Big Screen Blog

Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Big Screen Updates and other News..

with 6 comments

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 bugs issues. 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.



Written by mobilewares

January 11, 2008 at 3:02 am

Posted in Vista MediaCenter

6 Responses

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  1. Whatever happened to big screen movies? Has this been scrapped?


    January 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  2. Everyone wants Big Screen Movies and Big Screen TV!


    January 11, 2008 at 7:43 pm

  3. Hi – sorry – but I can only do five things at once…  


    January 12, 2008 at 10:33 pm

  4. Ditto – would love to hear more about Big Screen Movies; though I’m sure Big Screen Contacts, Photos, Headlines, Knitting etc. have an audience, I’m willing to bet ‘Movies’ is what everyone is really excited for :o)


    January 16, 2008 at 8:04 pm

  5. We need to clone Niall.  lol.
    Seriously though,  If you were to focus on Big Screen Movies and/or Big Screen TV Series, and release one or both of them, it would be the "killer app" for VMC, and everyone would purchase.  You could make a fortune (if that is your motivation), and a lot of people very happy (if that is your motivation).
    I don’t get why you are messing around with these narrow-market apps instead of spending your time on what everyone is crying out for.
    Please don’t take any of this the wrong way.  Your stuff, whichever it may be, is the best software I’ve ever seen.  Keep up the good work!


    January 16, 2008 at 11:27 pm

  6. Hi –
    Appreciate the comments guys – but seriously – I do need to eat/put food on the table etc – and unfortunately – focusing on an ‘enthusiast/specialist’ targetted product like Movies/TV is almost a certain way to go bankrupt. While there’s a small % of enthusiast users who would do the ‘right thing’ and actually purchase these products – the overwhelming majority of enthusiasts wouldn’t (and I have plenty of experience providing ‘dontation/freeware’ to prove this point). Then – the moment someone else brought out a competing ‘free’ product (where they were simply ‘scraping/illegally’ using data and hiding behind an alias) – all my effort/business would be wiped out overnight. Thats the sad reality…   wish it was different (and I could focus on really cool stuff) – but it isnt…   I’m sure you guys realize the providing a ‘legal’ movies/tv version costs big $$ for the data feed/rights – and I’m not willing to take that financial risk.. I toyed with the idea of just allowing for BYO data – but at the end of the day – it’s not something I want to support/encourage (as it’s just moving the issue elsewhere)..And if you don’t believe me – just check out that new ‘2 day weather’ thing (where the author is completely misusing/scraping the datafeed – and although the author / enthusiast community / site moderators / bloggers are ALL completely aware of this – they don’t care.. its all about ‘not paying for it’ – and are applauding it as a great product.. the author seems to be under the impression that because he’s not charging for it – it makes it OK… wrong.. it means EVEN MORE people will be using it – and – the ones being conned here – will have EVEN MORE people not visiting their site – all at their own expense)… Thankfully my competing product is legal (and hence can be sold/appeals to the general public) – otherwise the massive amount of effort I put in to making it (and doing it in a legal way – which requires thousands of lines of code processing the raw data – as I assume do – not just a 50 line script to copy someone elses data) – would have been totally for naught..For some reason as well – all the enthusiast market would happily blow an addition $100’s or so just to have some fancy hardware that ‘matches’ their couch or has a fancy flashing LED (and has been produced in bulk in a sweat shop somewhere) – they would (and DO) find a list of reasons not to spend $20 on software unless they absolutely have to.
    While the apps I am focusing on may not seem as ‘exciting’ – these are the ones that CAN be sold to the general public and for OEM (the ONLY place where I would expect to make money – and hence justify working on them)…. otherwise.. i can always at any point go 100% back to freelance consulting (where I’m always guaranteed to make $$$ with no risk whatsoever)..
    So anyhow hope this line of reasoning (and the ‘unfortunate truth’) puts it in perspective…  Those of you who do know what I do/where I put my effort into this community (MCSandbox and other places) – will also know that I already spend oodles of my time providing help/support to other developers (and pretty much can never get any of my own questions answered/or similar help) – cant ever accuse me of not doing a lot for the enthusiast community (so I don’t feel guilty at all by ‘not focusing’ on products like movies etc..)
    ’nuff said (I’m having a Sunday rant here – maybe I should turn this into an individual blog post…)
    ps – Big Screen Virtual Knitting.. now thats a COOL idea.. (I’m thinking 2 x Wiimotes here)..   😎


    February 3, 2008 at 4:58 am

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