Due to hosting provider issues long ago I have lost the documents found in this post: http://blog.retrosight.com/WindowsXPMediaCenterEdition2005SetupInstructions.aspx
I've had three people in the last week asking specifically for the Windows XP Media Center 2005 Setup Instructions (Windows_XP_Media_Center_2005_Setup_Instructions.pdf) and I was hoping one of my readers might have kept an archive of this file. If you have, I would be much appreciated to get back a copy from you.
Just got this from JoeB...
Congrats, everyone, on another terrific milestone for Media Center… today in his Digital Life keynote, Mike Sievert will announce that Media Center has sold 20 MILLION UNITS.
Wow. Just wow. It's pretty nifty to work on a product which has reached 20 million folks worldwide. Sweet.
In an email conversation with Seth Jayson (see this post) he mentioned one of the 'flies in the ointment' of the XBox 360 media capabilities (including Media Center Extender) compared to the announced Apple iTV was the 'sometimes loud fan in the XBox'.
I've been using the XBox 360 Media Center Extender for a couple of months now and the fan noise has never seemed overbearing to me or my family. I can see where an audiophile who wants absolute silence would not be overjoyed by the fan noise, but then again those folks will spend a lot more than $299 to fuel their quest for sonic perfection.
Curious, I borrowed a decibel meter this evening to see how loud the XBox 360 fans would become during normal use of the XBox 360 as a Media Center Extender. Unfortunately, the lowest measurement of the unit was 50db, making it less than ideal to measure the sound generated at a reasonable, normal distance from the unit (like 10'). According to this Wikipedia entry 50db is the equivalent of a 'quiet restaurant inside'.
Still, I thought the test would be interesting -- so I launched the Media Center Extender on the XBox 360 and kicked off a high definition recorded TV show (Law & Order, a favorite) and let it play for 30 minutes before taking measurements.
Anyone care to guess how close to the XBox 360 and where I had to put the meter to get it to register a continuous 50db...?
I guess you could say this is the audio equivalent of guessing how many M&Ms are in the jar. Leave a comment with your guess.
Meanwhile, I'm going to track down a more sensitive decibel meter.
Mosey on over to Caseys blog post and check this out. I'm convinced Casey can make a Media Center PC do just about anything! This little bit of artificial intelligence is pretty neat...
mobileRecord is an MSN instant messaging bot that allows you to schedule TV recordings on your Media Center Edition PC. you communicate with the bot using Messenger, and the bot communicates with your MCE PC through a client application.
Wow. Just, wow.
Update: After some email exchanges between the two of us Seth slightly clarified his article by adding 'The video is' to the paragraph I excerpt below (change is shown in italics). He still does a fairly poor job of telling the overall story here -- but I'm still working on him.
I'm a big fan of The Motley Fool, so it pains me to some extent to write this, but someone has to, so guess it will be me.
In Apple's Latest Victims, Seth writes the following, speaking of the media playback capabilities of the XBox 360...
"It's capable of streaming media directly from a PC, with one big hitch. The video is only supposed to work with the Media Center OS. This was a ridiculous mistake, in my opinion, because so few Media Center OSes exist out there. It not only should have supported streaming from plain vanilla Windows XP, it should have run more file types."
Wrong. In two places.
First, the XBox 360 works out of the box with any version of Windows XP to Play music and manage playlists and view pictures. In addition, it supports playback of content from portable media player devices (compatible device list here) *including* the Apple iPod (but not FairPlay tracks -- talk to Apple about that ). Seth has a good point about compatibility with more file types, but support for [insert codec here] is largely a matter of return on investment. We also stream more media types with the Media Center Extender features of XBox 360 when you have a Windows Media Center enabled SKU of Windows. In addition to audio and pictures, we have video (WMV, MPEG1, MPEG2) and Recorded TV. Plus all of the media available from partners in Online Spotlight (MTV, NPR, Akimbo to name a few).
Second, there are more than a few Media Center PCs out there: 16 million according to the last group of public numbers. In addition, greater than 50% of the personal computers being sold today come with Windows Media Center. With Windows Vista, we expect the percentage to increase with Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate (the two SKUs with Windows Media Center included).
So, Seth, you could actually forego the iTV even before it ships with a trip to your local retailer. Tonight.
P.S. Isn't it odd Seth owns Microsoft stock and The Motley Fool has it listed as an Inside Value recommendation, but managed to publish this article without basic fact checking? See the links above to the public XBox.com site above which clearly enumerate these features.
P.S. Even more interesting to me is they offer RSS feeds for stories, but no way for me to leave comments about them. That might be because they are offering financial advice, perhaps...?
I recorded this on Sunday night and got around to narrating this evening. Enjoy...
Alexander Grundner: "In respect to iTV, Media Extenders for Windows Media Center and third party digital media adapters have been doing this duty for over two years now. What's so revolutionary (at least these days) about a device that streams videos from your PC to your TV wirelessly?"
Michael Gartenberg: "They key to the announcement is understanding that there's a seamless end to end experience for consumers for consuming digital content both within the home and outside the home."
Om Malik: "In the post-PC, device world, content is what sells the hardware, at least for hardware. More music, more movies, more television means iPod becomes da platform."
Paul Thurrott: "Overall, the iTV looks solid but it's lacking one key feature: DVR. It's literally a dull terminal, albeit one with a gorgeous UI. That doesn't mean that Apple can't add DVR capabilities to Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) of course. And you know what? I hope they do. Anyway, so far, so good. It's not the uber-box some people expected, but I'll be first in line to get one."
Robert Scoble: [Addressing Steve Jobs] "Your UI looks an awful lot like Windows Media Center. Almost a total copy. So, who is copying whom? What’s next, a Tablet PC copy?"
Mike Torres: "You know though, Apple is truly at the top of its game these days. Even more so than a year ago - or 4+ years ago when I bought my first-gen 10GB iPod. As much as I critique their lock-in model, they never cease to wow me with how much they're able to do, and the innovation and quality bar they set for others. I applaud them."
Omar Shahine: "If Apple would just support WMA and get HBO to offer their shows for download I'd be set, I'd never consider any other device or audio software for my desktop/laptop (still need Windows Media Center though). Zune better ship soon so that we can get started on v2 and of course v3. Apple has a massive head start and I'm not sure anyone will ever catch up (or that it matters)."
Steve Makofsky: "Looks like it's time to whip out the credit card."
Thomas Hawk: "And then we have iTV. So let's see. I'm going to pay $300 for a little dongle that will allow me the privlige of paying Apple $10-$15 to buy movies from them at less than DVD quality to watch on my new HDTV Plasma? I can just stick with Netflix, pay a heck of a lot less and not have to buy the $300 little dongle thing."
Ed Bott: So, will someone please tell me why I want to replace my Xbox 360 with an Apple-branded device that only plays tunes from one music store, allows me to pay $15 for a movie encoded at 640 by 480 that looks like crap on my widescreen HDTV, and is unable to record or stream TV programming?
My take: Things are becoming mildy interesting at this point. Apple built out the personal content side first and has a very strong position there (iTunes Store + iPod). We built out the home content side first and have a very strong position there (Windows Media Center + XBox 360 Media Center Extender). Apple is making a foray into the home content side (iTV). We are making our foray into the personal content side (Zune). Holiday '08 is shaping up to be very interesting.
So, who is the dark horse none of us are seeing at the moment...?
A year ago I became so busy with 'other stuff' here at work I stopped my regular practice of blocking off time on Friday afternoons to do nothing but generate sample code, solve problems with our SDK docs, ponder deeper technical issues which can't be tackled with the typical interruptions of a busy team or respond to community requests or issues.
Coding Friday is back from 1:00 - 6:00 PM PST.
It started last week. And I'm going to do something unprecedented (well, at least for me). Taking a page out of Robert Scoble's book, here is my contact information...
phone: (425) 707-7818
Give me a ring during Coding Friday hours -- let's chat about Windows Media Center development.
Well, Matt finally spills the beans in the loss of two Windows Media Center features in Windows Vista: Messenger and Caller ID.
Frankly, I never thought we did each of those features particularly well. Apologies to Matt and the other PMs which made 'em happen originally. I don't really think it was our fault per se they didn't live up to expectations. They were built on top of APIs which were limited (Windows Messenger) or rarely used (modem anyone?).
But our loss is certainly your gain.
Now that caller ID is gone it's a perfect opportunity to do a new thing -- XBox Live gamer online notifications (I just got mine tonight, btw: 'retrosight'. Skype contact notifications. Blog post notifications. I really think we never explored where we could actually take something like Caller ID because, well, we were stuck in the 90s with needing to connect a telephone cable.
And now that our Messenger implementation is gone it's an opportunity for someone to do a *real* messenger client for Windows Media Center. I'm thinking full screen interface overlaying Live TV capabilities here. Also, after using the iMate KJam for a while I'm thoroughly convinced a thumb keyboard remote control should be built which is compatible with Windows Media Center. I believe its size would make a much more attractive option to a full size keyboard (such as the Windows Media Center keyboard or the new Bluetooth keyboard we announced a few weeks (months?) ago.
So, what company will be first to take advantage and deliver experiences which put our originals to shame (using the new Windows media Center Presentation Layer Application model, of course).
Go check out Windows Vista's Media Center Not Ready for Prime Time by Paul Thurrott (courtesy of Ian Dixon).
Sometimes it's not fun to beta test because of all the variables, and hardware driver issues (which seem to be the majority or root cause of Paul's bad experience with Beta 2) can make an otherwise great beta release painful.
Paul, this is an open invitation to contact me any time to get this stuff figured out -- there is no reason you need to 'go this alone' when there are resources standing by to assist.
But I did find at least one encouraging tidbit in his comments. Back in October 2005, Paul had this to say about our new horizontal navigation model...
"Instead of the simplicity and beauty, we get ... ah... a jumbled mess of album art, arranged horizontally, not vertically."
It seems to be growing on him, for now he says...
"Much of what's changed in Media Center Vista is quite good. For example, the UI is now oriented to widescreen displays such as the HDTV to which my Media Center PC is connected, and content takes advantage of this horizontal real estate by moving left to right visually, instead of up and down in a text list, as in previous Media Center versions."
Our new UI seems to be growing on him. Yay!
I just got finished upgrading the build of Windows Vista on my tablet (was running the February CTP, now running a much newer version). The M200 only has 32MB of video memory with an nVidia Mobile 5200 video card but it's showing Aero Glass. Sweet -- I didn't think this was supposed to work on older, less powerful video cards. Let's hope this isn't an anomaly.
[5 minutes pass...]
It installed *all* the drivers except one this time (I think it's the IR it can't find) -- I think we are turning a corner with Windows Vista. I've had a bear of a time getting the tablet to be happy with Windows Vista, and typically ran into mucho problems right off the bat. Everything seems perfectly normal.
[5 minutes pass...]
I installed Windows Vista Ultimate and am now using Windows Media Center with the Tablet PC pen.
Oh, this is SOOOOOOO cool...!
Go check out Peter Rossers last post Media Center Technical Discussion 1: Tuners and TuningSpaces. He gives you step-by-step instructions to hack your Windows Media Center box to support N tuners (he had 3 ATSC + 6 NTSC at one time at his home). Oh, and you don't have to wait for Windows Vista to make it happen -- it works in the current version.
Mark Finocchio, Aaron Stebner and myself sat down with Robert Scoble inside the Building 50 listening room for a chat about developing for Windows Media Center in Windows Vista back before the Super Bowl. I'll actually have to watch this myself to remember what I said. I'm pretty sure Robert asked about the Apple Front Row remote control at some point. I'm also sure I stated flatly we would ship Windows Vista before the holidays this year -- little naive me -- I hope you will forgive my misguided passion -- I won't soon make that mistake again.
Channel9: Your First Media Center / Vista Application (and a Look at Their Secret Room)
(I don't think the room is really all that secret, but if the intrique makes people watch the video, yay! Robert tries to pretend he isn't in marketing, but he really is, don't you think?)
Barb Bowman with help from Doug Knox (both Windows Media Center MVPs) and Steve Makofsky (Software Development Engineer at Microsoft) have Windows Media Center running on the MacBook Pro.
Here's How I did it - Mac MCE (Barb)
Boot Camp: Day 1 (Steve)
Steve, Barb even has TV working on the MacBook Pro -- something I know you were asking about last night in an email.
I've got a challenge for you, Barb and Doug: Can you get the Portable Media Center interface (which looks and feels like Windows Media Center) to run on an iPod...?
I happened to find this little tidbit in my referrals for yesterday (hardly ever look at them, but did just now). It's old -- from Jan 2004 - July 2004. I wonder what happened to his / her project...?
"I'm involved with a kind of experimental class at my school in interactive television. We're supposed to make a windows media center application to work with live tv, etc. I'm curious if anyone has any experience with windows media center and C#, specifically the remote control functionality."
Hey, Chrix, if you are still around, give me a shout and an update.
For years we've heard folks cry out for Windows Media Center to be available for purchase at retail outlets (think Frys, Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon, etc).
I've seen a number of blog posts (Thomas, Chris and Ed to name a few) about our announcement today regarding the Windows Vista product lineup, but no mention yet of this sentence buried in the press release:
"Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate and Business will be available as a full-packaged product at retail and on new PCs."
To interpret: Windows Media Center is coming to a store shelf near you in three ways with Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate: shrink wrap software, a system builder bundle or a preconfigured OEM machine.
Let the rejoicing commence in the DIY and upgrade crowd!
Rags Gupta (who was instrumental in bringing Live365 to Online Spotlight back in the day -- how ya doin' Rags!) writes the following in DVR Feature Request - One-Click to Record Future Programs...
"I'd like to be able to click a "Remember to Record" button while the ad is playing or within some time lag after it plays and have my DVR put the advertised show on its recording schedule."
I want this too, Rags. Just the other day my wife saw an advertisement for Conviction, the new court room drama from the Law & Order folks. We went looking for it in the Media Center Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) and it wasn't there because the first episode was outside the 14 day window. Now I have to remember to go looking for it at some point in the future.
Oh, and clearly there is an advertising bonus here -- imagine being able to track how many people have scheduled a DVR recording of a show in advance, then publicize the following with a movie trailer voice over...
'Over XX million viewers will be recording this show in two weeks -- will you...?'
Great idea Rags!
I wish I had seen this sooner (my apologies -- if you see this kind of cool stuff, drop me an email directly). Kudos to Colin for putting together GMAPMCE whereby you can browse Google Maps from the comfort of your couch. This is more addictive than I thought. This post explains how to get it available from More Programs in Media Center.
Anyone created one of these for http://local.live.com yet...?
Update: Yes, someone did and I feel just horrible I didn't pick up on it from Ian Dixon (to whom I susbcribe). Sean Mcleod put together an app which can be correlated with your geo-tagged pictures from the My Pictures feature in Media Center. Sweet. The app and details (including some source 'how to' snippets) can be found at Virtual Earth Media Center Add-in (The Code Project). Sean hasn't posted since November 10 -- hope everything is all right.
Please join me in welcoming Aaron Stebner and David Fleischman to the Media Center Platform team.
Those of you familiar with Aaron know he is incredibly passionate about our customer experiences which you can plainly see in his blog -- he is a posting machine! To quote a Group Program Manager, he 'absorbs technical information like a sponge.' In the brief time I have spent working with Aaron so far, it's not just any sponge, but a freakishly large sponge about the size of a compact car. Aaron will be focusing on our Media Center Add In platform.
David Fleischman brings a wealth of knowlege on Project Management to our team. David played a prominent role in helping us get Emerald (long name: Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2) out the door. He ran our daily status meeting for months on that project. Here is the best way to describe what he did for us during Emerald: Chief Cat Herder (CCH). Keeping all the strong personalities focused on shipping a great product is no small feat. David will be focusing on the WinFX platform integration into Media Center for Windows Vista as well as driving production of the SDK (yet another cat herding exercise).
You can expect some great blog posts about our platform over on Media Center Sandbox from these guys in the coming weeks and months.
Welcome guys -- we are gonna have a ton of fun this year!
And that makes 4 of the 6 bloggers who are on the Media Center team (Aaron, David, Michael and Me) a part of the platform team. I hope Peter and Matt don't feel left out.
Chris Pirillo asks...
"I have a PVR and all the premium movie channel subscriptions for digital cable. What I don't have is a service that IMs me and says what movies are playing on TV at that moment. This way, I could either decide to record the movie (if it notified me early enough) or watch it live. Or, better yet, a Media Center program that told me what movies were playing that month on my movie channels - and I could set it up to record them whenever conflicts weren't happening. Charlie, can ya help me with that one?"
You betcha (or at least I'm hoping).
Joe Belfiore demonstrated this feature almost exactly as Chris describes during the Bill Gates keynote at CES this year. Here is the transcript excerpt (full transcript here as well as a webcast of the keynote) from that section of the demo -- Joe Belfiore is speaking...
"What I want to show you to expand your thinking on this is how the service [Windows Live] can offer lots of different ways of interacting that fit with the personality and care of the particular user who is using it. So, switching over to the beta, a beta of Windows Live Messenger, you can see I have my buddies in here. One of the buddies that I have is a TV service. So, think of this as me interacting with a smart agent that's part of the TV service that I signed up for. So, here I am, and if I'm like some of the people in my family, addicted to instant messaging, then this is an incredibly comfortable and natural way for me to communicate with the service. So, I'll say hello, and it looks like our service might be offline, the risk of Internet based demos. So, I will close that and give it one more try. Let's see, okay, TV service are you there? Hello. Here we go.
Hi, Joe, would you like some help figuring what to watch. The TV service is inviting me to start a TV service activity. This idea of activities is new to the Windows Live Messenger, and when I click accept you can see over here it presents me with a bunch of interactivity. The service says, these are the shows your friends like. That's kind of an interesting thing. Immediately the idea of community becomes something that's factored in and the service can use to do a better job of helping me find things that I like. It knows who my buddies are because I've signed up with buddies, and as Bill described, if I choose to share information about my preferences, and what I like, then that could be used to make everyone's experiences better. So, these are shows that my buddies like. I can just move over there and choose one of those to record.
That's not what I want to do, how about what's on tonight? So the TV service is finding out what's on tonight, it switches over to a grid based guide, only reminding me that I'm here with you instead of watching the Rose Bowl, that's OK, because that's not actually what I want to be doing. How about showing SciFi. I like SciFi. OK, well, here's what's on in SciFi tonight. It further filters the list to show me that. And even better it says, I have a strong recommendation for you and a trailer to watch, cool. The trailer is for "Battlestar Gallactica," would you like to watch the trailer? Yes. Show me the trailer.
And instantly, the service can find promotional material, trailers, background information on content I might be interested, and it starts streaming it to me directly so that I get better information up. It says, if you like this trailer, would like to record it let me know. OK, record it. It finds my Media Center PC, sets up the recording, and now in the future I'll have this show available to watch when it's convenient for me."
I don't know when (or even if) this will ship -- I'm pinging the 'folks in the know' to get you a definitive answer Chris.
I'm pretty amazed that folks continue to 'discover' the great content available via Online Spotlight.
For example, Scott Hanselman (love DASBlog man!) found XM Satellite Radio for the first time today and it drove up his spouse approval for plunking down the change for his XBox 360. While Scott found XM Radio for Media Center via Download.com, it's been available for him all this time in Online Spotlight.
And if XM Radio isn't your audio thing, check out Napster, Live365, AOL Radio (Audio), AOL Music on Demand (Music Video), MTV Overdrive (Music Video), National Public Radio (NPR) or the thousands of podcasts and videoblogs available using Newsgator Media Center Edition.
Hey Scott, since I know you are a geek (major understatement of the year), what do you think about the new application platforms available for Media Center in Windows Vista? If you think these apps are pretty cool now, what until Windows Vista ships!
Via an email from Robert Scoble I learn Ross Rader has asked us in An Open Letter to Microsoft to ship a standalone upgrade SKU of Windows Vista containing Media Center...
"I would very much like it if you made it easy (not free, just easy) for me to upgrade this older, but still quite functional, personal computer from Windows XP to Windows Media Center. Think of it – potentially millions of people adopting a Microsoft product in a way that will be really important for you. If you make it available, I promise that my current desktop will move from my home office to my living room about 30 seconds after I install my shiny new Media Center software.
So whaddya think?"
I think it's a great idea, Ross. If it were up to me alone it would have been done a long time ago (and I have ardently supported the MSDN Subscription install-it-yourself approach for the enthusiast community for a while now, even if it isn't available to Joe Consumer in retail).
But lowly little ol' me doesn't make these decisions. We need a bunch of people making a bunch of noise to make this happen.
If you think it's a great idea too, leave a comment here to vote your support of this offering. I promise to make sure your voice is heard by those who decide our SKU strategy. The more comments, the better our chances.
Let's all make Ross' 30 second dream a reality!
I'll be presenting various Media Center technologies, design and development at Mix06. Joe Belfiore has been announced as one of the keynote speakers. The Mix team has an RSS feed, just posted a session outline as well as agenda.
What's Mix you might ask? You might think of it as a more targeted version of the Professional Developers Conference specifically for the web with specific tracks tailored for designers, developers and business folks.
'Media Center' Puts Microsoft Ahead of Rivals
By ROBERT A. GUTH
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
January 5, 2006; Page A13
Microsoft, the technology industry's perennial late-to-the-game player, finally finds itself with a lead in home-entertainment software. It's up to a high-energy engineer named Joe Belfiore to keep it that way.
There is a good thread over at Joystiq.com in Digital lifestyle from a dumb terminal? Not likely. (Xbox 360 annoyance #007). I took a moment to post a comment over there to hopefully clear the air about why things are the way they are -- it's all about consumer choice and market forces (of which a P&L statement is a part, but certainly not the whole). Microsoft is (an many ways) a conglomeration of smaller companies, which is sometimes why we don't approach the market with a singular product (we have Notepad, Word Pad and Word, all of which would allow me to type and print a letter to grandma). My comments start at number 37.
Matthew Fordahl of the Associated Press is out with another review of Apple Front Row (via CNN or AP). There are a couple of misleading or inaccurate statements with regards to Media Center:
"Unlike a Windows Media Center PC, however, Front Row doesn't dump you in a position where you have to leave the couch and pick up the keyboard. The machine also doesn't have the nasty habit of turning itself back on after it's been put into standby mode."
First, there are no Media Center features requiring the use of anything other than the remote control. A very few features (like search) might be somewhat easier with a keyboard, but all of those can be accomplished with the remote control (through triple tap -- think SMS text messaging on your cell phone). If you find you like to use Media Center with a keyboard (some people do actually prefer this mode) we have a wireless keyboard which works just great from the couch: The Remote Keyboard for Media Center. It's a full Qwerty keyboard, Media Center remote and integrated mouse all in one. It also lights up in the dark. You can totally remain a true couch potato with Media Center whether you choose a mouse or keyboard.
Second, we have a feature whereby you can schedule TV recordings and put the PC in standby (to save electricity, lower ambient noise levels, save wear and tear, etc.). When the time comes to record the show the Media Center PC will resume from standby, record the TV show, and then return to standby mode. A properly setup and configured Media Center PC shouldn't resume from standby for no apparent reason -- if it does for any reason other than the DVR feature mentioned here or by pressing the power button the OEM should be contacted to resolve the issue.
I'm apparently not the only one who was somewhat dissatisfied with this review. Check out The Associated Press' Matthew Fordahl blows it: incorrectly states Apple iMac G5 lacks video output. I wonder if Matthew will likewise correct the misinformation about Media Center? At the very least I hope he will give us some sort of context for his commentary, since he never brought up these issues in his in depth review of Media Center this past January.
There have been quite a few interesting posts and articles on the web regarding Media Center Extender feature of the XBox 360 (see CNet, Slashdot, CVG and GA Forum for a sampling). I have decided to port this FAQ to it's own post and will update regularly to help clear up some of the confusion. Put any additional questions you might have in the comments and I will track down the answer.
1) Does every XBox 360 come with the Media Center Extender software built in?
2) How does that work with the XBox 360 Core System which doesn't have a hard drive?
The Media Center Extender software for XBox 360 is sent over the wire each time you launch Media Center on the XBox 360.
3) If you are sending the bits over the wire each time, doesn't the MCX boot time really suffer?
Not enough for most folks to notice. We have spent a lot of time optimizing the code sent over the wire to make sure it's fast.
4) Is the Media Center Extender software cached on the XBox 360 hard drive, if present?
5) Is the Media Center user interface on XBox 360 the same GDI version (sans animations) as the version 1 Media Center Extenders?
No. We ported the Media Center renderer over to the XBox 360 so the Media Center user interface renders in full fidelity on the XBox 360 just as it does on the Media Center PC itself. For the most part, consumers won't be able to tell a difference between the two.
6) Will high definition content play on the XBox 360, and if so, what formats?
Yes, high definition content will play on the XBox 360 via the Media Center user interface using the DVR-MS (Recorded TV) and WMV format (up to 1080p). This will include high definition digital cable content using the recently announced CableCard module. It will decode and display 1080p WMVHD using any output, including 480i/480p/720p/1080i over component. It will also output up to 1366x768 over VGA.
7) Will Online Spotlight experiences (and those available via Marketplace or other third parties for Media Center) work on the XBox 360 Media Center Extender?
8) Can I create my own apps to run in Media Center Extender for XBox 360.
Yes, using the Media Center SDK located at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mce.
9) Do applications in Media Center run on the XBox 360 or on the Media Center PC?
Applications run on the Media Center PC and have their UI remoted to the XBox 360 via technology similar to a Remote Desktop Connection / Terminal Server. No code from the application actually runs on the XBox 360, therefore the XBox 360 is safe and secure from a malware / virus perspective.
10) Is the audio / video content sent over the same remote desktop like session?
No. Audio and video streams are sent out of band and decoded locally on the XBox 360.
11) Is the XBox 360 as loud as my old XBox when running Media Center Extender?
No. In fact, when running the Media Center Extender software, it's virtually silent with the fans at their lowest setting. From my experience, it's quieter than the VCR in my kids playroom when running MCX.
12) Will the XBox360 will have other codecs available for it (e.g. Xvid, Divx).
Yes and no. The Media Center Extender for XBox 360 can support uncompressed PCM audio when a custom DirectShow filter is installed and registered, meaning you can use [insert audio codec name here] as long as it uses this approach. See Registering a Custom File Type for more information. Video codecs natively on the XBox 360 are currently limited to MPEG1, MPEG2, DVR-MS and WMV.
[The custom DirectShow filter solution works for audio since the PCM audio is uncompressed, but still within limits of typical network bandwidth. Any video solution using the same approach would involve real time transcoding (seriously CPU intensive) or sending uncompressed video over the wire (net bandwidth becomes an issue). Just FYI.]
13) If the Media Center Extender software is sent to the XBox 360 each time you launch the Media Center, does that mean that the XBox 360 will automagically inherit the new Vista MCE interface when used with a Vista MCE?
The plans for Media Center Extender for XBox 360 in the Windows Vista timeframe haven't yet been announced. [Sort of a lame answer, I know -- sorry -- there are some things they won't let me talk about yet.]
14) Will my first generation Media Center Extender (hardware or XBox MCX) continue to work when I use the new Media Center Extender for XBox 360?
15) Can you fast-forward and rewind music stored on the host MCE computer using the Xbox 360 Extender.
16) Can you play back AVI files in Media Center Extender for XBox 360?
17) Will the Xbox 360 be able to play DRM-protected video that has been recorded on your Media Center PC?
Yes, as long as the DRM applied or specified by the content owner allows (which is the case for the vast majority of all content today).
18) Can you rip music CDs to the host MCE computer from the Xbox 360 Media Center Extender?
No. However, you can rip music CDs to the XBox 360 hard drive, if present, using the XBox 360 music feature on the Media blade.
19) Does Media Center Extender for XBox 360 support keyboards and mice?
Not at this time.
20) Do I have to insert a Media Center Extender game title like for my XBox?
No. You can keep a game title in the drive while using the Media Center Extender functionality.
21) Do I need a Media Center PC to use Media Center Extender on XBox 360?
22) Can I get to other digital media content on XBox 360 without a Media Center PC?
Yes. XBox 360 has several built in digital media features accessible from the Media blade: Music, Pictures and Videos. Music can be locally ripped music (see Question 18) or music streamed from any Windows XP computer using Windows Media Connect. Pictures can be streamed from any Windows XP computer using Windows Media Connect. Videos are downloadable from XBox Live and can be cached locally on the XBox 360 hard drive (if present).
23) Will WMVHD discs play on the XBox 360?
No. These discs are designed to play on Windows XP machines. See http://www.wmvhd.com/ for system requirements to play these titles.
Wander over to Chris Anderson's First Take: XBox 360 Media Center Extender and read through the comments -- Chris gives us some great feedback to ponder regarding Media Center in Windows Vista.
One thing I want to highlight here from those comments is our Jump In List feature, which I'm not sure many people know is available to them.
Jump In List is a feature whereby you can navigate galleries or lists alphabetically by pressing number keys on the Media Center remote control (aka 'triple tap'). Press the 2 button on the remote once for A, twice for B, three times for C and a fourth time for the numeral 4. (The 3 button is used for D,E F and 3, the 4 button is used for G,H,I and 4, etc.) It makes navigating large libraries much simpler than constant up / down or page up/down button presses. I will admit triple tap does carry a bit of a learning curve, but once users learn, it's super efficient. It's also one of the standard interaction models for most all of the current crop of cell phones so folks who use one of those will feel right at home. Jump In List works in Media Center just about anywhere there is a gallery (visual representation of items) or textual list of items including videos, pictures, music and TV features.
[Note: I've moved this FAQ to XBox 360, Media Center Extender and Media Center PC FAQ. Any updates will now occur in that post.]
I've just arrived back from a partner roadshow late this past Saturday (we presented in Redmond, Los Angeles and New York). I really enjoyed some quotes today which were echoes of what we presented to partners last week.
Chris Anderson in First Take: XBox 360 Media Center Extender
"What's important about the Media Center is that it takes the DVR concept and extends it to all forms of content, whether broadcast or downloaded from the Web. By having a broadband-connected PC at its core, it's by nature a full-featured connected device that can keep up with the pace of innovation in digital media online. If the Xbox 360 and the new content marketplaces of its associated Xbox Live service continue to take off, we really could have the beginnings of a Long Tail platform that could challenge broadcast TV."
Russell Beattie in XBox 360 As A Windows Media Center Extension: Context is King
"The most amazing thing about this is how it controls context. Your PC remains a PC, your Video Game Console remains just that, but when they’re put together, a third functionality emerges to help manage all your media. Maybe that can be seen as complexity (one box with a simplified interface might be better), but to me it seems like a pretty neat Trojan Horse for Microsoft’s vision of the digital home."
A couple of FAQ from the partner roadshow which are appropriate to air broadly here...
Q: Does every XBox 360 come with the Media Center Extender software built in?
Q: How does that work with the XBox 360 Core System which doesn't have a hard drive?
A: The Media Center Extender software for XBox 360 is sent over the wire each time you launch Media Center on the XBox 360.
Q: If you are sending the bits over the wire each time, doesn't the MCX boot time really suffer?
A: Not enough for most folks to notice. We have spent a lot of time optimizing the code sent over the wire to make sure it's fast.
Q: Is the Media Center Extender software cached on the XBox 360 hard drive, if present?
Q: Is the Media Center user interface on XBox 360 the same GDI version (sans animations) as the version 1 Media Center Extenders?
No. We ported the Media Center renderer over to the XBox 360 so the Media Center user interface renders in full fidelity on the XBox 360 just as it does on the Media Center PC itself. For the most part, consumers won't be able to tell a difference between the two.
Q: Will high definition content play on the XBox 360, and if so, what formats?
A: Yes, high definition content will play on the XBox 360 via the Media Center user interface using the DVR-MS (Recorded TV) and WMV format (up to 1080p). This includes high definition digital cable content using the recently announced CableCard module.
Q: Will Online Spotlight experiences (and those available via Marketplace or other third parties) work on the XBox 360 Media Center Extender?
Q: Is the XBox 360 as loud as my old XBox?
A: No. In fact, when running the Media Center Extender software, it's virtually silent with the fans at their lowest setting. From my experience, it's quieter than the VCR in my kids playroom when running MCX.
Q: Will the XBox360 will have other codecs available for it (e.g. Xvid, Divx).
A: Yes and no. The Media Center Extender for XBox 360 can support PCM audio when a custom DirectShow filter is installed and registered, meaning you can use [insert audio codec name here] as long as it uses this approach. See Registering a Custom File Type for more information. Video codecs natively on the XBox 360 are currently limited to MPEG1, MPEG2, DVR-MS and WMV.
Q: If the Media Center Extender software is sent to the XBox 360 each time you launch the Media Center, does that mean that the XBox 360 will automagically inherit the new Vista MCE interface when used with a Vista MCE?
A: The plans for Media Center Extender for XBox 360 in the Windows Vista timeframe haven't yet been announced. [Sort of a lame answer, I know -- sorry -- there are some things they won't let me talk about yet.]
Q: Will my first generation Media Center Extender (hardware or XBox MCX) continue to work when I use the new Media Center Extender for XBox 360?
Q: Can you fast-forward and rewind music stored on the host MCE computer using the Xbox 360 Extender.
Q: Can you play back AVI files?
If you have any other questions, leave 'em here and I will track down the answer and update this post.
I don't think Rob Pegoraro can make up his mind about whether he likes some of the Media Center features.
In Microsoft's Improved Media Center Still Falls Short (December 2004) he writes...
'The biggest change in this 2005 release is an expanded set of photo-editing tools, designed for use from across the room with the remote control. You can now fix red-eye effects, adjust a picture's contrast and even crop it, then burn a photo album to CDs or DVDs (although the disc-burning screen invites confusion by presenting "audio CD" as the default choice). These automated, one-button shortcuts worked surprisingly well. But how often will you want to edit a picture from that far away?'
This past Sunday in Apple's Front Row Comes Closer to Couch-Driven Computing he writes...
'Where Media Center comes with a long list of features and options, Front Row does only four things: You can play music, you can look at your photos, cue up a DVD or watch video files stored on your hard drive or online. It doesn't lump in irrelevant commands (for example, Media Center's bizarre inclusion of photo-editing tools), it has no preferences screen for you to mull over, and its remote control consists of just six buttons.'
How can you go from 'These automated, one-button shortcuts worked surprisingly well' to 'bizarre inclusion of photo-editing tools'...?
I don't add folks to my blogroll very often, and the traffic my links might provide wouldn't really add up to a hill of beans for anyone who is represented. Even so, I believe the people I keep here on a permanent basis should be those who are reputable sources of information you can trust.
Therefore, I'm happy to welcome the following folks to my blogroll...
Aaron Stebner -- Aaron is doing a wonderful job helping the community with Emerald install and media playback issues. His mastery of all things setup is fantastic and he has personally helped me on more than one occasion with Visual Studio and partner machine setups. The great thing about Aaron: He is 10 times more helpful in person than he is on his blog, and is one of the most positive people I have ever met. Aaron and I are going to have the pleasure of working closer together over the coming year as we march closer to the launch of Media Center for Windows Vista. Stay tuned.
David Fleischman -- David is one of those great guys who helps us get software actually out the door and into your hands. Software impacting millions of customers doesn't happen overnight, and his latest post Adding a Feature to Media Center gives you some great insight into that process. The comments in that post are worth their weight in gold if you play a part in shipping great software.
Ed Bott -- I've had the pleasure of having lunch with Ed once, and it was refreshing -- for someone so smart, he's about as humble and unassuming as they come. His blog is one of the most informative and authoritative ones out there -- you come away satisfied with almost every post he makes. I consider his taking the time to create a Media Center specific feed quite a compliment to our product. I aspire to have my own writing be as concise and clear as his -- I've got a long way to go. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to add him to my list -- he should have been there on day one.
Peter Rosser -- I'll confess I don't know Peter well at all, which kind of means I'm breaking the rule I outline in my opening paragraph. His office is between mine and the front door / cafeteria / rest rooms, so I pass by it a good bit. His monitor is always filled with code, and he is almost always sitting there intently focused on same. He is a Software Design Engineer on our Media Center TV team -- that means he is wicked smart (all of them are - you have to be if you are going to get TV working in Windows). Seriously, anyone who writes code like this has to be a wiz. I only hope the code I write is 1/100th as sharp. As it is, I'm still trying to figure out what his blog title means -- I think it has something to do with the Da Vinci Code.
I'm getting a good many hits from http://www.macgeneration.com today referencing the Apple Front Row stuff I posted. Many folks have been been pointing me to translation sites -- I've not found those to be much help since they do a literal word-for-word tranlation. For example...
'Depuis sa présentation, FrontRow suscite beaucoup d’interrogations. À sa façon, Apple se place sur le marché des media-center. Là où la société ne fait pas comme les autres, c’est qu’au lieu d’intégrer ce logiciel qui irait si bien au Mac mini, elle le propose avec l’iMac. Steve Jobs a beau avoir fait un pas en arrière, il reste persuadé que le centre du hub numérique doit être l’ordinateur.'
...becomes this after automatic translation...
'Since its presentation, FrontRow causes many interrogations. At its way, APPLE is placed on the market of the media-center. Where the company does not make like the others, it is that instead of integrating this software which would go so well to mini Mac, it proposes it with the iMac. Steve Jobs took a step in vain behind, it remains persuaded that the center of the numerical hub must be the computer.'
Somehow, I don't think the original message is coming through here. Although I admit some of the comments are really, really funny when run through auto translation...
'If it is true that the media center introduces with the iMac G5 is a logical evolution of the numerical hub to the APPLE sauce, its ease of use is a heritage of the iPod.'
The BBC launched their experience in the UK Online Spotlight today, marking a total of 100 experiences worldwide availabile in Online Spotlight. My boss, Andrew, was pretty happy about this -- he's from the UK and quite happy we now have an offering where the people speak proper English.
I feel extremely lucky to work on a team which has produced a platform with the power and flexibility to enable content owners, designers and developers to create experiences for their customers. To the Media Center Team: Thanks! You guys are amazing!
I was thinking about it on the way home from work today...
We provide a platform where broadcasters can create entirely new channels delivered over the web to your television. Check out MTV Overdrive for Media Center. It's totally interactive and on demand. They have created a channel where the user gets to define the channel content. They are going to follow up with virtual channels for VH1, Comedy Central and mtvU early next year.
Have you ever been at work when you hear about a cool TV show airing later that evening, and won't be home in time to watch or record? We provide a platform which allows you to schedule recordings of TV shows from any place on the planet with an internet connection and web browser. The platform will leverage the cable, satellite, or antenna connection you probably already have in your home.
When you get home, you can watch those TV shows in your choice of rooms via Media Center Extenders. My wife and I do this all the time. We start watching a recorded TV show in the family room, pause it, go downstairs to the bedroom, fire up the MCX and pick up the show EXACTLY where we left off.
Oh, and the platform also allows you to enjoy MTV Overdrive for Media Center (or just about any other Online Spotlight experience) in any room courtesy of those same Media Center Extenders.
Want to check out a podcast or video blog on your stereo or TV? Newsgator Media Center Edition allows you to enjoy that long tail content using a remote control. Oh, it works on Media Center Extenders as well in any room of your house.
You can sync pictures, videos, music AND those recorded TV shows your choice of Portable Media Centers.
Developer enthusiast communities have formed around our platform, and they are a passionate group of folks. Media Center doesn't have the feature you want? Connect. Create. Share.
I spent about an hour chatting about the next generation of our platform with one of our Software Design Engineers.
We've just been warming up...
I left comments over on his blog this time rather than summarizing here -- his latest is a good read...
FrontRow, One More Time
Everyone seems quite taken with the new video service in iTunes (and viewable in Front Row). Hmmmmm -- how do we let people know about the great content available via Online Spotlight...?
I'm usually reticent to say things like this, but here goes...
I *think* I will be able to share some special news on Thursday / Friday which will contrast the approaches taken by Apple and Microsoft nicely. No promises, but stay tuned.
I found a really nice resource which explains the Media Center value proposition. At 4 minutes 45 seconds it is probably the best marketing piece I've seen us produce. It answers one simple question...
What is a Media Center PC?
Note: Macromedia Flash Player Plug In Required.
Om Malik quotes me on his blog with Microsoft Media Center Vs Apple FrontRow.
He laments his problems with the digital video recorder (DVR) features of Media Center, which to date he hasn't gotten to play nice with his Comcast set top box.* He believes we 'overreached' by including the DVR feature in Media Center and makes the following suggestion:
'So what should Microsoft do? Two things. First release a Media Center XP Lite. Free. Basically help turn most of the newer PCs into simple devices for aggregating photos, watching DVDs, streaming music and playing back downloadable videos.'
Om states he 'would gladly pay $49.95' for a standalone version of Apple Front Row according to his I Want My FrontRow-on-TV post. I wonder why he would advise us to give away software which has a good bit more consumer value? Has he called for Apple to drop the price of the iPod by some significant amount because someone else shipped a competing MP3 player? Hopefully Om will elaborate further, because right now this makes zero sense from a business perspective.
I hope Om knows he can get a Media Center PC today without a TV tuner and thus fulfill his desire for a 'lite' version of Media Center on par with the Apple Front Row features (i.e. Photos, DVD, Music, Videos) for *considerably* less than a comparably equipped iMac with Front Row.
* My family uses a dual tuner Media Center with two Comcast set top boxes via IR blasting on a regular basis. While I have seen IR blasting issues (wrong channel recorded) they have been extremely rare in my experience.
Michael Bohlin, a Microsoft Business Development Manager over in Sweden working with Online Spotlight partners sent this to a bunch of people this morning. I thought is was pretty cool and asked if I could reproduce here. Michael said yes. Enjoy!
A day in a traveller’s life:
I start the morning by unplugging my portable device (PMC, SmartPhone, DAP..) from my Windows XP Media Center computer on my way to the airport. While waiting for the gate to open I sit down and I watch the latest news broadcast and parts of yesterday evening episode of Lost. When on the plane and the seatbelt signs has been turned off I go to my music library and select the latest technology update from CNET before I tune in to some soft music and enjoy the flight.
When arriving at the hotel I log-in to my remote TV service and schedule what I want to record this evening and for the upcoming days. I go to work and when I get back in the evening I log-in to my remote service and stream the recorded TV show over a secure line and the last thing I do before I go to bed is listening to some music and watching some family photos from the same remote service.
- I schedule everything I want to record as usual on my Media Center PC.
- I install a podcast application like iPodderX and have it pull the latest from CNET and put it in My Music library under podcasts (this way it will always be available and synched).
- I create an account at TvOnTime which enables me to remote which recordings I want to have on my Media Center PC.
- I create an account at Orb Networks which exposes my shared media folders to my account when logged in (not uploaded only listings). When I log-in to orb.com I can choose any content available on my Media Center PC and have it streamed over https (it generates an asx-file) to my laptop wherever I am in the world assuming that I have decent bandwidth available >300kbps (it will adjust, but 400 gives a good TV image).
This is nothing futuristic! Try it today!
In the near future with Xbox360 and TV’s you will be able to access all media in-house no matter where it is stored. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) which has been driven by DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance (which Microsoft is contributor to) has starting to see daylight. UPnP will give us non routable access to our in-house devices. This means that you today would be able to walk up to a speaker and select what music you want to listen to without knowing where it comes from except that it is either an internet service you have or it is stored somewhere in-house on your Set-top box, Xbox360, DVD Recorder, TV, PC, Media Center PC, etc.
Did you know that if you connect a portable music player which has the “Plays For Sure” logo like iRiver, Creative, Samsung Rio etc. (www.playsforsure.com) they will be able to play through your Xbox360 to the TV speakers or whatever you have it hooked up to. It can also of course synchronize with music library that you might have on the Xbox360 already. MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) is a technology that is royalty free that anyone who wants to be able to synch audio, video, tv, photos etc. between itself and portable devices can download and implement no matter what OS.
This is nothing futuristic! Try it today!
Philips TV’s does today come in versions called “Connected Planet” which accesses all your PC’s in-house.
Any piece of content that comes into the household should be able to be played out anywhere in the household and depending on the rules that applies to the copyright etc. you might be able to synch it to a portable device. Notice that we are not trying to move things around the house; we focus on playing it out remotely to whatever device you’re using.
A Possible Future?
- It won’t be long before making digital backup copies of DVD’s to your hard drive is a legal reality.
- It won’t be long before we will be able to buy full DVD movies over the web.
- It won’t be long before operators can manage WindowsCE based Set-top boxes with Microsoft Operations Manager.
- It won’t be long before Windows Vista will be the premium place to manage digital media content on huge storage devices in your house.
May the streams be with you!
Stephen Smyth is VP of media at news agency, Reuters. He recently spoke to [itvt]'s Tracy Swedlow about Reuters' various interactive video services (which include an interactive TV channel on the Microsoft Media Center that was nominated for an Emmy Award this year for "Outstanding Achievement for Non-Program-Specific Enhanced or Interactive Television"), about the importance of interactivity to the company's consumer services strategy, about the company's interactive TV design philosophy, about its interest in video search, about its future ITV plans, and more.
I had the good fortune of working with Stephen and others at Reuters (like Tom Nguyen, Christopher Burtt, Matthew Waldman and Nic Fulton among others) on their video service currently in Online Spotlight. This is a 'must read' if you are interested in bringing a video blog or interactive TV experience to Media Center consumers. There are two things I especially like about the Reuters experience...
- They were the first service we had that grokked widescreen (as you will see in many of the interview screenshots).
- They are a great example of the power of our global platform (write once / run everywhere). You can get the Reuters service today from Online Spotlight in the United States, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Korea and they are expanding to other geographies soon.
David Fleischman (Release Program Manager) and Peter Rosser (Software Design Engineer) have joined the ranks of bloggers from the Media Center Team.
So, what made each of you decide to start a blog?
Nishant Murarka, a Software Test Engineer on the Media Center team, is a home theater wizard. He takes the complexities of home theater audio and explains it in such a way even I can understand. If you are interested in hooking your Media Center PC up to your sound system, his article Connect an A/V receiver to your Media Center PC is invaluable. I wonder whose home is pictured in Figure 10...?
While our Windows Vista Community Technology Preview program is a mere two months old, we have already seen the benefit of letting the masses weigh in with feedback. Some of it very complimentary, some of it not so much. Good and bad, all of this feedback is very valuable to us in delivering the best Media Center experience possible.
Paul Thurrott is out with his latest review of Windows Vista based on pre-Beta 2 bits and bytes and really takes us to task for the new user experience and interface.
First of all, let me say while Windows Vista build 5231 does give you a sneak peek into Media Center it's not what we consider to be the 'best foot forward' build. Take anything you see, hear or experience yourself with regards to Media Center with a grain of salt until it is actually launched. That's when the all of the features will be in place and you will get a true sense for the user experience look and feel. In the meantime, keep the feedback coming on pre-release builds.
Also, expect changes to take place between this build and RTM -- so all the usual caveats apply (what I'm about to tell you may or may not be in the final release of the product...blah...blah...blah. You've heard this, yes? Yes. Good, let's move on.).
The first seven paragraphs of Paul’s review are mostly all negative comments without specifics. We can't really action on those, unfortunately. Feedback is always welcome -- honest to goodness, we really do want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. Feedback with actionable specifics is even better.
Taken at face value, I suspect his comments are mostly a fear of change -- Media Center is now on its fourth version and Paul probably feels as though it's in a good place; Don't fix what isn't broke, so to speak. I can sympathize. My wife gives me plenty of unvarnished opinions when I bring home builds with new or different features for us to try. Heck, sometimes even I get sick of the level and pace of change (just ask my co-workers).
In one of these seven paragraphs, Paul suggests the overall usability of Media Center in Windows Vista is seriously in doubt. I don't think so, but I'm willing to take a closer look.
For the record, I'm not a usability engineer or a designer. I have spent lots of time with those two teams here in eHome, and some amount of their knowledge has rubbed off on me while working with them in conjunction with partners in Online Spotlight. My goal with this post is to provide more information for the features Paul references so the community can evaluate with more context.
Let's get some apple to apple screenshot comparisons to use as the basis for our review and evaluations. All of these come from the exact same build Paul uses in his review (5231). Click on them to get a larger version.
A basic indicator of usability is the number of steps necessary to accomplish a given task. Generally speaking, it is better for the user to take as few steps as possible to accomplish a task. I'm going to focus on two tasks Paul specifically calls out in his review: Search and Playlists.
For these tests we will start at the same place in the Start Menu...
- 'My Music' in the current released version of Media Center ('Emerald').
- 'Music Library' in the Windows Vista version of Media Center.
I believe the static screenshots above will allow you to count these for yourself...
How many steps does it take to view Playlists?
Current = Select My Music --> Down Button --> Down Button --> Select Playlists (4 Steps)
Media Center for Windows Vista = Right --> Select Playlists (2 Steps)
How many steps does it take to be able to search music?
There are actually two paths...
Current = Select My Music --> Up --> Select Search (3 Steps)
Media Center for Windows Vista = Left --> Select Search (2 Steps)
Current = Select My Music --> Down --> Down --> Down --> Down --> Down --> Select Search (7 Steps)
Media Center for Windows Vista = Right --> Right --> Right --> Select Search (4 Steps)
As you can see, the end user can get to these features with fewer steps in Media Center for Windows Vista, and that's a good thing for usability. These same efficiency gains are present in many other features as well. In fact, the Start Menu itself represents a fairly dramatic step in efficiency since it puts more features at the top level of Media Center. Does that mean the new paradigm is definitely usable? No. The data suggests it's more usable, but this single test is not enough for a definitive statement. Luckily, our usability team has been working interactively with a mix of experienced and non-experienced Media Center users to evaluate these approaches.
With regards to the Music Library feature, Paul states...
'Instead of the simplicity and beauty, we get ... ah... a jumbled mess of album art, arranged horizontally, not vertically (Figure).'
The screenshot Paul references in his review with '(Figure)' might make it appear that way -- but it's missing key metadata which I know should be present. I theorize this is due to...
- The fact this is pre-beta software.
- The machine might not have been setup properly and / or is experiencing issues.
The screenshots I've posted above and below are an accurate reflection of features as presented in build 5231. Based on those, what do you think? Love it or hate it? Why? Leave comments for us to read.
Another way of looking at usability is the ability of the user to easily find and identify items in their library. I will admit this test is more subjective than our first, but I think you will see the goodness we have introduced for the end user. Again, let's take a look at the screenshots above.
I can see more albums at a time...
Current = 12
Windows Vista = 27
I can get more detail (metadata) about those albums...
Current = Album Art, Album Title, Album Artist (3 Items)
Windows Vista = Album Art, Album Title, Album Artist, Number of Tracks, Total Time of Tracks, Album Year (6 Items)
And I have more sorting options at my fingertips (especially nice for those, like Thomas Hawk, with large libraries)...
Current = Album, Artists, Songs, Genres (4 Choices)
Windows Vista = Artist, Artists, Year, Provider, Date Added, Genres, Title, Year, Rating, Composers (10 Choices)
So, the net is I can see 225% more of my library at one time, get 200% more information about each album in my library and sort that library in 250% more ways. And the beautiful thing: None of text or images had to shrink in size to accomplish these improvements -- they are nearly (if not exactly) the same size.
Moving on, Paul calls out 'weird tilting and fading of the album art.' This actually isn't new. We have tilting in the current version of Media Center. For example, with the context sensitive More Information button illustrated here.
It *is* more pronounced or noticeable in this build of Media Center for Windows Vista. The team has been and is taking a close look at the right balance for this visual styling. What you don't see in these static screenshots is the animation from non-tilt to tilt, which provides a ton of context -- it makes much more sense once you experience the animation first hand. For those of you testing build 5231 now, feel free to leave feedback in the comments on the tilting feature -- we will be sure to read.
You don't actually have to select a sorting option with the OK button to accomplish basic sorting. As you navigate the choices left and right Media Center 'auto previews' what the choice looks like in the background. Once you move down from the choice we animate the preview to front and center. You can accomplish richer sorting by selecting the options with the OK button. Again, the animations provide wonderful context for the sorting -- without it, static screenshots only tell half the story.
Here are two examples of those options (sans animations, unfortunately, but hopefully they give you a better picture of the feature).
Example 1: Navigating the default sorting options.
Music Library Default View
I move up to navigate the sorting options to the left and right. The sorting option grows larger and brighter while the library 'tilts' to help me keep track of where focus is moving and prepares to preview the sort.
I navigate right to the artist sorting option. The 'tilted' preview automatically changes.
Here I have navigated down from the sorting option. The tilted preview automatically snaps to front and center, and the artist name grows larger and brighter.
Example 2: Navigating richer sorting options.
Music Library Default View
Here I have navigated up to the sorting options...
...and selected one of them with the remote OK button to get additional sorting options. In this case, I'm going to sort by year.
Here is the view of my music library view after selecting to sort by year.
After reading Paul’s review and my thoughts here, what do you think...?
Are we on the right track, or have things gone horribly awry?
Leave comments for the team to read -- we value your feedback.
Excerpt from the Joe Belfiore open letter circulating around (bold highlight mine)...
"It’s very exciting for me to look around at all the enthusiasm out there for Media Center, and once again I say thank you. There’s something special about the PC industry and the fact that it openly encourages partners of all kinds to innovate and ship creative solutions — it’s hard to keep up with! There’s definitely a buzz within the development team at Microsoft as, every day, posts from blogs are forwarded around our group — maybe something about the next cool new Media Center PC, or the latest speculation or wishes about features in the next year’s upcoming release. (I’m personally a fan of Thomas Hawk and Ian Dixon — thanks for your ideas and suggestions!) We love hearing from all of you and are doing our best to listen and keep the right new features coming."
Two thoughts come to mind:
- I'm glad I work for a company where the General Manager of the team (the head honcho -- my bosses' bosses' boss who manages the entire team of 200+ people in the Media Center product group) chooses to be connected to the community at this level.
- I know Thomas and Ian are too modest to point out the mention from Joe on their own blogs. Thomas and Ian, you guys are stellar and inspire me on a daily basis. Thanks!
Casey Chestnut says 'what i want to know is how does MCE get its interface over to the XBox?'
This is a laymans answer: We ported the Media Center rendering engine to the XBox 360. Instead of using a Remote Desktop / Terminal Server paradigm like we did with MCX v1 we send all of the 'stuff' which defines the UI over the wire to be parsed on the XBox 360. All of the logic (i.e., managed code) stuff stays on the PC. Content (audio and video) is sent out of band and decoded locally on the XBox 360 as well.
First of all, I love his conclusion (I couldn't have said it better myself)...
'...existing XP Media Center Edition 2005 users have a wonderful and free update that gives them new capabilities and better stability and performance. And potential Media Center PC buyers no longer have any reason to hold out. Either way, UR2 will give you the best possible PC-based DVR and digital media experience available today. Highly recommended.'
There are a few inaccuracies in Pauls review though...
Paul --> '...you can still only record two shows at a time, even with four tuner cards installed.'
False. You can do 4 recordings all at the same time. 2 x NTSC and 2 x ATSC while playing back a recorded show (NTSC or ATSC) on the Media Center PC and / or Media Center Extender(s).
Paul --> Microsoft has added a fourth zoom mode, intelligent zoom. In this mode, the edges aren't actually pushed off the side of the screen; instead, the center of the picture is stretched more than the edges”
Actually, it's exactly the opposite. Its stretched LESS in the middle and MORE at the edges.
Paul --> Media Center does a "soft reboot," shutting down and restarting all 6 of its background services (such as those that control TV recording and scheduling).”
False. We only restart ehShell.exe -- all other Media Center services are left untouched. In addition, the conditions in which the restart of ehShell.exe will occur are very, very specific. In a nutshell, the restart happens only if we can guarantee there will be NO user experience impact at all. A simple example is there is no restart if you are listening or watching any content, or recording a show. I can see this feature might become thorny for some -- Ed Bott has already asked 'So what happens if I’m recording a movie from a pay channel that runs from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM?' The answer is your recording is not affected. In fact, end users should never even know this feature is there at all.
Why did it seemingly take us so long to get Emerald (aka 'Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005') in your hands (after all RTM was a couple of months ago)...?
Well, for starters....
• Check out the official press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/oct05/10-14DigitalLifePR.mspx.
• Remember a few months ago when we announced over 2 million sold? Joe Belfiore, in a 'Happy Birthday' open letter to Media Center users, customers and partners, tells us there have been 4 Million Media Center PCs shipped to date! Four major releases in as many years -- who says Microsoft can't ship software?!?!
• Emerald brings several new features to Media Center.
• Emerald sets the stage for you to enjoy a Media Center Extender experience as it should be...
- Every Xbox 360 that ships will have Windows Media Center Extender functionality built in, allowing seamless access to all the digital entertainment stored on a media center PC in any room of the home.
- Xbox 360 will be provide the richest, most hi-fidelity Media Center Extender experience to date (all that groovy, swoopy, 3D goodness).
- We will get high definition content playback on the XBox 360!
• There are four new online resources launching today...
• http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx has gotten a much needed facelift.
• We added a new Games category (including two partners) for the US version of Online Spotlight.
• Our friends in Denmark, Norway and Sweden have their very own Online Spotlight. Our international designers and developers are coming on strong: The Norway Online Spotlight is launching with at least nine (9!) partners and Sweden with at least twelve (12!). By contrast, US Online Spotlight originally launched with only three.
• The following partners launched today in the US version of Online Spotlight...
- MTV Overdrive. Overdrive is MTV’s broadband network, delivering the hottest video content to Media Center PCs. Overdrive provides access to live performances, music videos, artist interviews, never-before-seen footage of MTV shows, the latest news, movie trailers and more. It’s all online and all on demand, now at the touch of a remote control button.
- DISCover. Designed exclusively for Media Center PCs, DISCover’s My Games gives customers access to a wide range of PC games that they can digitally demo, buy and stream. Customers can view an in-depth game guide with screen shots, box art and descriptions for thousands of top games, and can purchase “boxed” games via top online retailers with the ease of a Media Center Edition remote control.
- Game xStream. Game xStream’s now-live gaming-on-demand service for Online Spotlight connects users to its extensive catalog of video game titles from leading game developers, from which they can buy and stream games instantly. Within minutes of pressing the Buy button from a Media Center Edition remote control, gamers can begin playing graphic-intensive games from publishers including Merscom LLC, Global Star Software and Encore Inc.
And several more new experiences will launch later this year or early next...
- mtvU. Through nonstop streaming service that can be watched continuously, or by using unique on-demand capabilities empowering visitors to customize their experience, mtvU’s broadband platform showcases a powerful lineup of original programming serving as a gateway to the latest new music, as well as a source for one-of-a-kind student produced content that will drive and direct the network.
- VH1 VSpot. VSpot is VH1’s new broadband entertainment network that delivers the best video programming on demand to Media Center PCs. VSpot offers thousands of music videos, exclusive performances, artist interviews, live event coverage and behind-the-scenes access. Customers may also watch VH1 shows, movie clips and trailers, and VSpot originals on demand at VSpot.
- Comedy Central. Windows XP Media Center Edition will optimize a soon-to-be-launched broadband channel by providing users with a variety of gateways to access Comedy Central content whether it’s short- and long-form video, audio or text.
- Akimbo. The Akimbo Service will offer Media Center customers more than 5,000 programs from more than 75 partners, including British Broadcasting Corp., National Geographic Society, Discovery Communications Inc. and the Hallmark Channel, as well as hard-to-find specialty offerings such as independent films from IFILM Corp. and Undergroundfilm.org — all available through the Media Center interface. At DigitalLife, Akimbo will be showing for the first time Major League Baseball playoff games delivered the next morning to Akimbo subscribers in a 10-minute condensed version.
- (More) AOL. Building on the availability of its AOL Music on Demand service, AOL will extend additional features to the Media Center PC, including its AOL Pictures digital photo service and AOL Radio Featuring XM.
• Lots more partners announcing stuff over at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/2002/winxpmediacenter/partner.mspx.
• More countries are getting Media Center starting today: Belgium, Turkey, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Taiwan.
• More countries will get a genuine, official Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) by the end of the year (meaning they won't have to hack one in): Belgium, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden.
• We published a revised Software Development Kit available online and offline. You can instantly drill down into the Important Changes to Media Center Edition for the details on the new stuff. Want to be ready for developing in Media Center for Windows Vista? Start here and here. We also published a higher level overview of the SDK (PowerPoint Presentation) which can introduce you to developing for Media Center.
...and that's only a partial list. Listen for all of the news from Digital Life in New York (Matt Goyer is there).
And we aren't slowing down resting on our laurels either: The entire team is now squarely focused on delivering even more goodness in Media Center for Windows Vista. Stay tuned!
Found this over at http://www.jackcheng.com/...
I'll have more to say later about this comparison. BTW, I'm flying down to Silicon Valley today -- anyone want at Apple want to have me over late this evening to chat...?
I've heard rumors of this for over four years now: http://www.apple.com/imac/frontrow.html.
Frankly, I'm underwhelmed -- I really expected Apple to have much more to brag about, especially given their momentum with iPod over the last couple of years. Based on everything I'm seeing, Front Row doesn't even have feature parity with the first version of Media Center released back in October 2002. No hint of a developer platform either -- that's a shame -- I was really looking forward to dusting off my Mac coding skills again.
But don't get me wrong -- I do think this is a good thing. The halls here in Building 50 are buzzing with excitement (and yes, it's positive excitement -- we love this stuff). It's classic Microsoft vs. Apple, and we haven't really had that for a lonnnnnng time, and some of us miss that competition.
So, welcome back Apple, it's good to see you again!
What do you think -- was this a good move for Apple?
This happened a couple of weeks ago so I'm a bit tardy about telling you. Check out the new landing page at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mce. We refactored the page a good bit to help you drill down on all the great resources at MSDN and elsewhere on developing applications for Media Center.
Let me know what you think...
I've got to talk with folks like Tim Sneath more often -- with lot's of Avalon team members it's hard to make the rounds regularly; There are many of them and only one of me until we get the other Program Manager hired. In Build an Avalon Web Browser Application Tim states WBAs are '...perfect for enterprise applications where you don't want to deploy anything to the client (simply browse to http://myserver/myapp.wba) and they'll also be great for really immersive web experiences as Avalon becomes more ubiquitous on the desktop.'
Hey Tim, did you forget developers will be able to create Media Center experiences using Windows Presentation Foundation Web Browser Applications? If you (or others) need a refresher, check out Lot's of Goodness for Media Center Developers at PDC05.
I had the distinct privilege of spending some quality time with Peter Nears, Jason Tsang and one other MVP representing Windows Shell -- all flew in from the Toronto area this evening, but were up for chatting at the Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Seattle tonight. Thanks for the stimulating conversation and the great, honest feedback we have come to expect from such passionate supporters of Microsoft.
So, after reading the latest response from Thomas multiple times I think I've boiled it down to this single statement...
'My points above most of all Charlie revolve not around the IF part of them being developed but the WHEN part of them being developed.'
There are many reasons why a corporation doesn't talk about the 'when' of any feature / product. Here are a few...
- Disclosing information at the wrong time or with too many people can jeopardize intellectual property rights, leading to the inability to capitalize on innovation (and therefore underwrite further innovation).
- Talking prematurely can incorrectly set expectations (i.e. ship dates).
- Loose lips sink ships; Talking about a deal before the deal is done puts the deal at risk.
- They don't know (yet).
- They know, but choose to wait (for marketing, intellectual property reasons, coordination with partners, bandwidth, etc.)
...and I'm sure there are more. I don't think this information is new for most people, and it's certainly not unique to Microsoft. Most people will agree this stuff is common sense (at least I hope they do).
I totally empathize with Thomas, for he is stuck between two very difficult but positive choices...
Option 1: Sign a mutual nondisclosure agreement and have access to information NOT generally known to the public (like answers to 'when'). The flip side: Thomas couldn't say anything to the community about what he knows lest he invoke the wrath of lawyers and / or permanently damage his relationships with Microsoft on a variety of levels. He would know some really cool stuff long before others, but he couldn't *share* what he knows with the community at large until everyone knows.
Option 2: NOT sign a mutual nondisclosure agreement and have access to information generally known to the public (like answers to 'if'). The flip side: Thomas can freely share all that he learns without the worry of invoking the wrath of lawyers. Whoever talks to him does need to worry, though, meaning they might not be as forthcoming. He might get tidbits of information here and there, but largely learns along with the rest of the crowd.
Back over to you Thomas...
Here is your chance to tell us what we can do better to engage the Media Center developer community. If you have a suggestion, leave it as a comment here for all to see.
Thomas ranted, I responded and then Thomas responded to my response.
I love the feedback - Thomas got more specific and less vitriolic. It's gonna take a while for me to digest his latest post. I do hope to respond in the next day or two (or three, four) but it may involve a good bit of 'Tell me you can't tell me...' as Thomas requests.
Initial feedback: There is an extremely fine line when it comes to transparency. I believe if Thomas were in our shoes he would absolutely, positively agree with how transparent we are (or aren't) right now.
Thanks for being so passionate, bold and honest Thomas - we do listen, pay attention, and action upon your feedback and that of others.
For over two years Media Center service, content and application companies and enthusiasts have been working hard to distribute their designed for Media Center applications to the public. Outside of Online Spotlight it’s been tricky for consumers to find these great applications. Folks can search and find software in a variety of places but to date there hasn't been a single place consumers can go to find a breadth and depth of offerings.
Our team is super lucky to have someone like Shelley McIntyre and our marketing team working with Windows Marketplace and CNET to get a program in place so a broad spectrum of companies and enthusiasts can get their applications in front of Media Center consumers.
You can learn all the details from Windows Marketplace For Media Center Applications (Adobe Acrobat PDF).
If you have any questions, leave 'em here in the comments or send an email to email@example.com.
Thomas Hawk is ranting about Media Center in this scathing post. I typically don't respond to this sort of rant since it's fairly typical. I respect Thomas and know this isn't truly his heart speaking. Because of who Thomas is and the fact he *is* one of our 'biggest advocates' I'm going to take the time to give him respect and respond.
Thomas Hawk --> Why does Media Center suck? Well first and foremost they have no HDTV solution. Yes I sound like a broken record here and blame whoever you want for it, but bottom line is they just can't seem to get a deal done when they should have years ago. As households are rapidly adopting cable and satellite freebe offerings, the Media Center PC as a home entertainment device is losing luster.
To be clear, Thomas is bemoaning the fact we don't have native digital cable support in Media Center today, right now. He also doesn't mention we *do* support HDTV via ATSC over the air (OTA) broadcasts and went to great lengths to enable this feature. We haven't been sitting on our laurels twiddling our thumbs -- the ATSC work went a long way in preparing the platform for HD content delivered from a variety of sources in the future.
I'm also surprised Thomas completely ignored and never referenced the Nagravision and Microsoft Announce Agreement to Deliver Innovative Solutions for Digital Pay-TV to Windows Media Center PCs press release, which states...
"Nagravision and Microsoft will work together to enable the development of cost-effective products and services that use both parties’ technologies for the delivery of premium television content to personal computers running the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system and its ecosystem of connected devices, including Xbox 360™ and Portable Media Centers."
...and goes on to say...
"Today at IBC2005, Microsoft and Nagravision are demonstrating the first results of their collaboration: a proof-of-concept device, implemented on Microsoft’s reference design by Digital Keystone Inc. This demo shows CANAL+ Group’s TV programs being securely broadcasted through Nagravision’s conditional access system before being securely “bridged” into Microsoft’s digital rights management (DRM) content protection technology to enable authorized access on Windows Media Center PCs and their ecosystem of connected devices. This Nagravision CA-to-DRM bridge, shown on Nagravision’s booth #1.420, supports current business models and enables quality-perfect, authorized access of premium TV content. It allows network operators to take advantage of the innovation around media consumption on Media Center PCs and their entire ecosystem of connected devices."
Thomas Hawk --> And don't quote me statistics about stronger sales of Media Center PCs than ever. These are just regular old PC sales masked as Media Center PCs. All you have to do is look at the number of units sold without a tuner to get the picture that MCE is being sold as a cheap add on to a regular PC and not as a gateway to the living room where the real long-term power lies.
Cheap shot, Thomas. Tunerless SKUs are actually a good thing on several fronts...
1) Consumer Choice. Who says having only a single option of all the bells and whistles is a good thing for every customer? Why does Honda make a Civic, N2000, Accord, Element, Pilot, CRV, Odyssey, Ridgeline and the entire Acura line? Contrary to popular belief, one size doesn't fit all. Consumers demand choices.
2) Affordability. Eliminating the tuner allows Media Center to be more affordable to the masses and allows for an entire ecosystem of add on products if a consumer decides later on they want to have a TV tuner in the box.
3) Competitive Advantage for Web Driven / Emerging Technologies. Tunerless SKUs of Media Center help advance the value proposition of IP delivered content (including his beloved FlickR).
4) A TV Tuner is just a part of the overall value proposition for Windows and Media Center. Take the TV tuner out of any run of the mill DVR and tell me what you have left?
Thomas Hawk --> Secondly, their music player, Windows Media Player sucks. It simply can't handle my large digital library and although "testing" was supposedly going on to index the WMP database years ago, no solution appears imminent.
Just because you don't see it Right Now doesn't mean we have ignored the feedback and aren't working on the solution. We are making significant investments to improve this experience for all users. Thomas, I guarantee you will be pleased with the results.
Thomas Hawk --> Third, Windows Explorer sucks. With a large digital library I simply cannot effectively copy files or back files up without having disc errors. Large batch copy jobs are super difficult as one little error aborts the whole job.
I routinely copy massive amounts of data around my home network and between discs with nary a problem. I regularly use Norton Ghost to manage incremental backups. Thomas, you might find help more forthcoming if you actually describe the specifics of the problems you encounter rather than ranting (send me a pointer if you have and let's see if we can figure things out). I've been meaning to try the Microsoft SyncToy on multiple file libraries on multiple Media Center PCs at work and in my home to see if it works. If it does, backup just got a whole lot easier for me.
Thomas Hawk --> And what is being done about these things. Probably something, but as far as I'm concerned NOTHING. Because NOTHING is being communicated. Microsoft lives in this secret veiled society where they won't share their development plans with even their biggest advocates.
Do I have an email from Thomas asking about these things? Nope.
Do I have a voicemail from Thomas asking about these issues? No.
Did Thomas ping me via IM about his concerns? Haven't seen one.
Did Thomas Skype me to discuss his feedback? Not yet.
Does Thomas see a pattern here? I hope so.
We disclose stuff about future versions of our products all the time -- but only do it at the proper time. This is not new and unique to Microsoft. Every company with an Intellectual Property play does as well.
Thomas Hawk --> And they've done a bunch of crap with Online Spotlight, but frankly I hate most of that stuff anyways. It has huge potential but the content frankly is not there. Why do I want to go to Cinema Now and download crappy non high def movies? I don't and thus I don't.
CinemaNow has high definition content available -- it may not be current blockbuster movies, but the fact Thomas doesn't know they have taken a step in the right direction is, well, enough said. Sit down and explore AOL Music On Demand, listen to National Public Radio or XM Radio via Media Center and your remote control (these also work on Media Center Extenders). Watch unedited news reel footage at Reuters (their Oddly Enough category is always worth a laugh or two). Surely there is *something* Thomas might like in Online Spotlight if he really took the time to explore. Is it still very early in the development of this paradigm? You betcha, but it isn't crap -- but the content available only gets better (and sooner than you think).
Thomas Hawk --> Throw in that Microsoft is caught between two masters, their Hollywood partners (for god only knows why these are the most hated people in the world) and empowering their end users, and things slow down even more. Message to Microsoft. Nothing would make Hollywood happier than if your entire digital media initiatives were ground to a sharp screeching halt.
Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. Content partners (studios, labels, producers, etc.) own the content you want, and will only make it legally available to you when they feel comfortable about the delivery vehicle. A platform which puts content owners and content consumers together in a mutually agreeable way is our goal. It's actually pretty simple-- no media, no Media Center. We absolutely must collaborate to bring the great content to you in a manner which is compelling, easy and on agreeable terms to all. Personally, I think we are doing a pretty good job of making both sides satisfied. This is a long term play, and we are here for the long haul.
Thomas asked me for an interview a while back, and I gladly accepted. I'm curious why he didn't leverage that earlier positive encounter to touch base again. Thomas, do yourself a favor -- pick up the phone and call me at 425-707-7818. I will always answer or return your call and do what I can to answer your questions. At least I promise you won't feel so crappy about our product or your advocacy of same after talking it over with a friend.
Well, Troy beat me to the punch, but I might as well post anyway. You can get a copy of the PowerPoint deck I used at PDC05 for PRS322 Windows Vista Media Center: Developing for the 10-Foot Interface, a high level introduction to some of the features we are adding to the Media Center platform for Windows Vista.
I also recommend a couple of the other presentations from http://commnet.microsoftpdc.com/content/downloads.aspx for you to get a more complete picture of the development platform for Media Center in Windows Vista...
The Hosted HTML model isn't going away for Media Center developers in Windows Vista, and Michael Wallent's talk helps you decide which is the best approach in PRS200 Choosing the Right Presentation Technology: Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon"), Windows Forms, ASP.NET, IE, and More. Furthermore, the ASP.NET 2.0 team tells you how to get the most out of targeting HTML in PRS312 ASP.NET: Future Directions for Developing Rich Web Applications with Atlas (Part 1) and PRS420 ASP.NET: Future Directions for Developing Rich Web Applications with Atlas (Part 2).
Robert Ingebretson has a must read PRS317 Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon"): Beautiful Code, Beautiful Design - Applications Your Designers Can Work With. Memorize this deck and you will be well prepared for creating wonderful experiences in 2' and 10'. And don't forget his demo deck for the presentation.
PRS324 Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon"): Using Data in Your Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon") Applications: XML, Windows Communications Foundation ("Indigo"), ADO.NET and More will help you wire up the great graphics and UX to the underlying data.
For those of you who want the nitty gritty, check out PRS435 Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon"): Going Under the Hood to Understand the Architecture and PRSL05 Case Study: What We Learned Building Project Max on WinFX are invaluable.
These presentations will give you a great introduction and begin to build your foundation for Media Center design and development in Windows Vista.
And there is still more to come...but I can't talk about it just yet...you're gonna love it...
John G. Spooner: The rise of the Media Center PC may finally be at hand.
The music and video-oriented PCs, which are based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Media Center Edition, are showing signs of life, thanks to efforts by Microsoft and PC makers such as Dell Inc.—which will roll out several new Media Center models later this month—Gateway Inc., and Hewlett-Packard Co.
Read more at Media Center PCs Look to the Future over at www.pcmag.com.
We are showing an XBox360 running Media Center Extender today as part of my presentation PRS322 Windows Vista Media Center: Developing for the 10 Foot Interface. We also talk about the new developer features coming to Media Center in the Windows Vista timeframe.
They keynote is absolutely going to rock this morning. There is an *hilarious* video that most everyone in the audience will relate to their teen years. There are more fantastic demos in this keynote than in years prior with a bunch of serious eye candy developers and designers will love.
Andrew and I will be hanging out in the track lounge after the keynote and this afternoon. Don't forget to come and ask us a great question to win a Media Center keyboard.
Later on this evening, Sean, Andrew and I will be hosting Geek Drinks (Andrew is buying the first round -- we will see if we can talk him into subsequent rounds.) Details are on Sean's blog post Update on Geek Dinner (er...drinks!)
Donate To American Red Cross Hurricane Relief To Enter Raffle for a Copy of Visual Studio 2005
I really love what Ian Dixon is doing -- his show is an invaluable resource for me. I listen to every one he puts out there and if you are a Media Center developer you should as well. The show notes are quite detailed allowing me to instantly review portions of the show after I have listened to it's entirety.
Ian and I spent about 40 minutes together last week chatting about the SDK, programmatic access to the EPG, the Click To Record API and a host of other things. This show goes pretty deep into some of the technical details compared to The .NET Show or Channel9 Part I and Part II videos.
So without further adieu...
The Media Center Show #23
We will be giving away a wireless Media Center Keyboard each day at the Professional Developers Conference 2005.
In order to qualify, you need to...
- Find me or Andrew Adamyk.
- Ask a really great question about developing for Media Center.
- Hand us your business card.
At the end of each day we will randomly pick a winner from the business cards gathered that day. I'll announce the lucky person on my blog each night and the winner can pick up the keyboard from us the next day if they so desire (except for the last -- we will ship that one).
We will be hanging out at PDC all week so catch us anytime by visiting a Track Lounge or attending the Media Center session. If you don't want to rely on running into me purely by chance my official schedule is as follows...
2:30 - 5:30 PM
Track Lounge (Presentation)
2:30 - 6:15 PM
Track Lounge (Presentation)
7:00 - 11:30 PM
The PDC Party at Universal Studios
11:30 AM - 12:45 PM
Room 501 ABC
PRS322 - Windows Vista Media Center: Developing for the 10-Foot Interface
5:30 - 9:00 PM
Ask The Experts
8:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Track Lounge (Presentation)
Hope to see you at PDC...!
Our design team is probably the most humble group of folks I've ever met. They just won a Communication Arts Interactive Annual award for their work on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and have yet to tell a soul as far as I can tell. Shame on them -- this is really cool news.
Communication Arts is the leading trade journal for visual communications. It's the largest design magazine in the world and showcases the top work in graphic design, advertising, illustration, photography and interactive design.
Charlie: Shut up, the camera adds 10 pounds
John: Oh, so how many cameras are actually on you?
Lights, camera, action...
Join myself, John Canning and Michael Creasy in the Microsoft Studios with Robert Hess for The .NET Show featuring Windows XP Media Center Edition. We have some great demos of the Media Center user interface, third party extensibility applications and code walkthroughs by Michael. This show is a great primer if you've been wondering about your developer opporuntities on the Media Center platform
Be sure to check out the hilarious 'Diversionary Tactics' clip in between the show segments. You'll never look at the Channel9 Guy the same way again.
I'm embarking on a fun project this week. I'm going to start coding a Media Center Add In with the following features...
- Background Add In.
- Polls RSS feeds according to an OPML file.
- Retrieves new posts from those RSS feeds.
- Schedules TV recordings based on Click To Record document enclosures in the post.
I've got a couple of reasons...
- I want to get back to C# and managed code. HTML + JScript has been fun, but it's SO last decade.
- This could be an interesting scenario. We've got podcasts and videoblogs, what about a TVLog...?
- This could lead to even more interesting scenarios -- breaking news alerts...?
- Perhaps this could lead to a super-simple podcasting downloader?
- Exercise our SDK documentation for Media Center Add Ins in order to give feedback to our product team.
- Have an ongoing project to discuss here in the blogosphere (to date, most of my posts have been single topics).
I'm off to a great start -- just finished coding an Add In which takes this XML (learn more about the Click To Record Feature)...
<key field="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:ehome:epg:program#title">Star Trek: The Next Generation</key>
...and schedules a recording of a single show via this C# code in an On Demand Add In (learn more starting at About Media Center Add Ins)...
void IAddInEntryPoint.Launch(AddInHost host)
string strClickToRecordXML = string.Empty;
Television objTV = host.Television;
XmlDocument xmlDoc = new XmlDocument();
strClickToRecordXML = xmlDoc.InnerXml;
host.HostControl.Dialog("Completed ScheduleRecording Method Call", "Success", 1, 0, false);
So, I have a couple of questions for the readers of this blog...
- Are there any additional features you might like to see in this Add In?
- Do you have pointers to great documentation on consuming RSS in managed code which might be helpful?
Make your voice heard to our product team -- leave a comment on this post with your feature requests.
[Don't know what our platform is today...? Check out the Windows XP Media Center Edition Software Development Kit (SDK) for more information.]
P.S. Make sure you read the question carefully, noticing the use of the word 'platform.' I am more than happy to pass along consumer oriented feature requests, but my biggest influence is in the development of third party applications which extend Media Center.
P.S.S. Another way to ask the question: If you were to sit down and write an application for use with remote control and viewed on your TV, what developer features would you want or need?
I've been running Windows Vista for two months now as my main desktop at work and it's by far the most astounding OS from Microsoft to date. When I shift back to my Tablet running Windows XP suddenly food has no taste and the world is a dreary shade of gray.
I have Media Center running on Windows Vista.
I have Visual Studio 2005 running on Windows Vista.
I'm compiling apps for Media Center on Windows Vista in Visual Studio 2005.
In a nutshell: If you are a developer for Media Center, you ain't seen nothing yet. You're gonna love it...
Do you want to test your extensibility application for widescreen compatibility without a widescreen monitor?
If yes, then...
- Click Start --> Run.
- Type 'C:\windows\eHome\ehshell.exe /widescreen'.
- Click the OK button.
- Using the mouse, click the 'Restore Down' button to run Media Center in a window rather than full screen.
Voila, a 16:9 implementation of Media Center.
Go to page 4 at http://commnet.microsoftpdc.com/content/sessions.aspx and you will find this little tidbit...
Longhorn Media Center: Developing for the 10-Foot Interface
Learn about the new extensibility model for building 10-foot (TV oriented) applications and services for the Longhorn Media Center Edition. This session includes integration into the product, design elements, and coding of samples using Avalon.
Hope to see you there!
Don't know who Jeff Sandquist is...? Among many other things he is Robert Scobles' boss (do any of us envy him this role????????). Jeff is also largely responsible for Newsgator Media Center Edition (which you can access from the Online Spotlight feature of Windows XP Media Center Edition). Jeff introduced me to Greg Reinacker and convinced me Newsgator was worthy of our time and effort. I hadn't heard of Newsgator at the time, had only recently been introduced to 'the blogosphere' and my cup (actually more of a bucket) was already running over working on some (fairly big name) partners at the time for the launch event.
I'm glad I paused and listened to Jeff and we chose to work with Newsgator. As a result, I now enjoy all Channel9 videos (and a good bit of other *casting content) from the comfort of my couch.
Anywho, Jeff is putting together a blogger meetup. I'll be there, Jeff -- and I'll try to bring a few others along with me.
Just one of the many reasons: Our product is fundamentally changing how people interact with their televisions. Case in point: John Canning (my peer) and Andrew Adamyk (our boss) were in Europe this past week meeting up with Media Center partners. As Andrew related...
We were doing internal training in Stockholm for subsidiary program management and in the morning John was demonstrating Media Center. On his machine he had installed a Media Center Add In which allows user to see news alerts within Media Center. In the middle of the demo an alert popped up saying "multiple explosions reported in London." We all looked at each other and said - wow, what strange test data to use for an application. But then, after scrabbling around on different web sites, we realized we were seeing a real news alert…
It didn't matter where John was in Media Center (Music, Pictures, DVD, TV, Online Spotlight, etc.) -- he got an alert with important news -- doubly important for Andrew who is from the UK and has family / friends in London.
And here is the *really* exciting part: I was pondering John and Andrews experience today and realized it is totally possible to create a Media Center Add In which embraces and extends an Emergency Alert System. The EAS today in the United States relies on the user listening to a live radio broadcast or watching live TV. In many DVR equipped homes it can be rare for people to watch live TV (I even hear of some folks who ONLY watch recorded TV and forego all live events). With Media Center it is possible to extend this important public safety system so those listening to personal music, watching a slideshow, playing a DVD, watching home movies or recorded (time shifted) TV -- in any room of the house with a TV. Put another way, we have a platform which can be leveraged to alert people of important (and potentially life threatening events) in an ever increasing 'on demand' world where real time content is no longer the norm.
I'll go into work from now on thinking *way* differently about our platform. It's no longer just about great digital media experiences alone. It's about doing our part to help keep friends and family safe.
Michael Earls, author of An Introduction to Developing Software for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and Building .NET Add-Ins for Windows Media Center Edition has apparently given up on Media Center according to his post this morning.
But I don't think he has really convinced himself to do so, based on some of the kudos he gives in the rant...
"...the PC next to my television is exactly what I dreamed it would be - a way to record multiple television shows and maintain them for me, a way to listen to music, and a killer arcade machine..."
"The Media Center has worked great for recording television..."
...and the fact the root cause of his issues have nothing to do with Media Center itself...
"...all of the various drivers and software DVD decoders have caused me great pain..."
"...the problems I'm having with my machine have to do with the video and audio drivers..."
And I can't really believe as a developer he wants us to create yet another developer limiting (or downright unfriendly) set top box -- that would pretty much end his ability to extend Media Center (like his Yahoo example).
Michael, I'm happy to help you get the decoder and driver issues resolved...
The author of Fun with DVR-MS is back with another fantastic article about developing Media Center Add-Ins.
Stephen Toub discusses writing background add-ins for Windows XP Media Center 2005, and demonstrates how to write an add-in that allows a user to enter a time code on the remote control, causing Media Center to jump to that location in the current media playback.
The article also includes a basic Hello World providing a foundation upon which you can build other Media Center Add-Ins.
Check out Time Travel with Windows XP Media Center.
Many thanks for Ian Dixon for putting together this podcast, and special kudos to Richard Cardran and Mike Petrusis of Zetools for coming along for the ride. It was fun -- let's do it again sometime Ian.
Lot's of great positions here in Windows eHome, including this one working on my team engaging with partners worldwide (note: I'm not the hiring manager .
Program Manager on eHome Services Team
Check out this search of all Windows eHome opportunities -- wow -- that's 30 results today with 'ehome' in the title or description!
Reading Thomas Hawk tonight and notice his post referring to The Green Button who currently has a thread with the title Media Center Convention!!!
We've had geek dinners mostly about Media Center (most recently Sean hosted one with Thomas in San Francisco and I've been to a couple here in the Seattle area, most recently with Michael Creasy).
Me and my colleagues here on the Windows XP Media Center Edition Services Partner Team will be doing a few things at the 2005 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this coming Spetember 2005. Why don't we do the mother of all Media Center Geek dinners there? Heck, why don't we do a Media Center Geek Day either before, during or after PDC?
Thoughts? Interest? Should we (Microsoft + Others) begin to put this together...?
Post your comments and let's see if there is enough ground roots interest to make it happen.
Lots of great news today!
Today we announced that Windows XP Media Center Edition will be available in 20 new markets this year. Check out the list...
Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Turkey.
The official press release is located here.
We also launched the Australian version of Online Spotlight today featuring two partners: GameArena and KMS Software (screenshots below). More are coming soon!
Heard about this via Brian Bailey of Leave It Behind
"One of the biggest problems in delivering a website, and yet probably the least talked and written about, is how to decide, specify, and communicate just what, exactly, is it that we’re going to build, and why. What problem are we solving? Who needs it? What’s this site for, anyway?"
Thus starts the first of two great articles on how to make sure what you build will meet the need of your target audience. We leverage similar concepts in Windows eHome to drive feature requirements. These are great reads for folks designing or developing for Media Center.
Use Cases Part I: What’s the Problem?
Use Cases Part II: Taming Scope
I remember WinBook back from pre-Windows 95 days offering value priced laptops. Looks like they are being quite aggressive in this market. I had the good fortune of seeing this living room form factor Media Center PC this morning -- very nice, and with room for expansion (at least 3 PCI slots were free).
30" Wide Screen LCD-TV
• HD Tuner required for HDTV reception (Not Included)
• 1280 x 768 WXGA resolution
• 15:9 Wide-Screen Aspect Ratio
• Ultrathin 4.25" deep without base
• 33.51 lbs.
• 600:1 Contrast Ratio
• Wide, 170° viewing angle
• Built-in Speakers (10W + 10W)
• Picture in Picture (PIP)
• Closed Captioning
• Removable base with VESA Compliant Mounting points
• Composite, Component & S-Video Input Ports
• Ports are conveniently located on both sides
PowerSpec® MCE 410
• Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 530 with HT Technology
(3GHz, 800MHz FSB, 1MB Cache)
• Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005
• 512MB PC3200 DDR RAM
• 160 GB SATA Hard Drive
• 16X Dual Layer DVD±R/RW Burner
• ATI Radeon X300LS with 64MB DDR SDRAM
• NTSC TV tuner with pause, replay & programmable
record capabilities, FM Tuner
• 7 in 1 Media Card Reader
• Wireless Remote
• Keyboard & Mouse
• 1 Year On-Site Warranty
and I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Thomas Hawk and he posted the first of two parts yesterday -- check it out at http://thomashawk.com/
[The promised first Media Center post here at my new home, blog.retrosight.com]
One of the most frequent conversations I have with teams developing for Windows XP Media Center Edition starts off like this...
'I've already got a Windows XP personal computer that's fairly new and powerful. Where do I get the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system, what additional hardware do I need, and how do I go about getting it all setup.'
...and then we go back and forth about all the pieces and parts you need to coordinate.
I finally sat down and wrote it all out...
The Windows Media Player 10 License Backup And Restore document illustrates how to make sure you archive the licenses for media content on your computer BEFORE you wipe the hard disk clean to install Windows XP Media Center Edition. It also shows how to restore those licenses post-installation. Use this document in addition to your regular work backup paradigm.
The Display Adapter Replacement And TV Tuner Addition document will guide you through the general steps of swapping out the display adapter (sometimes referred to as a graphics card) and adding your choice of a TV tuner. Media Center has very specific guidelines for both and some OEM enterprise SKUs don't come with compatible hardware making these steps inevitable.
Once of the best things you can do as a developer is separate your operating system, applications and beta software from the products of your work (source code, testing, documents, etc.). Adding A Hard Disk Drive gives you an outline of how to add a second hard drive to accomplish this task as well as provide invaluable backup and storage space for digital media files.
And finally the Windows XP Media Center 2005 Setup Instructions guide you step by step from ‘Press any key to boot from CD…’ to 'Launch Media Center with the remote control by pressing the Green Button.'
These documents comprise 100+ steps illustrated with actual screenshots and handy tips to make the installation go as smoothly as possible.