Archive for August 2007
Some of you may have noticed that Big Screen Headlines v1 trial has expired on the mobilewares site (and hasn’t been updated) – and the reason for this has been the imminent release of new update – Big Screen Headline v2.
If you haven’t seen Big Screen Headlines before – it’s a RSS Browser for Vista Media Center – and was released back in Oct last year (before Vista was RTM’d).
For the v2 release - this update started off as a minor UI facelift – and in the course of things – the entire MCML UI and underlying .NET code layer was pretty much rewritten – so it’s in fact an almost entirely new product (which has similarities in structure/navigation to the original).
The beta for this will be released very very soon (I’m hoping in the next week – however a few other things need to coincide with it’s release – such as online registration system, which is nearly done too!). As intended for the Big Screen Products – Big Screen Headlines v2 will soon be a commercial/for-sale product (potentially around US$15-25 – the price of a couple of beers at a good nightspot) – sooner rather than later (depending on outcome of public beta). As with other releases – there will be plenty of opportunity to download it and try it out to see if it’s up to scratch for you – with most likely a 30 day trial period.
There’s a bunch of new features in this release - namely ‘better support’ for a lot of different RSS extensions and the way these parsed and presented – but a lot of focus was also on the actual UI and pageflow (and how that could be improved from the initial v1 release). It’s also planned that the look/feel of UI itself will be reused for future Big Screen Products. (to enable some consistency for the brand/product range).
A quick summary of (some) of the major enhancements include (see screenshots below for more examples) :
- Brand new UI system. Most notably – the new 4 way main menu (XBox360 dashboard style) allowing quicker access to content.
- Enhanced article display /parsing of HTML content - allowing for viewing articles as they were originally intended with new support for embedded images (where various images are contained within the article text.).
- Enhanced parsing of RSS Feeds and new extensions (ie RSS Media, Atom, iTunes, iPhotos etc etc) – with display/extraction of things like thumbnails, comments, ratings etc.
- Enhanced viewing/filtering/sorting/grouping when viewing of Feeds/Lists of feeds – including several sort types, forward/reverse ordering – plus ability to alter text sizes (for low/high res screens) and change the view style (ie change how big items are and whether you just see headlines or they expand to reveal more information when highlighted).
- Support for dynamic OPML 2.0 includes – which means you can point to OPML files from inside the presets rather than hardcoded RSS URL’s. This feature works a treat for places like TheDigitalLifestyle.com who publish an OPML file (containing all the podcasts, blogs and video feeds they have) and regularly add (and remove) their available feeds. (so you don’t need to worry about managing each individual feed). You can also point to a local OPML file (which might be regularly updated from your rss reader on another machine).
- Direct access to latest Subscribed feed items (as a whole) from main menu (so you can see latest news items from main menu without viewing any feeds)
- View Comments feeds from News Items
- Lots of new preset feeds / opml links for better updating of available content.
- Quick and Easy Export Subscribed Feeds into an OPML file (so it can be used when in Extender mode).
There’s also a few more new tricks it can do as well which I won’t go into here in detail – but since pictures tell a thousand words here’s some to keep you happy (click on each image to get the Full size screenshot) -:
Main Menu Screens – (showing Subscribed feeds, Latest Items and More menu)
Viewing Articles - (Article with embedded Images, Video playback with enhanced buffering, Comments view)
View Feeds – (Enhanced Grouping/Display, Video RSS Feed with thumbnails, iPhoto Stream with thumbnails)
Viewing/Sorting Options via popup and flyout buttons - (Change View Size, and View Style)
Browse Feeds - (View Favorites, View Dynamic OPML feed)
Anyhow – look forward to this one very very soon..
Please note that OEM customers who’s vendors officially purchased Big Screen Headlines v1 OEM licenses for them (you will have been given a certificate and Serial Number) – will automatically be upgraded to v2 (full license) for free.
Something new I’ve been working on since early last week (a WPF based Touch/Surface App) – was shown off at TechEd New Zealand over the past couple of days. Although I couldn’t attend in person – Jay Templeton from Mabode (the company this work was performed for) - was on a stand setup in the foyer – with lots of Media Center and Plasma goodness – and has been demonstrating the new app to those passing by.
Apparently TechEd New Zealand is the second biggest TechEd in the world outside the US – with a staggering 3000+ attendees (which is pretty amazing given the small population of NZ) – so a lot of people got to check this stuff out.
The app itself is a written in WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) – and is a cross between a Contact/Business/Media Directory and an online collaboration tool – and designed specifically to run on a whopping big plasma screen (1366×768) with special touch technology provided by Next Window. (I’m sure we officially called it something – but can’t remember what exactly – so will just call it ‘Conference Touch’).
Anyhow I thought It might be of interest to post some screenshots of it running –
Due to some of the hype surrounding Surface and iPhone – we thought it would be fun to take the app beyond being a basic touch screen kiosk – and make it do some of the neat tricks you see on the abovementioned technologies. (things like ability to slide/pull lists etc across the screen with hand motions etc).
In this screen below (the generic browsing screen) – you can pull the list left and right – and depending on how fast the pull motion was and what distance was covered – the list will slide to particular spots (or the start/end of the list).
Some other surface/touch like bits are the ability to pull down dropdown lists (so you quickly filter your data) – and also the A-Z slider down the bottom (which instantly takes you to a point in the results set based on where you touch it).
You can also drill down on records by double tapping a tile (note that these screenshots are from my own version running on my dev machine – so profile pictures etc are not loaded on – and were added dynamically during TechEd. This was made quite easy due to the great XML Data binding/filtering features in WPF )
Once you are looking at the details records above (which might be a contact, a business, a web video or even a scheduled meeting/video-conference) – you can then perform other functions (such as video chatting , scheduling a meeting and viewing a video).
Since it was a prototype as well – a number of ‘dummy’ features/screens were added to show off what would be possible (well actually the videoconferencing was one of these).
For example the login screen has ‘fudged’ fingerprinting recognition for the sign-in. (no we didn’t actually have a fingerprint reader connected – although would have been easy to implement if available).
I hear the app was well received – and maybe might show up at some other TechEd’s in the future.
I’m currently trying to get hold of a better action shot – of the app running on the stand/plasma (such as someone ‘mid-pull’ on a surface maneuver) – so will add these if I track it down (the above picture of Jay was pilfered from Darryl Burling’s blog.)
Olcay Buyan at MCEDev has just launched a beta version of TV-Toolbox (this app was previously known as MCEDEV’s MCE-Cutter for Vista Media Center and previewed on this blog a while ago). This new MCPL app allows you to edit/convert your Recorded TV from a 10 foot UI.
An excerpt from the news release (on the MCEDev site) –
Ever wanted to edit and convert your recording right from your couch? Now you can! TV Toolbox is the youngest member in our gang. It allows you to edit recordings, convert recordings and define rules to automatically convert just recorded TV shows to a specific format.
Olcay’s done a really nice job on the UI – so go check out the news release to get a downloadable version and see some screenshots too.
While I was on holidays o/s (and away from my blog) – Olcay also released some news about MCE-Cookbook - an application designed for kitchen based MediaCenter machines (designed by Ad Notam) – and allows you to view recipies from a 10 foot UI. This one is worth checking out too (not downloadable yet) – and the kitchen mounted displays look really nice in the photos.