Archive for the ‘HDTV’ Category

A cheap and easy fix to HDHomeRun network issues

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I’ve loved my HDHomeRun for as long as the product has been on the market, but never really used it heavily until I switched to Media Center about a year ago. Well ever since, from time to time I’ve experienced network issues that have caused less than perfect picture quality — drop outs, blocking, breakups etc. I’ve spent countless hours troubleshooting this and most of the time it ended up being the driver for my Intel 82566DC-2 network adapter. At one point I even spent some money to replace my switch since the NIC refused to auto-negotiate to 100/full with the 16 port Netgear switch I was using. Well for whatever reason the issues came back over the weekend and I finally threw in the towel and did what I should’ve done a long time a go.

The simple solution
I went down to CompUSA — yes they still have them in Tampa — and picked up a $14 NIC. I threw it into a spare PCI slot (you can use a USB NIC if you want) and plugged the HDHR directly into it. The cool thing is that I didn’t even need a crossover cable, in fact all I had to do was rerun the HDHR setup utility to rediscover the location of the device. And thanks to the beauty of APIPA — you know that 169.254.x.x address — I didn’t even have to set an IP on the NIC or configure an IP for the HDHR. 

Now my picture quality is back to the perfect and my only regret is that I didn’t just break down and do this earlier. So if you are having problems with your HDHomeRun, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw an extra NIC in your PC and at the very least isolate the problem.

Plagiarism or coincidence? You decide

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Just ran across this post today at one of my favorite sites, The Digital Lifesyle, and at first I was thrilled to see somoene appreciate the hard work Warren, Andy, and I put into automatically converting mkv files to dvr-ms. But then after reading through the entire post I noticed that nor my name or Engadget’s was anywhere to be found. Now maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, but it seems like too much of a coincidence for this not to be a derivative work. Now I’m accustomed to being ripped off online, but usually it is some hack site and not a reputable place like Ian’s site.

**UPDATE**

Ian was very responsive to my concerns and has pulled the post — but yet the link still works. Never the less,  the original author has added credit to his post on his blog, but in a way that seems half-hearted to me. But perhaps that is because the intent of his comment was lost in the British to American translation.

I actually did it, I canceled cable TV

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I can’t believe I actually did it, but I canceled cable (FiOS TV actually), but not for the reasons you think. I have to say it feels weird and I fill a little disconnected, which is very odd since I really didn’t watch it much. But there is something comforting about knowing there are 100 HD channels at my service if I get bored. But then again, that comfort isn’t worth $60 a month.

As for the why, no it isn’t because I’m going to get my content from the internet. Because unlike college kids, the nicest display I own isn’t on my laptop and once you are accustomed to HD, it’s hard to go back.

I canceled because I realized that without Football, all I watch is broadcast TV and movies. So I can get all the OTA HD I want for free on my Vista Media Center with an antenna, and all the HD movies I can watch for $21/mo from Netflix.

Now that’s not to say I’m never going to watch Netflix watch instantly on my new LG BD300, or that I won’t download anything else via other means. But after selling my two CableCARD tuners (thanks Robert) and not paying $60 a month to Verizon for the next eight months, the $880 I saved was more than enough to pick up a new Pioneer VSX-91TXH AV Receiver which features both TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding.

So today is the first day of my life without cable TV — and counting.

For Sale: two ATI Digital Cable Tuners (CableCARD)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

When I realized how much money I was wasting on pay TV, I decided to cancel FiOS after football season and go all OTA and Blu-ray via Netflix. And although I plan to add it back when football season comes around again, because technology changes so fast I’m going to go ahead and sell the tuners now and just buy ‘em again when needed — assuming something better doesn’t come out by then.

So I have two like-new ATI Digital Cable Tuners that I’d like $200 for, each. I was just going to put them on eBay but figured someone I know might want them and prefer to buy them from someone they know. I have all the original accessories and box which I will of course include. It goes without saying that these will only work with an OEM Digital Cable Ready PC, but if you want to figure out how to hack the firmware, I’ll let you try the product key that came with my XPS 420 (not for sale).

UPDATE, I sold both of these already.

I forgot about bad DVDs look

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

What is it about Christmas that makes you want to watch the same movie over and over again? Whatever it is, it hit the wife and I over the weekend and we watched one of our Christmas favorites, The Family Man.

The thing is that it has been so long since I watched one of the 100 DVDs I own, that I forgot how bad they look. I truly found it distracting how dull the colors were and how bad the contrast was. I tried to ignore it, but my obsessive compulsive nature just couldn’t let it go.

The funny thing is that when I think back over two and half years when I reviewed the first HD DVD player, I don’t remember being that impressed. In fact I said, “my biggest fear is that some people won’t be able to tell the difference.”

It really is funny how once you get accustomed to a certain level of quality, how difficult it can be to go back to what used to be the reference.

I don’t believe a word that DirecTV says

Friday, December 12th, 2008

If there is one thing I’ve learned about DirecTV over the past three years of blogging is that the PR department has no problem “stretching” the truth in an attempt to improve the image of its company — big surprise, I know. This was never more true then during the DirecTV press conference at CES 2007 where the “100 HD channel” announcement was born. We all know now that this promise was never realized during 2007 and that in some ways it can be argued that it isn’t even true today.

Then there was the entire “HD Lite” fiasco where we at Engdaget got our friend Rômulo Pontual on the record as saying DirecTV had the best quality HD — this was pre-MPEG4 mind you — and that anyone who said different wasn’t actually judging the quality with their own eyes, ha!

So with this in mind it should be no surprise that I don’t believe the recent official suspension announcement about the unofficial HDPC-20 project (also attributed to Romulu). I’m not saying that DirecTV never suspended the project, I’m just saying that it was probably suspended for a half a day while the developers went home early for Thanksgiving. I mean if it was really canceled then why not say canceled? Why say it was suspended with no window of how long. This really just continues the trend of the lack of communication between DirecTV and its customers when it comes to this project.

I predict that there is no real suspension at all, and that in fact the HDPC-20 will be released right along side Windows 7 during 2009, an that the only reason for this “official” communication is to reduce the expectations of the community after the recent eHome labs tour debacle. I believe this is nothing more than damage control from that incident, and a very poor attempt at that.

Netflix’s motive for its download model

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Recently I wrote a letter to the editor in response to an editorial in Home Media Magazine. To my delight they decided to publish it, so click through to the digital edition.

Why Netflix is such a great deal for the movie watcher.

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

On a recent podcast, a guest made a very interesting point. Jon said that Vudu is a better deal for him because some months he doesn’t have time to watch movies. So in other words, the pay as you go plan works best for him. I started to wonder about my own usage, as I’ve been known to go a month without watching a movie. So I decided to take a look at my usage history on the Netflix’s site.

To my surprise I’d watched 76 movies in the past 12 month. Now don’t ask me where I found the time to watch that many movies in 12 months, because I just don’t know. It feels like I watch one a month, but the numbers don’t lie and although I rent the occasional movie for my wife and daughter, not very many. But just to put it into perspective, that is over 6 movies a month or 1.5 movies a week.

Now the reason I say that Netflix is such a great deal for me is because even with the new $1 Blu-ray tax, I’m still only spending $252 a year. If I was using Vudu or Apple TV, I’d be spending almost twice that at $455 a year.

But if I really want to get into rip-offs, then I’ll look at my FiOS TV bill. Sure it offers some great quality and at about 100 HD channels, a great selection of HD, but my bill is about $800 a year. So if I don’t count all the time I spend watching OTA HD programming for free, the amount of time I actually spend watching FiOS TV is way less than the 3 hours a week I spend watching Netflix Movies. So yeah, I’m wasting my money.

The bottom line is as soon as football season is over — gotta have ESPN and the NFL Network for the games after all — I’m dropping FiOS TV, but not to do the trendy downloads thing, I’m going strickly OTA HD and Blu-ray via Netflix.

HDMI: it just doesn’t work

Monday, September 15th, 2008

It’s no secret that I don’t like HDMI, and my most recent experience is yet another great example of why. When I switched from two Series3 TiVos to Vista Media Center a few months back, I made the mistake of ordering a Dell with a video card that didn’t support component out. So rather than switch out the video card, I’ve spent way too many hours trying to get the kinks worked out. Then, last week when I saw the latest budget Nvidia 9400GT was released for $59, I picked one up from Newegg and had high hopes that it would solve all my HDMI woes. Now let me tell you, this is the best $60 I ever spent – well maybe — not only do I no longer have any HDCP handshake issues, or the black screens that go with ‘em, but I no longer get juddder on some channels. Then, to tip it all off, the channels change sooo much faster than before. I mean, what a joke HDMI is — with Media Center at least — I only wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to swap it out. Oh, and if you were wondering, the picture quality still looks great, and there is no doubt it looks as good as HDMI on my kuro.

I suppose I should also mention that I don’t know for 100% that the fixes are all due to HDMI vs component, as it is entirely possible that the Nvidia card could’ve fixed all that via HDMI. Maybe down the road if I get curious I’ll try to confirm it, but for now I’m going to enjoy some football in HD.

I was on The Media Center Show

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Now that I’m a full blown Vista Media Center fanboy, it’s no surprised that I was able to finagle my way onto The Media Center Show. Ian and I recorded this about a month ago and it was a blast. We didn’t talk that much HD, mostly it was Home Automation (my new girlfriend) and why I switched from TiVo. Have a listen, if you don’t mind listening to me ramble on for an hour.