Tag Archives: Windows 7 MCE

Computers are fun…

Precious blog time has been consumed lately by issues with the home computers.

As the NFL season is ramping up along with new seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh the Media PC. The one that was there was put there in disgust when I couldn’t get the last refresh built out of some Frakenstein components and smallish case that was a little too loud and ran the drives a bit too hot. Makes sense to recombine a few parts that I had been hoarding from “great” deals to refresh it, right?

Well, this became a huge time waster. The new machine was totally silent, a little bit speedier and looked a lot nicer than the old one. Great, eh? Until it would randomly freeze. This was particularly distressing as that was what had forced me to abandon the earlier refresh in frustration. Just like I did about a year ago, I started down the path of replacing components to figure out the problem was.  I accepted that the power supply was good as it had been in use for over a year and was a solid brand right in the same Antec case, so no worries about electrical  shorts and extremely horrible power supply.  By using integrated graphics, the power footprint for the new media center PC should have been very tiny.

I was convinced that components shared with the previous failed media center build out where the culprits – that was limited to the CPU, heat sink and memory.

  • Changed out the heat sink.  No change.
  • Changed out the CPU. No change.  Ran PRIME95 for hours.
  • The old, failed setup was running better with a newer CPU.  Picked up a used, newer CPU.  No change.  (the PC sat in the corner for a couple days here)
  • Ran memtest4 overnight, no issues. (memory checked out)
  • Plugged the PC right into a surge protector rather than the UPS.  Now getting a “signal lost” freeze when watching TV.
  • Changed the tuner out for a different Hauppauge tuner.  No change.
  • Replaced the power supply with a brand new one.  No change.
  • Added in a ATI all in wonder 3650.  BAM.  Blue screen.  Reinstalled Windows 7, same issue.

I had to think about this for a while.  So, the only repeat part that was still in use from the previous, failed build was the damn ram. Replaced that, no more blue screen.  Theory?   The integrated graphics were using the RAM that was bad, hiding it from memtest.   Tonight I am going to put that ram into a box that isn’t using integrated graphics and test it out.

Lesson learned?  Dammit, maybe memtest doesn’t work with new AMD chipsets (as the memtest forums indicated)?  Bleh.  Too much wasted time.


QAM tuning in Windows 7 with Comcast

I finally gave into the siren call of clear QAM tuning on Windows 7 here in the Twin Cities north metro.  Our TV pulls in the clear QAM signals without issue for all of our local channels so it stood to reason any tuner capable of clear QAM would give the same result.

Clear QAM is great because it (an unencrypted digital TV signal, both regular and high definition rebroadcasts of local channels) comes into the house over the cable and not over the air.  I have long used Over The Air (OTA) tuning to DVR high definition content but this is incredibly finicky in any type of inclement weather.  The final straw was missing the entire Vikings vs. ‘Niners game because it was windy and that messed up the reception on the OTA.  As many of you have probably experienced so far, OTA digital TV sucks sometimes because it doesn’t degrade, it just goes away.

Recently, NewEgg ran a great deal on the Hauppauge HVR-1250 and I couldn’t resist picking one up to try.  I am glad to report that it works as advertised and was really easy to install.  I installed the newest drivers from Hauppage’s website and their softmce software and was good to go after running the TV setup again.  I then went through the four channels that matter, the high def versions of CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC and “split” them – making the OTA and QAM channels both showup in the guide so that we can explicitly choose which one to use at a given time.  Probably took about an hour of effort overall, but I highly recommend it.  The quality is pretty decent and it is obviously much more reliable than the OTA reception.

One item of note is that my system was able to capture two HD recordings at once (while time shifting and watching one) and it isn’t too beefy – an OS hard drive and a capture hard drive, a 2.3ghz dual core AMD processor, 2GB of Ram and Windows 7 Professional on a decent AMD motherboard with integrated graphics.

Finally, the fact that it is PCIe was a  configuration life saver.  My Hauppauge HVR-1600 is PCI, so is the wireless-n card I have.  That left me with only PCIe slots to fill  and precious few reasonably priced options.  Thanks Hauppauge 🙂