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Media Center Update: Pain in the Ass

by on Mar.31, 2010, under TV

I just finished spending several hours re-editing all of the channels on my Media Center PC.

Again.

Suddenlink decided it was going to restructure its channels.  That’s fine, they gave plenty of warning and they even sent out a nifty new guide in the mail.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an alternative channel listing in the guide for TVs that don’t grab the correct channel mapping.  This is perfect for me since Media Center doesn’t quite get everything mapped out correctly.  It also, for some unknown reason, doesn’t grab the HD channels at all, I have to add those manually.

Not a problem now, I’ve got a channel map!

I’m glad Suddenlink doesn’t make actual maps because they would probably guide people off of cliffs or into major bodies of water if they did.

About a week before the official March 22 transition the HD channels went dark.  I figured they were switching things early so I went ahead and manually added the new HD channels.  Out of the five I manually added, I received two.

Again, cutting Suddenlink some slack, I figured they were in transition on moving everything over and eventually the signal would come back.  I could live a week without the three HD channels I wasn’t getting since we don’t frequent those very often.

March 22nd comes and still no HD on those three channels.  I become worried that I didn’t enter them correctly, so I delete them and re-enter them.

No joy.

Surely Suddenlink isn’t having that hard a time transitioning over.  I decide to find out and give them a call.  After waiting on hold for forty five minutes (they were having some issues with the transition) I get a rep.  I ask if they are having problems with some of their broadcast HD channels because I was only receiving two of the five.  She says not that she knows of but she will send a signal to my box to check it out.  I inform her I have no box, that I’m running a Media Center PC and just need to verify the alternate channel mapping.  This totally baffles her and she puts me on hold to ask someone what to do.

I’m getting a sinking feeling at this point.

She comes back and says she will schedule a technician to come out and check on things.  I tell her that it probably isn’t necessary to send someone out but she says she can’t do anything other than that.

They fortunately had an opening for the next day.

The next day the tech comes out.  I explain the problem and he starts checking things out.

Before this point, I hadn’t tried to do a channel scan on the TV itself.  My TV actually has a very good built in tuner and maps everything perfectly.  While he’s checking the cable connections and signals in the back of the house, I start a scan.  About ten minutes later, all the channels, including the HD channels are found.

That sinking feeling is getting worse.

The tech says the signal isn’t great, but it’s not bad either.  I tell him that the TV is picking up the HD but not the MC PC, and ask him if the flyer that Suddenlink sent out with the alternate channel mappings was accurate.  He went out to his truck and grabbed a sheet of paper and compared it to what was on the flyer.  He said that everything matched.

At this point he said that since the signal wasn’t as strong as it should be I might look at replacing the old line (and it is old, crappy coax) and that should take care of the signal problem.  He called in a request to have the lines on the pole checked to make sure they were okay and said that would take a few days for that crew to come out and work the order.

After the tech was on his way I decided to wait for the pole check and see if that would help.  I checked periodically the missing HD channels hoping that the problem was up there and once fixed the channels would come in.

A week later, I decide they either didn’t fix anything and weren’t going to, or nothing needed to be fixed.  I resigned myself to replacing the cable in the house.

Before doing that though, I wanted to check the signal strength since I was getting two HD channels.  I hook up the coax to the TV and use the built in signal strength indicator.  All of the HD channels showed the same strength.  It wasn’t full strength, but it wasn’t off by much.

This piqued my curiosity.  I couldn’t grab the actual channel mapping from the TV, but I could use the software that came with the tuner.  So I install WinTV 7 (uhg) and have it do a channel scan.  Lo and behold, it picked up all of the HD channels.  And the three that I wasn’t getting after manually adding them?

That’s because Suddenlink didn’t print the right channel mappings.

Yep, all this time I was working off of faulty information.

I appreciate Suddenlink sending out a heads up on the switch, and even sending out an alternative channel guide.  I have to wonder how hard it is to PROOFREAD the information for accuracy.

I certainly hope this is an isolated incident and that they aren’t truly this incompetent.  Checking through other channels and the flyer, there are a lot of channels that are mis-printed.

So now that I have the correct mapping, I’m going to scan the corrected flyer and post it for reference.

On a side note, just for giggles I checked out Silicon Dust’s channel guide.  For the past few months they didn’t have the local line-up.

True to form, I could have saved a lot of time and effort checking their info first since they now have the updated local line-up.

Update: I’ve posted a scan of the alternate channel guide with corrections.  There is a link in the header to the page with the scan.  Enjoy!

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Ceton CableCard is Real!

by on Jan.08, 2010, under TV

Yay!  Finally, the CableCard tuner I have been waiting for is here and will be available to me by March 31, 2010 (according to their website here).

I can finally get a full HD package pumped into the Media Center PC.  The local HD offerings have been nice (the HD offered over Suddenlink’s ClearQam), but I’ve been spoiled by the HD that I had for a short time from DirecTV.  I don’t watch much TV, but what I do watch I want the best picture possible.

Below is the website with their info in case the link above doesn’t work.

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X360 and 7MC Get IPTV Integration

by on Jan.06, 2010, under TV

Woohoo!  Good news for Media Center users, IPTV systems that use Mediaroom (U-Verse, I’m looking at you) will be able to integrate directly into both XBox 360 and Windows Media Center without the need for a set top box.  The hook is that providers will need to upgrade to Mediaroom 2.0.  Looks like there might be Windows Mobile integration as well.

Now AT&T needs to get off its ass and bring U-verse to my area.

Windows 7 Media Center gets Mediaroom support – Engadget

Xbox 360 will support AT&T’s U-Verse TV later this year – Engadget

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Media Center PC: Update 2

by on Dec.14, 2009, under TV

Okay, I had a massive system drive failure on my main PC.  Being the hypocrite I am, I didn’t have a backup since switching to Win7.  So since I had to do a new install of the operating system, I had to set everything up from scratch, including the cable channels for the Media Center (not the main Media Center PC that I documented here, here and here).  If I were smart, I would have made a disk image, but I’m not, so I was stuck manually editing the stupid cable channels again.  This time, SiliconDust’s digital channel guide didn’t show the HD channels.  It updates periodically, and I’m not sure if it didn’t pick them up on the last update or if Suddenlink is somehow masking them, but I had to get the info from the Media Center PC in the main room.  So I’m making this post as a quick reference for me and anyone else who can use it (Suddenlink West Texas subscribers in the Panhandle region), because I know this will happen again. Channel listings are accurate as of this posting, your mileage may vary:

Edit: I’ll put this up in grid form as soon as I get Excel re-installed.

Edit Again: Now much easier to read.

(continue reading…)

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Media Center PC: Update

by on Aug.27, 2009, under TV

My WMC PC build was just about finished when my last post was written, I was just needing a mono 1/8th inch to rca adapter so I could use my Audigy card for surround sound audio.  Radio Shack conveniently had an adapter, and so I got home and connected my computer to my A/V reciever.  After around three hours of hunting and tweaking and some horrid digital static sound that will haunt me for years to come, I finally got the s/pdif out to work on that freaking Audigy card.  It worked well for about a week, then one day, for no other reason that I changed channels, that damned digital static sound came back.  I spent another three hours trying everything I could remember and everything I could think of to get rid of it.  Nothing except that damned horrific digital static.

I pulled out an old Sound Blaster Live! card because it also had digital out.  Too bad for me there aren’t any drivers or support for it since XP.  Strike two.

Fuck it.  I’m getting a card that I know will work with Windows 7.  Amazingly enough, there’s not a lot of information on cards known to work (much less work well) with Windows 7.  There were of course the X-Fi and Xonar fanboys extolling the virtues of their particular cards, but after all the crap that I have had using Creative’s cards recently, and not wanting to spend more on a Xonar card than I have on the entire rest of the build, I opted out of those options.  I decided on the Diamond Multimedia Xtreme Sound (oooh, it’s Xtreme!) XS71DDL.  This has onboard dolby digital decoding and optical out.  And from what I had read on the Inter-tubes it works with Windows 7 (or more specifically, the C-media chip the card is based on works with Windows 7).  Whip out the card and NewEgg makes more money.

Five days later (ordered it over a weekend) I get the card in.  Rip out the Audigy, and slap in the Xtreme Sound (it’s sooooo Xtreme!).  Windows Update doesn’t have any native drivers, so I grab the disk.  Only Win XP, 2000 and MCE are listed.  Great.  I take a chance and put the disk in anyway.  No go.

Head over to Diamond’s website and look for drivers there.  No Windows 7 drivers, but the driver framework is pretty much Vista anyway, so I grab the Vista drivers.  They install fine and I have analog sound.  There isn’t any custom sound app installed with those drivers, so using the built in sound manager in W7 I find there is no way to activate digital only.  It shows the digital out, but it’s not directing anything out of it, and there’s no way to force it.

Uhg!

Head over to C-media’s website.  Look for drivers.  Look on Google to identify which chip the Xtreme Sound (did I mention this card was Xtreme!) uses becuase Diamond doesn’t say (shh, it’s a secret), and then download the W7 beta drivers.  Uninstall the card, reinstall with new drivers.  Hey look, a custom sound manager was installed.  Hey look, it allows me to specify s/pdif.  Hey look, it works!  Holy crap!  It works!  It’s working correctly!

I cry tears of joy as I dance upon the Audigy card and speak of how if its lineage were shown as a tree, it would be all trunk.

Finally, I have surround sound that works.  Just a tip, if you have an Xtreme Sound (it’s really Xtreme!, you have to believe me), forgo the crap-tastic drivers that come from Diamond and go to C-Media’s site to download them. They are so much better.

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