Archive for the ‘Vista MediaCenter’ Category
It’s been a while between releases – however the new version of Media Center (in Windows 8 Consumer Preview) warranted some new releases for Big Screen EPG . As the new version of Media Center is different (under the hood but not above it) – the existing Windows 7 version was broken and needed to be updated.
For Windows 7 users – I developed this with the original users in mind too – so have released updates for both Windows 7 + Windows 8 (which both have all the new enhancements).
You can grab the download now from : http://bigscreenglobal.com/bgproductdownload.aspx?PID=BSEV1 – assuming you are a registered Big Screen EPG user (otherwise you can sign up for the trial and get access that way).
This new v1.5a release provides the following enhancements / new features :
- (Optional) Windows 8 CP Support for both x32+x64 versions (and like will support final release of Windows 8). A separate replacement .exe is provided for this platform (see install notes).All EPG and related features of Big Screen EPG in Windows 7 are now working with Big Screen EPG on Windows 8 (including support for increasing the default number of tuners) – however do note there are some problems with Win8 CP itself (see release notes) with regards to Scheduled Tasks and Network shares.
- New Online updating TV Series Database: The new version will now download ‘metadata files’ for tv series – so you can get the latest updates without having to get a new version of Big Screen EPG. The new database has 2500+ new tv shows + artwork including 2012/2011 titles (and available for download after you install the new version).
- New UI to make increasing number of tuners much easier – previously was a command line option only :
- Enhanced Metro(ish) style User Interface – this is still a work in progress – but I’ve tried (where doable) to enhance the UI to use metro style buttons and layout. There’s a few bits which still look a little ugly.Here’s the new start page for example :
- Some Bug fixes :- Fixed Support for following XMLTV providers :
- Schedules Direct sources now properly parses the Episode ID.
- Added additional support for xmltv_ns with extraction of ‘Part’ numbers
ie. “2 . 23 . 0/2 “ + “2 . 23 . 1/2
- Fixed Add Provider Wizard bug where it was ignoring selection of Enabled/Disabled Channels – plus enhanced some other logic (such as supporting server based presets without passwords).
The new beta release is exactly that (a beta) – so please be sure to not do anything mission critical with it. To use it – you will still need the original setup package (this new version is only provided as a patch at this time).
It’s been tested locally – but may need some more work for release (as well as requiring a proper standalone setup package).
SBS Australia has just started transmitting a 7 day EIT Electronic Program Guide (transmitted over the air) for their primary SD + HD DVB-T channels (nothing appearing yet for the World News channel). Up until now they were only providing half working Now/Next data – and were the only broadcaster not providing a 7 day guide (most of the others came to the party over the last 3-6 months).
The SBS EIT data has also been delivered a couple of months earlier than expected (previously I was told that they were aiming for late feb 09 – but no ‘promised dates’ were committed to).
This is great news for Media Center users (who are using either TVPack2008 or Windows 7) – and due to changes to the platform (introduced with TVPack) were prevented from loading 3rd party EPG’s.
Combined with the new Dec08 fixes for TVPack 2008 – VMC is now finally a full ‘out-of-the-box’ solution for Australian consumers (with all guide data now available for the first time ever).
Pete Brown over on the Media Center and Me Blog asks Media Center users on TGB what ‘single feature you want Santa Soft to add to Media Center for your holiday gift’..
Luckily – Aussies and UK users who have been battling it out with (or already uninstalling) TV Pack 2008 – have been paid an early visit from Santa already – in the form of the December 2008 Vista Media Center (TV Pack) Commulative Updates KB957209 + KB959485 . This blog entry has all the download links (some of which are not quite enabled at time of posting) – and KB957209 is the really important one for me (and other DVBT/EIT users) as it fixes the problems with broken and forgotten scheduled recordings…
Congrats to the Media Center team for getting these issues sorted – and I look forward to these patches in the next Windows 7 beta (which is currently inherits the TVPack2008 problems)…
ps – there’s of course no love yet for 3rd party EPG services – however the Aussie EIT data is slowly improving (except for SBS) – and seems to be working fine for series recordings at least..
Out in the Media Center community – there’s been a whole lot of speculation, pounding of fists and a shroud of secrecy surrounding the much touted update to Media Center – and about what it will or won’t do for them. (and when or if they’ll even be able to get hold of it).
So I thought I’d lighten the mood a little with this post – in the theme of the ‘Top 10′ segment on David Letterman (yes we get to suffer through that show in Australia late at night). Also – I hadn’t been doing any blogging of late – so hopefully this will help with the quota.
Enjoy (but don’t quote me on this as I might be wrong) -
The Top 10 things you never knew about Windows Media Center "Fiji"
10. Fiji has been optimized for the new Media Center "Force Feedback" remote.
9. Native support has been added for the new TV Standard DVB-ET – which allows you to pick up TV signals from the rest of the universe (just like in the movie ‘Contact’).
8. Fiji is now water resistant to over 20 meters. (to account for global warming)
7. In order to actually get hold of Fiji – you’ll need to camp overnight in a queue outside the newly opened Apple Store in Sydney.
6. The new Fiji update is so robust it will withstand up to 2 roundhouse kicks from Chuck Norris (and up to 3 if running on Windows Vista Ultimate).
5. The development for this update was outsourced to a company in Fiji (hence the name) – and was delayed initially due to the coup e’tat and then again by an interdepartmental rugby match.
4. Fiji is the flagship product for the OMCPC project (One Media Center per Child) being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates charity – and aims to completely eradicate Linux usage in the poverty stricken nations of Africa by 2012.
3. New security and WGA features in Fiji now perform scans across home networks to detect rival PVR software like SageTV and Media Portal – and if found – promptly reports you to the local authorities (where you’ll be charged with Polygamy).
2. Windows Fiji will be shipped to the public with Windows ’99 – whose release will be tied in with the upcoming ‘Get Smart’ Sequel.
1. ‘Fiji’ was initially called ‘That yearly update to Media Center you really want – but can’t have – and we’d have to kill you anyhow – so nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah’ – but after repeated complaints from MS operations staff (that the memo’s were taking up way too much space on the mail servers) – it was shortened to "Fiji".
As per Ian Dixon’s Post (Media Center Show/ TheDigitalLifestyle.com) the 2007 Media Center show awards are going to be streamed LIVE on ustream.tv at on Wednesday 6th 8pm GMT (12pm PST). This will be the first Live Awards show that Ian’s done (normally the podcasts are pre-recorded – although he’s recently had some video’s go out live in this manner) – and it’s a really great idea! (and hope to see more content done like this).
Hopefully Ian’s not going to be involving any "small children or animals" – given the live nature of the show (although I hear some developers and the like might make an appearance – so ‘expect the unexpected’… ).
Please see this link below for more information…
For any Australian + New Zealand listeners/readers – this is somewhere between 4-9am Thursday (7th) Morning (depending on where you live – given the vast distances… and I think it’s maybe around 7-8am for Melbournians + Sydneysiders..) – as unfortunately Ian has to cater for everyone across the globe…(and us poor deprived Australians are only a small % of listeners)…. However I’m sure if Ian can make it at a more ‘Australian friendly’ time next year – we might be able to ‘rustle up’ some ‘cricket’ coaching for his fellow countrymen in return… 8)
I’ve been neglecting this blog again – so thought I’d post some brief news bits about some of the action going on here at the moment ..
- Big Screen Weather 2 + Photos 2 have both been locked down for commercial release – and are now considered ‘final releases’. Big Screen Headlines 2 will follow shortly. These will be the first 3 titles launched under the new ‘v2′ range of Big Screen titles.
- A new website + brand combined with online membership system, registration/license management, and online purchasing have been deployed. About 100 brave (site) beta testers have already been giving this system (and final releases) a workout since Tuesday – and so far so good and there’s been no problems at all. It was important for me to stagger the influx of users in this manner – rather then having to fix something when the users register en masse. This was due to me completely writing the entire online system from scratch with .NET and SQL Server (and I didn’t use any of the portal kits like DNN, Community Server etc as none met my requirements and most perform appallingly under heavy load).
The actual site content (product sites, updated screenshots, faq’s, support docs etc) – are still being finished – however since this the ‘easy’ bit (and no ‘sensitive’ functionality is being carried out) – the main focus of testing has been all the above account related functionality. (like end to end trial registration, purchase and upgrade – which can be done without reinstalling the addin)
The new site address etc will be revealed soon – I’m hoping mid next week for the official launch (keep in mind EVERYTHING has to be deployed/enabled simultaneously – so this makes it a little more challenging)… If you’re adventurous – there’s been some leaks already -(however you need special invite codes to register for anything)
- The above Big Screen products are tested with one of the popular new PIKA 2.0 Extender reference designs (which is similar/same for Linksys, Dlink, Samsung, HP etc) – and ‘automatically configure’ themselves so they are not tripped up by the various ‘documented’ and ‘undocument’ MCPL rendering
bugsissues. This is done both on a ‘high level’ (ie. on/off switches for things like 3d and animations accessible to the end user – so they can override auto detect settings if fw/vmc updates are made in future) – and ‘low level’ (numerous changes made to the MCML to avoid situations where these ‘issues’ would arise). The auto detect/configure features are designed to work silently (user doesn’t need to click through any additional configuration – or even understand these settings) – and it’s been thoroughly tested with multiple extenders at once (and ‘per device’ settings are maintained).
This ‘extender’ compliance/detection excercise threw me sideways for at least 2 weeks (since just before XMas) – and there was little to no accurate information available to help out – so I think the new Big Screen products could quite possibly be one of very few (or only) VMC 3rd party apps which are truely extender friendly/working.
- The ‘MCPL’ online showcase has also been updated to reflect new titles being offered. If your a developer ‘purist’- you’ll appreciate that I’m actually now dynamically generating the MCML online showcase content off the same underlying .NET code/data that drives the new website (which is HTML). A similar experience to the MCPL online showcase is also being made in Silverlight – so when underlying content is changed – all Front ends will change immediately – which will be sortof a .NET tripple-play (same .NET CMS driving the 10 foot and Rich/Static Web experiences offered by Silverlight and HTML). It will of course allow new products to be added into the catalog quickly and easily (without disrupting online users and making deployment a lot easier).
- Big Screen Weather v1 (which was freeware and only useful for Australians) was officially ‘discontinued’ yesterday. The handfull of users that made ‘donations’ to this product have all been awarded full versions (and some are already up and running – and are the first guys in the world to have the full unlocked versions of weather 2).
- OEM Enquiries. I should also mention – that if any OEM Dealers are interested in immediately purchasing licenses (and preinstalling these products on their systems) – these are available right now for bulk purchase / and serial numbers can be issued (if you are comfortable with the new site not being online for a few more days). OEM Discounts/Bundles are currently available in ’10 unit packs’ (minimum purchase per title) – so suit small through to very large companies. (And substantial discount scale is available the larger the volumes). If you want to know more (before new site is launched) – please contact me.
Also in other Media Center news –
- CES 08 is done… There’s some great coverage/opinions/videos (and more) on both Ian Dixon’s and Chris Laniers blogs – so check those out. Unfortunately – there wasn’t a whole lot of news on the Media Center front (mainly MediaRoom news – which is essentially the ‘ip based paytv’ version of MediaCenter offered via set top box) – however a couple of new extenders (not previously shown at digital life last year) – were revealed – one from HP (a standalone version of their TV Extender which has removable storage capabilities) – and another from Samsung.
Samsung’s extender looks really nice (without doubt the nicest form factor out of the lot) – but there’s a problem – "Not Everyone’s Invited" (sorry couldnt resist) – and it only works on Samsung TV’s (as all remote control input is handled by the Samsung TV and then passed back to the extender). If I owned a Samsung TV right now (nope I don’t) – I’d probably be feeling pretty smug right now as it looks to be a nice option.
Like many VMC users – I’m still very keen on the idea of an extender with Blu-Ray or HD-DVD capabilities – so hopefully does one of these soon! (however HDDVD received an almighty blow at CES – so it’s looking really shakey for that standard right now).
- I’ve been very slack in terms of reporting on other 3rd party VMC software releases of late (I can barely keep up with my own news) – so thought I’d mention a couple of products that have appeared over past couple of months :
- Media Center ‘Health Monitor’ from Ian Dixon is a really innovative new addin/website/service combination – which essentially allows you to monitor the status of VMC locally and from remote. (No need to rush home anymore to see if VMC crashed while recording your favorite show). If you want to check it out head here for more info.
- MC Organizer for Vista Media Center (Double B Computers) – which is a hot new front end to playing media/dvd’s/movies – and has the ability to work with external metadata . I’m yet to give this one a workout – but I love the fact (from the screenshots) that the author is trying to do something different with the UI and Layout (looks really nice too!) – and not just basing it on the usual suspect templates ("Z", "MCMLLookalike"/"PivotSample" etc).
Anyhow – back to the grindstone .. keep your eyes peeled for the impending announcements/launch of the Big Screen v2 range.
CES 08 is alive and kicking and there’s sure to be a lot of Media Center related news and announcements over the next few days (some of which have already been leaked..).
I was really hoping to make it this year – but a number of things kept it from happening this year (including health, busy workload and the obscene prices of traveling from AU to Vega in early January) .
It looks like the Media Center action will happen mainly around showing off the new extenders (Linksys, Dlink and HP) – and you can probably expect a large dose of MediaRoom related news (is this where the focus of the Microsoft TV Platform team went in 07?). Bill Gates upcoming keynote will set the pace as always – and will be his last appearance in his current role.
If you want to keep in check of the news as it happens – be sure to keep an eye on – Ian Dixon/Digital Lifestyle Blog. Ian’s just landed in Vegas (all the way from UK) – and will be reporting on the spot from CES08. I’m also looking forward to checking out the Digital Lifestyle Video Show segments (which will feature some of the CES action and MediaCenter related interviews/previews).
Voting has now officially opened for the Media Center Show Awards 2007 over Ian Dixon’s DigitialLifestyle.com site. (Nominations are now closed).
Its been a pretty good year for Vista Media Center specific products (with a large number of nominees being Vista MC only) - and shows that the platform has well and truely arrived (at least into the enthusiast community).
Ian has a good wrap of what’s on offer for voters in his post The Media Center Show Awards 2007 are go!.
There’s some some strong presence from the Big Screen products+blog (nominated in 3 of the 6 voting categories) – so if you like the work I do don’t forget to throw in some votes for yours truely… 8-)… (hmm.. I need to think of some good bribes).
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.