We created Veronicas Radio as a demo for one of the Windows Media Center Mix 06 talks to show off the flexibility of the new UI framework (Media Center Markup Language) we had in the works for Windows Vista. It was eventually cut from the talk because we created the Q sample application (a podcast client) which was much more feature rich.
Little historical fact: The experience is so named because Veronica Law, a Program Manager at the time with the Windows Media Center team requested we create a way to listen to a couple of internet radio stations -- so it was literally "Veronicas' radio" -- and the name stuck.
We made this application available for a short time to those who wanted to install using a command line interface (in other words, not very user friendly). Basically, it's a mash up of a couple of samples we would later publish in the Windows Media Center SDK -- specifically FunHelix.mcml and ObjectModelMediaCenterEnvironmentPlayMediaAudio.mcml in the Windows 7 version if you want to follow along.
A fan of Windows Media Center recently emailed me…
"I have Vista Media Center [upgraded from XP] and have recently been clearing out programs I no longer use. One I did use [and loved the look and style of] was Veronicas Radio. However, it no longer works. I think the website which was hosting the associated files was the The Media Center Sandbox pages but the page displayed in the .xml file no longer exists."
In response I dusted off and modified the markup, updated some of the radio stations (including KIRO FM 97.3 to be able to listen to Seattle Sounders FC soccer games), deployed to my web server and created an installer. This applet works for both Windows Vista and Windows 7 and is a web application – the installer only registers the URL with Windows Media Center.
I also remembered a small applet we thought about shipping within the Extras Library for Windows 7 called Time + Date but ultimately cut due to time constraints. This was inspired by the memory of my parents calling a local telephone number (using a rotary phone no less) to get the current time and temperature.
The screen shot shows it running with the Sanskrit language selected in Windows and is another good example of a simple copy+paste from SDK samples (RulesChanged.mcml, TransformersDateTimeTransformer.mcml and ObjectModelMediaCenterBackgroundModes.mcml) to come up with something fairly useful. This applet works with only Windows 7 and like Veronicas Radio is a web application.
In the process of getting these experiences out there I began to remember some of things we wanted to do like the 5.x releases of the SDK back in 2007. It has been nearly a year since I ended my involvement with Windows Media Center so thought it fitting to celebrate that wonderful product and platform by putting a small package of things together for developers which echoes some of those post shipping plans. It’s a sort of curtain call I’m referring to as the ‘Windows Media Center SDK for Windows 7 Addendum’ although it’s not officially from Microsoft.
Included in the zip file is…
- A couple of new and updated loose MCML samples (mostly to fix up the URLs to the defunct play.mediacentersandbox.com).
- Source code for the Sample Explorer application you find in the Extras Library after installing the SDK as well as the desktop browsing tool. This is a good example of one approach for creating a testing / automation framework for your own application.
- Source code for Animation Explorer and Preview Tool Launcher desktop tools. The Preview Tool actually has a pretty robust automation model itself and this source shows you how to take full advantage for your own authoring tools.
- Templates and source code for the Visual Studio 2008 templates included with the SDK. Follow the instructions in Readme.txt for use with Visual Studio 2010.
- Web Application Installer Template used to create the installers for the above applets. They are fully compatible with the InstallApplication Method in Windows 7 and can be used to craft installers for http://madeformediacenter.com/m4mc/.
- You can dig into the readme for more details on these resources.
At the geek dinner the other night and in a subsequent conversation with Scott Hanselman it was noted that many people probably have Windows Media Center but don't realize they do. If you have Windows Home Premium or Windows Ultimate then Windows Media Center is ready and waiting for you to give it a try. If you didn't get a tuner with yours, Adam Pash has a post over on LifeHacker titled Turn Your Windows PC into a Media Center Powerhouse On the Cheap which has some details on how to remedy -- and the comments are filled with good information as well.
Edit: Adding links to Apple Hot News: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/ and RSS http://images.apple.com/main/rss/hotnews/hotnews.rss.
I subscribe to the Apple Hot News RSS feed. It's clearly biased, as any official corporate public relations web site is going to be. I think they let one slip through the censors. I'm going to copy it here because I'm willing to bet it will be taken down as soon as someone realizes what they are saying:
Vista blazes when running under Boot Camp on a Mac
“If you install Boot Camp on a well-equipped Mac model, it can become a blazing fast Vista computer.” That’s what Walter Mossberg (Wall Street Journal) concluded after installing Vista and Boot Camp on a new iMac. Mossberg tested the iMac’s performance “using Vista’s built-in Windows Experience Index, a rating system that goes from 1 to 5.9, with scores above 3.0 generally required for full, quick performance. My iMac scored a 5.0, the best score of any consumer Vista machine I have tested.” That score, he remarks, is “very impressive for a computer that wasn’t designed with Vista in mind.” [Aug 23, 2007]
That first sentence *could* imply that any other operating installed on the Mac makes it not so 'blazing fast' by comparison.
Seriously, if the MacOS is all that why even bother installing another operating system. Oh, what? You want a blazing fast computer? Then install Windows Vista on that MacBook (Pro) and you'll have your wish. Of course, some folks will point out Mossberg limited it to comparisons with 'Vista' computers. Lots of people will miss that distinction as I did when I first read this pull quote.
Furthermore, what Apple is reinforcing is the concept of the Mac being the best Windows Vista machine out there. If true, that backs up my assertion that the Mac hardware is gaining personal computer market share directly as a result of the fact it is a Windows machine, capable of running the best darn operating system in the world: Windows Vista. Yeah, there is a Halo Effect -- it's called 'we do Windows and do it great!'
I made a pretty bad mistake the other day with a mailbag post while trying to reach out to the Windows Media Center online community of grass root supporters -- those early adopters who constantly (and rightfully) push us to deliver more value. I took some information which was already public knowledge
and connected dots which -- honestly -- weren't there to connect. It was a mistake on my part to infer any sort of timeframe schedule going forward. Doing so set the wrong expectations for my readers and opened up a can of speculation and question worms which were way off base. Above all, I pride myself on being a source you can trust -- and the other day I let you down -- I’ll try not to do that again. [Note to self: Read The Corporate Weblog Manifesto
After reading about his poor experience working with the release candidate of Windows Vista at the last WinHEC I contacted Brier and offered to provide a Windows Media Center PC to take for a spin. Using computers prepped for events like WinHEC are always a dicey proposition -- most of the time they are multi-purpose and have therefore been touched by multiple folks with differing goals (which might not be compatible) before reaching the show floor. Throw in a beta OS and -- well -- you can almost guarantee the outcome isn't going to be very positive. Brier politely declined to take me up on the offer at that time. (Never was sure why, but my best guess was obviated with his article today.)
Brier contacted me last week via email with a note invoking that prior conversation and noting he 'ended up borrowing a TouchSmart from HP and swapped it for my living room TV for a few months' and was preparing an article on his experiences which he published today. I'll admit I literally chuckled out loud when I read his email -- the TouchSmart computer was designed for the kitchen, not the living room, so my initial reaction was 'no good can come from this'. What's a good analogy here...? Perhaps buying some great teak outdoor patio furniture and putting it in your family room is a good one. Needless to say I was interested in hearing about his experiences for better or worse so I responded and we had a great conversation.
Some thoughts after reading his article...
1) It sure would be nice if a journalist would review a Windows Media Center system as our team envisions. Let us hear about your environment, and then help you select a combination of hardware which addresses your needs and wishes. Some might say this would affect the integrity of the writer. I don't think so -- as long as the writer is up front about the assistance he got from Microsoft.
2) It would be great if the major OEMs were more selective of 'value add' software they choose to place on the machine (see Briers follow up posted this afternoon). Unfortunately Briers experience with preinstalled stuff is the norm -- sadly. But for a very few exceptions, whenever I help family and friends purchase a new computer I have it delivered to my house first where I perform a clean install of the operating system to avoid this stuff. Some folks, particularly on our OEM team, might go nuts when they read this, since OEMs are our bread and butter. Wake up -- this stuff degrades the user experience far too much. I know, sounds strange coming from a platform guy -- but this stuff *has* to get better folks -- plain and simple. Build GREAT software on the platform -- or choose NOT to ship the software.
3) My comment to Brier "I would really like for somebody to do a follow-up or a couple of follow-ups — they seem to put these great things out there, but there's not a version 2 or a version 3" was in the context of driving the costs down on great form factors for the living room. We've already got some great boxes designed as dedicated machines for your stereo stack -- but unfortunately the price points remain fairly high on them. It is interesting to note that for $400 less than the cost of the TouchSmart you can have an HP m7790e for the home office with almost exactly the same specs for the internals (processor, memory, etc.) plus an XBox 360 (with built in Media Center Extender) and a brand new high quality wired + wireless router (total for all of that is $1,400 as priced tonight, compared to $1,800 for the TouchSmart). More bang. Less buck.
Oh, and the offer still stands, Brier -- aren't you curious to see how well this stuff works as originally designed?
[Kinda like the way that title rhymes. Anywho...]
I just love the way Ed Bott seems to be able to cut through all the hyperbole and bring some reality to the conversation. As usual, he is able to put the whole Windows Vista adoption rate into perspective. Check out his Slow start for Vista? So what else is new?
I've remained silent about Thomas moving most of his computing to the Mac simply because I was so very disappointed to lose him as a resource to make Windows Media Center a better experience. I was pretty amazed to see him so quickly jump on the 'Get a Mac' bandwagon with Chris' latest post given (1) a majority of his problems with Windows at the time he 'switched' seemed to stem from his chosen OEM and (2) as far as I know he doesn't have a ton of experience with Windows Vista to objectively compare it to MacOS. In his defense, he might have a ton of experience with Windows Vista but hasn't posted about it (yet).
For the record, Thomas commands my respect with regards to his computing experiences.
But today, he lost some of his shine with me -- I was very disappointed by the way he ended this post today.
[This is probably the first of a series of posts...]
I've been falling in love with Windows all over again recently with Windows Vista.
While creating the Diamond SDK we had to edit the file redistribution list heavily because we added a ton of new resources. See C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Media Center\v5.0\License\redist.txt for this -- it tells you what files we give you permission as a developer to redistribute in some form or fashion with your apps.
To generate this list, I installed a release candidate of the SDK and pulled out one of my rarely used, but favorite tools to enumerate the files and folders exactly as they appear in the file system post-install: FileGrab. When you drop files from Explorer onto the FileGrab window, you get a list of filenames, instead of the files' contents. You can save the list to disk, print it, or copy it to the Clipboard for pasting into another application. View options let you choose which file characteristics (such as date, size, or attributes) to include with the filenames.
FileGrab was created by Michael Mefford at PC Magazine...
...for Windows 95.
I have run it on every version Microsoft has shipped since -- including Windows Vista.
This is one of the hallmark features for which I consistently rank Windows above all other operating systems I've used over the years with each subsequent release (which would include MacOS, Linux, Solaris and BeOS among others): Its ability to run the software I like to use even if it was written light years ago in computing time.
FileGrab has worked great for me the last 10 years. As with any software though, eventually, at some point, it can be improved. While FileGrab has always met the need, each time I leveraged there were always a few improvements I would have made for my personal use. For example...
It has more features than I personally need -- extended file attributes, the ability to print the enumerated list as a couple of examples.
A feature missing which I always yearned for -- the ability to enumerate files or folders or both during a drag and drop operation and denote folders with a trailing slash ('\').
A mildly annoying feature I would call a 'bug' today that, at the time it was created, could certainly have been a limitation of the underlying platform -- a fixed length (number of characters) for the file name which resulted in unecessary white space in the text.
So, while on a recent vacation I finalized a new tool inspired by FileGrab called FileAndPath to address these issues. When you drop files from Windows Explorer onto the FileAndPath window, you get the following at the time of the operation...
A list of file names or folder names or both.
Full path or file / folder name only.
An optional trailing slash ('\') added to folder names.
The options for the generated list are limited to saving to disk or copying to the clipboard.
So, take your pick -- both tools (though written ten years apart) run just fine on Windows Vista.
Pete and others in the comments bring up some good questions over on the Why Our Look & Feel Isn't Available To Applications post. My response warrants a broader distribution than a comment in reply.
At Windows Vista launch (actually, probably at CES 07) you will see at least one example of 'what people want' which could not be accomplished solely with our look and feel. Again, those partners would not have wanted to adopt our brand, and I would have personally HATED to see them do so. I'll try to remember to post 'why' when those are made public. It's fairly easy to envision the kinds and types of apps which could be built with our look and feel in mind, and then build the platform to just accomplish those. But thats very limiting and, frankly, not very much of a challenge. It also doesn't 'push the envelope' which, in some respects, a platform needs to allow people to do. Also, one of the guiding principles for our platform is to not lock the entire world into our assumptions about what types of apps are wanted. We want to enable people to build things we can't envision. Just FWIW.
And, as many of you have noted, you can reference Microsoft DLLs and use resources straight out of them. Luckily most of you also note this is not supported, might violate some EULA along the way and (most importantly) may very well not work in later versions, etc.
Feel free to use those. Seriously. Party on. Go crazy. Knock yourself out.
But do understand we never tested, planned, scoped or have any plans to test app compatibility for this approach. It simply will not happen. Also note these resources are intended for internal Microsoft consumption only and we are free to change them at any time, without letting you know. Development work using this approach isn't valuable to us, so we will tend to ignore your feedback as it doesn't help further the platform. Also, I feel compelled to tell you there are things on the horizon for vNext which would make me personally shy away from using them. Yeah, I know, it sounds like I'm trying to use scare tactics. I'm not trying to do so -- I'm merely hoping to avoid having to come back later and say 'I told you so...' because someone is screaming 'Microsoft broke my app!' when they should have known better. Of course, now that I've posted this, I've told you so.
Long story short: If you don't see it documented (editorial or code sample) in the SDK but you think it's still a valid, long term approach: Post a question to http://discuss.mediacentersandbox.com or (IF you have already posted to the discussion group) drop me an email.
(How many of you have parents who believe email exists solely as a big ol' chain letter distribution system? Every once in a while a gem slips through just barely worthy of broader distribution. I got one from my mother this morning which fit the bill. Being from the south, I made a few 'enhancements' to be more relative to today. Enjoy! -- but please do not forward <-- wasted breath.)
It has come to our attention that a few beta copies of Windows Vista Southern Edition RC2 may have accidentally been shipped outside of the south.
If you have one of these, you may need help understanding the commands. Windows Vista Southern Edition may be recognized by the unique opening screen. It reads: Winders Vista, with a background picture of Waylon and Willie superimposed on a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Please also note:
The Recycle Bin is labeled "Outhouse"
My Computer is called "This Dern Contraption"
Dial Up Networking is called "Good Ol' Boys"
Control Panel is known as "The Dashboard"
Hard Drive is referred to as "4-Wheel Drive"
CD and DVDs are "Them little ol' plastic frisbee thangs"
Instead of an error message, "Duct Tape" pops up.
Changes in Terminology in Windows Vista Southern Edition:
Find..............hunt fer it
Go to............over yonder
Help..............hep me out here
Programs.........stuff at duz stuff
Documents........stuff ah done did
Also note that Windows Vista Southern Edition does not recognize capital letters or punctuation marks.
Some programs that are exclusive to Winders Vista:
Tiperiter.........a word processing program
Colerin' Book.................a graphics program
Inner-net....................Internet Explorer 7.0
Pitchers .......................a graphics viewer
Bubba Tube....................Windows Media Center
We regret any inconvenience it may have caused. If you received a copy of Windows Vista Southern Edition, you may return it to Microsoft for a replacement version: Windows Vista Home Premium Ultimate Redneck Edition (codenamed 'Hee Haw').
I hope this helps all y'all!
Get er done!
I thought this video from on10.net was pretty cool -- check it out: http://on10.net/Blogs/TheShow/6849/
I wonder if you could expand this out to a Windows Media Center client for participation -- I bet execs would absolutely love that type of feature.
I recorded this on Sunday night and got around to narrating this evening. Enjoy...
Chris and I have been having an offline, private email chat today -- all of it good discussion -- I'll leave it up to him to share what he wishes from that exchange of thoughts. Truly, thanks for engaging, Chris, both publicly and privately -- and pushing us on these issues. Chris has also been posting comments both here and here. He still can't bring himself to accept the challenge (yet). Rather, he wants to claim the following...
"We're comparing apples and oranges, discussing different qualities of each, and you're wanting me to put an orange up against your apple."
Nice subtle inflection point, by the way, comparing your Linux orange with my Windows apple. (I caught the 'wink', so perhaps not too subtle.) If I buy into this statement I would be de facto conceding Mac OS X is better than Windows Vista (or even Windows XP) -- which it isn't (in my opinion). But I digress.
Right before that statement Chris compares and contrasts the features quite boldly:
"When I rave about XGL, it's because of what it's doing - and how it does what it does. Nothing even comes close to that in Windows Vista - in pure features or implementation. If there's a challenge (in my mind), it's already been settled. Vista's new Win+Tab feature vs. the XGL shortcuts in a Linux DE."
In my way of thinking, you can't have it both ways. Either we can compare these things, or we can't. If we can't, then don't.
So, while he is deciding on whether to accept the challenge: I installed SUSE 10.1 tonight. I have *only* installed (accepting all defaults except for prompts such as user name and password stuff) and booted to the desktop -- then turned off the machine. I learned some things (you can't help but learn if you choose to install) which I will share at a later date.
Chris, you better accept (or decline) fast -- while I'm still relatively ignorant.
P.S. Hurry -- I'm downloading the Mandriva ISO now...!
Update: Chris continues the talk, but no walk yet. He added a response elsewhere: http://channels.lockergnome.com/windows/archives/20060911_windows_vista_thoughts.phtml but curiously still has not accepted the challenge.
In The Windows Vista Challenge Chris responds to my challenge, but noticeably does not (yet) accept the challenge. He asks everyone to go read John Naughton. The quote he pulls from John includes the following:
"And yet while Microsoft engineers were trudging through their death march, the open source community shipped a series of major upgrades to the Linux operating system. How can hackers, scattered across the globe, working for no pay, linked only by the net and shared values, apparently outperform the smartest software company on the planet?"
And then Chris goes on to make a few more points in support of this assetion by John and summarizes with this:
"There is no perfect operating system, and I’m certainly not suggesting that Linux and/or OS X are totally teh shiz. What I am saying, however, is that as far as cohesive, compelling user experiences go - I believe that Vista’s Aero fails (on the whole)."
But he seems to indicate with Linux + XGL you do get 'the shiz'...
'You can operate an XGL desktop perfectly without having to upgrade your video card first. To add insult to injury, XGL sports infinitely better (and reasonably more) eye candy than Aero does. Windows Vista is hardware hungry, no doubt - and I’m challenging Microsoft’s assertion that Aero is a “breakthrough user experience.”'
'XGL, on the other hand, is breakthrough...'
So, if Linux really is outperforming Windows, and XGL really is that breakthrough, this challenge should be an absolute walk in the park for Chris. Come on, Chris -- put your money (figuratively speaking) where your mouth is and accept the challenge. It totally works for me if you want to use Mandriva Linux 2007 RC1 instead of SUSE 10.1.
[ Changed title -- first one was kinda / sorta over the top all by itself -- let my emotions peek through ]
Normally, I find Chris Pirillo's blog an enjoyable read, but not lately. It's tough hearing you and teammates esentially being called a bunch of idiots every time you read his posts as of late. OK, he did have one semi-positive post here, but still couldn't find it in his heart to write something totally positive -- note the twist of the knife in the last post. He's got a serious bug up the ole wazoo in regards to Windows Vista, and the cream the doctor prescribed doesn't seem to be easing his discomfort.
His pointing to XGL running on Linux was seriously laughable, though. I understand Chris wants to make a point about the UI / user experience in Windows Vista, but it seems to me you have to look at the entire user experience, starting with installation. I'm downloading the distro identified by Wikipedia which ships XGL as a "a non-default in one major Linux distribution, SUSE 10.1". (I'm not clear whether the DVD ISO contains XGL -- we will have to see. I and might have to go with the Internet install which 'contains all packaged software for SUSE Linux'.)
Let's have a head to head competition on identical hardware, Chris. Windows Vista RC1 (Beta Software) vs. SUSE Linux 10.1 (Released Software).
You and Ponzi are even invited over to the house (Nancy can cook y'all some good North Carolina i.e., southern cooking the likes of which you can't find much of, if any, here in Seattle.) I'll even let you run the Linux install, just so nobody can claim I stacked the deck against you.
Up to the challenge...?
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!
Francis Hogle (Development Manager for the Windows Media Center team) is back with the second of his four part series which explains how the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer works in greater detail. Check it out...
A Quick Peek Under the Hood - Part Two of Four
I'm LOVING Office 12, especially Microsoft Access (long time fan, have used since Access 1.0 -- no, really). And things are running pretty darn solid. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to the faint of heart, but I'm not being blocked from accomplishing any work -- and in a couple of ways I can already see how productivity will get a boost with the combination of Windows Vista + Office 12.
I don't mean to sound like a PR person here -- we still do have a significant amount of work left to accomplish -- but things are *definitely* coming together.
Heck, I might just go nuts tonight and install Adobe Creative Suite (v1) to see what happens.
Update: I just showed my wife Microsoft Word 12. Her comment right off the bat: 'It looks like space, the final frontier'. That really cracked me up (and made me think we are *really* on the right track).
Update 2: Adobe Photoshop runs like a champ without skipping a beat.
I've been watching the buzz go around from the screenshots I posted the other day (here). One thing I forgot to note in the post is the desktop wallpaper image (leaves with water droplets on them) was taken by yours truly while on a hike at Deception Falls. It's not shipping with Windows Vista.
But I've seen several comments where folks want this image for their own desktop -- happy to oblige.
Just leave a comment here with your native resolution and I'll crop the image as appropriate and post for folks to download and use.
Update: Here they are -- note these are barely compressed -- I like my desktop backgrounds very sharp, crisp and clean. For best results in Windows Vista, make sure you use the proper image for your native resolution and select the 'Fit to screen' positioning option in the for the Desktop Background control panel.
1280 x 800 (2.85 MB) | 1280 x 1024 (3.62 MB) | 1366 x 768 (1.75 MB) | 1680 x 1050 (4.64 MB) | 1600 x 1200 (5.1 MB) | 1920 x 1200 (5.92 MB)
If you are running the February CTP Refresh (5342) use this image as your Desktop Background, take a screenshot of your desktop and post to your blog with a permalink back here -- it will be fun to see how folks configure their desktops in Windows Vista (and how far around the world the image goes).
Now that I have your attention, and before you read on, take a moment to go read 'Vista is a train wreck' over at the Crazy Time Go! blog in it's entirety. Mart posted a comment on my post If the MacOS is so great, why do I need Windows...? which got my attention. So I checked out his blog and was surprised at what I found.
Mart really takes us to task over the new Windows Vista user interface...
"Windows users, your life is about to get a whole lot worse. This is something I've been meaning to comment on for a little while: Is it just me, or does every "new, improved" release of Windows actually increase the complexity, confusion and frustration of the user experience? Here are a few illustrations of what I'm talking about:"
...and then uses some really poor examples to back up his assertions. For the record, all of his screenshots are valid -- you can actually make Windows Vista look like this if you so choose -- but it's not how we ship Windows Vista. That is to say, Marts screenshots are not illustrative of the true out-of-the-box, typical end user experience. This post contains what the user will typically see the first time they use Windows Vista (with the usual caveats these are screenshots from the beta of Windows Vista - final version might be different).
Mart starts with the Windows Vista Start menu...
"This thing takes up fully a third of the screen, and it's full of mind-boggling teeny-weeny text... buttons, forms... look at all the information I have to sort through in order to find what I want."
Yes, it does take up about a third of the screen (at 1024x768) when the end user clicks the Start button -- that's how it's designed -- you can't use what you can't see. Click the Start button again and it folds nicely away out of view.
As far as 'mind-boggling teeny-weeny text... buttons, forms' is concerned, Marts screenshot shows the expanded 'All Programs' view -- here is the default view -- notice the simplicity.
With regards to his statement '...look at all the information I have to sort through in order to find what I want.' Well, you don't have to wade through all of the items in the expanded 'All Programs' view if you don't want to -- that's what the Search box is for. As an example, let's say I wanted to find the calculator, I would start typing 'calculator' and this is what I would see...
Mart on the usable desktop space...
"Supersized taskbar and giant sidebar clutter my workspace with seldom-used information, and leave me maybe 80% of my screen for actual work."
His screenshot shows a Windows Taskbar which has been expanded to double the normal size by the user and he assumes the Windows Sidebar takes up application space (which it doesn't by default). Here is a screenshot of Notepad running and taking up almost the entire desktop -- note Windows Sidebar is still there underneath.
He then makes a comparison of the Windows Vista desktop with the MacOS desktop. Here is the screenshot he should have used with the Windows Taskbar moved to the top of the desktop and the Windows Sidebar hidden by double-clicking the Task Tray applet (both easily accomplished by the end user).
(Aside: I would be interested to know exactly what resolution Mart was running when he took the screenshot of the MacOS desktop so we can really compare apples to apples -- I'm pretty sure he is running higher than 1024x768.)
On Internet Explorer Mart says...
"Why there is all this horrible visual complexity right at the top of every single browser window, that I can never get rid of?"
At this point I have to stop and ask if Mart is basing his comments on his actual personal use of Windows Vista, or merely on static screenshots? His screenshots show optional features which have been enabled by the end user within Internet Explorer.
Here is the screenshot I would have liked to seen Mart use for Internet Explorer...
In my opinion it doesn't have much visual clutter out of the box -- certainly way less than Internet Explorer 6 and earlier.
Mart on the Network Settings properties...
"Not much change there - well, except I hope my Grandma never calls me up and tells me her Link-Layer Topology Discovery Mapper I/O Driver broke."
Mart makes it seem really easy to get to this property page -- but it's not. It's there if an advanced user or technical support needs this level of resources. Here are all the hoops Mart had to use to finally arrive at the Network Settings properties...
1) Click the Start button on the Windows Vista desktop.
2) Select Control Panel.
3) Select 'View network status and tasks' to launch the Network Center > Status page.
4) Select 'View status' in the Network details section.
5) The Local Area Connection Status Property Page appears.
6) Click the Properties button in the Activity section.
7) Click the Continue button in the User Account Control dialog.
8) The Local Area Connection Properties page appears.
Way before then I'm hoping Grandma would have been able to solve her own problem because the troubleshooters and repair features are so much better, and networking in general 'just works' out of the box. If she couldn't and had to go through the 8 steps outlined above Mart would be absolutely correct in raking us over the coals.
Finally, Mart gives us a screenshot of the Classic View of the Control Panel which is an optional, but not default view. Here is the Control Panel the end user will see by default (and labeled as 'Home' in the options).
Now, if you've read this far, please don't think I'm trying to whoop up on Mart because he is a devoted Mac user -- I think our comments back and forth with each other on the aforementioned post show us to be rational, non-zealots, who each like our operating system choice. If I had wanted to browbeat I wouldn't have linked to him at the top of this post and sent my readers over to his blog.
And for the record, I went to the Apple store today at Alderwood Mall and played again with the MacOS on a variety of hardware -- good stuff. If my best friend came to me and said he had compared Windows with MacOS and decided on the MacOS more than likely I would jump in the car with him to go purchase the Mac (and quiz him all the way to the store to find out what tipped the scales).
I spend the bulk of my time in Windows Vista using Windows Media Center, and haven't taken much time to go digging around the other features. Marts post really made me wonder if we had gone down the path of adding 'more layers of complexity to make it even harder than it was before'. So, I decided to go find out for myself and share whatever I found with you.
I definitely think we are on the right track.
But in the end it won't be me who decides if Windows Vista is a great product -- it will be regular consumers like Mart who will determine it's success.
So, after reading both our posts I would still like to hear your feedback -- good or bad.
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...!
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?)
Update: David Richards is back at it again with totally inaccurate and bogus information. His earlier article information was according to a 'Microsoft insider' and now he attributes the statements to Raymond Vardanega (Acer Austrailia Marketing Director) who was told these things by an unidentified person at Microsoft. Net result: total hearsay and David is admitting to not verifying information and sources. Frankly, it would be nice for David or Raymond to identify who at Microsoft told them this. Anyway, in this latest article David states "A major problem for Microsoft is that the current version of Media Centre (MCE) is clumsy and prone to crashing. It contains code which is not productive in delivering an entertainment experience for consumers." Totally, unequivocally false. Read on to learn more...
I've been reading what Robert, Sean, Loren and the XBox team have already said about the now infamous '60% Of Windows Vista Code To Be Rewritten' article by David Richards. For the record, this 'story' is absolute poppycock. The only reason I'm blogging this is because I got word of mouth some of our MVPs didn't know what to think -- and I want all of them and our current / future customers to be 100% confident we are on track to deliver a safe, secure and stable operating system with cool features (like Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player, Windows Sidebar, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) with Windows Vista.
Robert put it this way...
Even the evidence denies this story. At Mix06 last week we had Media Center PCs for people to use, running, gasp, Windows Vista. An entire keynote (damn cool demos too) ran on Windows Vista and it didn’t crash the entire time. That doesn’t sound like something that needs a 60% rewrite. Or something that isn’t on schedule to ship.
Let me give you the backstory for Roberts comment (he hasn't heard this until now and it will independently corroborate his observation)...
I was responsible for getting six Media Center PCs built from scratch in one evening (Sunday night) at Mix06. It took Ernie Booth and myself about 6 hours, mostly because we had to share two installation DVDs and a single USB key among the six machines and they were spread out over four locations and two floors. Setup went without a hitch and the only driver we had to update post-setup was the sound card driver (using the USB key) -- every other device on these Dell enterprise machines (read: not originally designed to run Windows Vista or Windows Media Center) used the out of box Windows Vista drivers. The machines ran *great* for the duration of the conference. Clemens Vasters of the Indigo team even sat down at one of these boxes and watched football (soccer for us Americans) streamed over the net from his home in Germany one evening.
In addition, I was responsible for the primary and backup Windows Vista machines for the Joe Belfiore keynote. Joe rehearsed on Monday night, and towards the tail end of the run through using this machine we noticed the album art wasn't loading quite as fast as expected and the audio took a while to start playing. The reason: We had been running the machine through it's paces, adding new content and syncing devices to it non-stop for about 8 hours with no reboot. After 8 hours of *actively* running a beta OS with Visual Studio 2005, Q podcast application using the Windows Media Center Presentation Layer, Apple iTunes installed (wouldn't you like to know why and FWIW was later uninstalled, which typically torques even my most stable Windows XP build) and greater than 10,000 tracks in the Windows Media Player Library it was performing pretty much up to snuff. A quick reboot (which I *always* do before an on-stage practice or live demo, but forgot to that evening for some reason) resolved all issues. The machine performed flawlessly after the reboot, again early the next morning during practice and again for Joe's keynote in front of 1000+ individuals (including Robert). We later used the exact machine on stage for our 'Developing For...' presentation at Mix06. It was a stock HP zd8000 laptop (again, read: not designed for Windows Vista).
So, you would think I was running the February CTP or some other build which had been vetted and throughly tested for consumption by the masses and appropriateness to use with a high profile keynote and the demo machines.
I used the latest build from a development branch of the eHome source code tree which contained some functionality we needed to make the Q:Helix perform as expected. It was a random build which hadn't been through Build Verification Tests (aka BVT, the most basic of tests to qualify a build before broader release to other teams). It wasn't even from the main branch for Windows Vista (aka WinMain) which is what typically gets posted for beta testers. Generally speaking, if you select one of these builds you typically expect things to NOT work since the regression rate (regression=bug fix causes other things to break) can be pretty high. I had confidence any build I picked would work just fine.
And now you know...
...the rest of the story.
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!
I was walking by Michael Creasy's office late last week and noticed he was handling email on a Windows Vista machine. He said it was running pretty reliably, and could go about three days without needing a reboot. That's fairly good considering he wasn't running a build which had been vetted for public consumption like a Community Technology Preview -- just one of the latest builds, which can sometimes be a crapshoot.
So, I'm going to install it right now on my lifeblood Toshiba M200 Tablet PC -- the one I depend on daily. I run a ton of beta software on other machines at work, but keep this one 'sacred' running only released (non-beta) software so I can be assured of not being blocked from getting something done.
I'll admit, I'm a bit apprehensive about the impact this will have on my productivity.
What tipped the scales...?
I was on an email thread with a Microsoft VP the other day and his signature read 'Sent from Windows Vista CTP'. Seriously, if my bosses' bosses' bosses' bosses' boss can tough it out, so can (should) I.
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'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.
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...!
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 keep hearing folks in the blogosphere talk about how Apple is better and how Microsoft can't ship software.
Then I read Robert Scoble get on a roll here and here talking about the great software Microsoft is shipping today. So far, most of the comments and feedback are negative. Robert must feel lonely.
I remember working at a company with a mixture of Macs, PCs and Sun Sparcs back in 1997. The word around the geek water cooler then was Apple was dead, irrelevant and Microsoft was much better. I remember thinking I should buy Apple stock, since it was trading for less than $5 for most of the year and never peaked above $7. My thoughts were perhaps those few, lonesome souls saying 'Apple still matters' know something I don't.
Alas, I didn't buy.
A $1,000 investment in Apple stock at its maximum price in 1997 ($6.703) would be worth over $6,500 today. The same $1,000 investment at the lowest price in 1997 ($3.422) would be worth over $12,500 today.
According to USA Today, Microsoft stock is trading at 16 times earnings while the average for the software industry is at 24 times earnings. Do I work for a below-average company? I don't think so.
I'm choosing to be lonesome with Scoble this time around.
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...