S1Digital Now Shipping CableCARD Enabled Media Centers

NEW YORK, Aug. 30– S1Digital is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Digital Cable Tuners with their Media Center solutions, enabling customers to watch and record premium high-definition TV (HDTV) via CableCARD, without the need for a cable set top box.



Digital Cable Tuners are available on the ProLine Quad Server and FX Editions, as well as the Home Series’ Platinum Edition with two internal CableCARD slots so customers can watch and record two channels at the same time; and with internal storage of up to 3.75 terabytes on the Server Edition and 2.25 terabytes on the Platinum Edition, around 250 to 450 hours of HDTV can be stored. Under the hood the Media Centers run on Intel Core 2 Duo and Quad processors with Viiv Technology, Nvidia PureVideo HD video processors and Microsoft Windows Vista, providing extremely powerful digital media playback capabilities.



S1Digital also offers customers the ability to watch the latest high- definition movies on HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs and includes seamless integrated playback within the Vista Media Center interface.



When coupled with Xbox 360s, S1Digital Media Centers provide customers with a powerful but cost-effective IP-based multi-room A/V distribution solution that allows watching live HDTV in other rooms, as well enabling a centralized recorded TV, video and music server.



S1Digital, now a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, has been working hard to provide customers this most requested feature since the Media Center platform was originally introduced. S1Digital Media Centers are totally integrated hubs of digital entertainment, including high-definition TV and movies, video, music, photos, Internet content and more.



For dealers and custom installers, S1Digital has a special program and pricing allowing resellers to offer the ultimate digital entertainment experience to their customers.



More information on S1Digital’s solutions can be found at http://www.s1digital.com/, by emailing sales@s1digital.comor by calling (888) 632-6897.


Inteset Announces CableCARD Availability



Hanover MA, August 28, 2007, Inteset, LLC has announced the availability of CableCARD in its server systems. Inteset now provides an option for up to two (2) internal OCUR tuners that support CableCARD in its Denzel and Maximus servers.

The Inteset CableCARD solution allows customers to replace their high definition cable box with an Inteset server to view one standard or high definition premium program while recording another. OCUR tuners can be used without the CableCARD add-on from the local cable company in which case unencrypted QAM (non-premium digital cable) is supported. In addition, all Inteset systems are now available using the Windows Vista operating system from Microsoft which is required for the use of OCUR tuners.

Dealers have been asking for CableCARD for some time. Inteset has held off on offering CableCARD for the Windows Vista platform until third-party drivers for the OS were more stable and up-to-date. Inteset had been working closely with its OEM partner, Microsoft, and the driver vendors during that time and have now qualified its systems for use with these major features.

“CableCARD and the Windows Vista operating system have been highly anticipated. We’re now delighted to offer it to our patient dealers,” says David Hirsh, Inteset Director of Business Development.

“It has been a pleasure working with Inteset on the CableCARD project,” says Mike Arntzen, Business Development Manager of Entertainment and Devices Divisions’ eHome Group at Microsoft Corp. “Inteset works hard to satisfy the needs of the installer channel. It’s great to see a company such as Inteset as committed to the channel as Microsoft is.”

For more information, visit http://www.inteset.com. Inteset products will be on display during the September 07’ CEDIA show in Denver, CO in Booth #326.



About Inteset



Inteset, LLC has been creating high-end home entertainment products since 2003. Inteset offers three categories of products based on the Windows Media Center platform: media servers, media extenders, and exclusive software for its systems. The near silent media servers come with up to 6TB of internal, protected storage with the ability to expand externally. The advanced media extenders are independent systems as well as A/V distribution clients. All systems are shipped with an enriched Windows Media Center interface that includes a movie management module and a multi-zone music module among other exclusive software offerings. These systems appeal to A/V dealers and integrators for their high-integrity construction, reliability, ease-of-use, unique entertainment modules and services, price point, and interoperability with advanced control systems.

Short Bits: Vaio LT, Album Art, HD DVD, Plug-ins

In October, Sony will start selling their Vaio LT HD PC/TV.  It’s an all-in-one PC 22-inch LCD TV with a PC built-in.  There will be a standard and an HD model that includes Blu-ray and CableCARD, I’m assuming only a single tuner though.  Cool idea, but I don’t see this pushing too many units.  Sony, like HP has a few innovative PC concepts out there but I don’t think the general public is really ready for something like this.



A week or so ago Jason Dunn wrote an article about Microsoft not getting embedded album art.   I agree, I’ve been struggling with some album art recently and it’s ridiculous that I have to spend time troubleshooting and thinking about something like album art.  Not only that, the either Windows Media Player team is behind the times.  Microsoft is concentrating too much on thing like the Zune and online services and not putting enough time into their flagship player.  Windows Media Player needs a lot of work, and it seems very little gets done with every release.



There have been tons of HD DVD deals out in the past few days.  First of all, if you pick up a Toshiba HD-A2, HD-A20 or HD-XA2 at Amazon you also get five free HD DVDs via snail mail and an addition three free as part on a promotion that ends on the September 23.  Figuring $20 a disc, you are basically getting a HD DVD player for free or really cheap.  There is also a deal where you can get the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive for $180 and get nine HD DVDs with that!



And lastly for a free plug-in notes, MCEBuddy is a DVRMSToolbox-like application that could be considered to have a more understandable UI for beginners.  Looks pretty cool.  Converts files to other formats, remove commercials, etc.



Ryan Hurst got around to updating one of the most popular applications for Media Center, My Netflix is now updated for a better Vista install.  Other changes include the images and bug fixes.


Review: Vidabox Premium Wireless Keyboard with Optical Trackball

image

Finding a nice keyboard to use with your Media Center isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  Many keyboards are either too pricey, not designed for use in your lap, or have some other fatal flaw.  Vidabox has created a Premium Wireless Keyboard with Optical Trackball that comes standard on all of their systems, and is also available for purchase separately that attempts to find a solution to some of these problems.  They were nice enough to send me one to review, so let’s get right into it.



At first glance, you will notice that the Vidabox keyboard is perfectly suited to live in your lap for hours upon hours.  The design is clean and doesn’t include too many extra and unneeded buttons.   It does have basic transport controls (play/pause, stop, skip, reply) along with volume controls (up, down, mute) and a few extras (e-mail, web browser).   However, for the purpose of controlling Media Center it is lacking in one way; there is no Green Button.



For Green Button control freaks such as myself, who use the Green Button for basic navigation this is a problem.  There is a keyboard shortcut in that you can use (Windows key+ALT+ENTER) but it just isn’t the same.  The lack of a Green Button was really the only thing wrong with the keyboard functions of the Vidabox Premium Wireless Keyboard.  I was very pleased to find that this keyboard types and feels just like a ThinkPad keyboard.  For any ThinkPad owners out there, you know what I’m talking about.  For instant messing, replying to e-mails, web browsing, or even typing a paper this keyboard is a dream and better than the one sitting on my desk right now.



On to the integrated optical trackball (800dpi), it works very well after some initial time to get comfortable with it.  When I first picked up this keyboard, the speed of mouse was entirely to fast to deal with.  I lowered the pointer speed in the Control Panel, but after a few days of using the keyboard I had to keep bumping it up until I hit the original default speed it was set at.  Once you get a hold of it, the trackball works amazing well and requires very little effort to get the mouse pointer where you want it to be.



I do have two complaints about the mouse functions of this keyboard.  First of all, the trackball is prone to move slightly when you physically move the keyboard around.  It’s not so much of a big deal, except that in Media Center the slightest movement of the mouse will bring the onscreen transport controls up.  If you do a significant bit of picking up the keyboard or tilting it up and down, this might annoy you.



The second problem I have is with the placement of the mouse buttons and the trackball. With the trackball at the top right and the mouse buttons at the top left, you do have to reposition your hands to use either the mouse or to type.  I would really like to see a pointing stick (TrackPoint) used on this keyboard to get around this problem.  While it can be annoying to reposition your hands, it is another one of those things just I got use to after a few days and then it was no longer an issue.



Overall, the Vidabox Premium Wireless Keyboard with Optical Trackball is better then many of the current keyboards out there for use on the couch, but there are a few design elements that could be done better in the future.  It has a 30-foot range (I tested up to 20-feet with great results) and auto-shut off of the optical trackball to save battery life.



Interested?  Use the coupon code “chrislanier” and get a 10% discount that can be redeemed during the checkout process at Vidabox’s website.



Included in the box:



Premium Wireless Keyboard with Optical Trackball



Three AA batteries



USB Receiver (with USB extension cable)



Pros:



Inexpensive ($69.99)



Designed for your lap



Optical Trackball/Mouse works well



Cons:



No Green Button



Control takes getting use to

Photos (Click for larger view)







Ricavision SideShow Remote Available Now (Sort of)







Ricavision has released their long awated Sideshow Remotes for Vista Media Center (Via Missing Remote).  The description from Ricavision says…

“The Ricavision SideShow remote control is the first and only remote control that incorporates the one touch access of Media Center with the power of Microsoft Windows Vista in one convenient home entertainment remote control solution.  With the integration of Microsoft Vista comes the access to SideShow and the multiple features that are accessed by the SideShow Gadgets.  These innovative product developments incorporated with the Microsoft Windows Vista SideShow provides continuous access to digital entertainment every minute of every day.”

Features



The SideShow Remote Control allows direct access & total control of Windows SideShow functions of the Media Center. It enables you to do the following things:



  • Play Music
  • Browse music library by album, artist and genre.
  • Add to Queue appends all tracks in the selection to the Now Playing list.
  • Now Playing List links to the Now Playing screen.
  • Browse TV program guide.
  • Record schedules programs to record now or later without interrupting the TV viewing experience.
  • Select recorded TV. For previously recorded TV programs, a list of programs by name and by date will be available, along with details about the selected program
  • Select other gadgets on the SideShow remote control, and view information such as email, a calendar, news headlines, and weather.
Price is $250 and is available now.  However, this is the reference design sample, all sales are final.  I’d love to get one of these to review though and hopefully they will have the newer version of the SideShow remote out soon.
















CE Pro Offers Media Center Training at CEDIA



CE Pro is offering a Media Center Training class at CEDIA this year.  It will be a 90 minute course to introduce installers to Vista Media Center.  For those interested in more, you will want to attend EHX in November for CE Pro’s extensive Media Center Boot Camp.



At CEDIA, the Media Center Training class will offer some basic information geared to custom installers including…



  • Windows Media Center feature summary and demonstration
  • How to articulate Windows Media Center value to customers
  • Uses of Windows Media Center in residential installation
  • Next steps to incorporating Windows Media Center into a business








Schedule



  • Friday, Sept. 7: Hyatt Agate A – 10:00 am and 4:00pm
  • Saturday, Sept. 8: Convention Center BR-1D – 10:00am and 4:00pm




For more information see here.



HP Offers Sub-$1000 CableCARD PCs

If you are in the market for a single tuner CableCARD PC, HP has a deal for you on the m8100y that I told you about a few weeks ago.  According to poster at AVS Forum there is a $400 coupon code that works on the m8100y.  This means you can get a CableCARD PC configured with a GeForce 8500GT and Core 2 Duo E6550 for just about $979.99!



That is a huge deal, but again HP only allows you to configure a single Digital Cable Tuner and there is no telling if or when they plan on changing that.  You can only buy tuners from the OEM who sold you the PC.



The coupon code is DT1400.  Happy spending.


DivX Connected: Round Two


I thought this was important enough to post for everyone to read.  A commenter named “bobby” had this to say about my thoughts on DivX Connected.



“Wow, I understand this is a supposed to be a personal option blog, but no one is fooled, this blog is part of M$ pathetic try at viral marketing.

That said I’m very impressed how M$ is bad mouthing a product they didn’t even have seen and used, is DivX Connected *that* threatening for them ?

So let’s recap, the DivX Connected device plays DivX (and Xvid, BTW, so you got access to 70%+ of the “content” people are interested in), it does play WMV and WMA and it is based on an open platform (hello, MKV, H264 and the rest…) I do not think that lack of file formats and codec support is going to be an issue.

Stage6 support is more, as I understand it, a demonstration of the capability of the API and the of online content possibility (full trick play support FYI)

As of the 100M hardware devices, I believe this is where it is hurting for M$, DivX did indeed shipped 100M CERTIFIED hardware devices, yes they work with low cost SoC and 3rd party partners, this is the whole point, DivX is not in the business of selling boxes, they are in the technology licensing business, and in that regard they did WAY better than you Mr. M$.

I think DivX did a great job in selecting their Beta users: you were not selected, and I do not believe you will receive a test unit either, you will have to go buy it in the stores, but I believe M$ as enough change, that shouldn’t be an issue.”













First of all bobby, I’d invite you to subscribe to my blog and read the posts.  As you will see below, you are clearly off base with much of your post.  I have provided examples dating back years to show this.



I have been on Microsoft for years about their choices with file format support.  Because of this, you will find dozens of postings from me about their stupid decisions to limit file format support to not include DivX and other MPEG-4 based codecs.  An example would be right here and here, and dozens of other posts that reference it.  I can provide you with dozens of examples, and I’m sure the rest of my readers could even provide you with links where I have said the same.



I’ve also been saying for years that DivX is continuing to grow in several respects, with Microsoft falling behind in several places (such as hardware support, where DivX is king).  DivX is far from “doing well” in my opinion, but in the hardware field it has been light-years above offerings by Microsoft.





I had also posted a bit of Microsoft bashing when Sean Alexander posted about DivX Connected (GejBox) back in June.  Oddly, the comments are no longer listed despite the fact Sean had several (Update:Archive.org showing 4 comments on the post).  To summarize, Sean is passing off DivX as a “offbeat MPEG-4 profile” when it clearly stays within MPEG-4 ASP and when Microsoft continues to develop new formats that don’t conform to existing standards.  You can’t badmouth third parties when your own company is the king of “offbeat.”



Back to DivX Connected, according to the Gizmodo post, it doesn’t yet support other formats.   As I noted in the post from the start, it’s based off a pre-production device, and thus it can change.  Alexander pointed me to the third video which I said I didn’t watch where Mr Gej himself said it would support “DivX, Xvid, and a variation of MPEG-4… and Windows Media.”



Having said that, an “open platform” doesn’t always mean that much.  There are several devices on the market today that are “open” and still don’t support third party codecs and file formats.  I want to see native support, as I’ve talked about before I don’t believe in using transcoding for everything.  Allowing third parties to include support for other codecs and it happening are often to different things.



And yes, I agree the fact that 100 million devices is hurting Microsoft.  Microsoft should be contributing to that amount with supporting MPEG-4 ASP on the Xbox 360 and all future products (Zune, v2 Extender, etc).  I have been saying this for years.  Again, please read some of my other writings before you assume too much.



And yet again, I don’t work for or represent Microsoft.  Feel free to read the clearly labeled “About Me” link off to the side.



(BTW, bobby if you are a masked DivX, Inc employee, I would ask if you would contact me directly and not hide behind a fake a name.  I’d love to chat and let you know what I think of DivX Connected.  If you are not a masked DivX, Inc employee please carry on and read what I have provided you).



Intel Not Bringing CableCARD/OCAP to the PC

I’m still trying to do catch-up on the news I missed last month while on vacation, so to let everyone know Intel is not working on bring OCAP or CableCARD to PCs.  Several major media outlets reported this last month, and they got it wrong.


What Intel is working on doing is bring OCAP to new SoC-based solutions.  These would be for use in CE devices, not PCs.


ATI is still the only company who is publicly working with CableLabs on bringing new CableCARD related technologies to the PC.  Other manufactures are welcome to work with CableLabs to build their own CableCARD tuners.  ATI only has a monopoly on the market because they are the only ones who went through the hard and expensive work to get them to market.  They have three CableCARD products certified with CableLabs.  The internal OCUR, external OCUR, and the dual OCUR box from Niveus Media.