Guides

Jan 18 2013

Guide - Display Rendering Stats in MPC-HC

Every so often I see a question about how we generated the detailed display information used in our HTPC reviews. It's not hard to setup, but I figured that it was time to document the process in a single, easy to find place. Let's get started.

Sep 11 2012

Guide - New and Returning TV Calendars for sharing, downloading, and it updates - ALL CHANNELS

Missing Remote is proud to have many writers that are avid television watchers. Watch ShowsWhen we were looking around for a list of shows and their start dates we found just those--list after list, so we have done the hard work for you and compiled these lists into shareable Google calendar with internet view or you can download and use it. Make sure you subscribe or come back, as we will be updating these all season. If you are like us and prefer to schedule only when it shows up on the guide, you will be watching this list daily when you can add your new shows up to 14 days in advance. We have made HTML links to look at the Google Calendar links and you can subscribe through that link, or ICS which is read by many of the popular desktop calendar applications, and you can subscribe to them through there.

(UPDATED 9/13/2012)
Fixed some of the length of shows. ABC has been redone to fix some date and time slot issues..

Jun 27 2012

Guide - Backup, Migrate or Share SiliconDust HDHomeRun (HDHR) Digital Cable (QAM) Lineup

SiliconDust HDHR Dual

I picked up a SiliconDust HDHomeRun (HDHR) recently and after setting it up I was looking for an easy way to export the configuration to another HTPC which would share the device. Unfortunately this functionality isn’t built in to the setup utility, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible, or easy, and it has the benefit as acting as a backup should the system drive fail as well.

 

Feb 06 2012

Guide - Guide - MythTV Quick Tip - Reset the Painter

I recently wrote about my experiences installing MythTV on my Windows laptop.  While it's been working great, I recently ran into a problem and wanted to share the solution.

While playing with some settings in the various menus - sometimes I just can't help myself - I got myself into a pickle that I just couldn't fix.  As it turns out, MythTV 0.24.1 doesn't like using the OpenGL painter to draw the various screens.  After changing the MythTV painter setting, the frontend application restarted itself but upon launching again all I got was a white screen.  The only thing to do was force-quit the application.

Well, it turns out that there is a solution to this little problem.  There are many settings that can be forced at the command line.  In this case, the painter setting can be overridden by adding "-O ThemePainter=qt -O UIPainter=qt" to the mythfrontend command.  This will allow the frontend to startup using the Qt painter.  

Once it is up, the setting can be permanently changed to using the Qt painter.  The setting can be found under Setup -> Appearance.  After this change has been made, the frontend should launch normally without needing to append the above options to the frontend command.

Dec 28 2011

Guide - Recording Hulu, Netflix or Anything via the Hauppauge Colossus

So we've all probably experienced the case where, for some reason, our DVR misses an episode and we have to find it via another mechanism.  Sure, you can watch it on Hulu or Amazon VOD, but you want to add it to your collection without the DRM (exactly how the DVR would have done), and it came over the air/cable for free (or you paid your cable bill) - so why should you have to pay for it again?!   Maybe you've had one too many nasty-grams from Comcast about your bit-torrent downloads so you don't want to go that route.

Nov 28 2011

Guide - Migrate Away from Windows Home Server Drive Extender

Windows Home Server LogoAs previously noted, I'm working on upgrading the server in my house, which currently runs Windows Home Server (v1).  While I don't plan to use Windows Home Server 2011 for anything but backups, this guide should assist others who are thinking about how to upgrade WHS to WHS 2011, particularly migrating all your data out of the drive pool.  This process will also work if you intend to move to any alternative "drive pool" solutions, such as FlexRAID, unRAID, FreeNAS, or the couple of 3rd party add-ins for WHS 2011.  To prepare for the move away from the WHS Drive Extender (DE) technology, since it was so unceremoniously ripped out of WHS 2011, the very first step I needed to take was to discontinue the use of DE for, at least, SageTV.  The rest of the data, such as music, photos, and other documents take up but a fraction of the space, so the bulk of the work will be getting all my SageTV recordings and ripped videos out of DE and into individual folders/drives.

Due to how DE works, the removal of a drive from WHS v1 (from this point forward, I'll simply refer to it as WHS) can take a very long time, depending on the amount of data being removed, as well as the drive's speed.  I would recommend planning to do only one or two drives per day--in order to minimize downtime--and expect nothing to be able to access the drive pool during removal.  This means SageTV will not be able to record additional TV to the pool, which is actually a good thing, considering the goal here is to stop everything from utilizing the drive pool entirely.  Once the drives are removed, we'll create some shares for the individual drives, set permissions, and get back to recording!

Let's get started...

Nov 24 2011

Guide - Digitizing VHS with the Hauppauge Colossus

So my primary reason for purchasing the Hauppauge Colossus was to digitize a small VCR library.   Some purchased movie titles others non-professional and non-purchasable.    It seems my wife's Dad bought almost every Disney movie on VCR during the limited release cycle.   Since my 4yr old isn't going to complain about simulated surround vs TrueHD, I figured capturing the upscaled image after it's piped through my receiver's video processor would be good enough for her.    Of course, little did I know I'd end up spending more money than the recently released BDs would cost me through the Disney Movie Club, but that's beside the point right?! Smile

Nov 02 2011

Guide - MythTV on Windows?!

MythTV is complicated to setup.  MythTV only runs under Linux.  MythTV is only for people who like to tweak their setups all the time…These are some of the stereotypes surrounding MythTV.  While this may have been true at one point things have gotten much easier lately.  One of the things that has gotten a lot of recent attention is building and running MythTV on Windows.

For a number of years there have been ways to access MythTV recordings from Windows.  MythTV has a DLNA server built into it so any DLNA client can access the recordings.  The problem with this is that there is no way to access LiveTV, no automatic commercial skipping, no scheduling recordings, and other features are missing as well.  More recently, someone developed the MythTv Player which is able to talk to the MythTV backend using the MythTV protocol.  This brought along automatic commercial skipping, and in later releases, LiveTV capabilities.  Still, there was no program guide for scheduling recordings and no access to videos or music.

Most recently, a handful of real MythTV developers have taken it upon themselves to get the native MythTV frontend application working under Windows.  There have been a number of challenges along the way; not all of the features are functional yet and there are still some bugs to work out but it is now possible to run the MythTV frontend application natively in Windows.

There are a couple of reasons that having MythTV available on Windows is important.  First, I know that there are a lot of people who use MythTV under Linux (myself included) and have at least one system at their disposal that is running Windows.  It would be nice to be able to watch recordings on those systems from time to time.  The second reason is that, let's face it, there are a large number of Windows users out there who, until now, have not had access to MythTV.  MythTV is a great Home Theater PC software package that should be available to as many people as possible.

So now the big question is, how do you do it?  Well, there are two options.  While MythTV does not distribute precompiled binaries, it is possible for third parties to do exactly that.  All of my use of MythTV under Linux has been by way of third party packages (atrpms.net is what I use for Fedora/CentOS installs).  Similar work has been done for Windows and you can pick up an installer here or here.

The other option, and the one that I’m going to describe in more detail for you, is to build MythTV from source.  I do not want to duplicate all of the instructions that have already been written on the subject - links will be provided shortly.  Instead I want to augment those instructions with the modifications that I needed to make in order to get things to install on my computer.  You can build it from Linux, Mac OS, or Windows but this guide will detail only building from Windows.  To get started, there is a Wiki page on MythTV.org that describes pretty much how to do everything.  However, another MythTV user has helped us out by putting together a nice script that does pretty much all of the work for you and it can be found here.  In order to run this script there are two things that you will need: MSys and mingw32.  Both of these applications are linked to from the script’s website on the page Building MythTV on Windows.  What they will give you is an environment similar to the Linux command prompt, which you can use to build MythTV.

Oct 20 2011

Guide - Migrating the MythTV Database Between Installations

For years now I’ve been running the same Linux installation and the same MythTV installation on the same hardware.  From time to time I would upgrade the MythTV installation or the OS to the latest revision but it was always an upgrade from the previous and not a clean install.  However, earlier this summer I was faced with a hardware failure in my server.  All of the data was okay but I figured that as long as I had the system down I might as well bring it up-to-date as well (the setup had been stable for me for a couple of years now so I hadn’t touched it – it if ain’t broke, don’t fix it).  In the past, this would have involved some command line kung fu dumping the MySQL database and then restoring it on the other system.  Now days it is much easier.  

Oct 17 2011

Guide - Using the Native Video and Picture Library

Using the Native Video and Picture Library

Recently we created a guide on how to use the Movie Library within Microsoft Windows 7 Media Center (“7MC”). Today we are going to look at adding files to the native Video and Pictures Library. This guide will cover:

1. How to add files to the library

2. What types of files can be added to each library

Adding Files to the Library

In order to add videos and pictures to the library, you will need to tell Windows 7 Media Center which folders it should “watch” for new files. First, on the home screen, navigate to the “Settings” menu.

 Settings

Once in the settings menu, navigate to the “Media Libraries” option. This launches the media library wizard. From here, you can add folders for all five libraries that 7MC uses: Music, Pictures, Videos, Recorded TV, and Movies. The process to add and remove folders to each library is identical; today we are looking at pictures and videos, so select which file you would like to add and press next.

 Media Library Page 1

Depending on whether you already have folders added to the library you will either have the option to both add and remove folders; or, if this is your first time, you will only have the option to add folders to the library.

No folders Present

No Folders Present 

Folders Present

Sep 08 2011

Guide - CableCARD Tuner Essentials

Technology of CableCARD; How long it’s been around? Why’s it important?
For the full nitty gritty details of CableCARD check out the Wikipedia entry which is fairly thorough. At a higher level, the technology was developed to protect consumers from being forced into having to rent set top boxes (STB) at increasing fees from cable companies (or MSOs) without an alternative. From a home theater PC (HTPC) perspective, it meant the ability to natively tune high definition programming from a cable provider (previously the options were only analog cable, or digital over the air broadcasts).

Originally, the exposure for HTPCs was minimal as there was a single tuner from ATI which required special Windows Vista activation from only a few OEM PC manufacturers; so if you wanted to have CableCARD it required purchasing an entire PC, leaving DIYers out. When Windows 7 was introduced, this requirement was removed and any customers were allowed to purchase ATI tuners and activate them.  Until recently, CableCARD recordings were subject to fairly restrictive DRM, so even after the OEM requirements were relaxed, the technology was not viable for enthusiasts who wanted to placeshift the recordings.

Sep 02 2011

Guide - Methods to Resolve and Diagnose Sleep Problems with Windows 7

 
While getting sleep to work reliably with windows 7 is much easier than it was in the days of windows XP, it still can take a little bit of work to get the settings rights. One thing that makes it easier is knowing when the computer went to sleep and then when, and what woke it up. There are several methods to accomplish this task. I will be covering three in this guide. The first is to run powercfg -lastwake from a comand prompt, second is to create a custom view in event viewer and the last method is to use StandbyTracker, a tool created by Andrew Van Til, which will log the sleep events as well as log the results of powercfg -lastwake on each resume. This guide will cover each in that order.  First up is using the command prompt...

Command Prompt

Aug 18 2011

Guide - Using the Native 7MC Movie Library

 While there are certainly a number of options when it comes to movie management within Microsoft Windows 7 Media Center (7MC) such as My Movies, Media Browser, etc., one of the simplest is the included native movie library. This guide will cover the following:
  1. What types of files can be added to the library
  2. How to add files to the library.
  3. Ways to get metadata for your movies.
What types of files can be added
 
Out of the box, the 7MC Movie Library will display the default file types that it can play. (Link to microsoft article about default file types) In addition to the files on the this list, the movie library will also display movies that are ripped from DVDs and stored in video_ts and audio_ts folders. In order to have other file types displayed (such as MKV and .iso) which are not natively supported by 7MC, you will need to enable this file type via a “hack” or workaround. For example, with .mkv files this type is enabled when a splitter such as Haali media splitter is installed. Head to the forums if you are having issues with a specific file type being displayed in Media Center. Below is a list of common formats and their native (out of the box) support within 7MC.

Aug 10 2011

Guide - Creating an HTPC Activity on Logitech Harmony One

Last Christmas my wife, reprising her role as Santa Claus, climbed down the chimney and left the Logitech Harmony One universal remote under the tree. It was gleaming in the early morning sunshine--I got a little misty-eyed. After fulfilling my familial obligations (I love watching my son open presents) I scurried upstairs and began tinkering.
 
I had two objectives in mind when I selected the Logitech Harmony One. We needed a means of relegating our collection of remotes to the closet and I wanted to make simple tasks like watching TV and listening to music easier for my wife and son. In order to accomplish these tasks I needed to find a way to control my WMC-based HTPC. With a huge assist from two articles written by Stuart Harrison at thedigitallifestyle.com, I was able to do just that. What follows are the steps I used to create an HTPC activity on my Logitech Harmony One remote.
 
Requirements:

  • Windows Media Center based HTPC
  • IR Remote for WMC (I use the one that came with XP MCE)
  • Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote
  • Logitech Harmony Software (download here)

 
Steps:

  • Install Logitech Software

 
Just click on the link above and download the version of the software appropriate for your OS. There’s nothing about the installation that requires any direction. Once installed it will open the software automatically, bringing you to a log in screen. This software requires an online profile, so create one and enter the required fields. Once that’s done it will prompt you to connect the remote to your computer via the supplied USB cable.

Aug 04 2011

Guide - Beginners Guide to installing Windows 7

Have you wanted to upgrade to Microsoft Windows 7 or just do a fresh install and don't know where to start? Running Windows 7 can be a huge time saver, and, in many cases, will run much faster on the computer you already own, with not much required. Maybe a memory upgrade to give your computer a little more speed. The computer may not be the fastest one on the block, for more speed you need at least two GB of RAM for basic computing.

What is needed before beginning:
* At least 1GB of RAM (Recommended 2GB or more)
* 32-bit or 64-bit machine and your choice of version of Windows 7 (microsoft link), all disc come with 64 or 32 versions (FYI OEM are specific to one type)
* 7GB of hard drive space just for the Operating System (80GB or more recommended)

An external video card is not required, but you will most likely not get the cool Windows Aero effects if you don’t have anything besides on-board graphics processing unit (GPU) on older machines. Any newer on-board or integrated GPUs can handle Aero as well as discrete GPUs.

Microsoft offers a Windows 7 Update Advisor which can be run on a Windows XP SP2 or Vista machine to help identify your PC’s compatibility with drivers or software and Windows 7. This will help you to determine what might not work when you do the upgrade or what new piece of hardware you are going to need before you do the install.

I always recommend you back up all of your data before you do a custom install. There are ways around this, but lets just keep it simple for now.

Lets get started with the actual installation!

There are two options to install Microsoft Windows 7:

Jul 08 2011

Guide - Easily Improve System and Disk Performance with Anti-Virus Exclusions

A lot of us at Missing Remote are fond of the Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus software. Not only is it free, it does its job without chewing up unnecessary resources and hides in the background until it is needed.

In the HTPC environment, we can decrease the impact to the system and disk performance even more by defining a few exclusion rules. Because the HTPC is generating new video files on its own, there's really no risk in excluding those files from the anti-virus protection.

While we'll go over the exclusion definitions for Microsoft Security Essentials, the same concepts can be applied to many other anti-virus programs.

There are two ways to exclude files from being scanned: by file extension and by folder. Either way is acceptable. If you've got video located in a lot of directories, configuring extensions may be easier, otherwise, configuring folders may take even less time.

First, open up Microsoft Security Essentials from the system tray icon.

In Microsoft Security Essentials, click on the "Settings" tab and select "Excluded Files and Locations" on the left side. In the following screen capture, you can see that the directory "C:\Users\Public\Recorded TV" was excluded. You will want to exclude locations where you have stored video, recording location, commercial skip analysis locations, etc. Be sure to click "Save changes" once you are finished.

If you'd rather exclude by file extension, you can do this by selecting "Excluded File Types" under the "Settings" tab. Just enter the extension you want to exclude.

Jun 27 2011

Guide - How to Connect a New Receiver to a TV without HDMI

You just bought a fantastic new audio/video receiver (AVR) for your home theater system and you're prepared to connect everything. Since times are tough you decided to keep your old rear projection or other HDTV since the quality is still decent and for your needs it seems to do great. If your TV is too old however, it will not have any HDMI inputs which leads me to this quick how to guide on connecting a new AVR to your older TV without HDMI.

Image

Jun 07 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - View Detailed Tuner Information in Windows 7 Media Center

Have you ever wanted to know more detailed information regarding your television tuners within Windows 7 Media Center? There is a lot of information that is stored within the operating system that is accessible via the 10' Media Center user interface with just a few buttons. And it's SUPER SIMPLE.

While watching a channel press the following buttons on your remote control: 411 + "more info button"

And you will see an overlay image with the show information, duration and channel number:

Image

Then just press the RIGHT ARROW button on your remote control to get additional info such as the current position and and state the file is in...

Image

And keep pressing it to see even more information (audio and video codec and bitrate information, resolution, etc).

Image

If you have several tuners you can see which tuners are being used for which recordings--makes diagnosing reception and quality issues all that much easier! In the below image you can see each show being recorded on each of my three tuners, and you also see my tuners which are detected but recognized.

Jun 02 2011

Guide - Installing a Server OS in Intel Media Series Motherboards

Having seen Missing Remote’s reviews of the Intel Media Series motherboards it should be clear that they provide a solid foundation for a home theater PC (HTPC) build, but because they also include Intel NICs (network interface controller) there is a strong case to use one for your next server build as well.  Unfortunately, Intel does not support server operating systems (OS) like Windows 2008 R2 (W2K8R2), which provides the foundation for Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS), so the installation process is more involved than it should be.  I didn’t have a USB key install of WHS handy so for this walk through I used W2K8R2; everything should be the same except that for WHS you can skip a step.  Let’s get started.

Image

Getting the server OS actually installed was no different than Windows 7 (i.e. simple and uneventful) so we’ll assume everyone has that step covered.  After logging in I took a screen shot of Device Manager to show the devices that were undetected.  Not all of the drivers listed below are required to make it work, but we will install them anyway for completeness.

Image

May 31 2011

Guide - How to Watch TV without Cable

There’s a lot of talk these days about folks wanting to cut down on their bills and configuring their homes to be able to watch TV without a cable subscription, or “cutting the cord” as it’s called, for a number of reasons. All which seem to be related to a feeling that maximum value is not being derived from a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription. The rise of new content delivery mechanisms utilizing the Internet also is contributing new options that supplement and, for some, rival traditional cable and satellite TV. For all you prospective cord-cutters, this guide will try to help you understand what options are available to watch TV without cable, satellite plan or other residential service. This guide is primarily focused on the US market as there are differences in the availability of content on a per-country basis.


Examine Your TV Viewing Habits

Take stock of the TV programming you currently watch and determine what you can and cannot live without. It may be helpful to compile this information in a spreadsheet. For example, if you watch an entire season of Mad Men, take note of that and the fact that a typical season is thirteen episodes per year. If there are certain things you just can’t live without like ESPN or CNN, you are not a good candidate for cutting the cord because the programming is simply not available sans a cable subscription.

Content Sources

Terrestrial Broadcast Programming / ClearQAM


  • Pros: No monthly subscription fees, High Quality HD with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Access to Major Network Affiliates
  • Cons: Requires purchase of antenna, installation and placement of antenna can be challenging and even prohibitive in some situations
 Image

In many cases, you have access to high-quality broadcast programming with just the use of an antenna. This programming, often referred to as over-the-air (OTA) programming, is completely free. Depending on the content the programs are in many cases high-definition (HD) and contain Dolby Digital surround sound audio. Typically, network affiliates of ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC will broadcast in each metropolitan region.

May 25 2011

Guide - GPU Comparison

GPU ComparisonSelecting a graphics processing unit (GPU) (aka video card) that has exactly the right feature set for your home theater PC (HTPC) can be a time consuming task if you're starting your search from scratch. In the ever-changing landscape of home theater and HTPC, AMD, Intel and NVIDIA respond by implementing new features in their GPUs to keep up with the latest and greatest audio and video innovations. That is why we've got you covered here at MissingRemote with our brand new GPU comparison guide.

We plan to keep the guide updated regularly and add new information as it becomes available. If you've got some ideas for items you would like to see compared in the chart, please feel free to let us know in the comments below. We've tried to sift through all the vendor specifications and parse out the vital information that you need to know. While trade names such as AMD's Unified Video Decoder (UVD), NVIDIA's PureVideo HD and Intel's Clear Video HD are interesting, ultimately, it's all about the feature set and that's what you will see in the video card comparison chart. 

We're starting out with what we'll call today's "modern" desktop GPUs though we plan to add some of the older GPUs for comparison sake since many are still running strong.

 

May 24 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - How to Optimize Performance of Media Storage Drives

If you have disk volumes that are devoted to holding large media files such as recorded TV or other large video files and you are looking to squeeze a little bit of extra performance out of the drive, there is a tweak we'd like to share with you. The result won't necessarily be detectable in an immediate improvement in some benchmark program though. What it will do is help your disk to resist fragmentation and offer a bit more I/O performance because it isn't suffering from as much fragmentation. This could be helpful if the disk is used heavily for activities such as commercial skip analysis and multiple disk I/O transactions (e.g. multiple clients and extenders accessing the disk).

When formatting a volume in Windows, there is a setting labeled, "Allocation Unit Size." This setting (aka cluster size) controls the smallest amount of data that can be written to the volume. It is a balancing act because on one hand, a small value means less space is wasted. On the other hand, a large value means that there aren't nearly as many possible fragments to sort through and thus better performance.

By default, Windows will select a 4KB size for the cluster size for volumes less than 16TB (for a complete description, refer to KB140365). If the maximum value of 64KB is chosen instead, the volume will contain 16 times fewer clusters that could potentially become fragmented which will increase disk performance at the penalty of potential wasted space. With large media files in the GB range, there's little reason to worry about potential waste. 

May 18 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to Assembling an HTPC

We recently covered some recommended parts for Building a Home Theater PC and today we are taking that one step further by taking you through the process of how you can build your very own HTPC. The process is not going to be identical to what you will experience as parts will vary depending on what you select, but hopefully this will give you the knowledge you need to have the confidence to try. And, as usual, remember that our forums are here to help you if you hit any snags in the process.

Build HTPC

Where Brian went with an AMD-based system, I had some Intel pieces around so that is what will be used here; but the assembly process will be similar enough that there is no reason to feel intimidated. First, let's cover what components were used for these videos:

 

May 18 2011

Guide - Tips and Tweaks - Enable Auto Login on the HTPC

It can be a challenge to provide a user friendly “CE” experience on the home theater PC (HTPC) while also requiring users to use a password to authenticate when accessing resources on another PC.  So in this edition of the MissingRemote.com tips series we will walkthrough how to setup auto login for your HTPC and disable the other common password prompts so everything is easy to use without compromising security on the rest of the network.

May 13 2011

Guide - Media Players Comparison Guide

Media Players Comparison Guide

It seems in this day that every company under the sun has their very own media player with various features, but how can you differentiate them? We're here to try to help!

I was at work when a buddy of mine asked me which Media Player device he should buy in order to play all his content. I thought for a moment and then realized how badly even I needed something to compare. This will be a living guide, in that we will constantly be adding devices to it. If you have or know of a media player not listed below, please let us know in the comments below!

Update 3: 1/16/2012 - Added links to Roku, Netgear, Dune & Pivos Reviews

Update 2: 5/11/2011 - Embedded spreadsheet (hope you like it) and added Netgear 550

Update 1: 1/7/2011 - Added Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD, ASUS O!Play2 Mini, AC Ryan PlayOnHD! Mini


Media Players Reviewed by @MissingRemote:

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