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