Short Bits: HD PVR, mceShoutCast, My Movies

Brent Evans has confirmed that Hauppauge’s HD PVR has officially been delayed until at least mid-May.  Check out the full post for exact expected ship times based on order number.



eHomeUpgrade points to a new ShoutCast plug-in for Vista Media Center (English translation).  It’s MCML that has several features including favorite streams, top 500 listing, and even recording!



Brian has opened the backend services from My Movies to third parties.  This means that other plug-ins or applications can tap into Brian’s backend database as well as the My Movies Collection Management program.  Check out the full announcement here.



Thanks Ryan!





mControl Gains iPhone/iPod Touch Control Interface

Embedded Automation is on the urge of releasing mControl v2.1 which already adds several new features and improvements, but it looks like one last feature it sneaking its way in, an iPhone/iPod Touch UI!


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I will have more about mControl later this week.  I have read several comments about people being interested in getting started with lighting control and home automation, so with the help of Embedded Automation’s mControl I’m going to see if we can help everyone get started.

Thanks Dan!

Short Bits: Lifeware, 64-bit HD-PVR, Dragon

Audio Video Interiors has a great article on Life|ware, more specially the Life|ware install in Exceptional Innovation founder Seale Moorer.  If someone wanted a prime example of how MCML has impacted third party products then look no further then the UI for Life|ware.



Hauppauge reps are now saying they will have 64-bit drivers for the HD-PVR upon release…in two days.



The Green Button, Ian Dixon, jkOnTheRun, Barb Bowman and 27 other sites are set to give away HP HDX Dragon Entertainment Notebook’s worth over $4,500.  I’d keep an eye on all the 31 sites for more. 

Must Have Media Center Plug-ins?

Everyday more people come over to the Media Center side of things, most recently Dave Zatz and Ben Drawbaugh have made the switch/addition to Media Center and have been wondering what are some of the must have plug-ins.  Well, I’ve been slacking on compiling a list but today I thought what’s “must have” for me might not be “must have” for them.



So, I want to know (as do Dave and Ben), what are your must have plug-ins?  There are always the classics like My Movies, but what other plug-ins do you install before your Media Center is complete?

DVD Library Hacked to Run on Extenders

Not offical from Microsoft, but you are going to want to watch this space for more.

Update: Click here for instructions



This hack will enable Microsoft’s DVD Library that comes bundled with Vista Media Center to work on Media Center Extenders.  VIDEO_TS folders (VOB files) are playable by creating a symbolic link’s to the VOB files, and then a WVX playlist is used to link the separate VOB files into one.  A special DLL is used to enable the DVD Library to show over Extender sessions.  Enjoy!

Hauppauge HD-PVR Letdowns

The much hyped HD-PVR (Component capture device) from Hauppauge has hit its first snag. First of all, it ships with no 64-bit support, and worse only single tuner support!



I wasn’t surprised by the 64-bit news, but I’m shocked at the single tuner.  I’m not exactly sure if the single tuner support is with the bundled application that they are shipping or if it will also apply to SageTV and BeyondTV.  If it does apply to all software, this product has lost all of its value.  Maybe SnapStream can add to this




Update: Brent posted that the drivers are supposed to support multiple tuners, so most likely it is just Hauppauge’s bundled software that will only support the single tuner.



Update 2: Missing Remote says Hauppauge has confirmed multi-tuner support for “all major software packages such as BeyondTV, SageTV, MythTV and Vista Media Center.”



Now they have said it supports multiple tuners at the driver level, that it only supports one tuner per system, and they it will work with all major software packages.  Sorry Hauppauge, I don’t believe your reps anymore.  With a product of this value they need to put together a Q&A and clearly states who will be providing support, for what applications, and when.  Saying flat out that it support Vista Media Center is also very misleading.  There is no possible way for them to support it until the next Media Center release.  Their HD-PVR ships next week, at this point they really need to get their story straight.



Update 3: 64-bit drivers are now said to be there upon release.

Short Bits: FUZE, Omaura, Mesh, more

I’ve been really busy lately, but that doesn’t stop news from flowing in.



Chris Morley posted an update on recent questions about the Omaura series of cases for those interested (you should be, they look amazing).



CE Pro has an article about FUZE Media Systems taking their software to OEMs instead of just pushing their own hardware.  This is a great move consider FUZE has some really cool software for things like multi-zone audio, without the need for third party audio distribution hardware.  Look for the first OEMs to start shipping FUZE software mid-2008.



Tons of news today about Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Mary Jo has a great rundown.  I’m really interested to see how this goes, it is really a make or break concept for Microsoft’s future.



Missing Remote has a good article on things an HTPC can do besides bring a PVR as well as the news that Xlobby is planning native Blu-ray support which is quite a shock to me.



Getting Started with Lighting Control


X10



X10 is the oldest home automation technology out there, but it still works depending on your setup.  X10 is a power line carrier (PLC) technology, and thus sends commands over your existing power lines.  The advantages are simple, lots of modules that cost next to nothing.  Downsides exist with that however, mainly in reliability because of noise in the power lines and older crappy modules.  At this point it most likely isn’t a good idea to build your whole install around X10, but it still can be useful for inexpensive RF-based control options.  X10 modules go for $5 and up on eBay (which is actually one of the best places to buy).  The amount of different modules also exceeds most other technologies, which RF remotes and motion sensors being the key.


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Z-Wave



Z-Wave relies on RF-based communication without using power lines.  Every Z-Wave modules acts as an RF Repeater, so the more modules the stronger the communication within your home will be.  Z-Wave modules can respond faster than X10 modules because of the use of RF-based communication.  Z-Wave modules start at around $40 and go up from there.  Z-Wave has gained the backing of several larger tech companies including Intel, Monster Cable, Logitech, and more.  The number of modules is increasing, but many of them are also costly.  The average module cost is around $60/each.


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INSTEON



INSTEON is backwards compatible with X10, making it attractive for those who have existing X10 installs or want to take advantage of other X10 control solutions.  INSTEON also power line communication, along with RF to bridge power phases.  Every device acts as a repeater making the network stronger as you add more devices (like Z-Wave).  Until recently, INSTEON offered a lower cost line of modules starting at about $20.  These have been discontinued and now the base prices starts at about $40.  Newer modules are finally starting to arrive using INSTEON, but again they costly starting at $80 and up.  These include IR control, irrigation, and more.


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Which should you pick?



The age old question for lighting control and home automation is which standard to choose? Unfortunately, there is no single answer.  Each of the above (and others no mentioned mainly because of cost) offer advantages and have disadvantages.  I choose INSTEON a year ago when modules started around $20 as price was my main consideration.  I’ve had a great experience with INSTEON and have added various other INSTEON and X10 modules to my setup.



One great advantage of mControl is that it can control all of the above from within a single install.  All you need to do here is have a PC-based controller connected for each standard.  Since INSTEON and X10 are backwards compatible, all INSTEON controllers also handle X10.  If you want all three standards to work concurrently, just pickup an INSTEON controller and a Z-Wave controller and you are good to go.



It’s not just about the PC



I think one common mistake people make is thinking that control should be limited to your PC.  The greatest advantage of lighting control to me is the various types of control form factors that you can have.  For example, mControl is a great control interface in rooms that you use Media Center/Media Center Extenders.  However, you might not always want to turn on your display in order to turn off a light in the room.  Depending on which standard you choose there are various other control options including RF remotes and tabletop controllers.  If we can ever get some shipping Sideshow devices, mControl will have this angle covered too.  Bottom line; don’t forget to consider other switches, tabletop controllers, and remotes as a part of your decision.



Getting the wife on board



If the age old question is not which standard to choose, it’s how in the world do you get the wife or girlfriend to approve such an investment.  I’ve found that the secret here is simple, start with X10 without the PC integrated.  For well under $50 you can do a very basic one room (eg. bedroom) setup using X10 that will give you bedside control of the lights via an RF remote or stick switch.  I guarantee this will get her to appreciate the benefits of lighting control when they don’t have to get out of bed to turn off the lights at night.  Use your imagination for other advantages.



Adding mControl



The next step in your lighting control process is adding mControl for complete Media Center control and macro support.  I’ll have another post on things you can do here, but the first step is always picking the right technology.



If X10/INSTEON is your technology, then one of the best starting points is picking up an INSTEON Starter Kit.  You can either get one with plug-in lamp modules, or in-wall switches.  If Z-Wave is your choice, then you can pick up a Z-Wave Starter Kit too.



These don’t include your PC controller, so for X10 or INSTEON this is the one you want, and for Z-Wave this one.



Questions?



Got a question about lighting control or home automation using mControl?  Post here and I’ll try and get you going with the help of Embedded Automation.

Short Bits: Niveus Movie Library, Avideus

Niveus Media released an updated build of their Movie Library plug-in.  You still need a Niveus PC, but major changes include support for MyMovies XML & Artwork files/folder structure and support for DVD Profiler XML structure.



Missing Remote has the scoop on PCAlchemy’s new PC line; Avideus.   “The Avideus product line consists of a wide range of digital home products, from the small form factor MiniMCE Media Centers, to the affordable and beautifully engineered and crafted Avideus Media Centers. Additionally the Avideus HSE Home Server was just announced; the first Avideus product designed for Windows Home Server.”



I’m pretty sure you will be able to win some of these products, so watch Missing Remote for more.