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Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Rant: LinuxMCE? C’mon give me a break…

with 5 comments

"LinuxMCE is a free, open source add-on to Ubuntu including a 10′ UI, complete whole-house media solution with pvr + distributed media, and the most advanced smarthome solution available. It is stable, easy to use, and requires no knowledge of Linux and only basic computer skills"

That’s the description of a new video posted on google – for (as described above) a Linux alternative to Media Center.

I had a watch – and before it had even finished – I double checked my calendar just to make sure it wasn’t actual April 1st. Go have a look for yourself – and you will see what I mean….

While I give full credit to someone bringing out an ambitious product/compilation like this (and doing something for the community) – the thing that annoys me is that he seems to feel the need to attack Media Center 2005 to get publicity. If he had some valid points, good examples etc – this would be fine (and healthy) – but he doesn’t – and that’s the problem.

There’s probably 15 blog posts full of errors, omissions, misrepresentations and complete baloney that could be typed up about this video (and presented product) – but thought I’d just note down some of my initial thoughts :

The product is described as a 10′ UI – but it’s quite clearly a 2′ UI. The most telling visual sign being that you pretty much couldn’t read any of the UI text when Linux MCE was shown – however when MCE2005 was shown – everything was perfectly readable. In most places in LinuxMCE it appears 9-12 point fonts are used – something that won’t be visible on a lot of older TV’s (and in general you don’t want to go any lower then 16-18 point).  The presenter also rattles on continuously about how much extra information you can see at once – but again doesn’t get that ‘less is more’ with 10′. Also – 10 ‘ ui’s are somewhat defined by being targeted for use with remote controls – however his entire LinuxMCE demo was using an air mouse (which is wireless and provides mid air usage – but a mouse and 2’ by all other names).

For some strange reason – LinuxMCE was compared against MCE2005 – and non Vista Media Center. If you were doing a fair comparison on games consoles – you wouldn’t pit a Playstation 3 against an Xbox 1 and then conclude Sony was superior would you? Same can be said here – Vista Media Center was shipping well before this video – so any fair comparison should have really been  LinuxMCE vs Vista Media Center. Also – not to forget the parts of MCE2005 shown were features/UI examples that were brought to market up to 4 years ago(?) by Microsoft.

The Air Mouse used for the LinuxMCE is actually a product designed primarily for Windows – but there was no mention of this – nor any comparison of it being used with MCE2005. Yes go check the product page for the Gyration Air Mouse – guess which O/S it’s primarily targeted at. Oh yes it does say in small print down the bottom that ‘other systems supporting USB 1.1 may be supported’ – so I guess that means Linux. As most readers will also know – MCE2005 also supports mouse control – so again – why was this important point missed?

The actual LinuxMCE UI looks absolutely and tragically terrible – yet the presenter spends the entire time bagging the MCE2005 UI. OK – so the video was bad quality – and I’m also no da vinci when it comes to design – but really this UI sux visually – and this fact was really highlighted each time he showed the MCE2005 UI. The LinuxMCE UI very much reminded me of the similarly poor ui’s found on the very early set top boxes (not Tivo) – and even to some extent the Ansi based DOS programs from the 80’s.  I should probably give them some credit here for not ripping off the MCE2005 UI (as almost every PVR software on the planet has done bar Showshifter) – but they would have been a lot better off if they did in this case. Again – the LinuxMCE UI is not 10′ and clearly the designers of this just don’t get what this is.

Ok there’s a load of other things wrong – such as the tired old – ‘out of the box’ argument – and the complete ommision of mentioning all the great MCE2005 software that is available for home automation, mobile, pda’s and non MCE remotes. The comparison table at the end is also woefully inaccurate (see below) – again trying to tell us that only i/r remotes are supported – that their 2′ UI is Media Centric where as the MCE2005 10′ UI is PC Centric – and the clincher ‘Local PC Only’ claim at the end (guess they never heard of an XBox360 or an Extender).

Nothing however was more amusing then the message I received when I went to check out their site

"Our server has been overwhelmed due to a recent Digg story. The demo video referred to is here: Google Video The setup video referred to will be online soon, and will show that the setup really was plug and play. The full website with forums, wiki and mantis will be back soon. Please check back tomorrow. The download link will be restored then."

One of the reasons for investing in a O/S like Vista is that you have a large, solid and reliable company as back up – who understand and worry about lots of real world issues on your behalf (such as ‘capacity planning’). So right now – if you are a LinuxMCE user – it appears you can’t get any product support from them (or even download it) – because the creator didn’t think about that bit….

Well enough said – go judge for yourself.

Anyhow – here’s a couple of screens from their video – first their comparison table, and underneath the LinuxMCE ‘EPG’ view and then the MCE2005 version of this screen.  


Written by mobilewares

March 21, 2007 at 2:00 am

Posted in Vista MediaCenter

5 Responses

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  1. I made it to the 10min mark….
    From there i can only guess the presenter went to on to say how LinuxMCE could be used to disarm nuclear weapons and teach your cat to tap dance while processing the human geno, all with a wave of the magic wand and three buttons.
    I think it is really good that there is some competition and I’m sure the best features from what you’ve seen will be integrated into your third party apps, it maybe worthwhile you setting one up since it all just works out of the box. Any geek should be able to do it!
    The presenter lost me with his math reguarding 300 channels and 2 weeks of program guides, surely any browsable interface no matter how fast it can revolve around and send everyone giddy is going to struggle, should we not focus on systems where I say what I like and the UI is smart enough to give us a short list. For example let me rate a TV show or movie as a watch it and it can compare my tastes to others and give me suggestions?


    March 21, 2007 at 4:50 am

  2. I noticed this on Digg a few days ago.  For once even the Linux fanboys realized that not only was this an overwhelmingly flawed comparison, but the presenter couldn’t possibly be more annoying.Unfortunately, if you follow the MythTV/MCE comparisons, you encounter a lot of people like this.  MythTV is apprently the divine answer to home media, but no one mentions the 3 weeks required to configure it or the fact that it has a crappy UI and will never support CableCARD……


    March 23, 2007 at 4:42 pm

  3. I think some of the other things that should be mentioned and compared.
    – Windows MCE 2005 is a closer comparison considering LinuxMCE has been released for what…3 months now?
    – LinuxMCE is ummm, free…..I know I would rather spend my $500 elsewhere
    – The mouse being for Windows…. more of a marketing thing for the mouse company seeing as though Windows is the O/S that is in most homes (as purchased and well known)  I would chalk up the mouse as a PC accessory, rather than a Windows device/feature…
    – The "unreadable" comment….again, hats off to the design in my opinion….do we remember Windows 95, even 98?  That would be the second interface for mainstream Windows that most experienced…  I can’t say that it wasn’t near as elegant as the most recent release either….but as time progressed, it got better and better.  For a first UI (3 of them for different hardware) on the initial release that doesn’t copy the same tired theme…    BRAVO!!  After loading LMCE for myself, I don’t know what your referring to as unreadable.
                I’d also like to agree that less is more, but in this case, it’s less switching screens, less interference to the media, and that is better.  Not what your referring to like less choices, just as the presenter (although smug about it) meant.
    – Although there may be a lot of great software available for windows…..most of it is not free, most if not all of it will take more to integrate than LinuxMCE (on it’s first real release), and the time to setup LMCE is still less than anything I’ve ever loaded on Windows from hardware to using the software.   Sit back and let it work, It’s quite nice not to babysit an install.
    – LinuxMCE automatically setup the PC, I turn on another Windows PC, LMCE asks if it should use it….I say yes…  and all my media is mapped out.  I fail to see the complexity involved here. 
    – You could say that designing your own website takes more time and effort (MythTV) than having someone else do it…(Tivo), but can you say that all your media is avail everywhere?  Can WindowsMCE stream cable to my carPC as Myth can?  Well worth the effort, and realistically, it would be just as difficult to set up Windows if you hadn’t done it 300 times already – in fact probably worse as you then get to load all the other software and reboot 9000 times. 
    -Out of the box… well, I don’t know of any Windows software that can be loaded from a blank Hdd and find serial ports on my stereo as if they were plug-and-play, wouldn’t you have to load Windows THEN the software, THEN the extension support, THEN finally configure it?
    "Our server has been overwhelmed due to a recent Digg story. The demo video referred to is here: Google Video The setup video referred to will be online soon, and will show that the setup really was plug and play. The full website with forums, wiki and mantis will be back soon. Please check back tomorrow. The download link will be restored then."
                Do you remember the guy that paid MS’s bill to bring hotmail back online?  Looks like having that stable company doesn’t mean the ball can not be dropped….
    I firmly believe that given some time (and not the 5 year wait we had for Vista) It will live up to it’s claims and then some….
    I do believe there is still room for Windows – it’s usability and that it is well known, but let’s be honest… the time of making it easier for new users to get on a PC is coming to an end, usability will still be important, but I think the learning curve is a lot faster now.  Compare Beryl vs Aero….the specs involved for each and the rate of growth.
    What percentage of the internet is hosted on Apache now?


    July 3, 2007 at 10:27 pm

  4. Hi (No Name),
    Well thanks for taking the time to post your comment. However… i think you might still be missing the points that I was making :
    – LinuxMCE sucks (I’m referring to the wrapper the guy put over other peoples great products). The stuff that makes it all tick are of course great products (asterix? etc etc) – and do what they do really well (but were not designed for 10 foot).
    – LinuxMCE doesn’t offer a simple elegant 10′ interface. This is #1 priority above anything else. LinuxMCE appears to be instead a 2 foot interface – that "sortof" works on a digital TV (when you use predominantly 2 foot input devices and you have a modern non-CRT TV that allows you to read small onscreen text).  A mouse input device should NOT have been used for the demo (my grandmother, father, wife etc would NOT be able to use this) – and is again a clear lack of understanding by this guy on what 10 foot is.
    -All comments about LinuxMCE being compared to the wrong thing (ie MCE2005) are stated because the ENTIRE gist of that Video is a guy saying – "what I have here is far superior to anything anyone else has made especially Microsoft" (very very untrue) – rather than "heres something I put slapped together using other peoples software – and its an early version – so what do you think"…   LinuxMCE should only be compared to Vista MC as thats whats "current" – and what the market expects. Saying we should use MCE2005 etc (which in fact is still far superior to LinuxMCE) – is about as valid as someone bringing out an O/S and saying we should compare it to MS-DOS (as that was Microsoft’s v1.0 o/s). And yes this means comparing Win95 + Win98 has no place whatsoever here either.
    – I don’t EVER want to ‘stream’ audio/video to my car (I had a really good think about this point – and Zero scenarios popped to mind. One day I might want to transfer some audio/video there – ie via placing it on media or copying it to a hd – but never stream it). This is NOT 10 foot application either. However – that being said – if I really really wanted to do this – I’m sure there would be quite a few ways to do it on Vista "out of the box". Microsoft just don’t consider this sort of stuff to be a function of MediaCenter itself (which is designed to be used on TV’s and extenders) – and have these sort of features inside other "out of the box" components. (ie windows media connect etc – or you can download most of the streaming/encoding bits for free off their site).
    – "Free" software is a figment of the imagination. For everything thats free – generally a huge amount of time needs to be spent learning/installing/configuring the system – and "time = money".. For your average consumer – they need everything done for them and someone to ring if it stops working – and LinuxMCE does not offer this sort of thing. Linuxmce might be fun to fiddle with for techies who live alone (and noone else needs to operate their systems) – but the majority of these techies are also going to have a much better appreciation of a real 10 foot UI and chose Vista anyhow.
    Also a reality check on pricing – Vista Home Premium OEM (which is what people would actually buy) has a street price here of around US$170 – so its definitely NOT $500. You don’t need to purchase any other software to use what MediaCenter offers (full pvr functionality including DVD playback) – just the same sort of hardware required by ANY pvr solution on the market (tuner cards).
    – Vista "Auto Discovers" media (on networked machines and devices) – worst case scenaio is that you need to "add a share to a monitored folder list" (very very simple to do with a remote control) – LinuxMCE doesnt offer anything new here at all.
    Anyhow again – a picture is worth a 1000 words – and those screenshots above really speak for themself. 


    July 6, 2007 at 3:13 am

  5. Ever think he used MC2005 because he wasn’t going to go out and waste his money on Vista just to compare with?  He probably had 2005 from before he switched to LMCE. Also, unless you have used it you really can’t tell what the UI size is, it could in fact be 10′ and you just can’t tell from the video. This is only an interface for Myth TV which has great community support, so no problem with support.You try singlehandedly creating, supporting, and maintaining something on this scale, he probably bought the cheapest hosting he could, not planing on all the attention, it happens all the time with people’s blogs, they write something that people like and it gets put on Digg or Stumble Upon and it overloads their server.  What do you mean by the "actual interface", the one shown in the video is great, and real, there is an alternate one for people using it on computers with old video cards; this is relatively routine for Linux based things because the O/S doesn’t waste resources so you can run it on very old hardware if you are not doing CPU intensive things, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to use a 10 year old computer if you are only checking your email or typing something up.   Considering you are posting on a microsoft blog, I wouldn’t really consider you an unbiased source either…


    September 2, 2008 at 12:05 am

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