Archives For HTPC

EngadgetHD has the latest scoop on SiliconDust’s upcoming networked CableCARD device along with a shot of the prototype. Ben Drawbaugh reports that this HDHomeRun will actually contain three CableCARD tuners  – one more than previously reported. The other interesting news is that SiliconDust hopes to have the device ready for the holidays as long as CableLabs certification happens in a timely fashion. The beta signup period has come and gone, so SiliconDust should be shortly notifying the handful of beta testers they’ve chosen.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.

Microsoft pulled surprises out if its giant hat last 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 non-announcement, we’ll focus on the positive, embedded PC concept.

Many 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.

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The latest version of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server, dubbed “Vail”, was unveiled as a public beta. We Got Served has several nice write-ups going over the new features and providing walkthrough. Feature-wise I’m not 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. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the more interesting HTPC solutions, the SilicondDust HDHomeRun CableCard device is now accepting signups for their beta  according to their forums:

The beta is moving ahead as planned… beta signup now online!

As mentioned earlier this year, SiliconDust’s HDHR CableCard device is interesting because it appears to be coming in a USB version AND a networked version. The networked version should work much like the current HDHomeRun QAM tuners — meaning it will require no open “port” on your computer.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.

Windows Media Center is a 10-foot interface for a PC that lets you control your music, movies, photos, and other media from the comfort of your couch — provided your PC is plugged into your TV and you have a Media Center remote control. But here’s a little secret: Windows 7 Home Premium and Ultimate both come with Windows Media Center functionality baked in, whether you plug in a remote, TV tuner, or HDTV or not. And if you don’t feel like investing in extra hardware to take full advantage of Windows Media Center, you can just use your Windows Mobile phone or PDA like a remote control.

xda-developers forum member oishiiunko whipped up an application for Windows Mobile 6.0 and up that lets you navigate menus, control media playback, and control the volume using your phone. The app is called Windows Media Center Mobile Remote Control, and what it lacks in creative naming is makes up for in simple functionality. You can play and pause media, hit the next or previous buttons, and there’s a position seek feature as well.

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ZNF pal Ben Drawbaugh has taken Ceton’s pre-release InfiniTV 4 ($399) for a spin on FiOS. And comes away pleased with its performance:

The InfiniTV 4 works exactly like you’d expect; you pop open the case and drop it into a free PCI-E 1x (or higher) slot, load a simple driver, call your cable company and ask them to bring a multi-stream CableCARD and connect the coax cable. What it really comes down to is that we love the InfiniTV 4. It works as advertised and really makes Windows 7 Media Center the best DVR there is (for cable subscribers).

Many in our geeky TV demographic have been following this card for some time. The first that let’s you simultaneously tune 4 streams of digital cable via Windows Media Center. Ceton’s price of entry requires commitment, and the lack of new extenders on the market worries me. But this appears to be a solid solution. One you could probably build for not much more than a new TiVo Premiere ($300) with Lifetime service ($400).

As for me, I’m not sure what comes next… I’m really digging Moxi, especially the multi-room streaming via extenders. Yet, the sometimes cluttered, inconsistent UI and lack of VOD (Netflix or Amazon) gives me pause. The new TiVo Premiere, while packing a serious hardware punch, isn’t much different from my Series3 and HD in terms of functionality. Which remain locked down by the CCI Byte. Cox’s steampunk DVR is, of course, out of the question. So, there could very well be a Ceton solution in my future. Especially if some of the Broadband Plan suggestions come to pass, allowing SageTV to tap (legitimately, hack-free) into a CableCARD without pricey certification. After all, they’ve got the extenders.

As we continue to sort out the future of web-sourced content, as delivered to our televisions, Hillcrest Labs has released the free Kylo browser (Windows, OS X). Similar to software offered by GlideTV and Zeevee’s Zinc, Kylo is a custom Mozilla app designed for couch-based content consumption. Assuming you have a computer connected to your television. Hillcrest, best known for motion remote control technology and now bankrolled by UEI, hopes you’ll consider their Loop in-air mouse ($99) to work the interface. Although iPhone owners are probably better served by Mobile Air Mouse Pro ($2, iTunes). And with TiVo, Roku, a bazillion connected Blu-ray players, the upcoming Boxee box, etc the number of folks resorting to PCs at their TVs will remain small.

After a number of schedule adjustments and device redesigns, Ceton’s feeling pretty dang confident they’ll finally ship their first CableCARD PC tuner by May 31st. In fact, they’re now taking pre-orders of the $399 quad tuning, low profile PCI express card — rebranded as the InfiniTV 4. Not to be confused with Xfinity. Or Eyefinity.

I’ve had a few PC requirement questions come my way, and Ceton’s put a page up that sheds some light on the situation. Although, we’ll probably have to wait for some real world usage to get a better sense of what it takes to simultaneously record 4 HD streams of digital cable. And Ceton’s been in touch regarding a review unit.

However, Ben Drawbaugh (EngadgetHD) is probably better equipped to pull together a comprehensive analysis of a loaner card (already on hand). As I’m not prepared to invest the cash assembling a hardware solution until Microsoft, or partners, put out some new extenders. Not only for whole home DVR usage, but as assurance that the Windows Media Center platform hasn’t been abandoned by MS. It’s been awfully quiet…