Media Center

Introducing Elisa

Oliver Brown
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I’ve keeping my eye on a project called Elisa a lot recently. It’s basically another attempt to produce a cross platform* media centre solution. At the moment its features are fairly limited, it’s essentially just some nice media playing software. It does have plugins to handle Youtube and Flickr though with lots of other stuff planned. The main reason I’m interested in it though is that it feels likes it’s constantly making progress (and they make the progress very visible). They have weekly releases and every one actually has some cool new feature. It’s also written in Python which I think lowers the bar a little for community contributions (as opposed to C++/Qt required for MythTV). For it to replace MythTV for me the obvious missing feature is, well, TV. Reading the forum suggests it’s quite low on the priority list for the moment (since it obviously requires a lot of work and other features are less likely to be released in the meantime just because the developers are busy). But, as I said at the beginning, it’s worth keeping an eye on. * Not so long ago it only worked on Linux, now it supports Windows. It technically supports MacOS with some messing around but they’re aiming for proper support soon.

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LinuxMCE 0704

Oliver Brown
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A new version of LinuxMCE is out. And from what I’ve read (I haven’t installed it yet) it looks like a big improvement. The biggest factor is improved MythTV support (which to be honest I feel is the most important part of it). They also claim the DVD quick install only requires three keypresses (but that’s only for the install, no setup). There is thankfully a new video as well that is considerably less annoying than the previous one - complete with disclaimers about things that may only work on specific hardware. On the subject of specific hardware, there is a company called Fiire offering some pretty affordable computers with LinuxMCE already installed. Personally I’d build the core myself but maybe buy their thin clients.. They also a do a cool remote with built in gyro (like a remote/gyro-mouse combo) but it’s a $150…

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Windows Vista

Oliver Brown
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Well for various reasons I now have Windows Vista. I installed it myself and to be honest everything went smoothly. That’s not to say everything went perfectly, but nothing unsurmountable happened. The first problem was the fact that I bought the upgrade version. I’d previously bought Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 but I was doing a clean install. Previous version of Windows just asked for you to pop the disk of the previous version in this situation - Vista didn’t. It would only let me install from Windows. So I had to install Media Centre first. Then once I had installed Vista it didn’t have drivers for my network card or my sound card (and no network card meant no internet and therefore no video drivers and therefore horrible resolution (at the wrong aspect ratio no less). Well luckily I have another computer with internect access so I got the network drivers (and then the video and sound drivers). Beyond that, I haven’t done much with it yet. The Aero glass lucks cool and stuff and the new games it comes with are at least as entertaining as the old ones were when I first saw them. PS. User Account Control really is as annoying as they say it is for at least two reasons: Firstly it seems to ask you everything twice. Second since I have administrator access anyway it doesn’t really provide any security (it happens so often that you just click accept straight away without reading it).

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The future of television

Oliver Brown
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I just found an interesting document released by the European Broadcasting Union (their most prominent activity is the Eurovision Song Contest) regarding the future of television, specifically relating to PVR systems. Free-to-air Television and other PVR Challenges in Europe. It’s quite long but definitely good. Suggests revolutionary ideas like broadcasters making EPG and programme meta-data publicly available and that they should embrace “new business models” relating to content viewed through a PVR since traditional advertising is far less effective. At no point by the way does it endorse DRM or content protection and even speaks of “the offensive use of patents” in rather negative terms…

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MythTV better than Media Center?

Oliver Brown
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I’ve been reading about MythTV and considering it as a replacement for Windows Media Center. Overall it has more features, has better support for multiple computers and is completely free. Unfortunately it’s only available for Linux. Which also means you have to be picky with hardware because of the lack of drivers. I’ll write more about it shortly… MythTV

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Cards and cards and cards…

Oliver Brown
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We are long time Sky customers and recently ordered Sky Multiroom so I could connect Sky up to my new Media Center PC. On Thursday they sent us two new viewing cards. I knew we’d need a new one but I didn’t expect two - I just figured that the change in our subscription meant the old one needed changing. Except on Friday they sent us another one. So now we have four, our old one and the three new ones. This could lead to an interesting possibility since we actually have a spare Sky box. So we’ll have three Sky boxes (two normal and one Sky+) and three new cards. That’s a total of four signals required - exactly the amount that a single minidish can handle. Unfortunately after looking around the Sky site I found out that you need a seperate multiroom subscription for each additional box. So why did they send us three new cards? digital TV, Sky, Sky+ Sky Plus, multiroom

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Computer not here…

Oliver Brown
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My new computer has still yet to arrive. I was expecting to be able to write a hands on review of MCE by now… Windows, MCE, Media Centre, Windows XP

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