Completed Mediaportal RC2 – my move away from VISTA Mediacenter after the TV Pack disaster (1 Viewer)


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  • February 26, 2008
    Mediaportal RC2 – my move away from VISTA Mediacenter after the TV Pack disaster (only for OEM´s)

    Fotostory to be found in the PDF Attachment !!!

    Dear community,

    I´d like to share some of my experiences with you by explaining my move away from Vista Mediacenter (VMC) towards Mediaportal RC2 for the ones currently asking themselves if they should try this move as well.
    I´d say definitely YES you should try it !

    But it is from my point of view a question of the right combination of Hardware (especially the TV cards), a little bit of Tekkie Skills / Adventure Spirit and some basic understanding of what your system shall do for you and what not – so your expectation should be at least set to a certain degree before starting any activities to move over.
    Reading the Mediaportal Forum helps a lot and gets easier if you know what you are searching for.

    My Mediacenter history:
    I was a heavy and hardcore VMC and Mediacenter 2005 User in the last 3 years when I started building my own Mediacenter PC´s on ASUS AMD platforms with NVIDIA Graphiccards and Samsung Spinpoint SATA discs. My wife often said in that time that she´d like to see sometimes the front of me again as I was stuck for “months (her timescale)” inside our TV rack or in my OrigenAE, Aplus and DIGN Alloy PC cases in the evening hours. After 6 months of an intense learning process about Hardware, Cooling, Fans and disk noises I had my first system No. 1 up and running, based on MCE 2005, as I wanted it, but I was so thrilled from the result that I needed to test if I could do it faster and better with a second system. That said, 3 weeks later my No. 2 started to work, again based on MCE 2005, in the living room – super silent and super stable – forcing No.1 to be located in my home office.

    While the two systems were working stable I figured out that the Technotrend TV cards (S-1500) were not THE solution to watch Satellite TV on a Mediacenter PC. The quality of the signal was too poor for a larger LCD flatscreen. That was the moment when an intense research process started to identify THE best in class TV cards for my purposes (Full HD Philips LCD screen and Sony Bravia LCD screen).
    The result of this search was the selection of Digital Everywhere (digital everywhere - digital TV cards for PC, Laptop and HTPC) as my provider of choice to supply my new Satellite TV cards. As I am a excessive fan of as less heat as possible inside my Mediacenter I voted in favor of the external FireDTV-S TV cards as the cards of choice, which has been a huge benefit during my move to Mediaportal if I compare the discussions around other TV card producers I have seen in the past. (More details to follow later in this thread)

    That said I need to add that after my upgrade of the 2 Mediacenter Systems from MCE 2005 OS to Vista Ultimate, experiencing an extremely quick OS install procedure compared to MCE 2005, I added a central Microsoft Homeserver (based on MSI AMD platform and various components “over” from my first and second system as they “suffered” some Vista related (demanded) hardware upgrades) during the course of the last year to have a central repository for VMC images as the need for recovery images were somehow “state of the art” when the one or the other needed VISTA Ultimate Updates were crashing the one or the other Mediacenter function of the VMC. Additionally I wanted to have my Music, Videos and Photos available at any location of my home and due to the fact that my homecontrol software is PC based I needed a server anyway.

    After various re-installs of the Vista Mediacenter PC with different issues my desire to have one single & stable TV Server platform to be accessed via clients was getting stronger and stronger and Microsoft´s decision to provide the “Fiji” TV Pack only to OEM´s was the moment when I started to think about a “plan B” as I wanted to have a multituner DVB-S solution in place. (made an error planning my house with only one cable to the SAT dish and Fiji would have provided multisignal TV Tuner Support)

    So my expectation was:
    DVB-S/S2 Multituner, Single hardware instance, TV Server, Client / Server Infrastructure, HDTV channels inside Mediacenter surface, Easy install, Easy recover, Easy configure, Easy enhancements, Easy design change to fit to my wifes / childs needs

    When my Mediacenter journey started some years back I already had tested Mediaportal as the solution for my systems, but in that time it was too much “open source & tricky” for me and I went down the MS standard path although I had seen very nice features already in that time. In that time it was the right choice for me I´d say.
    This experience of that times led after some head scratching to a new test of Mediaportal on a single test machine and I have to admit that I was astonished to see what the “too much open source” community I had in mind has achieved during the course of time while I wasn´t really following the developments.
    The installed analogue Hauppauge PVR250 card on the test system was immediately recognized and tuning channels – I remember huge issues to get it to work on that VISTA based PC with the Hauppauge software – which led to the conclusion that there seems to be something really going into the right direction with the Mediaportal solution and generated a solid level of curiosity.

    So I decided to try the RC2 Install on my Homeserver. After checking back with some users of the community I knew from my VMC Community activities, I learnt that the MS Homeserver has some limitations for a full Mediaportal Single Instance install and did only install the TV-Server 3 without any major issues. The missing software components to run Mediaportal on the Homeserver were detected by the install routine and installed without major complaints. The Homeserver only shows a short “not supported” screen when the configuration is started, but this does, from my current point of view, not have an effect on the function of any TVE3 service or compenent.
    So the challenge I expected was now to get the TV cards to work as the MS Homeserver is known to be NOT really designed to be a TV-Server by design.

    Here my 2 Digital Everywhere cards (1xFireDTV-S and 1xFireDTV S2) came into the game and the BDA driver installation, including the embedded Mainconcept H.264 codec for the DVB-S2 card, went through absolutely smooth, installing 2 Tunercards and the DVB Viewer Software (here for test purposes extremely helpful). After a short reboot both cards could be found in the Mediaportal TV Server configuration and where immediately ready to tune Satellite TV / Radio Channels.

    I knew this issue-less installation behavior of the VMC installations where Digital Everywhere was also the ONLY card provider really providing an out of the box solution with MCE drivers, but I had never used the BDA driver setup before – it confirmed their perfect work again.

    First of all I chose to scan only DVB-S channels on both cards and afterwards I told the FireDTV-S2 card to scan on a second LNB only for the additional HDTV channels. A test with the preview button of the TVE3 configuration tool showed the first TV channel on the Homeserver WITHOUT any tweaking !

    Additionally the TV Movie EPG Plug-in can be used for more detailed EPG:

    As this went through so smoothly I dared to install the Mediaportal Client Software on my Laptop PC to see if a Client connection is working correctly and with the needed performance.
    After a quick configuration, telling the MP client the name of the Homeserver, I connected to the Server and it worked immediately. I was watching crystal clear TV via WirelessLAN via my Homeserver in the basement, powered by my 2 FireDTV Satellite cards.

    A dream close to come true. My wife watching her stuff and I´d still have the chance to watch something else with my earphones sitting next to her in the living room…call me strange, but there are some TV shows a real man does not really need to see.
    So the next step was now to test the Multituner function. So I chose a scrambled TV signal (ARENA Bundesliga (German Soccer League) for recording and was watching some sports at the same time.
    The CPU load of my Homeserver was between 10-15 % and my goodness it worked again.
    The system recorded the signal without stuttering in DolbyDigital and was Timeshifting the other channel at the same time. Something VMC had it´s issues with as well, when not absolutely a top edge hardware platform.
    The amazement increased exponentially within seconds.

    That was the last time when I was thinking if I should or should not change my productive VMC systems to Mediaportal RC2.

    This said, the move of 2 Vista Mediacenter Systems took place within less than 2 hours and I was so keen to see HDTV inside my Mediacenter Surface (something the MS “Fiji” TV Pack did not contain in the end either – beside the availability issue) that I immediately tuned into Anixe HD. This test resulted in a DolbyDigital Sound reaching my Dolby Receiver, but no picture was visible. This was a tiny decoder issue which was solvable within 2 minutes in the TV Client configuration of Mediaportal by chosing another video codec. Something needing an extra, inofficial tool to do with VMC.

    That was the first time when I did see HDTV on my large LCD panel without using the supplied DVB Viewer of Digital Everywhere and being able to use my configured Harmony 885 remote control for controls.

    That was quite inspiring, as this topic is one of THE topics heavily discussed in the VMC communities since more than a year and has not led to any results till today. Here I have to express my sincere respect to the developers of this solution as they enabled the top edge functions of my FireDTV-S2 TV card seamlessly.
    Here the limitations of WirelessLAN became obvious as it was not possible to get this DVB-S2 signal to display anything on my Laptop. What I honestly did not really expect to work on my IBM T42, but it wouldn´t have surprised me anymore I it would have worked somehow as well.

    As you can see it has been a journey of amazement stretching over 2 weeks to reach this technical point and a solid dot on the middle of the learning curve.
    The phase I´d call continuous improvement process has started 10 weeks ago.

    During that time I spotted the nicest plug-ins for my needs (Fritzbox call visualization, RSS feeds with Weather icon on Startscreen, e-mail plug-in, Globalsearch), I tested the hottest skins (my favorites are Black & White, Indigo and Project Mayhem III BlueMod) and I identified the most important bottlenecks inside my home network (Devolo dLAN Adapters can have severe differences in transmission rates from one plug to another) for a stuttering free operation of my new Mediaportal Homeserver network.

    What really amazed and still amazes me is the completeness of the solution and the number of configuration and enhancement options you alle here have been creating over the time.
    The seamless embedding of HDTV Signals and the use of my FireDTV cards is working absolutely stable and up to now I have not had a problem with the TVE3 server / Homeserver / FireDTV backend system at all. It just works without any need to restart the TVE3 once due to a freeze. This seems to point to a very good cooperation between soft and hardware. So I might have been very lucky when I chose the platform for my server and my TV cards.

    The Clients sometimes tend to freeze if my daughter wants to get to some point too fast, but I assume that this has also a root course inside my home network, beside possible loadtimes of the skins I like.
    So I´ll add my findings of the coming weeks here if you´d like to provide additional insights of what I am learning every day with my new “most loved IT Media landscape”.

    Thank you to the ones who made this bold move forward possible. :D:D:D:D


    • Mediaportal RC2 - my journey.pdf
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