Short Bits: SDV, HP TocuhSmart, Media Center Show

Missing Remote has had several great articles and review this week including an article on SDV and what it means to your CableCARD PC.  In addition to that Mike reviewed TVTonic for Media Center and D-Link’s DSM-330 DivX Connected Extender (non Media Center Extender).


Ian Dixon got one of the new HP TouchSmart panels to play with and gives his first impressions and an unboxing video.  If you haven’t had a chance to use one of these new panels yet I’d run out and try and find one locally setup in-store.   It is a great PC and the fact that it doubles as a touchpanel makes it even more worth the already cheap $1200 price tag.


On this week’s Media Center Show Ian had on newcomer to the Media Center scene Ben Drawbaugh of Engadget HD fame.  Covered in the show are various topics on home automation and Media Center Extenders.

mControl Adds Text to Speech Driver

Adding to the long list of mControl add-ins, drivers, and plug-ins is their text to speech beta driver that allows the Microsoft Speech API to make your Vista machine speak text as part of a macro.  The speech commands are specific to Windows Vista, so the client will not work on MCE 2005 (the controller part of the driver should work on MCE 2005 however).


Source code and documentation are also included in the download.

Open Media Library Beta Released

No doubt one of my favorite Media Center plug-ins to watch has been Open Media Library.  The new MCML plug-in started as a clone of Niveus Media’s Movie Library and then shifted into a huge open source project with several developers behind the effort.  All of that hard work by those developers has resulted in the first beta release available for download now which looks great!  Downloads are available for 32 and 64-bit.


Features include…


  • My Movies XML support
  • VIDEO_TS playback
  • ISO using Daemon Tools
  • Codec based playback support
  • DVD Library Manager support
  • Extender support
  • UI based setup (importers, daemontools settings, etc)
  • Metadata editor
  • Much more

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Samsung’s MediaLive: the Ultimate HDTV Accessory, Bringing Digital Content from the PC to the Big-Screen

Samsung Electronics America Inc., the leader in the U.S. digital television market, lets consumers view PC-content on a Samsung HDTV with the retail launch of the companys MediaLive adaptor. Samsungs MediaLive delivers digital content (including HD content) in real-time from Windows Media Center on a PC running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate operating systems to the big screen of a Samsung HDTV via a wireless or wired home network. From photos, music, feature films, home movies, and live and recorded TV programs, Samsungs MediaLive is the ideal plug-and-play complement to most 2008-model Samsung HDTVs.


“The PC is quickly becoming the hub for entertainment in the home and Samsung’s MediaLive gives consumers the freedom to enjoy and manage movies, photos, and music on the bigger screen of an HDTV,” said John Revie, Vice President of Visual Display Marketing at Samsung Electronics America. “Samsung’s MediaLive opens up a constantly expanding world of content for consumers, adding yet another connectivity option to the latest Samsung HDTVs.


Easily connected to an existing wireless or wired Internet connection, Samsung’s MediaLive allows PCs running Windows Vista or Windows Vista Home Premium to stream a personal movie, photo, music, and video collection to any 2008-model Samsung HDTV in the home with an HDMI-CEC connection. With the ability to display content at up to Full HD resolution and support for a range of video, audio, and image codecs such as AC3, H.264, JPEG, MPEG2, MPEG4, WMA, and WMV, consumers will be able to enjoy an impressive variety of video and audio files using Samsung’s MediaLive. Instead of crowding around a 15-inch PC monitor to share their latest music or movies, users can transfer the same PC content in real-time and share it on a 50-inch HDTV with a group of friends. One PC can stream content to up-to five Samsung MediaLive boxes connected to a TV through a home network – providing total access to entertainment from most 2008-model Samsung HDTV’s in the home.


Beyond streaming personal entertainment, Samsung’s MediaLive gives consumers access to a wide range of entertainment options including online services such as Vongo, MovieLink, Showtime TV, XM Radio, and FOX Sports, as well as the ability to browse through top news stories from Reuters and NPR. Additionally, in the U.S., Windows Media Center features the Internet TV beta program, which offers access to viral videos, news stories, movie trailers, sports clips, cast interviews, movie concerts and more. For access to live and recorded TV through the Samsung MediaLive, a simple TV tuner can be connected to the PC, turning it into a powerful DVR with the ability to watch and record favorite television shows and movies. In conjunction with FOX Sports, consumers are able to access SportsLounge to quickly view up-to-date sports scores, statistics and schedules – a perfect tool for any fantasy sports fan.


Microsoft is pleased to be working with an industry leader such as Samsung, which shares our commitment to expanding TV entertainment options through Windows Media Center, said Ron Pessner, General Manager of the Connected TV Division at Microsoft Corp. Were seeing the industry recognize the value of delivering these types of integrated solutions that allow consumers to extend pictures, music and more from their Windows Vista Home Premium- or Ultimate-based PC to the TV.


Employing the simple-to-navigate user interface and integrated electronic program guide of Windows Media Center, content browsing and playback is easily controlled using the arrow and enter buttons available on either the included MediaLive Simple Remote, or the Samsung HDTVs remote control.


Using the included mounting bracket, the compact device can be easily mounted to the rear of select Samsung flat-panel TVs for a clutter-free home theater setup. Operational commands are sent to the MediaLive via the HDMI-CEC port for a high quality, single-cable connection to the HDTV. The device connects to a PC via a RJ45 connected LAN cable, or wirelessly through a built-in 802.11 a/b/g/n receiver.


The Samsung MediaLive will be available in August 2008.


Specifications


Online Content                


  • Windows Media Center online media content providers

Audio                   


  • WMA, MP3, AC3

Video                   


  • WMV, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264
  • HDMI-CEC output
  • Replay
  • Down & Play of recorded TV program In PC
  • AV Streaming with PC (Server)
  • AV Streaming with PC (Client) – WMV, MPEG2 file Streaming

Photo                   


  • JPEG
  • Zoom in/out, Rotation

Input and Output                            


  • DC Power
  • USB 2.0 Slave
  • USB 2.0 Host
  • HDMI-CEC
  • Ethernet (RJ45 LAN cable)

Works With


  • 2008-model Samsung HDTVs 450 series and higher, LCD, Plasma and DLP

Dimension (W X H X D, mm)                       


  • 270 x 48 x 155

Weight                                


  • 1.8 kg

Estimated Selling Price                                 $200


Availability                         August 2008


*Subject to change without notice.


About Samsung Electronics America, Inc.


Headquartered in Ridgefield Park, NJ, Samsung Electronics America, Inc. (SEA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., markets a broad range of award-winning, digital consumer electronics and home appliance products, including HDTVs, home theater systems, MP3 players, digital imaging products, refrigerators and washing machines. A recognized innovation leader in consumer electronics design and technology, Samsung is the HDTV market leader in the U.S. Please visit www.samsung.com for more information.

Short Bits: Batch DVD Rip, mControl ISY

So you have a Sony DVD Changer that doesn’t include the ability to stream to Extenders.  What do you do?  Forget keeping the discs in the changer and just batch rip them using Casey Chesnut newest project /dvdMassRip.


Embedded Automation has just released a beta driver for Universal Device’s ISY-xx controllers.  Currently supported are the ISY-26 and ISY-99i INSTEON controllers, and the driver has been designed so that UPB and Z-Wave ISY controllers.

Heatwave Weather Plug-in Makes a Comeback

Years after developing the world’s first native Media Center plug-in (in MCE 2005 nonetheless, thus using unsupported methods), James at MCExtended is back with Heatwave for Vista.  Just about everything you would expect is included in the new weather plug-in, and it also includes some extras like overlaying a transparent version of the plug-in over the currently playing video just as Media Center does with the Guide.


You can download it here.


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Short Bits: Media Center U, Media Center Show, SideShow, More

I’ve been extra busy the past week and have kind of skipped covering everything that I wanted too, but now I’m back!

Check out part 4 and part 4 of the Media Center University sessions at EHX.  In these two sessions Todd Rutherford from Microsoft covers everything from online streaming and downloading of content to controlling Media Center in a whole home environment.

In last week Media Center Show Ian Dixon and Ted Singh covered Embedded Automations upcoming mPanel touchscreen. 

I’ve got a post coming on SideShow later, but to get a glimpse of that you just have to see some of the new SideShow gadgets just released by Ikanos Consulting.  AccuWeather, Live Messenger and System Health.  Now yet again if we could get some more SideShow hardware this stuff would really take off.

Now so much Media Center related, but TechCrunch has a great post about building the perfect web tablet.  Their idea is for the community to develop a target $200 touchscreen tablet and then they are going to get some prototypes made up.  I’ve been waiting for the exact same thing, but I’m not sure they are going to meet their $200 price point just yet.  Nonetheless, it is something to watch out for and maybe participate in.




Microsoft Releases Home Server Power Pack 1

After what seems like an extremely long wait Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 has been released.  If you have automatic updates enabled on your server then Power Pack 1 will be downloaded directly, but if you can’t wait for that then the download is up here.


Power Pack 1 includes several new features and fixes, most notable Vista x64 support and a fix to the nasty data corruption bug.  Other features include Home Server Shared Folder backup, improved remote access, and power consumption/performance improvements.


Hot on the heels of Power Pack 1, HP has also released their MediaSmart Server Update which adds a few additional features.


Read more on We Got Served and the Windows Home Server Team Blog.

CableCARD to Get Relaxed DRM

It has always been hard to stomach the DRM variations that CableLabs has set up between OCURs and UDCP devices like TiVo’s.  TiVo gets the ability to have non-DRM recordings if the content provider hasn’t flagged the broadcast at all whereas Media Center with CableCARD has to protect everything no matter what.  This discrepancy might is ready to change.


CableLabs recently unwrapped an update to the OCUR specs in which they appeared to have removed the “Requirement to Protect Output of Content with No Protection Flags.”


Hard to say whether you will need the Windows Media Center TV Pack to take full advantage, but based on what S1Digital is planning to ship it would appear that at least at first the TV Pack will be required.  There will also have to be a Digital Cable Tuner update that would most likely allow shows not marked as copy protected to skip the WMDRM process within the tuner.


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More on Fiji/Media Center TV Pack

Lots of stuff going around on Fiji, and while I can’t say as much as I’d like too I can say that no single person has put all the pieces together yet.  Word is that Fiji final name is indeed Windows Media Center TV Pack, and useless a separate product pops up out of nowhere I’d consider that pretty concrete.  Microsoft let that bit slip themselves by releasing a few knowledge base articles specifically about the TV Pack.


Engadget HD runs down what they expect to be in the update, and Brent Evans covers more of the news from a few different sources as does Mary Jo.


Now, I still can’t say much about it because of various different NDAs, but I can say there are still pieces missing from people accounts of how this is going to work and/or what is included in the update.  Good or bad however, I can’t say so you will have to wait.  Microsoft has hinted that the official announcement for Fiji will come at CEDIA in September.


On to what I can say, this beta has been a disaster if you look at it with an outside perspective.  I am very disappointed on how many people are leaking stuff, and if you thought a two year wait for a public beta was long for Fiji I’d suggest you not get your hopes up about testing anything else related to Media Center in the future.  Based on the disregard of the testers I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft cut out a public beta until everything is finalized for the next release.  You can thank your fellow beta testers for screwing you out of a possible opportunity. 


I’m also very disappointed at the collective attitude of The Green Button.  Not because Fiji might be OEM only, not because it might be missing DIRECTV support, not because of any included or missing feature but instead because of the childish name calling and activity that has gone on.  The Green Button used to be a community that pretty much moderated itself, but of course the second I get busy at work all hell breaks loss and people turn into name calling teenagers.  You can all do better, and I expect to see it.


Just because Microsoft bought The Green Button does not mean they will reply to all threads about unreleased and/or unannounced software.  Everyone needs to realize this.  Microsoft employees have been being more active in the forums, and considering this ownership transition is just starting it will take time for things to change.  Those who insist on flaming and name calling any member, Microsoft employed or not, will not be welcome at The Green Button.


I will have more on Fiji when I can talk about it, but sadly at this point all I can say is above.