Archive for February 2007
I’ve been a little slack on blogging again – and there’s a few new bits and pieces of Vista news worthy of mention from the past week – in summary :
"Aufero" BitTorent client/browser for Vista Media center (MCPL) – this one looks really hot – and although I’m not a torrent guy myself – a lot of Media Center folks are very excited by this. The author is writing a blog (and accepting suggestions too) – so check it out at http://aufero.blogspot.com/. NB: Download is not available yet (its a W.I.P.)…
WebGuide 4 "Vista Sidebar" gadget - This app probably doesn’t need any introduction – but a great new addition to the feature set is the inclusion of a really slick looking Sidebar gadget – which exposes most of the Webguide functionality at your fingertips. Check out a Ian Dixons post about this for some screenshots and download links.
Windows Live for TV – Released (Again?). I blogged about this one a while ago – and its a WPF app for accessing Windows Live Spaces / Live Messenger via Media Center (written by the ‘Orbit’ team at Microsoft). The UI uses a really nice looking 3D based WPF interface – and reinstates the IM functionality that was left out of Vista MediaCenter (plus a lot more). See Ian Dixons blog for more information. Note however that 64bit Vista and XBox360 Extender is not supported with this app.
‘MCMLLookalike’ Open Source library for Vista Media Center (hosted on sourceforge). Steven Harding (author of Yougle for MCE2005) has been doing some excellent work putting together a collection of source code for recreating the Media Center look/feel with MCPL. Some of this source started out from my previously posted MCPL Samples - but Steven has taken it a step further and extended it into a full blown VS2005 project with lots of extras (with an example VS2005 installer as well). This worth a look – and would also encourage developers to get involved with this intiative.
Concurrent Sessions Hack for Vista - Another ’hack’ that has been doing the rounds (from Alan Cooke over at Missing Remote and The Green Button) – is a way to enable remote desktop functionality without logging out your local user. (aka ‘concurrent sessions’ – which is essentially what the XBox360 does when working under extender mode). For most of you out there – when (or if) Media Center becomes a permenant fixture in your loungeroom – its a lot harder to explain to your wife that she needs to pause Desperate Housewives so you can "configure some stuff". Using this ‘hack’ you can now play with your machine to your hearts content without dropping any WAF points at all (unless of course you need a reboot). I’m yet to give this a shot with Vista – but in the past – you could also use remote desktop to simulate a basic MediaCenter Extender session (ie. aoka ‘Softsled’) – minus any live Video/TV/DVD Streaming functionality.
"Icehouse Beer" + Media Center Jukebox - Ok I don’t normally blog about hardware – but this one (from Julie Jacobson at CEPro) was very funky indeed. As the title suggests – take a Jukebox, a Beer Fridge and Media Center – and put it all together in a nice retro looking jukebox enclosure – and you’ve got one cool machine ready for any good party. (ok it’s little big to travel with though)..
Also on the hardware front –
Creative Labs *finally* releases *some* working drivers for Vista … If you’re an unfortunate Creative Labs product owner with no on m/b sp-dif out (like me) – who is trying to get the same functionality you’ve enjoyed for years on MCE2005 – you’ll be happy to know some signed/final drivers have finally been released for Vista (as of last week). I am personally the owner of a Live External USB and also an old Audigy Platinum (on my MCE machine) – and up until to last week – it was unusable (no driver for the USB device – so no spdif - and the Audigy ‘Beta’ driver continuously caused BSOD’s)… I’ve not been game to try the Audigy again – but with the drivers for the USB – its all sweet – and can now enjoy full DTS/AC3 passthrough for DVD movies. Unfortunately – many of you will still be left out in the cold – as Creative has dumped support for a lot of legacy+current sound/webcam products like the hugely popular PCI Live5.1 sound cards. A word of wisdom is that if you are putting together a new system – get a motherboard which has sp-dif out and save yourself a lot of grief.
Just to put this in context – this user is a highly respected member of xpmediacentre.com.au – and has earned a lot of his reputation from coming to the rescue of long suffering MCE2005 users with helpful tips + advice on software/hardware/etc. (something which is notoriously difficult to get 100% working and stable in Australia for a ‘noob’)..
This has got to be the nicest thing anyone has said about Vista Media Center so far…
Post Titled : ‘I Hate Vista’
Yes I do.
Where are the good old days of mce2005. It surely was more fun. Something would be wrong every day. There was always something to be fixed. There was no time to write fun threads like "Ï am from a salesperson from HN" or ”I am a merchandiser from the 2$ store".
With Vista all the fun has gone. You wait and watch the pc for days, no weeks, in the hope something will go wrong and you will be able to fix it, post it in this forum and get some rep points. Now, when something goes wrong, all you get is, the program crashed, Windows will close it and start it again. No cajoling, ranting, swearing. No endless scanning for channels, no video errors, no rebooting, no BSOD.
I was looking forward to write a new Bella Vista guide for beginners. All I can write about is, put the disk in the dvd rom, close it, reboot, do wathever windows tells you to do, install video driver and tuner driver and enjoy. Gee, this must be the shortest guide for beginners ever written.
Now I am watching this screen, hours go by, hoping some newbie will make a terrible mistake and I will be able to save him.
Like I said, how can this be fun?
lol… Microsoft should use this guy for an advertising campaign….!
A number of overseas users (non Aussies) who have checked out Big Screen Weather (for Vista Media Center) – have given feedback that they’d really like to see a version that supports World Locations. Currently the addin is developed to access it’s weather data from the free ftp data services provided by the Australian Bureau Of Meteorology – so apart from the World Weather Summary section – its not much use to those residing outside Australia.
For those inside Australia however – the data I use is substantially more accurate and localized then anything being offered from o/s providors.
While it would be relatively simple to make the current MCPL based User Interface communicate with a different backend server – the data that is on offer (ie. Yahoo! weather, Weather.com, Foreca etc) – all comes with terms/conditions and restrictions that essentially make it hard for me (as a commercial based entity) to do anything that useful with it.
For example – one of the restrictions on a couple of these is that the data can’t be mixed with data from any other source – and if I developed my application to download and display forecast data – I wouldn’t be allowed to show any satellite images sourced elsewhere. Similarly – I couldnt have a single addin that communicated both with BOM and one of these sources – even though BOM have no problem with this at all. Also a number of providers expect you to link back to their HTML/Browser based web sites from the ‘screen where the data is displayed’ – and while I’d be happy to obligue – MCPL isn’t running in a browser – and hence HTML linking is not that straightfoward.
An idea I had – which might possibly solve this problem – is to also allow for BYO (Bring Your Own) data.
This way – Big Screen Weather essentially becomes a ‘Browser’ which supports a particular data format (‘weather’ xml – to be invented?) – thereby absolving me of any of the issues associated with providing this functionality in the addin.
In a nutshell - this would involve enhancing Big Screen Weather to read in a ‘weather’ data file from your harddrive/internet (XML based) – which could contain all the required information/data. The data format for this ’weather’ xml file would then of course be made available to developers and users.
This would then pave the way for end users/developers to create utilities for creation of this data file (ideally wrapped up into a Windows Service/Scheduled Task/Background Addin - or offered directly from a website) – and then its up to them to decide how/where the data will be collected – and you as end users to determine if its legally OK for you to run it.
Also, given that Big Screen Weather is currently freeware (and has a donation based system) – I thought I’d put the problem back into the hands of the developer and end user community. 8)
So anyhow what do you think?
Any developers interested in writing something?
Ian Dixon has announced some interesting new forums on his Media Center Show portal site over the past week – TheDigitalLifestyle.com. One in particular is the Tips Forum – where you can share your Media Center Tips – and even win some free software if you get the ‘tip of the week’. Quoted from his blog entry –
" It could be anything, from how to share recorded TV to picture settings. Anything that you find useful others will find it useful too. So get posting and the tip of the week will win some free software "
Also of interest is that Ian has also been busy co-authoring his new book (with Tony Campbell) - "Using Microsoft Vista Media Center " (Babani Computer Books).
I’m really looking forward to checking this one out – and the great news is that it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon.
A new MCPL Addin – Media Control Plugin – has been released for Vista Media Center, and allows you to configure/control your FFDShow filter while you watch your videos. This is particularly useful if you need to switch audio streams within a video file (a feature supported by some videofile containers) or you watch a lot of non dvr-ms content.
The author of this addin is known as ‘damienbt’ on the support forums (no other information can be found about who the author is) – and the addin is free (paypal donations are encouraged).
It’s great to see some 3rd party MCPL starting to appear too – something very much lacking at the moment.
The feature list is as follows (taken from the homepage) :
The Requirements are (taken from homepage) :
Also I tried this out on Vista Media Center 64 bit – and no program icon appeared in the Program Library at all for me (so couldn’t launch it)- so I imagine it might be for Vista 32bit only machines (and is probably due to the way the installer is packaged – not the technical requirements of the dll itself).
Screenshots are available on the above product link.
(Sourced via Chris Laniers Blog)
I’m pleased to announce that I picked up the following results (a big thanks to everyone for voting for me/my products) :
- Best Vista Media Center Application - Winner - Big Screen Headlines
- Best Enthusiast Media Center Blog – 3rd Place – Big Screen Blog (this blog)
- Outstanding Design Award - 3rd Place – Big Screen Headlines
There wasn’t a huge focus on Vista Media Center with the awards – as only 18% of the voters surveyed are running it so far (and the other 82% are still running MCE2005) – however I’m sure for next years awards it will be almost ALL Vista (and hopefully some more Vista specific addins will be out by then like My Movies etc)..
Some of the other (very deserving) Winners included :
- Chris Lanier – Best Enthusiast Blog
- Aaron Stebner – Best Microsoft Employee Blog (narrowly beating Charlie Owen by 3 votes we’re told)
- My Movies (MCE2005) – Best Non Commercial App
- MCE Weather (MCE2005) – Best Online Spotlight App
Please see Ian Dixon’s Post (included with the Podcast) for more results (and further Survey Results).
Hopefully Ian will also publish the full results list on his blog when he gets a chance. (as some results are only available via listening to the podcast).
Also worthy of mention is that Brian Binnerup (My Movies) – has launched a competition, with the aim of building up an Online Database of DVD movie info (which will ultimately become a datasource for the My Movies Product). Users can earn points by posting product data for DVD’s – and there’s some really cool prizes as incentive. I strongly encourage everyone to contribute to this database (even if you aren’t trying to win) – as it will be a great source of DVD info in the future.
Is 30 days trial not long enough for you to make up your mind on Vista – how about if you had 120 days?
Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror has published a blog entry Extending the Windows Grace Period to 120 days showing you how to extend your trial period by 30 days at time (you can do this a maximum of 3 times – hence an extra 90 days on top of your existing 30 day trial).
Jeff has also stated that this is an "official, supported operation directly from Microsoft" – so sounds like you won’t be getting a visit from the copyright police for doing this one.. (and all the components/commands you need to run are already installed)
You’ll of course need to buy an official license after these 120 days – but common sense would dictate that you would have figured out if you want to go with Vista by this time.
See the blog entry (linked above) for the full details (also note that the Enterprise edition of Vista is not supported by this hack)..