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Sports Game Alerts

I was browsing through the Sports Lounge strip in Media Center today and came across an option that looks very interesting under the leagues section.  Look at this screenshot:

gamealerts Under each league there are multiple options of what you can see for that sports league.  One of the options is “Show game alerts”.  My question is: how do you turn this on and how does it work?  Can you set your favorite team with an alert so that Windows Media Center alerts you when a game is on?  That would be great with basketball season.  Anyone know about this?

Time Warner Officially Supports ATI DCT

Thanks to a comment by reader Jason it has come to my attention that Time Warner Cable is officially supporting the ATI Digital Cable Tuner on their website.  Jason posted this link (HERE) to his local Time Warner Cable SDV website page where it clearly list the following  devices as being compatible with the SDV Tuning Adapter:

  • TiVo Series 3 DVR
  • TiVo HD DVR
  • TiVo HD XL DVR
  • Moxi HD DVR
  • ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner

I checked my local Time Warner Cable website to find the same change had been made on the SDV page.  This is a huge change from before when I would have to say that I had a Tivo just to get a truck roll to bring me some cable cards.  I personally have been working with a great Field Operations manager with Time Warner here in Charlotte and it seems that they are very interested in learning more about Media Center and being better prepared to support Media Center customers.  This change looks like it supports that attitude shift so lets hope it continues after the Ceton card hits the market and their Cable Card request double from 4 to 8.

Clubhouse Tags: clubhouse, media center, media center-windows 7, cable-tv,news, dvr

Tuning Adapter Operational

My tuning adapter is finally operational.  I tried changing the configuration of my cable splitters and that seemed to have no effect.  I have been getting very frustrated and now all this morning my tuning adapter is working again.

I think I know what the solution was but I am cannot say with 100% confidence until I do some more tests.  Thanks to a comment from John on my last post I tried changing the USB cable.  The USB cable I had on there before is a long one that I just had in my “box of cables” that allowed me to put the tuning adapter where I wanted it to go.  Based on John’s suggestion I swapped the USB cable for a few others I had laying around and the last one seemed to work.  I am not sure what’s special about it either.

So I am going to run some more tests to try and get a definitive answer.  In the meantime, if you have a tuning adapter that looks like it’s close to working try a different USB cable and even a different USB port on the PC to see if it helps.

Stay tuned.  More to come.

My Tuning Adapter Got Mad and Left Me

I have had two tuning adapters working perfectly for about a month now and in the past few days one of my tuning adapters decided to call it quits.  I am not sure what is going on since almost all of the appropriate status indicators are correct in the diagnostics screen.  Unfortunately it will still not go through final authorization and become operational.  This is what I see on one of my tuning adapters now:

TA Error

It used to say: Tuning Resolver is operational.  Not sure what happened at all.  The TA is on a splitter with the other adapter and it’s still working fine. 

The TA’s usually either work or do not work so I went to my local Time Warner office and switched it out today to see if I could get one working.  I came home and hooked it up only to see the same result.  I’ll keep working on this as I know that some others are having the same issue.  As soon as I get a repeatable resolution I will post it for everyone.

TV Tuners have gone missing! (Or have they?)

Over the past few days I have had a very strange occurrence.  I would try to tune in Live TV and instead of live TV I would see the following screen:

Searching for TunersFor some reason Media Center could not find my tuners.  I checked my tuners to see if they were still listed in Device Manager and they were.  I tested my HD Homerun tuners and the TV signal was still coming in.  So what could be the problem?

Next I checked my history  under recorded TV for the shows that did not record and saw the following error message: “The Windows Media Center Receiver service stopped responding.”  Now I had something to go on.  I tried restarting the service and it would not restart.  I then killed the process and restarted the service and like magic everything was working again.

I have no clue as to what happened.  There is nothing that I can point to as recent software install/update.  Looking at Windows Update there was an update on October 21 that may have something to do with but I am not sure.

I searched on the Green Button and it looks like I am not the only one seeing the problem.  There is a possible solution in the post.  I tried it out and not it’s just a wait and see.  Anyone else seeing this?

UPDATE:  Looks like I forgot to include this link in my original post: http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/p/78070/390896.aspx

Internet TV showcased during Windows 7 launch

Man what a bad day to be busy at the 9-5.  This was waiting in my inbox from Microsoft.

Today during the keynote at the Windows 7 launch event in New York, Brad Brooks, Corporate Vice President, Windows Consumer Marketing and Product Management, joined CEO Steve Ballmer on stage to demo key Windows 7 features. As part of that demo Brad shared the news that Windows Media Center in Windows 7 will now include Internet TV featuring content from a variety of providers. Now in addition to live and recorded TV, you can also watch TV from the Internet through Windows Media Center in Windows 7 so you can get the shows you want to watch in one place using one easy-to-use guide.

Below are details about the Internet TV content available today in Windows 7, as well as highlights of the Windows Media Center experience in Windows 7 which is available for free in most versions of the operating system (Windows 7 Home Premium, Ultimate, Professional and Enterprise).

Internet TV Content Available TODAY in Windows Media Center in Windows 7:

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· CBS Audience Network: Featuring a variety of shows from CBS Primetime, Daytime, Extras, and TV Classics, including full-length episodes of current TV shows, CBS Classics TV shows, short clips, and Web originals.

· Full Zune Video Podcast Library: Thousands of hours of entertainment with full TV episodes, webisodes, clips, and videos from providers including ABC News, CBS News, CNBC, CNET TV, Comedy Central, Current TV, The Discovery Channel, Fox, G4 TV, HBO, MSNBC, NBC, Showtime, and Revision 3, along with some of the best user-generated videos on the Web. Some video podcasts are also available in HD.

· MSN and msnbc.com: Clips as well as full length episodes from TV shows such as Arrested Development, news and weather from MSNBC, editor picks and most popular videos, five day weather forecasts, news, video playlists, music videos, movie trailers and more.

· Netflix: The updated Netflix experience available in Windows 7 lets you instantly watch a growing catalogue of thousands of Movies and TV episodes from Netflix directly in Windows Media Center.

Other Windows Media Center Features in Windows 7:

· Watch Live TV on Your Windows 7 PC: By adding an inexpensive TV tuner to a Windows 7 PC, you can use Windows Media Center to watch, pause, and rewind live TV directly on your PC. There is no additional service charge to watch over-the-air channels in standard or high definition. You can also use your PC as a DVR to schedule recordings of TV shows and movies.

· Stream Digital Media from your Home PC: Never miss your favorite shows. With Windows 7 you can now access your Windows Media Center digital media even when you’re not at home by using Remote Streaming.  Simply log in using your Windows Live ID to get your TV shows, movies, music, and pictures streamed to you over the internet – no matter where you are.

· Watch Recorded TV Shows on your Zune or Windows Phone: Watch your Windows Media Center recorded TV on-the-go. Just sync your recorded TV shows with your Zune digital media player or Windows Phone, and watch what you want no matter where you are.

· Access all your Personal Media in One Place: Windows Media Center brings in all digital media stored on the PC – photos, movies, music, and recorded TV shows – into one place. And new with Windows 7 you can use Home Group to access digital media in Windows Media Center from other PCs in your network.

· Digital Cable Enhancements Now Available (announced at CEDIA this September):

· New Digital Cable Advisor tool will soon be available in the “Extras” tab in Windows Media Center, making it possible for you to add a digital cable tuner with CableCARD to your PC by running a test to check whether your PC meets the basic performance requirements.

· Windows Media Center now provides support for switched digital video (SDV).

· Enjoy more portability for your digital cable TV that is marked as “copy freely” using your existing digital cable tuners.

My Movies 3.0 Review

Overview

The king is back!  All hail the king.  My Movies was the de facto standard for organizing online and offline movie libraries in Windows Media Center.  It was there at the beginning with Windows XP Media Center 2005 edition and slowly transitioned to Media Center in Windows Vista with the majority of new development focused on the database and back-end of the application.  The plug-in has made a huge leap forward in the User Interface and released My Movies 3.  Since the majority of this release is based on the Media Center client and not the database I will focus on that piece in the review.

Movie Overview

What’s New

The most obvious is the MCML User Interface upgrade.  My Movies 3 has four different views: Covers full screen, Covers and details, Covers centered, and List and details.  Covers full screen is the wall of covers with no menus or metadata to obstruct the view.  You can choose to have 2-6 rows of cover art.  Covers and details changes the view by adding a sidebar of metadata about the highlighted movie.  Covers centered is unique in the the movie highlighted will always be in the center row on the screen and a small strip of metadata flares out to the side of the cover art if you hover over a cover for a few seconds.  It takes getting use to but I kind of like this view.  I think most will choose between the first two options.

Parental controls have been implemented in this release and they work great.  The parental control option must be enabled in the collection management software but that is a one time setup.  You choose a 4 digit pin number that will be used to change parental control options in the future and to temporarily disable parental controls in the UI.  The nice thing about the implementation is that the controls can be set specifically for each extender as well as the main Media Center PC.  If you tie this feature in with the ability to disable the menu’s then you can really lock down an instance of My Movies 3 and get the perfect solution for an extender used primarily by the kids.

Fan art / backdrops support has been added in this release which catches My Movies up with MediaBrowser and OML in that feature.  If you leave the focus over a title for a few seconds the backdrop will fade in to cover the screen.  You will also see it when you drill down into the detail of a movie and as you scroll through the list of movies in the List and details view.

Movie Details

Trailers are not new to My Movies but the placement of the trailers button on the movie detail page is new.  If you are on the detail page of a movie and the application can find a trailer for that movie it will place a trailer link on the detail page.  This is a great help when you are trying to decide on a movie and someone in the group had never heard of the movie.  Most of the time you play the trailer and that’s all the convincing you have to do.  Since it’s pulling streaming trailers you will get more success on newer movies than old ones.  Oh and it does work on the extender!

Similar movies is also a new feature worth mentioning.  When you are in the detail page of a movie you can scroll over to the far right and see Similar Movies.  This feature will display movies from your collection that are similar to the movie you currently are reading the detail for.  The bigger the movie collection the better the results will be.

Overall there are not that many new features as this release was aimed at taking all of the features found in previous versions of My Movies and updating them in a new MCML platform.  Now that the base is complete Brian can start to think about new features and functionality that the users have been asking for but we not really feasible before.  I personally am looking forward to a Resume feature in a future release.

What’s Been Updated

At the top of my list for updates that I wanted to see were performance updates.  According to Brian Binnerup (the developer of My Movies) there would be a significant speed increase in loading movie titles in this release.  He claimed that the application could load 500 titles in 2 seconds, 2500 titles in 3 seconds, and 10,000 in 5 seconds.  I was really excited to see this action after my woes with MediaBrowser but unfortunately I did not experience these loads times at first.  My collection is about 430 so I was looking for an almost instant load of my collection.  Instead the load ranged from 15-30 seconds.  I must also place the caveat that my database is on a home server and not on the actual PC so network latency is always a concern.  So I can see and extra second or two added on but not 15 – 30 seconds.  By mere accident I deleted the database on the home sever and had to  rebuild it by scanning for the mymovies.xml files in the folders.  That accident ended up improving my results dramatically and now my load times is in the 3-5 seconds range on the PC and 5-7 on the extenders.

The main navigation is now hidden up top instead of persisted on the left.  It’s taking some getting use to but I like having it out of the way and not taking up screen real estate.  If you have seen this in MediaBrowser then you already have an idea of what to expect.  The My Movies implementation seems to be cleaner and more polished though.

During installation a My Movies strip will automatically be added instead of the option to choose on first launch.  Since you can disable these strips now in the Manage Extras settings it’s not a big deal.

Collection Management

This has been the strongest part of My Movies for a long time and that has not changed.  In fact the collection management software looks almost exactly the same as it did before.  The obvious changes are in the Options menu since it supports the options for the new user interface.

What’s Missing

Nothing really.  All the functionality that was present in My Movies 2 has been updated and included in My Movies 3.   There are some features that I would like to see in a future release:

  • Delete movie from title detail page
  • Resume
  • Play all (if you have a title that has multiple discs
  • The ability to change options via interface vs. collection management
  • Dynamic filters (all the filters have to be made ahead of time in collection management tool)

Vs. The Competition

Vs. OML: My Movies feels like a clean and polished version of OML at times without some of the nifty features like dynamic stackable filters and custom shortcuts from start strip.  My Movies database and collection management are a million times better than OML.

Vs. Media Browser: MediaBrowser has a lot of eye candy and My Movies has learned from it’s competitors.  It also has a nice home screen, title resume and better support for TV series.  My Movies is head and shoulders about MediaBrowser when it comes to performance and reliability though.  It will be easier for My Movies to catch up on the other stuff now that it has a good foundation.

Vs. Native Movie Library:  The only thing the native Movie Library app has going for it is the simplicity of setting it up.  It’s right there and all you have to do is point to your movie library folder.  The movie library does not scale well with large collections and performance will starts to become a hindrance.  It can automatically pull in movies recorded on TV which is nice but not enough.

Still To Come

On the Media Center Show Brian Binnerup said that he was working on the following features but they would not be in the first 3.0 release: resume, smart watch status (flagged watched based on amount watch, when watched, who watched), bookmarks (favorite scenes, share bookmarks with community), richer meta data for box set, cast and crew titles will include meta data from online to see what you own and what you do not own that the actor is also in, direct playback of chapters, new release around Christmas.

Wrap-Up

My Movies was the standard movie library plug-in for Media Center since the Windows XP days.  Now it has a new base MCML foundation to continue to build advance functionality in future iterations.  My Movies has a free version but it does lock out certain functionality based on a point system.  Read Damian’s review over at MediaSmartServer for more information on what features are effected by this.  Based on what I have seen you owe to yourself to try it out if you want a good looking stable movie library application for Media Center.  The other apps are bringing great competition but need more time to mature before I can rely on them again.  Go download My Movies 3 and let me know what you think.