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 then you will know how difficult it can be to find the right dvdid.xml files for your dvds. Help is at hand - 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 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 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...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My Vista Decoder utility and UAP/UAC

Vista has this great feature formerly known as User Account Protection (UAP) and now known as User Account Control (UAC) which is designed to protect you from malicious code. Because of my issues with Activation (see post below) I have this turned off so I had forgotten when I wrote my decoder app about a little thing called virtualization.

Now UAC doesn't think its a good idea to let nasty apps write into the Local machine area of the registry (very wisely) and therefore has a clever trick that when they do it redirects that write to another virtual area of the registry. Basically this means that legacy applications do not fail when they write and read the Local machine area of the registry but they don't actually update the local machine setting.

The decoder settings are in the Local machine area of the registry so, suprise suprise, if UAC is turned on you will find my decoder utility doesn't actually do much.

So the bottom line is, for now, you will have to temporarily turn off UAP/UAC using msconfig (details in an earlier post) prior to using the decoder utility to get it to work.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Vista Media Center - Great mini guide tip from Aaron Stebner

Over on his blog Aaron, who is part of Microsoft's Media Center team has a great tip on how to change the direction the arrow keys move through the new mini-guide on Vista.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Vista Media Center Decoder utility

In my post below Vista Media Center changing default decoder I mentioned I was working on something to make the process of changing the default MPEG-2 Video and Audio decoders in Vista a little easier.

Well here it is the Vista Media Center Decoder utility. This utility will show you the current default decoders, let you select an alternative from a list of installed decoders and by pressing Set Default change the defaults. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, you can even select a Video Decoder from one provider and an Audio Decoder from another.

Use at your own risk but it worked for me.

Download Utility - note you must save this program locally.

Update - This application requires .net Framework v2

Vista Media Center - Changing the Default MPEG-2 Decoder

I've been playing quite a bit with and like the new beta of Media Center on Vista.

One of the nice things Microsoft have done which will make life a lot easier is to include an Mpeg-2 Decoder with every copy of Vista. This is the bit of software that makes it possible to watch DVD's and view Live and Recorded TV. Those of you who have built your own Media Center Edition PC's using 2005 will know this is a big deal as previously you would have had to buy a decoder from a third-party like Nvidia or Cyberlink.

So all in all a good thing. Wait though, what if you like something the third party decoder does for you? Perhaps it has more settings than the default decoder. Maybe it handles sound better. You would probably guess you could just install your old decoder and Media Center would use that.

Hmmm not exactly!

I've been having performance issues with the default decoder so I thought I would try the Nvidia one instead (I have an Nvidia graphics card and prevously the nvidia PureVideo encoder has worked better with it than the Cyberlink one)

So I installed the Nvidia Encoder opened Media Center, played recorded TV and... no difference. Fair enough I thought maybe my hardware is just not up to Vista but then I realised that the Nvidia icon wasn't showing in the system tray which it usually would when playing video.

After doing some digging I discovered that Vista was still using the Microsoft decoder. Ok I thought, in XP you could use the Microsoft XP Decoder Checkup utility to change the default codec. So, wondering if it would work in Vista, I downloaded ran that utility and... the Nvidia was set as the default decoder - duh!

To cut a long story short Vista media Center stores its default decoder settings in a different place in the registry to XP.

In vista they are in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Decoder whereas in XP they were in
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\Video

The actual key names are the same
PreferredMPEG2AudioDecoder and PreferredMPEG2VideoDecoder

The Nvidia install had populated the old XP values, so it was a 'simple' matter of copying the values from Service\Video to \Decoder using the registry editor and away I went. The Nvidia icon popped up when I played Recorded TV and there was an improvement in playback.

Now I am not going to suggest that anyone modifies their registry. Modifying the registry is a risky business and you could prevent your PC from working.

But I am working on something which will make this process a whole lot easier...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vista Media Center - Problems with Activation on Upgrade

If you are part of the Vista Beta program then you might run into an issue of being prompted to activate after an upgrade. That in itself would not be a problem but there is a glitch with the new UAP (User Access Protection - I think) feature that causes activation to fail with an error 0x8007000D.

Fortunately you can work round this by disabling UAP.

I've seen write ups for this solution in several places but one of the clearest is how Richard Wu described the solution in a recent Technet Forum post:

1) Make sure the internet connection is active

2) Restart the PC. After the BIOS screen hit F8 a couple of times untill you see the Advanced Boot Options menu. Select Safe Mode and hit Enter.

3) Click on the Windows Key + R on the keyboard. This will open a RUN box. Type MSCONFIG and press Enter.

4) On MSCONFIG, select the TOOLS tab, scroll down and go to "Disable UAP". Hit the Launch button, close the command windows afterwards and click OK.

5) Restart the PC.

6) Logon to the PC with a user that has the Administrative permissions (If you have more than one account take the first account you created). Just like before when logging in as a user the "Activate Windows now" dialog appears. If not appear, use my above method to call the activation process out.

Note that the little shields are now gone from the options. Make sure you have internet connection and hit Activate now. Assuming your product key is correct you'll soon be smiling at the "Activation was successful" message.

Fixes - July Rollup out for Media Center 2005

On his blog Matt Goyer notes:

You don’t have to wait for Vista for some bugs to be fixed. Get the July rollup for fixes to Media Center 2005. What does this fix?

Horizontal white lines appear when playing a DVD
Media Center may crash when using the ListMaker SDK sample application
Media Center may crash when you open a menu page
A black screen appears when trying to play a DVD

There more details in the kb article

I've seen the white lines problem on a colleagues PC so I'll be able to check that fix out later today.

Good to see that in all the rush to the Vista version 2005 users haven't been forgotten.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Quick Tip - WiFi - G Mode Only

On today's Media Center Show Podcast Ian had a question about how to improve wi-fi connectivity. The listener had been trying to stream over 802.11g without success. One trick which can greatly improve the quality of service for 802.11g on most Access Points is to switch them to G Mode only. This is usually an option on the Wireless Access Points settings screen. By switching off B compatibility you prevent speed degradation by other B devices connecting.

Now this isn't the whole story as the 802.11 band is very crowded and things like Microwave ovens can equally be problematic but it might help.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sort Album Art by Artist in Media Center 2005

One of the new features in Vista is a view for music that shows Album Art grouped by Artist. This has attracted a great deal of attention but I've been surprised by how few people know you can do something similar in the 2005 version of Media Center.

The trick is to press the more info button when you have Albums highlighted in the menu on the left-hand-side of the Music view. If you do this you will get a pop-up menu that includes options to view by list and sort by Artist.

Selecting Sort by Artist will do exactly that and your Album Art will appear sorted by Artist. Its not as clever as Vista, however, and no grouping of albums takes place but it still can be useful.

You can change back by repeating the above process where you will find the More Info menu will have changed to include Sort Alphabetically.

If you have any tips you think user may not know. Please let me know.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Who is the Media Center Expert?

Welcome. I'm Garry Whittaker and I am the expert from Ian Dixon's ( Media Center Show podcast. Up to now I've kept a low profile and prowled the Media Center Show forums answering listener's questions whilst at the same time providing Media Center consultancy to the client's of my company Whittaker Moore Associates Ltd ( I also developed MyRemoteMouse (

However I've finally been persuaded, by some vocal and persuasive parties, to start my own Media Center Blog to answer some of those common questions and to also provide some hints and tips.

So how will this differ from the other Media Center blogs? I'm going to be concentrating on hints and tips and solutions. So expect this blog to be less newsy than some of the others. I'll still post news if its likely to help solve a problem - say a new patch release - but mainly it will be hints and tips.

By the way if you are in the UK and interested in expert consultancy on Media Center, be it problem solving, implementation design or develpment, at a reasonable cost, please see for contact details.

All the best

If you have any questions for the blog please email me at garryjw 'at' whittakermoore 'dot' com