Hulu is now blocking Skyfire

Posted in Mobile at 4:38 pm by mike

I downloaded Skyfire on June 24th, tried Hulu and thought it was cool. Tried it again the next day and figured I did something wrong.  Nothing but silence on the Skyfire forum but plenty of twitter action: https://twitter.com/#search?q=skyfire%20hulu.

I sucks if they have to play the same game Boxee does.   Hulu has definitely thrown a wrench in their spokes.

Also found a few folks on AnandTech who have the same issue.

After some thought, it’s pretty obvious Hulu wasn’t about to let this stand.   Apple has established that people will pay for phone access vs desktop and Hulu is looking for ways to monetize.   Furthermore, given that Skyfire uses a proxy architecture, I suspect they are violating Hulu’s EULA.    That architecture also makes it very easy for Hulu to block them, just like they do for non-US proxy sites.

Here’s to hoping that Hulu goes for a Netflix subscription model which will give you access anywhere.   I suspect that’s a pipe dream as well…

Update: 7/13/09 There’s now a thread on the Skyfire forum, with Skyfire folks saying complain to Hulu.   Note that fancast and other sites still work fine.

Vista Control Panel Crash Solved

Posted in Windows at 1:12 am by mike

So for quite sometime I was ignoring an Explorer crash everytime I opened the Control Panel:

Faulting application Explorer.exe, version 6.0.6002.18005, time stamp 0x49e01da5, faulting module ntdll.dll, version 6.0.6002.18005, time stamp 0x49e03821, exception code 0xc0000374, fault offset 0x000afaf8, process id 0xbe0, application start time 0x01c9ee300cc436fa.

My work-around was to drill into Control Panel via the Explore folder view.   Turns out this was simple to debug.    Just go to your Windows\system32 directory, sort by file type, and then double click on each .cpl file until you see the crash.   Then rename that file foo.cpl.hide, or in my case: idtsg.cpl.hide.    Since I still have the Intel IDT applet show up in my Control Panel, I suspect this was an old one that somehow became corrupted after an upgrade.


Concurrent Remote Desktop for Media Center (Vista & W7)

Posted in Home Theater, Windows at 9:53 pm by mike

Awfully handy to be able to do administrative work while the wife is watching Law and Order.    Not the most kosher thing WRT Microsoft licensing, but they aren’t sending out C&D letters, and you can find this info on TheGreenButton as well.

I installed the piratebay bittorrent which fixed terminal services after I manually hosed termserv, but this TCP-Z version really did the trick.


Skyfire for Windows Mobile Phones

Posted in Mobile at 10:20 pm by mike

I’ve had a Samsung Blackjack for sometime now which I’ve been pretty happy with.    Been thinking it would be nice to have Wi-Fi support, but the Windows Mobile 6.1 web browser pretty much sucks, so instead, I use my wife’s IPhone to surf the web.     I just discovered Skyfire and life is suddenly so much better.   Not only can I now surf the web with a sane interface, I can also watch Hulu from the phone, which Steve Jobs sayeth is not allowed on your IPhone…    Time to seriously consider the Propel Pro or HT Fuze.


Vista Media Center DRM woes

Posted in Home Theater at 3:52 am by mike

So prior to switching to VMC, I was using a Replay 5000 to record TV shows, along with a very cool Java program called DVArchive which would download the TV’s to my PC.   I’d then copy them to a portable drive and watch them on my train ride home using VLC.    I was assuming I could do the same with recordings from VMC, but unfortunately I found that life was not that simple.

CableCARD fun

Now when I started this project, I knew I wanted digital capture cards rather than analog (which the Replay 4000 is using) primary to get better quality.    The high-end digital capture cards are now all CableCARD ready, which I thought I would need to capture a digital signal.   It turns out there are a couple things you should know about CableCARDs:

  1. If you’re not interested in recording HBO or any other premium channels you DO NOT need a CableCARD.   Comcast currently broadcasts about 80 channels in analog signal which the ATI DCT will pick up just fine.    Comcast is currently threating to stop broadcasting these channels and convert everything to digital.   Still waiting for that to happen and see what the DCT can pick up once that’s complete.
  2. Once a CableCARD is installed, ALL RECORDED CONTENT WILL BE ENCRYPTED!   That means that any show recorded through the CableCARD will only play back on the PC which recorded it.   Quite a bummer for the mobile solution.
  3. Comcast charges $8 for the first card, and $3 for the next one, so multiple DCTs in the same box don’t kill you, but it will add up after a couple years…

So currently, I don’t have any CableCARDs installed, I receive 80 analog channels and 15 digital HD channels.  The broadcast format for those channels is called Clear QAM since they are not encrypted. I believe they match what’s freely broadcast in the area.   Unfortunately, there’s more DRM hiding in the mix.

Microsoft’s new WTV Format

It turns out that both analog and digital broadcasts can include a “copy protection bit” which also prevents the recording from being watched on another PC.    Here’s where things get interesting.   This copy protection bit was ignored by VMC until TV Pack 2008 was released.    With this update, files are now recorded in WTV format rather than the DVR-MS format which was previously used (this is the default for Windows 7 MC as well).   So not only are many of the recordings copy protected, but all the slick plugin utilities such as ShowAnalyzer and Comskip only understand the DVR-MS format.   Even though Windows 7 includes a wtv2dvrms converter, and one is available with the DVRMSToolbox, neither will work on copy protected or CableCARD encrypted files.

So far the shows I’ve found to have the copy protection bit have been somewhat random.   House, Southland and Breaking Bad (all from different networks) have been consistently protected, while other HD shows have not.

So what now?

So luckily, I didn’t sell my Replay TV yet, so I can still get all the offline shows I want there.    If Comcast does turn off all analog signals, which they are threating to do, then I’ll need to set up their free DTA with an IR blaster.    I could replicate this same setup on my VMC, but then why have the digital capture cards in the first place?    The interesting question is whether Comcast will encrypt all digital channels when they finally turn off analog or will channels 35-80 be broadcast in Clear QAM?   Check out number 31 on this FAQ which implies they will.   You can see more of my rant on thegreenbutton along with some comments from Fred Von Loman of the EFF.

The bottom line is, no one at Comcast can give a straight answer, so we just won’t know until it happens.   I’m sure I’ll be back ranting at that time.



About Mike Patnode

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:15 pm by mike

Professional Info

I’m basically a Unix hack who taught himself Security, Java, and various Web technologies, only to get sucked into management positions after spending any amount of time at a company.  You can find out a little more about me here as well as on LinkedIn.   I also spent some time developing network video protocols with the X Consortium, but since working with the Certificate Server group at Netscape, I’ve been unable to fully escape the security world.

I’ve helped write a couple blog entries for Centrify, one about OpenSSH and another about MIT Kerberos Integration.

If you’re really a glutton for punishment, you can watch me talk about Unix Service Accounts, Active Directory Groups and Unix Identity Management.

Finally, for the complete diehards, there’s a 60 minute webinar on Migration NIS and NIS+ Users to Active Directory.

Personal Info

I ride a BMW K75 motorcycle and still change my own oil on all my vehicles.    I’ve been a Miami Dolphins fan since I was a little kid (no connection to Florida, so I can’t really explain why) but loyalty has kept me with the team through thick and thin.   Luckily, after a long dry spell, the team is looking a little better.     Living in California, I take full advantage of the wine country, and built a wine cellar under my stairwell to help leverage that.   I also installed my own home theater system, including pulling all the wires through the walls.  That continues to be a hobby/time sink, though mostly due to trying to arm-twist Windows Media Center into the entertainment experience I’m looking for.

If I had more time, I’d be playing more poker (not online!) and beach volleyball (definitely not online!).   The free time I do have gets wasted on Science Fiction.   Lately Peter Hamilton, Iain Banks and Neal Asher.

I have a lovely daughter and wife (that’s me, not my wife…)

I can be reached at mike(at)mpsharp.com

Home Theater Upgrade

Posted in Home Theater at 8:44 pm by mike

This February I decided to take on the Home Theater upgrade project.    I installed the 60″ Pioneer Elite Pro-140 Monitor (fantastic) along with Elite SC-07 (somewhat disappointing) in time for the Superbowl.    Then I added a Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater™ Entertainment System with Vista Media Center (Duo E8500, 4G, 2 ATI DCTs, BD Burner).    Between setting all this up, pulling all the wiring through the walls, and mucking with VMC plugins and extras, it’s no wonder I haven’t had time to write anything up until now.    So now that I’m sitting at my mother-in-law’s in Vegas, borrowing wireless from the neighbor, I figured I’d outline the topics I’d like to cover in future posts in the hope that I can save someone else some time and money.   Here are the summaries:

I’m not 100% happy with the SC-07 and had planned to write a searing review.   Lately, I’m growing to like the sound, but the Home Media function on mine is completely broken, and I just don’t want to tear it out right now to take it into the dealer, since I can listen to Internet Radio via the VMC box.  I eventually will before my warranty is up with the hope something good will come out of it.  The bottom line is you can probably get more bang-for-the-buck with the equivalent Denon.   Check out the review at Audioholics.  On the otherhand, now that the price has dropped to $1099, it might be worth reconsidering.   Still waiting to find that great 7.1 movie soundtrack to work the whole system.

Can’t say enough about this Plasma monitor.   The picture is amazing, and I believe it’s basically the best 60″ picture money can buy right now (for < 10K anyways).  Of course, Pioneer has stopped production.   You may be able to find better value Plasmas out there, but don’t believe any of the LCD BS about glare vs blacks.   There is no noticeable glare problem with this screen and you’re going to get a better picture on plasma with no LCD speed artifacts.  Note I purchased both the monitor and receiver together from Gear4Less on EBay.  Very happy with their delivery, price and customer service.

Price/performance, Velocity Micro is by far the leader in Media Center PCs.   Their support team was very good even though I ran into some pretty obsure issues.   There are a couple things I think they could do to improve the product without vastly increasing the price.

These guys are just unbeatable when it comes to quality and price.   There’s nothing I hate more than having to go to Best Buy and fork out $30 for a 15ft ethernet cable.  A 100ft CAT 6 cable at Monoprice will set you back $10.   I ended up buying some HDMI cables at Tarten, because Monoprice was out of the lengths I wanted.  Monoprice also has speaker stands, wall plates and wall mounts.   Check them for anything before buying elsewhere.

After being a ReplayTV user for years, I was pretty impressed with VMC.   Vista is bearable on a machine this fast, and you MUST have TV Pack 2008 to deal with digital broadcasts in a sane manner.  It’s now a free update from MS, so it’s not that hard to find.   Also, I’m hearing very good things about Windows 7 Media Center, which should have everything built in.   That said, this has been by far the largest timesink battling the DCT cards and DRM issues.   I’ll be covering those in detail in a later post, along with the gory details of adding commercial skip capabilities.    The one thing to know now is you DO NOT need CableCards to recieve 90% of your cable channels.   You only need it if you want to record HBO or other premium channels, and if you do install the CableCard, ALL of your content will be encrypted and only playable on that PC.

For those of you who aren’t in the market for home theaters, or for you classic cinema enthusiasts, our friends over at Wild Horse Resort host the best cineplex in our region. Check them out at: https://wildhorseresort.com/cineplex/.That seems like a good starter post for now.  I’m sure I’ll never get around to covering everything I want here.