Friday, August 13, 2010

Enable More than 4 CableCard Tuners with Microsoft MediaCenter

One of the really silly restrictions Microsoft put on MediaCenter users is the limits on the number of tuners they are allowed to use.  Well today it appears there is a way to get around that 4-CableCard Tuner limit:


Method #1:  MissingRemote tells us about TunerSalad an app that circumvents that restriction with ease.


Method #2: BigScreenEPG has had this capability for a while now and since the cat is out of the bag on getting around that restriction they decided to let everyone know how.  Read more about the BigScreenEPG method here


So there you have it.  Go ahead and ignore the dumb 4-CableCard restriction on Windows 7 MediaCenter and record as much cable TV as you can stand!

Deal of the Day – Kill A Watt $14

P3 International P4400 Kill A WATT Electricity Load Meter and Monitor

Newegg has the Kill A Watt P4400 Electricity Usage Monitor on sale today.

I have one of these Kill A Watt’s and use it to determine how much electricity each of my HTPC and other gadgets are using.  It’s cheap and worth every penny.  This helped push me towards weaning myself off of full-blown HTPC’s at the TV and use more efficient extenders instead.

Note: You may need to subscribe to their newsletter for the coupon to work

Kill A WATT P4400 Meter/Monitor$15.14 (17 less $3 coupon plus $1.14 tax) Use Coupon Code= EMCYWZP45

This same device cost $19 at Amazon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

AppleTV Rumors – iTV and 720P?


Engadget has a rumor post up today (I’ll consider it a rumor until official) about the much talked about new version of AppleTV expected this Fall.

Good News:

  • The new version of AppleTV seems to be more and more likely.
  • Supposedly will be priced at $99 which isn’t too bad of a price
  • There would likely be an App store in this scenario since it will basically be a little, iPhone 4 without the phone or screen…

Bad News:

  • The insides supposedly will be iPhone 4 like:  A4 CPU, 16GB of flash storage
  • Supposedly can only handle up to 720p video – not 1080i or 1080p video!  I personally can’t believe they would do this but that’s what Engadget is saying.
  • Apple will be officially changing the name of the device to iTV…

Take this information with a grain of salt.  It’s just a leak and we never know about these things for sure until Apple tells us.  I personally can’t believe they would try to pull this one off as the new AppleTV, but I guess you never know…

Check out the story at Engadget

SageTV 7 – Another Day Another Beta Version 7.0.15

The pace for beta updates from SageTV has definitely picked up in the last few weeks.  Today brings yet another beta update to the SageTV 7 HTPC software – for Windows, WHS & Linux versions.  This update (7.0.15) includes a bunch of bug fixes and some new features.

The list of changes/updates includes:

  • Added server based property "seeker/num_recent_watches_to_keep" which defaults to 2 and controls how many recently watched shows are protected from deletion. This has always been there; but now the setting is configurable in the properties file.
  • Added Italy-Genova DVB-T frequency
  • Allowed use of Watched command to set/clear Watched status for DVDs & BDs.
  • A long list of bug fixes (see full changelog for this list)
  • Updates to the hidden extras including Malore Menus

If you’re participating in the SageTV Beta, head over to the SageTV Forums for more information and the downloads.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ceton Quad CableCard Tuner Arrives – First Hands Reports Begin

It’s here.  The quad-CableCard tuner from Ceton began shipping out to those who pre-ordered and the first few hands-on reports are trickling out.

Ceton Tuner

For those who aren’t familar with this Ceton tuner here’s a quick review.  Ceton has been talking about producing & selling a CableCard tuner for a very long time – so long some called it vaporware.  After a long process they were set to have their CableCard device ready, they ran into manufacturing issues which continue to slow shipment for some of the pre-orders.

This particular Ceton tuner is unique for the following reasons:

  • There aren’t a lot of choices at the moment for CableCard tuners.  So anytime we see a company willing to devote nearly all of their resources to it we have to give them credit.
  • This first version of the Ceton CableCard is a 4-CableCard tuner.  Yes you can record up to 4 shows all from this once device – including encrypted, digital HD shows on your Cable TV.
  • CableCard has drawn a renewed interest from HTPC owners – particularly Microsoft MediaCenter users since Microsoft ended the OEM PC CableCard requirement.

This tuner will cost you $400 so it isn’t cheap by any means, but it does seem to be a good piece of hardware.  Here’s the first few reports:

theDigitalMediaZone had a review mid-July and their praise was strong:

“When it comes to whether or not I would recommend the card, the answer is absolutely: yes! If you can afford the $399 price tag then you absolutely owe it to yourself, and the other people living in your house, to put this card into your home theater PC.”

MissingRemote has the first of a planned 3-part review of the Ceton 4-CableCard tuner.  This review was strikingly detailed especially considering it is only the first of 3 parts.  Be sure and check out the forum thread that goes along with the article as there is a lot of good information there as well.  From the review:

“Fast channel changing. Typically in the 2-3 second range but when all four tuners were in use channel changing would take a little longer, up to 5 seconds. Still much better than any other tuner in the system, including the Comcast set top box.”

Windows Team Blog from the official Microsoft angle.  The summation of this review can be determined from the not-so-subtle article title: “New Ceton Digital Cable Tuners Make TV in Windows 7 Awesome”

EngadgetHD had a review at the end of March with a pre-production version of the Ceton Card.  Definitely detailed and thorough review as always by Ben Drawbaugh

GreenButton has some useful information along with the normal forum thread noise.  Not really a review, but some firsthand reports in there along with some good info.

If you happen to be the lucky owner of a new Ceton CableCard let us know in the comments how its going.

For more information about the Ceton Tuner head to CetonCorp’s Website


Other Ceton Coverage:

Installing the Ceton Quad-CableCard Tuner – Video
Ceton Multistream CableCard Tuner Details from CES

Monday, August 09, 2010

Weekly List of HD Sports – at Digital Media Zone

For the past several years I’ve diligently shared with GeekTonic readers the list of upcoming TV premieres, finales and specials.  And along with that I tell you which shows are available in HD too.  But one thing I just haven’t kept up with on those weekly lists is the sporting events.  This troubles me a little because I really like sports – especially in HD or in person.  Today I wanted to point those of you who care about sports on your HD TV set in the right direction.

I do throw in a significant game or two on my weekly TV list, but I wanted to share with you my go-to site for those times when you want more info on sports TV.  Each week Phil Lozen of the Digital Media Zone shares with us the sports on TV for the week including their HD goodness.  If you’re a sports fan, consider adding this to your TV to watch reading list:

HD Sportsman at Digital Media Zone

SageTV Basics – Custom Themes

Since SageTV 7 was released to beta this year there have been several custom themes created to change the look of your SageTV user interface.  Today we’ll take a look at each of the currently available themes and run through the basic steps for installing custom themes.

Themes versus UI Replacements

Before we get started I wanted to review the difference between a custom theme and a full UI replacement:

Full UI Replacement and/or Add-on = Thes not only change the backgrounds and icons, but also change the way the user interface works and even modifies the layout.  We’ll take a look at these in a future article.

Custom Theme = A theme changes to appearance of the user interface.  This can involve different backgrounds, different fonts, icons etc.  The menus still work the same way and the layout remains the same.  This is our focus today.


Themes Available to SageTV 7 Today:

In this article I’ll only show a few screen-shots to give you an idea of the theme.  I’ll do a more in-depth look at each theme individually with screen-shot and demo videos in a later article.

Standard SageTV 7 Theme

This isn’t really a custom theme.  It’s the theme that comes bundled with SageTV7 and is what you see when you install SageTV 7.  Keep in mind though that the standard UI could change a bit in SageTV 7 once it is released from beta.

SageTV 7 Standard Theme



This theme is my favorite of the bunch and the one I use most of the time.  The backgrounds are easy on the eyes, the highlight showing the focus of the menu is a bolder orange that makes it easy to see where you are in the guide or menu (a feature MrsGeekTonic really likes).

SageTV Theme Serenity 1

Serenity Theme Forum Thread


Opaque Panel Theme

This theme basically takes the standard SageTV theme and makes the panel backgrounds opaque.  Not a big difference, but some users found the new semi-transparent panel backgrounds hard on the eyes so this plugin was developed to address those requests.

Opaque Panel Theme Forum Thread



MBDiamond Theme Forum Thread


BlueTwo Grey

This one was just added to SageTV 7 this week and will be familiar to many long-time HTPC users.  BlueTwo has been around older versions of SageTV, XBMC, Media Portal and others.  This is a version updated for SageTV 7.

BlueTwo Grey 1

BlueTwo Grey Theme Forum Thread


Plucky’s Theme

This theme goes along with Plucky's Menu Mod plugin (more than just a theme) which does the following:

1. Modifies the main menu to a horizontal orientation
2. Adds the ability to remove items from the main menu which you do not use.
3. Adds the ability to rename any main menu items to a name of your liking.
4. The bar can be moved to the top,middle or bottom of the screen.

Here’s a video showing it in action:

Plucky’s Menu Mod Plugin & Theme Thread


How to Install New Theme:

The steps to download & install a new theme are fairly easy.

1. Go to the Setup>SageTV Plugins>All Available Plugins> page

2. Select “Theme” from the Plugins menu

3. All available themes will be listed like you see in the screen-shot below.

SageTV Theme Install 5

When you select any of the available themes, you’ll have the option to view plugin details including version history and you can also view any screenshots the plugin developer provided – right from the UI.

SageTV Theme Install 6

4. Select the theme you want to install by pressing the enter key on your remote control.  It will download from the server & then ask you if you want to load the new theme – select yes if you want the theme to load and replace the theme you have been using.

SageTV Theme Install 3

5. The status bar will indicate that the new theme is loading

SageTV Theme Install 4

6. Once the new theme is installed (should take a less than a minute) you’ll see the changes to the background, icons etc.

That’s it.  Pretty easy!

How to Change The Theme After Installing

Lets say you have several themes installed already in SageTV and you want to switch to a different installed theme.  Here’s how you do this:

1.  From the SageTV Main Menu go to Setup>Detailed Setup>Advanced>Select the User Interface Theme>

SageTV Theme Install 1

2.  You’ll see a screen like the one below:

SageTV Theme Install 2

3. Select the theme from the list (this will only show themes you’ve downloaded & installed from the Plugin Menu.

That’s it.  Again pretty simple.

Uninstalling or Updating a Theme

If you want to upgrade a theme that has been updated or uninstall a theme, head back to the Plugin Menu at: Setup>SageTV Plugins>Installed Plugins> page.  Here you can update or uninstall any of your themes.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

SageTV 7 Beta Update

A day or so after updating SageTV to the 7.0.12 beta version, the SageTV team dropped another update.  This one is a super-tiny update, but in important one to fix two issues caused by version 13 (Guess it was just an unlucky one):

Here’s the changes:

  • Fixed regression issue on Windows where QAM tuning didn't work right on Windows 7/Vista
  • Fixed regression issue where SageTV would crash doing an ATSC EPG data scan in Linux

Get the new beta download here if you were affected by either of those issues

N PVR Updates to 1.5.28 Beta

Do you use N-PVR, the next generation of the popular freeware HTPC software formerly known as GBPVR?  There have been several, important updates since June.

The latest beta is 1.5.28 and is available for download with many bug fixes and improvements. 

Here is a sampling of the new features & fixes:

  • Added basic FM radio support. You can manual add FM stations in the analog capture source settings.
  • Added initial Client/Server support.
  • Added a workaround to give more accurate skipping when playing .ts recordings (for comskip users etc). New recordings on NTFS drives are those that will benefit from these improvements.
  • Fixed a problem with the @hasMetadata/@hasImage in library screens
  • Fixed an issue with video library not always showing preview image when metadata
  • Added support for media\shows\*.xml
  • Added support for directory based 'movie.nfo' file

Check out the full changelog & get the download at N-PVR’s Forum Page

TV Premieres, Finales & Specials This Week 08/08/2010

Each week GeekTonic covers the TV scene with a complete listing of premieres, finales and specials for the week.  We are in that TV wasteland of August where there’s not much in the way of quality airing.  Still, there are several finales and some premieres to so check out the complete list below.


      The season finale of So You Think You Can Dance airs Thursday on ABC

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

Sunday, August 8

The Uprising (8pm on Animal Planet – Available in HD) – A special presentation with this focus:  “Surprising instances of aggression suggest animal species across the globe are becoming more violent toward humans.”

Sunday Night Football Preseason (8pm on NBC – Available in HD) – Yes, football season is arriving.  Bengals versus Cowboys

Hoarding: Buried Alive (10pm on TLC – Available in HD) – Season 2 premiere


Monday, August 9

Bachelor Pad (8pm on ABC – Available in HD) – New reality series taking 20 former Bachelor contestants and putting all of them under one roof.  A show set out to prove that the Bachelor and Bachelorette series have absolutely nothing to do with…. marriage.

Teen Choice 2010 (8pm on Fox – Available in HD) – Annual teen awards show hosted by Katy Perry & some guys from Glee.

El Espiritu de la Salsa (9pm on HBO – Available in HD) – Documentary about average New Yorkers trying to learn salsa dancing

Dating in the Dark (10:01pm on ABC) – Season 2 premiere - reality

Last Comic Standing (9pm on NBC) – Season 7 finale

Wild Nights (9pm on National Geographic) – New reality series exploring the dark in search of rarely seen, nocturnal wildlife alleys and streets.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (10pm on Food – Available in HD) – Season finale


Tuesday, August 10

Pretty Little Liars (8pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season 1 finale

Hell’s Kitchen (8pm on Fox) – Season 7 finale

Flipping Out (9pm on Bravo – Available in HD) – Season 4 premiere for this reality/house flipping series.  My questions is this:  Do people really still flip houses in this economy?

Swords: Life on the Line (9pm on Discovery – Available in HD) – Season 2 premiere.  This reality show follows New England’s high-risk fishermen

Chopped (10pm on Food – Available in HD) – Season 4 finale

Hair Battle Spectacular (10pm on Oxygen) – New reality series hosted by Brooke Burns with extreme hair designers.

The IT Crowd (10:30PM ON IFC) – Season 4 premiere


Wednesday, August 11

Biography: Marisa Tomei (7pm on Biography) – Special on Marisa Tomei

Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the New York Jets (10pm on HBO – Available in HD) Season 6 premiere (thanks to Andres for the tip as I missed this when I first posted)

LA Ink (10pm on TLC – Available in HD) – Season 4 premiere


Thursday, August 12

So You Think You Can Dance (8pm on Fox – Available in HD) – Season 7 finale

American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior (9pm on TLC – Available in HD) – New reality series – spinoff of American Chopper

BBQ Pitmasters (10pm on TLC – Available in HD) – Season 2 premiere

Raising Sextuplets (10pm on WE) – Series finale

Boston Med (10pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season 1 finale

Penn & Teller: Bulls--t (10pm on Showtime – Available in HD) – Season 8 finale

TNA Reaction (11pm on SpikeTV) – The series premiere (this episode was aired in April and picked up as a series shortly after).  A wrestling fan experience/behind-the-scenes show…


Friday, August 13

Wife Swap (8pm on ABC) – Season 6 finale

Den Brother (8pm on Disney – Available in HD) – Made for TV comedy movie on Disney

Cropsey (9pm on Investigation Discovery) – Special presentation

Worlds Deadliest (10pm on National Geographic) – Season 1 finale


Saturday, August 14

 Visa Gymnastics Championships (8pm on NBC – Available in HD)

Doubles Poker Championship (9pm on GSN) – Season premiere


Sunday, August 15

Scoundrels (9pm on ABC – Available in HD) – Season 1 finale

The Next Food Network Star (9pm on Food) – Season 6 finale

Top Shot (10pm on History – Available in HD) – Season finale

The Real L Word (10pm on Showtime – Available in HD) – Season 1 finale


Monday, August 16

Weeds (10pm on Showtime – Available in HD) – Season 6 premiere

The Big C (10:30pm on Showtime – Available in HD) – New comedy/drama series.  Woman (played by Laura Linney) diagnosed with melanoma tries to juggle life's demands.

Hardcore Pawn (10pm on TruTV) – Season premiere

Animal Planet Investigates: Gang Dogs (10pm on Animal Planet – Available in HD) - Special


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.

I have the core of the Fall TV season ready for the periodic Fall TV Season Premiere Guide, but I’ll be waiting until mid-August to publish as the TV networks tend to change their mind about things.