Everything Microsoft - Latest Microsoft News, Guides, Reviews & Themes » Media Center http://www.everything-microsoft.com Latest Microsoft Windows 8, Windows 7, Office, Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 7 & Xbox 360 News, W8 Beta, Rumors, Downloads, Themes, Wallpapers, Help & more Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:00:31 +0000 en-EN hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 ArcSoft TMT5 Improves Windows 7 Media Center MKV Supporthttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2011/08/01/arcsoft-tmt5-improves-windows-7-media-center-mkv-support/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2011/08/01/arcsoft-tmt5-improves-windows-7-media-center-mkv-support/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2011 12:50:11 +0000 http://www.everything-microsoft.com/?p=19834 Windows 7 improved the out of the box media codec situation over Windows Vista, but things aren’t quite perfect with average support for MKV files and no Blu-ray support.  To get the perfect Windows 7 Media Center codec support required a bit of fiddling and crossing fingers, particularly when it came to supporting MKV files.

Although codec packs like Shark007 improve W7MC MKV support, they still leave a bit of a blackhole when it comes to providing an easy way to change language or subtitle streams when playing MKV file, relying on buggy 3rd party addons like the Media Control plugin which works sporadically.  Skipping and fast-forwarding MKV files within W7MC is also difficult using these apps – fast-forwarding and rewinding doesn’t work, and skip forward or backwards too quickly and W7MC will crash.

Last week W7MC Arcsoft upgraded their TotalMedia Theatre 5 suite with the 5.0.1.133 patch which improved its MKV capabilities to include support for multiple audio tracks, and support for standard and VobSub subtitles in MKV.  This is brilliant news as finally there’s a way to easily play MKV files in W7MC, that also passes the WAF test.

Now, unfortunately TMT5 is quite pricey at $99.99 but it is the best media player and in tandem with My Movies 4, it will provide the ultimate W7MC experience without having to spend hours if not weeks configuring codecs:

  • Play any media file smoothly
  • Full HD and 3D support – including full MKV support
  • Play blu-ray discs (and with My Movies play blu-ray rips on hard drives)
  • Play any 2D Video or Photo in 3D
  • Upscale SD content with SimHD
There is a free trial if you want to try TMT5 out before making the plunge.
More: TMT5
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12 Essential Windows 7 Media Center Addons & Tweakshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2011/05/16/1-essential-windows-7-media-center-addons-tweaks/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2011/05/16/1-essential-windows-7-media-center-addons-tweaks/#comments Mon, 16 May 2011 15:38:05 +0000 http://www.everything-microsoft.com/?p=11460 Windows 7 Media Center is one of the hidden gems within Windows 7.  With a few tweaks this program can do everything you need and can replace every other piece of AV connected to your PC e.g. set-top boxes, DVDs, Blu-ray players etc.

Every bedroom in my apartment and my living room has a Windows 7 Media Center machine – here are 12 Essential Windows 7 Media Center Addons that get the most out of W7MC.

1 – DVBLogic TVSource & Network Pack

Allows you to share or ‘pool’ TV cards installed in one W7MC machine not only with other W7MC machines, so that you can watch live tv on every Windows 7 machine within your home.  As a bonus, live tv from your W7MC can also be streamed online via a browser and can be watched on iPhones and iPads.  Read a full review here.

More: DVBlogic

2 – My Movies

Probably one of the most advanced W7MC addons.  My Movies contains collection management tools for both movies and now also TV shows, that pulls in rich metadata about the films and tv shows in your collection.  This metadata is then presented within MediaCenter in a fantastic interface that allows the easy selection of content to watch.

More: My Movies

3 – Recorded TV Manager 3

Manages your recorded TV collection through a convenient series-centric interface.  Powerful AutoMove tools that allows recordings to be moved to another location, such as another PC or to a network share so that it can be accessed by other PCs.

More: Recorded TV Manager 3

4 – Shark007 Codecs

The only codec pack you will ever need.  Out of the box this codec pack will cover 90% of usage scenarios, and the easy config tool will allow users to easily accommodate the other 10%.  Windows X64 users need to install both the X86 AND X64 packages

More: Shark007

5 – MediaControl

Media Control is a plugin for Microsoft Media Center that adds lacking features such as : fast forward/rewind for any video format, resume video, switch between audio/subtitles streams, sets brightness/contrast, improves picture quality

This plugin is essential if you watch mkv files within media center and need to switch audio streams.

More: MediaControl

6 – My Channel Logos

This great app now not only adds channel logos to Windows 7 Media Center’s TV guide, but the latest version can also increase the number of rows in the guide and mini-guide.

More: My Channel Logos

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Windows Live To End Support For Blogginghttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/09/27/windows-live-support-blogging/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/09/27/windows-live-support-blogging/#comments Tue, 28 Sep 2010 07:28:29 +0000 http://www.everything-microsoft.com/?p=9752 If you have been a blogger on Microsoft Live using Spaces, your time will run out for blogging in that environment.

How much time and what will happen to the blogs?

The timeframe when Microsoft will pull the plug on Spaces is six months. At that time, actually long before that time, on September 27, Microsoft will work with WordPress to move Spaces blogs over to WordPress. WordPress has become the de facto blogger software product and Microsoft has created a partnership with them to move Spaces blogs.

How is it going to be done?

The actual mechanism for moving from Spaces blogs over to WordPress blogs is a text and blog importer created by WordPress. So in the future new Windows Live users, when they start to create their blogs, will also have the opportunity to work with a WordPress blog.

In the event that the six month time frame expires, what then? What will happen to the blogs? Well according Microsoft, first there will be several communications to Spaces users to remind them that they have to migrate their content to WordPress or save their content to their PC. Secondly, if they don’t take either action during the six month grace period, their content will be removed when Spaces is decommissioned. Guys, it’s a move it or lose it approach.

However, what if a user does not want to work with WordPress?

The user can certainly move over to another blog platform, like Blogger.com or MoveableType. WordPress has also added support for Messenger Connect as a Publicize option. This enables users to share updates automatically to the WordPress.com blog with your friends who use Windows Live Messenger.

But not to worry, there are many other stand alone blog platforms that many use. These include PMachine, Greymatter, B2Evolution, TextPattern and Expression Engine.

Source: en.blog.wordpress.com

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Daniusoft Video Converter Ultimate In-Depth Reviewhttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/07/25/daniusoft-video-converter-ultimate-review/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/07/25/daniusoft-video-converter-ultimate-review/#comments Sun, 25 Jul 2010 07:25:50 +0000 http://www.everything-microsoft.com/?p=9214 Have you ever wanted to rip a DVD movie but eventually got tied up in knots when trying to choose a suitable video codec or understand what “VBV buffer rate” even meant? What about that day you were anxious to watch a video on your brand new iPhone, only just to find out that it doesn’t work because it’s of the wrong format?! You might have faced other hurdles when downloading YouTube videos, removing a file’s DRM protection or burning a video to a DVD.

Yes, you can install a program for each of these tasks and get the job done. Nonetheless, you can take a wiser decision and dodge a lot of pain and frustration by just buying one program that can do it all. This application would be Daniusoft Video Converter Ultimate, which has the following capabilities:

Daniusoft Video Converter Ultimate’s key features are: video converter, DVD ripper, DRM removal, DVD burner, device transfer and YouTube downloader.

User Interface & Usability

The program has a simple user interface without any settings buried deep inside it or difficult to access. You can add video and audio files to a list and specify each item’s output format and quality, all from within the main window. Trimming, editing and transferring files to a device can all be done via the buttons at the top. Once you’ve set your list and are satisfied with the settings, click on the “Start” button to start conversion or the “Burn DVD” if you want to make a DVD. Unlike some other media converters, Daniusoft Video Converter Ultimate’s design integrates all features with one another and keeps everything in one place, making it very efficient to use.

I’ve found it easy to learn and became familiar with its interface quickly. In fact, after quickly skimming through the guide that appeared after installation, I was able to jump right into using it. There are, however, some features which I think are important that the program lacks. For instance, there is neither an option for minimizing it to the tray nor a “Clear” button to create a new list. Furthermore, while converting files, it only tells us the percentage completed and time remaining. There’s no mention of the time elapsed, conversion speed, etc.. These things aren’t major, though they are expected by users.

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Which OS will you let onto your TV first?http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/05/20/which-os-will-you-let-onto-your-tv-first/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/05/20/which-os-will-you-let-onto-your-tv-first/#comments Thu, 20 May 2010 20:52:06 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/2010/05/20/which-os-will-you-let-onto-your-tv-first/ Both Windows Media Centre and Apple TV have been on the market now for years and both have their loyal supporters.  For people who use Apple’s iTunes software, especially to download and play TV shows and movies, the ability to be able to play those on your TV via a small set-top-box is very compelling.

Windows Media Centre users have had a much rougher time of it.  I myself have used Windows Media Centre as my only way to get TV and video onto my living room television since 2003.  Back then it was an incredibly painful experience and, fortunately now, is almost completely pain free.  I say almost because Windows 7 is still not the embedded operating system that allows for pain-free set-top-boxes running it.

Oh yes it is!  Only recently Microsoft announced an embedded version of the OS that includes Media Centre and, while there are no set-top-box (I’m gonna get sick of saying that soon) devices yet announced by manufacturers, we can be sure that some are on the way.

But today Google have thrown their hat into the ring with a new STB (let’s just call it that!) by Sony that will run their new Smart TV service.  This will allow people to search, because it’s Google and search is what they’re all about, for both live channels and web content including YouTube for interesting videos.

The box will also allow people to download applications which is interesting, because several TV manufacturers have already expressed interest in having widget-enabled TVs in their product lines.

Despite the popularity of Apple TV and Media Centre, Google’s offering probably stands the best chance of coming built into new television sets, because of it’s platform-agnostic offering, and the fact that you can simply plug your TV into your broadband connection and use it independently to browse the web on its own.

So which will you allow into your living room first, if at all?  I’ve set out my stall and I’m kind of stuck with it now, but even so I’m looking forward to having a proper STB running Windows 7 Embedded.

Apple will need to raise their game to compete against both offerings and finally I believe Google is coming up with a new, first generation product that genuinely stands head and shoulders above the competition.

This is going to be an interesting fight for your front room.

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Western Digital Live TV Now Supports Windows 7http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/05/08/western-digital-live-tv-now-supports-windows-7/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/05/08/western-digital-live-tv-now-supports-windows-7/#comments Sat, 08 May 2010 16:59:49 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=8266 The Western Digital Live HD TV Media Server went on sale last year and those who own one may be finding it quite tough to navigate among movies etc…. using the devices tiny controls. Now however you can take advantage of the new “Play To” feature that comes with Windows 7.

Western Digital announced that they will be the first networked media player to support the “Play To” feature of Windows 7, which allows users to initiate and control the streaming of digital content to the WD TV Live HD media player, or any other compatible home entertainment systems, from any Windows 7-based PC on their network.

Say if you want to play a movie that’s stored on a network computer or on the external hard drive that’s attached to the WD TV Live, instead of having to use the remote control to browse for it, you can now simply add it to the Windows Media Player 12 playlist on the Windows 7-based computer that you’re using.

From within WMP 12, you then right-click on the movie in the list and pick the WD TV Live as the playback device. The movie will then be “pushed” to the media player and played back on the TV to which it is connected.

The device itself costs around $120 but if you already own one, the firmware upgrade is free. Once updated, the WD TV Live will be automatically recognized by Windows 7 and added to the list of devices that are compatible with Play To.

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Windows 7 Media Centre on your embedded devicehttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/04/27/windows-7-media-centre-on-your-embedded-device/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/04/27/windows-7-media-centre-on-your-embedded-device/#comments Tue, 27 Apr 2010 20:56:52 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/2010/04/27/windows-7-media-centre-on-your-embedded-device/ There’s no doubt that Windows Media Centre has been an enormous success.  It began as an important part of Bill Gates’ vision to get PCs into the living room.  It’s only been a partial success in that regard with a few tech-people like myself using it there (I’ve had a media centre PC under my TV and in use as my only way of getting TV and video now since 2003).  Where it’s been particularly successful in recent years is the student market, where university and college students living away from home, and short on space, can mix a PC and a TV into one device.

Microsoft’s next project was to port Media Centre to the Xbox, and with the Xbox 360 they made this successful too.

mediacentre2

Now the Media Centre experience will be found elsewhere too, and who knows where.  Microsoft announced the other week they were finally retiring the old XP-based Windows embedded with one based on Windows 7 instead.  With this will come Windows Media Centre.

In a press release they said…

"With the release of Windows Embedded Standard 7, Microsoft has furthered its commitment to the integration of Windows 7 technologies in the specialized consumer and enterprise device markets by providing OEMs with the latest innovative technologies to differentiate through rich, immersive user experiences and streamlined connectivity," said Kevin Dallas, general manager of the Windows Embedded Business Unit at Microsoft. "The addition of the Windows Media Center feature in Windows Embedded Standard 7 is driving the set-top box, connected media device and TV markets by providing OEMs with opportunities to develop uniquely branded experiences and service providers with capabilities to explore additional revenue streams with unique content through a centralized media hub in the home

This could lead the way to new innovations from set-top box makers such as TiVO, Moxi or Virgin Media and Pace in the UK and Europe.

There’s no word yet from manufacturers about set top boxes based on Windows Embedded Standard 7 (another long name from the people behind “Windows Phone 7 Series” perhaps?) or even if we’ll ever see such devices.  It would be wonderful however, especially for people who already use a Media Centre PC under their TV (such as myself of course) to be able to replace a computer with an embedded solution with the same functionality of TV tuner(s), network and internet access and the lovely blue interface.

Time will tell.

Written by : Mike Halsey – www.everything-microsoft.com

Source : Engadget

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Samsung Set to Incorporate Microsoft PlayReady in Deviceshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/04/18/samsung-set-to-incorporate-microsoft-playready-in-devices/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/04/18/samsung-set-to-incorporate-microsoft-playready-in-devices/#comments Mon, 19 Apr 2010 03:03:30 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=8066 In the area of digital entertainment, Samsung Electronics last week announced that it had undertaken options to adopt Microsoft PlayReady for its consumer devices. PlayReady is designed as a method to access content and provide protection to different technologies. Playready is a variant of a the digital rights management system that spans a variety of devices and applications, and even digital entertainment services. It was originally released in February 2007. PlayReady is Microsoft’s digital-rights-management solution, which is bundled with Windows 7.  By moving to Playready, Samsung indicated that it would stop using Windows Media Digital Rights Management, as soon as its products were migrated to PlayReady.

samsung-microsoft-drm

PlayReady features that were already present in other schemes that restricted consumer operations in the market have been added. One of these is the domain, where a group of devices that belong to the same user can share the same license, Another feature also involves licenses. These are embedded licenses that come built in the content files. They avoid the separate step of license acquisition. And finally envelopes are included which provide the ability to restrict arbitrary, and potentially non-media content.

PlayReady will be platform independent. This is not like other Microsoft consumer restriction schemes, for example, Janus, PlayReady can be migrated to any kind of portable device even those that use non-Microsoft technology such as OS’s, codecs, or media player. It is this feature, the use anytime anywhere, that Samsung found most appealing. Its products will be able to play on a range of products. Mobile phones, digital video players, televisions, and other entertainment devices will be able to play the same content, especially if the media is copyright protected.

By pairing software such as PlayReady with Samsung’s broad line of consumer electronics products Samsung is poised to offer consumers new ways to deliver, share and enjoy digital content. Samsung will be shipping the first products that have PlayReady support by the end of the year.

Source: Microsoft

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Windows 7 Media Center Updates Fix Reliability Issueshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/03/24/windows-7-media-center-updates-fix-reliability-issues/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/03/24/windows-7-media-center-updates-fix-reliability-issues/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 17:10:17 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=7830 Today you may find that your Windows Media Center is downloading some updates, I just saw mine downloading some updates only a moment ago and now I know why it was. Personally I haven’t experienced any of these problems but apparently users have been having trouble with the TV Tuner and also some users are reporting a “Low Bit Rate” error.

Thankfully Microsoft have released 4 updates that are now available for download that fix these issues, hopefully once and for all.

The Low Bit Rate issue can impact Windows 7 machines used by customers to watch live analog TV in Windows Media Center via an analog TV tuner. It was somewhat of a nuisance for users. At random intervals, while watching live TV, the screen would suddenly turn blue and display a “Low Bit Rate Error” message. Users could still hear the audio, but the video would disappear for anywhere from 5-15 seconds.

Microsoft explained in a support article

Windows Media Center monitors the incoming bit rate of live TV. Without this monitoring, the bit rate drops very low when the analog TV input is weak or does not have a signal. This causes a black screen or a static screen to be displayed. With this monitoring, Windows Media Center displays an overlay message to indicate a possible issue with the incoming bit rate when the analog TV input is weak or does not have a signal. However, the method that is used to monitor the incoming bit rate on analog signals is too sensitive. This may cause a false detection of a low bit rate,

The second update is in relation to TV Tuners. When users are using a TV Tuner with Windows Media Center, Windows could produce different error messages, informing users of the existence of a “Tuner Conflict” or that there is “No tuner available to satisfy the current request.” In addition, the Windows Media Center Receiver Service (Ehrecvr.exe) can also freeze and remain unresponsive until a restart.

Microsoft said that this may be caused by changing channel too quickly.

This issue may occur if you change channels fast and frequently (also known as ‘channel surfing’), in Windows Media Center, These symptoms may be caused by other issues that are not related to this update. For example, you may receive similar symptoms when you try to query [the] current state of a TV tuner or of a malfunctioning hardware device.”

So hopefully those of you who where having these problems should be sorted now with this update. If they haven’t been downloaded automatically to your machine you can download them at the links below

Fixes for the Low Bit Rate overlay messages:

For 32-bit (x86) Windows 7
For 64-bit (x64) Windows 7

TV tuner functionality fixes:

For 32-bit (x86) Windows 7
- For 64-bit (x64) Windows 7

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Which is the Best Windows 7 Media Player? Part 2 (The Ones I Missed)http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/02/22/which-is-the-best-windows-7-media-player-part-2-the-ones-i-missed/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/02/22/which-is-the-best-windows-7-media-player-part-2-the-ones-i-missed/#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2010 04:20:42 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=7392 Which is the Best Windows 7 Media Player? Part 1

This is sort of like a part two to my previous write-up about the best options for media in Windows 7. Some users took the time to add their favorite choices in the comments, so I decided to give their choices a little justice, download them and check them out myself. Here are my conclusions on the options that I test drove:

MediaMonkey: MediaMonkey has almost a cult-following in the media player and management realm. The software is one of the most extensive suites that I’ve ever used. Format support is one of the best and the features are so many that I cannot begin to name all and do the software justice. To briefly put it, this software is more for the experienced and demanding user and not so much for the casual media user. One particular feature that I enjoyed was the ability for the software to recognize your current player of choice and import all of its media information (play counts, ratings, ect…). My main issue with MediaMonkey was the cluttered look of the interface. While it does an excellent job of helping the user manage their media, I also prefer a combination of features and simplicity. Please correct me in the comments if I am wrong, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t appear to be available for the Mac, which is okay because this is a Windows news site. There is a free version and a Gold version of the software with added features for $19.95.

Gomplayer: If you are looking for a basic video player for Windows 7, look no further. GOM Player is just that…a basic video player. Format support is very good and quite extensive. All the major formats seem to be supported and the software even includes DVD support. The interface is simple and very easy to navigate. Features include: advanced codec support, the ability to adjust and configure subtitles, advanced video and audio settings. To summarize, GOM player is an excellent, small, video player for your video files and it’s free. If you are looking for the full media center experience, this is not your software.

Winamp 5.57: Winamp has been around forever and is one of the most popular and versatile media experiences for the PC that is available. Format and codec support is superior and features are as extensive as you will find. Skins, equalizers, visualizations, plug-ins, internet radio and internet TV are just a few of the options that Winamp offers. My only dislike with Winamp has always been the layout and interface. It’s not really my favorite interface out there, but that is purely preference and other users find it very easy to use and helpful, so you’ll need to judge that for yourself. The lite version is free and there is a Pro version for $19.95.

BS.Player: One of the older revisited favorites is BS.Player. This player is very good for playing many different file types and specializes in the DivX format. During installation, the player will check for missing codecs, which is a nice feature. BS.Player also doubles as a decent jukebox with the ability to play music files. One feature that it is missing is the ability to update album art, which is a huge “deal breaker” for me since I need to have the album art on my PMP. Music management and playback is exceptional, but the real bread and butter of BS.Player lies in its ability to play nearly any video format. Most importantly the BS.Player is available for free.

Windows 7 Media Center: I know, this one is obvious, but I believe it’s worth mentioning since it is a media option for Windows 7. Media Center is truly a one-stop shop for everything media. Music  and video are at the forefront of the experience and pictures, internet TV and loads of other features round out the best Media Center to date. If you don’t believe me, try TiVo or some other media center experience and you will soon be regretting your decision. Media Center was buggy in past releases, but since, it seems that Microsoft has figured things out and is charging ahead with an excellent media solution. Simply put, Media Center relies on your computer and Windows integration for pretty much everything and codecs and formats work the same way. Basically, if Media Player plays it, so will Media Canter. There are so many features and options in Media Center that it could be its own article…wait, it is. For more information, take a look at Everton’s write-up on Media Center, here.

There ya go…as I concluded in part 1, there are many other good alternatives that I didn’t mention and I sure cannot do these ones justice in such a breif article. My main purpose is to show that there are many good alternatives. That’s part of what makes Windows, in my opinion, so much better than other OSes, the versatility and selection of software. As always, hope this breif summary helps.

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Sky Player For Windows 7http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/02/06/sky-player-for-windows-7/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2010/02/06/sky-player-for-windows-7/#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2010 16:01:19 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=7158 UK users have already had this feature since November 2009, but Sky TV broadcaster has now finally rolled out it’s Sky player to Windows 7 users in Ireland.The service gives Windows 7 users in Ireland and the UK access to a range of live and on demand programming, including movies, sports, the arts and family entertainment. This is now all built into the Windows 7 Media Center menu. In the past you could access the Sky Player online but it’s much more convienent now that it’s built in directly to the Windows 7 Media Center.

Ronald Dockery, client manager, of Microsoft Ireland said:

With Windows Media Center we are continuing to deliver on how people are choosing to view their entertainment,” “Teaming up with Sky was a no brainer, delivering rich content through the power and ease of Windows Media Center gives people the best possible selection and viewing experience right at their PC.”

With the Sky Player weaved into the Media center it now provides users with a more media rich, TV like experience. So you now search for shows using keywords, browse programme galleries or scroll through the familiar Sky on-screen guide, it also takes advantage of the multi-touch interface with Windows 7 and it works with any Windows Media Center-enabled remote control.

If your a current Sky TV subscriber, you can easily access these features by logging in with your Sky User ID, however depending on your current package, you may be limited to what you can watch. Sky packages start at €15 per month but if you want to avail of the Sky On Demand Programs and Sports and Movies, you will have to sign up for the more expensive packages which can see your bill above €60 a month.

This is still a big step forward in Ireland at least for online TV as watching movies and content on demand is still very limited. Hopefully Sky will make more than just the 26 channels available in the future and lead the way for others to follow in online entertainment.

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Download Windows Media Feature Pack For Windows 7 N And Windows 7 KNhttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/12/04/download-windows-media-feature-pack-for-windows-7-n-and-windows-7-kn/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/12/04/download-windows-media-feature-pack-for-windows-7-n-and-windows-7-kn/#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2009 18:52:19 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=6058 Since 2004 after being fined a record 497m euros in an antitrust ruling, Microsoft when  has only been allowed by the European Commission, who decided that bundling Windows Media Player with Windows was anticompetitive, to release versions of its operating systems in Europe with media players on the condition that versions without media players were available for users to buy and OEMs to bundle.  This left Europeans faced with Windows XP N, Windows Vista N and now Windows 7 N and Windows 7 KN versions.  The ‘N’ and ‘KN’ suffix indicates that the versions don’t have bundled media players.

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Now to further confuse users, Microsoft have made available a Windows Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 N and Windows KN versions. which will install Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center and Windows DVD Maker and other windows 7 media features.  The download is free (validation required).

More: Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 N and Windows 7 KN

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Improve Windows 7 Media Center With My Movies 3http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/10/13/improve-windows-7-media-center-with-my-movies-3/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/10/13/improve-windows-7-media-center-with-my-movies-3/#comments Tue, 13 Oct 2009 13:00:23 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=4872 I’ve been a user of My Movies 2 for Windows Media Center for around 3 years.  On my Windows Vista Media Centers it was the best way to manage and watch my movie collection, and offered several improvements over Vista’s DVD library.  My Movies allows you to add movies automatically to your library using user-generated content (movie reviews, artwork, ratings, actor details etc).

My Movies 2 works perfectly with Windows 7 Media Center, but it was starting to look a bit dated and thankfully the software creators have been working on My Movies 3 that will be launched to coincide with Windows 7 launch on October 22nd.  Pre-release versions of My Movies 3 has been available to users who have 2,500 points like myself; points are accumulated by adding movie data to the database or by contributing.

My Movies 3 is a vast improvement over My Movies and an essential addition for anyone who uses Windows 7 Media Center.

Key Features:

  • New: Improved faster and more stable interface
  • New: Single installation file for x86 and x64 machines including SQL Server
  • New: Easier integration into Windows 7 Media Center.  Option (to be added) to replace the Windows 7 Movie Library
  • New: Improved integration with external HD players
  • Index all your movies automatically: My Movies indexes all your movies, and automatically downloads movie data such as descriptions, ratings, actors and covers and much more.
  • Browse, read about and watch your movies: After indexing your movies, you can browse your movies, view covers, read descriptions, see which actors star in a movie and much more.
  • Share collection on multiple clients: You can setup a main movie collection, and have multiple client browse it, and watch movies from it from additional Media Centers or Media Center extenders.
  • Full parental controls: With two levels of MPAA based parental controls you have full control, and can require a pin # to watch a movie, or even restrict browsing to a certain MPAA level.
  • Create and save movie filters: You can create and save multiple filters to recall movies by parental rating, genre, star rating, and whether or not you have watched the movie.
  • Copy DVD’s to disk with just your remote: With just the use of your remote, you can backup a DVD to your harddrive and index the movie in the database at the same time, for easy retrieval later on.

You can download the current version of My Movies here.

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DivX MKV Project Simplifies Windows 7 MKV Codecshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/10/09/divx-mkv-project-simplifies-windows-7-mkv-codecs/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/10/09/divx-mkv-project-simplifies-windows-7-mkv-codecs/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2009 04:58:33 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=4770 Even though Windows 7 includes better codec support then previous Windows versions, the way that Microsoft has achieved this has created problems with previous solutions for playing file formats such as mkv, which has very quickly become the #1 format for HD movies and TV shows.  Windows 7 codec support is provided via the Windows Media Foundation, which overnight made codecs that worked with Windows Vista that were based on DirectShow very hard to use.

Getting ffdshow, coreavc etc to work with Windows 7 is possible, but not a very simple process to do.  One Tip A Day have discovered a potential solution from DivX that make these problems may soon go away, as they have released beta mkv codecs support that utilises the mkv codecs in Windows Media Foundation so work seamlessly with Windows 7.  The codecs even provide DVXA acceleration support, so if you have a modern graphics card your GPU will help play the video files, freeing up your CPU.

divx-tech-prev_mkv-win7_reg-free

To download the DIVX MKV Project codecs users were previously required to register, but DivX have made the plugin available now without registering.  Note: The DIVX MKV Project only supports video playback so to you’ll need FFDShow Audio, AC3filter or something similar to get audio playback.

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Troubleshooting in Windows 7http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/10/05/troubleshooting-in-windows-7/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/10/05/troubleshooting-in-windows-7/#comments Mon, 05 Oct 2009 05:53:08 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=4660 Despite Microsoft’s claim that all existing hardware and software would run smoothly under Windows 7, I found that there were a few problems. For example, my old laser printer, an HP LaserJet 1200 wouldn’t work at first despite trying to reinstall its driver. It was ironic that its driver worked smoothly in Windows Vista.

So what did I do? In researching Windows 7, I came across a new feature, Troubleshooters. This provided me with an answer to a nagging problem.

Windows 7’s new troubleshooting feature is located in the Action Centre. To access this feature do the following:

You can open the Troubleshooter in a number of different ways. The most common methods are described below.

  • Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Action Centre > Troubleshoot common computer problems.
  • Start > Search > Type: troubleshooter > Click Find and diagnose problems

We’ll use a second option.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. In the search box, type troubleshooter.t1
  3. Search opens.
  4. It offers several suggestions. The top suggestion “Find and diagnose problems” will open the Troubleshooter feature.2a
    Note: Search’s other suggestions relate to more specific problems.
  5. In the Troubleshooter window there are five specific areas, Programs, Hardware and Sound, Networking and Internet, Appearance and Personalisation and System and Security.
  6. In the Troubleshooting window, try a blue writing suggestion as it may resolve your problem. Just click on the one you think fits.3a
  7. In the lower section of this window is a small ticked box that enables Microsoft to update their troubleshooters via the Internet. It’s a good idea to accept this offer!

No Solutions so far!

If you cannot find a solution in the Troubleshooting window, described previously, here’s another way to find a solution.

This involves using Windows 7’s Help section.

To access Help do the following:

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. When the Start menu opens, select Help and Support.
  3. When Help and Support opens, in the Search Help box, type troubleshooters.5a
  4. Click the small magnifying glass at the right hand side of this box.
  5. Help sets to work and finds specific problems requiring a Troubleshooter.6a
  6. If you see a troubleshooters in Help’s list that fits your problem, click it and the specific Troubleshooter will open.

Trying a Troubleshooter

To give you an idea of how this feature works, let’s choose the Printer Troubleshooter in the list.

  1. Click Open the Printer troubleshooter.7a
  2. When the printer troubleshooter opens, read its suggestions carefully.8a
  3. Click the lower suggestion, Click to open the Printer troubleshooter.t9a
  4. When the Printer troubleshooter opens, follow the instructions carefully. You may find this solves your worry.

t11

By now you will have some inkling as to how to solve some of the common problems associated with hardware and applications.

Windows 7 offers its full support through its Troubleshooting Feature and through its Help and Support.

A final feature that may assist you is the Problem Steps Recorder. This feature allows you to document your problem and sends the information of to Microsoft for a solution. You can activate this tool quite easily. To find out more, open Help and Support, type Problem Steps Recorder and all will be explained to you.

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No Restrictions For Netbookshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/09/28/no-restrictions-for-netbooks/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/09/28/no-restrictions-for-netbooks/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2009 00:22:20 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=4418 It was recently revealed that Microsoft will not force OEMs and ODMs to install only Windows 7 Starter on netbooks, instead opting to allow them to choose which version of Windows 7 to install. The Redmond giant also confirmed that the three application limit has been removed.

OEMs and ODMs have the choice to install any version of Windows on a netbook,” said a Microsoft UK spokesperson. “[But] Starter is an entry version and doesn’t have many of the consumer or business features. The three application limit isn’t there anymore.

Windows 7 Starter has been seen as a trial for Windows 7, with many of the flagship features removed, namely the Aero features, but also abilities such as Desktop Personalization, DVD Playback, XP Mode, Windows Media Center, Fast User Switching, Multiple Monitors, and more. Starter is also only available with an x86 architecture, as Microsoft opted to exclude a x64 version.

Home Basic is also quite similar, with several features removed and intended as a basic, entry level OS. As quoted from TG Daily, “it’s hard to see exactly why we need two entry SKUs of the OS.”

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Windows 7 Advertisements On A Rollhttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/09/25/windows-7-advertisements-on-a-roll/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/09/25/windows-7-advertisements-on-a-roll/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2009 23:54:28 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=4333 Microsoft started their “Good News” marketing campaign for Windows 7 and similar products not long ago, and advertisements are slowly propagating for the October 22nd release. Just three days ago, Microsoft unveiled five ads targeted at consumers for various popular Microsoft products (Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Media Center, Windows 7, Aero Shake, and Personalization “Your PC, Your Style”).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWeRXvBuXEE&rel=0&fmt=18]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBJy11C-fgU&rel=0&fmt=18]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46BrgXXXzW8&rel=0&fmt=18]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CuVmAukssM&rel=0&fmt=18]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVMc5Ia7QnY&rel=0&fmt=18]

And now, as of last night, another video has appeared for Windows 7, as Kylie again experiments with slideshows to send to her friends and spread the “good word.” After all, the “happy words just keep on coming.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6adgIJE8YQ&rel=0&fmt=18]

Windows 7 is off to a good start; however, the real explosion will occur on October 22nd when Windows 7 actually hits stores.

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Review Of Windows 7 Media Center TVhttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/08/20/review-of-windows-7-media-center-tv/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/08/20/review-of-windows-7-media-center-tv/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2009 14:17:44 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=3592 In my coverage of Windows 7 Media Center’s capabilities I’ve focused mainly on it’s video and music library capabilities, codec and plugin support, and not the TV capabilities because I don’t have a TV card installed in any of my Windows 7 Media Centers.  This is because I can only get digital cable where I live, and not digital or analogue TV via an aerial.

However, after reading EngadgetHD’s review of Windows 7 Media Center’s TV capabilities, I wish I did.  VMC had amazing TV capabilities, but with W7MC it appears that Microsoft have raised the interactive TV bar even further.  A bonus with Windows 7 MC is that it also supports Dolby Digital Plus which is used by many content providers and broadcasters, and which will provide better quality audio and up to 7.1 channels.

Below is a great video showing Windows 7 Media Center in action:

To read the full list of new TV features in Windows 7 Media Center, click here.

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Building A Sub $300 Windows 7 Media Center PChttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/08/14/building-a-sub-300-windows-7-media-center-pc/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/08/14/building-a-sub-300-windows-7-media-center-pc/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2009 16:52:56 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=3552 Today is my wife’s last day in her current job and next week she’s starting a new career as a homeworker.  I decided it wasn’t fair her sharing our Toshiba laptop, so I’ve given it to her as her dedicated machine and I’m now using the old laptop which previously had been struggling along as a media center in our bedroom.

The media center laptop never had enough power to play HD 1080p mkv or bluray rips stored on my Windows Home Server without some major stuttering, so I took the opportunity to build a new media center PC for the bedroom which would be powerful to play all file formats using Windows 7 Media Center.  I wanted to keep the costs as low as possible as this machine will only be used as a W7MC machine, so I set myself the challenge of spending less than £200 (approx $300).  I’ve also been inspired by Sean’s attempts to build a Windows 7 PC for his mother.

I was amazed how easy it was to do, even though I did go over the budget a bit by buying a sexy slim Antec Minuet PC case – even my wife was impressed when she saw it.

Because Windows 7 isn’t a resource hog, if you’re not planning on playing games then you don’t need a lot of powerful hardware.  Here are the components that I purchased to go into my sexy new Windows  Media Center PC:

Case

I got a bit carried away with my case because the machine is going in the bedroom, so I didn’t want anything ugly so it would get my wife’s nod.  I could have picked up decent looking cases for under £40, but in the end I purchased this super slim Antec Minuet case for £80, which is just over 30cm wide.

antec-Minuet350Motherboard

I chose a motherboard with  a AMD 780G Chipset as these have good enough onboard sound and audio for a media center, so there’s no need for a separate soundcard or videocard which keeps the costs down.  The Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics core is from the same processor family in the Radeon HD 2400 series that’s less than 2 years old – more than enough to play a few videos.

Most 780G motherboards also have good sound support.   I ended up choosing an Asus M4A78-VM that has an inbuilt S/PDIF out socket, as well as DVI and HDMI connectors providing full AV connectivity.  Total cost?  £45

ASUS M478-VM

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New Tool To Control Windows 7 Codecshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/07/26/new-tool-to-control-windows-7-codecs/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/07/26/new-tool-to-control-windows-7-codecs/#comments Sun, 26 Jul 2009 14:54:47 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=3451 A few days ago I wrote a guide to setting up Windows 7 codecs, which is much harder than on Windows Vista.  Some readers replied saying that there are several codec packs out there that do this, but in my experience they only get you part of the way there especially if you have a slower machines and can’t afford the bloat, and it’s also better to have a full understanding of what apps are doing what.

One of the messy steps in my guide was setting preferred codecs in W7MC, which involved manually changing system files.  Luckily, one of the ffdshow developers CLSid has created a new tool that handles all of this automatically.  The Preferred Directshow Filters Tool can change preferred codecs for Windows 7 Media Center in a few clicks.

  • Currently supported formats:
    • H.264
    • MPEG-4 (Xvid/DivX/MP4V)
    • MPEG-2
    • VC-1
  • Currently supported third party filters (32-bit):
    • ffdshow
    • MPCVideoDec
    • CoreAVC H.264 decoder
    • Xvid MPEG-4 decoder
    • DivX H.264 decoder
    • DivX MPEG-4 decoder
    • DScaler5 MPEG-2 decoder
    • Gabest MPEG-2 decoder
    • Cyberlink H.264 decoder (PDVD 7/9)
    • Cyberlink MPEG-2 decoder (PDVD 7/8/9)
    • Cyberlink VC-1 decoder (patched with VC1Tweak: guid {394DFD1B-6F4C-4096-AA14-EF852B02595B})
    • ArcSoft H.264 decoder
    • ArcSoft MPEG-4 decoder
    • ArcSoft MPEG-2 decoder
    • ArcSoft VC-1 decoder (patched with VC1Tweak: guid {9DAD7B50-4432-4F48-AC60-B2B4E854454B})
  • Currently supported third party filters (64-bit):
    • ffdshow
    • MPCVideoDec
    • Xvid MPEG-4 decoder
    • Gabest MPEG-2 decoder
  • Works on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

More: Windows 7 DirectShow Filters

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Ultimate Guide To Codecs For Windows 7 Media Centerhttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/07/22/ultimate-guide-to-codecs-for-windows-7-media-center/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/07/22/ultimate-guide-to-codecs-for-windows-7-media-center/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2009 18:05:24 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=3418 I’m a big user of Windows 7 Media Center, and I have 3 machines now dedicated to running Windows 7 Media Center that support playing h.264, mkv and flac files.  They are not high-powered machines; one’s an old laptop and the others are running old dual-core AMD processors.

Windows 7 Media Center Details

Getting all my files and codecs setup and playing nicely in Windows 7 was a bit harder than with Windows Vista, but now all of my machines are now happy playing 1080p content as well as outputting the digital audio correctly via SPDIF and coaxial.

If you’re getting choppy video playback thanks to the (poor) Microsoft DTV-DVD decoder, then by following the steps below you will be able to avoid the hours I spent trying to get everything working.  The alternative is to install a Windows 7 Codec pack, but most of these contain a lot of bloat that you really don’t need.

Stage I – Uninstall Old Codecs

If you’re starting from a fresh Windows 7 installation, then there’s nothing to do here.  If you’ve tried installing a few codecs before following this guide then goo into control panel/add&remove programs and uninstall all your old codecs.

Stage II – Install FFDShow

FFDShow is a free codec for decoding/encoding just about every video format out there. I use it for everything apart from h.264 and mkv, for which I use CoreAVC.  CoreAVC is the fastest H.264/AVC codec and is the best way for low-powered machines to play these files.  For H.264 and mkv files there is no difference in quality, and at $14.95 it’s good value.

32 bit Windows 7 users:

  • Download the latest latest version of ffdshow tryouts.  During installation choose the following options:
  • Untick ‘H.264‘ in the video codecs section if you have purchased CoreAVC
  • Tick ‘MPEG2
  • If you have your PC audio connected to your speakers or amp via SPDIF or coaxial then scroll down to the audio section and check enable AC3 and DTS passthrough
  • Once finished, go into the fdshow video decoder configuration window and go to MPEG2 in Codecs.  Make sure libavcodec is enabled and that ‘DVD decoding’ is checked

64 bit Windows 7 users:

  • In addition to the 32bit steps above, you also have to install the 64bit version of ffdshow.
  • During installation follow the other steps as above, but don’t untick ‘H.264′ in the video codecs section as CoreAVC doesn’t currently support 64bit media players (e.g. W7MC) but this is coming soon

Stage III – MKV and H.264 files

My recommedation here is to install CoreAVC (32bit only though)

32 bit Windows 7 users:

  • Option 1: Install CoreAVC & Haali Media Splitter (done automatically) to to add MKV/H.264 support
  • Option 2: If you didn’t untick H.264 support for Ffdshow then just install Haali Media Splitter

64 bit Windows 7 users:

  • Follow your chosen 32bit Stage III option above
  • Also, install Gabest’s Matroska X64 Splitter (Haali Media Splitter doesn’t support 64 bit codecs).  Extract the files to the root of your C: drive and right-click ‘gabest_splitter_enable‘ and choose run as an administrator.  You will get two confirmations and the process will be over.  Do not delete the files after finishing!  To remove just repeat, but click on ‘gabest_splitter_remove‘.
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Download Custom Themes For Windows 7 Media Centerhttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/06/19/download-custom-themes-for-windows-7-media-center/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/06/19/download-custom-themes-for-windows-7-media-center/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2009 16:03:28 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=2527 I have 3 Media Center PCs in my home, two of which I proudly built myself.  What I love about Windows 7 Media Center is that it is even easier to use than Vista Media Center, rather than new functionality being added just for the sake of it.

One feature that I was hoping would be improved in Windows 7 Media Center was better theme support.  Unfortunately this isn’t so, but over at Theme7MC they are creating a list of some great 3rd party themes for Windows 7 Media Center.  The gallery below has a few images to whet your appetite:

Windows Media Center has never looked so good!  Installing a Windows 7 Media Center Theme is easy if you follow these instructions:

Installing themes with installers

  • double-click to begin the installation process then follow the directions on-screen to complete the installation.
  • Once you’ve completed the installation process you will most likely need to run a shortcut to enable the new theme.
  • Find the theme’s start menu listing in Start -> Programs and locate the shortcut to enable the theme.
  • Then right-click the shortcut and select “Run As Administrator”.
  • Once the process begins a black window and a patch dialog will appear. Double check to be sure that the two input dialogs point to “C:windowsehomeehres.dll” (this location make be different depending on the location of your Windows installation) and press “Start”.
  • Once the process has completed successfully, restart your Media Center.

Installing themes with patches

  • Before installing a theme that uses a patch you should backup your “ehres.dll” file. Open Windows Explorer and browse to “C:Windowsehome” and find “ehres.dll” then copy this file to a safe location. Make sure you now have two copies of this file before continuing, one in the original location and one in a safe location.
  • To install a theme that comes with a patch file you must first make sure you have ownership of the ehres.dll file located in “C:Windowsehome” (This location may vary depending on the location of your Windows installation). To do this first download and execute the own.reg file located here.
  • Then open Windows Explorer and navigate to “C:Windowsehome”. Find the “ehres.dll” file, right-click and select “Take Ownership”. If you do not see “Take Ownership” listed you haven’t installed the own.reg file correctly.
  • Once you have ownership of the “ehres.dll” file, run the .exe patch file included in the theme download as an administrator by right-clicking the file and selecting “Run as Administrator”. Make certain that the two input dialog boxes say “C:Windowsehomeehres.dll” (Again, this location may vary depending on the location of your Windows install) then press “Start”. When the patch process completes restart your Media Center.

Enjoy!

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Hide Windows 7 Media Center Startup Stripshttp://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/05/29/hide-windows-7-media-center-startup-strips/ http://www.everything-microsoft.com/2009/05/29/hide-windows-7-media-center-startup-strips/#comments Fri, 29 May 2009 17:10:54 +0000 http://everything-microsoft.com/?p=2055 The Hacking Windows 7 Media Center site has definitely been my online discovery of the month.  Ever since Windows 7 RC came out I’ve been using Windows 7 on my main media center, and the Hacking W7MC site has provided me with useful tweaks.

The most recent one is highlighting a free app that will remove the startup strips from Windows 7 Media Center (and VMC).  Once installed it is easy to remove strips – you can even setup up different configurations for different users.

hide-start-menus

You can download the free app here.

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