Automating Bittorrent in Media Center

February 19, 2007

TorrentFreak has a sneak peak of Aufero, a new (and apparently open source) project to nicely integrate bittorrents into Vista Media Center, including managing media, and creating automatically downloading wishlists, etc.

Sounds nice (or it would if I was running Vista MC, anyway), but even though the author appears to be giving quite a bit of thought to solving them, I think there are some huge challenges ahead for anybody that wants to build that kind of wishlist technology today.

There is a really severe lack of standardization in how most video torrents are labeled and classified — often times, the title isn’t even spelled correctly, let alone anything else.

Maybe standardizing on URLs to services like IMDB would help that (at least for movies), but then there’s all the other stuff –

What’s the video format? I don’t wanna watch iPod encoded video on a large flatscreen display.

What was the source? Keep your cammed, telesync’d, r5line’d stuff to yourself, please. Likewise, if there was an HD source available I don’t want to see some letterboxed SD episode of whatever.

Got subtitles? In English? What format?

One disc or two?

…and the list goes on. Beggars and bittorrenters can be choosers, but today pretty much only by actually reading the post that accompanies the torrent — or sometimes even the comments.

Or that’s what I hear, anyway. Not that I’d know anything from personal experience or anything, etc…

Done with Windows MCE

November 28, 2006

I’ve shut down my Windows Media Center, at least for the time being; it just isn’t what I need it to be.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the interface; I love it more than Tivo, and that’s saying something.

The big problem is HD. As HD becomes increasingly important to me, and as more and more HD content becomes available to me, MCE becomes increasingly irrelevant.

MCE does a good job of recording OTA HD. Unfortunately, two of my majors don’t come in terribly well with my antique OTA antenna. When it rains, most of them don’t come in. I could doubtless fix this, but since Dish now gives me my majors in HD off the satellite, I’m not terribly inclined.

More importantly, there’s the 25 or so channels of “premium” HD I now have available. There’s not a prayer on the horizon that MCE is going to get those, or the satellite based HD locals either.

There’s been a lot of talk about CableCard support in Vista, but it’s become clear that these are only going to be available for “certified” off-the-shelf MCE boxes. The odds of me being willing to a) spend the money for a pre-configured box, or b) being willing to live with that configuration if I did (vs. modding it and possibly breaking the CableCard DRM) are slim and none.

And Slim’s out of town this month.
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Media Center – CableCARD details

December 1, 2005

Chris Lanier has put up some of the specifics in What’s Needed For CableCARD with Media Center?

No real answer to the “will we be able to add CableCARD support to machines we build ourselves?” question, but here’s one piece of news that’s not terribly surprising —

First, in order to take advantage of high-definition programming, both older monitors and new Digital Video Interface (DVI) models will not work as they may have expected. When a protected High Definition Television (HDTV) program passes through the new Media Center PC, the PVP-OPM system will check to see if HDCP or HDMI is supported. If so, all is fine. If not, the video’s resolution is reduced from HDTV levels to something equivalent to ordinary DVD levels. So if you have an ordinary analog or DVI monitor, no matter how great its resolution, your HDTV channel will look much fuzzier than you expected. In the industry, this is sometimes called “down-rez’ing”.

This means that in at least one case, I’d have to replace a perfectly good HDTV in order to get CableCARD programming — it’s a two year old rear projection unit, and does not have HDMI at all, let alone HDCP compliant HDMI; just good old component video.
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Media Center Edition to support CableCARD

November 17, 2005

Speaking of recording premium HD content…

Thomas Hawk has the scoop — Microsoft has just announced CableCARD support in Media Center PCs — by “Holiday 2006 time frame”.

REDMOND, Wash. and LOUISVILLE, Colo., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Microsoft Corp. and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs(R)) today announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to bring to market digital-cable-ready Windows(R) Media Center-based PCs in the holiday 2006 time frame.

These Media Center PCs, capable of supporting a CableCARD(TM) module, will allow consumers to enjoy one-way cable programming, including premium high-definition cable content, on their personal computer and throughout the home on compliant network-connected devices, such as Xbox 360(TM), while protecting cable operators’ investments in high-value content in a digital environment. Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media(R) Digital Rights Management (DRM) as a content protection technology for OpenCable(TM) products that receive one-way cable content under the terms of this agreement.

This is great news, and has the potential to put Media Center over the top in DVR capabilities, but even outside of the lengthy wait (a lot can happen over a year), there are a few things about this that concern me.
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Media Center Stabilizing

October 25, 2005

After a fairly long, dark time of problems with my Windows Media Center Edition box, it looks like I’ve finally got it largely stabilized.

The problem was either the motherboard’s on-board audio, or an overheating issue; unfortunately, I added a new sound card and an additional fan at the same time, so it’s a bit hard to pin down.

I finally decided to replace the audio system mostly because I started to notice that when the box hung, the audio would drop out a second or two beforehand.
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Media Centers are mammals…

September 9, 2005


  1. Media Centers are mammals.
  2. Media Centers crash ALL the time.
  3. The purpose of the Media Center is to flip out and miss recordings.

Okay, maybe not all Media Centers. Maybe just mine. And I’m not really sold on the mammal thing. The rest of it is dead on, however.

MCE Keyboard Review

September 2, 2005

Windows MCE KeyboardThey’re still a bit tough to find, but I finally got my hands on one of the new MCE Keyboards — for some reason, Best Buy seems to be about the only folks carrying them so far.

To digress a bit, the main reason why I’ve been quiet on the MCE front for the last month or so is that the drivers for the new keyboard that rolled out on Windows Update about six weeks ago essentially broke the hell out of my MCE system. When they installed, my other IR keyboard (a venerable AirBoard) ceased to function. This made it quite difficult to deal with a driver issue I had on the box, and with the combination of those problems, plus a lack of anything worth watching the last month or so, I just shut the damn thing off until I either had time to get it out of the cabinet and hang a real keyboard on it, or got one of the new MCE Keyboards.

Guess which came first?
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More MCE Keyboard Info

July 12, 2005

Windows MCE KeyboardMore info on the new MCE Keyboard, from Chris Lanier.

Additional highlights include “spill-resistant” keyboard (hey, that means it’s livingroom friendly!), a “key lock” feature to keep buttons from being inadvertantly pushed, TV Power and Volume Control, and a 30 foot range.

Available in September.

Chris links Microsoft’s consumer page, Google’s cache of an OEM info page, and a Flash demo.

No official word anywhere of it using the same remote receiver, but apparently a new update for the existing remote receiver includes support for the new keyboard, so I suspect that means it all works together.

I’m looking forward to this one.

Microsoft Remote Keyboard for MCE

July 12, 2005

Windows MCE KeyboardEngadget has a preview of a new Microsoft Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center Edition.

Infrared, touchpoint mouse, backlit buttons and the requisite little green MCE button, for “under $100”.

If this will work with the same remote receiver as the MCE Remote, I can finally retire my trusty old “Airboard” and its receiver, and clean up my installation a bit.

Windows Media Center Guide Update Woes

July 12, 2005

I’ve been trying to stabilize my MCE box for the last month or two now. After changing video cards and decoders, I seemed to about have it licked, with one notable exception.

Every night, between about 12:45am and 1:10am, the machine would lock up. If you reboot it during that period, like as not it will lock up repeatedly.

Since this is prime TV watching time for me (I usually will watch a little bit before going to bed), this wasn’t going to cut it.
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