Windows 8 Media Center (there and back again)

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Our Media Center PC has been running reasonably well since I built it way back in July 2008. Wow – almost 5 years old – actually that probably explains the state of the remote control (currently being held together with duct tape!)

Anyway after successfully upgrading my laptop and reprovisioned desktop (formerly the Hyper-V/Homeserver) to Windows 8 I decided I'd update the Media Center as well.

Upgrading was relatively painless in itself. I took a backup of the Windows 7 install (just in case) and then did a fresh install of Windows 8 x64 and then activated my free Media Centre license. I'd previously been running 32 bit Windows 7, but didn't anticipate any problems.

One interesting side-effect of using the 'English (British)' install of Windows 8 was that some of the terminology in Media Centre was slightly different. What was called "original air date" was now "original date broadcast"

win 8 mce recorded tv

And predictably, "Program Details" became "Programme Details" (though because that was now wider than the pop-up menu, the text would scroll side-to-side so you could read all of it!)

win 8 mce guide settings

So that was all well and good, but there were a few things that didn't work so well.

Presumably because of the new Windows 8 start screen, there is no longer a setting to make Media Center start at Windows Startup (kind of handy for a dedicated Media Center PC). The workaround for that was to create a batch file that is run via a scheduled task triggered at login (a bit of a hack).

The other problem that became quickly apparent was that despite Windows 8 generally having a better reputation for performance than Windows 7, in this instance it seemed that there were some specific problems. Audio for live TV was consistently getting out of sync with the video. I suspected that the hardware may be struggling to keep up with pushing the data around. Only 2GB of ram and using the original on-board video adapter might be an issue.

I thought I'd try replacing one thing at a time, so swapped in a newer video card (borrowed from the desktop box). This seemed to solve the audio sync problem, so I went and purchased a separate card – an nVidia GeForce 630 card. Installing this was straight-forward, but then revealed a new problem. For some reason the video output from the nVidia card was too wide for our TV. Despite using HDMI and setting the screen to 1920x1080 (the same resolution as the onboard ATI video card was using), I couldn't get it to shrink. Unfortunately our TV didn't have any controls to change the size of the picture either.

The next problem became evident later on. Almost every day the first time the Media Center PC was turned on I was greeted with a "This computer has unexpectedly restarted" message. Searching the event log revealed a consistent errors such as:

Initially the errors related to 'Sleep' so I switched over to using Hibernate but as you can see that didn't improve things.

After enduring two weeks of this I decided enough was enough. After doing another backup (so that I could give Windows 8 another try when some of these issues might have been resolved), I dropped in the Windows 7 Recovery CD and restored back to Windows 7 (taking out the nVidia card at the same time).

So while Windows 8 has been great for the other computers in the house, I think we'll stick with Windows 7 Media Center for now.

Tour Down Under 2013

Friday, 25 January 2013

For the past few years I've always taken part in the community challenge ride which is part of the Tour Down Under. Sadly it wasn't to be this year. A couple of weeks ago I was out with the Mud, Sweat and Gears guys on a training ride and somehow managed to injure my back on the final ride home.

While not as bad as when I quite badly hurt it a few years ago, it still has meant time off work and a fair bit of lying down to give it a chance to improve.

It was great weather for riding today. I'm disappointed I missed out (not to mention the Tanunda bakery too), but hopefully I'll be in a healthier state for next year's ride.

Visual Studio 2012 thank you

Friday, 28 December 2012

There I was about to enjoy a nice sleep-in on the first day of my holidays on Monday when the doorbell rang. It was a courier delivering a nice thankyou present from Microsoft for helping test out and provide feedback on Visual Studio 2012.

Visual Studio Thank You box

Opening up this large box revealed a smaller gift inside

Visual Studio Thank You box opened

It's a shiny glass cube with writing etched in the middle of it..

Visual Studio 2012 Crystal Cube

And it turns out this is a nice match to a similar present I received a few years ago for testing Visual Studio 2008 (which means I must have missed out 2010). The 2012 version is an identical size, but has one corner bevelled off so it can sit on that corner. The new cube also has the latest rendition of the Visual Studio logo.

Visual Studio 2008 and 2012 cubes side by side

Putting them together, yes they are the same size!

2012 cube on top of 2008 cube

I know that it's Christmas..

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Because people will even dance to some guy trying to play the 'cello..

David practising his 'cello

Always nice to have enthusiasm when you're doing a sound checkSmile 

This year we visited our friends across town who were organising a Christmas Eve service at Playford Uniting. I was also able to be part of their band playing a few Christmas carols.

Because the Road to Christmas is on again..

Actors being King Herod and his entourage

And even made the Channel Seven news. Over the 3 evenings that this runs there's probably a few thousand people from the local community (and beyond) that come and experience sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Bethlehem. It's a great atmosphere and lots of fun too.

Because the cactus that flowers at Christmas is in flower..

Cactus flower

and the flowers came out first in the morning on Christmas day this year too.

Because the table is set for Christmas lunch..

Table set for Christmas lunch

Because Narelle cooked up a storm..

Christmas lunch ready to eat


Because the pudding is ready..

Christmas pudding

Extra yummo.

Because Mum & Dad gave me a new Super Soaker!

David unwrapping a super-soaker water pistol

So it turns out that the CFS actually recommend having one of these around the house. If you did have a bushfire go through then then a key thing is to put out any spotfires in gutters or roof spaces once the main fire front has passed. They reckon a super soaker is good as you can pop your head up through the manhole into the ceiling and squirt any smouldering embers that might have found their way inside.

The other benefit is that it means I can now compete with my son's soaker he got as a LobsterPot Christmas present a couple of years ago (thanks Rob!)

Because it is a chance to take a breath..

Borrowing from the theme of Pete's message at the Christmas Eve service. After a busy and in many ways difficult year this year it is good to have a couple of weeks off and take a breath (or two).

Time to spend with family. Time to sleep in (maybe). Time to do a bit of riding in preparation for the Tour Down Under in a few weeks. Time to reflect on the year that was and the year that is to come. Time to appreciate the extraordinary gift that is the real reason for celebrating Christmas.

The Email dilemma

Monday, 17 December 2012

Following on from my investigations into services that summarise DMARC reports, I've come to the conclusion that the reason for the warnings about email from is because even though the account on hotmail is configured to send as, it still is sending the email officially using the sender address.

While it passes the SPF rule (that permits the hotmail email servers to send emails), this explains why DMARC warns that the email is "unaligned" – eg. the email says it's from instead of

The problem is that while Hotmail does support adding additional email accounts, it only lets you configure ability to pull emails (via POP3) – you can't enter a SMTP server to send emails. Sent emails always go out via the Hotmail SMTP servers.

One solution might be to migrate the Hotmail user over to GMail and configure GMail to pull their email instead (and unlike Hotmail, GMail can be configured to use a different SMTP server for addtional email accounts).

But just as I was considering this option, I came across the news that Google is discontinuing support for Exchange ActiveSync! Why does this matter? Well as a Windows Phone user this has the potential to be a show stopper. ActiveSync is the protocol used to sync my GMail, Contacts and Calendar between my phone and Google. Whilst it does say that existing configured devices will continue to function, too bad if I change phones in the future.

So another option might be to switch my domain's email over to Hotmail instead of staying with GMail, unless Microsoft can release updates for Windows Phone that restore compatibility with GMail after January 31st.