Monday, October 30, 2006

Quick Fix: Stuttering/Dropped Frames with a Motorola DCT6412/16 Series III Cable Box

If you have a Motorola DCT 6412/16 and are experiencing dropped frames or stuttering when viewing HD content please read the following. This is a quick guide to "fix" this problem with your cable box.

Step 1: Turn your box off.

Step 2
: Press the menu button on the cable box remote or the front of the box.

Step 3
: You should now see a menu labeled "User Settings". Change your output resolution from 1080i/720p to 480p

Step 4
: Press menu again to exit. Then press power.

Step 5
: Tune to an HD channel that previously stuttered and watch for ~10 minutes. You should see that the stuttering is gone.

Step 6
: Turn the box off again and press menu to switch back your resolution to 720p/1080i. Press menu again to exit, power on your box and you should be good to go.

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Posted by TheTech @ 8:55 PM :: (1) comments

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stuck Pixels on an LCD: What Worked for Me

(Scroll down to jump to the methods I used). After months of trolling on forums and waiting for the best deal, I took the plunge and bought a 1080p LCD. Not a stranger to stuck pixels from my PSP experiences, I was horrified when I saw not just one pixel stuck on my new display but 3 large blocks consisting of 4-6 pixels on the lower left corner of the monitor. I bought my TV brand new and the box was still factory sealed. How did this get past quality control? After a "nice" conversation with customer service, I was told that I would have to ship the TV to them to get it fixed. Coming in at about 70lbs, I didn't really feel like dropping another $100+ on my 2 hr old LCD.

At this point I decided to take matters into my own hands. I started by running the PSP pixel flashing videos on the screen. After about 24hrs with no success, I moved onto gently rubbing the area with a microfiber cloth while the video played. These pixels are "stuck" meaning they are cyan, red, or green and are not to be confused with "dead" pixels. Anyway, I pretty much tried all the methods out there to no avail. Because the TV has over 2 million pixels, the 3 blobs looked just like 3 dots from the viewing distance. With no other options short of shipping my TV back, I took a very low-tech approach and covered the stuck pixels with a black dry-erase marker. Surprisingly it did a pretty good job of masking the problem. Instead of bright green and blue pixels that you could see no matter what was being shown, I had a few black blobs that could really only be seen on a white or other very light backgrounds. The most important part was that I could no longer see the stuck pixels in my peripheral vision when I was concentrating on the center of the screen. I put up with this for a couple weeks and frankly, it wasn't that bad. After deciding to clean the screen, I was shocked when I rubbed the marker away. All of the stuck pixels were gone! I double and triple checked by running blank white and black screens. My TV was healed! While I don't really know what fixed the problem, the most logical conclusions are the rubbing and just plain breaking the TV in. The moral of the story here is don't freak out like I did if your new LCD has some dead pixels when it arrives. Give it a few weeks and mask them if you need too. While I'm sure there are some pixels out there that will never become "unstuck", there is hope!

Fixing Stuck Pixels: Here are all the methods that I could find on the web

Method 1: Video or Program that flashes RGB screens to fix the problem.

Step 1: Get the video (via PSP-Vault by: Nick Toohill) or the
freeware program (via DPS) if you have an HTPC or its an LCD monitor.

Step 2: Run the video on loop for at least 12-24 hours. (I did this numerous times) There is a supposed 60% success rate using this video.

Step 2-A(HTPC): If you have an HTPC use the freeware program to get more options. It works on the same principle as the video

Method 2
: Gently Massaging/Tapping the Screen.
(WARNING!: This method has been reported to work but there is small a chance that you may damage your LCD)

Step 1(optional): Play the video or run the program on the screen.

Step 2: Get a soft cloth preferably microfiber. Wet the cloth slightly and gently rub the affected area. Use intervals of 15-30 seconds. Remember to be careful when performing this step.

Step 2-A: If you don't want to rub you can first try tapping the screen
with the cloth.

Method 3
: Apply Pressure and Power Cycle

Step 1: Put your finger over the stuck pixels and turn off your lcd.

Step 2: Knowing where your stuck pixels are, use a the same slightly wet cloth from the last method and apply pressure to the area.

Step 3: Turn your monitor on and release.

Method 4
: The last resort/I'm waiting for customer service to process my return, method.

Step 1: Use a black DRY-ERASE marker and place black specs over your brightly colored pixels to help "mask" them.

I used all of these methods and just plain watched the TV, whatever it was that did it, I overcame a pretty sick pixel situation. I hope one of these methods will work for you.

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Posted by TheTech @ 10:48 PM :: (1) comments

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Blu-ray Blues: Could Sharp Be Sony's Savior?

The news from Sony seems to just get worse and worse these days. Fresh off a major battery recall and cutting their annual profit projections by 61%, the folks at Sony have more than enough on their hands. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Sony Style is now displaying that the much anticipated BDP-S1 Blu-ray player is now delayed again until December 4th, most likely due to laser supply issues. While the laser issue is not exactly new news; it is probably also to blame for Sony announcing that they may miss their year end PS3 production targets. In the midst of all of this there is some good news. Sharp has just announced that they have produced a new low power blue laser diode. The press release however fails to mention any increase in yield. Samples will begin shipping in a couple of weeks. Hopefully this new diode offers a ray of hope for the ailing Sony.

With the launch of the PS3 now only weeks away it seems as if Sony will be lucky to meet their launch commitments. However, with all the new hardware on board its nice to hear that there are no current problems with the cell or RSX. If you want a PS3 before Christmas, I hope you're ready to camp. It doesn't look like Sony will be able to come through with the promised systems by years end. (think Xbox 360 and PS2 launches)

The entire Sony corporate family is banking on this years PS3 launch. It's no secret that the Playstation brand has been propping up the aging electronics manufacturer as they seem to have bit off more than they can chew. Do you really need the movie studios, record labels, etc. etc. Its not looking good for Sony right now, a limited supply means cash in the bank for Microsoft and Nintendo. I guess we'll see soon if Ken and his boys can do it again.

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Posted by TheTech @ 6:19 AM :: (1) comments

Friday, October 20, 2006

Is a 1080p Flat Panel TV Worth it?

In short, yes, definitely. The level of detail at 1920 x 1080 is quite impressive. Don't be fooled by the fact that lesser panels accept 1080i. These models most commonly have a native resolution of 1366 x 768. They call this "native" 720p even though broadcast hd (720p) is 1280 x 720. This means you'll basically be scaling ALL HD content whether its 720p or 1080i. (Yes, I do realize that 1366->1280 scaling is probably not noticable). Even so, the majority of HD content is of the 1080i flavor. There is clearly a noticable difference between watching 1080i on a 1080p screen vs. that same signal on a 720p monitor. The difference by the numbers is quite staggering. Working out the multiplication, 720p offers roughly 1 million pixels where 1080i/p provides a resolution of approx. 2 million pixels. Thats quite a difference despite many claiming there really "isn't" one. Don't fall into the "accepts" 1080i trap , you're missing out on quite a bit of resolution. While I won't discount that 720p looks great compared to standard def, it can be quite a bit better.

Currently there are a number of 1080p LCDs on the market, however, there are very few plasmas. Expect more of both varieties this holiday as prices will continue to drop. When it comes time to take the plunge, be sure to check out the TV in person. The specs the manufacturers supply these days are a joke and should be taken worth a grain of salt. The best judge is of course, your own eyes. Just make sure you've seen 1080i on a native 1920 x 1080 screen before you buy a 720p version. You may not think the extra money is worth the difference but you should definitely see it for yourself.

Let me know what you think!

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Posted by TheTech @ 3:48 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, October 19, 2006

HD-DVD Vs. Blu-Ray...The Winner is: DVD?

Yeah thats right, plain ol' DVD.

Right now the format war PR machine is kicking into overdrive. Set top boxes are being released by multiple manufacturers albeit at a +$1000 barrier to entry. Let's not forget the behemoth that is the PS3 looming on the horizon. While I won't deny the increase in picture quality; is the public really ready? While HDTVs will continue to sell (expect a record holiday season with all the recent price reductions), is everyone ready to shell out 30 bucks a pop for a movie you may already own multiple copies of?

Having purchased an LCD HDTV earlier this year I have experimented with the gamut of upscaling dvd tech from STBs to HTPCs to a modded xbox. I must say that the picture quality was better than I expected. (note:scaled to 1080i-p, viewed on 1920x1080 screen) However, after being spoiled with actual HDTV, I like many others scoff at anything below 720p on my precious display. Even so, the prospect of replacing the dvd collection I worked so hard to amass is a scary thought.

Frankly, I don't think the market is ready for these next gen formats. HD is catching on fast but it is far from the standard in most American homes. Joe Blow is simply not ready to drop $4-500 (low end online hd-dvd price, the "cheap" neutered PS3 respectively) plus at least another $25 per movie. Until players drop into $1-200 forget about the mass market. Despite being on the market for quite a few months, I'll consider this fall/holiday season as the "start" of the next gen push. Intial sales will be promising, (giddyness of early adopters like myself will drive sales early on), think umds. More specifically umd movies. Remember how good those early numbers looked and how every movie teaser added its "coming to psp" stamp at the end. Beyond this, cue the tumbleweeds, sales will plummet.

Movie studio execs have become blinded by the cash cow that is dvd. Screw box office grosses, they're kind of nice but the real money is now coming in through the mighty golden disc. Salivating at potential profits at the even higher price points and conning you into buying that same movie for at least the 2nd if not the 3rd or 4th time (don't you just love the endless extended/unrated/uber/collector's ed. crap thats everywhere); has led them to literally rush these formats out the door. The Samsung Blu-Ray player speaks for itself and codec changes/optimization after the discs are released? Come on, seriously its ridiculous.

Its going to be a cold winter for the next gen formats after their initial burst of popularity. I know i'll be basking in the warm glow of my htpc upscaling my dvds to glorious 1080p. HD-DVD and/or Blu-Ray will eventually catch on, give it at least a year maybe 2 to be certain. Until then, long live the DVD!

Or have I got it all wrong, is DVD dead?

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Posted by TheTech @ 8:34 PM :: (0) comments

Sony Vs. Homebrew 2.0: The Battle for the PS3

As the PS3 launch nears more and more details regarding Linux and its homebrew capabilities. While this news offers great hope for those active in the homebrew community, many major questions have still been left unanswered.

We've probably all seen the psp-esque xmb up and running on demo units. It was confirmed long ago by Sony Exec Izumi Kawanashi that Linux will indeed be included with homebrew in mind:

"Because we have plans for having Linux on board [the PS3], we also recognize Linux programming activities... Other than game studios tied to official developer licenses, we'd like to see various individuals participate in content creation for the PS3."

How will linux be implemented into this equation? Will we really get a full version of Yellow Dog Linux to run? Taking Sony's action in regards to the PSP, can we just expect more of the same? More importantly, will first run PS3's be "open" in the sense that Japanese 1.0 PSP's were? How limited will the homebrew functions be considering its getting Sony's seal of approval this time around?

Taking into account Sony's corporate history concerning proprietary everything; its hard to believe we'll see anything close to a full version linux and/or homebrew capabilities that rival a 1.5 PSP or modded Xbox. The power of the cell is enough to make any fan of emu salivate. Hopefully those "gifted few" will take on this project and let us all unleash its true potential. I think we're headed towards another firmware war but this time the stakes are much higher. Does Sony really have to worry about piracy with Blu-Ray at least in the short term? Even the most dedicated pirates will have a tough time with 25+GB disks, unless you've got FiOS (lucky bastards). Sony opening up to homebrew is definetly a step in the right direction; its just a matter of how big a step it will be. Because of the infinite possiblilities through firmware upgrades I think we'll see baby steps at first. Ironically this will most likely be the time when "those few" will be able to take the fullest advantage of the system and its infant firmware. I guess only time will tell.

The games and the HD video are enough to get me to eventually pick one up, but the possiblity of homebrew ensured that I would do my damndest to get one on launch. Get ready, the war is about to begin.

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Posted by TheTech @ 6:54 PM :: (0) comments

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