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Sony VGX-XL3 - Page 6

post #151 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by mexicanmike03 View Post

So i can confirm that the xl3 has been missing from sony's web site for some time!!!!! Ugh man, i was actually gonna finally pull the trigger and get one despite all the problems. My hp z555 just went down and i need a replacement. I have noticed that the xl1b3 has dropped to 200, crazy, just crazy. Is it possible that sony is finally replacing their xl3, or has the final major company supporting the HTPC, finally cut and run???? Its a shame the xl3 is gone, weird thing is that BBY now has it listed on their web site. Maybe sony sold the remaining stock of items to try to purge for their next gen product????

Usually if a new one was coming out, they'd just lower the price of the current one. But since its a pc and not a product like a receiver or a camcorder it loses value more quickly so "lowering the price" strategy doesn't necessarily hold true. Like you said, they are on BBY.com now so maybe they are going to soon release a new one, otherwise they'd just continue to list the xl3 on the sonystyle site. I hope they get the next HTPC completely right.
post #152 of 3843
Touchless - what about the UI would you like to see? It's true you can't easilly capture HD, because if you could, then you could in theory write a program that would capture every single frame of a movie and then stitch them back together to have an unencrypted HD movie. A few years ago Intervideo was forced to withdraw a version of WinDVD that could both capture screens and parse frame-by-frame, for exactly the same reason (although that was just plain silly since there's already so many ways to rip a DVD). I can post pix of the UI for you, what do you want to see? The Media Center UI is absolutely light years ahead of anything that exists in any cable box, extremely simple to understand and use...four stars out of five. The only improvements I would make is to be able to change the UI size (frustrating to see only a few channels listed at a time on a 1080 monitor) and to clarify exactly what a "first run" versus "rerun" is (e.g. when "Desperate Housewives" goes into syndication on Lifetime, will the pilot be a first run because it's the first time it's appeared on Lifetime, or will it be a rerun because it aired on ABC years earlier? That's a fairly simplistic example but there are less-obvious times this issue comes up). The search and filtering tools and use of the remote control are exemplary.

ds7777 - You can choose individual drivers from NVidia's site, just because your's is a Go doesn't mean that universal drivers won't necesarilly work - Go supports the same TrueShader as the rest of the series (but always figure out in advance the keystroke sequence to shut down your computer and reboot in low-resolution mode just in case). In fact, NVidia has a not-completely-tested program that you can download that automatically figures out the latest certified drivers and installs them . But according to NVidia's specs you WILL NOT get 1080p on your external monitor, ever, because that's a hardware design limitation of the 7600 series.

Everybody - I've been doing a lot of experimenting in support of you guys and now one of you can do me a favor. I've run into one definite downside to using the SC101 network drive for Recorded TV, and that's Media Center gets finicky about forward and reverse skipping; skip more than six times or so on a show recorded to the network drive and Media Center freezes on a black screen, which sometimes recovers after several minutes (possibly related to Ranger's report of similar problems playing WMVs?) but usually requiring shutting down Media Center through Task Manager and sometimes even a reboot. I tried this on a show recorded to my local [non-RAID] hard drive and found that the problem is still there, but much less severe - I can skip through almost an entire show before it freezes.

My guess is that there's a buffer underrun going on here, Media Center doesn't behave elegantly when the buffer runs out and that buffer isn't being fed fast enough. Several of us have wondered why Sony provides the XL3 with a RAID0 setup...maybe this is why. So: could somebody who still has their original 2x250GB RAID0 setup please play back two digital cable recorded shows, let's make them at least 90 minutes long, one in regular format and the other in High Def (1080 preferably), and try skipping all the way through them and see if/when they lock up? If you're able to get all the way through without a lockup, then there's a definite reason to have RAID0 and to record locally (even if that means replacing the two 250GBs with two 750GBs...anyone know if backup programs like Acronis will balk at a RAID array that has been partitioned into separate C and D drives?). And as a control, could somebody else who has replaced their RAID array verify my results that skipping through digital programming also freezes?

Let's get out those clipboards and lab coats and do some experimenting!

Jeff
post #153 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjeffb View Post

Touchless - what about the UI would you like to see? It's true you can't easilly capture HD, because if you could, then you could in theory write a program that would capture every single frame of a movie and then stitch them back together to have an unencrypted HD movie. A few years ago Intervideo was forced to withdraw a version of WinDVD that could both capture screens and parse frame-by-frame, for exactly the same reason (although that was just plain silly since there's already so many ways to rip a DVD). I can post pix of the UI for you, what do you want to see? The Media Center UI is absolutely light years ahead of anything that exists in any cable box, extremely simple to understand and use...four stars out of five. The only improvements I would make is to be able to change the UI size (frustrating to see only a few channels listed at a time on a 1080 monitor) and to clarify exactly what a "first run" versus "rerun" is (e.g. when "Desperate Housewives" goes into syndication on Lifetime, will the pilot be a first run because it's the first time it's appeared on Lifetime, or will it be a rerun because it aired on ABC years earlier? That's a fairly simplistic example but there are less-obvious times this issue comes up). The search and filtering tools and use of the remote control are exemplary.


Jeff

Just some pics of the guide when you would be looking for something to watch on tv. So this would be something I could look forward to replacing my cable box Jeff, right?
post #154 of 3843
>>Just some pics of the guide when you would be looking for something to
>>watch on tv.

I have to emphasize that this is Media Center, not just XL3. The Vista and 2005 XP versions of Media Center are very similar, although Vista works better with extenders and has some pre-programmed specialty settings like sports (which I would just as soon find a way to kill, but a Vista MCE powertoy hasn't been released yet). To reiterate, Media Center is a joy in either incarnation; it's the Vista implementation of digital cable that's the bummer.

1.jpg is a series view. Pressing Record once in search or guide records a show; pressing it again records the entire series. The series view lets you modify that, for example record only new showings or also reruns, shows on any channel or just the original, etc.

2.jpg is a typical search screen, using the remote to enter a search term. If you press the right arrow, the highlight moves over to the vertical list and you can scroll up or down. A similar feature exists just for movies, with thumbnails of the films and sortable not only by name, keywork, actors, genre, etc., but also by show date. I don't think this was in the XP version and it is a totally underrated feature; you can start with the last movies to air and work your way forward, and therefore not have to go through all two weeks of movies everytime the movie guide updates - just the dates that have appeared since the last time you checked. Note the items marked "More..." indicating that there are more than one episode or instance to choose from. Most times this will bring up a series view, but I was completely befuddled when clicking on "House" brought me to some intermediate screen - until it dawned on me that "House" is both the title of a TV series and of a movie!

3.jpg is a typical guide view. From here you can click on a show to bring up detailed information, record a show, record a series, or go directly to the show to watch it; you can scroll up and down and across, and another remote control button lets you skip through 12 hours at a time. Note that you can also record a show or a series from live TV by pressing Record from here or while watching, although it only "records" from that point on (a serious flaw, as you may have very well been watching the show from the beginning and the entire show to that point is stored in the live TV buffer, but MCE never bothers to check if it might be possible to save the whole show rather than just the remaining portion). New to Vista is the ability to left-key onto the channel name, hit OK, and a new guide appears concentrating only on that channel's shows. Of course, you can go into settings and program out any channels you don't want to see. That feature is also very well done; check or uncheck a channel and it automatically jumps to the next channel for you to select or deselect, I can go through all 700+ channels in two minutes. If you pause for a moment on a channel, it even pops up a live preview window so you can see what's on before deciding whether to add or delete the channel from the guide. The huge issue here is that the same number of channels appear no matter what your screen resolution is, I could easilly fit twenty channels on screen and do far less scrolling.

If a show was currently recording it would be flagged; that's to keep you from switching channels to watch and screwing up the other channel it is trying to record for you (even if you do, you'll get another warning as a popup).

4.jpg shows scheduled recordings. If there were any conflicts (two or more shows set to record at the same time, for example) they'll be flagged here, and clicking on them brings you to a conflict resolver. This is 50% helpful, as you can then view "other showings" and change the record date, time, or channel to eliminate the conflict. Better would be if MCE was intelligent enough to do this for you or at least show you recommended solutions. Say show A is on at 3, 4, and 5 and show B is on at 4, 5, and 6. MCE shows a conflict when you try to record both at 4, so you use the conflict resolver and change show B to 5. Uh-oh, there's still a conflict! You have no way of knowing that the only time there's no conflict would be show A at 3 or show B at 6. At a minimum it should bring up a mini-guide of those two shows/episodes (and any others introduced by your selections) so you could see them all at a glance. The example given is extremely simplistic and would really never happen; but what happens often is you change the time of one show within conflict resolver and wind up telling MCE to record another instance that now conflicts with some OTHER show you're recording. It 's a shame that this powerful computer isn't used to, you know, compute.

The "History" selection brings up a detailed history of every show ever recorded (or not, say due to a scheduling conflict or a hardware error; this is where you discover all the shows that never got recorded because of the cable tuner or cablecard acting up), watched, deleted, or scheduled to be recorded.

Finally, 6.jpg is one of numerous possible configurations of the Recorded TV view. You can not only sort in various ways but you can change the size of the thumbnails and their orientation, and clicking on a show brings up a detail window with much more information. Note the episode of "The Sopranos" marked with a red circle, indicating that it is currently being recorded.

In several of these screens you will also see shows that could have been recorded but which did not/will not for various reasons; for example, in a series view you will see every possible episode, along with special notes when a show did not/will not record because that particular episode was or will be recorded on a different channel or date.

Media Center = great, nearly perfect
Vista cable support = sucks
Sony XL3 = sucks sucks sucks
LL
LL
LL
LL
LL
post #155 of 3843
Ok, so its basically XP Media Center 2005, just little more robust. I just sold my Dell XPS with Media Center 2005 on it to a relative, and now its time for me to invest in a true entertainment pc that I will use. I truly hope Sony comes out with something after the XL3 with 2 cable card slots and i'll be satisified. I could get rid of one of my DVR cable boxes; man I could even watch 2 football games in HD at the same time with my slingbox when I'm at home. Thanks for the picks Jeff.
post #156 of 3843
>>I could even watch 2 football games in HD at the same time with my slingbox

Yes, so long as your Slingbox was connected to a DVR's output, although the value of doing that seems questionable to me: if you're home, you could simply run your other DVR's component output into your HDTV and use PIP. You could certainly get your DVR in a window, whether or not an HDMI input can also appear in a window (so you could flip back and forth), is something I've never tried. To be absolutely clear, you WILL NOT be able to output the XL3, or in all probability any HDPC, into a Slingbox because the HDPC will have only HDMI outputs that feed only into an HDCP-compliant destination, meaning either HDMI or special DVI connectors. I think it's a safe bet that the Slingbox will never qualify for that, in fact one could argue that it is the opposite of what Hollywood would consider to be compliant. At least until the Supreme Court overturns the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, anyway.

Off-topic info, Slingbox is guaranteed to be a victim of its own success, because if it really catches on then major league sports will go after Slingbox for its ability to violate local event blackouts. Right now this ability of Slingbox's - say to have a Slingbox in Chicago transmitting coverage of a game in Shea Stadium to a user in Brooklyn, even though the game is blacked out in the New York metro area - is flying under the radar, but you can bet that league lawyers are watching it closely. Note that while this MIGHT be covered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (if it's transmitted in digital or high definition), even without the DMCA it is covered by longstanding FCC requirements that have withstood numerous court challenges.
post #157 of 3843
It occurs to me that some novice readers might get confused by all the jargon being used in this thread. For example, an HDPC uses HDCP - WTF? So here's a brief glossary, which may get updated or others may post their own key words. I've tried not to editorialize too much and just stick to facts.

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ATSC = Advanced Television Standards Committee. Basically, the various digital transmission formats, transmitted in MPEG-2, along with certain audio standards (Dolby, 5.1 surround sound), replacing the old NTSC (National Television Standards Comittee) 480 interlaced analog format used in OTA and cable broadcasts. The standard ATSC formats are 480p and the various HD formats. Satellite, digital cable, and DVD use the 480p MPEG-2 format of ATSC, but the audio and other features may be different. While ATSC 480p is seen as a direct replacement for NTSC (no change required in content format), television stations are generally opting to transmit in HDTV (although many cable channels are in 480p). Note that analog NTSC is expected to be phased out before 2010. While legally this only applies to OTA broadcasts, it's unlikely that cable will continue to transmit in analog once the rest of the industry has made the switch; in my area, 80% of all the cable channels are already digital.

BRD = Blu-ray Disc. A standard for high-definition movie discs, supported by Sony. Both BRD and HD-DVD display in 1080p and both employ HDCP; Blu-ray boasts higher storage capacity and thus far has more support from major retailers. Due to their use of HDCP, neither unit will play back on an ordinary television. These standards are also touted as "uncrackable," meaning that while it may be possible to decrypt one specific disc, it is impossible to come up with a general decryption algorithm that would allow bootleggers to copy discs en masse (as happened with the DSS encryption scheme used in DVDs) because that would trip the HDCP algorithm and chain of custody. Nonetheless, hackers have already cracked the original Blu-ray code, causing the Blu-ray consortium to issue new code, to the great inconvenience of the public; without having this new code installed, owners of older Blu-ray players cannot watch newer movies encrypted with the new software. [This is why XL3 owners must download a new Blu-ray driver from Sony.]

CableCard. An add-on card, provided by a cable company, that slides into a DCT and programs it for the particular cable signal being received. A DCT is tied to a specific HDPC; a CableCard is tied to a particular cable customer's account.

CableLabs. The consortium of hardware, software, and media content companies that "certify" hardware and software to meet HDCP requirements and thus authorize them to be used to receive digital cable in the United States. For some hardware devices, includes HDPCs, CableLabs also maintains databases of authorizations and administer electronic requests to verify ongoing authorization. For example, an HDCP routinely communicates in the background with the CableLabs database to verify that the DCT is still authorized (I use that rather loosely, as I don't know exactly where the database is stored and what the access arrangements between CableLabs and its members are). Changing the HDPC's hardware sufficiently to trigger an unvalidation (such as the Windows Vista Product Authorization Code) or preventing the HDCP from communicating to CableLabs (such as not having an Internet connection or employing aggressive firewall software) will cause the HDCP software to refuse to display digital (specifically, "protected," but in practice all digital programming is protected) video.

Cable-ready. A tuner that receives analog NTSC signals, generally limited to the first 70 or so channels. A QAM tuner or a DCT can usually also receive these channels when not set to receive digital signals; for example, an XL3 with no CableCard is cable-ready, but with a CableCard installed and activated, its DCT will lock onto digital cable signals on any channel where digial cable is found.

DCT = Digital Cable Tuner. An HDPC component that accepts, processes, and communicates to the PC a digital cable video signal. A DCT is part of the HDPC, and is certified by CableLabs to universally work with any cable system; however, for it to function, it also requires a CableCard. As of this writing, the only DCT manufacturer is ATI (now a division of Advanced Micro Devices). DCTs can be internal or external, but because they have identifiers ("Digital Cable Product Code") that are programmed into the Vista Operating System, even an external DCT is tied to one specific HDPC and cannot be moved to another computer. For this reason, it is also impossible to build a digital cable-ready HDPC from scratch.

DRM = Digital Rights Management. Any of a number of schemes to prevent or restrict copying, distributing, or viewing protected digital media. The XL3 employs at least three types of DRM: 1) the validation product codes of the Vista operating system and the digital cable tuner; 2) HDCP; and 3) digital licenses for each protected show recorded, which are stored in the C:\\Program Data folder (plus any licenses for downloaded music or protected WMV format videos you might have).

DVI = Digital Video Interface. A type of video connector that looks like an oversized VGA connector, but with extra pins, including some that are flat and wide. DVI is capable of carrying both purely digital video signals and also analog, so a DVI-only monitor can work with an older PC by using a cable with a DVI connector on one end and a VGA connector on the other. DVI comes in a couple of flavors; one of them, DVI-D, is also capable of handling HDCP (this means that a DVI monitor is NOT automatically HDCP-compliant, so buyer beware).

HD = High Definition. Any television signal transmitted at a resolution above 480 vertical pixels (higher in Europe, 576 I believe). All HD formats approved for broadcasting are ATSC (but some ATSC formats, such as 480p, are not HD). High Definition can be progressive or interlaced. The two high definition OTA broadcast standards in the United States are [1280x]720 progressive, and [1920x]1080 interlaced. There is also 1920x1080 progressive, which is the format used by Blu-ray and HD-DVD, but the FCC did not implement this for OTA signals because it would have required changing the existing bandwidth allocation scheme and, as always happens, experts thought it would take far longer for consumer technology to catch up with 1080p than actually happened.

HDCP = High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection. An electronic protocol designed to ensure that copy-protected materials - usually, anything recorded digitally other than audio Compact Discs (CDs), conventional Digital Versatility Discs (DVDs), and OTA ATSC - cannot be copied. The monitor must accept either HDMI or an HDCP-compliant DVI connector. This involves a continuous chain of custody of the video signal, from source through the tuner, the PC or Digital Video Recorder, and the monitor; every one of these components must meet HDCP or you can't watch TV. As we have seen, HDCP is EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE in its present incarnation, with the default condition for any questionable hardware, software, or license being to refuse to play the "protected" video even if it is no fault of the consumer.

HD-DVD = High Definition Digital Versitility Disc. A standard for high-definition movie discs, supported by Microsoft, similar to but incompatible with BRD. Some manufacturers are working on players that will play both formats, and some content distributors are working on disks that are BRD on one side and HD-DVD on the other.

HDMI = High Definition Media Interface. A type of video connector (looks like an oversized USB connector) that is automatically HDCP-compliant. HDMI is also capable of carrying stereo audio signals, but manufacturers have thus far been slow to implement that feature. HDMI equipment often comes with an HDMI-to-DVI adapter, so the cable can also be plugged into a monitor with an HDCP-compliant DVI connector in addition to monitors equipped with HDMI ports. HDMI has become the standard in HDTV, but it suffers from a serious flaw for HDPC users: the signal is often overscanned.

HDPC = High Definition Personal Computer. A home PC capable of playing high definition video (not merely displaying a high resolution screen). Although this could mean a PC that can play HD movies, such as Blu-ray, HD-DVD, or Windows WMV, it is generally taken to mean a computer that can also record and play back HD television. To meet this definition, that means Windows Vista, a DCT, and a CableCard (satellite and Apple are lagging behind) in a PC certified by CableLabs. A system using a QAM tuner and either Vista or Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 also qualifies, but only for OTA HD programming; note that supposedly the XL3 can receive QAM services without a CableCard (and, because no DRM is involved, presumably even if the DCT isn't validated) but I have no independent confirmation of that.

HDTV = High Definition Television. As a noun, it refers to an actual television set capable of receiving HD signals; as an adjective, it refers to the overall scheme of transmitting, receiving, decoding, and displaying HD programming.

Interlaced/Progressive. A picture in which each frame is transmitted in its entirety is progressive ("P"); a movie shot on film is of course progressive (albeit at 24 frames per second, which is not an integer divisor of 60, leading to the infamous "pulldown" problem that plagues poorly mastered DVDs). In an interlaced ("I") transmission, every other row of pixels is transmitted every other frame. Progressive video looks better; interlaced video allows a higher resolution within a given bandwidth. Interlaced video traces back to the original FCC standard when television was not fast enough to produce progressive images. In the U.S., television is transmitted at 60 frames per second: in analog, 30 frames of one set of horizontal lines and 30 frames of every other. This ultimately traces back to the use of 60Hz line voltage in the United States, which was first used as a frequency standard by the electric motors in mechanical televisions of the 1920s. Therefore, an HDPC would ideally have a resolution of 1920x1080p@60Hz.

OCUR = Open Cable Unidirectional Receiver. The protocol to which DCTs and CableCards are currently validated against. As the name suggests, information flows only one way in the OCUR setup (the "phone home" security feature of CableLab's DCT validation relies on the Internet). That means OCUR does not support integrated Pay Per View, on-line ordering, etc. A CableCard2 protocol is supposedly being worked out but it is a virtual certainty that existing OCUR hardware will not be backward compatible with it.

OTA = Over-the-air. Television broadcasts transmitted by radio (versus cable, satellite microwaves, Internet, or telephony) and therefore directly subject to FCC air usage regulations. OTA broadcasts are not subject to DRM (due to a 1928 federal law and a 1980's court ruling regarding Video Cassette Recorders) and so it is possible for an HDPC to record OTA HDTV on a much simpler computer, including a properly equipped Windows XP machine.

Overscan. A technique dating back to the early days of electronic television to accomodate the fact that television tubes were not perfect rectangles. The picture was set to be slightly larger than the tube, so there would be no empty corners. This concept is problematic on LCD and plasma monitors (which are capable of displaying every single pixel in its original location), and the short-term solution, underscanning, wound up making things worse in many cases.

QAM = Quadrature Amplitude Modulation. The method of radio transmission used by OTA ATSC broadcasters. ATSC refers to the digital formats; QAM is the technology used to transmit them. A QAM tuner receives OTA ATSC programming. Now, wasn't that simple? :-)

Underscan. A technique used as a quick-fix to overscanning, by which a PC forces a graphics card to display a resolution slightly below the standard resolution that would normally be used. The idea is that by underscanning, all of the computer screen displays on the monitor, even though the HDMI signal is being overscanned (on an analog monitor with adjustable vertical and horizontal timings, that idea might just work; on an LCD, it looks terrible and makes fonts indecipherable). This bane of early HDMI adopters is finally being corrected by video drivers that allow the user to force overscan, force underscan, or force a display of 1:1, which is of course the correct setting for an LCD monitor. ATI was roundly criticized for waiting over a year after NVidia had introduced user-selectable HDMI underscan/overscan control (and defaulting to 1:1 mapping) before coming out with a fix of their own. Some users in this thread have reported odd screen resolutions when watching Blu-ray discs; that is likely a leftover underscan issue.
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to be continued...

- Jeff
post #158 of 3843
Jeff-

That was a huge help. I've bookmarked this page for future reference.

Cheers,

CalWhart
post #159 of 3843
Does anyone know of any HTPC that have a cable card slot that is "Multistream CableCard" compatible that has come out already? If Sony's next pc had that then we wouldn't necessarily need duel cablecard slots, but it would hurt the people who's cable company don't offer M-cablecards.
post #160 of 3843
OCUR's are S-Mode only. Sony's next PC will still need dual tuners to get two streams.

Chris
post #161 of 3843
>>anyone know of any HTPC that have a cable card slot that is "Multistream CableCard" compatible

HAH!

Sorry for laughing, I was just recalling a page I bookmarked long, long ago:



This was the announcement from the cable industry association that CableCard2 was just months away...back in 2005! I was particularly amused by the line "...it is expected that multistream CableCARDs will be widely available for use in commercially available commercial devices by mid-2006..."

What the heck is a "commercially available commercial device," anyway? I sure hope that doesn't mean Scientific Atlanta - CableCard was supposed be be a solution for consumer devices.

I've also heard cable executives blaming CableLabs. Hold on - CableLabs isn't part of the Commerce Department or a branch of the FCC. It is a creation of the cable industry. I may be overly cynical, but cable companies hate hate hate CableCard. More CableCards = less profits. To my knowledge, Microsoft has not announced plans to even support Multistream, but just a few weeks ago they announced an alliance with Nevius to support multiple OCUR CableCards simultaneously (called "Quadcard" or similar).
post #162 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjeffb View Post

To my knowledge, Microsoft has not announced plans to even support Multistream, but just a few weeks ago they announced an alliance with Nevius to support multiple OCUR CableCards simultaneously (called "Quadcard" or similar).

Note that is just just stuff four of the existing tuners into a machine and hacking the registry to make it work. You still need four tuners, four CableCARD, etc. Other OEMs then Niveus will offer it to, but the target is the CI market not the consumer market (at this point). Of course, when you think that four tuners cost about $1,200 you might just want to wait until ATI upgrades the hardware.

Chris
post #163 of 3843
so ive read the forum, so apology in advance. But does the xl3 do 1080p? Is it under vista, or only mce. Also does mce load and function fully, or is it better to just leave vista on it. Primary function for this xl3 wil be to control 4 xl1b2's with my movies and maybe a little bluray playback and some high def dowloaded media files. thumbs up or down to the xl3, or should i just build my own from scratch?
post #164 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisL01 View Post

Of course, when you think that four tuners cost about $1,200 you might just want to wait until ATI upgrades the hardware.

Chris

Hmm, that just throws fuel on my conspiracy theory: making you rent four OCUR CableCards earns the cable company more profits than letting you rent a single M-Card, doesn't it?...;-)

Mike, the XL3 only displays 1080p if you upgrade to Vista Ultimate, and if you do that you will lose the ability to record digital TV (30 days afterwards), and even then some people have been having trouble getting it to work. Although it is likely that drivers will eventually fix this, at this point if 1080p is a mandatory requirement then you should look elsewhere than the XL3.

Oh, and my replacement keyboard just started exhibiting strange key behaviors similar, but not identical, to those that caused me to return the original keyboard.
post #165 of 3843
I am having problems playing "Fantastic 4 - Rise of Silver Surfer" on an XL302 using updated version of WinDVD for BD (v 8.0.08.123) downloaded from Sony site. It stutters then crashes after about 3 mins. Older Blu-ray disk like Casino Royal and regular DVD's are fine

I have latest Nvidia graphics driver (7.15.10.9813) downloaded from vaio support installed

I do know this Fox disk uses the new encryption BD+ and when checking the bitrate it reads 0.000Mbps (whereas Casino Royal reads 35.000) and I found the following statement on Sony Support site:-

"When Playback is not smooth: audio and video freeze or skip sometimes.

Depending on the hardware specifications of your VAIO, you may experience sound interruptions and/or dropped frames when playing BD title encoded in VC1 or H.264 with very high bit rates.

This problem may be noticed on models that play BD through software decoding (VGN-AR11S/VGN-AR11SR/VGN-AR21S/VGN-AR21SR/VGC-RC204/VGC-RM1N/VGX-XL202/VGX-XL302)"

See Question 26 FAQ's then Question 6 - http://support.vaio.sony.co.uk/knowl...Natural=windvd

CPU usage with Casino Royale is 65%
CPU Usage with F4 ROSS is 100%
SD DVD - 4%

Does this mean Sony's top of the range Blu-ray Media Centre is not up to the job of playing back latest Blu-ray titles encoded with BD+?
post #166 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjeffb View Post

Hmm, that just throws fuel on my conspiracy theory: making you rent four OCUR CableCards earns the cable company more profits than letting you rent a single M-Card, doesn't it?...;-)

Good thing that four CableCARDs generally costs about the same or less per month than a single STB rental.

Chris
post #167 of 3843
>>Good thing that four CableCARDs generally costs about the same or less per month than a single STB rental.

But all kidding aside, while four CCs may indeed cost less than a single STB, the fact is that four OCUR CableCards are going to earn Cablevision and Comcast way more net profit than a STB because of far lower acquisition costs and maintenance, as well as more than a single CableCard2 if and when they show up. By providing OCUR CableCards, the cable industry can claim compliance with the strict implementation of FCC's ruling - and maximize their profits at the same time. As a monopoly and with Dish/DirecTV unable to mount a credible alternative, there's no reason for them to ever come out with real Multicast for the masses but very useful to keep it in the wings in case DirecTV or FIOS should pose a real marketing threat.

One other thing - do these units have a single tuner taking four CCs, or four separate tuners? The reason I raise this point is because so many of us have had so many problems relating to a SINGLE tuner fitting into HDCP...I can't imagine having four separate tuners, each with its own Product Activation Code, and getting the PC to actually work reliably for more than a few hours at a time. UPDATE: I looked into this and it is indeed four separate tuners just like Chris said. Niveus already sells a unit with two independent DCTs. Could you imagine trying to get some technician in India to understand why you need two tuner product activation codes? On the other hand, one would presume that Niveus has better customer support than Sony and would try to resolve the problem themselves without involving Microsoft...

In response to Derrickpetr's BRD woes - I can't speak to this because I haven't yet started delving into Blu-ray. But does anyone out there also own any standalone BRD players, and if so, are they seeing similar compatibility problems? I.e., is this a) an XL3 problem, b) an HDPC problem, c) a Sony problem, or d) a problem with Blu-ray players in general?
post #168 of 3843
In response to the Blu ray disc problem. Some of the Samsung and LG players had to be updated to play some of the new disc that had the new "plus" stuff on it. So I would assume if your XL3 can't play it properly, its a software issue.
post #169 of 3843
>>Some of the Samsung and LG players had to be updated

Touchless, I don't want to steer the thread off-topic too much, but how exactly does a standalone player get "updated," anyway? Do you plug it into a phone line or a network connection, or do you have to physically box it up and ship it to the manufacturer, or does the manufacturer send you a CD that loads and performs the update, or what?
post #170 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjeffb View Post

>>Some of the Samsung and LG players had to be updated

Touchless, I don't want to steer the thread off-topic too much, but how exactly does a standalone player get "updated," anyway? Do you plug it into a phone line or a network connection, or do you have to physically box it up and ship it to the manufacturer, or does the manufacturer send you a CD that loads and performs the update, or what?

Some of the stand alones have ethernet ports or you can download the firmware and burn a CD from the manufacturer. But you know since these are blu ray players, only some of them have these ethernet ports (some of the Samsungs) vs all the HD DVD players.
post #171 of 3843
I've done some experimenting and here's what I've found so far. To recap, the problem is that when skipping repeatedly through a show with the remote, Vista Media Center may freeze up. Sometimes it is temporary (show picks back up after a few seconds), sometimes it's permanent (requiring closing media center), and once it a while it boots me out of Media Center all by itself. It is always accompanied by the sound of hard disk thrashing, which may go on for some time after Media Center is closed. This problem started occuring around the time that I installed the Netgear SC101 Vista drivers (and pointed Media Center to record TV directly to my network drive), but that could be a coincidence.

1. My theory that it is due to a buffer not keeping up is incorrect, at least in the normal sense of a buffer. A show recorded to a local hard drive, played back from that hard drive, and never moved works fine every time, no matter how large the file and how quickly I skip through it.

2. My theory that the hard drive wasn't fast enough therefore also appears incorrect, but because a network drive may be relying on the speed of local buffering to make up for the network's shortcomings, I restored my original RAID 0 x 2 x 250GB setup and confirmed that the problem still exists - the RAID (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with this problem. I of course put things right back to my non-RAID (single original 250GB and a data 750GB) arrangement.

3. I thought it might have something to do with a cumulative database file (similar to the ehthumbnails.db file, but probably not that exact one); my earlier shows don't have the problem, but my later ones do. Perhaps shows that appear first in some hypothetical database are quicker to search, and the later the show, the more searching has to be done. To test this, I pointed my Recorded TV folder to the D: drive (after first removing the System restrictions to the registry I explained earlier in this thread) and recorded another show. This show, the latest one of them all, played fine; the problem is with shows recorded to the network, not the order in which they were recorded.

3. So shows that I recorded directly to my Netgear SC101 have the problem. Here's the interesting thing: if I then move or copy one of these shows to my local hard drive, it STILL has the problem; but if I copy a show recorded directly to hard drive to the network drive, it still DOESN'T have the problem (or much attentuated).

4. When the problem occurs - or at least when it's so bad that Media Center crashes - my physical memory is pretty much all gone. I tried eliminating my swap file (because of the disk thrashing) and wound up getting warnings about low memory. On the other hand, I forced separate 5GB (!) swapfiles for both my C: and D: drives to no avail.

5. I've tried enabling and disabling the Vista Windows Search feature from within services.msc to no avail. However, I noticed something interesting within the Properties screen for my disk drives: the C: and D: drives have Indexing turned on, while the Netgear drives don't (in fact, the checkbox to turn it on doesn't even exist, no doubt because they are not NTFS drives).

This last one is really baffling me. At first glance, it would seem to explain everything: of course files saved to a local drive, where indexing is turned on, would be able to parse more smoothly. But what confounds me is that even when a show recorded to the network is copied to the local drive, it still crashes, and when a show recorded to an indexed local drive is copied to the network, it doesn't. I admit I'm not an expert in indexing services; does this service somehow modify the content of the saved file itself while it is being created? I tried creating and saving a large Word document to two different drives - both the same size, but one with indexing turned on and the other turned off - and the file sizes on the disks are identical. That seems to indicate that nothing is being added to the file on the disk that has indexing turned on. So I ran a series of experiments to prove or disprove that indexing services is the root cause. I swapped out my 750GB drive for the spare 250GB (in case this experiment might screw up my recorded shows) and tried the following:

FIRST PROTOCOL:
1. Turn off indexing service to the D: drive.
2. Copy a show known to have the freezing problem from the network to the D: drive. The show I copied had very bad problems with skipping.
3. Confirm it still has the freezing problem...after copying to the D: drive, the freezing required much more skipping to precipitate the problem, but get this: when it did, not only did Media Center crash, but the show wound up deleting itself from the D: drive! (I suspect that it interpreted one too many skips as acknowledging the "delete" selection at the end of the show, but that's just a guess.)
4. Turn on indexing for the D: drive.
5. Check to see if the problem is now gone. If so, indexing is definitely the culprit.

HOWEVER, it wasn't. That could mean that indexing is not the problem, or it could mean that indexing must occur at the time of file creation and cannot be added later on. So, onto the next, more time-consuming experiment.

SECOND PROTOCOL:
1. Delete everything from D:\\Recorded TV
2. Turn off indexing to the D: drive.
3. Record a show.
4. Confirm that the show (recorded without indexing) freezes. If it doesn't, then indexing is not the culprit (or at least, indexing on a new drive isn't, I suppose there could be some issue with indexing on a populated drive that wouldn't show up on a virgin volume).

RESULTS: Worked perfectly, even when trying to stress Media Center by holding down SKIP all the way through the show. To clarify: on a local drive, disk indexing is not necessary to reliably skip through a show. No point in continuing the experiment.

(5. Delete the show.)
(6. Turn indexing service on to the D: drive.)
(7. Record a show.)
(8. Confirm that the show (recorded with indexing) does not freeze.)

So, either the problem lies elsewhere or else indexing only shows up as an issue when there are more shows to index (I've got about 90 in my "real" Recorded TV folder but of course in this experiment, there was only one). For the moment, I'm going to record shows directly to the D: drive and use the network for archival of shows I want to keep. A possible alternative would be to write a routine that automatically moves anything in the local Recorded TV folder to the network every night, but first I'll do manual archival of shows recorded locally I want to keep and build up a library of shows I know work (and besides, recording shows to the local drive and then moving them to the network is a really ugly kludge).

Is anyone having similar problems with shows recorded directly off-line (network, USB drives, etc.)? Is this problem specific to the SC101, or to any networked drive, or to any offline drive? How are you guys using external USB drives making out - are you using them as primary Recorded TV storage, and if so, can you skip through the programs?

Does anyone have a suggestion as to why Windows would run out of memory, engage in disk thrashing etc., when skipping through shows recorded to a non-local disk OR THEN COPIED TO A LOCAL DISK, but not exhibit that behavior on a show recorded to a local disk OR THEN COPIED TO A NON-LOCAL DISK? It sure seems like the file itself is physically different depending on where it was originally recorded to, but other than the aforementioned disk indexing (which apparently isn't the issue and which didn't change the physical size of a saved file anyway), I'm at a loss. This is driving me crazy!
post #172 of 3843
Just replaced my SECOND defective XL3 keyboard with an Adesso Slimtouch Mini. Bit pricey ($80 through buy.com) but simply not worth it to me to spend another two hours arguing with Sony's technicians (who want to charge $400+ for a replacement!!!), and it's infinitely better than the XL3 keyboard: smaller, lighter, better scrolling, and much longer range. Best built-in trackpad I've ever used; maybe it'll even exceed my expectations and last more than a few months. The only thing you lose is the XL3's silly "S-key" functionality, which frankly doesn't work half the time anyway. Uses a USB dongle but does not appear to be Bluetooth (2.4GHz). BTW if you go this route, beware of bargains: there are two cheaper Adesso wired keyboards that look just like this wireless model.
LL
post #173 of 3843
I've been very pleased with the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 (Silver). I bought it from Amazon for $123, but it can be found for less. It has an outstanding mouse and the keyboard has a little trackpad piece on it as well. I researched it well and am quite pleased with all the included media features and the overall experience. The range, btw, is outstanding.
post #174 of 3843
Touchless, some major idiot said the following:
>>you WILL NOT be able to output the XL3, or in all probability any HDPC, into a Slingbox because the HDPC will have only HDMI outputs that feed only into an HDCP-compliant destination, meaning either HDMI or special DVI connectors. I think it's a safe bet that the Slingbox will never qualify for that

Actually, that idiot was me, and I see that Microsoft announced a partnership with Sling for their new product to work with Vista MCE and the Slingbox Pro accepts an HDMI signal up to 1080i. So shut my mouth. Not that I'm recommending buying a slingbox pro just to see if it works with an XL3. BTW my original argument does continue to apply to the Slingbox Solo. Also this still seems to me to be a way to bypass HDCP (how does the XL3 know you're not hijacking the HD signal on the receiving end?) so I'm guessing that both the transmitting computer/DVR/STB and the receiving laptop have to be HDCP-compliant. But there's not enough info in the press release or on Sling's website to confirm that.

Jeff
post #175 of 3843
Those of you who have been following this thread for some time will remember the debate over Sony's use of the term "Full 1080 Resolution" in reference to the XL3, which of course produces only 1920x1080i, not 1920x1080p. A Sony rep even tried making the argument that since 1080 is the highest possible ATSC resolution it is therefore "full." However, he is demonstrably wrong: "full" in that construction is an adjective, so it is the "1080" that is "full." Dictionary.com defines "full" as "of the maximum size, amount, or extent possible"; saying that 1080i is "of the maximum 1080 size or amount" is redundant at best (a superfluous adjective that adds no additional information, e.g. a "Jewish rabbi") and 1080i is NOT the "maximum extent possible," 1080p is.

Well, just for S&Gs, you might be interested to know that these same marketeers are now working on the campaigns for the next generation of HD video camcorders. These machines from JVC, Panasonic and (of course) Sony are all tagged as "Full 1080" but not only do they produce 1080 lines INTERLACED but most of them actually output in only 1440x1080i. I don't think even the Sony rep can argue that 1440x1080 is "full" under any definition of the word. The output is "anamorphic" - they make the pixels rectangular, instead of square, so fewer pixels still come out in a 16:9 aspect ratio; very cute that you won't find the horizontal pixel count in any of their cut sheets. The absolute killer is that at least one of them actually scans the picture in at 1920x1080p, and then down-processes it to either 1920x1080i or 1440x1080i...and then mentions in their cut sheet that their sensor is "1920x1080p" ! (Technically true but completely irrelevant.) I haven't used one of these units and it is entirely possible that they produce very good video, for all I know perhaps even indistinguishable from 1920x1080p. But they, like the XL3, are NOT "full" 1080 and the use of that term is deliberately misleading - most people are going to assume that they output 1920x1080p and the fact that the cut sheets carefully avoid mentioning the actual output resolution proves that the marketing people are well aware of that fact.

So instead of being lambasted for calling the XL3 "Full 1080," Sony has started a trend. I work in the medical device and pharmaceutical industry, and in my business, deliberately leaving out important information so people will think your product does something that it actually doesn't constitutes "willful concealment of material facts" and gets you five years in federal prison. Sadly, in the consumer electronics industry, it apparently constitutes clever marketing.

UPDATE: I found the following quote in a gizmodo.com review of these camcorders that sums it up nicely: Well, "Full HD" seems to mean just 1920x1080i in this case, not 1080p. So, the 12Mbps would suffice. Marketing guys will undoubtedly invent another term ("Really Full HD, Honestly Mate") when consumer versions of 1920x1080p camcorders are released...
post #176 of 3843
Two updates related to the XL3 tuner card just appeared on Sony's support site. At first glance, they're nothing to get excited about, as they're not really XL3 or even Sony files, they've been on Microsoft's web site for several months now. According to Microsoft, they fix a problem with the tuner getting lost when you hibernate your computer while recording or watching live (buffered) TV. I haven't installed them because I don't have that problem. But here's the interesting part: Sony says something about these files that isn't on Microsoft's web site...

...Sony's site happens to mention that one of the drivers also allows premium channels to be viewed with an "M Card" installed! Maddenly, there are no other details. Of course this doesn't NECESSARILY mean that an OCUR XL3 will actually do multicast, it could just as easily mean you can stick in a CableCard2 and still get one-way OCUR viewing...but why on Earth would anyone do that? Sounds like something big is brewing. Hey, next time somebody has to call Sony Support and you get hold of someone knowledgeable, ask them about this! BTW has anyone tried installing these files just to see if they generally help? (or make things worse?)
post #177 of 3843
OCURs are one way, single stream devices. No software update will fix that. Updates would be common for dealing with M-Cards because that's what most cable co's give out. An M-Card in a S-Mode devices, works just like an S-Card.

Chris
post #178 of 3843
I've had all kinds of problems with my XL3 and finally they were all fixed. I had major video issues, sent it to SD twice and finally had to have them send a tech out to replace my video card.

Anyway, in the process of sending my unit to San Diego, they cracked the faceplate and had to order a new one. The new one has something very interesting in it, right above the headphone jack in the front, there is a little cover that can be opened that seems to give a hint as to what maybe the XL4 may do. It looks like there maybe a satelite version coming out. ON the XL3 it doesn't do anything but interesting to see.

As far as the two new firmwares, the new ATI firmware is an important one, ever since I installed them, my two ATI tuners (yes I have an external one) are ready to run within 20 seconds or so, before this it would take at least one minute for all the lights to go green. I'd recomend installing the new firmware.
post #179 of 3843
Quote:
Originally Posted by shervinf View Post

I've had all kinds of problems with my XL3 and finally they were all fixed. I had major video issues, sent it to SD twice and finally had to have them send a tech out to replace my video card.

Anyway, in the process of sending my unit to San Diego, they cracked the faceplate and had to order a new one. The new one has something very interesting in it, right above the headphone jack in the front, there is a little cover that can be opened that seems to give a hint as to what maybe the XL4 may do. It looks like there maybe a satelite version coming out. ON the XL3 it doesn't do anything but interesting to see.

As far as the two new firmwares, the new ATI firmware is an important one, ever since I installed them, my two ATI tuners (yes I have an external one) are ready to run within 20 seconds or so, before this it would take at least one minute for all the lights to go green. I'd recomend installing the new firmware.

can you post a picture of the new faceplate?
post #180 of 3843
Well ive had this unit for about a week. I originally had HDMI cables connected to my Pioneer 60" Plasma. Every time i turned off the TV and turned it back on i would get no video. I had the sony connected to one of my HDMI inputs(Video 5). If i changed from for example Video 1 and back to Video 5, i would experience the same thing,no picture. I had the resolution set on 1080i. Changing from one HD station to another would cause video stutter. So i changed the resolution back to 720p and the unit worked better but once in a while i would experience the same problem with 1080i setting where i would turn off,turn on TV and no picture. After being completely frustrated by rebooting the unit each time i had to turn the TV on, i decided to get rid of the HDMI cables and replaced with component cables. The unit works much better. No video or stutter problem. What do you guys suggest,change the video card,switch to 64bit, or stay with what works even if it means not getting the best possible picture. The unit has been updated with the most recent drivers. Need help.
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