Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

How to make sure you have a ligit copy of Windows 7

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

With all the news today about the Windows 7 botnet, it’s a good idea to know how to verify you got a legit iso. No matter where you downloaded the iso, it is a good idea to verify the file has not been tampered with and is is reallly easy to check verify with the MD5  hash.

First download md5sum.exe and grab the MD5 hash from Microsoft’s site. To save you the trouble I’ll post the x86 hash here, but you should always get it when you are downloading a file. 8867C13330F56A93944BCD46DCD73590

Now simply call md5sum from the command line using just the iso as an argument, and after a few minutes it should spit out the same hash. 


Pretty easy huh?

How to automatically convert VOB to MPG and DTS to AC3

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

I’m working on a newer version of my automatic MKV to DVR-MS process and found myself needing to do these conversions automatically. So I figured I’d share them so people could use them until my entire process is done.

The main uses from my perspective is to make various video files Media Center compatible, but since MPG and AC3 are pretty much the most standard codecs in the industry, there are plenty of other uses. Both of them require the latest version of DVRMSToolBox, written by my good from Andy. In fact it is what makes the entire process automatic. For both profiles, the DTB temp directory is used to create the files and then the final file is moved back to the location of the original file (in the case of the MKV AC3 files, the name is changed for obvious reasons). Until I release the rest of my process, you can create a simple “process conditioner” to automatically convert these files, or you can run them on demand with DVRMStoMPEGGUI (or queue them up manually).

The first is a very simple VOB to MPG converter. All it does is use ffmpeg to repackage the MPG and AC3 streams into an MPG container. The best way to create a vob to convert is to use something like DVDShrink to rip only the main feature and the main AC3 audio to a single vob. You can use DTS, but as you might know, in the case of Media Center DTS is not supported nativly and thus doesn’t work on extenders. To use this drop “Convert vob into mpg – ffmpeg.dpc” into “C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\Profiles” and put ffmpeg.conf into “C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\Applications\ConvertFfmpeg”

The second one was actually very difficult to get right and I’d still like to do some more testing. What it does is extract a DTS stream from an MKV file, then convert it to AC3 with eac3to, then finally remuxes it back to an MKV with AC3. It only retains the original video and audio streams and in fact doesn’t touch the video stream. To use it you’ll need to download eac3to and MKVtoolnix (both free). First extract the eac3to archive to “C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\Applications\eac3to” and install MKVtoolnix with the isntall path of “C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\Applications\MKVtoolnix\” And of course you’ll have to copy the “Convert MKV with DTS to MKV with AC3.dpc” to “C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\Profiles”

Please let me know if these work for you or not, I’m really hoping to get these throughly tested before my final project is complete.

**Update** Already had to update the DTS to AC3 profile, this one should work better. Thanks Rich. 

**UPdate2** Had to update it once again because the AC3 bit rate was too high for dvr-ms files, it is now set to 448 instead of 640.

Xbox 360 arrived, got bit by the Seagate 1TB bug

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I was very happy to finally get my Xbox 360 so I could move my Media Center PC into the office. My UPS guy comes really late so by the time I got it and had a chance to set everything up, it was after 8 o’clock. Tuesday is a big recording night for us — my wife mostly — so I had to put off moving the XPS until after 11 when all the recordings were done. So I shut it down and moved it to the already prepared location, hooked it up to my Apple Cinema display — which just seems wrong — and turned it on. And would’nt you know it, it wouldn’t boot. Long story short, I got bit by the Seagate 1TB 7200.11 bug. To make matters worse I couldn’t even detect the drive to do the firmware update. So who knows how long it will take to RMA it and there goes all my recordings. For now I can record on my other drive, but with only 200GB of free space, it isn’t going to get me very far. I should’ve known better than to mess with computers when it was time to bed because everything was all said and done I got to sleep after 1am.

As for using the 360 as an extender, so far so good. I was able to find some discrete IR codes for on and off. Unfortunately as I suspected the fans are too loud, even when in the furniture, so I went ahead and ordered these replacements. I’ll let you know how that swap goes when I get it in. I find it hilarious that the fans were only $25, but the tools to replace them were $12. Oh well, $50 is a small price to pay for some peace and quiet while I watch TV. I also hook the 360 up to my kill-a-watt and was surprised to see that it draws over 100 watts while watching TV, which just seems crazy.

Overall I’m happy, I can finally easily turn off the overscan, I get my closet back, I can now tweak my Media Center from the comfort of my office chair and there isn’t a keyboard or mouse anywhere near my living room.

There is no place for a computer in my home theater

Monday, January 26th, 2009

It’s been about 10 months since I switched from TiVo to Vista Media Center and I’m happy to say I don’t regret my decision, but have learned alot and the biggest lesson is that there is no place in my home theater for a computer. So after all this time, I’ve ordered an Xbox 360 with the intent to use it as an extender in my main home theater — I’d go with another DMA2100, but I really like the animated transitions.

It’s really funny that I recently came to this conclusion as today my friend Brent Evans basically posted about the same thing today on Geek Tonic. I couldn’t agree more with his points and will be moving my XPS 420 into my office — it’s in a closet near my HT now. But in addition to Brent’s, here are a few of my personal pain points about having a computer in my living room.

  • Turing off overscan in Vista Media Center is a PITA and borderline impossible.
  • The screensaver situation. I’d love to go into this, but my trials and tribulations would take up another post all alone, so lets just say it doesn’t work.
  • Judder, jitter messy video. I’ve tried many things and still have issues.
  • Having a mouse or keyboard near the couch is a bag of hurt.

I think the HTPC as we know it is dead and instead the computer will be the central storage and collection device. The best thing already headed in this direction is Sage TV’s Windows Home Server version. I think that what every PC DVR software out there needs to do is move to the extender model with a headless server hidden away.

I that that Microsoft should do at this point is to build the backend DVR functionality into Windows Home Server. This would be the perfect compliment to the already great media collection features. In order for it to work though, it’d have to support every Media Center tuner, including CableCARD tuners and the upcoming satellite tuners. In theory it’d be more stable and easier to support because it would be relatively free of 3rd party applications. Of course to make this really useful, we’d need to be able to watch live TV on any Media Center computer in the house.

Windows Home Server Rocks!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

It’s no secret that I’m a Mac lovin’ Windows hater, but man things are really turning around at Redmond as earlier this year I switched from TiVo to Vista Media Center and now this week I deployed my first Windows Home Server.

As a computer network profesional the idea of having a server at home has always apeal to me, but for many reasons I never persued it. But when I started to receive memory errors on the last XP box in my house that I use as a Home Automation controller, I once again considered running a server. I was delighted to learn that Windows Home Server is really just Windows Server 2003 with a few really cool utilities for the home and a resonable price. So not only could I run Mainlobby on the box, but I could also use it to backup and remotely access my Media Center and my wife’s Vaio laptop — no I still haven’t converted her.

For hardware I went with a MSI Wind PC from Newegg — thanks Warren, for the suggestion — which sells for an unbelievably low $139. To this I added a $21 2GB stick of ram and the original 250GB SATA HDD from the Series3 I sold to Tyler that was lying around. Add in another $94 for an OEM copy of WHS and I got myself a whole lot of utility for $254. To top it off, the small box will fit in my structured wiring cabinet which fits nicely into my plans to reclaim my closet from my electronics — more about that to come.

I was able to install WHS and all the agents on my two Windows computers in no time, and already feel better that the machines are being backed up. The only problem I have is that I can’t use the remote desktop application at work because port 4125 is blocked — man do I wish I could tunnel this over ssl — and I haven’t quite figured out how to get Time Machine to backup to a network drive — yes I tried iTimemachine. The most impressive thing so far though is the included dynamic DNS feature and the free trusted SSL certificate.

I’m not 100 percent migrated over from my old XP box yet, but I’m getting there. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have a chance to decommishion the old box once I get ML tested. Stay tunned.

The TV Pack has made my Media Center enviroment very unstable

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I know, I know, it isn’t meant for consumer consumption, but I’d content that it isn’t ready for any consumption. I’ve been told by many beta testers that it is so buggy none of them use it, and now after about 90 days of it being in the wild, it seems that just about everyone at the The Green Button has also given up. Evidently I’m the only idiot still using it, but a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about going back. Honestly if I didn’t love the hetero’ tuners feature so much I’d have gone back a long time ago. At this point I’m thinking Windows 7 pre-beta is more stable, so maybe I’ll try that. Either way, here is the list of problems I’m having.

  1. It crashes all the time! How much you ask? Well, luckily Vista makes it easy to go and see how often an app crashes. All in all, in the past 60 days, I’ve experienced about 58 crashes. Of that, Media Center (ehshell.exe) has crashed 20 times, the host module 9 times, store update 27 times, and finally the receiver service twice.
  2. I’ve have to unplug my extender in my one room about every other week because it is locked up.
  3. My Extenders report network issues, but I have the same network as I did before I installed the TV Pack, yet it never had problems before. Not to mention the network test always says I have 100% of what I need to do HD.
  4. I’ve missed a few recordings, to which the Media Center says were “canceled by another component.”
  5. I’ve had to reconfigure the EPG four times, which takes over an hour to re-enter my 70+ series recordings, not to mention remap all my channels.
  6. Experienced the mysterious blue bar, about 4 times.

And this doesn’t even take into account the weird bugs like the info and mini guide bug, the scrub bar and worst of all the Media center has to change the channel to record even though there is another tuner that is idle. There are more documented at The Green Button, but I personally havent’ seen them.

At this point I’m convinced that I’m the only one left using the TV Pack and that the Nievies and S1 Digitals of the world are smart enough to skip it until Windows 7.

Man do I miss OS X

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


I started a new job a month ago and while I love just about everything about it (other than being on call) I am forced to use Windows. Lucky for me I can use Vista and Office 2007 which is a vast improvement over pervious version no matter what others tell you, but still it is far from being a Mac. The amazing part is that I have only used a Mac full time for a year and before that I used either Windows or Linux for years.

Here is what I miss most.

The Dock: There is nothing more annoying than Vista’s taskbar which has changed little from XP. Not only can you not control where you put shortcuts or running applications, but on top of that each window gets a square. I feel like I spend all day searching for running apps since there is no Expose either. Plus if you right click on a taskbar item you get all of 3 choices, nothing like Mac which has tons of options.

Bash: Man does CMD suck, command line completion is a joke and I spend half the time typing out the longest commands and switches you ever saw, on top of this most of the essential commands require me to go searching around the internet for things simple like ‘grep’.

NetworkNewsWire: I use FeedDeamon instead, but it really isn’t the same, you can’t move folders around and opening a article is a 3 click affair. At least is syncs with NNW so I can enjoy it at home without reading the same news over and over again.

In Line spell check: Hello Vista, no inline spell check? You have to be kidding me?

Expose: I forget how useful this little trick is till I don’t have it, and Vista’s equivalent is a just a cool looking alt-tab.

Alt~: The way OS X treats application windows used to drive me nuts and now I hate living without it, the ability to alt-tab between apps and then atl~ between windows is a powerful tool that I really really wish Vista had.

Auto Window Resizing: This could be the first thing I ever discovered about OS X that was very different from Windows and now it drives me nuts. You hit maximize and the little text document takes up the ENTIRE screen and the only way to make it the “correct” and by correct I mean the appropriate size to display the content with minimal whitespace, is to resize it manually. I spend soo much time just resizing windows to maximize my desktop space.

Scrolling: Two finger drag, that is all I am going to say.

Elevated privileges: Is it really necessary to freeze everything on the screen and dim everything just to prompt the user to elevate privileges? On top of this you are sometimes prompted for your credentials multiple times in a row — I guess in case you walked away from your computer in the past 8 seconds.

FQDN usernames: Wow do I get sick of typing my domain name, yeah I know this is actually a complaint against Vista vs XP and not OS X.

I am sure I am missing something, I should of made a list rather than shooting off the hip.