Saturday, July 17, 2010

Boxee Box First Look

Boxee Preview

The Boxee Chief Product Officer, Zach Klein gives a low-fi (they recorded the vid with their iPhone) un-Boxee-ing intro video of the first Boxee/D-Link box in it’s final hardware version. 

My favorite part of the Boxee hardware continues to be the IR/RF remote control with the keyboard on the backside:

Boxee Remote 1

Boxee Remote 2

Check out the video below:

The Boxee Box is slated for arrival in late October or early November and should retail for approximately $200.

Read my thoughts on why the Boxee Box is important

SageTV HD Theater Beta Update v0716-0


The SageTV team has released another new beta firmware update (2nd in a week) for their popular HD Theater (HD200) Player/Extender.  

Changes for the HD200 beta version 20100716-0 include the following:

    1. Fix dvd subpicture decoding
    2. Add experimental dvb subpicture decoding in transport streams (Need server version at least 7.0.12 and reindexing)
    3. Add forcergb option to custom video modes to force rgb colorspace output on hdmi.

More Info at the SageTV Forums

Popbox Arrives – With Early Firmware Issues


The Popbox from Syabas has been one of the more anticipated media players for 2010 and it seems to have arrived a few days ahead of schedule.  Matter of fact Syabas, the company that brings us Popbox says they were “surprised” by the early availability on Amazon.  That brings us to the not-so-positive part of the story:  Many consumers who have the Popbox already have had a pretty tough time with the media player so far. 

What is the Popbox?

Popbox is a $129 media player that builds on the popular enthusiast-centric Popcorn Hour and attempts to make the Popbox a more general-consumer-friendly device.  It has a brand new interface, many online content plugins (no Netflix yet folks), a SDK, 100Mbps bitrate support, 1080p video and an attractive form factor.

Key Facts:

  • Cost: $129
  • Shipment ETA: March 2010
  • Newer UI than current C200
  • Size: 15.9 Oz, 8”x6”x1.25”
  • 1 USB 2.0 on front and 1 USB on back
  • SD Card Slot on back (2GB SD Card included)
  • Video: M1V, M2V, M4V, MP3G1, MPEG2, TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS, AVI, ASF, WMV, MKV, MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4, FLV, F4V
  • Video Output: HDMI (1080p/720p/480p) and Component Y/Pb/Pr
  • Apps: Netflix 2.0, Shoutcast, Revision3, Twitter etc
  • Network: Ethernet 10/100, WiFi 802.11 N/B/G (option), and UPnP

Where can you purchase the Popbox?

Amazon seems to be the go-to place to purchase your PopBox Media Player and they are already shipping them.  Price is $129 with free shipping.

Early Firmware Issues

Now for the bad part.  The first reports – from what I can tell all of those who have received their preorder Popbox already are having major issues so far.

Anyone who has dealt with a new-to-market media player knows that beyond the actual hardware specs inside, the success or failure of a device like this is the firmware/software that runs the thing and the diligence of the company to update and improve that firmware.  Typically there is a private beta where the device is given to testers to report and assist the developers in fixing most problems with the device before it goes out to the general public.  Unfortunately it appears the beta process wasn’t as far along as they had hoped and to make matters tougher, the shipments of the device happened a week before expected.  I expect they will catch up on this and get the necessary firmware updates in place, but it is doing some damage on the PR front – especially since this has been marketed as a end-user type device and not an enthusiast-device like the PopcornHour.

Examples of issues being reported:

  • Turning on the Popbox without a SD card inserted causes lock-up:  “Just hooked unit to my LCD in my office and was met with a screen that says " //Firmware Recovery" Please insert USB Drive.... Just blinking waiting for a USB drive with the firmware.. I checked the website and nothing is available for download... I will call @ 9:00 am to tech support to get the firmware it needs.... A slight bump in the road is all..... Lets hope they can send the firmware I need to recover whatever is wrong. All I did was turn it it.....????????????”.  Hard reset in the front.. Did nothing. The unit is not locked up.. The firmware is corrupted.”
  • Firmware Update Issues: “Not sure what's up.... FW downloaded and rebooted.... the menu came up> and music was selected> now for 5-10 minutes I get "loading". I don't have the many songs on my drive. Tried turn on/off still get "loading" message.”
  • Switching to Invalid Video Mode with no way to reset:  “i changed video mode on accident to something not supported and there's no instructions on a safe mode type or reset.”

Check out the harsh Amazon reviews so far – whether these reviews are totally truthful or not, it’s no doubt quite damaging to future sales


Despite all of the bad examples there is hope.  A few of those with their Popbox have been able to get things working after receiving firmware updates.  If you have purchased a Popbox expect some early issues, but have patience as I expect Syabas will get things working eventually.  That being said it doesn’t seem like this was ready for mass consumption by any means.  The Popbox website has no user forum for troubleshooting so they threw one up on the NetworkMediaTank forums for now.

How to get support

Popbox Website – there is a sparse support page on their website with a quick-start guide, recovery firmware and a few other tidbits.

Phone Support – You can call 888-9-PopBox (888-976-7269) from 9am – Midnight PST to get live support.  Note this is an outsourced (Read: other country) support so your mileage may vary

Email -

Temporary Support Forum at NetworkedMediaTank – This is a good place to post your issues and questions as it appears you’ll get more official help and it’s being moderated to keep out the over-the-top complaining to a minimum.  It’s also a good read if you’re planning to purchase ;)

AVSForum Thread – Lots of information and misinformation in this one, but it’s an entertaining read at least.  There is a host of people complaining about the many issues in here.

Bottom Line

Syabas planned to bring out the Popbox to be an end-user/consumer-centric device and this may well be that device eventually, but they certainly didn’t start out well.  The firmware doesn’t appear to have been ready, support wasn’t prepared to deal with issues and there was no user manual was included – only a quick-start guide.  I expect they will get things in order in the coming week or so – I just hope they recover from the PR damage that seems to have been done already.

If you are at all interested in the Popbox the one place I would go to for a good first-impressions and review of the device is Damian’s Digital Home Blog who writes for MediaSmartServer.  He’s knowledgeable about media players and has his Popbox scheduled to arrive Monday.

Friday, July 16, 2010

SageTV Beta Release 7.0.12 Arrives


SageTV has another beta update to it’s SageTV 7 HTPC software – for Windows & Linux versions.  This update includes a bunch of bug fixes and several new, and notable features.

Changes include:

  • Automatic rotation of JPEG files based on EXIF Info.  Finally, this is the simple update I’ve been waiting for to make the photos section work the way I want it to.  More info:  automatic rotation of JPEG files when displaying them that have their EXIF orientation information specifying that they should be rotated. This works in all rendering modes and client types. This will apply to picture files imported into the library as well as any thumbnail images associated with those picture files. This ONLY affects display and does not actually modify the contents of the file
  • MKV Chapter support!
    • Can add custom images to the "User Images" subfolder under a theme folder to replace some images w/o having to create a new theme.
    • Converted theme system to define all variables & values in instead of in the STV.
    • Most font settings not adjustable in the UI are now themed.
    • Important Note: that any custom themes you are using likely will have issues with this version until the theme developer updates to this newest version.
  • Music Improvements (These are important ones for those wanting to use the music portion of SageTV):
    • Added support for ID3 v2.4 tags
    • Updated playlist importing process so that playlists are always analyzed after all the other importing is done to ensure the files exist in the database.
    • Updated playlist importing so that playlists that have missing elements are still imported; but the missing elements in them are just ignored.
  • Absolute minimum font size can be set
  • PGS (Blu-ray) subtitles in MKV (only playback on HD extenders)
  • Workaround for ATI driver bug in 4xxx series GPUs w/ EVR
  • ZLIB data compression on the placeshifter UI channel
  • Unlimited video buffering in placeshifter client
  • Lockout of setup menus using parental controls feature

Head to the SageTV forums for the full changelog and to download.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SageTV HD Theater Beta Update


The SageTV team has released a new beta firmware updates for their popular HD Theater (HD200) Player/Extender.  Nothing Earth-shattering, but a few nice improvements/updates were included. 

Changes for the HD200 beta version 20100712-0 include the following:

  • Improve dts passthrough in mkv with slightly bad multiplexing.
  • Add pgs subtitle support in mkv
  • Fix connection to server issue that could cause hang or restart.
  • Use new output mode settings.
  • Update output resolutions code (fix issues from unannounced 20100709-0 firmware)
  • Added current online video version number to System Information screen for standalone/media-player mode

More Info at the SageTV Forums

TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 07/12/2010

Each week GeekTonic covers the TV scene with a complete listing of premieres, finales and specials for the week.  Notables include The Closer, Covert Affairs, and Psych.  Check out the complete list of new premieres and finales below.

 Covert Affairs

The promising new USA series, Covert Affairs Premieres Tuesday

Monday, July 12, 2010

Samantha Brown’s Asia (8pm on Travel – Available in HD) – A new travel series with Samantha Brown taking us to different places in Asia

Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated (8pm on Cartoon Network) – A new, animated Scooby Doo series

Chasing Justice with Dan Abrams (8:30pm on ID – Available in HD) – new newsmagazine series

The Closer (9pm on TNT – Available in HD) – Season 6 premiere

Rizzoli & Isles (10pm on TNT – Available in HD) – A new crime drama on TNT

The Human Journey (11pm on Travel – Available in HD) – A new travel series


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

White Collar (9pm on USA – Available in HD) – Season 2 premiere of the entertaining buddy/crime drama on USA

World’s Wackiest Game Shows (10pm on Travel – Available in HD) – A new reality series with a focus on some unusual game shows in different parts of the world.

Covert Affairs (10pm on USA – Available in HD) – The latest of the USA network’s drama series.  The concept of this one pits a CIA trainee taken from school and thrust into the inner sanctum of the agency.  Starring Piper Perabo, Peter Gallagher and Christopher Gorham

Pros vs. Joes (10pm on SpikeTV) – Season 5 premiere of the realityTV series where current NFL players take on the NBA Pros.


Wednesday, July 14 2010

The Espys (9pm on ESPN – Available in HD) The annual ESPN awards show with Seth Meyers hosting

Psych (10pm on USA – Available in HD) – Season 5 premieres with an episode titled Romeo and Juliet and Juliet.

Chasing Mummies (10pm on History – Available in HD) – A new archaeologically-based docu-reality series on History Channel.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (10pm on SyFy – Available in HD) – New paranormal realityTV series

Family Renovation (10pm on DIY) – A new home renovation series for DIY

The Green Room With Paul Provenza (10:30pm on Showtime – Available in HD) – series finale


Friday, July 16, 2010

Mary Knows Best (9pm on SyFy – Available in HD) – A new realityTV/paranormal series on SyFy. Show synopsis goes this way: “Mary Occhino, a renowned psychic/author/radio host decides to open her new store”

Celebrity Ghost Stories (9pm on Biography – Available in HD) – Biography takes a moment to share the paranormal experiences of celebrities.  Why I can’t explain…

DC Cupcakes (10pm on TLC – Available in HD) – A new cooking/realilty show on TLC

Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors (10pm on MTV2) – New sports/wrestling series


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Renovation Nightmares Caught on Tape (9pm on DIY) – New reality series

My Ghost Story (10pm on Biography – Available in HD) – A new reality docu-series


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Earth Wonders (8pm on Travel – Available in HD) – New travel series.  First episode starts with Niagara Falls, Africa's Ngorongoro crater, Redwoods National Park, Iceland's glaciers and Bora Bora


Monday, July 19, 2010

Fabulous Cakes (10pm on TLC – Available in HD) – A new cooking/reality show.  This first episode starts with 3 bakeries in Las Vegas

True Beauty (10:02pm on ABC) – Season finale


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