Windows 7 Beta 1 now available + thoughts
Windows 7 beta 1 (Build 7000) was officially launched to the public today – and can be downloaded from here right now (note that due to the huge demand there may be some problems getting through). There’s a limit of 2.5 million serial numbers available (which will allow usage through to the hard expiry date of August 2009)– so it’s first in best dressed – and if you miss out – you’ll instead be limited to the 30 day activation grace period.
With this build also comes with an important fix that prevents MP3 files corruption – so it’s important to apply this patch right after installation. The number of people who already obtained this build via channel BT just after Xmas were hit by this issue (and dvr-ms playback issues) – and is probably a good lesson as to why you should be waiting for official releases..
The version made available to the public is similar to the ‘Ultimate’ release (minus the Ultimate Extra’s and some of those other bits) – but for Media Center users this means you’ll be able to use up to 4 tuners. (rather than 2 as per Home Premium).
I’ve been playing with this for a couple of days now (as it was made available to connect, msdn + technet subscribers on Thursday) – and it’s been running really well for me so far. The entire o/s installed and was fully configured in under 60 minutes (and required almost no intervention from me) – so I was again very impressed.
I’m running with 4 DVB-T tuners (1 Aver PCIE Dual Tuner + 2 x different Aver DVBT PCI single tuners) – and also noticed that for the first time (for me) I can also use the FM Tuner for radio. While build 6801 contained the critical PVR related bugs (also present in the initial TVPack2008 release) – the recent fixes for TVPack2008 have also been carried forward into this Windows 7 build – and has allowed me to run this as my primary Media Center machine.
The Media Center UI has been improved quite a bit on the previous release (particularly in the area of the popup information panels) – and the new miniguide is now available as well (which shows 2 full rows of the EPG while you are watching TV). Also enabled for this release are the US Only ‘Internet TV’ content – which now comes up inside the EPG itself (and are available as ‘channels’ inside the EPG). The other overlay tabs/pivots available during the Live TV/DVD/Video playback still seem to be largely unfinished – for example you can’t actually see the synopsis without clicking through to the popup details panel.
This release was wonderfully timed to coincide with my repaired coffee machine arriving back from Sunbeam – so I was able to put in a few hours last night into looking at importing 3rd party EPG Data (the scenario most desired by Australian users since TVPack2008 came out and clobbered the existing web service based EPG providers).
I (think) I made some progress – and have successfully gotten loadmxf.exe to import some test EPG Data from an MXF file – but I still can’t see it inside the MCE UI itself. However – when checking the log files generated by mcstore – it tells me I’ve successfully imported xx objects into the default ObjectStore (so something is happening at least). One unresolved issue (which is probably preventing the data from being visible) is I haven’t been able to successfully link the Schedule Entries to a service – only to a Program (and am getting ‘unresolved forward reference’ messages if I supply the service guid with the entry).
From what I’ve seen of the metadata that (can?) be loaded in – it certainly looks like there’s a bunch of possibilities there for 3rd parties to inject lots rich metadata into the system. This is not just in the form of Series/Episode/Actor data – but also potentially imagery (channel and series logos) and a much larger set of ‘known’ attributes about programs. I also have a hunch that 3rd party developers may also be able to insert custom EPG channels – similar to the Internet TV ones (loading them in via loadmxf.exe) – which offer new services and point to different custom MCML Web Applications. (which would be very nice indeed and finally give developers 1st class access into the Live TV experience). Of course none of this will be official supported by Microsoft…
Also – If you want to get some help/ask some questions about Windows 7 – come and visit the Windows 7 Beta TechNet forums . (I’m now an official MVP Moderator in these forums – so thought I’d better give it a plug).