Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Announcing MCDU – The Media Center Decoder Utility (replaces VMCD)

For Vista, TV Pack and Windows 7

Download  at http://www.whittakermoore.com/mcdu.exe


A couple of big new features.

  1. Take Ownership: To work round the issues with codecs being secure in Windows 7 and in some versions of Vista with TV Pack installed this option will take ownership of the default codec files and rename them to a .mcdu.bak file if you choose a non-standard codec If you then choose to go back to the standard decoders the utility will rename them back..


  1. Show decoders not named video or audio. By default MCDU will show all codecs that have Video Decoder or Audio Decoder in the title – even if they are not marked as Media Center decoders. By checking this option al other decoders will be included. Use at your own risk.


If you are running Windows 7 Take Ownership will be checked at start up.

image image


And finally the holy grail…. FFDSHOW being used for live tv in 7 Media Center. To get FFDShow to recognise Live TV you will need to enable the MPEG in AVI option.


Download  at http://www.whittakermoore.com/mcdu.exe

32 bit decoders have been tested. Its been coded to work with 64 bit but I’ve not been able to test it and I am not aware of any working 64 it decoders for TV other than the MS ones

Use at your own risk but I hope you find this useful


p.s. almost forgot for TV Pack users you will now see tow decoders listed for both Video and Audio. This is because the TV Pack allows for a fallback decoder for formats the main decoder cannot work with.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sites you should know: www.Hack7MC.com

I should call this post sites you should absolutely, totally, emphatically go to if you are running Windows 7 Media Center in any shape or form.

This site is amazing and the sort of blog I would love to write if only my business would let me find the time. The depth and breadth of information on Hacking Windows 7 Media Center is phenomenal. From setting up new menu items, through organising your media collection to play .mkv containers natively the site really covers the ganut and covers it well.

Well written and clear, if technical, how tos, tips and tricks, and a couple of stunning 7MC themes - extremely well worth a visit.

Don't just sit there head on over to www.Hack7mc.com

Tips: If your Vista upgrade install is crashing check your disk isn't dynamic

Title says it all really.  Vista shouldn't be installed to Dynamic disks - in fact Vista Home Premium doesn't even support Dynamic disks.

I got caught by this recently as I was trying to upgrade an XP MediaCenter machine which someone else has originally set up and the upgrade kept failing for no apparent reason in odd ways.

It would get stuck expanding files or completing installation. It was only when out of desperation I went to do a clean install I realised that the XP disk had been formatted as dynamic.

If I hadn't already tried a clean install I could have converted the partition to normal in xp (google converting dynamic partitions). As I had tried a clean install I boooted the install disk and went to recovery mode and choise command prompt. I then used diskpart to clean the parttion...


List Disk

This showed my drive as disk 0

Select Disk 0



Rebooted the install, selected my newly cleaned partition  and hey presto the install goes past the point of crashing - all is well.

Pitfalls of changing a processor

I recently upgraded my main Media Center to a Phenom II x4 940 from an AMD 5000+. Looks like AMD have finally got their act together on the Phenoms and this runs really nicely  (5.9 in Vista) and cooler than the 5000 did.

I did have a couple of real gotchas though. When I first booted up I had an error message from Windows Media Player saying its network sharing service had errored. Then when I ran media center all was fine until I tried to play back recorded tv or view live tv when I just got a crash.

My immediate thought was a problem with the chip or the memory I had installed at the same time so I ran all the diagnostics and found no errors.

Suddenly it dawned DRM - a lot of DRM systems use part of the Chip ID to issue keys. With such a major change in chip this surely would have changed.

Doing some digging I found http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx/kb/918218 

Following the steps in there to reset the DRM store worked and I could play my recorded tv, watch live tv and no longer had a Windows Media Player issue. I did lose the drm license to one piece of content but that was not an issue.

Note if you use iTunes it is also going to think you are have a new PC so you will need to license your content for that PC

Next issue Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra wouldn't play Blu-Ray disks. More to the point it would show the Menu but wouldn't play any selected content. I assume this is DRM again. The only way i could work round this one was to uninstall PowerDVD and reinstall - fortunately I still had my license key.

So a can of worms being eaten by a flock of pigeons but all now sorted and my PC is incredibly responsive so worth all the effort.

Arcsoft Total Media Theatre 3 Platinum First Impressions


Up until recently I have used Cyberlink Power DVD  Ultra as my primary playback software for Blu-Ray/HDDVD. Whilst I have not been impressed with it’s integration into Media Centre it was on my setup way ahead of the competition in terms of stutter free playback.

I have often cast envious eyes at the integration of Arcsoft Total media Theatre (TMT) into Media Center but for a long while I could not get it even to start up in Vista. To be fair this was mainly due to being on the beta programme for Vista SP2 and was resolved in the final release of SP2. What was not resolved was a general level of flakiness in playback on my setup. It used to exhibit very jerky movement and struggled to keep up with playback. Now I have a very good setup, with a Phenom x4 processor and a very reasonable ATI graphic chip set, so it really had no excuse.  Much trawling of websites didn’t offer any solutions with many people pointing to the fact I use an external Blu-Ray drive as a likely cause.

Anyway all that has changed with the release of TMT3. Rock solid playback. No jerkiness at all., excellent sound(with one gotcha of which more later) and a fantastic image. On top of which the integration into Media centre is just excellent. I know it is actually shelling out to an external application but it just doesn’t feel like it is.

My only gripe is that I use an sp-dif output to my speaker system and whilst the volume control in Media Center happily controls this, the one in TMT3 doesn’t. Funnily enough mute does still work.

Ignoring that one gripe though it is a very solid contender for the Cyberlink crown especially as it still supports HDDVD which Cyberlink doesn’t in its recent incarnations.

I would go as far as saying it is now my player of choice.

Note: only the platinum edition supports Blu-Ray/HDDVD and as ever with the costs of licensing the included technologies the price is a little steep but google for discount codes.

Publisher's Site

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Opinion; What the next generation extender really needs...


Ok now I have got your attention time for what our friends stateside like to call an OpEd - an opinionated editorial.

I read a lot of Ian Dixon's post where he talks of the Media Centre as a server hidden away somewhere with extenders delivering content to the TV. It is a very well thought out argument for an effective model of operation.

That Model wouldn't work for me currently. Why not? Well I have a confession - about 70% of the time my Media Centre is not in the 10ft interface. Instead it is browsing the web, conversing in messenger or as I am doing now typing in a blog entry,

I am doing all this on a 37" screen from about 8ft and it is perfectly readable. I will admit I am blessed with good eyesight,  have also tweaked the font sizes up (changing DPI is the way to go)  and occasionally use Zoom in IE7 but it works and is very useful to me.

Others might argue they can do just as well with a laptop, of all places on their lap, and with less eyestrain. It is a fair argument and I do use a laptop for coding or when I want to do private work.

There is the rub the Media Centre is a very public interface people can see what you are doing. I think that is great! All too often we hear people complaining how technology is making us self-centred and anti-social. One of the truly great things about the Media Centre interface is that it is inclusive and social. The same holds true for my use of the web browser etc, People can see what I am doing and join in. It is fantastic for planning things like holidays etc.

Please don't get me wrong I love the 10ft interface for Music, TV and video and it is by far (especially with the enhancements in Windows 7) the nicest way to navigate my media.

I also accept that building a decent quality, quiet Media Centre that can live under a TV is challenging, I've done it  a few times but very challenging, and yes I do have an extender elsewhere in the house as a cheaper, quieter alternative.but it doesn't do everything I want.

It is unfortunate that over the years we have lost Messenger  from the 10ft interface. We have had an attempt at a web browser but it didn't work well for me. So here is my cry. Can someone please build an extender with:

an RF keyboard with a  touchpad (or at least a USB human interface device)

Remote Desktop Protocol built in. With remote desktop I could do all those wonderful things I do on my Media Centre PC now but hmmmm remotely.

That would make me happy and I could follow Ian's advice and put my media Centre away or even use something like a touchsmart. somewhere else in the house to feed my new super extender.

Now for all sorts of cost and licensing issues (not least you can't use Remote Desktop with Home Premium) this is unlikely to happen soon. So I guess I'm stuck with my little media centre under my telly which lets my watch TV, listen to music, show photos, Play blu-ray and HDDVD movies, record tv, watch catch-up and Internet tv and did I mention browse the web, do email and messenger. All in a box smaller than my last video recorder (oops showing my age

Of course WIndows 7 is coming  and that may have some interesting alternatives to using an extender.

P.S. I genuinely don't think that extenders need anymore codecs - transcoding should be done on the fly from any media that the PC can play and the PC should obtain the codecs.It is perfectly feasible to make this a transparent process to the user that they shouldn't need to think about it

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Maplin have RF MCE Keyboard with Built-in touchpad for 30 quid (£29.99) - UPDATE BACK IN STOCK as of 2nd April 2009 but now £49.99

Recently when asked what wireless keyboard I would recommend for Media Center use I have been mentioning the RK-278 MCE Keyboard from Maplin here in the UK. I really like these keyboards they have a good full size keyboard which balances nicely on your lap; a good selection of media center specific keys and most significantly a built-in touchpad. For those of us using Laptops day in day out this is just so much easier to get on with than the joysticks or trackballs that usually inhabit these al in one input devices. So even though they retailed at around 60 quid I thought the extra functionality worthwhile over other cheaper competitors. Now, in time for the holidays, Maplin have dropped the price to just under 30 quid - which is a bargain.

I think this offer is in store only as i can't find the keyboard listed on the website and my local store did not have many left.

They also currently have a rather neat RF based Media Center remote for sub 20 pound as well. CORRECTION: this is actually an infraed remote not RF (I'm sure it said RF on the shelf)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

VMCD 180,000 downloads - wow!

I was rather shocked to find that my Vista Media Center Decoder has just clocked up it's 180,000th download. That is an awful lot of Vista Media Center users tinkering with their codecs. I have no idea how that compares with other VMC tools out there but I'm impressed by the number. Its rather humbling to think of all those people using something I threw together. I just hope it has been useful to those who have downloaded it.

Can I repeat a small plea here: I get a lot of mail from people saying that VMCD is being flagged as being a Trojan by some SpyWare detectors. It is not but it does update the registry which some of the scanners semm to think is trojan-like behaviour. Again I can say the download from my site I have checked and double checked and it is not infected. So here is the plea, if you do get a report that it is a trojan can you report this as a false-positive to your anti-spyware provider. I am quite happy to supply anti-spyware companies with any data they need.



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A quick plea - VMCD.exe

Hi All

I've been getting asked alot recently about the fact some (though certainly not all) virus checkers are reporting that the VMCD.exe download has a Trojan.

I have compiled a clean version of my code (which definitely does not do anything untoward) and it is still being reported as such.

I can only conclude this is a false positive caused by the fact vmcd updates the registry

Can I ask that anyone who gets a trojan report in turn report this back to their antivirus company as a false positive. There is usually a form on the antivirus company's website to do this.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Reminder: How to use decoders that do not show up in the VMCD utility


One of the comments that commonly appears in posts about my VMCD utility is "How do i get X decoder to show up in your utility"

For decoders that are XP Media Center compatible this has been explained in this post:


I am also working on adding some of the more common but non MCE Compatible codecs such as FFDShow - more later on that

Sites you should know: CITA Ten Foot products


A recent post reply to a question by Ian Dixon prompted me to take a look at CITA's Ten Foot package of utilities. This turns out to be a really nice collection of add-ins for both XP and Vista Media Center. They may not be the most cutting edge in terms of user experience design and they do run outside of media center but they really do work.

Quoting from their site:

CITA Ten Foot products currently consist of six modules:

  1. Launcher - allows you to launch any of the Ten Foot products and any other programs you want to run. This is not an MCE add-in. The products will work with any Media Centre - or none at all.
  2. Browser - displays web pages full screen with the ability to zoom in for detail. Designed to be operated with a standard remote, the Browser includes many features designed to minimise data entry. You even get a cursor you can work with your remote.
  3. Mail Reader - tracks all your Email accounts and allows you to read Emails at any time. You can delete Emails you don't need; the rest will still be picked up by your normal mail reader. You can password protect sensitive Email accounts.
  4. BitTorrent client - downloads large files (and collections of files) from the Internet and stores them in the right directory ready for you to use them. For example, you can get films, TV programs and music that are published as BitTorrents. The client integrates with the Ten Foot Browser so clicking a link to a torrent starts the download automatically.
  5. File manager - allows you to work with files and folders. Great for organising your videos and giving your files meaningful names.
  6. Program manager - gives you options for minimising, restoring, maximising and closing windows from your armchair.

You can download them from here.

Well worth a look.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stiil here

Although you may doubt it even further I am still about.

Hopefully sometime soon I will be back posting and am hoing to start with how to get ffdshow working with VMCD.

Before I vanish again a quick tip on tracking down Extender configuration errors. If you get a configuration error when adding a new Extender then take a look in the Media Center section of the event viewer (System Tools) you will probably see an error with an error code a a link for web-help on this error. Rather remarkably this web help can be very helpful at diagnosing the problem.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Haven't vanished - although you might think so

Hi All

Been getting quite a few emails lately checking up on me. So I thought I had better post that I am alive and well. Recently had some turmoil in my personal life which didn't leave me much time to post but I should be back on track shortly.

One thing this has meant is I had to build a new MediaCenter for myself and I'm very pleased to be able to recommend the MSI Media Live barebones kit. I've built one of these with a Energy Saving AMD Dual Core, 4gb of memory and a terrabyte of hard disk array and it sings. Probably the easiest PC build I have ever done. One gotcha though - the heatsink, although magnificently effective and quiet, is a right pain to get on. Trick for this is to take the power supply out as it makes it a lot easier to maneuver. Even with this fiddle the whole build took only 2 hours.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tip: dodgy artwork ? Fix it with AVSoft's Album Art Fixer

Link to product on AVSoft's site 

I had forgotten just how good this product was until I had to reinstall my Media Center last week (yes even 'expert's' have to do reinstalls). It basically scans all your music and prompts you where there are problems like missing artwork or Album Artist entries. It then allows you to fi them in a very easy and intuaitive way.

 Very highly recommended and if you use it and like it can i encourage you to donate.

Sorry no 64bit Vista decoder utility

I've tried valiantly. I've scoured registry dumps that readers have kindly sent in. I've analysed all the relative entries - I've even worked out where a 64 bit version of my decoder utility should post the entries. The only problem is that my current 32 bit app is posting in the right place. Unfortunatley the issue is not in this case getting the entry in the right place its the fact that the decoders themselves are not installing properly for 64 bit operation. This is not easilly worked round if possible at all.

So I'm very sorry to disappoint you 64 bit users - I did try...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Neat Vista Trick: Listening to Radio 5 commentary whilst watching TV (BBC2 Tennis)

One thing that happens quite often in the UK is that sporting events and some concerts are covered simultaneously by TV and Radio.

This has led to quit a common scenario where people will mute their tv and watch the pictures whilst listening to the radio commentary however there is an issue with this since digital tv came in.

Basically DVB-T TV signals require a finite amount of time to process so the image is delayed slightly in appearing. Of course this means that Radio and TV are out of sync which is very annoying at sporting events where you can see what has happened before the commentary catches up.

With media center the obvious thing would be to listen to the freeview DVB-T radio 5 source whilst watching the images from another tuner but unfortunately Media Center doesn't let you do that.

This all came to light for me when the friend I recently built the Media Center for,asked me if she could watch the Wimbledon Tennis coverage whilst listening to the BBC Radio 5 commentary.

At first I couldn't see a solution but then it struck me that Radio 5 has an internet stream on the BBC website and I wondered if she could make use of that.

Well she tried that and yes she could play the internet stream at the same time as watching tv but the stream was now slighly delayed over the tv image. She came up with a brilliant work round for this - Pause the tv until the sound was in sync.

Having got that worked out we still had the issue that she was getting both the radio audio from the web stream and the tv audio from media center.

Now Vista's new sound architecture came to the rescue. Opening the sound mixer in Vista shows independant volume controls for each program playing sound. In this case it was simply a matter of muting the Media Center sound source and hey presto Radio Five commentary on the BBC TV Tennis coverage.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

My GeeXBox project - Back on Ebay

Regretably I've had to relist my GeeXBox project back on Ebay due to non-payment. Its all boxed up and ready to go so if you fancy a bid click here

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tip of the day - Quieten your Hard Disk with Vista ReadyBoost

A lot has been written about the performance advantage of adding a memory card or usb stick to your Vista machine to make use of the ReadyBoost feature but one interesting side effect is that it can also reduce the amount of access needed to your hard disk and appear to make it quieter.

To quote the official Microsoft blurb:

The flash memory device serves as an additional memory cache—that is, memory that the computer can access much more quickly than it can access data on the hard drive. Windows ReadyBoost relies on the intelligent memory management of Windows SuperFetch and can significantly improve system responsiveness.

Now a lot of this data would normally be held on the hard disk and will need reading regularly, this can be the cause of the chuntering you can hear from lots of hard drives. Putting in a high-speed flash device can significantly reduce this. Obviously its not going to make the drive any quieter when it actually has to access data but it certainly has had avery beneficial effect where I have tried it.

Performance and a quieter life - two for the price of one :-)

Edit: I should point out that the cache is still written to disk so if you swap programs a lot it will still need to write out the changes and you will see less benefit in terms of noise. Q: Why does it still write to disk? A: Have you never pulled out a USB key by accident? The system need something to fall back on.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

My GeeXboX HTPC now on ebay

It's now up on ebay CLICK HERE

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Building A Linux Media Extender for your Media Center with GeeXbox

I recently took up a challenge to build a media center PC for a friend. Having scoured Ebay I found what I thought looked like a really nice case for not too much money. It was also a Barebones system coming with DVD, Floppy and Motherboard. The motherboard only supported a Pentium III up to 800mhz but I decided that I could always upgrade this.

When I received it the case lived up to expectations and was pretty small. So small that on opening it up I found my upgrade options were limited. The case comes with a BookPC BKI810 3.3 motherboard (really tiny and would make a great basis for a Car PC) This is a custom BabyATX design based on the Intel 810 chipset and supports Pentium III processors up to 800mhz with a 100mhz front side bus. There are no PCI expansion ports but it does have on-board video (with TV-out), Audio (with SP-Dif out), Ethernet, Modem, COm, Game Port, Printer and USB (1.0) ports.

Whilst this would have run MCE 2005 it wasn't going to cut the mustard for my friends Hi-def vista media center so I went to plan B for that (more on that in a later post). I guess I could have gone with upgrading the BookPC a Pico-ITX Motherboard buy they are a bit too pricey.

All was not lost with this case however, I had been meaning to look into the prospect of building a Media Extender to work with the uPNP capabilities of Windows Media Player 11 in vista.

Note I say Media Extender - not Media center Extender - I wasn't intending to stream Live TV or even watch Recorded TV in native DVRMS format but I already transcode my Recorded TV to WMV files and Media Player 11 can share them via its built in uPNP media server.

uPNP stands for Universal Plug and Play a set of standards for Network devices to talk to each other. Windows Media Player 11 implements what used to be called Windows Media Connect and is a uPNP AV server. Basically this can be contacted by any uPNP AV client to access any Music, Pictures or Video in your Media Player Library.

I added a 800Mhz processor, hetsink, fan, 512mb Ram and a 20Gb hards drive to the motherboard. Checked it all out and it booted to BIOS fine. Got as bit of a shock when my 800mhz procssor was shown as 600mhz but then realised that the processor was 133mhz FSB so on a 100Mhz FSB board it scaled down to 600mhz. Not a problem it should be plenty fast enough for what I wanted.

So all I needed was a uPNP client. I also wanted something that could use the inbuilt DVD player to play audio/dvds.

I decided to keep costs down and experiment with using Linux. I heard of Myth so tried that first. To cut things short I'm not a Linux guru and I struggled with Myth. I first tried KnopMyth which I just couldn't get to play CD's or DVD's. I then found MythDora which was a much more straightforward install and did play CD and DVD but I couldn't work out how to configure it for uPNP - if even that was possible.

I was about to give up on the Linux route when I made a great discovery GeeXBox. This is a Live CD(basically Linux which boots from a CD and doen't need a hard disk) designed for playing Media and it has a uPNP client.

I downloaded the CD image (it comes in .iso format) and burnt it to CD. Put it in the HTPC Dvd Drive booted and, after a few seconds of Linux boot messages) up popped the menu including an open option. Selecting this gave me a uPNP option and selecting this gave me my media center as a uPNP server. I was stuck here for a few seconds as it wouldn't display a list of contents form my Media Center, until I realised, stupidly, that I hadn't gome to my media center pc and allowed the new device to access. (In Vista this is really easy as a toolbox popup appears on the PC as soon as a new device is detected)

Hey presto I had access to all the Music, Photos and Videos on my media center. I choose a Video (which happened to be a divx avi) and it played instantly and smoothly. This was great but alas my next choice a WMV file failed to play.

Codecs! I thought as one does (quick aside in the Media Center world I wonder if the word Codecs should now be added to swear word filters)

Scouring the excellent GeeXBox web site I found I was right the WMV codecs were not included by default and I would have to build my own custom ISO distribution. That sounded horrible - I really didn't want to get into Linux toolchains. Fortunately GeeXBox had that covered and supply a very user friendly ISO builder. It even went as far as downloading the codecs for me. Excellent. One more button press and it built me a new Iso and a quick burn later I had a functioning GeexBox streaming video from my Media Center. It even managed a WMV HD file albeit a bit broken up.

Streaming Audio was just as easy and my new custom build also gave me shoutcast radio. To top things off DVD's play well as do CD audio (although I do have a problem with a couple stuttering on the first track)

So in summary for around 100 pounds you can pick up all the components for a decent media streaming extender and if you do not fancy building it yourself the kit I used here, with the configure GeeXbox disk, will be up on eBay shortly. I'll post the link here.

EDIT: Its up on ebay CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bloggers you should know -Andy VT and his most excellent networked tuner utility

All I can say about this blog from the creator of the DVRMS Toolbox and particularly thisentry - is 'awesome'.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

MCE2005: Microsoft Karaoke Add-In

Don't know how I'd missed this before but I was browsing Microsofts list of Genuine Advantage offers and came across this:

Windows Genuine Advantage Special Offers > Offer Details
Media Center Karaoke Plug-in
Media Center Karaoke Plug-in is designed for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition. Media Center users can use this plug-in to select audio channels when playing VCD or DVD, can display lyrics included in WMA or MP3 music files, can remove vocals from the song, can also control microphone connected to the PC. With this plug-in, the user can enjoy Karaoke experience in Media Center using popular audio/video media files, e.g. WMP3/WMA, not necessary depend on special Karaoke media files or special devices.

System Requirements
The following hardware and software are required to run Media Center Karaoke Plug-in:

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 or above

Click here for download page

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tip: How to use non-MCE Compatible decoders with my decoder utility

John G posted a great tip in the comments of my Vista Media Center Decoder utility post. He said...
"People have asked me how to get the WinDVD and DSCALER codecs to work in Mediacenter as i reported on their use.

I noticed that whether by accident or design, the Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility will set the "MCE Compatible" flag on a codec to true when you set it as the system default codec.


a) use Xp codec util to set as default
b) run the above Vista MC codec util, the codec will now appear in the list, select it and set.

No responsibility taken for this method.


Thanks John that's excellent.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Crossposting on theDigitalLifestyle.com

Just to let you all know that whilst I will continue to update this blog I will also be cross posting on the Ian Dixon's new thedigitallifestyle.com(http://thedigitallifestyle.com/cs/blogs/default.aspx) blogs section.

I did consider just moving my blog over there but I realised that there was just too much content still on here :-)

Almost OffTopic: TheNeverEndingStory.co.uk

Hi all

Apologies that I haven't posted for a while. The primary reason being that I've been busy working on the new version of TheNeverEndingStory site for which I'm the CTO and technology evangelist (love that title)

In case you don't know TheNeverEndingStory is a place where people can collaborate on writing stories and poems. Based on the DocRoc platform it means they can start their own stories, read other people's stories, add pages to stories written by other members and even write the next page of a story written by a famous face - including some best selling authors. Most of all its just plain fun.

Its only been up a few days but it has already attracted some great contributions by members - really compelling content.

So why is this Almost Off-Topic. Well the really exciting news is that I can announce that we will be launching a Vista Media Center version of the site using the Media Center Presentation Layer. Yes I'm getting my hands dirty and ploughing into Media Center Markup Language.

Hopefully a few screen shots will be forthcoming over the next few days. So keep watching.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Terratec Cinergy XS drivers on Vista Update

Almost missed these as they only show up as an optional update, but there is a new updated driver for the Cinergy XS USB DVB Tuner on Windows Vista Update (note the original not the Hybrid or the Diversity version).

This seems to have fixed all the issues I was having with multiple of these tuners in vista such as not tuning immediately to a channel and coming up with No signal messages on recordings.

No mention on the Terratec site yet but I'm sure it will be there shortly.

On a side note if any manufacturer wants to send me any USB TV tuners for review I will be doing a review shortly.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Windows Live for TV Beta

I don't usually post news but for Vista Media Center owners this is too good to missed. The Microsoft Windows Live Team recently announced Windows Live for TV. For some reason the beta is currently only open to US residents which seems a shame.

Basically this beta is the project, formerly known as Nemo and now know as Orbit, which brings the functions of Windows Live to Vista Media Center. The really exciting thing is it brings the full messenger experience including Video Calling.

Now we know why they dropped messenger from the Vista Media Center build.

More info from our friends at

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Announcing the Media Center Show Community

Ian Dixon today updated the Media Center Show forums to the latest community server and announced the Media Center Show community.

This is really exciting and we are looking at ways to integrate my blog into this great community.

So hurry on over and check out the show forums there are great Ask the Expert tips and general discussion to be found http://www.iandixon.co.uk/cs/forums

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tip: A great source for dvdid.xml files

If you use the MyDVD's feature in Media Center (and if that doesn't mean anything to you then take a look at http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/thread/77389.aspx) then you will know how difficult it can be to find the right dvdid.xml files for your dvds. Help is at hand - DVDxml.com currently catalogs over 15,000 DVD Titles (currently Region 1 only) and their dvdid information.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

TIP: UK SKY Satellite in MCE (also TopUp-TV)

Head on over to http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/thread/143671.aspx for news on how to get SKY including encrypted channels in Media Center.

Its also worth noting that the supplier mentioned in this post also has a solution for TopUp-TV on UK Digital Terrestrial

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tip: More than two tuners - Ramon Van Bruggen is a star

As you may know Media Center Edition natively supports a maximum of two tuners (well 3 if you also have an over the air HDTV card in the US)

For quite a while there have been a number of forum posts around the web (particularly on the Green Button) with walk throughs of a complex procedure to add more tuners, these have been beyond the average mortal though.

Thankfully Ramon Van Bruggen is about to change that with what like it may become the ultimate utility for adding more than one tuner. Its in early beta but is progressing very nicely.

Head on over to http://mce.ramonvanbruggen.nl for more information and to join the beta programme.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tip of the day - Noisy XBox 360 Lay it down

Not all XBox 360's are created equal and it appears that some have noisier fans than others when in Media Center extender mode. One thing I have definitely noticed with our 360 is that it is a lot quieter when laid on its side (horizontally) than when in the vertical position. Not sure why this should be but, from reading a load of web posts, it does seem to be a common feature.

So if you have a noisy 360 lay it down.

IMPORTANT - never move your 360 with the power on and disc in the drive. if you do you may very well scratch the disc and even possibly damage the drive heads.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bloggers you should know -Aaron Stebner

Aaron works for Microsoft and his blog is a fount of knowledge about both Media Center and Setup issues.

In particular if you are have Media Center 2005 issues its worth a look at Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 troubleshooting guide

Aaron's articles can be a little technical for the novice but they are worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Slightly Off Topic - Manual for Chinese 'Nano' Clone MP3/MP4 players

I know quite a few people have bought one of the many Nano-Style MP4 players that have been appearing all over Ebay for very reasonable prices. (Although I'm not recommending any particular supplier - an example can be found here)

Mainly manufactured in China these are pretty good devices and work well to synch music to in Media Center.

One major issue is the manual supplied with them. I mean do you understand 'Grow the play button'. The translation from the Chinese leaves a lot to be desired.

Fortunately I have come up with a solution and as a reader of this blog you can get it at a discount.

Available now:
Garry's 1GB,2GB,4GB 'Nano-Clone' MP3/MP4 Player Manual

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


For the lack of posts. Not been feeling too well. Normal service will resume shortly...