Controlling your media center from your mobile phone

6630 controlling MCE
Salling Clicker is this fantastic program that lets you control your presentations from your mobile phone. It will show you a preview of your next slide on the phone’s screen and works very well through bluetooth.

Salling Clicker consist of a small program that you install on your Mac or Windows machine and a client software that you install on your mobile phone or PDA. It can communicate through bluetooth or WLAN.

By default it can control a range of players and softwares on your computer. It can also be extended with third party plugins.

It controls Windows Media Player very well. Because WMP is the basis for Windows Media Center Edition it will actually also control the music module of your media center very well.

According to the forum over at Salling.com the developer are working on a special module for Windows Media Center Edition as well.

Currently only one client can be connected at any time. If you connect with a new phone or PDA while another is already connected it will automatically disconnect the other one. I would really like to see a possibility for connecting several clients.

Salling Clicker seems like a very well built program, and connecting the devices was extremely easy.

First I tested it by controlling the music in my media center through WLAN and a Toshiba e805 PDA. No problem.

So I bought a cheap USB based bluetooth device and connected it to my Media Center. It installed immediately without having to add any drivers. One minute later, and I can controll my the music in my media center from my Nokia 6630. Nice.

Looking forward to that native MCE support in Salling Clicker!

…and now I have to start playing around with a connection from Salling Clicker to Girder to give myself complete control of my media center from my Nokia…

Related posts:
HighPad Media Control – PDA Remote for Windows Media Center
Remote control your music collection in MCE

PDA controlling MCE

Controlling your media center from your mobile phone

Pandora plugin for Windows Media Center

Screenshot
Pandora Playing in MCE
I have written about Pandora before. It is the first music recommendation engine that I actually like and find useful. When I tried it for the first time I instantly wanted a plugin for my Media Center that would let me open Pandora.

I guess I wasn’t the only one. Colin Savage has made a little plugin that not only let you open and start Pandora in your media center, but it let you start Pandora on basis of music from your local collection.

Update:
The links are dead and unfortunately I don’t know where this project is now.

The plugin is a little web application hosted on Colin’s page. It seems like he has some performance issues, so my friend Jahn-Tore has kindly offered a mirror. He has also done some minor changes to the plugin to make it look slightly better in MCE. You find the modified version here.

Screenshot More Music Like This

Then what?

You can go to your artist listing, select an artist and hit the Info-button on your remote. Now select “More…”. That will let you start Pandora playing similar music to the artist or track you have selected.

In other words, I am listening to Tom Waits in my Media Center. Two clicks and Pandora streams similar artists choosen from the very detailed Music Genome Database that is the basis of the recommendation engine in Pandora.

The main problem with the plugin is the fact that the Flash based Pandora player does not scale and is not designed for navigation with a remote.

If now only the Pandora guys get the message, talk to Colin and implements a version that is tailored for MCE. Until then, this solution works fine. The fact that the Pandora interface looks like crap on your 40 inch LCD as long as it doesn’t scale does not destroy the good recommendations and acceptable sound quality from Pandora.

The installation of the plugin from Colin’s page is not 100% straight forward. It includes saving a file to the right directory on your media center and register the plugin. For the people that is afraid of starting that dangerous black command line window and write strange commands in there I have made a simple BAT-script that will register the plugin for you. Just right-click this link and select “Save as”. Save it to a place where you find it and double click it after you have saved the plugin from Colin’s or Jahn-Tore’s page in your eHome directory.

Pandora plugin for Windows Media Center

Home Theatre PC Links Roundup

TV Error
I have a lot of visitors looking for information about media centers right now. Here is a quick list of links in this blog that is useful if you want to start experimenting.

You find all the articles in the Home Theatre PC (HTPC) category here:
Eirikso.com – HTPC

And a selection of specially useful articles:
The media center software list
HTPC Frontend roundup
Screen technologies. LCD or Plasma?
Perfect adjustment of your LCD
How to build a cabinet for your HTPC
How to build a completely silent fan for your cabinet
Thumbnails of my old background pictures
How to remote control your music collection from your PDA, laptop, meedio etc…
Silencing an XFX GeForce 6600 GT AGP with a Zalman VF700 Cu
Playing smooth WMV-HD in Windows Media Center Edition
Windows Media Center Edition with 3 tuners
Placeshifting – your media everywhere
HighPad Media Control – PDA Remote for Windows Media Center
Still in list-mode: the Media Center Blogs
Apple Media Center – At last!
Converting DVR-MS files from your media center
How to program the buttons on your MCE Remote
Webcam screensaver for your media center
Recommended HTPC hardware
Some notes on signal quality in a home theatre PC (HTPC)

…or you can take a break and have a look at a lot of other popular articles!

Home Theatre PC Links Roundup

Perfect adjustment of your LCD

Pixels on an LCD

When connecting my QPVision 37″ LCD to my media center through DVI I had no problems running the native resolution of 1366×768 on the screen. This gave me one-to-one pixel mapping and a completely sharp picture.

However, my friend Staale ran into some problems that seem to be quite common. He did some tests and created a simple and very effective test pattern that can help you find the right resolution.

It seems like quite a bit of LCD screens that has a resolution of 1366×768 report to the screen cards that the correct resolution is 1360×768. Seems like a small difference, but when you run 1360×768 on a screen that actually is 1366×768 the screen sometimes does a bit of scaling that makes parts of the picture slightly unfocused.

Here is an example. The first picture is taken as a super close up of the screen in 1360×768. The next one is the same area on the same screen forced to 1366×768 through the advanced settings in the screen card driver:

Screenshot of resolution 1360x768 Screenshot of resolution 1366x768

And here is a detail of those images:

Detail of 1360x768 Detail of 1366x768

The difference seems big here, but it can be difficult to detect and that is where Staale’s brilliant test pattern comes in. It is a simple grid of black and white pixels that will clearly reveal a screen that is not mapped one-to-one. You can download the image here:

GIF (3 k)
PNG (4 k)
BMP (1,2 MB)

It should never be converted to a JPG. Any lossy compression will destroy the file.

Download it and insert it as your desktop pattern. Centered and not streched.

If your screen looks like this:

Screenshot of a perfect resolution

…then you have a perfect one-to-one pixel mapping.

If it looks like this:

Screenshot of problem with the pixel mapping

…then you have a problem with your pixel mapping.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to solve the problem. It depends on the screen, your screen card, the firmware in the screen, your screen card drivers, the software you use etc… It involves advanced tools and might even put you into serious trouble with your screen and the image from your computer.

For relatively new Nvidia screen cards and drivers you have options to take complete control of the refresh rates and resolution to the screen. You can also try playing around with PowerStrip. Or, use AVS Forum. An excellent source of information on advanced use of media equipment.

Digg this story here.

And please feel free to comment if you have solutions to this problem for specific setups.

Perfect adjustment of your LCD

Screen technologies. LCD or Plasma?

People keeps asking me what I would recommend for a home theatre PC (HTPC). LCD or Plasma? In general I would recommend a good LCD. I know that the problems with burn in have been close to eliminated on the best plasma screens. Still, I find the crisp and clean LCD picture with absolutely no burn in problem preferable. A quick roundup:

CRT

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)
First of all, it is perfectly OK to use your old tube. A standard cathode ray tube (CRT) connected to a PC through S-Video or even composite video should work fine if you adjust your screen card and use a proper media center software. The whole point of these softwares is to give you a front end from your computer that looks good even on low resolution television screens.

A quick trouble shooting tip: if you get a black and white signal from your PC when connecting through S-Video you probably have to select the correct output (S-Video ro Y/C) in your screen settings. If you get black and white when connecting through composite you probably have to take a look at the video format settings. Choosing NTSC when you have a PAL television could give you a black and white picture.

LCD

Liquid Chrystal Display (LCD)
LCD has been used for computer screens for some time. For the last couple of years they have been able to produce them big enough for use as television sets. Only half a year ago it was a problem that the contrast ratio (the difference between black and white) was too low. Resulting in loss of detail in dark and bright scenes. Now, that is about to end. Some of the vendors has introduced LCDs with contrast ratios of 3000:1 and 5000:1. Earlier that was only possible for Plasma displays. Another problem was response time. Bad response times could result in problems with fast moving video. Now, most LCD screens have a response time of 8 milliseconds or better. That should be enough for most people watching video or playing games on their screen.

Plasma

Plasma
Plasma screens traditionally gives better contrast ratio, a more correct black level and in general a slightly more soft picture. Half a year ago a good plasma would without doubt outperform a good LCD in quality for watching movies. Right now that have changed because of better LCD panels. In general you have to pay more for a proper high resolution plasma compared to a high resolution LCD (a resolution of 1280 x 720 or more).

And for the people that want more than a quick round up:
Wikipedia: CRT, LCD, Plasma
Comparison: Plasma vs. LCD TVs

And yes, the pictures in this post are all super close ups of the described technologies. With compliments to my new Canon S2 IS!

Screen technologies. LCD or Plasma?

Dagbladet today

Dagbladet

Today there is an article about media centers in the norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. They have asked me about different solutions and give a quick overview of what all this is about.

I will also attend to a net meeting at dagbladet.no on tuesday 14th at 1300 CET. This meeting will be in Norwegian.

Please also feel free to post any questions or comments on this post in my blog.

To make it easier for Dagbladet’s readers I will give you a quick roundup of some media center links and advice:
The complete list of software solutions
A quick roundup of some of the systems I have tried
An update with links to other articles as well
Converting DVR-MS files from your media center
Placeshifting, your media everywhere!
Remote control your music collection in MCE
Everything in the HTPC category

Update:
The Goatse joke was already taken, so I chose to wear my BoingBoing tee. :-)

Update2:
Link to the story on dagbladet.no (Thanks, Jon)

Dagbladet today