Monday, December 24, 2012

Hauppage WinTV-PVR 150 will not work under Windows 7 x64

As the title says...

A little background:

My old - actually, ancient - Shuttle-based PVR system decided to more or less give up on me.  It still worked, but the old Shuttle case had a poor habit of overheating.  An easily predictable consequence of the form factor, no doubt, but let's not forget the poor old thing was merrily cranking away recording live TV and playing back edited videos for many, many years.

Time to upgrade.  I figured, if a lousy old Shuttle SS54G could handle it, who knows what I could do with a modern Core series processor and an SSD?

So I go get a little system built, scavenging the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 150 TV capture cards out of the old Shuttle.  Hell, they're perfectly good, and they're on the BeyondTV compatibility list.  They have hardware encoding and do a fine job.  Anyone who tells you that you need uber-great hardware to code NTSC TV is crazy.  (HD is another story, maybe.)

The old system used SageTV, which has been unavailable since Google purchased it.  I chose BeyondTV partly because it does near-real-time transcoding to DivX, which saves me BUCKETS of time when editing my shows.  AND it takes the guesswork out of what settings to use for transcoding, which is a big convenience as well.

So, plug er in.  And the video sucks.  LiveTV is super-choppy - not that I care, I do not use it as a TV front end.  Eventually I get it working well enough, and the first recording looks grrrrreat, but LiveTV still does not work right.  I'm rather pissed, as the WinTV-PVR 150 cards have hardware encoding, so WTF?  But OK.

Next day, it's all gone south.  BeyondTV is stuck transcoding a file - not a good sign.  Some resets get it going again, only to show that the subsequent recordings are uselessly scrambled.  LiveTV does not work.

I already installed the latest Hauppauge drivers, but I uninstall and reinstall the hardware.  No good.  Try taking out some splitters and cables, although the system worked A-OK on the old Shuttle.  Still no good.

Now, Hauppauge has a note saying these drivers only work on 64-bit systems with less than 4 Gb of RAM.  Mine has 4.  Windows reports mine as 3.9 Gb, which I thought was good enough.  Apparently not.  In this case, they really mean LESS, not "less than or equal to 4 Gb".

(Note that I did ask the shop for 32-bit Windows, but I waffled in front of the sales clerk.  He changed it to 64-bit, but neglected to change it back when I reverted to my original choice.  Not his fault, really, and he offered to re-image it, but I decided to take the chance.  BeyondTV only supports 32-bit users.)

The solution comes from this thread at, where artificially limiting your system RAM to 4095 kB via msconfig is used to tell Windows you have just less than 4 Gb of RAM.

In case the thread goes MIA, here is the method as described by the_man_one (with a few spelling changes):

limit the reported ram with msconfig by:
  • run msconfig from command prompt or command line
  • boot tab
  • advanced settings
  • check maximum memory
  • add the value 4095
  • reboot
 You can then go on and configure the card in your media center software.  In my case, I did not need to reconfigure nor re-install the drivers.  You do need to reboot to make Windows x64 "forget" that extra bit of RAM you want it to ignore, that's all.

After setting msconfig as recommended, everything works beautifully.  LiveTV works, both tuners work, everything seems to just work.  I have not tried the ShowSqueeze again, but reports are that hanging ShowSqueeze occurs when the MPG recordings are garbled, which was undoubtedly the case here.

So yet another x64 driver issue.  I guess the poor driver was getting all confused with itself.

Time to delete all the recordings and start over.  We'll see.

Note that you do not need your original Hauppauge CD to install the latest drivers.  You can get drivers only or drivers + software - look carefully at the available tabs on the page - without difficulty, and at no point was I asked for my original CD (which I have). 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

First impressions of Plex

My old PVR having given up - and, admittedly, rather behind the times when it came to video formats - it is time for a new one.

I heard about Plex on Lifehacker, and it sounded worth a try.  I prefer to keep my PVR (recording) and media center playback software separate right now, so the fact that Plex does not record TV was not an issue.

Plus, it's free.  Why not?

I have found a few things that I do not like.  Note that I am not criticizing - well, maybe I am, a little - but free software is free, and you can't complain, really, or it wouldn't exist.  This information is here to help other people decide if Plex is right for them.

Here's a few things that I have learned so far:

1.  You need a dedicated folder for your media library.

Why?  Plex has no "exclude" function.  The developers don't seem to think it worthwhile.  ("Can you explain why you want this?" is a pretty amazing comment to me.)

Given there are a near-infinite number of ways to organize your media, chances are your organization is not what Plex expects.  This is just because there are many more ways to do it "wrong" than to do it "right" - i.e. the way Plex wants.

I like flat file structures.  And, of course, the way I have organized my videos does not suit the Plex scanner.

The Plex devs even have a recommended file naming structure - great, if you're just starting out, but not so great if you already have hundreds of shows.

Many people will not find this a bother, admittedly.  Maybe you already have a dedicated folder or drive for your "library".

I already have lots of scripts and macros built around my existing structure, not to mention knowing where everything is and what means what.  Plex is not flexible in this area.

In my case I see no reason why I should want to move my "recordings", "in work", home videos and the like out of my "Video" directory, just to suit Plex.

[Update]:  OK, Plex even says you have to organize your videos according to what Plex wants, or it will not work.  Tail wags dog?

[Update]:  OK, Plex now supports an "ignore" feature, which requires using a Linux-type hidden file holding patterns to exclude.  Haven't tried it myself, hope it works!

2.  Mouse support sucks.

Reportedly, this is because of their "10-foot UI", which somehow precludes use of a mouse.

Why, oh why, do the Plex devs not understand that my wife, 3-year old and senior-citizen mother-in-law do not want to use a keyboard just to watch TV shows?  Seriously - everyone is trying to get AWAY from keyboards on HTPCs, but not Plex.

You can enable the mouse, but trust me, it does not do what you expect.  What mouse support does exist is totally counter-intuitive.  If I can't figure it out, how can my kid?

Somehow I can use Windows Media Player just fine with the mouse, but not Plex.  10-foot UI or no.

And no, we do not have a remote control for the PC (yet).  Maybe I'll get one, if I can figure out which one(s) will actually work.