IMSAI Server / MCE case

IMSAI Series 2 plus MinidriveI can’t decide if I want this case for my next Media Center or to use for a server. Either way, I want the new IMSAI Series 2 USB case. It is a reproduction of the computer used by Matthew Broderick in the movie WarGames and the front panel is fully controllable, in fact it seems to actually be one of those old computers.


MCE 2005: No Data Available

Here’s the scenario: Your guide is working fine. You’ve got one of the custom Australian options implemented, and everything is great.

One day, you notice there aren’t any scheduled recordings coming up. Or, you hit the Guide, to be confronted with two and a half channels of “No Data Available” entries – or worse, it’s all gone missing.

If you’re using one of the free options – and the actual download process for your guide provider doesn’t seem to have a problem – chances are this is because your data source has had its channel name changed.

To fix, hop, skip and/or jump into Settings, TV, Guide, Add Listings To Channel. If the channel names available are different from the set attached to your channels, you’ll need to go through each channel and re-associate them.

This happened to me a couple of times with EPGRunner; I expect IceGuide/IceTV to be much better (as their data source is semi-smart, eg, possibly humans).

IceTV (IceGuide) for MCE First Impressions

I’ve spent a weekend and a bit with IceGuide (I’m a dirty man) for Windows XP Media Centre Edition, and I think I’ll need at least another week to work out whether it’s something that’s robust enough to pay for, but so far – and this is preliminary – I’m liking it.


The installer offers the choice of “I’m a bastard with an expensive hi-res projection LCD Plasma Matrix UberMonitor”, or “I’m on a crappy telly”. Based on your response, I guess it adjusts the font size to suit (It might just be super-big all the time, but I wouldn’t know). As someone with a humble 68cm CRT telly, That’s a Nice Touch – reading regular 10-12pt fonts at 800×600 is a recipe for an interlace headache (and my TV is 100hz too – I hate to think how the Norms live).

After the installer is done, it opens a web page describing the next steps – also in a 10-foot-friendly font. Vendors take note – this is the type of usability tweak that gets you appreciative customers, even before they get your product working.


The post-install routine is the now-familiar Guide Setup, Channel Scan (aka unskippable channel scan), Channel Edit and Add Listings affair that I’ve come to expect. Everything worked, the channel names are attractive, and, um… everything worked. It was integrated with Media Center from the get-go.


OK, That Was A Dumb Heading – Actually Using It

So far, so good. The quality of the guide data is higher than the regular “free free” variety, which one would expect – nay, demand – from a commercial provider.

It picked up a bunch of my series recordings (I learnt from past experience with EPGRunner that if the channel names change, you’re screwed, so I keep configuring series recordings for All Channels), which was a good start.

One Problem

I did find a problem that seems specific to my setup (or perhaps an artifact of having used other guides in the past) – sometimes, when I’m recording a show or two, I won’t be able to tag other shows to record, and it’ll fail with an Error 23, mumbling about the guide being inaccessible, and that I should restart. If I wait until later that evening, I can tag a show for recording (no restart required). A minor annoyance.

So, will you buy it?

So… I have about another week until I need to make The Big Purchase Decision. $3 a week seems just a little on the high side (like, $0.50 to $1 high), but then, that’s just me being Scottish.

MCE 2005 Australian EPG Options

Why not make a series? Excellent idea, thanks, don’t mind if I do.

After the rather wordy but well-meaning intro to building the MCE, I figured I’d look at some of the EPG options that are available.

EPGRunner seems to have suddenly decided that tonight would be a No Data Available night, so it seems like a good time to comment on my experiences so far, and see what else is out there.

NB: I don’t have (or want) Foxtel (though movies on demand are *so* appealing), so I never bother looking for Foxtel options. This stuff is purely tested on the Free To Air (FTA) Digital TV (DTV).


Up until very recently – like, when BladeRunner Pro was released – EPGRunner has been the easiest guide I’ve tried to set up and run.

There have been a couple of occasions where the data has been out, or the channel names have changed, but by and large it’s a set-it-and-forget-it program.

I’ve been using the 3.0 stable release only, not the subsequent betas, so this may change.

– Easy to set up and run
– Set and forget operation for free-to-air digital in most states

– doesn’t seem to integrate with MCE 100% cleanly (prompted for guide download errors frequently, even with Guide downloads on manual) – MCE knows it’s unable to get the guide, and tells you so, roughly every day or two.
– channel names occasionally (say 3 times in 8 months) change without warning, which buggers up the Guide (suddenly, everything’s gone)
– updating guide data often results in programs not being “red dotted” when scheduled to record (though they tend to record anyway)
– no built-in task scheduling

BladeRunner Pro

BRP takes a client-centric approach, integrating TVHarvest and a couple of other utilities to provide a very slick one-stop update that integrates well with the MCE experience. It dumps its output into a folder on the hard drive, then convinces MCE that it wants to look at the hard drive for Guide updates, instead of the Internet. Cool idea. You can put compatible files in that folder if you want to do your own mix of channels.

The hard drive folder is manually (or by Scheduled Task) “topped up”, so MCE itself won’t trigger a fresh download by looking for the guide.

– Easy to set up
– integrates really well (not perfectly, but close) with MCE
– Relatively easy to tell when it’s going to screw up (because of the on-screen scraping output while BRPro runs).
– Task Scheduling

– client-driven scraping – vulnerable to “interference”
no built-in task scheduling (Thanks Sissy, moved to Pros)


I’m now suitably over the whole EPG client thing that I’m wondering if $3 per week is justifiable for IceTV. I’ll give the 14-day trial a try, and see if there’s any qualitative difference I can identify.