mean the company didn’t really care about getting MediaCenter to the TV – but instead “to the PC.”

Media Center

The lack of a viable HTPC extender for Media Center except for the XBox 360 continued to hold Media Center back from its potential.  Many who might even consider HTPCs simply did not want to put a computer next to each of their TVs.  In the meantime the small niche company, SageTV produced two of the most fully-featured and useable HTPC extenders ever – the SageTV HD100 and HD200 Theater.  This along with some features Microsoft was unwilling to allow enabled SageTV to hold its own against the behemoth Microsoft who just seemed to be hanging around to see how things go with the Media in the living room concept.

Now that Windows 7 has proved to be a success and Media Center improved on many of the problems of earlier versions of Media Center, it appears that Microsoft is again ready to push its dominance into the living room.  Tuesday, Windows 7 Embedded was released to manufacturing with the intent to put Windows 7 into CE devices and in many cases into everyone's living rooms one way or another.  Time will tell whether Windows 7 Embedded will convince CE manufacturers to give Media Center another chance.  Mediaroom seemed to get all the attention from that same audience at CES earlier this year so Microsoft seems to hope Windows 7 will get its due now as well.  I hope to see Media Center embedded into TVs, Blu-ray players and even set top boxes eventually.  If Microsoft succeeds at this and the implementation isn’t crippled too much, they’ll be a force that will give the TiVos of the world a very, very difficult time.

Here’s a video by Microsoft to tout the features of Media Center to manufactuerers who might be interested in Windows 7 Embedded:

Note that Microsoft seems to be open to allowing CE manufacturers to customize the software a bit to their own liking.  Allowing branding and special features to be included as desired within reason.  This could be a draw to Windows 7 Embedded over some other options available to CE manufacturers and Windows 7 MC definitely has the polish already built in that would be very attractive to them as well.  The negatives we might see as consumers – or more likely enthusiasts might be crippled features, less flexibility etc compared to the full-fledged HTPC implementation.  But for the masses, a well implemented CE device could be the perfect thing to bring Media Center into the eyes of the not-so-technical public.  The success or failure of this concept will likely be a result of which manufacturers buy in to the concept.  Time will tell.

via Microsoft Blog

More on the Microsoft Embedded Project

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kindle Update Coming: Collections, PDF Pan/Zoom, New Fonts, Facebook & Twitter

Kindle on the bookshelf

A post on the Mobileread forums pointed me to an Amazon announcement posted today about a new firmware (software) update for the Kindle and Kindle DX.  Based on the announcement, the update will go to a select group of beta testers first, and then move out to all Kindle users by late May 2010.

New Firmware Features Include:

  • Collections: Organize your books and documents into one or more collections.  Sounds like some sort of “tag” implementation to me although it could be a way to sort your books and other materials by folder – something users have asked for repeatedly.
  • PDF Pan and Zoom: Zoom into PDFs and pan around to easily view small print and detailed tables or graphics.  - This will be a nice addition.  PDF viewing on the Kindle before this was less than ideal.
  • Password Protection: Password protect your Kindle when you're not using it – I’m not sure how many have asked for this one, but I guess some will find it useful.
  • More Fonts & Improved Clarity: Enjoy two new larger font sizes and sharper fonts for an even more comfortable reading experience – A welcome addition.  The more fonts and size options the better.
  • Facebook & Twitter Posts: Share book passages with friends on Facebook and Twitter directly from your Kindle. – I’m not so sure how many Kindle owners will use this, but hey, why not.
  • Popular Highlights: See what the Kindle community thinks are the most interesting passages in the books you're reading – This one sounds interesting.  I’ll have to try it out to know if its useful or not though.

The official Amazon announcement is at  I’m hoping we’ll see a price reduction as the next big news item from Amazon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Make Your Own DVR, Movie, and Music Server – HTPC Basics

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or two, you probably already know what a DVR can do.  And you very likely have seen and possibly even used a TiVo – a powerful and easy-to-use DVR.  But have you ever considered making your own DVR – one that runs from your home computer?  Many who read GeekTonic have done just that. 

But countless others have either considered it too much work, too difficult, too expensive, too geeky or some other excuse.  If you’re one of those who hasn’t tried transforming their computer into a DVR or one who has tried unsuccessfully, this primer is for you.  And if you are already the proud owner of your very own HTPC, you’ll still learn from this series.  This is the first of a article series with the goal of helping you understand the pros and cons of Home Theater PCs (HTPCs), how to build an HTPC, which software and hardware to use in your HTPC and the amazing things you can do with your HTPC.

An example of a nice UI for a HTPC Movie Server

What is a HTPC?

A Home Theater PC or HTPC for short is a “appliance” that takes a computer, adds software all with video & music playback and usually video recording capabilities to make a device many call a “Media Center.”  Think of it as a home theater super-set-to-box that combines everything media-related into your computer to power your TV and audio system.  The HTPC can be controlled with a keyboard and/or mouse, but typically a remote control is added to give the user that “10-foot user interface” so you can control everything on your TV and audio system from the comfort of your couch.  In it’s full-implementation, the HTPC acts as the DVR, DVD player, Blu-Ray player, Movie-on-demand, Online Video display, music jukebox, TV Guide, internet radio player, and home automation controller all in one device.

In more complex setups, one HTPC “server” can power multiple TVs throughout a home all with once point of recording & storage, but controlled from the remote control at each TV set.

Why HTPCs?

I remember when I first began piecing together my first HTPC.  My family and friends didn’t understand why.  Those who haven’t witnessed a well implemented HTPC setup often ask these questions:  Why would anyone put a computer in the living room?  Why would you go to so much trouble to set that techno-monstrosity up and maintain it?  Why do you need a computer to do what your $10 per month cable company DVR box can do?

I asked HTPC users this same question on twitter and one of the best answers was this from Jason:

I use an HTPC “to get what I want, where I want, when I want it. Lower recurring costs, media aggregator, commercial skip, whole home dvr”

The answers to those questions depend on the person asking of course.  But here are a few of the many reasons you might consider an HTPC for your setup:

  • HTPCs give you more control over your media
  • Record as many channels as you want.  I have six tuners in my setup although I’ve seen many more in other HTPCs.
  • Store as much TV content as you can afford to store with hard drives.  2 Terabytes or more of TV recording storage isn’t uncommon with HTPC users
  • You can convert and move media content to other devices.  Converting recorded TVs and movies to other formats is easy with HTPCs as the content is usually not locked down inside that “black box.”  Moving or copying content onto your mobile devices is typically not a problem and definitely much easier than with a DVR or other non-HTPC device.
  • Whole home DVR, music & movie server – watch a show in one room, move to another room and resume that same show where you left off!
  • Rip your DVD, Blu-Ray, and music collections for easy access from your remote in any room of the house
  • Cheap or better yet, free DVR
  • Instant Commercial Skipping with the press of a button – not just 30 second skip, but real commercial detection so you can click a button on the remote to skip to the end of the commercial.
  • Easy Access to Online video content on your TV.  Get your TV and movie content streamed from online sites to your TV.  And I”m not talking about that cheesy, “online” functionality built into those new TVs & Blu-Ray players either.  Real, online media browsing and viewing all inside the same user interface controlled with the same TV remote control you use to watch TV.

TiVo Premiere

  • No monthly fee for the Tivo service or DVR rental.  Obviously you can take this as far as you want to – some go without cable or satellite service completely and get their content over the air and from online sources so these folks have no monthly fees.  Others like me subscribe to cable, but not to DVR rentals so we’re reducing our monthly fees.
  • A PC connected to the TV can bring you additional functionality.  Gaming – even old school games using MAME, online video, web browsing etc.

There are countless other reasons to build and use a home theater PC.  Let me know in the comments if I missed any big ones.


Challenges for HTPCs

Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons you might want to implement a HTPC for your home media setup, it’s a good time to discuss the other side of the coin.  There are many challenges to building, setting up and maintaining your own HTPC including:


  • Trying to do too much.  The more you multi-task with your HTPC, the more likely you are to have issues.  Treat it like an appliance and you’ll be happier with it long-term
  • Computers have many possible points of failure.  The operating system annoyances & crashes, hard drives crashes, video card difficulties, overheating etc etc.
  • Getting things set up can be difficult and time consuming.  Depending on your experience with computers the setup process can be difficult and overwhelming at times.  There is simply a lot to learn when you build your first (or even second) HTPC.  We’re not talking plug-it-in and play here.
  • Recording cable & satellite content is getting more difficult, not less.  Cable companies are beginning to move channels away from the open, analog and towards the more closed digital.  And satellite company boxes are even more difficult to record from.  There are solutions for HTPCs here, but you need to do your homework so you know what you’ll be dealing with.  This topic will take at least an entire article to cover it properly.  Just know you can’t always plug your CATV cable into any PC TV tuner and always expect it to begin recording.  Sometimes it IS that easy, but better to know what your situation is first.
  • Have you ever jumped into the world of codecs and videocard drivers?  It can get messy very, very quick if you’re not careful.  It is NOT rocket science, but it can seem that way if you aren’t careful.  I’ll go into the basics in this area in a later article also
  • That TiVo or DVR or Fios or whatever is pretty darn easy – and sometimes it does enough for your situation.  Even if it’s not quite as powerful as an HTPC, sometimes its good enough for you.

There are definitely more challenges – let me know if I missed any of the big ones.

Up to the Challenge?  How Do I Get Started Setting Up My Own HTPC?

You now know the main pros and cons of HTPCs.  If you’re still curious and think you might want to get started with HTPCs stay tuned.  Here’s a taste of what will be covered in the next few HTPC Basics articles on GeekTonic:

  • Which Operating System for HTPCs?
  • What HTPC software?  How do I choose?
  • Recording it All – How do you record from OTA, Cable, Satellite etc?  Which Tuner?
  • Getting it to the TV – Extenders, Game Systems, HTPC computers oh my!
  • Building the perfect HTPC/Server HTPC/Extender etc
  • Control via Remote Control – Which Remote Control
  • Where to go for help

My goal here is to provide the framework to help those who decide they wish to power their media throughout the home with the HTPC.  After completing this series, you should have the basics to set up and run your own HTPC and how to make it work perfectly for you.

More Coming Soon…

Stay tuned to GeekTonic.  This series will walk you through everything you need to consider and do to make the perfect HTPC for your home.

Windows Home Server Vail Arrives to Public

The latest version of the popular, Windows Home Server by Microsoft named “Vail” was unveiled today to the public.  We Got Served has several nice writeups to learn all about the new features and see a walkthrough of Vail.

Feature-wise I wasn’t shocked, but definitely dissapointed that Microsoft again left out Media Center functionality.  Here’s what WeGotServed had to say about this omission:

Let’s get one big elephant out of the way to kick off. Despite a lot of community requests, (and I know there’s been a lot of discussion within Microsoft regarding this) Windows Media Center has not been integrated into Vail. At this point, there is no in-box TV tuner support and TV guide service other than you’d expect to find in the underlying Windows Server 2008 R2 platform.

This continues to be a head-scratcher for me.  Seems like an obvious thing Microsoft could add to WHS and add value to MediaCenter at the same time.  But again they left SageTV as the only HTPC software that had a true-WHS/HTPC solution for Windows Home Server users.

The new features include:

  • Windows Home Server Dashboard  which is basically a new UI for the old Windows Home Server Console with mostly the same functionality.
  • Launchpad – a new, quick-access functionality that is very Windows 7-like giving you quick access to backups, remote access, shared folders etc.
  • Alert Viewer – A way to view alerts on all PCs in the system.
  • DLNA Compliant Media Streaming – A great addition to WHS is DLNA-compliant functionality for streaming your media.
  • Homegroups functionality – think Windows 7 homegroups here.
  • Add-in installation improvements
  • New SDK with improved add-ins

The beta is now available for download.  Sign up & get your beta download here:


Check out We Got Served for a great overview of all things WHS Vail:

What’s New in Windows Home Server Vail?

Preview/Walk-Through of WHS Vail

The official announcement is at the Windows Home Server Team Blog 

Let me know what you think about the new featureset in Vail – is the HTPC omission a big deal?  Anything you’re excited or disappointed about with Vail?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 04/25/2010

Each week GeekTonic covers the TV scene with a complete listing of premieres, finales and specials for the week.  This week brings us a few more premieres & returns as well as a few finales.

Happy Town

                 The new ABC Drama, “Happy Town” arrives Wednesday


NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST – TV schedules subject to change


Sunday, April 25

Ray Johnston Band: Road Diaries (8pm on HDNet – HD) New series

America the Story of Us (9pm on History – HD) – New series

Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking (9pm on Discovery – HD) – new series

River Monsters (9pm on Animal Planet – HD) – Season 2 premiere

When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story (9pm on CBS – HD) – a documentary/drama with Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper star as the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

8th Annual TV Land Awards (9pm on TV Land) – Shows such as Bosom Buddies, The Love Boat, Glee and others are highlighted.

Girl Meets Gown (10pm on WE) New series


Monday, April 26

Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern (10pm on Travel – HD) – Season 5 premiere

Runaway Squad (10pm on A&E – HD) – Series finale

Tuesday, April 27

Food Party (10pm on IFC) – Season 2 premiere

The Hills (10pm on MTV) – Season 7 premiere

Dinner With the Band (10:30pm on IFC) – New series

The City (10:30pm on MTV) – Season 2 premiere

Wednesday, April 28

High Society (9:30pm on CW – HD) – Season finale

Sunset Daze (10pm on WE) – new series

Happy Town (10:01pm on ABC – HD) – new drama series with Lauren German & Sam Neill starring.  The story is set in a small, Minnesota town that experienced its first crime in seven years with a murder.

Thursday, April 29


Friday, April 30

Who Do You Think You Are? (8 pm on NBC) – Season 1 finale

Bill Moyers Journal (8 pm on PBS) – A special, 90-minute episode marks the final episode of this long-running series.

I Shouldn’t Be Alive (9 pm on Animal Planet – HD) – Season 3 finale

The Life & Times of Tim (9:30 pm on HBO – HD) – Season 2 finale


Saturday, May 1

When I Was 17 (11 am on MTV) - New series

10 on Top (11 am on MTV) – New series


Sunday, May 2

Cold Case (9pm on CBS – HD) – Season finale


If you follow GeekTonic for the TV Premieres and news, you’ll want to click here if you would like to get a regular e-mail for GeekTonic TV Premieres & News