I'll be at the Consumer Electronics Show January 5-8, 2006. If you will be there and want to meet send me an email.

There are lot's of you I would like to meet. :-)



Categories: CES | Comments [4] | # | Posted on Monday, December 19, 2005 4:36:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

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.



Categories: Media Center | XBox 360 | Comments [11] | # | Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2005 3:41:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I have used H&R Block TaxCut for several years now, and always get the email reminders around this time of year to get the new version. Then I have to order online or pick up at a retail establishment. Thanks to the folks at H&R Block, it's much simpler this year based on the reminder I got yesterday...

This year, we're making it easy to get your 2005 tax software. We're sending you a CD that has everything you need to do your federal and one state tax return.

You'll get TaxCut Deluxe federal software plus one state program for just $29.95 (a $50 value).

You also get:

  • One free e-file for a federal return after mail-in rebate ($15.95 value)
  • Free Microsoft Money 2006 Standard after mail-in rebate ($29.95 value)
  • $10 mail-in rebate for DeductionPro
  • $20 mail-in rebate for Kiplinger's Complete LegalPro

All you have to do is pop the CD in your computer. From there, just follow the prompts and you'll be ready to do your taxes in no time at all.

Keep an eye on your mailbox. Your CD should arrive in the next few days. Enjoy the savings and the only software backed by 90,000 tax professionals.

That's proactive!



Categories: Miscellaneous | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Saturday, December 3, 2005 5:28:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

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.



Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Saturday, December 3, 2005 8:14:55 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

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?

Yes.

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?

Yes.

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?

Yes.

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?

Yes

15) Can you fast-forward and rewind music stored on the host MCE computer using the Xbox 360 Extender.

No

16) Can you play back AVI files in Media Center Extender for XBox 360?

No

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?

Yes.

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.



Categories: Media Center | Media Center Extender | XBox 360 | Comments [10] | # | Posted on Friday, December 2, 2005 7:17:17 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

[This is mostly a placeholder page for documenting tools for developing apps in Media Center for Windows Vista -- stay tuned.]

Visual C# 2005 Express Edition

Use Custom XSD Files for IntelliSense in Visual Studio 2005



Categories: Media Center | Media Center Application Design | Media Center SDK Code Sample | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Friday, December 2, 2005 6:10:42 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   
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