Monday, 20 December 2010

Windows Media Center unable to record programs

This weekend I decided it was time to upgrade my Windows 7 Media Center to support Freesat HD.  After purchasing a BlackGold DVB-S2 tuner, and installing it, things seemed to be going well, until it picked up the wrong satellite!

So - Fresat comes from the Astra Satellites, not the Hotbird one, to get around this you can run the Media Center TV Setup Wizard, and choose your own Satellite - 28.2E Astra 2A-B-D is the one you need.

The next problem I faced was that all the guides got out of sync, as well as the channel listings not showing any of the Freesat channels such as BBC1 HD, ITV1 HD, and the CBS Drama Channels.  I followed the advice of and this was a really bad idea - it corrupted my WMC installation - some say the way to return it to former health is to install again!  No way!

So - what was the result of runing the above - none of the recording functions worked.  You could select a program from the guide and record it, or just press the record button on Live TV you may be watching, but all it said was "This program will be recorded".  Its the "will be" be that worried me, why would it not record, a reboot did not even help?

So - how did I resolve it?  Easy.  You do not need to reinstall windows like some people have suggested.  Just to the following:

Go into Control Panel | Programs and Features | Turn Windows Features on or off | Select the Media | Windows Media Center option and un-tick the option.  This will force a reboot of your Media Center.  After rebooting you will notice the WMC is not installed.  Go back into the Control Panel option and re-select it, it will ask to reboot again.

This will re-create the C:\Windows\Microsoft\ehome and C:\Program Data\Microsoft\ehome directories that comtain the WMC features and also the guide, TV setup data and Guide listings.

After this you will find the Recording starts working again - phew!  All sorted!

Next blog item will be how to get the Freesat HD channels to appear (as they dont by default!)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Using Windows 7 "God Mode"

Firstly a Happy New year to all! 

I have just discovered this fantastic hidden feature of Windows 7 - called "GodMode", that allows one view on all commonly used Control Panel settings.

To enable it, simply create a new folder on the root of your C: drive called:


Immediately you will notice the icon changes from a folder, to a Control Panel icon, so you know something specials going to happen!

The following screen then appears:

I love the item to add two other time zones to my clocks - something I have never looked at before, but now can't get enough of:

See this article on for more information.

Recently I have had issues with my DELL laptop running Windows 7, the display sporadically turned off, on, and at one point not even an external monitor would connect to it.

The GodMode utility pointed me in the right direction and after resolving the faulty connection to the screen was able to see what was posted as an event:

Now this is what I call a useful utility - begs the question as to why Microsoft has chosen to hide this option, as would be a great option to have as standard!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Media Center

After using Windows 7 on my work laptop for some time now, I decided to make the leap and purchase a new Media Center for home.

I settled on a custom build option using an Antec case with Media (MCE) Display, 7.1 surround, dual tv tuner, Intel 8200 Quadcore CPU, 4gb DDR2 800mhz RAM, and of course a dedicated display pcie card, blue ray player and Windows 7 64! ...muwahha :)

Hopefully it should be delivered tomorrow (fingers crossed), and then I can start to play with it.

Just to complete the line up I have ordered a Microsoft Wireless Desktop 7000 keyboard and mouse, to perfectly complement it.

Having played with my laptop, connecting it to my SONY TV, and watching DVDs I was really impressed with the Media Center controls, getting onscreen information about the film, and also related films I may be interested in.

I will keep you posted as to how it goes.

Technorati Tags: Microsoft,Windows7, Blueray,Antec

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Windows 7 has landed on my company laptop

Just had Windows 7 Enterprise Installed on my DELL Precision M4300 laptop, all hooked up to the domain. My first job was to get all the correct drivers for the display, network card, bluetooth interface, sound card - Windows 7 default drivers allowed everything to work but my Windows Experience Index was at a measly 1!

After installing the NVIDIA Quadro FX 360M driver, Broadcom NetXtreme gigabit controller, SigmaTel High Def Audio this allowed me to re-run the System Rating, my results are below:

This then allowed the Aero theme to be chosen (as previously only Basic was available):

Happy times! Looks great. One issue I had was that initially I made the changes to my profile but on logging off and logging back on again Windows said my profile information was in use by another user, then defaulted to what looked to be a safe mode. On logging out and back in again my real profile appeared, less any of the theme changes made before. All very strange, but has not happened since!

Connecting to my network printers proved more of a pain, mainly because the network drivers are not compatible with this new 64bit O/S. Downloading then from the HP website proved equally impossible, but got there eventually.

Adobe 6 Professional was re-installed, and patched, but failed to add the "Print to PDF" option within my Printers dialog - the thing I use the most. Not sure what I am going to do about this.

Firefox - for some reason will fail to display web pages (including the link to this very blog), but WILL work in IE8 - strange but true. Wonder if anyone else has noticed this?

Finally an error with my CISCO IP Communicator - on loading shows the following error (cannot find a mention of the same error on google):

On looking at new tools for 7 I came across this fantastic bit of kit from Stardock called "Fences". It has a small footprint and allows you to "contain" all your desktop icons into meaningful categories. I was a bit sceptical at first as to whether this would be of any real benefit, but after using it for 2 days its great! Definitely recommend this:

Anyway that's all for now, so far so good and long may this trend continue. The distinct Windows 7/Vista start up and login sounds, along with its visually striking interface is already creating a stir amongst the office (they are just jealous) :)

Friday, 25 September 2009

What a busy week!

Finally got some time this morning to sit down and write about the busy week I have had! It's not often I get to travel away from the office as my role is in Support, but this Monday I had the first of hopefully many meetings at Microsoft.

This is a continuation of my involvement in the IT Persona Program, aka the Microsoft Community Council where a group of specifically targeted professionals get together to share common ideas.

The meeting on Monday was very exciting, train & tube to London Victoria, and then meeting at the Microsoft office to meet fellow team members for the first time face to face (good to meet everyone). We started by introducing ourselves, a little about what we do in our roles, and some of the pros' and cons' we currently face, it was a good way to get to understand other peoples challenges and not just your own!

For me, coming from a very Technical Background and now as a Team Leader I was interested to know what I could actually add to the discussions, but further on realised that its not the tech that matters, its what we do that's important.

When it was my turn to talk I explained my "excitements" were working in Virtualizaton, managing the EMEA Virtualization Labs for Quest in the UK. It certainly allows me to get my hand's dirty, building and configuring templates and labs in Windows, Linux etc. My "challenges" were of course - Time and managing my team in terms of escalations and rotaring.

One of my biggest issues is maintaining licencing and building of Labs (nearly 200 of them), whilst about to double the server capacities from 2 to 4 blade servers and an additional 5 Terabytes of space! The problem comes in policing this resource, setting quota's is always hard to do when you don't initially know what business groups will use in terms of physical CPU, MEM, and SAN Space, part is trial and error, and then adjust later. Once the 2 new blades go live later next week I shall be keeping a close eye on them!

Dynamic Environments cause other headaches as well, such as when cloning and deploying from templates, this hardware change (new NIC for example) can sometimes cause Microsoft Licencing to kick in and needs to be re-applied. This can cause issues where the Support Engineers have permissions to Clone and Deploy through VIC, but don't have the licence keys as they are carefully controlled. I guess it's just one of those things...

Look forward to writing more about upcoming events at Microsoft, unfortunately I was not able to attend the Windows 7 event at Wembley - maybe next time.

Internal Developments - I have been busy this week writing Active Server Pages to deliver webpages to Support Engineers around the world, where they can enter specific Java Error Stack messages, and save to a SQL 2008 Database. So far its going well, it’s an adoption of code I wrote 5 years or so ago - just needs a bit of re-jigging! This will be later hooked up to a complex PERL script being written by one of our Technical Specialists to scrape log files and provide feedback based on pre-defined Q&A's from the 2008 Database.

Finally - this week I have made changes to the flexi-shift pattern employed by our team of support engineers. You may have already seen a previous post on my blog about how to change outlook to dynamically change the colour of calendar events based on commonly used fields such as "Subject", well it meant I had to go in and change these rules again this week.

Question to Microsoft - have you got any piece of software that can handle my rota requirements, when people are in/out and shift patterns & reporting? If not, can I have something please :)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Windows 7 - missing it already

Further to my last post on Windows 7 and my experiences on using it, just wanted to add another post now about my RC coming to an end. It will soon be time to remove from my machine, and have started the transition back to using the corporate XP version until I can work out where to go next.

Needless to say, I am already missing Windows 7, it's smoothness, functionality and general good fun whilst using it - it's been a real pleasure so far!

Highlights using it still include the most useful tools for me day to day - the snipping tool for sending screen shots to customers, the aero alt-tab, the new toolbar design and grouping of applications, the free-to-move gadgets (love the stock ticker) to name a few.

My experience with speed has also been consistent throughout, quick boot-up times, application focus quick after logging in, few issues with Outlook - however this was because the machine was not on the domain therefore proxy auth kept popping up all the time. On a production machine obviously this would go away and would not be an annoyance!

During my time using it I had no application crashes, no errors, blue screens etc which also made a change, also the IE8 shipped with Windows 7 was found to be stable and reliable using it on our web-based applications.

Our IS department have now issued a statement regarding Windows 7 and it's release to developers only. Unfortunately until our internal applications are certified for running Windows 7 it will not be officially rolled out. Certainly for me at least, most if not all of the work I do is through a browser - Firefox/IE8 through to our Clarify Support System, therefore these can easily be emulated through User Agent String Utils or things like IE tab for Firefox.

Will start to prepare our Virtual Labs for Windows 7 once fully released providing a client base for our applications to run on.

Roll-on 22nd October.….:)

Friday, 31 July 2009

Music Streaming - my journey so far

For many months now I have been looking at implemeting some sort of media streaming at home, to store all my music in one place, and then be able to play it all around the house - integrated speakers, or through phono to amp.

Problem is - all seems to lead to the same conclusions such as "Too expesive", "Too fiddly", or involves drilling lots of holes into walls and ceilings (which I want to avoid).

For a while now I have been reading up on things like the squeezebox - great idea, love how it looks, and the price seems also to be quite reasonable. Sonos also have a similar setup whereby you can stream wirelessly from internet, mp3 lockers such as, or from a central storage system.

I have been trying the mp3 tunes recently, to see how long it takes to upload a double cd to the vault, seems to take far too long (upload on broadband not so great), but may still be an option as the logitech duet can read media from such sources.

Then there is the storage option, get a readyNAS, install SqueezeCenter (formally SlimServer), and bob's your uncle (or so you may think). Many reviews on this subject have said that using a NAS with this software on NetGear or QNAP causes problems with streaming the content out to your Squeezeboxes - and the fact that a NetGear NAS can be upwards of £300 alone!

So - leaves me again in a quandary - as I don't necessarily want a media center humming away in the lounge, even if it’s a Shuttle PC, and I don't want a NAS if performance for media is poor!

Looking at iPOD docks at the moment, I know it's not the same but maybe a good interim solution?

Who would have thought something so apparantley easy would be so hard.

The search continues...however I am swaying towards the Sonos option..stay posted!