Vote in The Media Center Show Awards and win!

As mentioned on the award show page there is a prize draw for anybody that leaves there email address when voting in The Media Center Show Awards. So here are some of the prizes up for grabs

I really want your opinions, the developer community has produced some great Vista Media Center applications this year and I want to highlight their achievements

Oh and if you tried to vote and you got an error I have fixed that problem now, so give it another go


Looking for Beta Testers for “Media Center Health Monitor”

For a while I have been working on a small program that gives me a little piece of mind when working with Recorded TV in Media Center. A while back I had a problem with Recordings not working due to a corruption in Recordings.XML, I only noticed the problem a while after it has started and I missed quite a few recordings.  So that go me thinking that I would like to have some kind of monitor on the status on Media Center, something not unlike Windows Home Servers heath status. Now I know that corruption errors are very rare (once this year for me) but I wanted to get the status of other errors too, like if Media Center missed a recording due to the power being off or a IR blaster cable has been pulled out etc. Plus it’s nice to see easily everything is ok . I also wanted an excuse to play with Visual Studio 2008 and thought it was better to start with a hobby program rather than on my core apps at the office 🙂

So I have written "Media Center Health Monitor", this monitors the Media Center Event Log and warns of Recording errors and any service issues that would effect the recordings. The program sits in the tray has has health status, Green = All is OK, Yellow = Warnings and Red=Service Errors. See the screen shots bellow:

mchm3mchm4mchm1 mchm2

The app is written in VB using .NET framework 3.5 and deployed using ClickOnce. This beta is a desktop only version but I do have plans for other ways of being alerted in the future, eg Sidebar, other network devices etc


So I am looking for beta testers to have a play with the application, if you interested email beta [at] and I will send you a URL

The forum to discus the application is Thread for my new application Media Center Health Monitor

The Media Center Show #133 – Tranquil PC

By Ian Dixon (16.2mb 47mins 16sec) 
Vote for the show on Podcast Alley

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I have two interviews this week recorded on location in Manchester. James Senior from Microsoft UK talks about the "Windows Vista After Hours" events hosted around the UK. He explains why they where running the events and how they were showing off consumer products like Windows Media Center and Windows Home Server to IT Professionals. The 2nd interview is with James Thompson of Tranquil PC, Tranquil produce a great range of Windows Home Server products (like the one I review a couple of weeks ago).

I also have email, news items and the launch of The Media Center Show Awards 2007

Thanks to the show sponsor

Join The Media Center Show Group on Facebook

Show Times:

01:00 Coming up this week
01:30 Welcome Zune subscribers
02:20 Email – Video Show RSS Feed
03:01 Email – Windows Home Server Streaming
05:15 Email – Sky to Media Center
07:13 Email – Orb or Webguide?
10:00 Email – What Podcasts do you listen to? MobileTechRoundup,
11:43 V2 Extenders delayed
12:40 Media Center in a piano
13:25 The Media Center Show Awards 2007
17:28 A message from One Voice
19:00 Interview – James Senior (Microsoft UK)
20:00 What is the Vista After Hours Event
23:00 Welcome to James Thompson from Tranquil PC
25:00 Tranquil’s Windows Home Server
27:15 Components
30:00 Design
32:20 Why manufacture a Windows Home Server System
35:00 How to recover their Windows Home Server
40:00 Hard drives
42:39 How to purchase
43:47 Video Review of Tranquil’s Windows Home Server

Music by Ian Dixon

Technorati tags: Windows Media Center, podcasts

How to get Windows Media Center receiving premium HD cable content without CableCARD

I just read an interesting article on about how to get Premium HD cable content in to Media Center without using CableCARD. The solution uses an undocumented feature of Motorola Set Top Boxes (specifically the QIP6200-2 in this case) to get the content.

The RF output connection (the ‘F’ connector labeled RF out) sends out “clear QAM” (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) in addition to standard NTSC signals. QAM is the same modulation technique used by the cable companies for transmitting multiple streams of high definition video through their cable infrastructures. Most people connect the RF connector from their Set Top Box to a NTSC tuner tuned to Channel 3 or 4 (usually a VCR). However, NTSC limits the resolution to 520 interlaced lines while high definition needs to go up to 720p or 1080i.

We simply put an off-the-shelf AVerMedia AverTV Combo PCIe MCE tuner card into a Windows Vista-based PC with Windows Media Center and let Windows Update load the appropriate drivers. This tuner card supports QAM connectivity in addition to NTSC. It also supports Over The Air (OTA) ATSC, but we did not use it for this installation. We plugged in the standard USB Microsoft eHome IR Receiver as we normally would and attached the IR blaster to the Set Top Box as we would using the lousy-looking standard definition S-Video solution provided by Microsoft.

We initially assumed that Windows Media Center would use the NTSC tuner capability and require us to use Channel 3 or 4 to match the NTSC output from the Set Top Box, but much to our surprise, the standard TV setup procedure found the QAM signal and used it for the TV input without requiring any other setup. It then asked us if we had a Set Top Box, which we configured the same way we normally do. Voila! We were receiving “in the clear” high definition video unencrypted by the Set Top Box. We can record it, copy it to other machines, and stream it to any number of devices we want.

Looks an interesting solution, read the rest of the article HERE

Delay on UK Shipments of Extenders till February

As Chris Lanier pointed out the V2 extenders have been delayed to late December / January. This is disappointing, when they were unveiled in October there was a lot of buzz about these products and that fact they they would be available for Christmas.

In the UK there are STILL has no acknowledgment of them being available at all, they have been listed for pre-ordering with November as the shipping date but it seems like the UK units have been delayed until at least February

Updating your order status; Linksys DMA2200 – Media Center Extender with DVD is not yet in stock.

We have today received information that the UK release date for this brand new product line has been moved to 1st February 2008.

We will keep these items on back order; no charges are made to your payment card until the goods are in stock.

If you prefer not to wait or would like to amend to your order, please contact our sales team by return email.

Please accept our apologies for this delay.

Thanks to Gordon for the tip off

mControl Developer Program

Embedded Automation have released details of the mControl Developer Program. The mControl Developer Program allows developers to extend the functionality of mControl by getting the mControl Driver Development Kit (mControl DDK) and creating devices using the .NET framework. This is great for adding protocols to mControl that are not natively supported.

The mControl DDK consists of samples and documentation – allowing users to develop mControl Add-Ins, using the Microsoft .NET language and development environment of their choice. Once developed, mControl Add-Ins can be fully integrated within the mControl system, allowing administration and control from all mControl user-interface clients and software utilities. Additionally, developers can submit the Add-In to Embedded Automation for validation. Embedded Automation’s certification process ensures that the Add-In properly and robustly implements the interface to mControl.

Read more


Technorati Tags: ,

Media Center meets Piano

Ever wish your Media Center PC was installed in a piano? No, me neither but that is on sale on ebay.This Media Center/Piano hybrid is a full Media Center PC with 26 inch LCD and the old Media Center Remote keyboard in place of the piano keys (I hope they don’t try and use the keyboards mouse pointer)

For $20,000 (buy now price) I would have like Vista and not XP Media Center in it!


Read more on Engadget

Media center meets piano, results are questionable – Engadget

Technorati tags: ,

The Media Center Show Awards 2007 are go!

For the last three years I have run the Media Center Show Awards. The aim of the awards is to highlight the great work performed by the Media Center community. The awards are spilt into categories that represent enthusiast developers, professional developers and community websites.

This year the Media Center developer community has grasped the challenging but rewarding Media Center Markup Language and they have produced an amazing range of applications.

So let’s start off by looking at the best free Utility applications. There were two standout applications this year, MSDVR Toolbox and Recorded TV Broker both from Andrew Van Till. MSDVRToolbox is an application for managing and transforming recorded TV Files. With the utility you can instruct it to automatically transcode and moves files around your network, so it could automatically remove any commercials shrink the file and copy it to a network location. RecordingBroker is an application that detects recording conflicts and submits recording requests to other brokers configured in the application. If you have more than one Media Center system you can get the systems to talk to each other to schedule the recordings.

Moving on to 10 foot Media Center applications this year we were spoiled for choice, the developers really embraced Vista Media Center and produced some great looking applications, so for best free application we have:

TV Library by Andrew Cherry expands on Media Center’s library functions by providing customizable views of recorded TV. In TV Library you can navigate around your content by genre, series or any way that works for you. For example Doctor who could be split in to Classic and “New Who” then that could be further split by series.

A personal favourite Media Center application is Webguide, this is an interesting addin that enables you to view your Media Center guide data over your local network or the Internet. So if you forget to setup that vital recording you can do it from any web device, including mobile phones. Just fire up a web browser and browse the guide and setup the recording. It has streaming functions in it too. Webguide has long been my essential addon for Windows Media Center and was pleased when Microsoft announced that its developer Doug Berrett had joined Microsoft and that they would be offering Webguide for free. What the future holds for Webguide we will have to wait and see.

Big screen Headlines comes from Australian developed Niall Ginsburg, its a RSS reader for Vista

Media Center that enables you to read web feeds, listen to podcast and watch videos all from the 10 foot interface. It’s a great looking application and a great way of getting the web on to the TV. Also from Niall is Big Screen photos 2 a flickr photo viewer for Vista Media Center.

TV toolbox is an editor for Recorded TV files. What is particularly nice about this application is its use of the visual effect in Windows Media Center to make editing a TV show easy and intuitive. This comes from German developer Olcay Buyan.

EMUCenter from another Aussi developer Steven Harding is a 10 foot application for launching classic arcade games using MAME emulators. You can play the classic arcade games of the past all from the sofa. Steven Harding also has Yougle Vista nominated, this is an addin for watching Youtube and Google videos from Media Center.

MyMovies is a movie collection management and playback tool. With My Movies you are able to index your movies with automatically downloaded data from the internet, and then browse movies, actors, directors and much more. You can share your movie database to multiple clients, and configure each client to its own parental control limitation.

The commercial applications were represented by mControl from Embedded Automation, Media Center Communicator from One Voice and mceTunes. mControl is an home automation package for Vista Media Center, XP Media Center and Windows Home Server. Media Center Communicator is a voice control system for Media Center and mceTunes is a way of enabling access to protected iTunes content from Media Center, something that is not possible out of the box.

Media Center owes much of its success to the great community that has built up around it, and to recognise this there is a award for the best community site and Best Media Center Blog details of the nominations can be found on the Vote page

Whilst settings up the vote page I took the opportunity to ask voters what components they added to their Media Center system such as Xbox 360, Windows Home Server, Zune and iPods. The reason I asked this question is that I am interested to see what integration issues people are coming across.

All the nominations were suggested by listeners and readers so head over to the vote page and have your say, the vote will be open all of December and the winners will be announced on a future Media Center Show

There is also a prize draw with a winner drawn at random, for details of the prize see the website next week

Vote Now

Vote page

The Media Center Show Awards 2007

The Media Center Show awards page will be opened for voting on Monday 26th November. You can preview the nominations now and if you have any comments or suggestions drop me an email ian [at]

All the sites and services have been nominated by readers and listeners, if anything is missing it is because it wasn’t nominated 🙂 but feel free to let me know if there is something you want adding (before Monday)


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