Archives For December 2008

485-487_Lg Those that read this blog know I’m a fan of my Data Robotics Drobo for storage and backup of all my music/videos/photos/documents etc.  But with my wife now toting her own laptop and my older son asking to spend more time in front of the computer, IT support needs in our home are expanding.  Spending a few hours rebuilding a laptop just doesn’t have the new car smell it used to. 

I’ve been a fan, but not a user of Windows Home Server for a while now, mainly for lack of a Media Center solution. Instead my quad-core desktop runs all the time.  The thought of another PC running or having to transfer all of my content from my 2GB Drobo is daunting at best. Michael Gartenberg’s opinion of the new HP MediaSmart EX485/487 over at MediaBistro.com has me rethinking this pain.

Points for Windows Home Server

  • Automated backup on all my Windows PCs
  • SkyDrive and Cloud storage and drive mounting
  • Remote access (easily) via easy to remember domain name
  • Vista Caller ID add-in
  • No $129 startup + $49/year cost for Firmware updates like DroboCare requires
  • Extendable past 4 drives via eSATA
  • Robust application development and enthusiast community
  • Mac TimeMachine support & iTunes
  • Hack to stream Zune directly from WHS

Points for Drobo

  • Fast USB file transfer (and 1394 on some units) from my desktop system for large HD videos.  With WHS it will have to run over the home network.
  • No issues with CableCard-based Windows Media Center setup or My Movies 2 client.
  • Little interesting or compelling add-ons when connected to a PC

So my main issues become speed of transfers and transcoding/connectivity to Xbox 360s as extender devices (via DLNA or Media Center).  I have all this working well with TVersity and Vista Media Center/Extenders.  Do I really want to risk breaking it?

It looks like the HP MediaSmart EX487 would be the right solution for my needs.  If I do make the switch, I’ll post about my experiences migrating from Drobo.

Yule_Log Last week, I got two emails from readers asking if there was a way to get the old Yule Log Visualization for Windows Media Player running in Vista.  Originally released  as a part of the Windows Media Bonus Pack for Windows XP, in 2001 I hired Frog Design to re-create the classic Yule Log that so many of us enjoyed during the holidays on TV.  The problem is the installer hasn’t been updated to support later Windows operating systems.  So today I’m happy to  unofficially release an updated stand-alone installer that works with Vista including 32 and 64-bit.

Download: image

After installing, just go to Now Playing>Visualizations>Yule Log and fire up your music (sorry I couldn’t resist).  If you want to tweak the effect, choose “Options”, then select the Yule Log Visualization and click the Properties button.  You’ll find a slider for sensitivity.

If you like the visualization, please donate a few dollars to your favorite charity.  Given the wintry weather, I’m also working to track down the original holiday skins and AutoPlaylists for WMP which I may also package up if there’s interest.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

As those who have read my ramblings here know, I’m always looking for the perfect holiday mix.  This year, it’s been easier thanks to two services I’ve been playing with: Zune Marketplace and Pandora.

Tip#1: Find Great Holiday Music on Zune

Zune Marketplace serves up a broad range of musical suggestions, but if you click on the “more” option under Genres, you’ll find the latest programming for the holidays.  Select, “Seasonal” and you’ll find some great playlists – Christmas Classics and Holiday Cocktails are two of my favorite playlists.

Don’t have Zune?  It’s a great time to take advantage of the two weeks free offer or you can sample the catalog for ideas on Zune.net.

Tip #2: Serve up Pandora’s Holiday Stations

A tip of the hat to the Pandora team for sharing some tips for creating Holiday stations on Pandora! Just start by entering the name of a holiday song you like. To create a station based on an artist who performs holiday music, enter their name, followed by the word ‘holiday’ (for example, ‘Ray Charles Holiday’).

Having spent the majority of this weekend boxing up our house for our move, I can attest that these work great on Pandora on Sonos as well. (Note: Pandora also now powers MSN Radio here.)

And don’t forget last year’s Holiday Trivia Picture pack - great to put as a slideshow on your TV or Digital Picture frame during holiday parties. Happy holidays all!