My MCPC: Stage III

So after getting Windows MCE 2005 installed, the next step is to get the TV tuner (an ATI
Theater 550 Pro
) and Vacuum Fluorescent Display (M-Play
202 Plus from VlSystem
, a Korean company) configured. Unfortunately, as with my problems with getting Windows
going, this was not going to be easy tasks.

The TV Tuner, which was
recently announced will be superseded by the 650 Pro, is advertised as
being compatible with MCE. However, out of the box, that’s not true.
The tuner comes with two CDs. One has the driver and something called
Cyberlink PowerCinema (an MCE clone) and the other has a suite of
applications called Cyberlink DVD Solution. Installing just the driver
from the first CD and then trying to run MCE failed with an error
saying the decoder was either missing or not working. After installing
PowerCineman, the tuner still didn’t work with MCE (got a tuner not
configured error, and yes, before you leave a comment, I did configure
the tuner, several times) but did work with PowerCinema. So I
could watch TV, but only through this application and not
through MCE.

I decided to install the second CD’s set of software but ran into a problem. The install requires a
product key. Said key was not included in the package. I don’t know if
this is an oversight or this is how this Taiwanese company does
business. In any case, by reading the FAQ at the PowerColor site I
found the key and installed the second CD. At that point, the tuner
started working in MCE.

I can’t say for sure if the two events are related, but it seems so. If so, then I have to wonder why
the second CD’s software is required and why they didn’t include the
product key.

With the tuner working, I started on the VFD. The single page instructions that comes with the
product doesn’t give much help on installing the software. This is
unfortunate because the software does not seem to be designed
specifically for the hardware. In this case, the VFD uses a USB
connection for power and communications. But for whatever reason, the
software is configured to search for and use a serial port, and will
configure itself to com 4, even if it doesn’t find any
serial ports. Even uninstalling the serial port in Windows doesn’t stop
this software from configuring itself for serial port use. A word of
warning, I tried disabling the serial and parallel ports in the ASUS
motherboard BIOS. Upon rebooting, the motherboard locked up and
required the removal of the backup battery and setting a jumper to
restore the default factory settings. Do not try this at home.

If you go to the VlSystem web
site, they have a little better instructions. The task of getting the
software configured, however, is made difficult by the
Korenglish translation. For instance: “A banner of installation comes
up inserting for install CD.” Or “After buying our products, you should
be installed its USB driver so that PC can be recognized any products
on the Windows before installing MHC (Media Home Center). It’s a little
bit difficult for some users to catch the USB driver.” You figure out
what all that means but it is a little bit difficult to understand with
this says.

Essentially, as I understand it, you first have to install the USB driver for the 202 Plus. Unlike
all other Windows programs, you do not click on the setup file found in
the appropriate directory. You instead click on the file called
“Preinstaller”.  

Next comes the VLSystem USB Composite Device. And finally, the M.Play driver. Having
followed the directions, you will now have two instances of the
M.player driver application installed. Eh? Yes, that’s right, two
copies. One will be configured for USB and the other for serial port.
I’ve tried uninstalling or disabling the serial port version,as per the
instructions, but it keeps automatically coming back. So for now, I’m
just living with the fact that the serial port version will try to find
a serial port and then fail and end execution. After that, the USB
version will work just fine. Obviously, this VFD is not recommended.

At this point, I’m done installing and configuring MCE. Even though I had planned on getting an
HD-TV tuner, I don’t know if I will. At first, I was going to get one
with built in digital QAM support so I could view non-encrypted HD cable.
However, I have since found, and I could be wrong, that there is only
one such channel on our local Oceanic Time Warner cable system. Thus,
it might make more sense to get an over-the-air tuner since, as I
understand it, there are several local stations broadcasting in HD. The
best solution is one that does not exist – a tuner with a CableCard
slot. However, due apparently to fears of piracy on the part of the
MPAA/RIAA, the chances of a digital tuner card with a built in
Cablecard slot is practically nil. Maybe they will come one day, maybe
not. Hence, for now, I’m not getting any HD tuner card. A pox on all
their houses. Hawk, spit.

Having spent all this time on
getting MCE up and running, what do I think? Well, if I had to do it
all over again, I don’t think I would. I think I would just install
Kubuntu and be done with it. Although, as JHR has said, I’ve learned a
lot about MCE, I’m not sure it was worth the trouble.

Aloha!

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