Friday, February 24, 2006

Fight Night Round 3 (XBOX 360)

- $48 at frys
- I created my own boxer (the options are pretty extensive. almost like creating a rpg character) and started career mode. I've won two fights so far and completed a training session before each fight which helps boost your stats. The manual is pretty skimpy and you pretty much have to figure out what to do in the training mini games all by yourself.
- I tried the original xbox FNR3 (at least it supports 480p wide screen) and compared it against the x360 version. Yeah there is no comparison in the graphics department. Gameplay wise if you leave the HUD on it's pretty close I'll have to admit. Yeah I'm a graphics whore. I'll pay more for pretty pictures.
- One of the big selling points on the x360 is that you are suppose to leave the hud off and just use graphic cues to determine the state of your boxer and your opponent which is how a real boxer does it. Ummm it's a game. I like hud's. At least it's a simple option you can toggle.
- ring girls.
- I've read talks about intrusive advertising but so far I've haven't noticed ANY advertising graphics or audio. Maybe it's because I'm such a lowly fighter right now and don't have any "sponsors" yet?
- When you get knocked out you have a little mini game to get back up.
- I really enjoyed the demo and this full version doesn't disappoint. I've never played any of the other FN's before so the right analog stick for punches feels really innovative.

The demo is a pretty good representation of what you will get in the full version. I loved the demo so I really like the full version. Give it a try and see if it's your type of game.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

AV Switches

Joytech AV Control Center 240C

- $90 at best buy. Hard to find now. Mostly sold out.
- 6 component (7th input on the front is composite/svideo only)
- 4 optical
- remote with descrete IR codes for each input
- custom LCD display (5 chars max). Label each input anything you want.
- Backlight turns on briefly only when turning on the unit or switching inputs.
- Picture does NOT jump/roll during bright contrast scenes.
- Quality looks good for the most part with ONE exception. On an xbox over component 480p if you use the optical audio hookup it for some unkown reasons generates an "interference" like pattern that is only really visible on black or really dark scenes when sitting close. If you unplug the optical cable then it immediately clears up and the picture looks fine. This is consistent across all 4 inputs that have optical. Of course the other 2 component inputs look fine since they don't have optical inputs. I've tried two different units from two best buys and they both behave exactly the same so this issue is systemic.
- I've read reports of rolling/screen jitter during very bright scenes. This seems to only happen with CRT's. I never experienced this since I'm using a LCD flat panel.


Score(Pelican) Universal System Selector Pro 2.0

- $100 at gamestop ($80 at frys)
- 5 component (6th input on the front is composite/svideo only)
- 3 optical
- remote with descrete IR codes for each input
- LCD desplay only lets you toggle between preset labels. You can't write your own.
- Backlight is on all the time.
- Picture does NOT jump/roll during bright contrast scenes.
- Quality looks very good on input one. But on inputs 2-5 there were various problems. Several inputs showed lots of wavey lines, one looked completely purple. I exchanged it for another unit (from a different gamestop even). This time different inputs were broken and exhibited similar problems. Input 1 was always perfect but at least 2-3 of the other inputs were really really bad. It seems there is a major build quailty issue. I ended up returning it.

If you can find a working unit the Score isn't too bad for the money. Right now I'm learning to live with the Joytech. The distortion really isn't noticeable during gameplay. Besides I really need the 4 way optical switch with remote. The cheapest I found that is for $90 so think of the video switching as a bonus.

What I'm really waiting for is this joytech switch:
4 way component, 4 way optical, with remote, $99 retail
It's suppose to be out in a couple of months. I hope it fixes the optical interference issue.
UPDATE: It seems to be out now:

Additional info:

4 way optical switch with remote: (not sold anymore?) ($120) (3 way manual)

cheap way to combine two optical (as long as both devices aren't on at the same time)


THE top of the line (and the most expensive):

Other higher priced tier options:

4 way component only switch

4 port HDMI switch

5 port HDMI switch

another hdmi/video only switch: - thanks curtis104

3 way component/optical with remote $65 + 11 shipping (never heard of these guys: (review) - thanks 13th shadow

UPDATE 4/9/06
A new switch: Psyclone Source Selector PSC01 just showed up at Best Buy for $100. It's a 4 way component all with optical. My friend just got one so I should have more info soon. He says the quality is great. No loss in picture quality. The only drawback, and it's a pretty big one, no discrete remote IR codes. You only get up/down select buttons.

UPDATE: 11/26/06

- Psyclone PSC01 Component Switch with the new 7 button advance remote
- $105 at best buy
- You can't tell by the box if it has the new remote. Just open the box (it's not sealed) and the remote should be taped to the center of the switch. Just look for the extra buttons.
- I tested all 4 ports with X360 over component 720p with optical 5.1 sound. It all worked perfectly with excellent video quality across all 4 ports. Quality is better than the Joytech 240c.
- The new remote is great with discreet input selection.
- Switching is smooth and pop free.
- I didn't test the ethernet since I have a dedicated 16 port ethernet switch I'm already using.
- 4 sets of inputs each with component, composite, s-video, and optical. 1 set of outputs.
- LCD display which you can customize. It seems to stay lit (and it's pretty bright) all the time unlike the joytech which fades to black after a few seconds.

This is hands down my new favorite near $100 switch with great functionality, quality, and value.

UPDATE 12/17/07
- I reviewed the Monoprice 5X1 HDMI switch (REV 2.1) at the end of this post:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005 (with XBOX 360)

rollup 2
latest version of MCE

Basically I wanted to give MCE a try and to record HDTV and display it on my new TV using the xbox 360 as a media extender.

MCE forums:

- hardware: athlon xp oc to 2.4ghz, abit nf7-s 2.0 latest bios, ati radeon 9700 pro, 1 gig of ram, 300gb hd, 250gb hd, win pvr 150, fusionhdtv5 gold.
- based off of winxp pro sp2
- looks and feels like regular windows. The MCE application doesn't even launch on startup by default. You should be able to run most xp programs without issue
- rollup 2 is an optional windows update and you get it just like any other windows update. Make sure you check windows update AFTER rollup 2 since there is another patch to rollup 2.
- when installing video drivers make sure you d/l the MCE specific drivers!
- installed the latest win pvr 150 drivers from:
- the win pvr mpeg2 drivers are NOT MCE compliant. You will need to install a compliant encoder. I installed powerdvd 6 which worked fine. You might not even have to do this if you get the fusion. The fusion has it's on very high quality MCE mpeg2 decoder which uses many acceleration features of your video card (DxVA - directx video acceleration). This is important when playing back HDTV streams. Use this utility to pick the decoder to use:
- installed the fusion drivers before adding the card as per instructions. Grab the latest beta from:
I bought the fusion at:
I still think the lite is a better value at $99 but I got the gold since I wanted to test everything.
The free philips antenna you get is a zenith silver sensor clone (also available at microcenter for $30) which is known to be one of the best indoor antennas you can get.
I also considered the myHD 130
but since there is almost no 3rd party support (no mce, beyondtv, or sagetv) I skipped it. Plus it's $200.
- the gui is very pretty. Overall they got quite a few things right but there are some pretty serious limitations IMO.
- 1 recording path. You can only specify a single directory to store your TV recordings.
- 2 tuner limit unless you registry hack. (i hear with rollup2 it's now 2 analog + 2 digital tuners).
- requires an analog tuner WITH hardware mpeg2 encoding. This is why hybrid digital analog tuners (like my fusion gold and ati all in wonder cards) won't work without an additional compliant analog tuner card (like the pvr 150). I hear there are hacked ati drivers that work with mixed results.
- Guide data comes from It's very good data. 13 days.
- rich data for cover art and show/movie descriptions.
- records in a proprietary container file format (wraps mpeg2) called dvr-ms. Also, it supports the ugly D word (DRM) and bloats the file size. Check out dvrms toolbox
- good 30 sec skip forward, 5 sec skip back for getting around commercials.
- NO clear QAM support (yet). Only option for HDTV recording is atsc OTA. The way it works is when scheduling a season through the guide you will see each episode listed twice (one with the analog channel number and one with the digital channel number). Digital channel numbers are generated by adding 1000. So channel 2.1 would be 1021. Channel 13.1 would be 1131. Just make sure you schedule the right episode on the right channel and you are good to go.
- go to to find out which direction you should point your antenna. I get pretty good reception on everything except fox and abc are a bit low (4 yellow bars instead of green). I'm thinking about adding a preamp. These are suppose to be the best:
Channel Master 7777

- S3 standby/suspend.
Set your bios to S3 insteald of S1. This is a neat feature that lets you suspend to ram (everything is off, fans, lights, etc and only power is given to the ram) and then it wakes up to record your shows then goes back to sleep. I'm still testing but this mostly works with a few issues. Media extender won't wake up the pc unless you turn on wakeup on PCI. If I do this, once you wake it up it will never go back to sleep. Once you wake up, the network adapter seems a little laggy. When using MCX (media center extender) key presses seem unresponsive. If you disable/enable the network adapter then everything works fine again. I'm working on an automatic process to restart the network adapter. I've got a batch file calling devcon that works great:;EN-US;Q311272
I also have some sample c# code that captures the resume event so I can launch it.
- UPDATE: I found a fix for my network s3 standby issues:
Go into device manager, properties of your network card, power tab, uncheck "allow computer to power down this device" or something like that. That seemed to fix it for me.
- and another gotcha with s3
Read the last post
- check out MCE power toys including tweakmce
-drvms file size for 1 hour of hdtv recording: 6GB

xbox 360 integration
- go to the the media center blade. It will give you an 8 digit number. Then you go to your mce and d/l an extender service at You run that and eventually it asks you for the 8 digit number. Now you've effectively paired the two and everything should just work.
- scheduling recordings, watching live tv with guide, pre-recorded shows, music, photos all work great on the x360.
- network shares. This is how you can get network shares to work with MCX WITHOUT enabling guest account:
and another explanation:
Read about the 5th response down.
The method works perfectly and now my mcx can browse videos from all 3 machines my homebrew PVR records on, music from another machine, and then photos on my media server.
Unforunately, I don't think the method will work with Windows media connect (music and photos only) since it doesn't seem to create the MCX1 user like the MCE version of extender does.
- You can watch timeshifted HDTV by just entering channel numbers > 1000. It looks and works great.

Fusion HDTV software
- It works. You can watch dtv or analog tv. Full hdtv looks great even on a computer monitor. Timeshifting works fine too. You can choose to record as a transport stream (ts/tp) OR naitive program stream (.mpg)!!! No conversion needed. It's just an option in the config.
- You can manually schedule future recordings or use titantv epg. Schedule data is stored in an unencrypted ACCESS MDB file!!! There is a column in the table that has this long value:

After some experimenting I decoded it as follows:
M0015 -? always the same
026 channel
0003 - ? always the same
2006 year
11 month
28 day
232500 start hour,min,seconds (24hr time)
045200 duration: hour,min,seconds

I used access and inserted my own row and it immediately appeared in the fusion schedule! I have a very easy integration point now if I can't find a command line recorder.
- This is all ota hdtv. I still need to test clear qam

- captured a HDTV ts and a mpeg using the fusion software and tried to play it back on other machines:
btw both files played back fine using the fusion software on the machine it was recorded.

this was tested on a stock athlon xp 2000 machine with a gf3 (no dxva acceleration)
- mediaMvp thinks the mpg is pal format. I guess that's the generic message for it isn't NTSC resolution compliant!
- playback through media player with the default pvr intervideo mpeg2 decoders - no go. Pretty much freezes after a few frames.
- playback using VLC. ts works but mpeg no sound. I think I might need to install the ac3 directshow filters on this machine. Playback is choppy and cpu is at 100%
- powerdvd 6. both files worked ok with sound but again it was choppy and cpu was at 100%. hw acceleration was checked.

decoding hdtv streams is serious business. Another option I think is getting one of these:

and use these codecs:
I hear that can drop cpu utilization by 30-40%.
I still need to do more testing with different decoders.

- I bought both of these:
Channel Master 7777 (highly recommended in

Motorola Signal Booster
(also $50 at microcenter)
about $40 at amazon

Both of these do a really good job with the silver sensor antenna for ATSC OTA. I had two channels that were in the yellow on signal strength. After adding either of these, every channel was maxed out green. I think the channel master is suppose to be better for antenna and the motorola for general purpose (digital cable, broadband cable modem) but either will work very well.