Archive for September 2007
An announcement was made today that the hugely popular XPMediaCenter.com.au community site has been sold to Reeltime TV – who will take over the running and moderation of the site (see this press release).
The owner/founder of this site Michael Hancock (a Media Center MVP) has been given shares/equity in Reeltime as part of the deal (and I really do hope he does well out of this – as he’s put so much of his life and finances into this over the past few years).
Although this announcement took me by surprise – it was unfortunately something that was pretty inevitable for a while. The situation being faced by Mike was that there was minimal advertising and donations coming in – and no external financial support from the companies that were benefiting from the existence of his site (Microsoft, IceTv to name a couple). So for the most part – Mike was running this site out of his own pocket – and these costs were increasing rapidly as the popularity of the site soared (and greater bandwidth and server side grunt was required).
This was a crazy situation (that I personally echoed to Microsoft on a couple of occasions at least) – as the amount of tech support being handled by this site (for their Product) would have saved them so much more $$$ – than it would ever have cost to contribute financially to the running costs of the site. The ‘goodwill’ factor and viral advertising generated for the Windows MediaCenter product from this site was also immense – and in most cases allowed users to actually use this product – whereas "out of the box" many vital things like EPG’s didn’t work in Australia.
What’s equally sad is that this site was also built and kept alive (in content) – by the amazing community spirit and ‘pass it forward’ mentality of giving advice and help. If only a small % who contributed and benefited from this site had made $$ donations (the membership base was over 30,000+) – then this situation might have easily been averted.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen (going forward) to this site – and the core users have already expressed very mixed feelings about whether they will continue to support the site in future or not.
The troubling thing is that while I believe Reeltime TV intends to have some sort of presence with Media Center users + technology (I don’t think they have any addins as yet accessible from within the Media Center UI) – I think they are also focused on a number of other competing platforms and target audiences. (all their current offerings are not focused at MediaCenter users). So I wonder if this will be reflected in how the site evolves (and if it will evolve away from being a MediaCenter focused site). We have seen this happen recently with the revamped MediaCenter Show on TPN (not Ian’s podcast) – and the last few episodes I checked out had very little relevance to MediaCenter users.
Anyhow I’d really like to wish Mike all the best of luck for the future – and say to say a big THANK YOU for all the tireless and thankless effort + work you have put in. I totally get your position and what you have done (and I’m sure most of us would have done the same faced with your situation).
I’d also like to again reiterate how vitally important it is for people in the enthusiast community to support the people who run these sites and write tools/addins/software you use – not just by involvement – but making those small financial contributions when they are needed. (and I’m sure no-one wants to see the green button being sold to some non Media Center focused company like SageTV or Apple….)
Chris Lanier has the official Microsoft Press release on Extenders for tommorow’s launch – so now it’s all confirmed and the speculation is over (for the initial offerings at least). Now we have the long wait to get hold of one (probably not going to be available until November at earliest). The pricing is looking slightly better on the Linksys products (and depending on what the wholesale cost is – there’s a chance that combined with a cashback or discount – this could hit the sweet spot).
So anyhow – the four Media Center v2 Extender products being announced are (links now included) :
Linksys Media Center Extender models DMA 2200 US$349 RRP and DMA 2100 US$299 RRP (3 posts ago) :
The Media Center Extender with DVD Player (DMA2200) from Linksys, a division of Cisco, is an elegant solution that combines an upscaling DVD player with a dual-band Wireless-N Extender for Windows Media Center. It allows consumers to enhance their entertainment systems by teaming Extender for Media Center functionality with DVD playback capabilities in a single device. For consumers seeking a smaller form factor, Linksys will also offer the Media Center Extender (DMA2100), which delivers all the appealing features of Extender for Windows Media Center in a compact dual-band Wireless-N solution that is ideal for spaces, such as bedrooms, that call for a smaller device footprint. These new Linksys Media Center Extenders give consumers easy access to their HD television content, digital music and digital photos using just one remote control, and feature both digital and optical audio outputs that enable consumers to utilize their existing custom audio systems. They will be available for consumers to purchase in the U.S. this November at estimated street prices of $349.99 and $299.99, respectively. More information is available at http://www.linksys.com/mce.
D-Link DSM-750 MediaLounge HD Media Center Extender (2 posts ago) :
The D-Link DSM-750 MediaLounge HD Media Center Extender is housed in a sleek, 17-inch, black aluminum chassis, and connects to the home network using Ethernet or dual-band draft Wireless-N networking to make it easy to enjoy the Windows Media Center experience with friends and family on a home entertainment center. The DSM-750 lets customers enjoy HD videos with resolutions of up to 1080i; supports Windows Media Video (WMV), DivX, and XVid formats; and includes a USB 2.0 port for instant access to music, photos and videos stored on removable USB flash drives or hard drives. The suggested retail price for the device is $349.99 (U.S.).
More info at http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=547&sec=1
HP MediaSmart LCD HDTV (With Inbuilt Extender) :
The HP MediaSmart LCD HDTV, currently available in 42-inch and 47-inch sizes, will support Extender for Windows Media Center technology through an optional software download, expected to be available in early 2008. The MediaSmart TVs support 1080p video, 802.11n wireless, and DivX, XVid, WMV and other video formats — delivering all the compelling features of the Media Center Extender platform incorporated directly into a TV. Although existing MediaSmart users can already access photos, music, videos and movies by simply connecting their TV to their wired or wireless home network, Media Extender functionality will provide them with a new set of enhanced features — such as controlling live TV and accessing Windows Media Center Internet TV — all easily accessible using their TV remote control. The HP MediaSmart TV is available in Best Buy stores nationwide, and through a wide range of audio/visual specialty stores throughout the country.
More info on the MediaSmart Tv’s at : http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press_kits/2007/ces/ds_de_mediasmart.pdf (Extender additions are not mentioned on this pdf).
Niveus Media Extender - EDGE :
Designed for the high-end home theater enthusiast, the Niveus Media Extender – EDGE offers a high-fidelity experience, uncompromised 1080p video, digital audio and the same amazing 3-D user interface found on the award-winning Niveus Media Center. Additionally, the Niveus Media Extender features the proprietary Niveus Glacier Passive Cooling System for cool and quiet performance and a sleek and stylish audio/visual form factor. The Niveus Media Extender – EDGE is expected to be available in early November. Pricing has not yet been announced.
More info at : http://www.niveusmedia.com/products/extender.htm
Microsoft also announced that the Internet TV Addin "Beta" for Media Center will be rolled out tommorow (unclear if this is a US only product) – which will offer full tv episodes, concerts, movie trailers and news supported by an Advertising platform from YuMe.
Now that some pricing has been leaked on the Extenders (looking at being around ~US$350 for the basic Dlink and Linksys models) – I’m a little disappointed so far with what I’ve heard (and maybe used the word ‘goodness’ a little prematurely).
I think I mostly agree with Chris Laniers comments in his post ‘v2 Extenders Let Down Big in Price Points’ – and hopefully tonight we are going to get some much better/accurate+confirmed news (there’s still some more extender products to be announced/outlined tonight).
If what we hear so far is true - I think the big issue is that they (Linksys, DLink) really need to compete head on with at least (one of) price, functionality or sex appeal – and none of these appear to have been met.
I perceive one major problem is the initial base cost of getting the required embedded o/s and decoder chips that are up to spec to run the v2 extender platform – and unless produced in extremely large quantities – this is always going to push the price up. (so the price point is maybe a large untouchable area). The very fact that they are more expensive than XBox360′s (which are infinitely more powerful beasts) – is going to put a lot of people off simply ‘out of principal’.
So instead they need to either make it look really uniquely sexy and market it well (the apple approach – they can charge what they like and they do) – or add desirable additional features that allow it to solve a lot of different similar problems (that all require similar cpu grunt, hardware and decoding abilities and share the same internals). We see this latter approach in many areas – most notably in network gear (ie a single cheap device will function as a router/switch, ADSL Modem, firewall, print server, wireless access point and VOIP hub) – but also things like mobile phones (Camera, mp3 player, gps etc on top of being a phone).
For extenders – that similar/complimentary functionality includes things like BluRay, HDDVD, DVD, MemoryCard support, Inbuilt Digital Tuners, VideoConferencing, VOiP etc. LinkSys are sort of on the right track with the DVD Player – except that a standalone dvd player is a cheap $20 item these days – so it’s got to be more about the newer devices which a user can’t normally get cheaply as a standalone product – and ones they are likely to buy in the future already.
Anyhow I’m with Chris that there’s a chance these couple of Extenders in their current form/price are not going to be hugely popular – and will instead push it into the corner as a ‘specialist device’ (low volumes produced resulting in high price points).
The Niveus Media Center extender (which we have only seen pictures of so far – no pricing or specs yet) – appears to know at least what market it wants to be in (and how to dress the part) – so I have much higher confidence for this one being successful.
From Engadget (ahem.. yes I do link to my sources….)
Hot on the heels of the Linksys Media Center Extender – details have emerged on the offering being announced tonight from D-Link – the DSM 750 Media Center Extender which includes (quoted from engadget) :
"high-speed, uninterrupted wireless (or wired) streaming and sharing of HD / SD video, movies, digital photos and music," regardless of where your PC is located. The device features dual-band draft Wireless N technology, silent operation, a wireless remote, USB 2.0 port for accessing external storage, and a 10 / 100 Ethernet jack. Catch it this November for $349.99, and check out a bevy of photos (including a few hands-on) in the gallery below.
Like with the Linksys Extender – it’s got a lot of nice features – but looks like it got hit with the ‘ugly stick’ – and definitely a device you’ll want well out of visibility in your lounge-room. (these guys really have to get some italian/french designers in to make it look sexy).
It sounds just a little bit pricey however at US$349 (was really expecting these to be cheaper than a XBox360 – not more expensive).
A picture is included below (more at the engadget photo gallery) .
There’s also some other extender device info floating around on a reference design from Digion (based on Sigma designs decoding chips) – and although it has the Windows Media Center Extender Logo plastered all over it – it’s possible this is just a v1 extender. Whats nice about this one is the inclusion of a Web Browser and support for a quite a fair few codecs (dvr-ms is not mentioned – but has H.264, Divx/Xvid, M4v and others out of the box). It’s even possible this is just a straight UPMP and not really an extender at all.
You might have heard the buzz around the Media Center scene that at least four of the long awaited "PIKA" Media Center extenders are being launched this week (Thurs 27th) at the "Digital Life" expo in the US..
Anyhow you can tune in to a live webcast of the event at (thanks Mike for the info!) – or catch it afterwards on demand at : http://wm.istreamplanet.com/customers/ms/09272007_100k.asx
NYC 11:15 > 12:15 US EDT – THURSDAY – SEP 27 (thats 1:15am AUST EST FRIDAY for Australians)
I’m really hoping they are going to be able to bring these in at nice cheap prices – ideally sub AUD$200 – (which allow just enough WAF for me to have a few around the house).
I also caught a post on www.xpmediacentre.com.au (see picture/blurb below for more info) where someone had located some info/pics of the Linksys DMA -2100/2200 extenders (one with a DVD player and one basic model) – there’s also some links to hi-res pics down the bottom.
(Please note that this may not actually be one of the new extenders – but it’s looking likely)..
The DVD version has upscaling to HDMI - and it makes me think that if they had a BluRay or HDDVD model – they could potentially get a lot of extra sales from people wanting to upgrade to these new formats (in same manner Sony PS3 is also being bought by some for it’s BluRay player and not the gaming) – although there’s of course still plenty of people who will be pleased with the DVD inclusion.
Bring your digital music, movies and photos
to your TV or Home Theater
It’s great to store photos, music and movies on your computer. But it’s hard to share them with friends and family. What if you could view digital photos, movies and high definition programs on your TV, and listen to downloaded music on your home theater sound system? With the Linksys Media Center Extender you can!
Access digital content and Internet services from your Microsoft Windows Vista Premium or Ultimate Media Center PC and wirelessly stream it to your home entertainment system.
- Easily navigate menus with a single learning remote
- Built-in upscaling DVD player with the DMA2200
- Uses existing high-speed Wireless-N home network
Things are (maybe) starting to look good in media center land… can’t wait for Friday…
Over the past few weeks in Australia – 3 of the 5 FTA networks have announced that they will be making new Digital (DVB-T) channels available to viewers (via their additional dvb-t channels) – which will offer original/unique content to what they offer on their primary channel.
In the past – FTA networks were only only allowed to use their additional HD/SD channels to show the same content (and if on the HD channel – generally upconverted from SD or worse) – or for showing a basic information service (ie. EPG Channel or Sports Scoreboard). The restrictions around what FTA channels could do were lifted a couple of months ago I tihnk – /or/ are to be lifted soon (which have been in place since 2000 to protect the paytv industry).
The exception to this rule was the two government owned stations ABC + SBS which were allowed to use it to show content which catered for various minorities (SBS News shows news broadcasts from about 30 non english speaking countries – but doesn’t have any english subtitles) – and ABC used it to show some additional screenings of existing content (at different times).
So thanks to changes in the laws/restrictions + the increase in LCD/Plasma Widescreen/Digital uptake by the Australian public (it’s gone pretty ballistic over last 12-18 months – and you can get STB’s as low as AUD$35 in places like supermarkets) – things are going to get a lot better for Australian viewers.
The details on what will be on these new channels is still a little shakey – with the following details emerging so far :
- TEN HD. The new TEN HD channel (not sure if it will replace or compliment their existing HD channel) – will be offering at least 50 hours a week of unique 1080i programming (and promises to be shows not screening on the SD channel). Apart from the focus on 1080i HD content – they have indicated this additional shows will include things like live sports, shows and movies etc (not timeshifted) – and ‘theme’ marathons (ie. "SciFi Saturday" was one that was mentioned).
In TEN HD’s press release (which has some more information) – they have claimed that it’s the ‘first brand new channel in over 40 years for Australian TV‘. The service is due to start in December.
- Seven "Multichannel" HD. Similarly to what TEN HD are doing - Seven plan to offer some unique content via their HD channel. They haven’t yet announced any specifics yet of what/how much content will be shown (and the press release sortof indicates there may be more than one HD channel?). This one is also due in a similar timeframe to TEN HD. (sometime in December). Seven also recently announced plans to introduce TIVO to Australia so part of this new offering may be tied in with that.
- ABC 3. This one isn’t HD (AFIK) – but will be a channel setup specially for kids content (i guess an evolution of the ‘ABC Kids’ content shown on paytv and during the day on ABC2). Hopefully this will mean that schedules/timeslots on ABC2 + ABC will be freed up to get used for ‘non kids’ content. This channel also ties in with the election campaign (being announced/promoted by the PM) – so it’s possible it could disappear just as quickly as it appeared.
Hopefully there will be some more interactive/datacasting style services on offer soon too!
Big Screen Headlines v2 "private beta" has been made available to a small number of people yesterday/today I’m keeping this group very small (fingers on one hand small) – and hopefully if no showstoppers – I will release a public trial version shortly.
I’ve added a few new features since I announced this product on the blog a little while ago. In particular - a lot (more) work refining the parsing of different feed formats was required – but the end result is that the program does some new tricks.
There’s also a lot of new video feeds added to the presets (with a strong focus towards feeds offering WMV format) – such as a whole bunch of news/entertainment/sports/etc feeds from BBC (guys in the UK will be happy), a lot of Video on Demand content from ABC.com.au (Australia), plus a whole lot more (there’s even some US Video News etc in there ).
Being Australian – I love the content on the abc.com.au feeds - they have entire episodes (14 different shows), latest news and more. (very cool stuff – and all in MediaCenter friendly WMV’s).
Below is one the comedy shows you can watch – "Chasers War on Everything" – and the latest episode available has the prank they pulled at the APEC summit – which I think made news worldwide (where they faked a canadian motorcade to get through all the security – and then stopped outside Bush’s hotel and one of them dressed as Bin Laden got out). There’s also a bunch of shows from Andrew Denton’s "Enough Rope" series – from (I believe to be) one of the best interviewers on TV.
One area where I spent a bit of time was correctly interpreting (and identifying) the different "content types" found in RSS enclosures and RSS 2.0 Media feeds. In addition to this – I added support for feeds which had multiple content attachments – ie. where the same video (or audio) would be offered at different bitrates and in different formats.
In the screenshot below - is an example of what you see when you are viewing video feed item from the BBC (which I added to the default presets) – where they offer ASX and RA format at high and low bitrates. When you click on the play media button – it will now popup a list of available media items. (with as best a description it can get) – and you choose one of them from the list.
I’ve also added support for a lot of other video, audio and image formats (via their content-types) – and "in theory" – if you have the right codecs installed (sorry not on extenders) - there’s a pretty good chance you can play a lot of other formats + content. (ie. divx, xvid, m4v’s, flv’s, quicktime, realaudio/video, matroska etc etc).
So far – I’ve not had a chance to do a lot of testing with what codec packs are working etc (and my 64bit dev environment means I can’t get a lot of these codecs to work) – but I’m pretty sure it means that some of the other video sharing + news sites (with decent RSS Feeds) may now be accessible with Big Screen Headlines 2 (ie. Google, Youtube, Break.com etc the usual suspects).
One other bit that was sorely needed was a nice generic Wizard UI (for doing those longer running operations like exporting feeds for extenders, activation, checking for updates etc). The screenshot below shows doing a check for updates.
I’ve also made the whole signup/registration process easier/simpler (it was a little cumbersome to get your serial number entered in the first revision used for Big Screen Photos 2). When you do an online signup – you can now download a Registration file (with your serial number included) – and when you run the installer – you can supply it with the reg file (so nothing to type – and no desktop programs to run after installation is complete).
There’s some other goodies that I don’t think were mentioned – so stay tuned for the product site, public trial version (and ‘full licensed’ version).
Fellow Aussie MVP John O’Brien + Bronwyn Zande over at Soul Solutions (plus some others) have launched a really cool community site – www.viawindowslive.com – the one stop shop for developers wanting to know about using Windows Live technologies in applications. (John is a Windows Live MVP btw).
There’s a good focus there on topics like Virtual Earth, Spaces, Live Search, Live Gadgets (something I’m particularly interested in finding more about – as I’ve only ever done the Vista Sidebar variety), Silverlight Streaming and bunch of other related stuff.
The site is broken down into Articles, Forums, Wiki’s, Blogs and Resources - so is setup and ready for developer contributions and interaction. (and the design is very pleasing on the eyes too)..
My first learning mission on viawindowslive is going to be finding out how to stick something more interesting/useful down the side of this blog.
Go check it out.. >> www.viawindowslive.com
This article could have also been called :
- "I accidentally wrote something for the Mac"
- "Goodbye WPF… Hello Silverlight"
- "Is Silverlight the next (and first) big thing for cross platform 10 foot?"
So before I explain all that – I’m proud to report that the AllBlacks "Silverlight 1.0" Sidebar + Desktop Gadget – has just been launched and is now available from the AllBlacks website at :
As it’s made with Silverlight 1.0 – so that means it not just for Vista users – it will actually work on WinXP, Win2003, Mac’s and soon Linux and 2000…
Otherwise here’s a couple of pics – pictured below is the Vista32 sidebar Gadget (in it’s undocked state) :
And tada – below is it running on the Mac - playing back WMV video… (gotta admit the popup window border/title looks way sexier on Mac+Safari then what you get with browsers on Vista, XP – which show really ugly borders).
And now for the Technical Stuff…
So anyhow as per those pictures above – I’ve been fully immersed in Silverlight 1.0 for the second half of last week (inc a chunk of the weekend) – and this came about last Wednesday when I spotted the ‘Silverlight 1.0 SDK’ on MSDN Downloads at around 10am. (and gave a very clear indication that Silverlight 1.0 was about to be released within a few minutes/hours/days). Sure enough the announcements appeared a few hours later and the final release was launched.
Right at that very moment – I was battling with trying to optimize a WPF .exe/windows project (The AllBlacks desktop + sidebar gadget) that was due to be released this week. I was running out of ideas (had optimized everything as much as possible) – and two major showstoppers were looking to be unwinnable – Excessive Memory/CPU consumption (WPF takes 60mb just to show a blank form with no code – and most transitions like fades use up lots of CPU) – and Video Playback/Graphics corruption on NVidia Cards (after waiting nearly 12 months – NVidia has still not fixed their drivers).
After looking a number of sample Silverlight apps that were around – it became very apparent that although Silverlight was essentially a subset (or cutdown version) of WPF – the core engine running it was an altogether different beast. The Silverlight implementation was lean, mean, and was able to do all the fancy shmancy animations without making much of a dent on the CPU at all (I don’t think I managed to push it past 5% utilization with lots of animations going at once).
So 48 hours later – I had managed to migrate the core functionality from a WPF.exe to a Silverlight 1.0 application – which basically involved the following :
- creation of a ASP.NET (VB) website to serve up dynamic XAML content (processed from backend rss/etc feeds)
- migration of ContentTemplates/ItemsControl WPF functionality to ASP.Net scripts.
- Conversion of Full Blown WPF XAML to Silverlight 1.0 XAML (which supports a lot less tags/attributes)
At that point I had a Silverlight App that pretty much resembled the original WPF .exe – but performed/worked a whole lot better.
The bit that I originally perceived to be the hardest/most tedious – conversion of WPF Xaml to Silverlight XAML (ie. WPF provides different layouts like Anchored, Flow, Stacked etc – Silverlight only has Canvas layouts with absolute positioning) – was actually made really really simple using Expression Blend. The ‘Convert to‘ function was the real timesaver – and allowed me to quickly convert things like StackPanels (which had no Canvas.Top/Canvas.Left values) – into Canvases. As I had severely stripped down the design+animations on the WPF .exe (in the quest to make it perform well) – there was also a lot less other conversion work (ie. <Labels> to <TextBlocks> etc etc)..
From then on in – I added a bunch of new animations/effects and layouts – as I was once again able to focus on the design/interaction (without being scared of creating a CPU + Memory hungry monster).
Silverlight – the great, the good and the bad (there’s no ugly)…
Silverlight seems to be getting a lot of press as a ‘Video Playback’ technology (and the majority of samples are based around HD video on demand) – but it’s really a whole lot more than that.. (and it’s a lot more than a ‘flash killer’ as well)…
The number one thing I love about Silverlight is it’s great performance. It’s really right up there with MCPL (Media Center) and Flash (everything else). In the past with WPF – I’d always spend the first 25% of my effort making a nice UI – and then the remaining 75% removing/enhancing bits of the UI to deal with performance issues. (a real waste of time). With Silverlight – that 75% was instead used to create new UI’s and new functionality (like the 3d team browser pictured above – which is actually 2d with smoke/mirrors – this was added for the Silverlight version – and zero effort was spent on improving performance as it worked a treat from the get-go.).
Silverlight is EVERYTHING WPF is Not…. In fact I’m now quite confused why WPF exists.. The official word is even to ‘not use it for business apps’, ‘not use it for gadgets’ – and I don’t think it was created to serve the needs of the coding4fun community. At least I have got some use out of it for Surface apps… (but have already worked out how to do all this with Silverlight – at much higher frame rate) and of course there’s of course still quite a few a lot of things you can’t do in Silverlight out of the box (like 3d etc…) – but in many of these cases there are other/better technologies (like DirectX/XNA etc).
So in a wrap on Silverlight 1.0 –
>> The Great
- Awesome Performance, Low Memory Footprint
- Awesome Video Playback performance – no NVidia issues either. (even allows WMV on a Mac!)..
- Cross Platform… see picture above of it running on the Mac…need I say more…
- Good design tools available already (Blend 1+2)
- Full Integration with HTML scripting engine (so you can interact with the Silverlight addin and catch/create events).
- Full Screen Silverlight Mode also rocks (perfect for full screen apps – ie. I’m dying to use it for some Surface and UMPC apps).
- Excellent ability to reuse skills/assets/xaml and code from existing (legacy??) WPF projects. Make migration a lot less of a headache.
>> The Good
- Works/Plays well with Vista Sidebar (32 Bit only)..
- Reduced set of tags means you spend less time going down the wrong path with layouts.
>> The Bad
- 1.0 doesn’t offer any DRM features for anything other than Video (and it’s easy to steal someone’s code, assets and XAML).
- Doesn’t work properly on Vista 64 bit (only via 32bit emulator). This means it will work in your browser – but won’t work inside a Sidebar Gadget. Unlike Flash, ActiveX etc – which can be ‘made to work’ on 64bit (by running the 32bit sidebar.exe) – Silverlight won’t work at all (which was a real pain in the butt for development).
- Reduced Tag Set means some common/well needed functionality is missing out of the box (and you instead need to custom create it from primatives). An example of this is support for Tooltips – which can be manually created by tracking MouseEnter/MouseLeave and adding a <Canvas> to handle your text display. Bits like this should have just been included in the core engine. (and as a result – you can’t actually use the ‘Tooltip’ attribute and have to find another technique to deliver the text to your client app).
- Another couple of major missing features (that could have very easily been added and not cost performance) – is scroller/flow support and alignment (ie. you can’t supply text alignment hints – you instead need calculate the rendered width and alter it’s left offset after its displayed).
- The Downloader object doesn’t support cross domain access. This is really quite a stupid/dumb decision – AFIK – the downloader is used to get Images, Fonts, XAML and other Media – not scripts (nothing that could be used for a malicious attack or not caught by the silverlight host). This means that you can’t effectively use this downloader object for mixed applications (ie. Sidebar – where assets/code is hosted locally and on a remote site). Given that you can inject images, videos, sound etc into your XAML (with no cross domain security) – it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
- No Keyboard support in Fullscreen Mode… WHY WHY WHY???? This really kills the ability to use fullscreen Silverlight for 10 foot /remote control applications (although you could just host a browser window in kiosk mode i guess). As with the downloader object – it was stated that it was for ‘security’ reasons… ??? (would have thought the existing Silverlight/Browser security model and features would have taken care of this)..
- Basic 3d support would be really nice.. even if it was just 3d rotation of 2d planes (ie. no mesh support but ability to rotate a 2d element in 3 axis – as is provided with MCPL).
- No standalone/browserless Windowed mode (this would have been really nice to have). It could have been implemented similar to fullscreen mode (where it positions/displays itself outside the browser host) – but not taking up the full screen.
Using SilverLight for "Hybrid" Apps (Sidebar or Browser)…
As mentioned above – this app came in two flavors – a Vista 32bit sidebar gadget – and a popup Browser version.
Although the majority of the codebase/assets etc were shared between the two – some different techniques needed to be used to get it working in Sidebar.
- The main issue was that the Sidebar version had "mixed" local and remote content (where a lot of images and base XAML was preloaded into the gadget for speed) – and hence I wasn’t able to use the Downloader object to download XAML/data on the fly from a remote site.
- The Sidebar gadget was designed so that when it’s docked – you just get a HTML gadget with rotating dynamic images – and when it’s undocked – it turns into the Silverlight app. This allows it to perform a little better (when adding/removing from sidebar) as the Silverlight initialization is delayed. I also used the ‘undocked’ state for the Silverlight gadget instead of a flyout – as the flyouts close if focus is lost – and this would really screw up ability to watch video (if you checked your email etc the whole flyout what disappear).
- For performance (and faster less intrusive loading in sidebar) – the Silverlight container is actually a rectangular area in the middle with no transparency etc (the transparent bits on the edge etc are from a png background in HTML) – and the buttons/panel up the top is actually HTML only. (so the user wouldn’t have to wait for these to load). This was done due to recommendations in the Silverlight SDK that "windowless" mode may affect performance.
Anyhow – I’m looking forward to seeing some more gadgets being made with Silverlight. I’m also really excited about the potential for cross platform 10 foot, UMPC and Surface applications (ie the same areas XBAP/WPF .exe’s could have been used but didn’t perform well enough or wasn’t cross platform).