Cable Cut

It’s been forever but I finally got to build a Windows Media Center DVR box. Back in February, I got my HDHomerun connected to an antenna and used a home baked script to view live television over my network using either VLC or mplayer. I even set up some cron jobs on my home server to ‘record’ some shows like a dvr. It worked, but not really well.

Modern DVRs have guides and software that help you not miss future episodes and help you not record garbage when the program you wanted isn’t on. So I was frequently checking the listings on line to make sure I didn’t miss anything. What a hassle.

Then I got my hands on an old HP laptop that sports a HDMI output and is running Windows 7. After a fresh install of the OS, I put it on my network and started up Windows Media Center (WMC). Set up Live TV to use my HDHomerun and waited for the guide to slowly download. I can’t stress it enough. Having a guide, an accurate and current guide is the only way to go.

Now, I see in the WMC menus, that I can attach my home server’s share and then stream Photos, Music, and Movies. It works ok. I did have to install extra codecs to allow the stock media player to decode all the various files I have.

While reading on line how to amp up WMC, I found that you could add plug-ins for Hulu Desktop and Boxee. Hulu Desktop is great to have. I do not have a Hulu Plus account, but it’s still fine all the same. I installed Boxee and with it’s great interface, codec support and imdb.com information, I don’t have to hunt for .nfo files and cover art any more. It’s so good that I removed the Movies Library from WMC.

Boxee is my preferred interface for enjoying my movies, music and photos. It has all the streaming apps I need. It’s only draw back would be it’s Netflix app. It frequently doesn’t completely load correctly. I have found that the Netflix interface in WMC is far better.

I am very happy with my current DVR/Media Streamer setup. I am considering removing the WDTV Live that I love from my home theater configuration. It just doesn’t get used. I have Live and Recorded TV, Netflix, and Hulu. I can stream all my media files from my server with out any extra work. And with the a browser handy, I even have flash. espn3.com and other sites like it are now available.

So with all of this great content, I have dumped using Cable TV. My family still has it, but in our main viewing area, there is no cable content. I haven’t missed a bit of it.

Enid High School Graduation Ceremony

We had family and friends gathered to celebrate Enid High School Graduation.  It was a whirl wind weekend.  It all came to a point with commencement on Friday night.  Here is a highlight video; approximately 5 1/2 minutes long.  It starts with the Marli and Madison‘s valedictorian speech, then receiving their diplomas and finally the cap toss.  My apologies for the shaky video.  Unfortunately I left the tripod at home.

Enid High School Awards Assembly

We could not be prouder.  Marli and Madison have worked for quite a long time to get this very point.  I have heard them say that couldn’t wait until high school was finally done!  This 4 1/2 minute video is just the highlights.

WDTV Live Plus Update

This is an update to my previous WDTV Live Plus post way back in October. I gave this box a four out of five. It still is a great box because of all the updates that Western Digital have been pushing down, I thought I should add some more to the review.

The current version of the firmware is 1.04.31 dated April 12, 2011. This update and all previous updates have only increased our use of this trusty media box. Some of the improvements include an updated Netflix interface.
Netflix Interface 3.0
The old interface was fine as long as you could manage your Instant Queue. You would have to go online and add items to the queue and then when at your TV find them to play. Now the new interface allows you to manage your Instant Queue but also search the complete library. You really don’t need the Instant Queue anymore. This interface also adds support for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and Subtitles.

Another internet streaming feature is CinemaNow.  This service allows you buy or rent movies and tv shows.  While this is similar to Netflix, CinemaNow is pay as you go and Netflix is a monthly charge.  It looks like CinemaNow’s content is more current than Netflix.  My family and I have not set up an account yet.  So I can’t speak to the quality versus Netflix quality.  One could continue the debate of monthly versus as-you-go also.

Other internet features include Blockbuster, Youtube, Mediafly, Flingo, PandoraTunein, Deezer, Live365, and Flickr.  There is still no support for PicasaWeb or Hulu.  The streaming of local content has only gotten better.  Support for DVD ISOs is worth mentioning.

So all and all, the WDTV Live Plus has become more and more solid.  We are glad we have it and can’t wait for future updates.

Enid Trail Funding Approved

This is an update to my previous post about Enid updating it’s city trail system. On Tuesday, April 19, the City unanimously approved the funding for Phase I & II.

Phase I is to continue west from Parkway Street to Oakwood Street with a spur going south to Hays Elementary School. Phase II will extend Phase I from Oakwood Street to Garland and continue the southern spur past Hays Elementary to Rupe Avenue. Some bonus construction will be added. A trail head restroom and parking lot on Cleveland Street will be built where the Rail Road Pass Trail will intersect.

I attended the City Council meeting to get more details of cost and construction but mostly to see which members were for and which were against. The City’s initial cost estimate for Phase I only was $1.5 million. And to include Phase II they were projecting over $2 million. The City wants to complete Phase I and II at the same time. But, alas, the Oklahoma DOT wants them done separately. Still the City found a way to fund Phase I and II with some added trail features for around $1.7 million. One of the savings, $30,000, was choosing concrete over asphalt for the trail surface.

Contracts where awarded and debt was paid for engineering services . Construction should start in less than 60 days. Commissioner Don Rose, member of the city park board, seems to be the ‘Commissioner in Charge’ for this project. But there was no real opposition to this trail system. This has been in the works and on everyone’s to-do list for a very long time. The discussion was really uneventful; no fireworks at all.

For more information, search the local newspaper, Enid News and Eagle.