Tag Archive: Moxi

Dec 06

SageTV Review: Westinghouse W2407 42″ HD Monitor

After building a Home Theater PC (HTPC) based on the SageTV PVR software, I decided that a 27" tube TV with an S-Video connection just wasn’t up to the task of providing maximum performance and display quality that a SageTV-based HTPC can provide. Thanks to an excellent "Black Friday" deal at Best Buy, I was able to economically add a new W4207 to our home theater setup. Read on for my review of this excellent value in LCD HD monitors, and how it fits into my SageTV setup….

CLARIFICATION
I’d like to start off by clarifying one thing: The Westinghouse W4207 is not a TV–it is an HD monitor. This is determined by the fact that the W4207 does not have a built-in tuner. It will not tune analog or digital cable, and it will not tune OTA HD broadcasts. In order to view any content, you must connect it to an external source such as a Cable box, Satellite box, PVR, HTPC, DVD player, or VCR. Depending on your circumstances, this omission could be considered a "pro" because it lowers the overall price, or a "con" because you need an external tuner device. I am using the W4207 in conjunction with an HTPC which handles all video sources, so for me, it is a non-issue. So in this review, I’ll be using the term "TV" and "monitor" interchangeably.

BACKGROUND
I have been researching LCD flat panel TV’s for a while, and I originally decided that the Westinghouse LVM-42W2 42" 1080p HD monitor would be my best option. For the price (currently at between $1200 and $1500) this 1080p HD monitor is an excellent choice, and its reviews were very favorable. I was very close to purchasing one, but I wanted to put off the purchase until some pre- or post-Christmas sales surfaced. Unfortunately, the LVM-42W2′s were recently discontinued by Best Buy, and they are only available (from my location, anyway) via mail order. So, I began investigating other options, and along the way, the W4207 came onto the radar.

I have to admit that I bought the W4207 mostly on faith. The W4207 is a brand new Westinghouse model, and this specific model has no performance or service track record. In fact, I hadn’t actually seen one in the store, but I had read a lot about it. I read some excellent comments and reviews over at the AVS Forum, and knowing the reliability of the AVS Forum, I decided to give the W4207 a try. And besides, Best Buy does have a return policy….

So I went to Best Buy at 3:00am on Black Friday, and was amazed to see somewhere between 300 and 400 people already waiting in line! This group was a hard-core group of savings warriors with tents, cots, coolers, etc. So I promptly turned around, went home, and went back to sleep–This was simply not worth it. At around 9:30am, I decided to stop by Best Buy again to look at other models, assuming that the W4207 was sold out. A guy in the TV department said that they still had 4-5 left, so I immediately bought one. So far, I love it!

Most reviews of the W4207 tend to be very honest. This means that the W4207 is not the perfect HD monitor, but considering its low price point (MSRP is $1499) it is very competitive with other similar models, so its shortcomings tend to be forgivable.

RESOLUTION
One point of note is the fact that the W4207 is a 720p monitor, a potential step down from 1080p monitors. It will handle 420p, 420i, 720p, 720i, and 1080i content, but not 1080p content. But I have to wonder if 1080p displays are currently the Betamax of HD displays. By this, I mean that though 1080p displays are generally superior to 720p displays, they also tend to be more expensive, generally out of the range of many consumers. 720p displays are currently much more affordable while at the same time giving excellent display quality results. And most HD offerings through OTA, cable, and satellite providers are not 1080p broadcasts. Obviously, purists and videophiles will disagree, but for the typical consumer, I believe 720p displays are the current best choice, understanding that this may change in the next few years.

For me, the choice of 1080p vs. 720p really boiled down to two factors: price and quality. The price was very attractive (especially with the Black Friday specials) so that was a no-brainer. As for the quality, based on what I said above, I decided that 1080p simply was something that I don’t need at this time. My HTPC records 2 SD cable sources, so no matter how good the display is, I’m still limited by SD quality. The SageTV’s UI is simply stunning being crisp and clear on the W4207, DVD’s look excellent, and HD videos look stunning. But considering that 90% of our TV viewing is SD cable, I believe that anything more than 720p is really overkill for us.

SIZE
At 42", the W4207 provides an amazing image from a couch at about 12 feet away. It doesn’t overpower the room, image quality looks great from that distance, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by its size. Yet it is big enough to make out old It’s a huge step up from our old 27" tube TV look puny.

PICTURE QUALITY
I’m certainly no videophile, so my observations are solely based on my viewing relatives’, friends’, and in-store HD setups. I personally think the picture quality is stunning. Viewing a Windows XP screen via a DVI connection is crisp and clear, so running the SageTV PVR software presents a very crisp, clean, smooth User Interface. From 12 feet away, everything is very readable. But SageTV’s UI is designed for that. Windows XP navigation such as using Internet Explorer was still a bit small at 12 feet, but increasing the default font size significantly improved things.

I next connected our MOXI HD DVR via component cables, and HD content looked excellent. It wasn’t quite as crisp as my HTPC connected via DVI, but it still blows the doors off of SD content.

Which brings me to one down side: like most large-screen TV’s, Standard Definition playback is OK, and it all really depends on the source. Raw analog cable running through a SageTV-based HTPC is very watchable. Tweaking capture, decoder, and video driver settings can certainly improve things, but the fact is that when you blow up a small image to a large screen, so you’re inevitably going to see some noise, artifacts, etc. SD cable through a digital STB (again, recorded through a SageTV-based HTPC) does look better than raw analog. Probably 90% of our TV viewing consists of SD recordings off of cable, so the trade-off in quality to have everything consolidated through our HTPC is worth it.

Oh, and DVD’s look great. Seeing a video image on a huge screen is very nice!

ASPECT RATIOS
The W4207 only has two aspect ration settings: Standard and Full. Standard is a "pass-through" setting such that whatever is fed is displayed in the format fed. Full basically zooms in the image. Depending on your source, (SD, HD, letterboxed, pillerboxed, etc.) the resulting image will vary. It would have been nice if there were more settings, but it turns out that for my use, I’ll most likely always keep this set to Standard and let SageTV handle any aspect ratio adjustments.

That said, some tinkering may need to be done on your source to get the aspect ratio how you like it. Nothing’s worse then watching a letterboxed SD recording that is also pillboxes. Switching to "full" can often make it much better.

COLOR AND BRIGHTNESS
Again, not being a videophile, I can only comment based on simple observation. Colors seem to pop out very nicely. Going through the on-screen adjustments, you can easily manage hue, saturation, brightness, contrast, color temperature, etc. I actually found the default to give very nice results, but by displaying several "color bar" and "test pattern" screens from my connected PC, I was able to adjust things very nicely. Default brightness and backlight intensity were a bit high, so I had to back them down a bit to prevent squinting. Probably my only complaint is that when the lights are out, blacks aren’t as black as I would want them to be, but my understanding is that it is typical of LCD’s.

INPUTS
Inspired by Neo in The Matrix, I have to say, "Inputs…lots of inputs!" There’s VGA, 2 DVI, HDMI, 2 Component, composite, and S-Video. Under most circumstances, you should be pretty covered. I have our HTPC connected through DVI.

One other feature I really like is the "auto-sensing" input feature. When you connect a source, the W4207 automatically switches to that input. It relieves you from having to cycle through the available inputs to find the display you want like many other Westinghouse models. This may annoy some, but I find it to be an excellent addition.

REMOTE
The remote is pretty standard, and though there are a couple buttons that don’t do anything, it’s pretty intuitive. I really like the fact that the inputs have separate buttons. It makes moving from input to input so easy. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have to cycle through inputs, especially on models that have long input switching delays.

One thing missing on the remote that is missing on most is programability. These days, I really can’t understand why companies don’t include universal or programmable remotes. I’ll probably purchase a Harmony remote to consolidate everything, but until then, the remote sits prominently along side its colleagues….

PROS
Great overall quality (construction and picture)
Excellent value, if bought discounted or not
Colors are vivid and deep
Brightness is excellent, even in lighted rooms
Lots of advanced connections allowing excellent expandability
Remote has a decent feel and buttons are pretty logical

CONS
Limited aspect ratio settings
No advanced picture quality adjustments
No HD tuner (may or may not be a con depending on your needs)
The remote has some unused buttons. Why?
The remote is not programmable

CONCLUSION
I find the W4207 to be an excellent choice for those seeking great image quality at a reasonable price. The fact that I was able to take advantage of the unusual Black Friday deals certainly helped, but even at its full retail price, I think it is something to definitely consider. Westinghouse has an excellent reputation for quality and customer satisfaction, so I’m hoping that the performance and service record for the W4207 holds true. There are certainly better choices available, specifically when considering feature-for-feature comparisons, but at the price, it’s an excellent value.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/sagetv-tips/sagetv-review-westinghouse-w2407-42-hd-monitor

Nov 07

SageTV Tip #3: All About My SageTV HTPC

I decided to build a Home Theater PC (HTPC), and with SageTV at its core, it is proving to be an excellent choice. Read on to learn why I decided to build a HTPC, what componets I chose, the issues I had, and my plans for the future….

Why did I build an HTPC?
I’ve been a long-time DVR user, having used several ReplayTV models and a Moxi HD DVR. Each of these "standalone" DVR’s have excellent features, are very capable, and have stood the test of time (I purchased the first ReplayTV box very shortly after its initial release.) That said, there are three issues that were bugging me that caused me to decide to build an HTPC to replace them:

1. None of my ReplayTV boxes could reliably control our Motorola DCT-2000 Cable box. Unfortunately, cable companies don’t give you a lot of choice in Digital Cable boxes, so the DCT-2000 is what I have. My ReplayTV 2xxx series boxes worked fairly well, but my 5xxx box wouldn’t control reliably. Yes, I read the workarounds. Yes, I searched Google and the AVS Forum, and followed countless instructions on getting it to work, but it was never unstable. The setup required an IR blaster, and the remote control codes were repeatably unreliable. Despite the fact that both ReplayTV and the DCT-2000 had serial connectors, ReplayTV couldn’t control the Cable box via the serial port. It could control several DirecTV Satellite receivers just fine, but not the DCT-2000. Apparantly, it wasn’t a priority to ReplayTV. So, we ended up switching to a Moxi DVR through our Cable company–which leads me to my next gripe….

2. Moxi is an EXCELLENT DVR offering many great features. I loved it. My wife loved it. My in-laws all loved it enough that they got them too. But the problem was that Moxi was becoming cost-prohibitive. Like most cable companies, initially, we had a great subscription package, but after the homeymoon as a new cable customer was over, the overall price of cable went up…way up. Every month, we had to shell out multiple fees that included such things as "Digital Receiver", "Digital Access", and "Moxi PVR service", all of which added up to just under $20.00 per month just for the privilege of using a Moxi DVR that we did not own. And that was before any actual programming was added it. My brother-in-law has two Moxi boxes, so for him, the Moxi-specific cost was doubled.

3. Both ReplayTV and Moxi imposed limitations that they simply wouldn’t lift. I was very active on several ReplayTV and Moxi forums, and I even did beta testing for both, so I was intimately familiar with the functions and features available. I feel that I could also objectively reveal excellent features as will as the shortcomings and lacking features of both. Specific to ReplayTV, users asked and asked for various features, but more often than not, it fell on deaf ears. Specific to Moxi, while it is an amazingly feature-rich product, the entire Moxi feature set is completely controlled by the cable company. Though Moxi itself offers excellent features and functions, the availability and configuration of these features and functions is controlled exclusively by the Cable company. If they decide it’s not profitable for them to enable existing functionality, or to configure a certain function in a specific way, then they won’t. The user is at the mercy of the cable company’s decisions.

So, determined that I wanted reliability, extendable features, and full control, I decided to roll my own.

The components
I worked with an experienced colleague at work who helped me pick out the components best suited for the task and within my price range, and settled on the following setup:

ASUS M2N-E Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra MCP ATX AMD Motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Orleans 2.0GHz Socket AM2 Processor
1GB Kingston RAM
NEC ND-3550A 16X DVD±R DVD Burner
Seagate Barracuda 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
Antec Overture II Piano-black/Silver Steel ATX Desktop Computer Case
2 x Hauppauge WINTV-PVR-150
Windows XP Pro SP2
SageTV v6 Beta

I purchased everything through NewEgg.com. Unfortunatly, the Seagate Hard Drive was damaged with lots of bad sector errors, and the front of the Antec case had three broken clips, but RMA’s to both Antec and NewEgg.com yielded quick replacements. Both Newegg and Antec provided great customer service, and I highly recommend them both.

While waiting for the new hard drive, I decided to install an older IDE Hard Drive to serve as the "OS Drive". I later added the 320GB Sata drive as a "media storage" drive. I did this to physically separate out the application from the data, improving performance and reliability. I’ll probably replace the IDE OS drive with a small SATA drive in the future.

Setup was pretty straight forward. I installed Windows XP Pro, installed all the required drivers, and connected to the Internet to update to the latest drivers and download the latest apps. Next, I installed the two Hauppauge PVR-150 tuner cards, and the installed SageTV following the setup instructions. In short order, I was watching live TV and scheduling recordings.

OK, I have admit that it wasn’t really that easy. I did have to content with a hard disk crash, and I messed things up in SageTV’s configuration way beyond repair, so I did end up re-installing a couple times, but the truth is that setting up a SageTV system really is not a difficult process. It’s not a newbie task, but you certainly don’t need to be a computer expert.

Video quality
One thing that bugged me was that I was quite disappointed with the S-video output quality on my TV. I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked my nVIDIA and SageTV settings, and it just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. Watching shows like Fox News or CNN Headline News seemed jerky and choppy. It was mostly noticable while watching the "crawl" at the bottom of both of these shows. After some advice from the SageTV forums, I purchased nVIDIA’s PureVideo drivers, and the results on my S-video TV were worth every penny. It’s still not as quality a picture as our Moxi DVR, but it does look good. Down the road, I’m planning on purchasing a new LCD tv, so that should significantly improve the picture quality over my old tube TV.

Plugins
I next visited the SageTV Customizations forum and found several excellent "plugins" that extended and improved some of SageTV’s core functions. For example, I can now search the Internet Movie Database right from within SageTV with the results integrated very nicely. I next installed an enhancement to the "Stop" button function that adds much needed features. I also installed a Plugin that lets you customize all of the menus letting you order them as you wish, and add and remove entries. Finally, I installed a plugin that provides remote Web access that lets me manage SageTV’s recording functions from anywhere I have Web access. It’s so nice to be able to schedule a recording without having to be sitting in fornt of the TV. These plugins are excellent examples of how SageTV lets users tailor things to their specific needs.

Clients
I next installed the Hauppauge MediaMVP box. This is a small hardware device that connects to the network and any TV. It looks on the network for a SageTV server, and if it finds one, it downloads and runs a SageTV client application. It comes with a remote, so you can control all SageTV functions frmo another TV in your house. It was really cool to be able to start watching a recording in our living room, and then stop it and resume watching where we left off in our bedroom. And the MVP lets you also listen to MP3′s and watch ripped DVD’s.

I then installed the PlaceShifter client on my laptop. This client lets me remotely access SageTV from anywhere I have an Internet connection. We went on a vacation, and I was able to watch both live TV and recorded shows remotely. The quality was not great, but it was watchable.

What I now have
So I now have a Home Theater PC that provides two tuners (one analog cable, and one digital cable) for programming content, and I can add more tuners later if needed. We view everything through an older 27" tube TV, and it looks pretty good. The user interface is clean, and I have tweaked it to make it more intuitive for us. we can listen to my MP3 collection, and we can watch favorite DVD’s. Every morning, we can check the latest weather conditions through SageTV. I was able to (fairly) easily burn to DVD a show that my parents had missed.

All of this was very seamless (except the DVD burning, but that’s for another article) and all from a single box. For me, SageTV is what ReplayTV could have been…

The future
Our setup works very will, but like everything else, I have to look to the future. I am considering the following additions and upgrades:

  • Add additional storage to accommodate more ripped DVD’s. We have a sizable collection of DVD’s, but it’s s much easier to manage them and watch them if they are ripped.
  • Move lots of other digital pictures over to SageTV.
  • Organize and move lots of other MP3′s over to SageTV.
  • Upgrade our old tube TV to an LCD TV. I have been looking at a Westinghouse 42" LCD HD monitor, and it looks very, very nice for the money.
  • Add a UPS to the mix for protection.
  • Improve and simplify the DVD burning process.
  • Investigate RAID or other backup method.
  • Look into a Universal Remote to consolidate remotes.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/sagetv-tips/sagetv-tip-3-all-about-my-sagetv-htpc

Nov 07

SageTV Tip #2: Why did I choose SageTV?

After reviewing the major Personal Video Recorder (PVR) software offerings, I decided that SageTV was my application of choice. Its feature set and price point made it very attractive, and there were several other "features" that swayed my decision. Read on to see why I chose SageTV over the competition….

There are several excellent PVR offerings to choose from, and they all have their benefits. These range from free applications like GB-PVR and MythTV to commercial applications like BeyondTV and SageTV. These applications are all excellent, offer feature sets that are surprisingly complete (although, some are more complete than others), and have excellent user and developer support.

The free offerings are amazingly robust. I found that GB-PVR and MythTV to be very interesting solutions. There are other free offerings, but these two were the "biggies" that caught my eye.

GB-PVR
GB-PVR is clean, and feature-rich, and has a close user following. It runs on Windows, and offers some nice functions in a slick UI. But from what I understand, GB-PVR is a closed-source application with limited development resources. It also fell short in a couple areas that I was looking for.

MythTV

MythTV is an Open Source PVR application that runs on Linux. It really is the benchmark for most PVR software offerings. It has a huge user community, and offers many features found nowhere else. Its Linux dependence, however, is both a blessing and a curse. Linux is an wonderfully stable, robust, and powerful free Open Source operating system that can very easily handle all the tasks of a PVR. But it also comes with the baggage of administering a Linux system. To its credit, Linux is now a lot easier to setup and manage these days, but to be used effectively, it still requires a lot of technical knowhow.

As much as I respect and like the free offerings, two things swayed me toward commercial products: First, I wanted to keep things Windows-centric. My home PC’s are all Windows XP boxes, so I wanted to keep things consistent. Second, I felt that if I was going to invest the money into an HTPC, I also wanted to invest in a PVR company that provides good support and continued R&D. That brought me to two other excellent choices:

BeyondTV
I next looked at BeyondTV, and it looked very solid and feature-rich. As a PVR, it really packs a punch. It’s feature set is very complete, and its user interface is simple and slick. But unfortunately, it fell short in other areas, notably in its integration of photo viewing, MP3 management, and video playing capabilities. These were integrated as an add-on to the core package that lacked the seamless integration I was looking for. If you want a solid PVR, BeyondTV is an excellent choice. But if you want to manage other media, you may want to check other options.

SageTV
When I tried SageTV, I was immediately hooked. SageTV integrated everything I was looking for: PVR, MP3, Photos, Video, and DVD Playback–all in one slick UI. The integration of the media functions is very tight, making the overall user experience consistent, easy, and pleasing to use. SageTV also integrates other goodies like Weather forecasts into its UI, and as of the latest beta version (v6), includes two other Online capabilities: Google Video, and TV Editorials. SageTV, the company, seems to be very solid and innovative, and their support is very responsive. In fact, not more than a week after I purchased version 5, they came out with a much-improved, beta release! And for a beta, it is very, very stable.

SageTV also has a very active user community of very dedicated users. The users are knowledgeable, kind, and have a real passion for making SageTV a success. You can find solid and reliable answers to any SageTV-related question in the user forums.

Another thing that hooked me on SageTV is in how its architecture was designed. It has an open API that enables developers to create third-party "plugins" and enhancements that extend and improve upon the core product. In fact, several of these plugins are, in my opinion, so well written that they really should be part of the core! All registered users gain easy access to SageTV’s Studio application that allows complete customization of the product. While it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s also not rocket science. I was able to make a couple tweaks without too much hassle.

One point of note: You may notice that I excluded Windows Media Center edition 2005 (MCE). While MCE is an excellent, mature, and feature-rich product, it also comes with the baggage imposed by Microsoft that I simply didn’t want to deal with. Overall, MCE is an excellent product, and if you are fully Microsoft-centric, the go for it. But if you want total control over your PVR, you have to look elsewhere.

So, is SageTV perfect? No. But it is maturing into a very powerful media center application. And with its varied client applications, and its extendibility through third-party plugins, it is not a limited product. Coming from the "standalone" DVR world having used ReplayTV and Moxi DVR’s for years, I can say that SageTV is very refreshing. It really packs a lot in, and works very, very will as a home theater PVR solution.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/sagetv-tips/sagetv-tip-2-why-did-i-choose-sagetv

Feb 27

Moxi Tip #14: Easy Remote Text Entry?

I have read the manual. I have played with Moxi. I obviously overlooked it, but it just hit me that there’s a very easy way to enter search words in Moxi’s Find screens! Read on to learn how…

Moxi’s very powerful and useful "Search by Title" and "Search by Keyword" screens provide an easy to navigate on-screen keyboard to enter search keywords. It’s pretty obvious that when you want to enter a character in the on-screen keyboards, you just move the cursor around with the arrow keys and press the [ OK ] button to select the letter. Pretty simple.

But, if you are familiar with text messaging on a cellular phone, then you will be right at home! Take a look at the keypad on your remote. Above the numbers are printed alpha characters just like on a phone keypad. When the on-screen keyboard is displayed on the Search screens, pressing the number key on the keypad cycles you through the corresponding letters on the screen. As you press the keys, the on-screen cursor moves to the selected key. For example, if you want to enter the text "the", just press the [ 8 ] key once, the [ 4 ] key twice, and the [ 3 ] key twice.

If you pause after entering a key, then the current character "locks in" and you move to the next letter. If you keep pressing the same key, it will just cycle through the available letters until you stop pressing. For example, if you want to spell "monk", press the [ 6 ] key once, pause, press the [ 6 ] key three times, pause, press the [ 6 ] key twice, and then press the [ 5 ] key twice. All text is case insensitive.

To clear an entire entry, press the [CLEAR] button. To add a space, press [ 0 ] twice. To backspace one letter, press [ 1 ] twice to highlight backspace, and then press [ OK ].

I personally do absolutely no text messaging, but have found that this is certainly an easy way to enter text!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-14-easy-remote-text-entry

Feb 20

Moxi Tip #13: Moxi FAQ Resource!

OK, this is not so much as tip as a plug. There are several great sites out there with information on the Moxi DVR. Read on for details on several I particularly like…

SPL Moxi FAQ

The SPL Moxi FAQ is a Web page that simply has it all. It’s a single, very, very long page spanning over 40 printed pages, but it’s crammed full of practically anything you could ever want to know concerning Moxi. If the information isn’t presented there, it either doesn’t exist, or there’s a link to find it. It is definitely a good read!

MoxiFAQ.com

MoxiFAQ.com is easy to remember, and it’s full of great answers, information, and opinions. MoxiFAQ.com provides a forum format to help answer frequently asked questions as well as voicing your opinions on numerous Moxi-related topics. It is frequented by at least one Digeo person, so check it out!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-13-moxi-faq-resource

Jan 12

Moxi Tip #12: Tick, Tick, Ticker!

Moxi’s “Ticker” feature can provide you with lots of great up-to-date weather, sports, and news information. Read on to learn what the Ticker is, and how to get the most from it…

First off, what is the Ticker?

The Ticker is a small banner on the bottom of the screen containing several “tabs” of periodically updating content. The tabs include such items as Weather, Forecast, Sports (news), NFL (scores), News, World (news), and quite a few others. The goal is to provide you with easy-to-read news and information at the bottom of the screen while still allowing you to view your shows, ininterrupted and in obscured.

So how do you know if you have the Ticker enabled? Simple: Press the “Ticker” button on the remote! You will also have a Ticker “Category” along the horizontal Moxi menu. If neither is available, by all means, check with your Cable provider to see if and when the Ticker will be available in your market. It turns out that the Ticker WAS available in my market, but it just wasn’t enabled for me, so a quick call to the Cable company got it enabled.

OK, so you have the Ticker enabled, but how does it work and what can you do with it?

When you press the Ticker button on the remote, the screen image “shrinks” slightly and a banner appears at the bottom of the screen containing the topics and the associated information. Note: this is not the “1/4 size screen” displayed when viewing the Moxi menu, but about a 4/5 or so size view that maintains the full image, but provides room for the ticker. The current Ticker topic is highlighted, and you can scroll left and right from topic to topic. If the highlighted topic has additional information, say News headlines or sports scores, you can scroll up and down, scrolling through the additional information. For example, the “Weather” topic displays your local weather, but scrollung up or down lets you see the weather conditions in other cities around the country. Another example is in the Sports scores topics: Highlight the NFL topic and you can scroll up and down through all the latest game scores.

Pressing the “OK” button on any topic, pops up a small menu offering other options. These options vary from topic to topic, so play around with them to become familiar. Typically, there is a “More Info” selection. Press it, and a larger window opens displaying more detailed information like the full news story associated with a News headline or more detailed weather information for the Weather topic.

Further, the Ticker has a nice “auto-scrolling” feature. After a short, but reasonable delay (5-10 seconds or so–didn’t time it) the Ticker scrolls to the next item. If the current topic has multiple headlines or entries, then the Ticker auto-scrolls through the headlines, scrolling to the next topic after it displays all the headlines. If there is no additional information, then the ticker auto-scrolls to the next topic, cycling through the entire list. If you have ever watched the scores scrolling on ESPN, then you understand the concept. But wait. You say that you just want keep an eye on just NHL scores or a single game score? What to do? Hold on, Moxi provides a solution!

Two of the popup menu selections is “Lock Topic” and “Lock Item”. The first one will lock the highlighted topic and auto-scroll through all the headlines/scores in that topic, never scrolling to another topic. The second option locks the highlighted selection and just auto-updates, never auto-scrolling. For example, with sports scores, just highlight the game you want to monitor, and the ticker locks onto that entry and auto-updates as scores are updated. Unlocking the topics or items is as simple as opening up the popup menu again and selecting the proper selection. Pressing the Ticker button again will dismiss the ticker and revert the screen to full-screen.

Well, that’s it. The Ticker is not a “wiz-bang” feature, but it does provide some excellent information at a button press. Just another example of Digeo’s innovations in Moxi!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-12-tick-tick-ticker

Dec 13

Moxi Tip #11: How To Find The Shows You Want

With hundreds of Cable channels to choose from, it can be very overwhelming to try to find what you want to watch. Moxi, like most DVR’s has some excellent features that let you not only find the shows you are specifically looking for, but find other shows that might be of interest to you. Read on for some information on searching as well as some “deeper” functions that you may not be aware of…

Hopefully, you are familiar with Moxi’s “navigation” controls. You should be able to bring up the Moxi menu, scroll left and right through the different categories, and scroll up and down through the different category choices. In addition to the “Channels” list, you should see several categories like “Sports”, “Movies”, “Kids”, etc. These are the groupings that Moxi uses to give you quick access browse through these basic categories of shows. Like the “Channels” list, these categories show you what is currently airing now using a format similar to the “Channels” list including the “On Next” pane. Because these screens are more for “browsing”, it can be tedious to find a specific show, especially if it is not airing now. To do more targeted searching, Moxi offers three simple, yet powerful tools: “Find By Title”, “Find By Keyword”, and “Find By Category”. Each has its specific use, so here’s a brief rundown of Moxi’s various search tools:

The first thing you need to do is to navigate to moxi’s “Find & Record” section. Press the Moxi button to bring up the Moxi menu. Scroll left or right until the “Find & Record” category is highlighted. From there, scroll up or down to highlight any of the following choices:

Find By Title
This first method of searching is pretty simple. Say you know the title you are looking for, but just don’t know when it’s airing. Selecting “Find By Title” brings up an on-screen keyboard on the left side of the screen. You use the remote to enter the letters either by moving around the keyboard with the arrows and pressing OK on each letter, or you can use the remote number pad to enter the letters directly “phone pad” style. (Pressing “0″ (zero) twice adds a space, and pressing “1″ and “OK” backspaces.) Don’t worry about case.

As you enter the letters of the title, Moxi displays the search results in the pane on the left of the screen, narrowing down the list as each letter is typed. If the show you are looking for is in the current channel guide data, which holds about two weeks of upcoming shows, the show will display in the left pane. Press the left arrow to move over to the left pane and scroll up or down to highlight the desired show. Pressing OK will bring up the standard controls to either watch the show if it’s currently airing, or record the current or upcoming shows.

“Find By Title” is an excellent way to find a specific show or to select a bunch of episodes to record without having to set up a series recording.

Find By Keyword
This second method of searching takes the “Find By Title” concept a bit farther by letting you search through not only the titles, but the cast members, and words in the show’s descriptions. For example, say you can’t remember the title of a movie, but you remembered that “HARRISON FORD” was in it. Just select “Find By Keyword” and like the “Find By Title” screen, a keyboard will display on the right side of the screen. Enter the keywords you want to search for, in this case, HARRISON FORD. When finished, press the left arrow to close the keyboard and highlight the results pane. Unlike “Find By Title”, this is not an “as-you-type” search. There will be a brief pause as Moxi searches through all its data for your keywords. Once the search is complete, you can scroll through any results and view or schedule upcoming shows to record.

One small caveat about “Find By Keyword” is that you cannot save the search results nor can you schedule recordings based on keywords. You can only record shows that display in the results pane. For most users, this is a non-issue, but if you are ReplayTV (and possibly TiVo) user, this is a missed feature. None-the-less, “Find By Keyword” searching can be very powerful.

Find By Category
This last search method is for those times when you are looking for something to record, but don’t specifically know the title or show details. It’s similar to the Category browsing described above, but it goes much deeper. Selecting “Find By Category” brings up a horizontal group of major categories like “Movies”, Sports”, etc. with the individual shows displayed vertically under the highlighted category. Again, this is similar to Categories described above, but with two main differences:

First, the shows that are listed are not just those shows airing now, but all shows in that particular category airing in the next two weeks listed alphabetically. Again, this is designed so that you really don’t need to be concerned with when the show is airing, just that it is airing. Select the show to record, and when it airs, it will record.

The second difference is that in each vertical list, there is an entry labeled “More”. Select this, and Moxi displays more detailed sub-categories on the horizontal. You can drill down into these very specific categories to further narrow down those shows to browse.

ReplayTV “Zones” users will be at home here, but again, be aware that you cannot set up recordings based on these categories like you could with Zones, just record the individual shows or show series.

I hope that you find these search tools useful. Moxi, like most DVR’s, offers pwerful tools that the casual user may not know exist. So have fun and start finding shows!!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-11-how-to-find-the-shows-you-want

Dec 09

Moxi Tip #10: Controlling Favorites

Would you like a way to keep certain channels from showing up in your Favorite Channels list? Read on for a tip submitted by “MoxiGuy”, a cool Digeo rep who hangs out on the AVS Forums…

The “Favorites” filter is a nice place to find the 15 most viewed channels. But what if there are some channels that though you view them a lot, you just don’t want them to actually list in the Favorites list?

The short answer is to go into “Parental Controls” (under settings) and lock out those channels.

“But I don’t really want to lock the channels.” you say. “I don’t have kids around, and it would be very inconvenient to enter a PIN just to see what’s playing. Do I really have to lock the channels?”

“MoxiGuy” suggests that after you check the “unwanted” channels as locked, go back to the Master lock card and disable the locks. In that state, nothing is actually “locked” but Favorites will still exclude the channels you have checked off. Thanks MoxiGuy!

It’s a nice workaround that will further customize your viewing experience.

Related tip: If you press OK on the “Lock by Channel” selection, one of the options is to “Unlock all channels”. Be aware that if you select this, it will, in fact unlock all channels. It is a nice, quick way to reset things.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-10-controlling-favorites

Dec 07

Moxi Tip #9: Some DVR Basics

Many prople on this and other forums are long-time Digital Video Recorder (DVR) users, but what about those of you who are new to the DVR world? Read on for some “DVR Basics” that will help you get the most out of your DVR experience…

What’s a DVR and how does it differ from a VCR?
A DVR, or Digital Video Recorder, is a consumer device that lets you record and play back TV show recordings. But wait, isn’t that a VCR? Like a VCR, a DVD lets you record, play back, and Rewind, Fast Forward, and Pause while you are playing back the recordings. But there are some significant differences between the two that make then very unique.

Analog vs Digital
The first concept you need to understand is the distinction between analog signals and digital data. The input to a VCR is an analog audio/video signal. This signal typically originates from an Over The Air (OTA) antenna, a cable, or the output of a Cable box or Satellite box. The VCR records this anlalog signal to tape, and when you play it back, it is the recorded analog signal that plays back through your analog TV input.

DVR’s are very similar in concept except that DVR’s record the show digitally to a large-capacity hard disk. A DVR’s hard disk can only store digital information, so how does it record the TV signal? “Standalone” DVR’s like most TiVo and ReplayTV models, have analog inputs like VCR’s whose signals originate from an Over The Air (OTA) antenna, a cable, or the output of a Cable box or Satellite box. This analog signal is converted internally to a digital data stream which is then recorded to the hard disk. When you want to play back the recording, the digital data is read back from the hard disk, converted back to an analog signal, and output to the TV. From the viewer’s perspective, the DVR viewing experience is almost identical in concept to the VCR.

Some DVR’s, however, are “integrated” into Digital Cable or Satellite boxes, so the signal they receive as input is already digital eliminating the need to convert from analog to digital. This digital data is written directly to the hard disk. Upon playback, the digital data is read from the hard disk, converted to an analog signal, and output to the TV. Because the analog to digital conversion is done at the Cable or Satellite company with high-quality equipment, the resulting picture is typically better than the analog to digital conversion done on a “standalone” box. Moxi in particular does offer HD recording and digital output, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Linear Vs Direct Access
Now that you know what is being recorded, you next need to understand how it is recorded. VCR’s record to tape “linearly” (sequencially, serially, etc.) This means that the beginning of the recording starts at the beginning of the tape and as you watch the recording, the VCR is reading the tape sequentially toward the end of the tape. When you “go back”, you Rewind the tape, and when you want to “go ahead” you Fast Forward. One affect of this is if you want to begin viewing 15 minutes into a show, you have to Fast Forward 15 minutes.

With a DVR, the hard disk that it uses is “random access” meaning that the data can be written to and read from any part of the disk as needed (the hard disk hardware controls where to find the data) Using our example above, this means that if you want to begin viewing 15 minutes into a show, you simply “jump” to the point 15 minutes into the show.

It is important to note that how this “navigation” is implemented varies greatly from DVR to DVR. ReplayTV boxes have the most sophistocated navigation controls, letting you jump to specific places within the show, jump forward or backward any number of minutes, skip ahead 30 seconds, or jump back (replay) abotu 7 seconds. Moxi currently only provides about an 8 second Replay jump and either a 30 second or 15 minute forward jump. Sources say that better navigation features are coming….

Another difference between linear and random access is when you want to erase a show. With a VCR, say you record three shows, one after another. Again, they are stored sequentially, so in order to “erase” the second show, you would have rewind or fast forward to the beginning of the second show and “overwrite” it with a new show. But if the new show is longer than the second show, it will record over the third show. Things can get messy, gaps can form in the tape, and finding and keeping track of shows becomes a major headache. You end up just shuffling tapes. With a DVR, because the shows are stored “randomly”, accessing one show is as simple as selecting it. Erasing or deleting a show is as simple as telling the DVR to delete it. The “gaps” created by deleting are simply used to record other shows, and if the show requires more space, as long as there is available free space on the hard disk, you will get your recording without overwriting other shows. The details is well hidden from the user, but the underlying technology provides a seamless viewing experience.

Transportability
One other point of difference is that a VCR’s tape is removable and very transportable. If you want to record something and take it to your friend’s house for them to see, it’s a simple task. Not so with a DVR. The DVR’s hard disk is integrated into the box and is not meant to be removable. While there are some network solutions, and some attempts at portable solutions, by and large, DVR recordings are “fixed” to the location at which they were recorded. For this reason, VCR’s are still excellent solutions to “backing up” or transporting DVR recordings.

But what can you do with a DVR?
Typically, DVR functions fall within two main categories: “Live TV control” and “Recording and Playback.”

“Live TV control” refers to what you can do while watching a live TV show. When you watch a live TV show through a DVR, you technically aren’t watching it “live”. The show signal comes into the DVR, if necessary is converted to digital, and written to the hard drive to a “buffer” space. It then reads back from this buffer and outputs it to your TV for you to watch. Depending on the kind of DVR you are using, you may actually watching TV at a slight 1/2 to 3 second or so delay from “live”. The fact that you are actually watching a slightly delayed recorded “playback” of live is where the true power of the DVD is revealed.

You can “pause” the show and the DVR will continue to record the show into its buffer. You can “rewind” back into the buffer and watch what was recorded, and you can “fast forward” through the buffer back to the point of live TV. Obviously, you can’t fast forward ahead of live because it hasn’t recorded yet.

There are many practical uses for controlling live TV. For example, say you missed a play in a sports show or you missed some dialog in a movie. Just rewind and watch it again..and again…and again. Or say you want to get a snack or answer the phone. Normally, you would miss what’s on or you would have to wait for a commercial break. With a DVR, just press Pause and go do your stuff. The DVR will continue to record live TV into the buffer while it is paused. When you return, press Play and you resume from where you paused. You didn’t miss a thing. Then, when you reach a commercial break or a part in the show that you don’t want to watch, just press Fast Forward, and you sill move past the content to live.

“Recording and Playback” refers to how shows are recorded and what you can do with those recorded shows. The first thing to understand is the differences between how shows are scheduled to record.

A VCR typically has some “interface” for you to enter a “recording event”. You select a channel, a recording start date, a recording start time, and an end time. You can also tell it to “repeat” these settings on a daily or weekly basis for series shows.

DVR’s on the other hand, remove the idea “events” and get you to focus more on the shows themselves. A DVR includes a “channel guide” that presents in one form or another what shows are currently airing and what shows are scheduled to air in the future, usually up to one or two weeks out. (How this information is presented differs from one DVR to another, but the general concept is similar.) You “browse” this channel guide, and it provides detailed information about the shows. When you see a show that you want to record, you select it from the channel guide and tell the DVR to record it. No messing with start times, dates, etc. Just select and it’s scheduled to record. And most DVR’s have some sort of “intelligence” to update the schedule should a network move a show from one time slot to another. Like a VCR, you can also set up a “series” or “repeating” recording.

Once a show is recorded to a VCR, you have to either remember what you recorded or you have to label the tape. When you want to watch a recording, you have to select the proper tape, rewind or fast forward to the proper place on the tape, and watch the show.

With a DVR, you call up a “Recorded shows” screen that displays a list of all the shows you have recorded. Just select the show you want to watch, press play, and you are immediatly watching the show. No shuffling tapes, rewinding, or fast forwarding.

As mentioned above, playback control is similar on VCR’s and DVR’s with the DVR typically having more navigation controls. One “big feature” that really sets a DVR apart from a VCR is the capability of watching a show at any point while it is recording or while it is recording another show. With a VCR, if you are recording a show, you either have to watch it live as it records or you have to wait for it to finish recording, rewind, and watch the recording. If you want to record second show, you have to wait for that recording to finish before you can rewind the tape and watch the shows. With a DVR, you can watch a recording at any time, even while that show is recording or while another show is recording.

How can I find shows to record?
As mentioned above, unlike VCR’s, DVR’s provide some sort of channel guide from which you can select shows to record. It’s basically an electronic version of your local TV listings. With your VCR, you just flip through the local TV listings and set up the recording events. DVR’s on the other hand offer a power unavailable to VCR’s. The channel guide data is stored on the hard disk in the DVR, so all the data is available to search. DVR’s offer functions to do keyword searches, topic searches, title searches, etc. Implementations vary from model to model, but generally speaking, if you want to find a show, a DVR gives you unrivaled capabilities to find it.

Say you know that Tom Hanks is starring in an upcoming show but you can’t remember the show’s title. Just do a keyword search on “Tom Hanks” and the DVR will give you a list of all shows starring Tom Hanks. From the resulting list, just hit record, and the show is scheduled. Depending on the DVR, you can search on keywords in the show descriptions, title, stars, directors, and producers.

Some DVR’s even offer “topical” searches so you can find shows that fall within specific topics like “Kids” shows or “4-star movies”. Some of these DVR’s will let you schedule recordings based on these topics (ie: record all “Archery Sporting events” whenever they air) while other DVR’s show the results of the topic search letting you pick and choose the shows you want.

What else can a DVR do?
In addition to the above functions and features, different DVD’s offer different capabilities. For example, some offer networking capabilities letting you “offload” the recordings to a PC for editing and archival. Some will stream MP3 audio letting you listen to your music collection through your home theater. Some DVR’s will find digital pictures on shared computers on your network and display a “slideshow” on your TV. Some will let you connect remotely from the Web to manage scheduled. Some DVR’s even let you play games.

Not all DVR’s have the same functions. Standalone DVR’s that you buy at retail are all consistent within their models. Those “integrated” boxes deployed through Cable companies can have varying feature sets depending on the Cable company and market. Be sure to check with your local Cable company for specific details.

The key point to understand is at its core, a DVR is really just a computer designed to work with your TV to provide an enhanced viewing experience. DVR developers are continually coming up with new DVR features to enhance that experiance, so keep your eyes open for new features and models.

If you are currently using a DVR, be sure to take the time to learn its features and functions. There may be some features you may not know about that might be useful to you.

If you aren’t vurrently using a DVR, what are you waiting for?!? By all means, take advantage of the trial periods many Cable-provided DVR’s offer as well as the 30-day money back guarantees found on most standalone DVR’s. Once you use a DVR, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. Whether you watch a lot of TV or just a little, a DVR can let you watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it. It’s all about putting some control in the hands of the viewer.

I tried to keep this basic for those who may be new the DVR concept. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know. I’ll be adding more Moxi Tips & Tricks here soon!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-9-some-dvr-basics

Dec 07

Moxi Tip #8: Get Into The Game!

Moxi has the capability to provide interactive Games to the viewer. Read on to learn about some neat diversions available on many Moxi boxes…

Moxi has a “Games” category from which you can choose a Game to play. Press the Moxi button and scroll left or right until you highlight the Games category. (Important Note: Because all Games can be individually provisioned by the Cable company, you may or not have access to all Games, so check with your Cable provider if you are unsure.) A list of available Games will appear in a vertical list. Scroll up and down to select the Game you want to play. The Games that are currently available are: Solitaire, Battleship, Checkers, Domino Dementia, Video Poker, Blackjack, Bijoux, Blast it, and Invasion Wave.

All games can be played using the Moxi remote, however coming from the PC world, some of the Games can be a bit tedious with the remote. For example, Solitaire, though a fun game, requires lots of arrow presses to move cards around. But, they’re fun.

One interesting point of note is in the “casino” games like Video Poker and Blackjack–your “bank balance” is carried between games, so if you are losing at Video Poker and are adept at Blackjack, you can use that to increase your overall bank! (And no, you can’t actually “cash out”!!!)

It’s great to see that Digeo not only provides in Moxy excellent DVR capabilities, but they also offer some diversions for those times when there’s nothing to watch!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-8-get-into-the-game

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