AMD Unleashes The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 Series

ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 graphics processors available at knockout price points



SUNNYVALE, Calif. — June 28, 2007 –AMD today announced the arrival of the ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series, the mid-range and entry-level graphics processors in the ATI Radeon HD 2000 series. These next-generation graphics processing units (GPU) bring premium support for Windows Vista with feature-rich DirectX 10 graphics, and built-in multimedia functions for an immersive HD video experience on the PC. Ranging from USD $89-$149 (SEP) for the ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and USD $50-$85 (SEP) for the ATI Radeon HD 2400 series2, the new graphics solutions deliver compelling performance and image quality at an unbelievable price point. The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon 2400 series have enjoyed broad customer adoption and are designed into a significant number of major OEM mainstream and value DirectX 10 PCs to be shipped in 2007.



“The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series drive high definition innovation to the mainstream with an incredible price and performance proposition,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president, AMD Graphics Products Group. “With the launch of these new products, AMD is broadening the reach of The Ultimate Visual Experience™ by putting next-generation, DirectX 10 discrete graphics technology within reach for more users than ever before.”



The ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series deliver remarkable gaming performance and maximize the HD visual effects within Windows Vista and DirectX 10. The powerful second-generation unified shader architecture introduces the era of immersive HD gaming, delivering an ideal balance of high performance, advanced visual effects and breathtaking realism for both the casual and avid gamer. Gamers wanting more horsepower will discover that both series feature native ATI CrossFire technology, allowing for a wider variety of multi-GPU configurations.



The ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series provide powerful graphics performance for quick multitasking between applications with the Windows AeroTM 3D user interface. ATI Catalyst graphics management software is certified for Windows Vista and is designed for quick and easy setup of graphics, video, and multiple displays.



Both series feature the Unified Video Decoder (UVD) for advanced hardware HD video processing and HDMI with built-in HD audio controller for stunning big-screen entertainment. Home theater aficionados will be captivated by ATI Avivo HD technology that delivers sharp images and vibrant color fidelity for Blu-ray and HD DVD content.



With support for Blu-ray discs and HD DVDs, CyberLink’s PowerDVD Ultra, now offers support for UVD technology from AMD, ensuring enhanced video quality with low CPU utilization.



“Through a joint effort, CyberLink and AMD are bringing high-quality video playback for the latest ATI Radeon HD 2600 and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series graphics cards,” said Alice H. Chang, CEO of CyberLink Corp. “It is quite an achievement for both AMD and CyberLink to satisfy the growing demand for high-definition video performance within the mainstream PC market.



Using an energy-efficient 65 nm process technology to reduce power consumption, certain ATI Radeon HD 2600 series and ATI Radeon HD 2400 series models are designed to be passively cooled for a quieter home theatre experience. Availability for both products is expected in early July.


June 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista

Microsoft has released the June 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista. This update rollup is intended for computers that are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.



Hotfix replacement information



This is a cumulative update. This update replaces the following updates:



929011 - Windows Media Center does not correctly configure a combo TV tuner that supports both ATSC and NTSC signals on a Windows Vista-based computer



932753When you resize the Windows Media Center window in Windows Vista, video playback may stop



932818April 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista



931967You cannot hear the audio in Live TV or on a DVD in Windows Media Center after you wake a computer that is running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate



Issues that are resolved by this update



In addition to the fixes that are contained in the updates that are listed in the “Hotfix replacement information” section, the June 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista includes the following updates:



  • Several fixes for the Media Center Extensibility Platform
  • An update to the Digital Cable Card component to provide better support for interaction between the digital cable tuner, the CableCARD, and Media Center
Information for Windows Media Center Extenders







Windows Media Center Extenders, such as the Microsoft Xbox 360, use network ports to communicate over the network with computers that are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate. This update rollup contains updates to Windows Media Center programs that may have been configured as “approved” or “allowed” by a third-party firewall. If you use a third-party firewall, you may have to manually update the firewall to let the new versions of these programs access the ports. If you do not perform these firewall updates, any attempts to connect the Windows Media Center Extender to the Media Center computer may be unsuccessful.



Download from Windows Update | Download Individual Package Here



Short Bits: Pika, Podcasts, CableCARD, Components Database, More

Eric Anderson has a v2 Extender (Pika) prototype that supports native DivX decode.  Good thing that know that someone is currently taking advantage of some of those formats I said that Pika could support.  Extenders seem to be officially coming along.  Last thing we really need to know, price points!


Microsoft just bought a stake in a Sichuan Changhong Electric Co, a Chinese TV manufacturer.  Sounds to me like this might be used for that Extender TV I’ve also been talking about for a while.


Be sure to add your system to the Media Center Components Database.  It growing nicely, and should provide help to all those wanting to build a working Media Center PC.


Sling Media released SlingPlayer Mobile for Windows Mobile 6.  Sling Media also announced Two New SlingLink Powerline Ethernet Adapters.


Be sure to check out my Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ if you are in the market for a CableCARD PC.



Ian might have gone out on his own, but Michael Wolf of ABI Research is picking back up the show for The Podcast Network.  In his first show he interviews eHome VP Joe Belfiore.

Back to Ian’s side of things, he has HiPe PC- In Car PC Systems and everyone’s favorite question answering machine, Jessica Zahn of Microsoft.  Wow, that’s a lot of podcasts to catch up on!




Microsoft has renamed their IPTV Platform, now dubbed MediaRoom.  I don’t think will have an impact for a few years still.  Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.


Looking for some more reading?  Let’s see, I’d suggest….



Aaron Stebner, Addicted to Digital Media (Sean Alexander), CE Pro Weblog, David Fleischman, Peter Near, Matt Goyer, Mavromatic, Ed Bott’s Media Central, Furrygoat (Steve Makofsky), Ian Dixon, Marc Policani, The F-Stop Blues (Tim Coyle), RetroSight (Charlie Owen), Peter Rosser, Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection, Media Center Sandbox, Jason Tsang’s Blog, Media Center Pro (Magazine), The Media Center Expert, mceworld, Amplioaudio (Gregg Plummer), BlogCaster (Caster Communications), The HD DVD Insiders (Ben Waggoner), Big Screen Blog (Niall Ginsbourg), FloppyHead, brains-N-brawn (Casey Chesnut), Babgvant’s Tools & Blog, Mike’s Digital Home, Dennis Morgan MCX, Peoples Republic Of, Zatz Not Funny, The MCE Developer Blog



Broke something?  Got a Media Center question?  Check out The Green Button.

And of course, thanks to everyone who has kept me up on the latest news via e-mail! 


Vacation to Fiji Held Up

Fiji, the suspected codename for the next version/upgrade of Media Center might be held up by a lack of frequent flyer miles.  The beta program, which many of you may have registered for isn’t exactly moving along.  The invites that were supposed to be sent out on May 31th have gone no where fast.  This leads me to think that the target ship date for Fiji is no where close.



Typically, a beta program for a product as large as Media Center is going to last for at least eight months to a year, and depending on the features included even longer.  As my main feature predictions revolve around DIRECTV/Dish support, and HD DVD playback/Managed Copy I expect the beta to be a long one.  Getting something like DIRECTV tuners working isn’t going to be easy, just look at the current problems with CableCARD.



Don’t expect Fiji this year.  Don’t expect Fiji early next year.  Based on water-cooler talk I‘ve heard, I wouldn’t expect to see it released until around Q3-Q4 2008 which would bring the platform back to Sep/Oct releases as has been customary since 2002. .  Date is highly subject to change if things like DIRECTV support are to be included.



Speaking of vacations, I’m has not been held up and I’m leaving tomorrow for part of it.  Blogging will be lite as Internet access will be too, but in the mean time check out all the great Media Center blogs listed in my sidebar.  Don’t run to far though, more interesting Media Center news and notes are never far away.



Microsoft Finally Advertises Media Center

Only problem?  The ad is horrible..



Where to start with this one.  First of all, congrats to Microsoft for finally starting to market Media Center.  My first advice, don’t give up.



I’m just going to ramble here, because there is a lot to say.  The ad is attempting to appeal to women.  You can’t do this right now though.  Women are not on Xbox.com looking at the various pages.  I think the marketing team got notes about the Wife Approval Factor (WAF) are ran with the idea.  Appeal to men or just try to appeal to the masses.  This ad reminded me of the various sitcoms on TBS now-a-days that try their best to appeal to the Friends crowd.  Men could care less about planning for a party.  We get some beer and food and that’s really all you need.  I get the concept, women hold the purchasing power.  If women like it, they will allow the men to buy it.  I get it, but don’t market Media Center by trying to appeal to women if your ad is going to be on Xbox.com.  If it’s going to show after a rerun of Friends, different story.  Start by either appealing to men, or just do basic product demo ads.  iPod ads show nothing about the iPod.  Zune ads have the right idea for a new product but pairing catchy music with bright colors and thus showing off the features.  Don’t try and reinvent things here, stick to what works.



Next problem is that it’s too long.  I lost interest in the ad within ten seconds.  Maybe that’s because I already know what Media Center does, but you know what?  I still pay attention to every iPod ad.  I look at the screen every time I see an iPhone ad.  I’ve seen the ads over and over, yet I still watch.  They are 30-seconds of interesting content that leaves you with the urge to search Google for more information.  This ad didn’t do that.  Too long, too boring, and the couple never said look what Media Center can do.  They said Xbox 360, not Media Center.  The ad is for Media Center, not Xbox 360.  At least say the name of the product if you are going to have a 3-minute ad about it.  Other problems here include never saying you need Windows Vista, or even saying that it’s included in Windows Vista.  Just let people know what they already have.  It does note it at the very end of the ad in text, along with the first and only mention that Media Center is actually doing the work here.



Next is the fact that it’s a 3-minute ad and only 10 seconds of it show Media Center.  Despite that some think Media Center’s UI is a downgrade in Vista, it still is beautiful to look at from a far.  Show the product, is that really that hard of a concept?



In the whole 5+ minutes of ad time, It ever showed Media Center being controlled with a remote!



There are a few other scenes on the website, and they fail to impress also.  The photo, music, and video demos are good, but again too long. 



TV demo was horrible.  They never even showed the Guide!  What is that?  They showed the manual recording section.  Really, when she said my new digital VCR she wasn’t kidding.  This section also never showed a remote control, but rather the Xbox 360 controller and even the mouse pointer on the screen.



 They tried to show off the multi-room aspect, but failed to really describe that he could go off to the PC or another Extender and see the same thing that his new wife was seeing.



I give Microsoft an A+ for effort, but a F on everything else.  I wait to see what else they can do here as I have wanted Microsoft to market Media Center for years now.  I would say this is a good first attempt, but I fails to impression and drive me to want to know more about Media Center.



Apple Disappoints Me Today


So, I basically have my credit card ready early today pressing F5 on Engadget to refresh their WWDC coverage waiting for Steve Jobs to say something, anything about the Mac mini or any other Mac hardware updates.  Several sites have reported that they think it will be scraped, and I’ve been praying for the past month that Jobs would either confirm the death or announce an upgrade to at dump it up to a Core 2 Duo.   And yet, Apple announced no new hardware or hardware upgrades today!



The mini has been my ticket to get a Mac but because of it’s weak specs I’ve yet to purchase one.  If they end up killing the Mac mini (or effectively failing to upgrade it) I don’t get to finally try out a Mac.  I have no interest in a MacBook or MacBook Pro as my current Thinkpad X40 works just great and my next upgrade is set to be a X61 Tablet (I hope).  I also have no interest in having another monitor on my desk, so the iMac is out.  And unless someone out there wants to donate some cash for me to get a Mac (hint, hint) the Mac Pro at over $2,000 is a bit out of my price range.



So, should I start a donate for Chris to get a Mac campaign or should Apple just upgrade the Mac mini?



Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ

Q: How can I get CableCARD on my current PC?
A: You can’t.  Because of CableLabs regulations you can only get CableCARD on specially designed and certified PC’s.  There are various components and steps that are done by OEMs in order to get CableCARD working.  Obtaining the Digital Cable Tuner (also called an OCUR) and plugging it in will do nothing to get you a working system.



Q: What’s needed in an OEM system for CableCARD?
A: Various bits are needed including a special BIOS on the motherboard, a second COA in addition to your Windows Vista COA (eg. two different product keys), and the Digital Cable Tuner itself (OCUR).  OEMs must meet specific sales requirements to become a  Microsoft OEM in order to offer CableCARD PCs.  OEMs also have to sign a number of documents and return them to CableLabs which puts them under various legal agreements in terms of what they can and can not do.



Q: Are CableCARD PC’s certified by CableLabs?
A: No, CableCARD PCs are not certified by CableLabs.  Instead the PC OEM must sign a legal document and send it to CableLabs saying that their PC meets the bar that CableLabs has set. 



Q: Who currently offers CableCARD PCs?
A: As of writing, Velocity Micro, Sony, HP, Vidabox, Niveus Media, S1Digital, Okoro Media, Fluid Digital, Cannon PC and Dell are currently shipping CableCARD PCs.



Q: What is SDV and how does it affect me?
A: SDV stands for Switched Digital Video.  Various cable companies are deploying this in order to be able to distribute more HD content over their existing infrastructure.  What it means to you is that one-way CableCARD will not be able to interact with a SDV network correctly.  SDV requires two-way communication, Digital Cable Tuners (OCURs) are one-way (uni-directional) only.  This means that if your cable provider is switching to SDV, you will not likely be able to access any new HD content they plan on adding.  Please check with your cable provider to know if they plan to switch to SDV or already have.  There is no timeline or guarantee that CableLabs, ATI, and Microsoft plan to offer upgraded Digital Cable Tuners to fix this issue.  See BOCR below for more.





Q: Will the TiVo SDV Adaptor work with CableCARD PCs?
A: While it is not known for sure, CableLabs is not targeting the adaptor at PCs.  More information here.



Q: Is Two-Way CableCARD Programming Avaiable?
A: No.  Digital Cable Tuners provide one-way communication only.  See BOCR below for more.



Q: Can I access On-Demand content?
A: No.  CableCARD support in Vista Media Center supports only one-way communication.  Access to On-Demand programming requires two-way and is not included with CableCARD in Windows Vista.  See BOCR below for more.



Q: Can I order Pay-Per-View with CableCARD?
A: No.  Pay-Per-View also requires two-way communications, which are not supported in Windows Vista or by the Digital Cable Tuner (OCUR).  Depending on your cable provider, you might be able to call in your order.  I do not know the details on this, but ask your cable provider for details.  See BOCR below for more.



Q: Since Two-way programming is not supported, do I get a Program Guide (IPG, EPG)?
A: Yes.  Vista Media Center has it’s own Electronic Program Guide (EPG) so you don’t need two-way CableCARD communication to get access to it.  You do need an active Internet connection for EPG downloads.



Q: What is a BOCR that I keep hearing about? Will it help some of the issues above?
A:  BCOR stands for Bidirectional OpenCable Receiver, which is the upgrade to OCUR.  They will feature bidirectional communication, M-Card support, and OCAP.  More information Here and Here



Q: What is the approximate cost of each OCUR/Digital Cable Tuner?
A:  On average the cost per tuner is $300.  Prices are high due to the large cost of certifying and developing a product alongside CableLabs.  Dell’s XPS 420 has dual CableCARD options for ~$180/tuner.  They can’t be purcahsed alone through Dell at this point, but if you are in the market for a inexpensive PC look at Dell.   You can buy them for $300/each at SonyStyle.com.



Q: How many CableCARDs can be used within Vista Media Center?
A: Windows Vista officially supports recording from two CableCARDs.  Your OEM must include two Digital Cable Tuners for this to happen.  If your PC included a single Digital Cable Tuner, only your OEM can sell you an additional tuner (Sony just started selling them online, see the CableCARD category on the sidebar for more).  Two additional ATSC (OTA) tuners are also supported at the same time.



Q: How many total tuners can be recorded from in Vista Media Center?
A: Vista Media Center supports a total of four tuners.  Two CableCARD tuners and two ATSC (OTA) tuners.  All four tuners can be recorded from at the same time.  This differs from a TiVo Series 3 which can only record from two tuners at any given time.



Q: Can you hack the number of CableCARD tuners like you do NTSC/ATSC tuners?
A: Yes.  The same methods work for hacking the registry for using more than two CableCARD tuners as work for adding additional NTSC/ATSC tuners.  Search The Green Button for more.



Q: Can Vista Media Center record unencrypted QAM (Clear QAM)?
A: Yes.  If you have a CableCARD PC you can record unencrypted QAM (Clear QAM) by setting up your Digital Cable Tuners without the CableCARD in the slot.  Anything recorded from a Digital Cable Tuner without a CableCARD will be unprotected.  The only other way to get unencrypted QAM support in Vista Media Center is to use the HDHomeRun tuner.  No other tuners (Fusion, HDTV Wonder, HVR-1600, etc) will allow for unencrypted QAM within Media Center.



Q: Is the content recorded in Vista Media Center protected?
A: Depends.  If you are recording from a CableCARD then everything you record will be protected.  Protected content can not be editing using third party programs, burned to DVD Video, or played back on another PC.  The protected content can be played back on Media Center Extenders.  If you record from a Digital Cable tuner without the CableCARD (unencrypted QAM) then all the content will be unprotected.  You will be able to edit it, burn to DVD Video, playback on another PC, etc.  Content recorded from ATSC (OTA) HD tuner is not protected.   Content recorded from NTSC/analog tuners can be CGMS-A protected.  This generally is applied to HBO, Starz, and other premium channels.



Q: Can CableCARD content be played back on an Xbox 360?
A: Yes.  You can use the Media Center Extender blade on the Xbox 360 to connect to your Windows Vista PC and have access to Live and Recorded content.  You can also use the music, video, online, and Guide features of Media Center just as you would on your PC.

Q: Are there any other devices that CableCARD content can be played on?
A: Yes.  Various v2 Media Center Extenders are starting to ship.  Linksys has their DMA2100 and DMA2200, D-Link has their DSM-750, and Niveus Media will have their EDGE Extender.  HP currently offers a free software upgrade for their MediaSmart HDTV line.  All of these can play CableCARD content, a max of five (5) can be connected to a PC at once.

Q: Can CableCARD content be transferred to portable devices (iPod, Zune)?
A: No.  Because of CableLabs restrictions and Microsoft’s DRM content can not be transferred to portable devices or any kind.  It can only be played back on Media Center Extenders and the PC it was recorded on.



Q: Can I record CableCARD content directly to a NAS or network share?
A: No.  Vista Media Center doesn’t support recording directly to a NAS/Network Share/Windows Home Server, and more over CableLabs does not permit this situation either.



Q: Can I move CableCARD content to a NAS or network share and have it work?
A: Yes.  According to various reports I have heard this should work fine.  It also should include moving it to Windows Home Server.  However, you can not directly record to a NAS/Network Share/Windows Home Server.  Please note that while content can reside on a NAS/Network Share/Windows Home Server it can still only be accessed by the Vista PC it can recorded on and by Media Center Extenders.



Q: Is CableCARD available in Canada or outside the US?
A: No.  CableCARD is only supported within the United States.



Q: Does DIRECTV or Dish have a similar tuner?
A: Currently, no.  However, DIRECTV is planning a Media Center tuner and it is rumored that Dish is doing the same.  More information here.



Q: Who installs the CableCARD in my PC?
A: Depends.  Your cable provider will either provide you with the CableCARDs to install yourself, or they will send out a tech to do it.  You will then need to call your cable provider to complete or process.  If a tech installs the CableCARD, he/she should take care of everything.

Q: I hear CableCARDs themselves have a large failure rate, is that true?
A: Yes.  CableCARD is a great idea, but a pretty flawed technology in terms of quality control.  There is a good chance that one of the CableCARDs you will get might be bad.  If so, contact your cable provider to obtain a new cable.  In addition, there have been a few cases of the Digital Cable Tuner failing.  If this happens to you, please contact your OEM.



Q: Can I run one Digital Cable Tuner with a CableCARD and another without?
A: No.  Both Digital Cable Tuners must be configured with the exact same source and options.



Q: How much do CableCARD cost to get from my cable provider?
A: Costs vary based on provider, but the average is from $1.50 to $4.  Some cable providers will even lease them to you free of charge. 



Q: Can anti-virus or firewalls interfere with CableCARDs in Windows Vista?
A: Yes.  Windows Live OneCare, Norton Internet Security, McAfee Internet Security Suite, and many other firewalls can prevent Windows Vista access to your Digital Cable Tuner and cause errors like “Tuner not found.”  To fix this, see the “Activating a CableCARD” at Microsoft’s website.



Q: Have a specific question about the Dell XPS 420?
A: Check out me Dell XPS 420 CableCARD Q&A



Q: I have a question not answer here, any other sources of information?
A: Yes.  S1Digital’s CableCARD FAQ, Microsoft CableCARD and Digital Cable FAQ, and Comcast’s Digital Cable Tuner FAQ.  Don Dumitru also has some great information about troubleshooting, Digital Cable Tuners – What Can Go Wrong.

CableCARD Out At HP Again?

It’s been a long ride for CableCARD at HP in the last month.  First they introduced the cheapest CableCARD PCs at $1500, then the disappeared a week later, reappeared a week later, and are now gone again.



Introduced May 9, disappeared May 19, reappeared May 26, and disappeared June 9 again.  If anyone out there at HP is reading, please let me know if it’s just a stock issue with the Digital Cable Tuners.  Hard to suggest anyone buying one if they keep going on the market on a weekly basis.  Oh, also let me know when you will be selling extra Digital Cable Tuners to go with the single tuner system (Part # GL282-69001).