Archive for January, 2007

DVRMSToolbox

January 28, 2007

I noticed this whole thing about DVRMSToolbox which enables you to convert the DVR-MS files (TV recordings from MCE) to other formats and also enables you to cut out commercials.

I was pleasantly suprised at how well this worked.  It cut out commercials with 99% accuracy.  It only seemed to miss commercials right at the start of the show.

I used the default settings and setup and haven’t had a chance to really play around with the settings.   You can find the user guide here. The one thing that bothers me is that once you’ve converted the file to mpg it doesn’t shop up in MCE anymore as recorded tv shows and it also loses all the metadata about what the show is about.  This is a pitty especially as my ultimate goal is to convert it to MP4.

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MCETunes version 2.0

January 28, 2007

There is an updated version of MCETunes with audio support for media center extenders.

It still doesn’t write back play counts etc to the iTunes database, which is really a feature I would like as I use iTunes extensively with smart playlists to play music on my ipod.

You can find mcetunes here.

New solution for South African EPG in MCE

January 28, 2007

There is an updated method of getting the guide to work in MCE.  I don’t really know why this is better except that it seems to integrate better with MCE.

http://savage.org.za/zaxmltv/

Wiring / DSTV PVR

January 15, 2007

OK, today I decided I “have” to make a plan with all the wiring behind the Scaleo, the satellite STB (DSTV PVR), etc.  Partly because I had to hook up the Scaleo properly to record, but also because the wires just irritated me.

So it took me most of a morning to remove all the unnessary wires and to connect up the Scaleo.  Hooking up the Scaleo proofed to be a bit more difficult than I thought.  I tried to hook up the RCA cables from the DSTV PVR to the front input Video and Audio in RCA connections of the Scaleo, but for some reason the TV image was jerky and stuttered a lot.

So I tried normal coax cables through the attenna connection of the Scaleo.  For some reason MCE didn’t pick up the channels.  I decided to give the RCA cables a go again, because this is my preferred method of connecting the DSTV PVR (even though the connections are in the front of the Scaleo – what were they thinking) .  For some reason it worked perfectly this time and the TV image was good and didn’t stutter.

So finally I could remove all the old cables as well as my old HTPC from my living room. This all sounds so trivial now, but it took a lot of time to organise all the wires etc again.

I will post some pictures later.

Getting the MCE TV guide to work in South Africa

January 15, 2007

Yeah, that’s right I live in the wonderful world of South Africa.

Only problem with this wonderful country is Microsoft (and the crime).  MS decided in their infinite wisdom that we will sell MCE in South Africa and even ask the hardware manufacturers to sell MCE computers (like the Scaleo) in South Africa, but we are not going to make the South African TV guide available.

Luckily there is an active community forum in South Africa for MCE and also some clever guys who makes an XMLTV file (basically this is an XML file with all the guide information) available.  There are also several applications available to import this xmltv information into MCE.

This all sounds very complicated, but basically I followed the instructions to get the Guide working from here but if you have trouble you can also follow the instructions here. .

I followed in the instructions to download the guide from this site but you can also get it on the SA MCE Community site.

In a relatively short period I got the TV guide to work on MCE.

I even scheduled a couple of series recordings! Let’s hope it records with the DSTV PVR standby issue (more about this next)

My Movies and Music

January 15, 2007

On Day 6 I decided to give the Music interface a rest.  I did email MCETunes about the play count and last played information sync  between iTunes and MCE and they replied they will look into it.  The only other change I made was to move songs from a “favourites” playlist in iTunes to a “Favourites” playlist in WMP so it is available in MCE.  This is just a normal playlist with the songs that my wife and I currently enjoy to listen to.

So I decided that the next step must be to install “My Movies” and download covers and information on my video files that are in mp4 format so I can sync them to my ipod.  Basically I’ve got all my DVDs in mp4 format and never actually insert the DVD again unless I want to watch a movie in full surround sound.

I installed the plugin, but to be honest I just couldn’t figure out how to get it to download covers for movies on my hard drive.  It works perfectly for DVDs that you insert.  It puts the DVD’s information in a database so you can select the DVD again at a later stage and then MCE prompts you to insert the DVD.  I also got a strage dialog everytime I went into the “Manage collection” program.  The dialog box said something about new data provider  and that the application will restart.  I pressed OK and nothing happened again.  I tried this several times over the weekend, but couldn’t get into that application and couldn’t find anyway of importing the movies in the MCE interface.

So I decided to get the EPG working next.

iPod to iTunes to WMP

January 12, 2007

I still sit with the dilemma that I have 2 video ipods and 2 music ipods that I have to sync with iTunes. Why you might ask? There are other utilities for windows – there is even a plugin for WMP. Well, the problem is that none of the other software can create smart playlists on the ipod. The can auto update on the ipod anyway. All of them can copy these smart playlists only as normal playlists.

I spent a lot of times to create on master smart playlist which is based on a couple of sub smart and normal playlists to create myself a “mix” playlist. This is done based on the number of times I or my wife have played a song on the ipod or in iTunes, the ratings, the date it was last played, whether it is in a specific playlists with my current favourites, etc. I finally then end up with a smart playlist with a combinantion of my favourite music, the songs I have rated highly, songs I haven’t heard in a while, excluding songs I’ve listened to in the past week, excluding songs I normally skip, etc etc.

I cannot imagine using my iPod anymore without this one smart playlist (based on the other playlists) because this is the only playlist I basically use on the iPod.

If I stop using iTunes I will lose all of this functionality on the iPod and I still listen more to music on the iPod than on the Media PC / HTPC.

Last night I decided to give MCETunes a go.

I installed the trial which is limited with some functions and only work on 20 songs from your iTunes library. The 20 songs were immediately available in WMP with their ratins and the correct artist and titles. From what I could see it looks like MCETunes imports the iTunes library into WMP in some manner. The one thing that I noticed was that playing a song back does not update the iTunes library. Not too a big of a problem so I went ahead and bought the Pro version (the website is a bit shocking and doesn’t really explain the program very well – I was hoping that the Pro version might update the play count and date last played in iTunes because I understood from the website that MCETunes uses iTunes to play the music – if this is the case then the playcount should be updated in the library)

I installed the Pro version, but unfortunately it still did not write back the play count or the last played information. And this was when I realise that the plugin does not import the play count and the last played information from the iTunes library at all!

So actually all the plugin achieved for me was to have the iTunes music library with its ratings for the songs available, but no playlists, no play counts, no last played date! This is so disappointing.

I gues I’ll have to try MusicBridge next.

Moving iTunes library and music to the new computer

January 12, 2007
  • First step was to connect my external hard drive (Lacíe 500gb) with all my music and videos to the new HTPC
  • Next I copied my itunes library to the new PC (anywhere for now). Look in iTunes under Edit -> Preferences and then Music location where the library is. It should be two files called iTunes Library.itl and iTunes Music Library.xml
  • Before the next steps I made sure iTunes is closed. It will make a mess if iTunes is open while I did the following steps.
  • The drive letter of my music and videos are not the same as on my old PC, so I needed to change this location. You cannot do this from within iTunes without re-importing all the music and losing all my ratings etc in the process. So to keep my ratings, play counts etc the was done
  • The .itl file is the actual iTunes library
  • The .xml file is a backup of the iTunes library and can be edited using a text editor (I use Notepad++)
  • Luckily some very clever people on the iLounge.com forums posted that if the .itl file gets corrupted then iTunes will rebuild its library from the .xml file
  • So all I needed to do next was to open the .itl file in a text editor and select all the funny looking characters inside and delete it all and save.
  • As explained my drive letter changed for my music from the old machine to the new one. So I opened the .xml file and search and replaced G:/ with I:/ and then saved the file (notice the forward slash)
  • Ofcourse in this case my backup of the library is on the old computer. If you want to change drive letters on the same PC you have to make a backup of the .itl and .xml (just in case).
  • The next step was to copy the empty .itl file and the modified .xml file to the iTunes library location on the new machine. I kept iTunes closed at this point! It is normally located under my documents\my music\iTunes.
  • Once I copied it to this location I also copied any files on the old computer under the \iTunes Music and the \Album Artwork directory to the same directory on the new computers (My documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music and ..\Album Artwork). You’re podcasts and any files you’ve ripped using iTunes will normally be in this directory. I assume the Album Artwork is a directory with artwork downloaded by iTunes.
  • OK, finally everything was copied or modified. All that remained was to open iTunes.
  • After opening iTunes it started with a progress dialog box saying “Importing “iTunes Music Library.xml””
  • This took a while (…. forever)
  • Finally it gave a message saying that the itunes library was corrupted and that it was rebuilt.
  • I check the library and it had all the playlists, ratings, playcounts etc.
  • I sucessfully moved all my songs as well as the play count, ratings and date last played information from my old computer and itunes to the new PC.

Next?  How do I get this to play in MCE and update the playcounts etc?

How to play MP4 in WMP

January 11, 2007

So after installing iTunes and consequently Quicktime I couldn’t play mp4s anymore with WMP.

Here is how you fix it.

  • Firstly, if you haven’t installed 3ivx or the Quicktime alternative referred to in a previous post, then install this first.
  • Secondly, copy and the text below and paste in a new text document. Save it as something like mp4files.reg (make sure you’ve changed the extension). Double click it and select yes. You’re mp4 files should play again with WMP.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4]
@=”mpegfile”
“Content Type”=”video/mpeg”
“PerceivedType”=”video”
“MPlayer2.BAK”=”WMP11.AssocFile.MPEG”

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4\OpenWithList]

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4\OpenWithList\iTunes.exe]
@=””

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4\OpenWithProgIds]
“MPEGFile”=hex(0):
@=””
“iTunes.mp4″=hex:

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4\PersistentHandler]
@=”{098f2470-bae0-11cd-b579-08002b30bfeb}”

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4\ShellEx]

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4\ShellEx\{BB2E617C-0920-11D1-9A0B-00C04FC2D6C1}]
@=”{c5a40261-cd64-4ccf-84cb-c394da41d590}”

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Multimedia\WMPlayer\Extensions\.mp4]
“Runtime”=dword:00000007
“Extension.MIME”=”video/mpeg”
“SPDHandler”=”WMP11.AssocFile.MPEG”
“Extension.Handler”=”mpegfile”
“MCIHandler”=”MPEGVideo”
“Permissions”=dword:0000000f
“MediaType.Description”=”Movie Clip”
“MediaType.Icon”=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,\
6f,00,74,00,25,00,5c,00,73,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,33,00,32,00,5c,\
00,77,00,6d,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,63,00,2e,00,64,00,6c,00,6c,00,2c,00,2d,00,\
37,00,33,00,33,00,00,00
“Shell.Open”=”/prefetch:9 /Open \”%L\””
“PerceivedType”=”video”
“MediaType.DescriptionID”=”9902”
“Shell.AltVerb.Cmd”=”/prefetch:9 /Play \”%L\””
“ReplaceApps”=”wmplayer.exe|iexplore.exe”

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Multimedia\WMPlayer\Extensions\.mp4]
“Runtime”=dword:00000007
“Extension.MIME”=”video/mpeg”
“SPDHandler”=”WMP11.AssocFile.MPEG”
“Extension.Handler”=”mpegfile”
“MCIHandler”=”MPEGVideo”
“Permissions”=dword:0000000f
“MediaType.Description”=”Movie Clip”
“MediaType.Icon”=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,\
6f,00,74,00,25,00,5c,00,73,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,33,00,32,00,5c,\
00,77,00,6d,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,63,00,2e,00,64,00,6c,00,6c,00,2c,00,2d,00,\
37,00,33,00,33,00,00,00
“Shell.Open”=”/prefetch:9 /Open \”%L\””
“PerceivedType”=”video”
“MediaType.DescriptionID”=”9902”
“Shell.AltVerb.Cmd”=”/prefetch:9 /Play \”%L\””
“ReplaceApps”=”wmplayer.exe|iexplore.exe”

You can download the file here – MP4 Files Registry Settings

Rename the file to mp4files.reg and double click to merge into the registry to play mp4 files in WMP.

Day 4

January 11, 2007

OK, so on Day 3 I didn’t manage to do much on the Scaleo.

Today I’m going to install iTunes and try to get all the ratings etc into MCE. There are a few reasons why I want to use iTunes:

  • I have no DRM songs bought through the iTunes stores, all my music is ripped from CDs, but….
  • I do use an ipod and as explained in the previous post it is important for me to keep all my fancy smart playlists that I’ve created in iTunes. Yes, yes, I know WMP can create the playlists, but then I lose all the the playcount etc information from my ipod. You see I’ve actually got 4 ipods between myself, my wife and the kids and I want all of the play counts, dates played, songs skipped etc to be available in one place. The only way I can do that is to sync my ipod with iTunes.
  • The other reasons is that I’ve been waiting for the iTV (now Apple TV) to be launched since it was first introduced in September 2006. I can then use this as my media player in all the other rooms of the house. Why? Based on my experience with the ipod the AppleTV will be a great interface and easy to use for the rest of the people in the house.

After a bit of research I found there are two solutions:

Here are the steps I followed:

  • First step is easy – install iTunes. Actually this was a harder decision than it sounds like. I wanted to keep the HTPC as clean as possible. I don’t want to install to many applications onto the Media PC.
  • Made the error to think I can uninstall Quicktime – iTunes does not work without Quicktime. Reinstall iTunes again.
  • After installing iTunes, I can’t play mp4s in MCE anymore! Aaauugh!
  • Reinstalled the 3ivx decoder – still doesn’t play.
  • Restart……
  • OK, so even after the reboot and a couple of re-installs of 3ivx I still can’t play mp4 videos in WMP.
  • So still at step 1!