Archive for mcp9350i

MCP9350i Vista issues

The MCP9350i media center has been up and running for a few months and has been a great success – nobody has died.
I upgraded the O/S to VISTA because the media center part is improved and the TV pack is available so that you can access ‘the red button’ digital text.
Basically the machine runs flawlessly but there are three unresolved issues under VISTA…
1. The VFD display freezes when woken from suspend
2. The video card sometimes fails to wake from suspend
3. Media center doesn’t start because video card doesn’t have enough memory. 

1. The VFD display freezes when woken from suspend
The  VFD displays basic status information like the time, the currently playing video etc. The display works fine when the machine is first cold-started but as soon as you suspend the machine (which is the normal way of turning it off) it no longer works – when you wake the computer the display is frozen at ‘starting…’
Tried and failed
I downloaded the MCE Standby tool (http://slicksolutions.eu/). This has a specific option to get over this. It’s called “Kill FPManager.exe at resume” the documentation says “On some Intel barebone based systems (Paradigit Enjoy TV2005) this might fix a improper functioning display at resume.” this system is built on the intel reference system so in theory this should fix the problem. However I tried this and it didn’t work for me.
Observation
If you go to task manager and kill the FPmanager process ‘by hand’ then the display re-initialises and starts working again. This is sort of what is implied above so if you could get the FPmanager process to re-start automatically you should fix the problem.
Next thing to try
In theory you can write a custom script that runs every time the machine wakes from suspend. This post (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=13277659) discusses using eventtriggers. In vista you can use the event viewer to trigger an event in response to any given event (like waking up). 

2. The video card sometimes fails to wake from suspend
Most times the machine wakes up fine but occasionally you have to do a cold-restart to get any video back. The machine seems to be starting fine and the sound works and it responds to keyboard etc but the video is blanked. I’m not sure what to do here it coudl be my TV or it could be a hardware/firmware problem or it could be the vista O/S (isn’t PC technology great!).
If it’s hardware/firmware then it can’t be fixed because the video is built-in to the motherboard and no updated bios is available (and I guess phillips will never make one available). The MCE Standby tool (http://slicksolutions.eu/) does contain several options to address blanked video on wake from standby so I guess this is the place to start.

3. Media center doesn’t start because video card doesn’t have enough memory. 
Infact the video card does have enough memory but media center isn’t detecting it properly. The work-around is to shotdown media center and the restart it – the media center interface runs just great from then on.
I’m guessing this is a bios setting problem – usually you can reserve a certain amount of system memory for the onboard graphics – but with the PC plugged into the TV the bios screen isn’t visible so I’m going to have to  fiddle here I think.

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MCP9350i: Installing VISTA

Previously I had blogged about adding tuners to my MCP9350i which seemed to work just fine until I booted into Windows XP (media centre) and fell foul of microsoft’s licensing and activation nonsense – the machine has a COA label on it and was installed with Media Center 2005 as standard but I couldn’t get the thing to activate. I couldn’t even log in to the machine – it was completely locked! I tried the F11 system recovery process but with the same end results – you can’t log in until you activate the copy of windows.

Well never mind I was going to try out VISTA media centre anyway!
So here is a very quick run down of installing VISTA on the phillips machine.

1: Backup
The crucial backup is the c:\phillips directory which contains all the original drivers shipped with the machine – they don’t seem to be available anywhere online. Even with the machine locked by the windows activation problems I was able to get a copy by booting into safemode and using a USB memory stick.
You should get a image of the hidden partition that contains the recovery software and a fresh install of the O/S. 

2: VISTA installation
I just booted the vista DVD and let it do it’s worst – when it came to selecting the disk partition to install vista on I chose to delete all the existing partitions and do a completly new install. This included deleting the hidden partition that the recovery (F11) proceedure runs from. I guess if you wanted to be able to go back to XP at some point then you could try leaving that partition intact.

 3:Drivers
Most of the information needed to find all the vista drivers came from this very usefull blog – verydodgblog.com.
One key file to source is the VISTA drivers for the MCP9360i from the phillips support site.
http://www.p4c.philips.com/cgi-bin/dcbint/get?url=/sca/sca/070314/070314170811_18207.zip&ofn=Vista drivers.zip 
Although these are for the later MCP9360i rather than the MCP9350i the two machines have a lot in common and the drivers seem to be OK for the sound and front panel at least. 

3a. Graphics (intel GMA950).
Initially the VISTA install used it’s own drivers. I downloaded the very lastest GMA950 drivers from the intel support website and these seem to improve a number of things and add a widget to the control panel for advanced graphics card settings. The link is here but I suspect the intel support website is pretty fluid just go to intel site and search for GMA950 drivers!
http://downloadcenter.intel.com/filter_results.aspx?strTypes=all&ProductID=2102&OSFullName=Windows+Vista*+Ultimate,+32-bit+version&lang=eng&strOSs=156&submit=Go! 
 

3b. VFD display drivers (Intel front panel manager).
I used the ‘Front Panel Manager’ drivers from the phillips MCP9360i drivers (see above). This worked just fine and I’ve tried a few of other possible FPM drivers but this is the only one that works. A quick note (although it does say this in the readme notes) you need to disable User Account Control before installing the FPM driver.

3c. Sound drivers (Sigmatel 9221).
Again the best and only place I could find drivers was in the MCP9360i vista drivers update from phillips. I did try a number of other drivers whcih are supposed to be for the sigmatel 9221 but none woudl even install. My sound seems to work fine now (I’m not using the SP/DIF or anything fancy just the RCA outputs). 

3d. Standard TV tuner card (Nvidia DualTV).
Nvidia support site has the latest download for this card that includes a custom media centre application for tweaking the settings. The link is here but probably subject to change.
http://www.nvidia.com/object/tvtuner_drivers.html 

3e. LAN Networking (Intel PRO/100 VE)
Vista finds the device and installs default drivers but I went to the intel support site and downloaded what I think is the very latest driver.
Get it from here – http://support.intel.com/support/network/adapter/pro100/pro100ve/ or just go to intel site and search for PRO/100 VE. 

3f. WLAN Networking (ATHEROS miniPCI AR5413 802.11abg card).
Vista default drivers seem OK – I don’t use the wireless networking so I didn’t bother to see if I could find latest ATHEROS drivers. There is a site here (http://www.atheros.cz/) that claims to have all the latest drivers.

 

That’t it really I’m very pleased with it – I’m not sure that any idea of upgrading the CPU and graphics card will ever be followed-up it just seems to work – High praise indeed!

PROBLEMS
There are a couple of things;

1. The front panel doesn’t wake-up after standby.
Initially when you turn the machine on the front panel work fine it says the date/time and track information where relevant BUT when you ‘wake’ the box up after it’s been in standby the front panel doesn’t wake-up it constantly says – ‘starting up’ but never does. 
Others have pointed to the MCE Standby tool to fix this (http://slicksolutions.eu/) but I haven’t tried it yet. 

2. Something wierd about rebooting
I had thought that it was a problem with a regular user (rather than an administrator) account not bootinh into media centre. In fact it seems to be that when an account is set to start media centre automatically I get a message about the video card not having enough RAM (a damn lie!) – I think it maybe something to do with the phillips decoder/transcoder I installed (maybe it didn’t fully support vista?) I need to fiddle about and see if I can work out what’ happening – I think that the Nvidia tuner comes with a Nvidia decoder.

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MCP9350i: Upgrading the CPU

I wrote a description on adding and extra tuner to the MCP9350i box and as I was doing it I could see that the whole motherboard was mounted on a tray that could be easily slid out. I thought then that upgrading the CPU wouldn’t be as hard as I first thought so here goes.

I bought a Pentium-D 820 on ebay. I went for this because it’s a pretty lowly model so I guessed it would be more likely to work than something released more recently. Also Pentium-D CPUs still seem to command alot of money second hand – I didn’t want to buy something for 50 quid only to find that I’d watsed my money.

STEP 1: Remove the lid and riser assembly

A description of how to do this is in my previous post on adding a new tuner.

STEP 2: Slid out the motherboard tray

 They’ve made this easy all you need to do is undo two screws…
P9100006P9100007

Then slide out the motherboard tray. There are a couple of things to be carefull about…P9100009
The power connector needs to be unscrewed since the cables connecting it to the PSU are very short
P9100008
There is a fixed cable tie that fouls the heatsink assembly as you try to slide it back.

As well as the two points I highlight alot of connectors need to be undone so the tray can slide out fully.
P9100010
Here’s a photo of the machine with the tray slid out just far enough to get access to the CPU and heatsink.

 

STEP 3: Remove the heatsink 

P9100011
Here’s the same shot but with the heatsink assembly removed

P9100012
Here’s the heatsink assembly removed from the case – considering it’s got to deal with nearly 100W (with a Pentium-D) it doesn’t seem all that impressive!

 

STEP 5: Replace the CPU

All the usual precuations apply – la la la – don’t blame me if you screw the whole thing up! I cleaned the heatsink (very carefully) and applied a liberal amount of arctic silver then put the new CPU in.

 

STEP 6: reassemble and boot

P9100018
Sorry about the quality of this shot but as you can see it seems to work both in BIOS an in the VISTA the new PENTIUM-D is recognised and both cores are picked up!

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MCP9350i: Adding additional tuners.

The MCP9350i is a great machine mainly because of the form-factor (i.e. it’s acceptable to wifey/gf/lady) I got mine cheap because the existing TV tuner wasn’t working so (hence it’s cheapness – I mean real cheapness!).

So the first thing I did when I got the machine was to look around for a replacement card. I couldn’t find an nvidia dualTV card (the standard fitment) but I thought that I was being clever when I uncovered the what I thought was the identical layout of the Hauppauge Wintv-PVR-500 to the machine’s existing Nvidia dual tuner. Further research reveals that the connector that allows extra inputs to be added is infact pin-for-pin identical on the two cards. Plus when you look at the pictures of the cards they have the same connectors arranged in the same order. What a very clever chap I am – oh yes.

comparing old and new tuner cards.JPG
Here you can see a photo comparing the Hauppauge wintv-pvr-500 (top) and the Nvidia dual tuner card (fitted as standard to the MCP9350i).

However my smugness at being so clever was short lived – I bought a PVR500 card off ebay and when I looked closely at the configuration of the connectors I realised they’re the same and in the same order but the don’t line-up – doh!

comparing old and new tuner cards end on.JPG
Here are the connectors of the two cards (Hauppauge underneath)

My vision of just dropping the new card as a direct replacement was destroyed. Having bought it I decided to add the Hauppauge card anyway. Although it would be possible to cut the backplate so the new card would fit I thought it would be neater to add it and leave the existing card in position.

For my own amusement I wrote a guide to doing the modification. I’ve written this walk-through using the hauppauge card but this modification is not specific to that card you could fit any PCI tuner card in this way.

STEP 1: Remove the lid

step 1 removing the lid.JPG
Unscrew the 4 torx drive screws on the outside of the case

step 1 machine with lid removed.JPG
Here’s the machine with the lid removed.

STEP 2: Remove the riser assembly

step 2 removing the backplane.JPG
The PCI and PCI-express cards are mounted in a riser assembly that can be removed intact. Start by removing the 2 silver coloured phillips screws (see the photo).

step 2 backplane assembly removed.JPG
Here’s the complete riser assembly when removed.

STEP 3: removed the outer skin of the riser assembly

step 3 remove external skin from backplane assembly.JPG
Unscrew the black phillips-head screw on the back of the riser assembly

step 3 external skin removed.JPG
Here’s the riser assembly with the outer skin removed.

STEP 4: Modify inter skin of the riser assembly.

The inner part of the riser assembly has holes in BUT they aren’t in the correct place. I might be possible to drill holes in the right place but since it will not be visible at the end I decided to put out a big slot so all the connectors fit through – more precise holes can then be drilled in the outer skin where it will be visible.
step 4 cut out backplane.JPG
The inner part of the riser assembly before being attacked.

step 4 cut-out backplane (finished).JPG
Here’s the inner part of the riser after being butchered.

STEP 5: Drill the outer skin of the riser assembly

This is the part that will be visible when the machine is reassembled to care is needed to get the holes just right and drill then neatly.
step 5 drilled external skin (done).JPG
The outer skin of the after drilling the holes.

STEP 6: Fit new tuner card

step 6 reassembly - new tuner fitted.JPG

Done it – here’s the riser with the new card in it. In my case the s-video input is slightly mis-aligned. This is annoying but the machine has other s-video inputs on the original analgue card so it’s not worth hacking away at the case to make it fit.

One problem I did not resolve is that the little tags that you can screw the card in place with are not aligned correctly. I decided that there wasn’t alot of movement possible since the holes are quite a tight fit – maybe if I have the thing in pieces again I’ll bodge some kind of fixing tab.

step 4 brackets are not aligned 1.JPGstep 4 brackets not aligned 2.JPG
The tabs on the riser assembly don’t line up with the holes in the new card.

STEP 7: Reassembly is the reverse of removal

Reassembly is the reverse of removal as they say in all the manuals – simple really. While reassmbling you have time for a quite prayer to the deity of your choice – please don’t let me have wrecked this TV card that I spent all that money on.

step 5  drill external skin.JPGstep 6 reassembled machine with lid off.JPG
A quick photo of the riser assmbly with both tuner card in it and of the whole machine when completed before the lid goes back on.

STEP 8: Reboot and pray

Oh bloody hell it boots but the axis of evil that it microsoft (maybe the EU should invade and install a democracy) has detected a hardware change and the pre-installed copy of XP/MCE asks to be authenticated.

step 7 reboot - or dear.JPG

Maybe I’ll go straight to vista – I did think I should upgrade to vista anyway, or maybe I’ll try the system recovery option at boot?

UPDATE – Having gone to all that trouble I subsequntly swapped out the PVR-500 dual analogue tuner for a PEAK Dual DVB-T tuner – it was pretty much a drop in replacement – the holes almost lined up only one (the aerial one) needed to be enlarged with a larger drill bit.

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Phillips Showline MCP9350i media centre.

MCP9350i

I’ve put together a few pages dedicated to media centre exploits – I’ve had a few attempts to introduce the concept to my lady but sucess was only possible in the shape of this Phillips MCP9350i. This is because it looks like it belongs with the DVD player and other hi-fi stuff rather than in a computer room.

Here’s the scenario;

Lady: What the &&*^ is that thing.
me:    It’s a media center babe.
Lady: It’s an abomination.
me:    You can pause live-TV.
Lady: You can get it out of this room right now.
me:    It’s just a  computer.
Lady: One that looks like an oil tanker and sounds like your mum drinking tea.
me:    Let’s try using it for a couple of weeks – you’ll love it.
Lady:  OK let me put it this way – do you ever want to have sex ever again in your life ever?
me:    Err yes please.
Lady:  Drop it. 

NOTE TO SELF: With the Phillips box I have achieved the magic of lady-acceptance. So it’s important not to screw this up by having the thing crash every other day. 

 

Insides:

As you do the first thing I did when I got the computer to take it to bits to have a look at the components!

As standard it comes with 512MB of DDR2-4200 memory – I upgraded this to 2.5GB.

d945gsu mobo
It’s all built around a custom motherboard – a D945gsu. It’s a shame that the board doesn’t appear on the intel website so no BIOS updates are available but it’s a pretty standard D945 board so all the video and chipset drivers should work OK.
This board is a microBTX one. I guess the choice of BTX was made to tame the fearsome heat output of the 3Ghz Pentium 4 CPU that is fitted. 

The only really weird thing on there is that in a PCI-express x16 slot where you’d expect the video card to be there’s a card labelled CH7312

step 2 video card - label.JPGstep 2 video card in situ.JPG

I initially though that this card seems to how the phillips deliver the ‘Phillips digital natural motion’ that the specifications shouts about. It say here… “digital natural motion technology is applied to all video outputs regardless of source with the aim of improving quality and reducing stutter”. I’m sure it’s super but there doesn’t seem to be much hardware on the card to actually do that!

I googled CH7312 (the part number on the card) and it suggest that the card is based on a chrontel 7312 chip – all this does is add DVI output for the onboard video (which only has a VGA connector). It’s like a PixelView ADD II card I think.

Now I’m not so sure how the digital natural motion is actually done. However since it looks like just a standard PCI-express slot I did think about putting in a nicer more recent video card in – like a passively cooled HD3450?

As standard the media centre come with a dual analogue tuner

step 2 old tuner card in situ.JPG

This tuner is a Nvidia DualTV – it has good reviews and is supposed to be a very good card.

The machine has all sort of goodies – a miniPCI slot houses a ’54g’ wireless card and there are two ir-blaster connectors on the motherboard.

 

The onkyo HDC-7

Interestingly there is a japanese market machine which is based on the identical chassis and motherboard – the ONKYO HDC-7.
onkyo hdc-7

It’s good to see that this machine has a Pentium-D processor as standard (a Pentium-D 820) suggesting that the MCP9350i CPU could be upgraded.

The only other difference is that the ONKYO machine has an extra very high-end audio card in the spare PCI slot.

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