Enabled Clear QAM on my Media Center, High Def goodness ensues

If you record cable TV using Windows Media Center you may have wondered about recording high definition signals off the cable (or, like me, struggled unsuccessfully to make it happen). If you’re willing to take the beta plunge, Windows 7 has made getting some high-def content off your cable a lot easier.

First, the hurdles: you’ll want to do this only if you’re willing to run beta software and are not afraid of using RegEdit. To get it done without running a beta operating system you can track down the TV Pack for Vista Media Center (code named fiji), some other software and do some registry changes. If you believe the forums, upgrading Vista is more work (clean install plus two additional software installs), however, than running Windows 7. Windows 7 is just the singular install… but keep in mind you’ll need to be ready to buy it when the full version comes out.

The whole process was completely painless for me. I needed more hard drive space so I just took the old drive out to be an easy backup. I put in a new, bigger hard drive, installed Windows 7 Beta then headed over to Mike Wren’s blog for the registry setting for my card (Hauppauge HVR 1600). A quick reboot later and Media Center could see the clear QAM channels! Sweet! No more weather interference when watching local high definition broadcasts. 

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you can get all the high definition channels. Even if you subscribe to HBO (for example) the signal will be encrypted. Clear QAM is the unencrypted digital content broadcast over cable. For Comcast in my area this is our local stations in high definition as well as standard definition duplicate versions of some other channels (like Speed). It’s worth noting, just because it’s digital, it doesn’t mean it’s high definition. If you want to get all the content off your cable you’ll need to pay the big bucks for a CableCARD approved Vista PC. If, however, you’re like us and you really only care about HD from the major networks this does it.

Getting a list of files for a directory

Ever had a folder full of files and needed a text listing of all those files? Here’s a quick n’ dirty way to do it.

image I have a whole folder full of new icons for the next version of SharePoint and need to check them into source control. The big pain here is that I’ll need to go into source control and type in each file name to unlock it for editing, copy in the new file, then type in each file name to check it in. If, however, I had a list of all the files I could make a quick batch file to do it for me.

  1. Open your command prompt (on Vista, type cmd then right-click and run as administrator)
  2. Change directories to where you need a listing
  3. On the command line type: dir /b > filename.txt

Windows will create a new text file named “filename.txt” (you can name it anything you like on the command line). One thing to note: your text file will be included in the list, you may want to remove that line before using it to do any bulk operations. Enjoy!

Edit: A good reference for directory listings: http://www.computerhope.com/dirhlp.htm

Turning on AutoComplete to make IE’s history useful

For ages I’ve been annoyed by the IE history drop down which appears when you start typing an address. Here’s the thing, most of the work we do is stored on our SharePoint server at work. This means that if I start to type the URL of the server I’ll get a massive autocomplete list pop down in IE. This makes the recent history that drops down completely useless for me.

Now, however, thanks to Sean (via Omar) I have been shown the light. I followed the simple steps and my life is now better.


My Favorite (hidden) IE feature

Whenever I install Windows on a new PC (which in my daily work happens far more frequently than I care to admit), there’s one* setting that I always tweak before doing anything else:

Internet Options, Advanced tab, "Use inline AutoComplete"

What this does is enables autocomplete of URLs (and other commands) in the address bar, instead of just as a drop-down.

Here is an example. Let’s say I visit both the IEblog (http://blogs.msdn.com/ie) and the RSS team blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/rssteam) regularly.

The next time I go to the address bar, I type "blo". IE shows me this:

Then I hit the right arrow (essentially to accept the text it’s given me), and I type "r":

Press enter, and I’m at my favorite blog!

Bonus feature: this works in every address bar: explorer, the run dialog, and system-supplied open/save dialogs, and any app that uses the system edit control (and enables URL autocomplete).
Double bonus: this works in IE6 as well (but upgrade to IE7 now!).

Downside, you probably should be a touch typist before turning this on. If you’re not paying attention to the screen while you type, you may inadvertently navigate to something you didn’t want to. Windows developer guru and part-time Windows historian has blogged about this, so I don’t have to (note: you should read the comments to see the correction to how he describes the feature — it doesn’t change the basic point, however).

* Truth in advertising: there were two settings I always changed. The second was to turn off "reuse windows for launching shortcuts" — a highly annoying feature of IE6 that picked one of my open windows and changed the page being viewed whenever I clicked on a link in Outlook or elsewhere. It was designed to help users keep the number of windows being opened under control. But IE7’s tabs make that unnecessary, because now the default is to open a new tab in the same window. Both problems solved!