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.