My new toy, an Xbox 360 and the pain of transcoding

3 03 2008

Last weekend I finally got signoff on a new gadget from my wife, a lovely spanking new Xbox 360. The main reason I wanted it was to extend my media centre PC that we have been growing ever more dependent on.

The media centre extender functionality was really simple to set up and all managed by an easy to use wizard. Within about 5 minutes I was able to record and replay TV live from my main PC running Vista Ultimate.

Now whilst I love the extender to bits, there is one thing it doesn’t do very well and that’s play DivX’s. In fact it doesn’t do it at all. Thanks to a recent update to the dashboard, you can watch DivX’s via the 360’s media blade, but not in the media centre itself. This is good, but to be honest the whole user experience is a bit shite.

Enter Transcoder 360, this bit of software sits on your media centre PC and adds an extension to the GUI allowing you to convert or Transcode divx’s and xvids on the fly into Media Centre.

Setting up the software isn’t that easy. In fact, getting the software to work with Vista x64 was downright painful. So I thought I would write a post detailing it, that an CodeJedi wanted details as well. First up, getting the software, there are heaps of versions of Transcode available, the only one I could get to work was this one.

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Indexing a non windows box from Vista

13 03 2007

SearchOne of the killer features of Windows Vista is the integrated search component. It works a treat as long as the things you want to search are on that Vista box, or another Vista machine on the network that can have its index queried. Anyway, back in the real world, where people are still using Windows XP, or even more likely machines that don’t run Windows, such as, ooh let me think, a LanDrive, it’s not been so easy.

That was until I stumbled across a couple of posts that led me to believe that you could trick Windows Vista a bit. Now the search functionality in Windows Vista is running the same (or very nearly the same) code as Windows Desktop Search 3.0 for XP. This was released to the web around the time that Office 2007 was made available, as some of the search components of Office 2007 use the WDS 3.0 service. Being the cutting edge kind of person I am, I installed Office 2007 on my Tablet at work within days of someone in the iTeam foolishly sticking it up on the SOE drive, what I noticed immediately was that I could no longer search My Documents as it was mapped to a network drive. It seemed that MS had removed access to index network shares between the WDS 2.x and 3.0 releases. Not a big deal I thought until I regularly starting to lose things.

In December 2006 Microsoft quietly released an add-in to WDS 3.0 called the Windows Desktop Search : Add-in for Files on Microsoft Networks (catchy eh?), that gave back the functionality to search network shares through WDS 3.0. (Microsoft has subsequently put the UNC searching back in WDS 3.01 for XP)

So why am I telling you all this? Well it seems you can install this add-in on top of Vista and it will allow you to index network drives that have been mapped through explorer. The add-in will also give you the option to add a UNC location via the Advanced Options dialog but it doesn’t seem to work.

To get it to index my LanDrive I have added a number of network shares using the Net Use command which are persistent and map to each of the shares on the LanDrive. Now then I click on the Modify / Show All Locations options in Indexing Options, those drives are available and can be set up to index everything or just a subset of the contents. Now if I could just stop it randomly deleting things I would be set. I am pretty sure you could also use this trick to get it to index other drives on your network, but one little catch all drives have to be FAT based.

The Curse of the Wookie

13 03 2007

Chris was recounting the hardware curse that seems to plaguing him, well it seems during his visit to my house for Abbie’s first birthday party yesterday, it seems he passed it on.

How you may ask? Well my beloved LanDrive has started to randomly delete things. Noticing this, I quickly backed it up to another external drive before it totally goes. I tried the LanDrive’s internal chkdsk via the web console, but it says everything is alright when it clearly isn’t. After surfing the web for some undelete software (just in case I had been silly), I stumbled across a product called Recuva. Recuva checked through the drive and found everything I had lost, but told me it had been overwritten.

Finally I thought I would give Vista’s checkdisk a whirl. It chugged through the 230gigs in a couple of hours and found heap wrong with the drive, but unfortunately not the stuff I had lost.ย  The drive hasn’t been reformatted since I bought it, so I am wondering if the issues I am seeing are a cumulation of all the bios upgrades and Vista testing.

This weekend hopefully I will get a chance to reformat and copy stuff back on. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, Chris is not allowed anywhere near any of my other gadgets.

Playing with Windows Home Server

25 02 2007

I have to admit, I was pretty non plussed about setting up Windows Home Server seeing that the LanDrive already meets my file serving needs and if I chose to I could set up Windows Server 2003 thanks to Technet. But I decided to give it a try (Virtually).

The installation took a while, and had to be restarted as the vhd I had set up wasn’t big enough, but once installed I have to admit I am well impressed.

The server only provides a small number of functions, but what it does provide, it does well:

  • File server – the server provides a number of shares that you can access, a nice touch is the software share where you can provide programs to be installed on client machines, such as the Server client and Restore software;
  • Backup – once the client has been installed you can configure backups to it;
  • Raid – Depending on the number of drives in the server, you can choose to Raid up the contents of the shares, it’s called File Duplication, but is pretty cool;
  • Web Front End – if you surf to the server, you get a nifty web front end allowing you to Remote Desktop (allegedly, not figured out how to do it through the web yet), and access files in the shares. The web front end also allows you to upload (neat), and search using WDS;
  • Remote Desktop – you can remote desktop into the server. I am guessing this would be of particular use if you didn’t want to expose your main machine to the internet;
  • Expandable Storage – there seems to be some DFS magic where any storage you add will be magically merged into the available storage on the server. Very clever;
  • Console – a nifty little console is provided so you can administer the server remotely.

I will be playing with the Server for a bit, I am even starting to look around to get hold of some parts to build up a dedicated box. It will be interesting to see how the product develops.

You can see and read more info on the server at WeGotServed and the Microsoft Windows Home Server forums.

It’s official…

11 01 2007

yep, it’s time for a public declaration. My family need to know there is someone else I love, and it’s name is Vista. Tonight for the first time since I installed Beta 1 and played around with it, my LanDrive and Vista are behaving.

After checking out the Station Drivers website I noticed a new Bios for my baby, so I installed it and gave it a whirl. Following two reboots of the LanDrive, one for the Loader and another for the BIOS, I am now able to fully explore the contents of my LanDrive over the network using EXPLORER!! YESH!!

Windows Vista RTM’s

29 11 2006

A bit late in posting this, say nearly a month, but Windows Vista has RTM’d. Yay. Microsoft in their generousity also decided to give each beta tester that filed at least one bug a free copy. Yay yay..

Thanks to Microsoft, I am now running Windows Vista Ultimate at home and loving every minute of it. The experience seems to be much faster than previously, even better than RC2 which I had been using for a while. Everything (well nearly everything) is working a treat, including printing. The only downside is that the LanDrive is still not working, but I can get around that by using the USB connection for now. Hopefully the Longhorn beta will fix the issue and it will make it into Vista SP1.

The whole experience has been so good, that I have deleted my original Windows XP installation and gone solely with Vista. The upshot of course is that I now have nearly 200 gigs of space back on my hard drives to start amassing ‘stuff’ on.

I am looking forward to getting my head around WPF and Sidebar gadgets with some great ideas for both (now I just need some spare time to do it). The potential for WPF is just enormous.

Stay tuned for more vista goodness.

Whilst talking about nerdy things, I have been looking at buying a Technet Plus subscription, giving you access to download a vast majority of MS software for the yearly fee of $512 AUD. The software is evaluation only and doesn’t include developer tools, but with the new wave of Vista / Longhorn Server / Office 2007 and MOSS techs coming through, $512 seems a small price to pay to get access to all this cool stuff.ย 

Miscellaneous things…

24 10 2006

New Gadget : U3 Data Traveller

Another day, another gadget, this time a U3 data traveller. What’s so special about this you ask? Well it’s a 1GB memory stick that has special software allowing you to install programs to it. Nothing revolutionary here you may be saying. What is cool is that when you plug the device in, it boots automatically and gives you access to those programs without installing anything on the host PC. Some of the apps available include Email, Web Browsing, Photo manipulation etc. Pretty cool stuff. I have been playing with this and a similar product called MojoPac which is hardware independent. I will post a review of the two soon.

Oh and one more thing, the drive is compatible with Windows Vista ReadyBoost ๐Ÿ™‚

RC2 Printing

This past friday night on a whim I decided to trawl the LexMark site for drivers for my P707 printer. I found the usual drivers plus a system driver for Windows Server 2003. On a hunch using the add new printer and have disk functionality I managed to install the printer and get it to print. This is the first time since installing Vista that I have been able to print.

XBMC 2.0

XBMC 2.0 has been released. After much playing around trying to find the XBOXMediaCenter.xml file (where you configure the shares etc) which had mysteriously moved to a folder and changed it’s name to sources.xml, we were up and running on Sunday morning. Looks pretty good so far, no crashes or grief with the LanDrive (but I have downgraded to Bios 41 as it’s the most compatible).

LanDrive Vista Fix coming?

As regular readers will know I have had absolutely bugger all success getting my LanDrive to work with Vista over the network. Well the latest bug I filed on the issue was resolved last week with a comment that a fix has been checked into the RTM build which should sort my problem out. Fingers crossed. As Vista is in RTM escrow, there is no chance of testing this out until the RTM version is released.

Robbie Williams RudeBox

Robbie Williams has a new album out. On the first listen it’s not a great album, but I listened to it a good few times yesterday and it’s really grown on me. I absolutely love the cover of Kiss Me by his new producer and it’s original singer Steven ‘Tintin’ Duffy. There is a cover of Louise in there by the Human League as well which is pretty good. On reflection this album will feature heavily on the iPod in the next few weeks.

Baby Expo

Rach and I attended a Baby Expo this past weekend at Jeff’s Shed in Melbourne. Lots of screaming kids, but most importantly lots of prams to check out prior to the impending arrival of Burton 2.0.ย  We think we’ve settled on one of two models, now it just comes down to price (both are around $1k!!)

Thank you Please

I have been reliably informed that Bo Selecta has commenced it’s fourth series in the UK and is funnier than ever. Avid and Sacha has set up a hotel in Hollywood where they can attract all manner of ‘celabraties’.

Another catchup post…

10 10 2006

Been a while since I posted, the last few weeks have been full on at work, but also at home.

This past weekend we had Abbie’s christening which was fantastic. Out of the four kids getting christened, Abbie was the best behaved, smiling and just generally looking cute. Now I took a heap of photo’s but unfortunately my memory card become corrupted, so at the moment I am trying in vain to salvage the photo’s from the camera. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

On Saturday night, we all went out to the Melba Brasserie at the Langham for dinner. There were many highlights including:

  • Fresh Peking Duck rolls made to order
  • Fantastic curries
  • Fresh filled Naan’s made to order
  • Heaps of Roast and the fluffiest potato’s you have ever had
  • Deserts… ooh the deserts.
  • A chocolate fountain

The latter was a great hit with Daniel. As were the Naan breads to our suprise. For those of you that are seafood fans, there was heaps of that available. Myself, I am not a big seafood person, but everyone else was tucking into the prawns, muscles, oysters, sea snails and smoked salmon.

On a more nerdy front, Windows Vista hit RC2. I installed it on Sunday evening and have to admit I am impressed. It’s a heap more stable (coupled with me taking out two memory sticks that seem to have caused all my BSODs) and seems to be pretty fast.

Some of the issues that I have been experiencing have gone, specifically:

  • Resuming from sleep seems to work now, much to my suprise;
  • LanDrive supportย is getting better, but still not quite there. I can view the shares and the folders, still causes explorer to stop responding when viewing the folder contents (however it works if I use CMD)
  • BSOD’s have stopped.

RC2 is going to be the last drop of the consumer OS to beta testers prior to the code going gold so it should be good. This beta has been a bit strange, early on there were loads of issues, but now in the home stretch it’s coming together quite nicely.

Another picture…

16 09 2006

Still been having a few problems with Vista, to be honest the BSOD’s and the lack of Landrive support have been the only real issues. I have been taking photo’s of the BSOD’s as they happen.. here is a selection below that I made into a lovely collage ๐Ÿ™‚

LanDrive and Vista Update

14 07 2006

It seems that my problem with the LanDrive and Vista has officially been fixed. This is good.

The fix won’t make it into a build until post RC1. This is bad.

As a work around, I have gotten Virtual Server up and running, loaded with Windows XP. To get a file onto or off the Landrive, I now use a combination of network shares and remote desktop through XP ๐Ÿ™‚ XP can see the Landrive ok, Vista can see XP ok.. easy eh?

I also found a link over on Whirlpool to a web page devoted to LanDrive bios’s from a number of manufacturers. It seems the LanDrive chipset is used in a load of devices, including the Mac Pleadis units. You can check it out here. I have leeched the latest bios and will give it a tonight. One thing concerned me though, they have added a warning message if you format your drive as a slave. I think mine is setup as a slave. Could this be why it doesn’t work via USB? I will try changing it over tonight and see what happens ๐Ÿ™‚

UPDATE: Well the BIOS didn’t do anything, Vista still dislikes it. Not checked out XBMC yet. But on the plus, changing the drive to be master made it work in USB mode!! YAY!!