(MCE 2005) Media Center PC Experience, Spring 2005

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ATI 9800 Pro All-in-Wonder (AIW) tuner/capture device

I was never able to get this work reliably by itself.  See the section below on HDTV tuner and integration with the HDTV drivers.

An early install experience (now resolved):
MCE and the ATI AIW tuner are not compatible. This is my fault, they never claimed to be, but I didn't realize how bad the situation was.  MCE itself boots and uses the video card.  But Microsoft Media Center (MC, the app) does not recognize the AIW tuner with any driver I have tried.  I can install the XP driver and use the ATI software to run the tuner, but MC will refuse to play video over it.  Or, I can install the MCE driver and have MC play video but not be able to use the tuner with any software.  Finding the right driver is a bingo game.  For instance, the driver automatically downloaded via Microsoft auto update caused all audio to be lost.

After using the card for a few weeks, the ATI software ceased to record audio.  I never diagnosed why.  Ahead Nero was still able to record audio.

Frame jitter: Using this as a sw-based capture device often left me with what looked de-interlace jitter.  This was evidenced by both the ATI record program and Ahead Nero.  The Hauppauge (hw-encoding) capture card solved this problem. 

After a few more weeks,  the capture card stopped working for no apparent reason. When I went to load the TV app, it would say "Unable to Show TV".  Ahead Nero failed similarly when using the ATI card.  I installed the latest driver (Catalyst 5.4) and MMC 9.06 (the app as opposed to the driver). MMC simply seg faulted on start.

I uninstalled everything from ATI I could find in the control panel applet for installed software (driver, MMC, ATI remote, etc.), including deleting all of ATI files from "program files/ATI...", and reinstalled from the original CD (MMC 8.5). This time, I got "AtiSServ failed to provide required interfaces!" upon launching MMC.

I uninstalled everything and tried again. This time, I got "Setup was unable to complete the installation. Try to setup your display adapter with a standard VGA driver before running setup."

I uninstalled again and upon boot Windows wanted to install some drivers for new hardware. I let it do that hoping to solve the previous problem. Windows reported "install failed" from the tool tray and gave me a generic web page telling me to reinstall drivers.

I rebooted and tried installing ATI from the CD again. This time, I got a BSOD during the install.

I went through it all again with the new drivers (Catalyst 5.4). I returned to square one with "Unable to Show TV. The TV player failed to initialize the video.".  The ATI diagnostic utility PC check did not report any problems.

My first query to tech support (with the information above) suggested reinstalling the driver.  I gave up on the ATI capture driver.
  • Bottom line: Avoid.  While the ATI 9800  may be a fine graphics card, the tuner/AIW add on is definitely not appropriate for MCE and the drivers so fragile that it's possibly to be avoided in all cases.  

Integrating the Video ATI 9800 and HDTV tuner drivers (late May 2005)

This was the worst case of driver roulette I have ever played.  After trying the Kram drivers and surrendering, I tried to reinstall the normal drivers (which were not working right before).  I had six different things to possibly install:

  • 9800 CD software - the original software that came with the video card and built-in tuner in the All-In-Wonder.  This includes video drivers, WDM capture drivers, MMC 8.5 (the app with TV viewer, library player, etc.), and others.

  • Catalyst 5.5 download - an update to the video and capture drivers

  • MMC 9.6 download - an update to the MMC app 

  • HDTV CD software, drivers - the original driver software that came with the HDTV tuner.  This includes the HDTV tuner drivers and WDM capture drivers.

  • HDTV updated drivers, as downloaded.

  • HDTV CD software, MMC app - MMC 9.06 as bundled with the HDTV tuner card.  The MMC does not install from the CD autoplay.  It has to be installed from its subdirectory (this is not mentioned in the docs).

I had two apps that I was primarily interested in seeing run:

  • Analog S/Video viewing/capture

  • HDTV tuning/viewing/capture

To make this more interesting, both the 9800 All-In-Wonder card (AIW) and HDTV tuner card come with S/Video inputs and dongles for hooking up S/Video and audio input.  

The 9800 AIW additionally has an audio output that must be connected to another audio input.  This is used to delay the audio signal the same amount as the MPEG encode of the video.  The HDTV card has no such feature.

The setup looks something like this:

Try Zero  at installing drivers, failure :

Nothing helped at all amongst several combinations.  The problem was that ATI drivers do no cleanly install on top of old ones.  It is necessary to completely remove all old ones and apparently all ATI software before installing drivers differently.  There is an app in the control-panel/add-remove-software applet to do this at least.  This makes different drivers installs more time consuming. 

First try (obvious order, original CDs, then updates), failure:
  1. Clean all ATI sw (via the ATI applet in add/remove programs).
  2. Install 9800 CD sw (Windows then did partial install)
  3. Install catalyst 5.5 driver update.
  4. Iinstall MMC  9.6  update.  It crashed, and is probably useless since HDTV MMC is different.
  5. Install HDTV downloaded drivers.  These replace at least WDM (capture) drivers.  MMC still crashed.
  6. Installed all drivers and apps from original HDTV installation CD.  This includes hydravision, WDM, ATI decoder, DirectX, ATI Remote Wonder, Guide+ 
    result: HDTV would bring up a still shot, then go black.  Instead of crashing, Analog S/Video input would report "unable to initialize capture device" for both the 9800 and HDTV S/Video inputs.
Second Try (original CDs only, no updates), failure: 
  1. Clean all ATI sw.
  2. Upon reboot, do not let Windows make any default installations.
  3. Install original 9800 CD sw (MMC 8.5).  Result: HDTV dongle worked for analog S/Video, but not 9800 dongle, and no audio on either.  
  4. Install HDTV CD driver sw:  The analog TV viewing app now crashes.
  5. Deinstall just MMC, and reinstall original HDTV CD MMC (run  d:\install\mmc\setup.exe manually):  DTV now works.  But the analog TV viewer just comes up with a blank screen.  No, it defaults to "9800 capture", which is dead.  Using config, change it to "DTV analog capture".   That brings up a picture, but no audio. 
  6. Reinstall just the 9800 WDM capture driver.  This did not change anything.
Third Try (updates only, no original driver software), failure:
  1. Clean all ATI sw.
  2. Install the 9800 drivers for XP (Catalyst 5.5) as downloaded.
  3. Install the downloaded MMC (9.6, which includes DTV support).    The 9800 dongle now works, and audio works.  But the DTV viewer doesn't work.
  4. Reinstall the HDTV CD software: TV viewer now says "failure to initialize capture device".  DTV just shows one frame and freezes.
Fourth Try (HDTV only), partial success:
  1. Clean all ATI sw.  Delete all ATI drivers via the Windows device manager (ATI de-install doesn't always do this).
  2. Install HDTV CD software (before even the video drivers).  If Windows driver install happens first, WDM install will hang.
  3. Reboot and let Windows install the video drivers it wants to (do not use the ATI CD install): Analog TV and DTV now both work.  There is audio on the 9800 dongle.  However, some of the Catalyst control apps are missing.  I'm not sure how much of the video card functionality is available.
  4. By default, audio is configured to down-mix to stereo.  The settings in the viewer can choose an alternate audio output device that does not down mix.
    At this point I have a working system.
  5. Upgrade MMC to 9.06 (from download): DTV now only displays one frame of video, then a black screen (but audio works).  Analog TV says "failure to initialize capture device."
  6. Upgrade HDTV (WDM) drivers to 5.01 (from download).  Same result.
  7. Upgrade DAO/MDAC to latest version (from download).  Same result.
  8. Upgrade DTV decoder: Error 1638 (product already installed).
Fifth  Try (HDTV upgrade software only), failure:
  1. Clean all ATI sw.
  2. From latest HDTV driver download set (4 items on the web), install the DTV decoder.
  3. Install HDTV (WDM) 5.01 drivers.
  4. Install DAO/MDAC 9.08.
  5. Install MMC 9.06
  6. Let Windows reinstall video drivers: same result as before, DTV displays one frame of video, then a black screen.  Analog fails to initialize
Sixth Try, August 2005, attempting to get Titan TV to work with recent ATI updates:

Titan TV suggested that the August 2005 update to the ATI software would allow their scheduler to work with the ATI HDTV card.  I tried:

  1. Start with fourth try to point (4), the partially working solution.
  2. Install ATI Catalyst 5.7 (the video drivers, mostly) for XP.  This didn't change anything for either Titan TV or MC.
  3. Install ATI Multimedia Center 9.8 (the top-levels apps) for XP.  DTV displays one frame of video, then a black screen.
Seventh Try, August 2005, clean up after attempt 6
  1. Repeating the working fourth try no longer works.  Windows freezes while trying to install atiiiexx.dll.  
  2. Install Catalyst 5.8 for MCE (this apparently includes DTV drivers as well as video) to try and clean up the atiiiexx.dll problem.
  3. Install MMC 9.08 (the latest as of this date).  Result one frame of DTV video then the video freezes.  But, Microsoft MC works.  However, ehrecvr.exe seems to be running all of the time, consuming 99% of the CPU, making it difficult to do anything, and doing, apparently, nothing on its own (no ATI apps are running).
  4. Remove all ATI software and start over as in try 4.
  5. Install all software from the HDTV distribution CD (including directly running d:\install\mmc\setup.exe which is not run by the autoplay).  Do not install any All-in-Wonder drivers.
  6. Let Windows reinstall drivers on boot.  The mysterious atiiiexx.dll problem is solved.  Microsoft MC works.
    At this point I have a working system again
Eighth Try, January 2006, after buying an HDTV
  1. The previous installation was not driving the component output from the ATI card, only the S/Video.  HDTV requires component (or DVI) to work. I installed Catalyst 5.13 drivers.  The HDTV tuner now reports "no signal" for every station, when there is a signal.
  2. Before this, the video drivers were actually the Windows default ones.  So, it appears that drivers for the ATI 9800 AIW and ATI HDTV Wonder are incompatible with each other in all versions. 
  3. Remove all ATI drivers.  Now, there is neither S/Video nor composite that will work with my TV.  Must plug in a computer monitor to proceed.
  4. Install HDTV drivers from original CD and version 5.13 of Catalyst: No DVI video, Component video is blue only, and DTV freezes after one frame.
Ninth Try, January 2006, after buying an HDTV, and with Radeon 9800 instead of AIW 9800
  1. Full clean
  2. Catalyst 5.13 upgrade install (i.e. from the download .exe and not from the Windows hw wizard)
  3. HDTV 3.0.83 upgrade install
  4. MMC 9.08
  5. "Failure to initialize" when running DTV app.
Tenth Try, January 2006, after buying an HDTV, and with Radeon 9800 instead of AIW 9800
  1. Full clean
  2. Let Windows install the video driver (found Radeon 9800 Pro).  Freezes trying to install atiiiexx.dll.
  3. Installed HDTV drivers from CD: Freezes during install.
Eleventh Try, January 2006, after buying an HDTV, new driver release from ATI
  1. Full Clean
  2. Install HDTV drivers (multiple website downloads) in this order:
    1. 01 DAO MDAC driver 9-13_mmc_uci.exe
    2. 02 HDTV drivers 6-1_hdtv_83-2036_wdm.exe
    3. 03 DTV decoder atiCDwiz.exe
      • Then it validates the original HDTV installation CD
      • It asks for a special file which is the downloaded:
        03 DTV decoder adjunct setup.exe 
    4. 04 encode 9-13_encoder.exe
    5. 05 MMC 9-13_mmc_enu.exe
  3. Then install Catalyst 5.13

  4. Use the settings to set 720p & 1080i modes for the HDTV.
    Note that this cannot be done via RDP or a VGA monitor as Catalyst won't show these options.
    The available options in Catalyst will depend on what's plugged in to the card.