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Launched: Big Screen Photos 2 Private Beta

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The first Beta of Big Screen Photos v2 for Vista Media Center was released last night – to a small handfull of users. (new ‘neon’ logo pictured below)

It was really great to get this product out there for others to play with – as it’s been a work in progress (and of passion) here for the last few months – taking up many a midnight hour in amongst my commercial work.

I’m willing to let some additional users test it – so if you want an ‘invite’ please contact me directly (if you have my email) – or using the gadget on bottom right of this blog page (I can’t promise every request will be accepted due to time taken to provide access).

I’ve added quite a few new features to the beta, since the preview video was released a couple of weeks ago – many being very subtle / but pretty useful. (as opposed to entire new screens/experiences).  The new website is not yet available (will be launched closer to time of public beta release).

Some screenshots of some of the new bits are –

Updated New Main Menu featuring film strip graphic – and complete recreation of the Icons here and on other screens (the old ones were crappy looking vector based icons). There’s also some things whizzing past in the background (not clear on this screenshot).


New Splash Screen (and Copy Protection System).  Those glowing balls in the background fly past at different speeds/z positions – and kinda remind me of that 80’s movie ‘Caccoon’.  On a more serious note – I’ve launched a new copy protection system which requires users to enter a Serial Number (via a included desktop tool) – and then ‘Activate’ (and reactivate) it online when they go to use it. This way I can control/extend/cancel Serial Numbers from remote – and auto notify users of new updates. It’s a WPA like system and requires ongoing reactivations – but is implemented so the user will not notice or be interrupted at all (or be required to click through any additional screens once activated).



– New functionality in Photo Details Screen.  As per the screenshot below – one new  page is the ‘Geo Info’ tab which shows you where the photo was taken on a world map and also region map. (subject to it being geotagged by the user – or automatically by their gps enabled camera) – and just below is the registered Country, Region, District and Locality determined by Yahoo! flickr. There’s also quite a few new buttons in the more info page – such as a section for geotagged photos allowing you to quickly find photo’s taken ‘near this location’ by ‘user’ or ‘tag’ (both or none). Also included are links so you can view all the Tags, Photo’s Comments, Sizes and EXIF Tags. (allowing for click through to view photos/searches).


– New Numeric Keypad Shortcuts in Browsing Screens.  You can now use the keys 1-6 to directly access other searches/detail pages related to the highlighted photo (clicking OK will take you to full screen photo view) – such as ‘1’ to go to the Photo Details page, ‘2’ to view the User’s Detail Page, ‘5’ to search for more photos like this etc.   I had some of these in the original v1 of this product – but there’s much more now – and one brand new feature is the ‘9’ key shortcut to ‘filter by group‘. The filter by group function will select just the photos in the group (as per below there are 9 photos in the highlighted group when viewing ‘by tag’) – and take you to a new search results screen with only those photos. This is useful for then triggering slideshows (ie by tag or date etc) or geo browsing just that subset of photos.


– New Browse/Search Screens.  There’s a number of new screens/searches availabled from the main menu such as view ‘Latest Photos from My Contacts’ – which will display up to 5 latest photos per each contact in a single search. (a great way of keeping track of friends photos as they are posted). Another search allows you to browse a list of countries and then a list of cities (per selected country) and it will then perform a Search for photos geo tagged to that location. You can search at city or country level – so you can do stuff like find all the latest photos taken in ‘New York’ for example. (good for checking out travel options). Of course – once done – you can click on the ‘GeoBrowse’ button and view them on the world map.


New Settings Screens.  There’s also a few configuration options you can set – to make your experience better/worse based on your available connection speed, computer power (the two determining factors of how fast the overall experience will be). In the screenshot below – you can see the page for setting number of items to be returned per page. If you have a slow connection or less powerful machine – you may wish to tune this down to 25 items per page instead of the default 100. (and you can then just use the next page button to view more results).


New Assembly level IP Protection.  As mentioned earlier – there’s a new protection system in place. More Importantly however – from a developer/security pov however – an interesting thing I was able to do was fully obfuscate the application right up to the MCML layer (and then some). Normally – obfuscators will only protect your .NET managed code – but all public types/methods/properties used by MCML need to remain in tact (and not be renamed etc). In case of this application though – I wrote some VS Addins to update the MCML + code so the obfuscated/renamed public types are used (greatly reducing its readability – ie instead of   [BrowseMaster.GetList] being exposed in MCML (and as a public type) – it would instead read as something garbled like [jkj322323.u349JFE].   Then to make things a real pain in the butt for would be MCML hackers – I applied yet some more kungfu to turn the file into an unreadable nightmare (but of course still readable by Media Center). So the idea is if the developer is persistent enough to get through all the protection from the obfuscator/scrambler I use – and then the first layer of MCML scrambling – then the code will still be quite unreadable and refer to scrambled managed types.


So anyhow thats a quick wrap of some of the new bits in the ‘Private’ beta. Stay tuned for a public beta, a full version (for purchase) and a product website.


Written by mobilewares

May 15, 2007 at 1:47 am

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