How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster

IR Blaster

I just upgraded my home entertainment system with a Pioneer VSX-915 amplifier. Meaning that I now connect my Home Theatre PC to the amp digitally through SPDIF.

To control the volume properly I have to use the volume on the amplifier and not adjust the volume out of my Media Center. The easiest solution is of course to use the remote of the amp, but I don’t want to use two remotes. I only want one remote in my living room and that is the MCE remote.

If you have a relatively new MCE remote you can easily program it to control your amplifier directly. The new MCE remotes has three programable buttons. The TV On / Off and the volume. You program the remote as described here.

But, I have my amplifier inside a cabinet. I could of course buy some kind of IR repeater to catch the remote signal outside the cabinet and beam it out inside to the amplifier.


But hey, the MCE remote reciever can be programmed as well, and it even includes a IR blaster to do exactly what you want: beam out IR signals to control a set top box (…or an amplifier).

This is what you need:
Continue reading “How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster”

How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster

Time stopped at 10:09

The rich and sunny planet Ursa Minor Beta has the quite peculiar property that most of its surface consists of subtropic coastline. Even more peculiar, on this world it’s always Saturday afternoon.

From Wikipedia – Places in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(Thanks, Oyvind)

And of course you would want to live on a planet where time stopped Saturday afternoon!

Matterhorn and watch commercial

I have just visited Switzerland. The home of high quality watches. And the home of huge amounts of commercials for the high quality watches. I decided to check a little fact that most people involved in marketing know of. The world of watch commercials is a world where time stopped at about 10:09.

Click the pictures for larger versions:

Watch 10:09 Watch 10:09 Watch 10:09 Watch 10:09

Yes. It’s a fact. Time stopped at about 10:09!

All rules have exceptions. One German watch was 2:50. But we’re still talking about the same graphical appearance of the watch.

Ten to two

And, yes I know. Commercials from a world where the watch can show something completely different exist. I even discovered some of them in Geneva. You can find several explanations for the 10:09 rule. Here is one of them: Continue reading “Time stopped at 10:09”

Time stopped at 10:09

Webcam screensaver for your media center


Webcams are soooo last century. I remember how uttrly impressed we were when we back in 1995 discovered that a bunch of programmers at the University of Cambridge had placed a camera pointing at their coffee maker so they could keep an eye on the amount of coffee left while sitting in front of their computers one floor above.

Wow! We could actually see a live picture of the coffee machine at the University of Cambridge here in Norway. Big deal at that point. Not very interesting today. Like most webcams.

But, for some strange kind of reason it’s cool to have a screen saver on the media computer in the living room that gives a glimpse of the world. A screen saver that cycles trough a list of webcams that you can control yourself.

So, right now when I know that I am going to Zermatt for the weekend I have a nice live picture of the Matterhorn in addition to the mandatory pictures of Bergen and Paris. Not to forget the TullipCAM.

V-CamShow from Virdi software is free, flexible and works very well. It also has the very important feature that lets you name all cams and superimpose the name on the picture while cycling through the cams.

You need the direct link to the picture if you want to add a cam to your list in V-CamShow. Here are some cameras to start with:

(…and please add your favourite webcams to the comments here! Among others, I would really like a nice and frequently updated picture from a satellite… Anyone?)

Zermatt – Matterhorn
Direct link:

Paris, France – The Eiffel Tower
Direct link:

Bergen, Norway – View from NHH
Direct link:

Voss, Norway – Hangursheisen
Direct link:

Devon, England – Tulip Cam
Direct link:

Webcam screensaver for your media center

The silence of the fans

Cabinet Closed Cabinet Open

I have my HTPC and the amplifiers inside a cabinet in the living room. The cabinet is well wentilated and has a specially mounted fan in the bottom to push air though it.

I have described the cabinet here and the mounting of the fan here. To put it short the fan is mounted in rubber bands to eliminate vibrations and noise.

Rubber bands

However, I should have said “was mounted”. The problem is that rubber bands need maintenance. Of course I could try to find better quality rubber bands, but I have choosen another soultion. It works fine so far, so I decided to post a little “How-to” for the people that might want to build something similar.
To fix this mess I used a perforated strip and some parts from a kit for silencing fans and hard drives:


Mounting the fan using these parts you get rid of nearly all vibrations and can have a fan that push a lot of air through your cabinet. I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves and keep the comment option open for the people that have questions.
Continue reading “The silence of the fans”

The silence of the fans

My next time lapse experiment – any good advice?

Canon PowerShot S50

This experiment was a manual, “poor mans” time-lapse. Time to do something more advanced.

Time for a true time-lapse. I now have a Canon PowerShot S50 that I can play with. I can mount it in a window and connect it to a computer. Through such a set-up I can program the camera to snap a picture every hour for one whole year. I also have a couple of potential locations with a more interesting view than my own. (More than 100 000 people have seen the view from my living room anyway! My last experiment was popular way beyond expectations…)

A camera, a computer and a nice view is not enough. That’s where you come in. The utterly intelligent readers of These are my main questions:

1. Software
There are several programs that can control the S50. I have found these:

Canon’s own remote capture
Cam4You Remote
inPhoto Canon Camera Control Software

Do you have any experience with any of these? Can you recommend other software? I have a dedicated computer for this project, so I can choose to run Linux if that helps…

2. Timing
Every hour for one year? Every half hour? etc… At some point I have to be able to discard the pictures that are taken during dark hours. In Norway this vary a lot. There are two possible solutions:

a) A table that controls the software so that it only takes pictures when the sun’s up

b) Software to extract only the pictures with a certain level of light during post production

All good advice appreciated! Preferably through comments on this post, but also through mail.

My next time lapse experiment – any good advice?

Web Browser for Media Center Edition

MCE Browser

Browsing standard web pages on a TV screen with a remote is never very comfortable. Most web pages are made for navigation with a mouse and a keyboard.

Still, if you have a media center and an LCD screen it can be interesting to have a quick look at some news headlines, a couple of blogs or something like that.

Doing that from within media center has been difficult until now. Meet the MCE Browser. An excellent little plugin that gives you a browser with zoom functionallity and easy navigation with the arrow keys, OK and channel up/down for browsing links.

(Via Thomas Hawk and The F-Stop Blues)

Web Browser for Media Center Edition