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September 2006 - Posts

  • Growing up?

    Sometimes I wonder if I should setup my own site to handle support for the different tools.  I've been hesitant in the past, mostly because I don't want to deal with the problems intrinsic to having my own site and it's not free.

    I think the main benefit would be a dedicated forum where issues would have their own thread instead of one massive unwieldy thread that no one reads.  This should help with some of the lack of documentation issues.

    If anyone knows of a good (cheap) hosting provider that has a decent out of the box solution for this sort of thing send me an email.  I haven't decided if that's what I want to do yet, but I think I'm leaning that way.

  • XBOX 360 HD-DVD Drive

    Who will be first to pull it out and see if it can be put in a PC?  I don't have a 360, but I may have to pick one up and find out.  At $200 it will be a steal if it works.
  • Cannot access meta data on a currently recording file in Vista RC1

    The following code worked on XP and still works on Vista if the show is not currently recording.

    IFileSourceFilter sourceFilter = (IFileSourceFilter)ClassId.CoCreateInstance(ClassId.RecordingAttributes);
    sourceFilter.Load(filepath, null);

    The error message is -System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException (0x80004005): Error HRESULT E_FAIL has been returned from a call to a COM component.

    Did something change with the SBE or is this a bug?  If it's a bug how do I notify MS?

  • Would you pay > $4000 for a Media PC?

    I saw this over at Chris Lanier's blog and while it looks like a decent system, would anyone really pay more than $4000 for a Media Center PC?  I know it's fanless and all that, but Niveus has had fanless PC's for a long time and they start at $1500.
  • Sharing a VGP-XL1B2

    Knock another $100 off the price of one of these and it starts to look pretty interesting.  I know you can't stream content from it, but I wonder how hard it would be to connect this to a PC and expose it as a network share?

    This product seems to expose the contents in windows explorer, so it certainly can be done. 

    I wonder if PowerFile has a public SDK for the device.

  • Troubleshooting Issues with DVRMSToolbox - CommercialSkip

    The addin requires that Rollup 2 for MCE 2005 is installed.  The rollup isn't part of the "Critical Patches" section on Windows Update, so it will not be installed automatically.  This is the second thing that should be checked when the addin doesn't work (the first, of course, is that RegisterCommercialSkipAddin.cmd was run from the Programs menu; it's OK to run this multiple times).

    With that out of the way, the next step is to turn on logging.  Doing this is easy.  Run DVRMStoMPEGSettings.exe (from the Programs Group) and select the Commercial Skip Tab.  Check "Write Events", and then click Save.

    Now go open up the Event Viewer (Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Event Viewer), and select the Application from the list of Log names.

    OPTIONAL: I like to change the size of the Logs, so they can hold more data, and configure it to auto overwrite as needed so I don't get errors.  If you don't take this step then make sure to turn off Write Events when you're done.

    Right click on "Application" and select Properties from the context menu that opens.  Then change the maximum size and "Overwrite events as needed" properties, then click OK to save the change.

    Now you're ready to start up MCE.  When MCE starts up, the CommercialSkip addin will write an event that notifies that it was successfully initialized, if it cannot initialize an error message detailing what went wrong will be written.  If you don't see something at this stage, either rollup 2 wasn't installed, or the addin isn't registered. 

    As an example; this is the message that is written if the MSASSink isn't registered or initialized properly when MCE opens. (You shouldn't ever see this, it's just an example of something that can go wrong)

    Any time something interesting happens an event is logged (this is the reason it's a good idea to change the configuration properties on the Log).  And when an error is written, it's the key to figuring out how to fix the problem.

  • Virtual PC 2004 Hibernation issue

    A couple weeks ago, I had to demonstrate something on a VPC.  Wanting to be prepared, I loaded it up and saved the state before putting my laptop in hibernation mode and heading over to the demo.

    Of course when I got there and tried to use the VPC, it all went to hell.  One of the people at the demo told me it was related to hibernating the laptop with VPC open.  I turned shut down VPC, and everything worked fine after starting it again.

    Turns out this is a known issue and there is a fix.  The fix is actually included in the download for VPC2004 (look in the laptop hotfix folder), so I'm not sure why they don't include it in the kb article.

    Posted Sep 12 2006, 07:55 AM by babgvant with no comments
    Filed under:
  • A More Robust Commercial Skip

    I spent tonight working on a more robust implementation on the work around published last night to get the Commercial Skip add-in working.  While I'm still not thrilled about approach (not nearly as elegant as the IGraphBuilder approach used in MCE), it does work and now does not require the user running WMC to be an administrator (but does require that the FileWatcher be running as SYSTEM or an administrative account); or at least it shouldn't, I need to test this out.  I also need to test multiple users.  I want to do both of those things before publishing anything.
  • DVRMSToolbox write up in PC Magazine

    Randy Harris let me know that PC Magazine (9/19/2006) did a write up of some of the capabilities of DVRMSToolbox. The author missed the automated commercial skipping, but a good write up nonetheless :)
  • Not clean, but working...

    I got the commercial skip add-in working on Vista.  I'm not in love with the implementation, but it does work, and that's what counts.

    The downside, is that it requires membership in the Administrators group.  I haven't tested it with UAC on, so I'm not sure it will work in that scenario. 

    In the process of building up a Vista VPC so I can test the installer.  I will be posting the installer and source when I do that, but it will carry stronger than usual "use at your own risk" warning.

  • Why don't TV shows have meta data?

    It's a common problem that MCE doesn't reflect the meta data of the currently playing show in the API.  The documentation explains this in the following text referring to the MediaMetadata property.

    "The information that this property retrieves depends on the current media experience. If the current experience is Live TV or Recorded TV, this property is null. If the current experience is Music or Video, this property retrieves values of the following keys."

    I'm really curious to the reasoning behind this choice.  How hard would it really be to push the meta data into that object?  At the very least put something in there that would enable developers to figure out what show is playing (a file path would be nice, or the ProgramID) so that we could extend the viewing experience.  Steve Toub demonstrated a way to work around this in MCE, but it's pretty pathetic that we have to work around it in the first place.  Even more pathetic is that it's still "broken" in Vista.

  • Sorry UAC

    I tried; I really tried to get used to it, to live with it, dare I say embrace it; but ultimately, I just was annoyed.  All the dim screens, that stupid "are you sure" dialog.  It just wasn't meant to be... 

    I should state for the record, that for a long time I ran my XP machine as a User (i.e. not a member of the administrators group); so I'm not a newb with this limited security context thing.  That was limiting, but not nearly as annoying as UAC.  For me, the big difference is that I was limited, and I knew the limitations.  Administrators were Administrators, and Users were Users.  I admit, I cheated and added my account to the Network Configuration Group (can't repair a network connection w/o it), but otherwise I did runas when I wanted to tinker, or had a cmd window open that was running as administrator.  Development was kind of a pain, but you get used to it.  Creating a couple shortcuts with the proper settings and it's really not to bad.

    With XP there were two things that killed it for me.  MyTray (an application that changes channels and records tv over firewire) needs admin rights, and that the power settings never seemed to stick around properly (it's hard to beat properly configured S3 standby on a MCE).

    UAC is just annoying.  Your account is an admin, but not really.  The constant dialoging was driving me nuts (granted it's a new install, so there is a lot of tinkering).  I admit it takes me a while to warm to new things, I even went out of my way not to look up how to turn it off, but I just couldn't take it, when I stumbled across the checkbox that made it end, it was just too tempting.

    BTW.  What happens if I set the administrator password in Vista?  I wasn't asked to setup the account during install like in XP.  I was able to right click and select "Run as Administrator" without supplying any password, so I'm guessing that there isn't on (although there could be some trickery going on behind the scenes).

  • Windows Media Center SDK for Vista RC1

    Why is the Windows Media Center SDK for Vista RC1 not public? If I can get a copy of Vista RC1 and I have a valid product key, why can't I download the SDK that would let me be productive with Vista?

    Can someone who has a copy let me know what changed with MSAS in Vista? In the Beta 2 SDK all I can find is this -

    "media state aggregation service (MSAS)
    A local COM server that receives media status information from Media Center and distributes it to sinks that have registered with the MSAS."

    Not terribly useful.

    UPDATE:

    SDK is public now.
  • Commercial Skip in Vista WMC

    I figured out why the commercial skip add-in doesn't work on Vista, but unfortunately I don't know how to fix it yet.

    The code that retrieves the IGraphBuilder from the ROT doesn't work because the "FilterGraph" object that is published can't be cast as an IGraphBuilder anymore.  I tried casting it as a IFilterGraph (the base interface for IGraphBuilder) but that didn't work either. 

    Maybe there's a way to figure out what the new interface of the object, but COM Interop isn't really my strong suite.

    Before I spend too much time on it, I want to take a look at the SDK, maybe there's something new in the SDK that would moot the need to go to the ROT. 

  • Maximum PC makes a HTPC

    Generally I really like Maximum PC.  While their coverage is a little too gamer centric for me, it's a nice bit of PC brain candy every month.  It was really nice to see that this month's issue was about HTPCs.  Overall, I think the coverage wasn't too bad (and that Ahanix case is sweet), but there were two glaring exceptions.

    They covered Myth TV, and while the price was right (open source); they felt it was too complex to be main stream mostly because of it's need for Linux.  But where was Media Portal?  It's an open source HTPC platform that runs on XP, it has similar requirements to MCE so the hardware and software is readily available and easily configurable.

    The other issue I had with the coverage is (and this really hurts;)) they point out the "lack" of a commercial skipping solution for MCE as one of the bigger weaknesses in the platform.  One of their editors should have done a little searching before sending that one to the printer.

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