If you are an application developer on Windows Media Center you've probably experienced some pain with our Details view of the stack trace, mostly because you can't copy + paste nor see the entire stack traces if it is over a certain length. Starting in Windows 7 you can now launch Event Viewer and navigate to the Applications and Services Logs > Media Center node to see these stack traces. For example, the screenshot below is what you would see if you ran the MarkupDebugging.mcml sample within Windows Media Center and pressed the button labeled 'Crash The Application'. Note this is independent of the EnableErrorDetails registry key enabling the 'Details' button on the dialog end users see when an application crashes -- this event will always be written. This log file is one of those gathered with the Media Center Diagnostic Tools I posted about here making it really helpful to communicate your applications crashes to us during the beta.

Categories: Tools | Windows Media Center | Debugging | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:44:23 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I'm really, really glad our team did the work to make these publicly available. The Media Center Diagnostic Tool gathers a lot of pertinent information very useful to the team in troubleshooting issues with Windows Media Center. If you ever file a bug report during the beta or are working with someone at Microsoft to determine what's happening it's a good idea to have these tools installed and take a snapshot of your system to share with the person helping you.

Media Center Diagnostic (MCDiag) Tool [x64]

Media Center Diagnostic (MCDiag) Tool [x86]

Categories: Tools | Windows Media Center | Comments [7] | # | Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:26:58 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I was very lucky to be able to sit down with Joe Belfiore a couple of years ago in a one:one chat and I took the occasion to ask him what he thought makes a person a great Program Manager here at Microsoft. Here was his reply...

1) Maniacally focus on building a product your customers will love.

Pound, pound, pound on the features while they are being developed all the way through the process.
Constantly ask 'How do we know this is good?'
Perceive the reaction of others to your features.
Know others will want to have an opinion.
Recognize constraints make it hard to develop products customers will love.
This takes energy, persistence and creativity.

2) Look at the constraints and find creative right angles to solve the problems.

Generate 100 ideas which could be solutions.
Look for low cost + high benefit features.
OK for high costs + high benefit features if the benefit is truly high.
Avoid high cost + low benefit features and low cost + low benefit features.
This takes innovation and creativity.

3) Take a people approach.

How you go about getting work done is as important as getting work done.
The degree you do 'people things' well affects you greatly.
High integrity.
Not rude.
Relieve pressure.
Create a positive environment.
'You have to do this' doesn't work.
Valuing the people is more important than the feature.
It's more valuable / desirable if the group decides on its own.
It's like good parenting.
Much more effective in having authority and not using it.

4) Go and talk with customers / partners.


Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this sage advice is applicable to a whole host of roles in both professional and personal arenas. And while seemingly simple, it’s extremely difficult to become and expert in those four areas. I’m still working on many of these and have an awful long way to go.

Thanks, Joe…!

Hat tip to Scott Berkun whose post 'The lost cult of Microsoft program managers' prompted me to post.

Categories:  | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Friday, January 16, 2009 7:02:41 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I’ve been playing around with a new toy for the past couple of days. After shooting with a Canon EOS 10D for just over 5 years I’ve upgraded to the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II in the kit along with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens.

Canon 5D Mark II + 204-105mm Lens


Some folks love to see the unboxing so, steeling myself to resist the urge to quickly get everything unwrapped, I methodically took pictures each step of the way. This seems a bit titillating in a geeky sort of way, but family safe nonetheless. ;)

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 01

The box.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 02

Flaps open with the camera registration card on top left and the lens registration card in the cardboard tray, top right.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 03

Here I’ve pulled out the registration cards and cardboard tray. Lens and accessories are in the white inner box on the left, camera on the right.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 04

Lift up the flap and pull out the camera body shrouded in bubble wrap. (The Canon 10D packaging had much more protection around the camera body in form fitting styrofoam end caps which placed much more ‘dead air’ between the body and the box.)

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 05

After pulling off the bubble wrap and the body is further protected from dust and scratches by a protective layer of unwoven fabric.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 06

The body revealed – looks great, and instantly recognize it will feel very, very similar to the 10D in my hands.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 07

Beside the inner box containing the camera body are the manuals and two of the three software discs (more on these resources later).

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 08

The inner box containing the lens and other accesories.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 09

The accessories in their shrink wrap.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 10

Accessories out of the shrink wrap, clockwise from the left: USB cable, combination audio + video cable, charger, battery and strap.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 11

Revealing the lens in protective wrap and foam end caps.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 12

Lens unwrapped: hood, lens, leather lens case. The case was a pleasant surprise and will come in handy as additional protection when storing the lens in the camera bag. It doesn’t have any padding though so won’t be appropriate for storage otherwise (like in luggage or loaning to a friend).

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 13

Lens placed in the case – feels like a one size fits all rather than specific to the lens -- there is a lot of extra room.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 14

Lens placed on the camera. The first thing I notice is the setup is extremely solid and well built – it definitely feels like a step up. The flipside: The lens is much heavier than anything else I have in my bag, making it pretty front heavy by comparison. Something I’ll have to get used to carrying around – and think my monopod is going to get used much more as a result.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 15

Battery, cover and charger. The charger was a pleasant surprise compared to the one which came with the 10D.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 16

Instead of a separate corded plug, this charger has the plug built into the charger itself…

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 17

…which conveniently folds away making for a wonderful improvement in portability and storage.

Canon 5D Mark II Unboxing 18

The documentation, From top to bottom, left to right:

  • Barcode for shrink wrapped manuals (I wanted to be thorough), Manual (English), Manual( Spanish), advertisement for Canon printers in multiple languages
  • Movie playback addendum, advertisement for the Canon Digital Learning Center, Pocket Guide (English), Software Instruction Manual CD (Multiple Languages)
  • Canon Software Summary Sheet, Essential Products and Solutions CD, Canon Software CD, Pocket Guide (Spanish)

Then came the wait for about three quarters of an hour for the battery to charge, checking the flashing light on the charger often to see if it turned a solid green. Finally it did and I could start playing!

The new gear is simply stunning and the full frame sensor has already allowed me much more flexibility using my current gear. Compare these shots taken with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens from a distance of approximately 2.5 feet and identical settings…

10D + 50mm 5D Mark II + 50mm

Left = 10D and Right = 5D Mark II. besides the obvious overall increase in resolution of 6 to 21 megapixels, one of the biggest reasons I went with the 5D Mark II instead of the 50D was the full frame sensor. It really allows you to leverage the full range of capabilities in your lenses. In this example, the 50mm feels much more like a wide angle lens whereas before sometimes I could not get far enough away to include the entire subject due to the 1.5x field of view (FOV) crop on the 10D and others in the series (20D – 50D) – very common when shooting indoors at family + friend events. I also like the slightly more ‘widescreen’ aspect ratio of the new camera for its creative possibilities.

I debated going camera body only but ultimately decided on the kit which includes the lens because it’s effectively the equivalent of getting a rebate of $160 compared with purchasing them separately. Plus, all of the lenses I’ve bought in the past 5 years have been primes (i.e., not zoom) and I’ve been missing the flexibility of zoom and the 24-105mm gets universal high marks based on the reviews I’ve read recently.

I’ve been snapping a bunch of pictures and got a few other bells and whistles – hopefully I’ll have time in the coming weeks to share likes + dislikes which might be helpful to other x0D owners thinking about an upgrade of their own.

Categories: 5D Mark II | Canon | Lens | Photography | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2009 1:25:49 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

If there is one technical oriented blog you should read it has to be Scott Hanselman. This morning I read Be Aware of DPI with Image PNGs in WPF - Images Scale Weird or are Blurry and instantly went 'gee willikers'. Most of the images you use with Media Center Markup Language (MCML) will be in the PNG format if they are part of your <UI> if for no other reason you can embed alpha transparency information within the PNG (which you can't with JPEG or GIF). On a whim I ran the PNG assets we ship with the SDK sampler through PNGOUT and found an average file size savings of just above 50%. This can be a pretty significant size savings for resources in assemblies but can be even more important / significant for web experiences due to bandwidth costs (both in terms of hosting / bandwidth dollars AND perceived responsiveness by the user.

I highly encourage you to click through (and subscribe) to Scotts blog, but if you want the quick tools here is what I used:

PNGOUT (Command Line) http://www.advsys.net/ken/utils.htm

PNGGauntlet (GUI) http://brh.numbera.com/software/pnggauntlet/

Categories: Media Center Markup Language | Tools | Windows Media Center | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 8:13:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   
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