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Wonky Gibbon Ramblings

Windows Media Centre MCE – UK EPG Runs Out 0

Posted on January 12, 2018 by danny

As of sometime late 2017, the EPG in the UK no longer seems to update in MCE. In all honesty, the need for MCE and indeed PVRs in general is on the wane given the existence of on-demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and catchup services like BBC iPlayer – not to mention Smart TVs and so on. Nevertheless – I’m not quite ready to kiss MCE goodbye – so I needed to keep it going just a little longer. Until I no longer need to play a Blueray – that sort of thing.

Googling – the solution seems to be to use a tool called EPG Collector. At the time of writing this can be downloaded from here:

Installation and Config for Windows 7 MCE as follows:

  1. Download the EPG Collector xxx msi file – and install it.
  2. Download the latest EPG Fixpak from the same page, unzip it, and copy the files over the top of those installed by the msi.
  3. Run EPG Centre
  4. Go to File -> Create Collection parameters… select UK-SkyTV (Freesat does not seem to work).
    This will now open the configuration window.
    The first tab (Tuning) should have all the parameters set. No need to change anything here but check your country and area are set correctly
    Output tab. Select “EPG Collector imports the data to Window Media Centre”
    Tick the boxes for the two ‘create episode tags …’ options
    Advanced tab. Tick the Use freesat Huffman tables…
  5. Channels tab. Click on start scan. Loads of channels should appear. Lots of junk and duplicated. Click on ‘exclude all’ and then untick the excluded box for the channels actually desired (and that successfully tune). You can click on the column headers to sort the data. In the current version I couldn’t see any tickboxes for exclude, but by moving the cell cursor into the right excluded cell using the arrow keys and then pressing the space bar I was able to change the setting. Excluded rows are shown in red.
  6. Click on File->Save as, to save your setup to disk – save it with the default name EPG Collector.ini.
  7. Click on Run->Collect EPG Data

If you now open Windows Media Centre, you should find a guide full of data. Yay!

If all is well, it’s worth setting up the Windows Scheduler to automatically run EPG Collector for you every day or so. I f you used the default location for the EPG Collector.ini file then you don’t need any arguments either.

To do this:

  1. Open Windows Control Panel and navigate to Administrative Tools.
  2. Open Task Scheduler
  3. On the right hand side of the Task Scheduler window are a set of typical actions. Select “Create Basic Task”
  4. Work your way through the wizard that pops up
    1. Set the task to run when the computer starts
    2. Select the program to run as C:\Program Files (x86)\Geekzone\EPG Collector\EPGCollector.exe
      1. If you used the default config ini file name, you don’t need to provide any parameters.

And your done.

Particular thanks to this guy:

Flickery HD on Freeview 0

Posted on July 03, 2012 by danny

So I’ve been having problems with HD on FreeView for ages. Sometimes it would just about work but other times the screen would go black for up to 4 seconds at a time – though the audio would continue uninterrupted. Some channels seemed worse than others – but then a channel that had been okay one day – would turn to crap the next.

I have top end Black Gold tuners and a more than adequate graphics card – so I put it down to reception. It had the feel of a reception problem, comments on other forums seemed to corroborate that, and I noticed that MediaCenter reported the signal strength as being around 66%.

However – I had an SSD failure last week so I had to replace the drive – I usually move the pagefile to a spin disk – but this time I left it on the SSD.

HD works. No flickering.

I never considered it would page – I thought 2GB RAM would be enough. But clearly it is not and the system is using the pagefile.

If it really is paging video data, which as we know is lots of data, it could wear the SSD out fairly quickly, even with the levelling algorithms they use. I shall investigate the quantity of traffic and report back…

Squeezing more Performance out of Windows 7 Media Center 0

Posted on December 12, 2009 by danny

So then, the wife isn’t that happy with Windows 7 Media Center. It deosn’t always respond to her remote control commands (usually when its recording something else) which is annoying.

So here at Gibbon Towers, it was time to do some work to see what was going on in terms of system resources. Hmmm – first thing was that there wan’t much free RAM left on the machine. Never a good sign. So time to turn off whatever I could to free up some RAM and some CPU clock cycles.

Switching off Features

Started off by switching off a bunch of Windows Features. In Windows 7 there’s a proper app to do this, not just an uninstaller. Just type “Windows Features” into the start menu. Rather cleverly, it properly unloads and disables them so that they use no system resources whatsoever rather than uninstall them altogether. Which means that when you want to re-enable them at so,me later date – you haven’t got the arse of trying to find the DVD. Result!

Switching off Services

I then set about switching off all the Windows 7 Services not required for watching or using the Media Center application (NB: we don’t use Media Extenders either) in Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. Thus I disabled the following services:

  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  • Desktop Window Manager Session Manager
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client
  • HomeGroup Listener
  • HomeGroup Provider
  • IP Helper
  • Peer Name Resolution Protocol
  • Peer Networking Grouping
  • Peer Networking Identity Manager
  • PNRP Machine Name Publication Service
  • Print Spooler
  • Themes
  • Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service

For more information on what services do what, in Windows 7 (and how safe it is to disable them) – the Black Viper website is superb.

Given that we’re not going to have Extenders in other rooms, not going to use the new HomeGroup functionality (you still have networking without HomeGroup), I switched off Aero and all the Theme stuff (Media Center doesn’t use them) – and I’m not going to do any printing. All of which makes sense because the machine really does just live under the telly, playing video, in our house.

Doing all of this had an immediate and dramatic impact on responsiveness. In fact the remote control is back to MCE 2005 levels of useability which is excellent. And looking at the system resources there’s much more free RAM in the system (it released hundreds of MB).

Other Changes

I then did a comparison of CPU’usage of NVidia’s PureVideo decoder against Microsoft’s decoder by having them in turn play back the same video file. According to task manager, PureVideo was about 10% more intensive on the CPU;. Since I can see no difference in quality – I’ll go with Microsoft then.

XVID had become a car crash again. Turned out that Windows had managed to undo the hack I applied form the previous host to get it working. Reapplying the hack not only fixed XVID but also improved responsiveness, particularly when recording another program at the same time.

I also upgraded the CPU from an Athlon XP 1600+ to a 2100+, because err… I could. And it only cost £5. And it made absolutely no difference whatsoever.

Setting up Power Saving Modes

Finally the guy at Slick Solutions has produced a new version of his MCE Standby Tool for Windows 7 – which I can’t recommend enough. Get that from a link somewhere in this post,4989.75.html,4989.75.html Really sorts out the power management. If you think it’s good, make a donatation to him.


So after spending a few quid (most notably on both a TV card and a Graphics card) – the whole system does now work. It works well when playing back, or recording one or two channels together. It still struggles when doing all three together particularly when using the remote to fast forward or rewind).

For reference the two biggest improvements were turning off the unwanted bits of Windows, and applying the codec patch from the GreenButton website.

When I find some time I want to do a comparison of CPU usage on the Black Gold card vs the PEAK one. I have a feeling that the Black Gold one takes on more of the work of encoding whilst the PEAK one leaves more to the CPU. But that’s just a guess at the moment.

A Random Gotcha

NB: One other problem that fooled me a bit was that the disk became full. Until I freed up some space that murdered performance as well.

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