Catalyst Media Center, worst app ever?



Ever have a dream where things are so unbeleivable, your mind goes
"Wait, this must be a dream, reality could never be this bizarre?

IMHO, so it is with Catalyst Media Center.

I've seen dozens of bad, bad, crappy apps, but I think this takes the

Some, just a small fraction, of its gotchas:

(1) The installer, well, sometimes it installs some things. More
often, it just flashes up full screen windows full of the ATI logo and
some purple cool-aid splashes. Does it bother checking for oh, say,
conflicting video or audio or drivers? Not really. It can detect an
installation of it's real origin app, and uninstall some parts of
IT. The "custom" install options have ludicrous choices, like the
option to not install the parental control stuff, which, hold your
sides, they claim takes 15 MB! ANy useful install options, like
choosing a directory, well that's just not available, or hidden so
well I can't find it.

(2) Now you'd think, if an app that should be really fast, in order to
juggle all that data in real time, you'd think they'd write it in real
native code. Well, you'd be wrong. Instead it seems to be a
lethargic .NET app, you know, the kind Microsoft themselves tried to
do for Vista, but then even they chucked two years worth of work and
went back to native code.

So we have an app where key presses and mouse clicks, even on a
3200MHz PC, take, oh, one, two, three, or twenty seconds to
register. Sweet.

Oh, but back to the installer-- you'd think, if an app required .NET
version x.y, an installer program would take the trouble to like maybe
try checking for the existence of .NET, or to be really whizzy, the
correct version thereof. You'd think, and I thought, but apparently
the pinheads at ATI, no such thought crossed their mind. Well,
that's not actually correct, it looks like they WENT OUT OF THEIR WAY
to ignore anything along these lines. Because if you do a clean
install of Windows (more later), the CMC installer silently skips the
CMC installation, as there's no .NET framework around. Silently, like
with not even a casual mention of, "Oh BTW, I'm not going to install
CMC, as there's no .NET here". Sweet.

(3) And even if you do somehow get CMC installed, they you get the
joys of running it.
Things like:
(a) Splash screens. Russet-haired babes rotating, (not anti-aliased
or synced to the frame rate BTW), in provocative poses. ATI: If I
want splash screens, I think I can find them. If I want to stare at
hot Russet-haired babes in black leather cooter-high boots, I suspect
there is a site somewhere on the Internet devoted to just that kink.
I was kinda hoping for something like, video software.

Of the setup screens, you wouldnt beleive our rants, so let's just say
the setup screens are non-intuitive, non-grammatical, overly-nested,
unhelpful, undocumented, slow, VERY BUGGY, and frustrating to boot.
Something as simple as setting up the channels you want is almost
impossible. First, you can't just type in "Channel 4-WCCO", et al.
You have to let the software go through a slow, out of sync, channel
scan (which on one button is labeled "SCAN CHANNELS", and on the next
similar but not quite page "FIND STATIONS". What should take seconds
takes many minutes, and even when it's done, you're likely to have a
garbled list of channels it "found", most are likely to be mislabled,
i.e. PBS Kids video is likely to show up under "Station 7", whatever
that means, meanwhile there are from five to SEVENTY identical copies
of "WFTW-67" the software entered into the channel list. Which is
nearly impossible to edit, thanks to all the slow wide glare-spangled
buttons which rarely do anything useful or correct.

There *is* an option which warms your heart the first time you see
it-- an option to download a "TV Guide". For free! Wow, now that's a
nice feature. Or it would be, if it functioned at all. Sometimes it
presents you with the wide purple flashy button labeled "titan".
That's all. Yo're somehow supposed, by osmosis I guess, to know what
that is. But never mind, it doesnt matter a whit whether you know
what titan is or not. Because when you press the button, yet another
slow progress bar appears, widens up to 40%, and then hangs. No TV
guide appears, no error messages, no suggestions as to what to do to
ameliorate, improve, sidestep, bypass, jump over, or fix whatever
problem is indicated by this particular hang.

(c) Now maybe by this point you think, well, this guy didnt bother
reading the manual, or the on-line help, or the link to the helpful
FAQ site. Well, usually you'd be right. And this time you're right
too. Because I didnt go to any of those places BECAUSE THEY ARE
EITHER BLANK OR DON'T EXIST. Yep, a 21st century app with no visible
help. Well, that's not quite true. If you wander thru the purple
button majesty, you eventually stumble on a page with buttons labeled
"HELP", "WHAT's NEW", "NOTICES", and your heart warms. But the
quickly cools when yu find out that no matter how many of these
buttons you press, no matter how hard, all you get are empty pages.
White screens.

(d) Now on the UP side, after you try reinstalling CMC, and then
reinstall Windows when CMC messes up everything in the video and audio
driver and codec chains, then repeat installing .NET 2.0, and you wait
for CMC to find a few channels, and duplicates in spades, you migth
EVENTUALLY be greeted with some actual real-time video from the TV
tuner. But just a few caveats:

(A) The video appears in something like FOUR preset sizes-- too small
(preview size), about the size of a Zoraastrian 4 Shekel stamp. Kinda
almost good (37/49ths of the screen, or if you accidentally
(accidentally as there's no mention of this feature), if you click on
the 33/46th screen size image, it flips into full-screen mode. Can
you choose size, position, resolution? Not as far as I can see.

(B) the 37/48th screen image is surrounded by WHITER THAN WHITE.
Whiter than Oxydol white. If you turn down the brightness with you'
monitor's controls, the video image is mighty dim. No problem you
think, EVERY TV made since 1939 has had brightness and contrast
controls. Every video card, even a few ATI cards, come with software
brightness and contrast sliders. So obviously CMC has BRIGHTNESS and
CONTRAST virtual knobs, twirlers, sliders, or scroll boxes, wheels, or
skis? Nope. Not as far as I can see.

(C) So you learn to put up with watching the infomercial channel,
dimly, with CMC's text boxes advertising this as the PBS kids channel
2. After a while, the thrill of watching murky Popeil Food
dehydrator commercials wears a bit thin. So you consider changing the
channel. No problem you think as you reach for the TV. Every TV made
since 1939 has channel switching knobs NO? And there's even less
possibility that CMC is lacking a channel switching knob, as of course
knobs on a screen do not cost anything for the bakelite and brass
setscrew, the knob is VIRTUAL, just a screen image. Hmm, no knob
visible. There are a fewe large purple menus on the left, but the
one labled in Japengrish as "CHAN MOVE" or somesuch, is useless, as it
brings up all 79 mistakenly logged copies of the infomercial channel,
and either scrolls through them too slowly, or too quickly, with a
gratuitous "bounce" as if the channel numbers are ona one-armed
bandit. Come to think of it, this does have a lot in common with

It turns out there are at least two other and undocumented ways to
change channels. I fyou hover the cursor in the lower left of the
screen, a bunch of tiny inscrutable purple circles appear, some of
them with cockroaches, civil-defense symbols, and less identifiable
hieroglyphs on them. Turns out the seventh from the left iis the
channel up button. Which works, slowly, oh so slowly, like one
channel every five seconds on a 3300+ PC, and even then the channel
text is twelve seconds behind the video, which is three seconds behind
the audio, and of course the text is for the wrong channel anyway.

Well, I'm getting dizzy and I doubt if I've touched 9% of the foibles,
glitches, and grumbles with this software. More later, after I lie
down for a while.

(b) Which

Custom Computers

I dunno, I'd pit the setup software for Logitech Harmony remote controls
against any other app in the universe for title of worse app ever :).

Here's my rant:

And you know for the last five years since I went with ATi video cards
and were talking more then just one, I have never had a problem with
CCC. In fact I can't think of a single problem with either WinXP,
WinXP Pro SP2 or my current WinXP Pro X64.

Captain Midnight

Ancient_Hacker said:
Ever have a dream where things are so unbeleivable, your mind goes
"Wait, this must be a dream, reality could never be this bizarre?

IMHO, so it is with Catalyst Media Center.

I've seen dozens of bad, bad, crappy apps, but I think this takes the

<rant snipped>

Hope all the typing got some of the frustration out of your system. :)

Documentation for AIW and HDTV Wonder was on the disc in file named
MMC*.pdf. Maybe they do similar for CMC. and might
have useful threads.

Digital channel tuning is painfully slow on the HDTV Wonder(MMC) & actual
HDTV. PBS here has 5 sub channels and a religious channel has 6. How are
they to know what is wanted and not. Its become uncommon but stations still
occasionally put out bad PID info. Sounds like you have a bad install but
don't assume what your receiving from stations is correct. They still have

Have never seen CMC so can only hope this is helpful. Good Luck.

Barry Watzman

Pretty much my feelings also (about the Logitech Harmony setup
software). I don't feel as strongly as you do about "activities", but
the idea of having made this web based vs. a local .exe application was
just insane. Took me 20 hours to get it to do what I wanted, the way
that I wanted.


You painted a far too positive picture of the software. For starters, you
can't schedule a recording for more than 3.5 hours. That's actually not a
problem, since the reliability of the scheduler is questionable unless you
keep CMC open and on "TV". Otherwise, the scheduler will usually open CMC
at the scheduled time, but may not actually open the tv tuner or initialize
recording. Installing some versions of Samsung's MagicTune (a monitor
control application) almost assured the problem, but the problem can occur
even if MagicTune is not installed.

Most annoying, CMC lacks the ability to perform a quick, timed, manual
recording. If you want to record manually, CMC records until you click
"stop" or you run out of disk space.

As you noted, the TV Guide takes forever to download. Once it downloads,
its not very useful. There's no grid of times and stations. You see the
listings for only one station and one day at a time.

If you want to risk the using scheduler, CMC provides a wonderfully clumsy
interface. You scoll to set the starting and ending hour, minute, channel,
am/pm, day of the week, etc. There's no ability to manually set the time of
day. There's and undocumented feature where you can get to, lets say, the
50's in minutes, by scrolling to 5, then pressing 5, and finally scrolling
to the correct minute.

Oh, my ATI TV Wonder 650 records Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Too bad CMC,
which comes with it, only records in stereo.

CMC is a loser app. If ATI's MMC actually worked correctly, it would be an
improvement over CMC.

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