Finally mounted my TV...

After several weeks of planning, drilling holes, running cables and waiting for parts from Monoprice I finally put the TV up on the wall!

Now if Denon will release their AVR-3808 receiver (due out in July) I can be done with all my wiring for a while (or I could just order another 35' HDMI cable and setup my Harmony remote).

Edit: having the TV on the wall makes the room feel bigger as it is no longer centered around a TV on top of a dresser; it is now a side item that serves a purpose and stays out if the way! (also a little better on the early morning glare!)


Test from blackberry 8100

So far, this phone is incredible!


Misc Tidbits

Neat stuff: A Wiimote/Mii hacker and an iPhone skin for Windows Mobile devices (also might want to add in the iPod emulator for PPC).

I installed Ubuntu 7.04 on my laptop and it is working pretty well. Out of the box it was only supporting 1024x762 resolution, so I had to find the video driver (via a search in Synaptic package manager), install and reboot- now I am running in native video mode on my laptop.

I was impressed by the included support for Palm/Treo devices; I plugged in a cable and I was synching in a few minutes! Firefox is also pre-installed, so all I needed to do was download my extensions...

MCE2005 Video Problems Resolved

I feel stupid- the 'interlacing' issue I was having running my Comcast cable box through the s-video input were caused by a crappy MPEG decoder; I installed PowerDVD 6.5 and the video looks 100x better!

I figured this out by building another MCE box (for the firewire testing); I couldn't get the TV to display at all- until I installed PowerDVD- and then the picture was excellent (strange, considering it is running across a composite video to a cheap-ass ADSTech MCE 3000 MCE Hardware Kit; now the MPEG encoder on this card is pretty good; but the TV tuner is horrible!)

After a little more research the recording over firewire is a little strange; I still need to setup an external 'set-top box' tuner and schedule the TV shows to record, but the software will bypass the IR blaster (and change stations via firewire) and create a 2nd recording via firewire capture. The software also allows the option of deleting the MCE recording (and keeping the firewire recording) or keeping both.

More fun tomorrow!


Addictive Games

If you want to waste some time, try Bowmaster Prelude or Desktop Tower Defense...

MCE Recording via Firewire

I found some interesting info about using my Comcast PVR as an additional tuner for my MCE system via fire wire- only problems I have are a) my current motherboard doesn't have firewire and b) I only have 1 PCI slot, so I will have to get a PCIe firewire card! I found one of these on Monoprice for $35, so all it good (they are $100 at Frys!)

I built out a little test system (with a nice DVD version of Windows MCE 2005) and found that it woks. I also came to the sad realization that my new HDMI motherboard is exactly as functional as my prior one (well, maybe LESS functional due to the lack of PCI slots and firewire) and all I needed to do was use the DVI-to-HDMI cable; so there was $100 wasted for no good reason.

I have pretty much given up on the MythTV attempts; and I have returned the KWorld ATSC115 tuner (I realized how bad the analog pictures looked!). I am now running my cable box through my Hauppauge PVR150 via S-Video (the tearing from the interlaced video is horrible!) until I get the PCIe firewire card in- then I will use the PVR150 as an analog tuner and have two digital tuners in my Comast DCT3412 I box was well!

There is a long forum in The Green Button about performing channel changes via firewire- and a long list of recommended updates to for MCE 2005:














Tapestry missing?

Looks like someone else was looking for the hidden wall safe...


MovieStop Rocks

I went to a GameStop to see if they had a used copy of Viva Pinata for the xBox 360 (they did for $25, but I waited- and found it new at a Target for $20; which I think was a mis-price as everyone else has it for $30!) and next door there was a MovieStop, so I decided to check it out.

1st off- I love how they have 4 shelves of SciFi/Horror. I also love the fact that they put new and used copies in the same place (and arranged alphabetically)- so if I know what I am looking for I can decide on new or used (if available).

I spent about $50 (including tax) and picked up:
  1. Aeon Flux (Special Collectors Edition)
  2. UltraViolet (Unrated Extended Cut)
  3. Underworld (2 Disc Unrated Extended Cut)
  4. Underworld Evolution (Special Edition)
  5. Lord of the Rings : Return of the King (Limited Edition 2 Disc Set)
(one disappointment about the Limited Edition LotR disc: it indicates 'both theatrical and extended versions on one disk'- which is true- but the disc is double-sided and it must be flipped 1/2 through the movie. I was hoping to be able to watch the extended version without having to change/flip discs!)

$10/movie is a price point where it isn't really worth downloading the iso, burning it to disc, making a label and having to deal with incomparability in certain DVD players... Now there is a way that the MPAA could combat piracy- sell movies at a reasonable price and just accept a reasonable profit!

DSM-320RD Wireless Media Player

I found the DLink DSM-320RD wireless media player at Fry's for $150 last weekend, so I decided to pick one up and see what it can do. It is a media player with integrated DVD player and memory card reader (CF and SD)- so basically it does everything but record TV.

I am looking for a media device that will allow my roommate to watch movies (mosly my DVD rips to DiVX via AutoGordianKnot) I have stored on my file server (currently 2.4TB of storage space) without me having to convert to a DVD. I also want a device that I could replace my MCE2005 PC and/or my old xBox running xBox Media Center (maybe I should just transpose the xBox into a different case that will fit into my stereo rack?).

The unit was pretty nice (I speak in past tense as I have already returned it), but it only had standard definition output (480i/480p over component)- and the unit displayed interference from other devices in my stereo rack. DVD quality was the only thing that ran at 480p (at least it said it was progressive scan).

Overall I guess the unit was decent- but a bit slow and unresponsive for my tastes. Streaming over wireless was actually pretty good. It played DivX/XviD fairly well, but could not play DVD images that were on a networked HD (VOB/IFO or ISO). I guess I was hoping for something like XBMC- but that is asking a lot.

It also had a terrible interface for browsing my files- I keep my movies/videos/pr0n in separate folders, and the DLink simply lumped them all into 'videos' folders (or was that TVersity's fault?) There are mentions of a port for SageTV for the DLink devices, but so far nothing has actually materialized.

I updated to the latest firmware (1.04) but did not notice any significant changes.

I did not use the DLink media software as I saw some blogs reviewing the device recommending against it; instead I used TVersity- which, in retrospect, may have been one if the reasons why I disliked the unit. The media menus were not easily configured; my 'videos' folder came up as E: and my my 'movies' folder came up as F: (not a show stopper, but it made it useless for what I wanted it for).

I may consider DLink's DSM-520- which supports HD outputs- or the DSM-750 (which will aslo support H264 for HD movies). Or maybe I may just buy another used xBox and flash the BIOS and install XBMC for my roommate...


Back to the Drawing Board

After screaming at my computer for several minutes, I decided that Vista isn't ready for the new hardware yet- more likely the device manufacturers are torn between making drivers for a huge market base (XP) vs. the early adopters; I would guess the #1 rule in that situation is make as many people as you can happy and then work on the rest of them...

So I am back to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

I tried out a new tuner card: a KWorld PlustTV HD PCI-115 (also known as the ATSC 115) as it features an analog tuner and a digital tuner with ASTC/QAM-64/QAM-256 support. First note is this thing does not work at all under vista- it is just a dead signal when I try to tune anything- so I formatted and went back to XP MCE 2005.

The analog tuner works very well under Vista. The digital tuner is giving me some grief- mostly due to the fact that neither of the MCE systems (Vista or MCE 2005) support QAM tuners. There are supposedly some hacks out there that map QAM channels to other channels and present these to MCE as a different tuner, but so far no luck. I am also having problems with QAM reception using the bundled ArcSoft TotalMedia 3- i am only getting about 6 channels (out of 333) and I do not think they are all encrypted (my roommie can get almost all the channels on her Philips TV- without a cable box!). I suspect that some of the setting need to be tweaked...

I am still trying to get Ubuntu working with MythTV, but that has slowed a bit since I went back to XP and I can now watch TV on my XP MCE. (It has also slowed a bit thanks to Super Paper Mario)


Ubuntu and MythTV

I now remember the reason that I start using Linux and stop a week later- Drivers suck!!

I tried setting up a MythTV box using Ubuntu 6.10 and the LinuxMCE CD; it failed abysmally on four different systems.

I looked at the KnoppMyth distro and it is very outdated and very incomputable with my hardware scenarios.

I am back to Ubuntu; by modifying the /etc/apt/sources file and allowing the universe and multiverse repositories I can just do a 'sudo apt-get install mythtv' and install the package. This info was included in a how to on Garry Parker's site. This works great except that Ubuntu does not natively include a driver for the Hauppauge PVR150 TV capture card.

Hauupauge directed me over to the ivtv project for drivers. This site is useful, but a little over technical for a Linux newbie like myself. There was a nicely written setup (for Ubuntu 5.10) over at Hyman's Home (?) that guided me through the download of the Ubuntu source files and general compiling setup- but the drivers are very outdated and did not work with Ubuntu 6.10. (There is also another useful Ubuntu/MythTV how-to on djlosch.com)

Google eventually led me back to the Ubuntu user forums where there is a MythTV documentation site with links to an alternate version of Ubuntu 6.10 and detailed instructions for installing the ivtv drivers in this version. These seemed to work, but still no response when I tried 'mplayer /dev/video0'- and there is no /dev/video0 after reboot.

MythTV and (MythVideo, MythWeather, MythWeb, MythMusic, MythPlugins) all seem to work fine- just I am unable to setup a capture (/dev/video0) under MythTV- setup as the driver does not appear to work!

So I have downloaded the new image for the 'alternate version' of Ubuntu 6.10 and I will re-image my test system tonight and see how it goes by following the specific Ubuntu 6.10/PVR150 drivers...

...next step (if this fails) will be Fedora MythTV or MythTV for Windows!


Why hath thou forsaken me oh Vista?

Vista works great when it works, and really sucks ass when it doesn't. If you have read any of my blog, you may have noticed my mood swings to and from Vista. I understand nothing is perfect- but if it is a piece of software that Microsoft wants $200 - $300 for (Vista Premium or Ultimate) it should be pretty damn close!

Current problems with Vista:
1. TV freezes and skips if MCE has been on for more than an hour or if the system resumes from standby. This affects both live and recorded TV (probable driver issue, but returns after format and full re-install).
2. Sound goes to crap after system has been up for a few days. This only happens in the MCE interface (sounds fine in WinAmp)- and sounds like everything is going through a distortion interface. The sound can range from voice like a cylon to complete screech and beep sounds.
3. HDMI signal loss when TV is turned off or switched to another device- requiring a reboot or a standby/wake cycle and taking about 2-3 minutes each time (sometimes several times a day). I think this is a HDMI issue, but I will blame Vista for this as well.

I really cannot record or watch TV, so this system is a little less useful to me than my xBox running xBox Media Center (XBMC). The shortcoming in XBMC is that it cannot handle HiDef recordings (The CPU is a P3-733 and it has a hard-soldered 64MB of RAM)- but it can play any codec or image you could hope to throw at it! (even DVDs in ISO or BIN/CUE format).

I have looked towards MythTV as I have seen an add-on for the xBox to allow it to run as a MythTV frontend (or even run MythTV on the xBox under Linux?).

My first attempt at this was LinuxMCE; basically an 'easy load' version of MythTV with Lirc installed and some other neat features (like security monitoring, notification, etc). The LinuxMCE CD is a colleciton of libraries; when the CD is inserted and click a link on the download page while in Ubuntu, it kicks off an automated install.

1st try (on a laptop). System installed and rebooted; went through setup and got 1/2 way done with 'setting up screens' and then froze. I rebooted and the system was usuabale.

2nd try (on a P4 2.4Ghz system). System came to a 'cannot connect to web site' during install and after a few hours I rebooted. After that, all networking was screwed in Ubuntu.

3rd try (on an Athlon XP 2800+ system). Similar to the prior install, but failed with a 'cannot continue' message. System reboot returned a useless Ubuntu install. (this system involved a few hours of scrounging parts from my attic and building a new system to run in parallel with my MCE system- which will not even take an install of Ubuntu!)

At this point, I about to give up on LinuxMCE. The only difference I can think of in the last two (save for the different hardware) is that I told LinucMCE NOT to be my DHCP server.

My next test will be the KnoppMyth installation. I am downloading the ISO and I will try when I get home!


Jebus' Scooter

Note the crown of thorns on the handlebars...


KWorld PVR-TV PE210 and Vista

The short answer to using the PVR-TV PE210 with Vista is no- it isn't going to work (at least until they have some drives that work in the US).

I picked up a KWorld PVR-TV PE210 card from Fry's. It features dual analog tuners and it uses a 1x PCIe slot for about $150. I have been having some strange issues with my Hauppauge PVR 150 (and my current MCE motherboard features only 1 standard PCI slot- but two PCIe slots) so I decided to give it a go- I have been wanting an additional tuner anyway.

I shut down Vista (Premium) and pulled the Hauppauge (to use elsewhere). I installed the card and connected the antenna (which uses a clever 'NT-M to PAL-F' {aka Belling Lee?} connector to allow a slip-connect for a standard threaded type F coax connection) and fired up the system.
Windows detected a PCI bridge and a Philips SAA7131 Hybrid Capture device. I fired up Media Center and went to configure the TV tuner and got a message that no TV tuner could be found. I did a reboot and tried again; still no luck.

But wait- Windows has detected a new optional download that is a new driver for this device; install, reboot and exa
ctly the same issue. Damn! Where is this 'plug-and-play' think I keep hearing about?

A visit to the Taiwan KWorld support page produced drivers from November 2006 (hmmm, and Vista was released in January?)- and exactly the same results (Note: the KWorld software stated it was actually installing drivers for a DVB-T PE301). I tried some manual driver installs and found several more versions in my driver cache, so I went through them one at a time. Some of them would present a TV tuner to Vista, but when the initial guide setup started, I was prompted that the TV tuner card I was using was not for my current region (USA). I investigated a bit, and found I was able to download the guide content for UK.

I went to the KWorld USA site and found that although they did show the PVR-TV PE201 and they had a link to drivers to their PCIe devices, the link is broken and it loops back to the default 'downloads' page. Hmm...

In review, it looks like this device was designed for a European marketplace: The PAL antenna connection, the drivers not for this region and the lack of support on the US site attest to this. It looks like they did a hack job on the drivers to make them work with Windows XP, but their Vista support is still forthcoming (two months after Vista went retail). If KWorld fixes up their website and produces some Vista certified drivers that work in the US, I may give this guy a second chance- but for now I will wait for the reviews of others to indicate this has happened...


A Most Exellent Day!

Three 'big' events today:
  1. I got my invite to Joost beta!
    I signed up a few months ago and I received my invite while at work today; luckily they have turned off the outbound firewall rules (prior net engineer was an IP Nazi)
  2. I got a Niko Wii Charging Station from Circuit City!
    I heard about this in January and I have been searching the web for it- now I need a 2nd Wii controller to make it look full.
  3. I put the first coat of polyurethane on the build room countertop!
    Long story short, I am almost done with this project- two more coats of urethane, some punch-downs and that is it!
Other small things: My Monster Cable Lightwave 100x and PS2 32MB memory cartridge came in from ebay; I purchased these for about $15 each (including shipping). Nice they both came on the same day and I am extrememly impressed the 32MB is a Sony OEM (or a very good fake!)


More Vista Tweaks

"Damn, does this guy do anything but play on his fracking computer?"

Sure- I also play with my xBox and Wii (see below for my Wii mods).

Ok, another Vista Premium fix; I was getting TV live and recorded playback that stuttered and froze a bit. I decided to to see if Hauppauge had newer drivers for my PVR-150 MCE; turns out they do... My TV playback is much better than before.

I also noticed that the setup installed some other programs- namely a MPEG package (and WinTV2000- but that is redundant to MCE?).

There is also a beta driver, but I am going to shy away as this version seems to be working.

Wii Switch

As promised- here is a picture of the toggle switch on the back of my Wii...

Also note: the Wii gets pretty hot when it is laying on its side- even when on standby and even more so when stacked on top of an xBox 360.

I was using the Wii in the horizontal position, but changed to the vertical stand after picking it up yesterday and thinking it was amazing that the plastic had not warped!

Wii Updates

I finally cracked my Wii open again and installed a switch to allow me to update to v3 of the firmware for the CycloWiz. I have determined that either I am getting old and it is harder for me to see to mod a console, or the console traces are getting much smaller- or a combination of both...

The update went fine and I can now play PAL homebrew applications/games with no issues. I will post some pictures of my Wii (with a small toggle switch on the back) tomorrow or so..


Logitech Harmony and Vista

Good news- the Logitech Harmony software for XP works in Vista- it just disables the Aero interface (transparency) while it is running (even in the system tray). Logitech is scheduled to release an update in April- but I needed to make changes to my remote config now! :o)

Nero 'Vista Compatable'- WTF?

Just when it looks like everything is running good, I get weird errors (not on my MCE system, but on my primary 'work' system). The latest being a batch of DEP errors starting with "Windows host Process (rundll32) has stopped working.

Consensus on the internet says this is a media error related to Nero (or Adaptec) trying to take control of the media processing (why can't Nero just make a CD/DVD burning program without all the other editing/conversion/media center crap?!?!).

One suggestion was to rename some of the Nero files; I will need to reboot to see if this fixes this problem!

Lots and lots of cables!

I have spent the last 11 1/2 hours pulling cable and punching it down on a patch panel- and I am only about 25% done with all the punch-downs! (some pics on my 'build room' photoset on Flickr).

Tomorrow is another 10+ hours of the same- and hopefully time to put a counter top over the MDF that is the current counter-top when I am done... I still need to figure out a good way to cut two 4'x8' sheets of 1/4" birch down to 32" wide without splintering it all to Hell; Anyone have a table saw with a very fine blade on it I can use for a few minutes?

The work wasn't that bad; I listened to my ipod via Logitech bluetooth headphones for most of the day (I never realized how much 2.4Ghz radiation a microwave oven emitted). I actually got a little burned out on podcasts today...

My right foot has been driving me nuts for most of the afternoon; I guess it is time I go and let at doctor have a look at it to see why it 'aches' so much. It feels almost like a fractured bone- or arthritis starting to set in... I assume it is from he hitting it on the slate when stepping out of the tub or missing the bottom stairs step once to many times- but nothing happened immediately after either (multiple times) incident, and it doesn't really hurt unless I stand on it for a long time. (it has only been feeling strange for about a year or so- I guess it isn't going to heal on its own!)