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
!

image

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.

image

 

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.

image

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.

image

 

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
.