The verdict is still out but I'm predicting http://www.mojaveexperiment.com/ is not going to be as successful as we would like. I'll even go out on a limb and say it's probably going to have a negative impact on customer perception. Mary Jo, I believe you are being far too gracious in What if Apple had conducted the ‘Mojave Experiment’? You must be going soft on the 'Softies if this the best thing you can find:

"I have to give the Softies some credit: After months of silence, they’re finally trying to do what they should have done a year ago, namely, figure out how to fix not just the technology mistakes, but the marketing ones,  that they created with Vista."

I'd say your colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes got it more accurately in Dissecting Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment:

"Bottom line, I think that while the set up of the experiment was clever (maybe even devious), the outcome is vacuous to say the least."

There are just so many fundamental things wrong...

  1. Annoying Flash eye candy user interface -- I mean *really* annoying.
  2. The site is predominantly black -- the color usually reserved for funerals (at least on TV).
  3. The first 45 seconds (approximate) of the opening video clip reinforces the negative stereotype Windows Vista has developed.
  4. There are duplicate video snippets throughout which have been professionally edited to provide the cream of the crop. (Adrian has a great analysis in the aforementioned post.)
  5. Hyperlinks that take you to the stale Windows web pages which are just as bad as the annoying Flash UI from a user experience standpoint.
  6. A hyperlink for 'You can't please everyone'. Seriously.

I think it's time for the experiment to end. Quickly. Before the water runs out in the desert.

But what, you might ask, should we be doing to get the story out there? I'm glad you asked. For starters...

1) Completely rebuild, from scratch, the Windows Vista website being sure to pour lots of usability love into the site. If anyone is listening, I'm specifically talking about the one which starts at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/default.aspx.

2) Prominently feature on the new site more great videos like this which Brandon LeBlanc featured today...


Video: Windows Vista Demo: Instant Search

Why do I love this video...?

  1. It's genuine -- I don't know her at all but Esther Choi was a great choice.
  2. It shows off the features of the product.
  3. It's educational -- and goes slightly deeper to show real world usage examples.
  4. It's short.

What do you think Microsoft should do to tell the positive story of Windows Vista...?



Categories:  | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Wednesday, July 30, 2008 11:27:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Right Curb Right Curb 2

This Old Truck1 This Old Truck 1 Redux

Wow.

Based on Thomas' recommendation I downloaded the trial of Adobe Lightroom 2.0 and I think this is going to become my favorite new editing tool replacing Photoshop. It's pretty easy to get some nice results very quickly -- see above before and after. While the toolset is more accessible to mere mortals compared to Photoshop the user interface still needs some work, though (starting with the Import dialog -- Windows Live Photo Gallery still has the best, IMO). I've got 29 more days to make a decision but based on some quick run throughs this is a keeper.



Categories: Photography | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 9:06:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I believe Thomas is one of the best candid portrait photographers out there. I love this image he posted to Zooomr...

Charlie
Charlie by Thomas Hawk on Zooomr

 

And by contrast, my picture taken at the same time -- notice the huge artistic gulf which separates us...? :-)

Double Thomas

 

I can't wait to see what he does with the pics he took of Media Center team members...!



Categories: Photography | Photowalk | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Friday, July 25, 2008 3:59:31 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Found this earlier tonight -- I've been pondering whether or not creating some MCML snippets would be helpful. This looks like it might really help speed the process and take out a lot of the tedium of hand creating the XML for snippets.

Snipp Dogg is a snippet editor for use with Visual Studio 2005 and 2008 Intellisense Snippets. This tool allows you to create fully functional and robust snippets to streamline the development process and make code reuse a snap.

Get it from http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/SnippDogg.



Categories: Tools | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:27:38 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

You might have noticed I very rarely (if at all, come to think about it) post about applications written by others for Media Center here. This is mostly to keep a sense of impartiality -- I don't ever want to play favorites when it comes to folks who use the platform I help create. I'm just tickled pink anytime I discover a new experience -- they are all great as far as I am concerned!

I'm going to make an exception here and lift my self imposed ban to point you to HeatWave Weather. I installed it earlier today, ran it through its features and found it works well. There are a few small issues but nothing major -- I'm sure James would like to get some additional testers and feedback -- if being able to check the weather forecast is high on your list for things to do in Media Center this experience is highly satisfactory.

Here's why I'm lifting the ban...

As far as I know James was the very first developer outside of Microsoft and the Media Center team to dig in and learn about what was to become known as Media Center Markup Language. Here's the kicker: He did so using the internal interfaces present in Windows XP Media Center Edition back in early 2005. I was amazed this guy was able to figure it all out without any documentation, samples or tools. The learning curve is pretty steep on MCML even with all of the resources we give you in the SDK, so what James was able to accomplish at the time was pretty amazing. He was a little ahead of the curve -- we were just a few months away from making the MCML + managed code platform available in the Windows Vista beta where we could officially support the development paradigms he discovered. James graciously agreed to pull that incarnation of HeatWave (then called 'My Weather') and the developer documentation he created telling others how to do the same. At the time I think this was somewhat disconcerting for James -- he gained a lot of positive attention by peeling back the curtain to reveal the inner workings. Since that time I've made it a point to watch his user name at http://www.thegreenbutton.com/ (MCExtended) for any signs he would return to the what we now know as Media Center Markup Language.

Congratulations, James -- and welcome back. :-)



Categories: Windows Media Center | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:14:37 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I was salivating to read Ed Bott's review of a Sony laptop free of crapware in Sony’s amazing crapware-free PC when I saw it in Newsgator this morning. Unfortunately what I ended up with was dry mouth syndrome. The slow, tiny steps Sony has taken falls way short in my opinion...

"The system includes a handful of Sony-branded utilities for managing wireless connections and updating Sony drivers, a webcam control utility, a Sony utility for importing and editing digital pictures, Adobe Reader and Sun Java software, and third-party DVD playback and CD/DVD burning programs (WinDVD and Roxio Easy Media Creator)."

I would include all of these in the 'stuff you forced on me I didn't want'. Believe it or not it's possible to have a fully functional computer WITHOUT any of this software. One of my personal biggest pet peeves is the crapware control applets which ship along with the driver -- it's completely not needed. I'd like to see Sony (and other OEMs) strive to have a 'Programs and Features' Control Panel completely free of any software -- only at that point can you consider it a real 'Fresh Start'.

Ed continues...

"As I discovered when I ordered this system, Fresh Start is currently a limited offering available only on configure-to-order (CTO) models in the TZ line. By the end of summer, the program is set to expand to several additional lines, all based on Windows Vista Business. ... If you purchase a Sony notebook at retail, Fresh Start isn’t an option."

I'd say crapware is a bigger problem for general consumers as business customers tend to have IT departments for help (and sometimes the larger companies even have their own disc image to apply to the machines). The general consumer is still left out in the cold and likely will be for sometime -- Sony is moving at a glacial pace on this issue.

My opinion: The problem has gotten SO BAD even a partial solution shipping to a tiny portion of Sony's market gets a thumbs up from Ed. Sony (and others) are still have a long way to making the out of box experience a joy for consumers. Sony lost the Walkman business to the iPod -- if they aren't careful their PC business could go the same way (if it hasn't already).



Categories:  | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Monday, July 21, 2008 6:23:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I'll admit it somewhat irks me we shipped games inside of the Program Library which shell out to their own executables and don't run at all on Media Center Extenders (luckily they don't show up on those devices taunting the user with hollow promises). I reinstall multiple times per week on multiple machines and finally got tired of them so took a moment to 'solve' the problem. If you'd like to get rid of them yourself follow these simple directions...

1) Launch Notepad.

2) Copy + Paste the following:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{3C1BB651-D564-46a7-99BA-8D40BCB6FA7D}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{48095937-BA42-4bb6-9869-EBAC2229D3AF}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{4F5AC696-6D21-4dac-BC8B-8287245B2A13}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{866BD81A-F32D-4b44-830A-F5C37585CB9D}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{A897807C-6278-46bc-B973-9DD1DE8551DF}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{B4C403DA-6240-4070-80F1-1B1689FF301F}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{F755EA7F-777E-498f-831D-E3F3F6FDA018}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{115EADF1-41C4-471b-8FE5-7A52B91BFE75}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{13FCBFA9-499D-417c-95BB-71DF7980BEB5}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{1F3BD1B5-7323-4ec0-A518-47FF6B1DDC46}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{6B51FBA8-28D5-45d4-BEE8-A9715F724D39}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{76CA43A7-7878-4c7b-BC8B-BE0CAB71ACE8}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{C99561F0-BEC8-4af4-9926-40BB79D34B07}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Categories\Services\Games\{DD4B1666-AA76-4979-9130-EC9D6F8FE52E}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{115EADF1-41C4-471b-8FE5-7A52B91BFE75}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{13FCBFA9-499D-417c-95BB-71DF7980BEB5}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{1F3BD1B5-7323-4ec0-A518-47FF6B1DDC46}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{6B51FBA8-28D5-45d4-BEE8-A9715F724D39}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{76CA43A7-7878-4c7b-BC8B-BE0CAB71ACE8}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{C99561F0-BEC8-4af4-9926-40BB79D34B07}]
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{DD4B1666-AA76-4979-9130-EC9D6F8FE52E}]

3) Save as 'RemoveGamesFromMediaCenterLibrary.reg'. (Make sure you have a .reg extension, otherwise it's a plain text file).

4) Double-click the newly created reg file.

5) Click the Yes button in the Registry Editor warning dialog box.

6) Click the OK button in the Registry Editor success dialog.

As is the norm, I make no guarantees -- editing the registry can be dangerous business.

If you have an opinion one way or another about these games (Love / Hate) leave a comment -- we are listening. :-)



Categories: Registry | Windows Media Center | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2008 2:29:05 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I guess you could say 'I'm back' with this post. Of course, I've probably chosen one of the most polarizing and passionate issues I've every seen in the community. Hopefully this helps put some context around the various discussions and helps you see we take great care to deliver the right features at the right time. Some caveats are in order to set your expectations accordingly...

  • I set out to independently look at this feature from a historical perspective only.
  • I did not consider personal content and focused solely on commercial content. I recognize the desire to account for personal content -- but also see numerous solutions to get that content into a form which can be consumed by our feature for personal content (the Video Library). Largely, I think personal content is worthy of a separate discussion.
  • I do not work on any of the following features: DVD playback, Movies Library, Media Center Extender. Nor am I involved with television / movie partnerships directly. As owner of platform for Windows Media Center I interact with just about every consumer and partner of the Media Center team in some form or fashion -- suffice it to say I don't drive any specific partnerships directly.
  • I can certainly advocate a particular direction on behalf of the community but have zero ownership of any areas which can actually cause this feature to be implemented. As always, I make it a point to direct feature owners to the community for feedback -- so be sure to leave a comment here or at thegreenbutton.com.
  • I made a conscious effort to NOT consult with the aforementioned teams while looking into the issues surrounding this feature request. I set out on this endeavour for a fresh, independent view and analysis of the issues to either (a) advocate strongly on behalf of the community we should implement this feature at some point and / or (b) give the community some deeper understanding of why we haven't.

This post should NOT be interpreted in any way, shape or form as insight or guidance on future features in Windows Media Center.

So, here is my take on a DVD streaming feature in no particular order...

1) The usage models for television and movie content is very different from music.

We are talking about 1+ hour audio and video content vs. 3 minutes aural only. It's common for end users to multitask with music but not with television or movies. For television and movies the end user is a captive audience. It's a stretch to say consumers are really clamoring for this capability since in reality they don't switch out discs often enough or consume nearly as much television / movie content in one stretch.

2) Sneakernet is good enough.

From a whole home audio / visual perspective it's a great feature to consider when bringing every scrap of content I have into a single user interface. The reality is we probably aren't solving even a small problem for the broad consumer market -- sneakernet is still awfully convenient for this class of content. There might be a tipping point for this content (as there was for ripped CDs) from the perspective of storage space + tools but I don't think it's happened yet (and you could argue it might not happen).

3) It's pretty rare we choose to build new features for a shrinking market.

"The home video market peaked in 2004 and has declined every year since." See http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/homeentertainment/la-fi-dvd16-2008jun16,0,1267133.story for more information. Note: There is probably an uptick in this market due to BluRay releases -- how much of an upswing is still to be determined. Think about this: The DVD format was released in March 1997 -- if we had wanted to hit the market BEFORE its apex with this feature it would have had to be in the very first version (2002) and certainly no later than the second version (2003).

4) It's a niche market.

It's interesting to note none of the big players (HP, Dell, Sony, Toshiba) offer any sort of DVD library software built for Media Center today (they have in the past) while the smaller OEMs (like Niveus) have done so -- this suggests the market for this feature is indeed niche. You can certainly argue the big guys are completely clueless. I'd reply it's hard to be a market leader and be completely clueless.

5) There are more important destinations on the roadmap.

There are more features than just television and movie playback. The idea of DVD streaming has been on the list of potential features for a very long time -- and the collective wisdom of the entire team has always prioritized it lower than any feature you currently see in the product. It's not as though we've completely ignored the feature or don't get the value proposition. Rather, we've collectively seen more value in other features.

6) Standard definition DVD is not the last removable media format for television / movie content.

HD-Audio and SACD crashed and burned fairly quickly because audio CDs were viewed as good enough for the regular consumer -- as was their lower fidelity MP3 cousins (and hence the rise of Napster, iTunes and others). BluRay could be the final removable media for television shows and movies -- only time will tell. The success of CD ripping and putting together a library of tracks was in part due to the fact there wasn't a significantly better product on the horizon. The market conditions do not yet exist for television and movie shiny discs -- most people can clearly see a benefit between SD and HD video content. Finally, the tipping point of storage + tools for BluRay is farther away than standard definition DVDs.

7) There are differences of opinion on what constitutes DVD streaming.

Is it the entire DVD (including interactivity) or just the long form show or movie? What about the short form content (Making Of)...? Interactive features can prove troublesome to implement in the 'streaming DVD' concept for standard definition DVDs -- and even more so for BluRay discs. There hasn't yet been a clear winner for this definition.

8) There are (significant) legal issues to overcome.

These have been discussed ad nauseum -- MPAA, DMCA, Copyright, Fair Use, etc. Suffice it to say this part of the problem is very complex and costly to resolve -- and an intertwining of stakeholders few consumers grasp.

9) There are (significant) business model issues to resolve.

In a nutshell, we must attempt to please both the content owners and the content consumers. Content owners don't want to give up their current business model until a better one is firmly established. Note the content owners specifically do NOT want a replacement business model, and would rather it be in addition to the current business model. Content consumers could care less about the content owners business model because the overwhelming majority do not realize any direct financial gain from that business model. Rock | Microsoft | Hard Place.

10) In time this is almost surely going to become a moot point.

The online subscription and purchase models (examples: Netflix, Zune Pass, iTunes) will continue to get richer over time -- note the Netflix via XBox Live announcement a few days ago as further proof. If the goal is to have access to every movie or television show made imagine if you will a time when you can pay $X per month with unlimited access to the content. Your guess is as good as mine when this will happen -- I'd say somewhere under 20 years -- and probably sooner, if the music space is any indication of how quickly the playing field can change.

11) The previous incarnation of a DVD library didn't sell.

I'm speaking of the DVD changer -- there were a precious few early adopters who gobbled these up but the reality is it hasn't been overly successful. The cause for DVD streaming could have been helped had there been overwhelming demand for these devices. I'll concede this was not what the community wanted which is why it didn't sell.

12) There is no pre-existing infrastructure on which to build.

The reality is there are many Media Center features built on top of work done by other teams here at Microsoft. For example: the music features leverage a ton of infrastructure built by the Windows Media Player team. It's much easier to deliver features when a good chunk of the work is already done before you start your investments.

13) This is an area where the OEMs can elect to differentiate.

I'm not sure anyone can prove a ripped DVD library is anywhere close to mainstream. (And yes, you can point out someone said the same thing about the whole iTunes + iPod model). Typically, Microsoft does not invest in a feature until it becomes mainstream. (Yes, there are pros and cons, and a few exceptions -- note I'm not making a value judgement on the wisdom of this approach here.) This is definitely an area where OEMs (both big and small) can provide differentiation between each other given the niche market. Generally speaking, it's a healthy thing to allow OEMs to innovate.

In summary... well, that's really up to you. I've tried mostly to present facts and want to leave the conclusion up to you. I do have some questions which might stimulate your thinking in this area:

• What do you think is the largest factor? What about the smallest factor?
• What reasons would you give in support of a DVD streaming feature?
• What do you think about the lack of technical hurdles?
• Is there anything you think I've missed as a blocker?



Categories: Windows Media Center | Comments [25] | # | Posted on Wednesday, July 16, 2008 11:57:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Damian Mehers in Switzerland has created two great screenscasts outlining how he created the BBC Radio experience.

Part 1 is a great companion to the Step-By-Step walkthrough in the SDK. Damian provides an excellent tour of the most commonly used application template which novices to Media Center development will find very helpful.

Part 2 demonstrates how Damian modified the template to achieve the BBC Radio solution.

Thanks for taking the time to put these together for the community, Damian -- they are wonderful learning resources!

Charlie



Categories: Resources | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Monday, July 14, 2008 6:56:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
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