Archive for Media Center

A tale of 4 beta’s – Vale refresh, Hyper-V Server R2 SP1 v178 beta, Fabulatech USB over network beta, MS ISCSI Target 3.3 beta

A tale of 4 beta’s – am I mad!?!?  well maybe, but here goes..

But first to cut to the chase..  As I mentioned to a colleague only today – the Vail refresh ROCKS!!, it needs Silverlight 4 for the integrated media controls to make video, music, photos, etc. super sexy and prompts to install if you haven’t got it – Silverlight’s awesome also! 🙂


Microsoft Windows Home Sever codenamed Vail – TP refresh install


So it is R2 after all (I always thought it would be but quite a lot of folks who should know better referred to it as Windows Server 2008 – fundamentally different than Windows Server 2008 R2!)


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A lovely Vail splash screen, configure a few tasks:

Shutdown with 28 updates later..


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A new (media center) PC test – the Tranquil ixL i5 Power PC…

Something we rarely talk about on the blog but enthuse and evangilise to many is Windows Media Center. I’ve been building and using Media Center for our primary entertainment system since the days of Window XP Media Center Edition beta’s c.2002-03.

I’ve built several systems for various friends and family over the years, but when our main home media center based on a Shuttle SG36M died due to a PSU failure (also took out the motherboard – a bummer!), it was time to be looking for a new machine (the brightside to the failure I guess! ;-))

As a long time listener of Ian Dixon’s podcast at I’d heard of Tranquil ( who are based in Manchester. Tranquil produce fanless pieces of highend exotica covering Media Centers, Home Servers, and powerful new Intel i5 based PC’s…

Now Tranquil don’t produce ‘cheap’ kit and fortunately I’m a believer in ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ so £459 + VAT later I’d ordered the ixL i5 Power PC with an Intel i5-650 (and a CD/DVD optical drive).

I got my order in late on Tuesday, and this morning a very nice looking box arrived..

..with a complimentary Boost bar! – how they knew my hangover needed a sugar fix I don’t know, but the experience certainly started great! 🙂

Over the weekend I’m looking forward to getting a couple of gigs of 1066Mhz RAM, a Corsair 128GB SSD, and my Hauppauge dual DVB-T in there and seeing how she flys with some test builds.. likely Win7 32-bit and Windows Server 2008 R2 (for testing as a Hyper-V platform plus 64-bit driver support), but first work and clients to see… 😦

Returning at the weekend for my first test built I grabbed a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit) which installed painlessly enough, but did list the following as needy of drivers:

Display adapter driver –
Ethernet (network) driver –
PCI Serial Port –
PCI Simple Communications Controller (read IR RX) –

With no documentation or driver media in the box, if you’ve ordered anything but a pre-built system you will need to go and find driver support from the web, however as the sytem is based on a current Intel desktop motherboard, the Intel® Desktop Board DH57JG, this is a fairly trivial task.

A visit to will get you covered with 32 & 64-bit drivers for Windows 7, Vista, XP Pro, plus 32-bit for XP Home, and even Windows XP Media Center Edition (one day I might restore an image of XPMCE as I still have the Compaq D510 SSF PC I used in the first builds back in 2002-3!).

Going for the lazy option I grabbed the network driver first so I could let Windows Update do its worst on the rest – 35 updates later, inc. Intel HD Graphics (Intel listed as , Microsoft Update provided – the last digits being significant, the same) and a restart resulted in still needing the PCI Serial Port & Communications Controller (likely the same driver)

At the same time, I’d recommend: – which includes a link to Automatically detect and update drivers and software (the really lazy option – but it works really well, after I’d been struggling getting the audio outputs to work, bar SPDIF)

Chipset: Intel® Chipset Device Software for Intel® Desktop Boards –
(this one may also address the PCI Simple Communications Controller / IR reciever, but I’m having no luck just yet…)

Intel® Desktop Utilities for 4 & 5 Series Desktop Boards –

Intel® HD Graphics Driver for Windows* Vista and Windows* 7 –

Audio: Realtek* ALC Audio Driver –

I mentioned performance updates coming soon, on Windows 7 32-bit with the above drivers the Performance Information and Tools (Windows Experience Index) gave a rating of 4.8, comprised of:

Processor: 6.9
Memory: 5.5
Graphics: 4.8
Gaming graphics: 5.3
Primary hard disk: 5.9

Thermal performance and other hardware monitors curtousy of the Intel Hardware Monitor application:

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Windows 7 Build 7000 upgrade of Vista Media Center

Today, I finally upgraded our trusty homebrew Vista Media Center (VMC) system to the Windows 7 public beta (Build 7000) in the thought that by now it should be pretty solid and the obvious issues resolved…

The new Windows 7 media center UI is great!, although in the guide the dynamic column for the channels can mean that you end up with less guide content on right hand pane than in the previous VMC…. it is very early days though, and looking great thus far! 🙂

The dual-tuner issue currently doing the rounds on TGB (see is a real pain, and will prevent me from testing this build on my primary media center which is a shame for us all – me to wow guests, wife, etc. with what’s new coming down the line, and Microsoft for the feedback. I’m a diligent tester and on the WHS PP2 connect beta (as in feedback), was on the EBS TAP last year (inc. Redmond airlift), and have a good media center environment for testing (WHS plus XBox360 & Linksys extenders used as primary devices, both wired & wireless).
I also evangelize media center and have built several systems for friends & family using VMC, but built like a good custom installer/OEM with years of experience in corporate deployment (not just thrown on like your average Dell build! 😉 )

Good job I took a WIM (imagex) image of the VMC build before deploying Windows 7 and copied it to an archive just in case the USB drive fails… might need it before the weekend is out! 😦

Interestingly the cleaned images before and after upgrade are very similar in size...





As I was updating this post my wife came down from out bedroom (Linksys DMA2100 extender) cursing as the bloody TV isn’t working again (again..?!?! come on that isn’t fair!), we eventually ascertain it is defiantly not as stable as before… looks aren’t everything I tell myself hmmm…. a hasty retreat me thinks! (maybe a clean build, rather than upgrade is needed..? I’d better get my coat!).


This is a double shame, and an embarrassing one at that! Only earlier I’d rather prematurely and enthusiastically Emailed a couple of friends who I foolishly thought would benefit from Win7MC… I can’t think of the beating they would give me for blaming me as their wives & children left them for turning their perfectly working VMC digital home into a digital junk yard! 😉 okay okay! I know it’s Beta software! (I should know better!).

Subject: Upgrade to your Media Center… Windows 7 Media Center beta… Windows 7 Media Center Revealed | We Got Served


When we spoke today and I mentioned distractions… rather than doing much needed accounts & finance stuff I was about to take an image of our media center pre install of the first public beta of Windows 7. Windows 7 is the next big thing to be released from Microsoft in time for next Christmas, or maybe earlier…


I upgraded our Vista Media Center (very similar build to yours) this afternoon so all programs, settings, content, etc. remained intact and it works a dream thus far (only been running about 3hrs… 😉


Lots of nice new, cool features, including one you may be interested in… native support for H.264 / HiDef TV broadcast (no cards yet mind), and Blu-Ray! 🙂 Oh and it’s noticeably faster than Vista as it has less demands on the system – does more on less hardware, maybe even as quick as XP 😉


Btw, this beta lasts until end of August 2009, and in the coming months there will be more which will last beyond this (unless of course they release the final code).


So if either of you are interested (suggest an image 1st) let me know and we can sort it.


If you are brave, you can download from here and do it yourself, if not so brave just watch the videos…


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