Archive for the ‘HTPC’ Category

Remove commercials from MCE recordings

May 23, 2009

Next step is to set the machine up again to remove commercials from recordings.

I really didn’t look forward to setup op DVRMSToolbox with comskip or ShowAnalyzer againg.

Luckily it seems like Vista MCE has a lot more options to do these tasks.  I found the following software which seems to be able to do everything I want except converting the shows to MP4 after it removed the commercials.

http://www.lifextender.com/screens.aspx

The Green Button – RE: how to add extra keypress over IR blaster?

December 10, 2007

Title: The Media Center remote control does not change channels properly.

Symptoms:

Even after learning your set-top box remote control, the Media Center remote control does not change channels properly.

Cause:

Media Center may have misjudged the speed of your set-top box’s remote control, and therefore your Media Center remote may be sending signals incorrectly.

Resolution:

* Using your keyboard, press WINDOWS + R.
* In the “Run” box that appears, type “regedit,” and click OK.
* Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\Video\Tuners
* Look in subfolders whose names are in curly brackets and contain a bunch of random numbers and letters until you find the UserSettings folder. (There may be multiple folders with this name.)
* Click on UserSettings, and open the “STBCode” file on the right-hand side of the window. (If this file does not exist, go back to Step 4.
* Try changing the number contained after the tag to 100, 175, and 250. Each time, close out of the registry, restart your system, and try your remote to see if it works normally.
o If you have a Scientific Atlanta 8600 set-top box, change the numbers after the , , and tags to 100, 100, and 400, respectively.
o If you have a General Instruments DCT 2244 set-top box, change the numbers after the , , and tags to 1000, 300, and 1200, respectively.

If you want to tweak the numbers further, here is more detailed information:

The value of Key Duration is defined during set-top box setup. The other two registry entries are left blank by setup, and the values for Key Interval and Channel Pause are calculated in the following way:

Key Interval = Key Duration
Channel Pause = 2 * Key Duration

Key Duration Key Interval (Default) Channel Pause (Default)
FAST 100 100 200
MEDIUM 175 175 350
SLOW 250 250 500

If XXX for Key Interval and YYY for Channel Pause are replaced with numeric values, they are used instead of the defaults.

If your box seems to be dropping digits, try a longer Key Duration. If that doesn’t help or doesn’t fully solve the problem, try a longer Key Interval.

If the box is mixing digits from the previous channel change into the current one, try adding to the Channel Pause, and then Key Interval values.

NOTE: all values are in milliseconds, were 1 millisecond is 1/1000 of a second.

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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.

Day 1

January 11, 2007

Not much happened today. Took the machine out of the box and hooked it up to the rest of my Home Theater System.

First problems already encountered:

  • The TV card’s RCA connections are in the front of the PC. The back only has a coax cable connection. Not going to be fun to connect this at a later stage. For the moment I’ll connect it to the front.
  • Connected it up to my Plasma using the VGA connection
  • Also tried SCART, but not impressed with the quality on the screen
  • I also need to connect the TV out of the screen card to my existing system. This then distributes it through the rest of my house so I can use the HTPC almost in every room. (more on this one day). The output to the TVs are in Black & White. Can’t figure out why. Also tried using a SCART to RCA converter, but then the gfx card doesn’t even pick up the TV
  • I walked through the MCE setup process. Everything went fine.
  • I was concerned that the MCE transceiver won’t be able to learn the IR commands from my DSTV PVR’s remote (the DSTV PVR is like a TIVO STB satellite receiver). From previous experience using Girder I knew that even though the instructions say that you need to hold the button, that this doesn’t work. So I held the button in and then it asked me to do it again and then I only pressed it like I would normally do to change channels. It learned the IR codes this way and so far it seems like this worked.
  • The DSTV PVR has a standby function to preserve the HDD. When in standby mode it takes a couple of seconds to get out of it before you can change channels. This is going to be a problem with the MCE recordings and changing channels.

Phew, the first day didn’t go to well!

Why?

January 11, 2007

I recently bought a Fujitsu Siemens Scaleo EV as an HTPC. The reason for this post is to log my progress with the setup of this machine.

I’ve had an HTPC for a while now that I custom built over a long period. I ran BeyondTV very successfully on this machine for use as a PVR.

My biggest concern lately with this machine was the reliability (it would reboot and crash every so often) and the fact that no matter which front end I tried I couldn’t get a reliable and easy way of playing back music.

The Scaleo comes with Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition so hopefully this would solve the issue around the music playback using a remote.

Some of the biggest reasons I bought the machine:

  • Reliability of my old HTPC was questionable
  • Wanted to try MCE
  • Wanted a quiet HTPC (the old HTPC was basically a normal desktop modded to perform the HTPC functions)
  • The keyboard that came with this machine was awesome (integrated touchpad)
  • The MCE remote and MCE’s reaction to the remote is absolutely fantastic.

Hopefully I won’t regret the purchase, but this blog will tell the story.