Archives For HTPC

Paul Thurrott has a short “preview” of sorts for the next version of Windows – Windows 8.  It seems like Windows 7 has barely been around long enough to get acquainted, but there’s no question Microsoft already has it’s teams working on the next version of their flagship OS.  One thing that might surprise or even disturb some Media Center fans is this little tidbit from the article:

“One of the big trends involves PC-based TV tuner support. Microsoft has been steadily evolving TV tuner support in Windows since the initial XP Media Center release in 2002, but the thinking now is that future “TV” experiences on the PC will be web-based. If this works out as believed, future media PCs will not need TV tuners or the complicated software required to make them work. To this end, Windows 8 will likely be the start of the move away from traditional TV tuners in Windows.”

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Flickr / Dundas Football Club

At the GeekTonic house we watched the US versus England match during  Saturday’s World Cup broadcast and enjoyed everything about it except for the annoying Vuvuzela buzz that seems to permeate all of South Africa right now.

So lets say you also want to get rid of that the buzzing, but still want to watch the World Cup games. Afterdawn has a very in-depth guide on how to do just that by filtering out four different sound frequencies using various programs. Sure it takes a little work, but it might be worth it for some peace of mind. And the process is perfectly suited for HTPC enthusiasts too.

This post republished from GeekTonic.


When it was revealed that the new TiVo Premiere can be controlled via USB keyboard, wireless or otherwise, I began my hunt for a compact and inexpensive accessory… as TiVo doesn’t provide a mechanism for transferring Season Passes between units and their own upcoming Bluetooth QWERTY remote has been met with mixed reviews and an unknown launch date. Not to mention, text entry is still a mostly infrequent task. (Until support is integrated into the third party TiVo apps.)

I landed on the Lenovo Mini Wireless Keyboard, as it met both requirements. It’s a compact but somewhat ergonomic thumbboard that regularly shows up on Slickdeals for $36, shipped free. The mini USB receiver can be tucked away in the battery compartment when not in use, which is why I couldn’t immediately locate it when the Lenovo arrived.

lenovo-wireless-keyboard5In testing, the 2.4GHz RF worked fine around the living room as I typed show titles into the TiVo and experimented with a just-passing-through Acer Aspire. The trackball is another story. It’s unusable on the TiVo (keyboard control only, not mouse), but on the PC where I could test it, the roller seemed a bit too loose. Granted, I didn’t attempt to adjust its sensitivity in Windows. But I’m still not sure I’d recommend this for daily control of an HTPC. Regardless, as an infrequent TiVo text entry device that you stash in the remote drawer, the Lenovo Mini gets the job done.

A few weeks back, my uncle’s somewhat ancient tower PC gave up the ghost… and it fell on me to find a replacement. (I’m sure most ZNF readers know how that works.) His computing needs are extremely minimal — we’re talking AOL email and web browsing (via broadband, at least). So I figured he’d be a perfect candidate for an inexpensive and lightweight nettop. Enter the Acer Aspire Revo.

Amazon shipped the Revo (R1600-U910H, $199) directly to me so I could clean up the requisite crapware and load up his software staples – plus Windows Security Essentials. And since I had a PC with HDMI out in my possession, I went ahead and hooked it up to the plasma for a quick spin.

I didn’t get too crazy, as I wanted to reship the Acer in a timely fashion, and merely tested web-based Hulu and Netflix streaming on the ION-powered Revo running XP. First off, the nettop is unsurprisingly underpowered. But I did wonder what 1GB of memory and the Flash 10.1 release candidate might be able to do with Hulu. Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. In a window, Hulu’s SD content was mostly watchable. At full screen, forget it. The Silverlight-powered Netflix, by comparison, performed like a champ. Higher res, but still SD, content streamed quite nicely in full screen.

I wouldn’t recommend this particular Acer SKU to anyone considering a HTPC. However, with just a bit more power and/or memory, a small form factor PC like this could get the job done on a reasonable budget. And, I assume, for many it does. Even if you don’t go the full-on HTPC route with television/DVR capabilities, a relatively open platform running something like Boxee or Kylo could be quite compelling.

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Since January from CES, we knew a new SageTV version was coming which would include a new UI. I’ve had the opportunity to preview this significant update and will run through the new features, changes and improvements – which are now available in beta form.

Probably on the most-requested list for SageTV developers is a re-write of the user interface. The default SageTV UI has evolved over the years, but cosmetically it’s looked and worked about the same. With version 7, the SageTV team has made some significant changes with the interface that they hope will please those that liked the old UI the way it was as well as those looking for a more attractive appearance.

While many will focus on the new UI, transitions and effects, the more subtle, under-the-hood SageTV changes make this version a huge leap forward.  For example, the new plugin manager makes installing and updating add-ons incredibly easy – I can’t stress enough how much of an improvement this is to those that use SageTV. Other non-UI items that are on the list of things I’m really appreciating here include the improved HD-PVR performance, improved HD200 performance (it handles navigation very fast), no more “pause” between shows when watching television live.

For a thorough rundown of the new features found in SageTV 7 along with a number of screenshots, continue reading at Geek Tonic.

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