Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Few people will have need for this tip, but since I have experimented and succeeded I thought I’d share what I have learned and hopefully someone else can benefit from this.

I wanted to share a digital audio signal from a coaxial (RCA) style output with two receivers (well three, since my source device has analog out as well).  My home audio setup has a basement 7.1 surround movie theater as a powered zone, a family room 5.1 surround TV room, and a two channel analog -only amp that pushes out power to a speaker selector switch (with a protection circuit) to six other zones.

The two surround receivers and the analog amp are on opposite sides of what is essentially a closet.  This makes it possible to wire all of this together pretty easily.

My problem was that both of the surround receivers had all of their optical (TOSLINK) connectors in use, but had the coaxial (RCA DIGITAL) available.  I wanted to connect a Comcast DVR to all three amps so that I could select a music station and let the music run all day.

I have read some comments online that seemed to indicate that there are two views about whether splitting a digital signal is a good idea or not.  One seems to indicate that there will be signal loss – the biggest threat being jitter (losing the connection temporarily).  The other view is that digital signals are all-or-nothing connections.  You will either have sound or you will not.  I presume not having the signal is the presence of too much “jitter”.I used a cheap Radio Shack RCA (1 male to 2 female) splitter.IMG_20131128_113055_120Many devices can output both digital and analog audio simultaneously.  Here is the splitter attached to the back of the cable box.IMG_20131128_113201_124Lastly – here are both recievers showing that they are getting a digital signal.
IMG_20131128_113252_045 IMG_20131128_114050_115Is there any signal degradation? – so far none that I can hear.  So far as I can tell the all-or-nothing view seems to be correct as both receivers are indicating that they are getting a digital audio signal.

Advertisements
protest

I’m sure this is what the reaction to my blog entry will look like. “And the masses rose up in revolt demanding GIVE US A MEDIA CENTER APP!”

Just a thought here…I get a good amount of traffic on this site looking for things to do with Windows Media Center and the Xbox One.

A WMC app would be pretty easy to develop for the XBONE since it is simply a remote desktop connection (and the XBONE runs Windows 8) – heck my Android Phone now has an official Microsoft Remote Desktop app.

If you are one of the many WMC users who would like to see an app developed for the XBONE then please take a second and send Microsoft an email:

https://support.microsoft.com/contactus/emailcontact.aspx?scid=sw;en;1539

It can’t hurt to try, right?

Or you can just participate in a ridiculously unscientific poll:

Here are a few tips on how to get Windows Media Center to work with the XBOX ONE.  It is well documented that you can use the HDMI pass-through to display a 360 or even a PS4.  It is the same trick that allows a cable box to pass through it’s picture.

First, set your XBOX 360 to boot to Media Center when it starts.

Inside the settings app on the XBONE go to “TV & One Guide”.

x2

Then choose “Devices”

.x1scr

Then you will be able to choose devices from a list or to type in the manufacturer followed by model number.  In this case I used Microsoft Xbox 360.  I also checked to see if there was an entry for Ceton‘s Echo, there is not.  There is an option to type in Media Center and use remote commands for a media center remote.

x3

The Kinect 2 will then be able to use it’s IR blaster to turn on and off the XBOX 360 and hence Media Center.  However, in my experience it does not control the 360/WMC menus.  I had zero luck with changing channels without the remote for the 360 as well.  According to Microsoft even under the most ideal conditions (a cable box) the XBONE can only change channels, volume, and turn the device on and off.  It cannot manage recordings or access on-demand content.

I was pleasantly surprised when I said “XBOX Volume Down” and my Onkyo receiver dropped the volume three notches.

Much of the control issues could be overcome with some creative programming of a universal remoteLogitech Harmony remotes can be programmed to control the Xbox 360 and the XBONE.  I did not take this final step – hence the word “Hypothetical” in this article’s title.

If you own both devices, have room in your rack, and a good universal remote this might work for you.

Here are some images of Media Center running through the XBONE’s HDMI pass-through.

x5

Windows Media Center looks right at “Home” here.

I set this up temporarily due to the fact that I do not have room in my rack for both the 360 and the XBONE.  Silly me…I assumed the next XBOX would do more than it’s predecessor did.

x4

Want to drive Forza 5 while listening to Metallica?….this is what it would take.

Of course this seems a bit absurd to run essentially two computers just to watch TV – especially from a power consumption point of view.

I’m writing this with my feet up and an ice-pack on my groin…so please forgive the brrrrrevity.  (Get it?)

Yesterday I had my vasectomy.  Mrs. Mindcrime and I have decided to make a commitment to the child-free lifestyle…in the most tender way possible.  (No, the innuendo will not stop as you read on.)

For us it was a long path to this point and I’d like to share a few of our insights in the hopes that they may help someone else along the way.  However, if you are looking for a sappy story – you should probably find another blog.

Mrs. Mindcrime and I are pretty play-by-the-rules kind of people.  We work long hours, spend lots of time with family, exercise, have well-behaved dogs, are civically engaged citizens, spend time outdoors, and maintain a meticulous household.  So after a few years of (blissfully happy) marriage we had a conversation that went like this:

“If we are going to have kids, we should get started, shouldn’t we?”

(Insert the following reasons:  It will make parents happy, our friends are having kids, we’re getting older, we’d make good parents…etc)

“Yeah, I guess we should.  We’ve saved up a large enough nest egg and we put off having a child last year for that nice trip.”

“We can still travel with a kid, right?”

Notice the sense of obligation and the word SHOULD.

A viewing of the hilarious movie Idiocracy could also sum up part of our sense of smugly elitist obligation as well:

Frankly the stupid are breeding in crazy numbers and we needed to do something to stem the tide.

Being ‘good soldiers’ we proceeded according to the cultural script for people in our position.  However, after a year of trying for a child we sought some medical help.  A short time later it was determined that yours truly was the problem.  Let me put it this way – I’m a very strong swimmer, but apparently that would not be a trait that I would be passing on.  (There isn’t a lot of quality discussion out there on the web about male infertility/sub fertility.  Most of the sites focus on how women feel but I will tell you this – it is a pretty big blow to the male ego, trust me.)  Conception was not going to be impossible for us, it was just going to be expensive.  Like $40,000 expensive for a 40% chance of conception.

Ouch – that caused some debate, not between us but between concepts of having children and the child-free lifestyle.  We both had been somewhat ambiguous in our desire to have children in the early years of our marriage and $40,000 has a way of making you face your feelings in a very real way.  I mean, we wanted to do the “right” thing and have a kid, but did we $40,000 want to have a kid??

Very tellingly in a single conversation we ruled out the ideas of sperm donor and adoption.  They just didn’t feel right to us.  (BTW: Hats off to anyone who can raise a child not out of biological imperative, but out of love.  You guys are awesome, but I am not you.)

At this point we did the typical things that over-educated middle class people do when confronted with a big decision.  We researched the fuck out of it.  We read studies on life regrets, happiness, birth defects, you name it.  Most are inconclusive.

We went online and read blogs and discussion forums full of people who were in the same or similar boats.  There are a significant number of places to go for information on the web, but there are few places to read much about the child-free lifestyle (except for this brilliantly amusing blog).  I think that is because most people pass through the decision point and then spend their time online with their hobbies, or at travel sites.

There were books on infertility and coping with it.  Particularly insightful was the (first two chapters of) the book “Sweet Grapes”   The big takeaway was that at some point you have to make a decision and that is how you get your sense of control back.  Many people feel a loss of control when they thought they had a choice, but suddenly feel that choice is taken away when they find out that having children will be difficult for them.  In a strange way our experience was the opposite.  Having children had always been a given for us.  I’d viewed it as one of those things in life that everyone has to endure in life – like PE classes or having your wisdom teeth out.   As we proceeded through our process we were faced with having a choice -REALLY having a choice for the first time.  That was somewhat disorienting.

We went to an infertility support group meeting – once.  There we met a nice and heartbroken woman, “Mary” who was going through IVF for the third and final time and she said something very pointedly insightful.  She said that she couldn’t imagine a meaningful life without children and that IVF was such an intense process that you should not even start it unless you can’t imagine your life without kids.  We got in the car and before we drove out of the parking lot Mrs. Mindcrime said “I am not Mary.  We are not like them.”

We went to a counselor – once.  In a profound moment my wife said, “What I really want is closure on this issue.  If I try IVF then I’ll know that I did everything I could to have a kid, and be able to move on – guilt free.”  The therapist insightfully replied, “You do not do IVF for closure.  You do it for a child.”  That hit us like a ton of bricks.  What we wanted was PERMISSION TO LIVE THE LIFE WE WANTED – to let us off the hook.  We both admitted that we just wanted someone to tell us that we have no other option other than to not have kids.  The therapist went on to explain that we’d probably need to talk about it for a number of months and that eventually one decision would feel better than the other.  Not 100% certain, but a 60-40 split.

We had loooong discussions at the dinner table.  One of the big insights we derived was that having kids is a ready-made life meaning system.  Our culture is (logically for survival reasons) constructed around a belief that having kids gives your life meaning.  We realized that we would need to find our own path to meaningful ives.  We were OK with that.

We have lived with our decision to be child-free for over a year now.  We thought we’d try it on for size and if we were still content with our decision to live child-free then we’d go all-in with the vasectomy.  Over the past year we were occasionally peppered with questions about our intentions with regards to breeding and in conversation people often attempted to seed doubt about our decisions – particularly if they have made different choices.  They are usually well-meaning people and at the same time often a big chunk of their identity is at stake.  Many times people’s disagreement about lifestyle choices is seeded in the doubts they have about their own choices (people who have kids can’t admit to their own 60-40 splits).  During the year we took a 6-week camping road trip along the Trans-Canada highway – that sealed the deal, we knew what we wanted our lifestyle to look like.

Hence, the ice pack on my nuts.  Here’s a tip…get bags of frozen peas they conform very nicely!

So far as the procedure goes it was done in about 10 minutes – and it was more uncomfortable and weird than painful.  (You don’t have to just take my word for it,) If they offer you the valium – take it.  If they don’t – make an appointment with someone else.  Had the doctor been working on my teeth, elbow, or ANYPLACE else the discomfort would not have been worth mentioning – but he wasn’t just working anyplace else, was he?

The biggest thing I want to share about getting a vasectomy and committing to the child-free lifestyle in such a permanent way is the sense of relief that comes with making a real decision like this.  I’ve always believed this about decisions:  They are best made when you eliminate any other possibility other than the one you’ve selected. Indeed where does the word decide come from?  It’s Latin root words literally mean “to cut off”.

Kinda' fits in this context...don't you think?
Kinda’ fits in this context…don’t you think?

This is the life I have chosen, we have chosen for ourselves.  I like it – I’m happy and I’m grateful that we didn’t have an easy time making our decision through default.  Too many people decide to have children because what they want is to feel normal.  Since making our decision we have seen others struggle for various reasons with the same issue, and in some cases we are baffled by the lengths to which they will go when they are ambiguous about having kids in the first place- but those are their decisions to make, not ours.  And when they get what they want and a child arrives they too will have no possibility of changing their minds.

XBONEI was one of the few gamers who was actually excited to hear that Microsoft would be focusing on entertainment with their new console – the XBOX One.  Like many XBOX360 owners I both game and watch TV on my 360…but let’s face it there is a lot more time in a working guy’s week for TV than gaming.

I knew my beloved Media Center was dead, and was preparing to deal with the separation.  What I didn’t know is that Microsoft was thinking of killing the usefulness of our local home networks as well. 

I loved my 360 and my feelings for Windows Media Center are well documented. (In a fit of faith in Microsoft I traded in one of my 360s last weekend to make room on the shelf for the new arrival.)

*head slap*

The XBOX One has NO utility for searching across your home network to find music, photos, or videos stored on a home Windows 8 PC.  You have to walk over to to the PC, select the file and choose “PlayTo“….then walk back across the house to see the content.

Dear Microsoft:  This kind of defeats the entire purpose of having a client device, now doesn’t it?

This is not only the death of Windows Media Center, it is the death of the home server/client philosophy that Microsoft has promoted since XP!

One guy (Kudos to him for figuring out how to do this…) has found a workaround that requires you to pass your home PC content through your phone.  EXCUSE ME MICROSOFT?!?  The XBONE has an 8-core processor, 8 gigs of ram and I’m supposed to pass video through my Android phone first? WTF?

For home theater enthusiasts the XBOX One has no more value than a stinkin’ ROKU player…wait – that’s not true.  The ROKU will play files off of a local PC.  OOPS!

It is clear to me that the XBONE is now merely a device for locking you into Microsoft’s entertainment ecosystem.  An overpowered AppleTV (oh wait…Apple TV can stream music and video from a PC running iTunes – D-OH!) designed to lock us into streaming from XBOX Music and Video.

Why not just use Xbox Music?  Xbox Music streams lossy WMAs and the band Metallica (amongst others) is nowhere to be found.  Over the years many of us have created bit-perfect collections of lossless WMAs…and Metallica is essential to any music collection – especially when gaming.  If you have a solid home theater sound system, then lossy music just won’t cut it.  Not to mention I’ve already bought the music I like – why would I pay $10/month to listen to the albums I already own in a format that sounds worse than what I have?

Other home theater sins of the XBONE:

  1. Can’t play Dolby 5.1 or 7.1 through the optical out.
  2. Cant download Movies from Xbox Video – it can only stream them.  (The frame rate is better when you download…plus it makes me feel closer to my copy of Star Trek: Into Darkness.)
  3. It can’t take a video feed from a PC Tuner Card.
  4. To use DVR functionality on your cable box you have to leave the XBOX Dashboard and just use the Cable Box Remote…Kinect only works on live TV.
  5. No Xfinity App.
  6. No Analog audio out (I knew this one in advance, but it still pisses me off).
  7. No 24-bit audio streaming.

Albeit, these are First World problems.  There are people starving, with their homes and lives destroyed by Typhoons….so do I feel a little silly complaining about my game console in my comfortable and safe home.

I am perplexed major review sites which have been fawning over the new XBOX and are simply omitting that it renders the content you own at home all but unreachable.   I think they must have the same exact problem that the news media has with our politicians – the problem of access.  The price of access seems to be the elimination of critical thought.

Did you write an article that points out the flaws in our (INSERT HERE: car, gadget, public policy)?  If so, then you will no longer have access to (INSERT HERE: test drives, E3 invite, interviews with the candidate).

I feel that a certain trust has been broken by Microsoft with it’s most recent product.  If you are a home theater enthusiast, and have not yet ordered your XBONE – Don’t.  This $500 paperweight needs some major updating to make it do what a $69 media streamer can do out of the box.