Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Microsoft's Steven Lindsay posted a video a couple months ago showing his top five things you didn't know you could do with your Media Center PC. Cool tidbits for people who want to get deeper into using a few more of the capabilities of Windows Media Center. Worth the viewing time.


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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 21:29:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 12 April 2008
Since I "needed" a new high-def disc format player (specifically Blu-Ray Disc) to take the place of my suddenly-antiquated HD-DVD hardware, and since Thursday was my 41st birthday, I decided to get what is arguably the best Blu-Ray player out there. The Playstation 3. Ah mid-life and gadgety toys, heh.

As luck would have it, my dad called me and asked what I'd like for my birthday. We go through the same conversation each time, and it's really kind of funny. I say I don't know and we end up in a friendly stalemate. I told him what I was looking at buying for myself, and he got interested. It was too much money, really - but he insisted (thanks, dad!). And so I went to the local big box store and picked one up and brought it home last night.

I'm not going to do a PS3 review. Yes, it's great hardware and the Blu-Ray discs play great. Watched 3:10 to Yuma last night (good flick). I was impressed, just as I was with HD-DVD.

But you know what impresses me more? In the past few weeks I have seen device after device - from different, even competing manufacturers - communicating with each other to share media on the network.

My Windows Home Server and Windows Media Player devices can share out media with the Xbox 360, with my DirecTV HD-DVR receiver, and now I see also with the new Playstation 3. Streaming audio around the house that's stored on the Home Server is a daily occurence around here. The XBox 360 is, of course, also a front-end for Media Center (which runs on my Vista Ultimate machine), and once we see a real-world version of the DirecTV USB component receiver (dubbed the HDPC-20 and currently in limited beta we're told), that's going straight into my den and should truly round out my interconnected, media-driven home.

With about 2TB (yeah, terabytes - who woulda thunk it a few years ago eh?) of Home Server storage and all these devices spread around that stream various media, it really is turning into a whole different kind of user experience - and a good one at that.



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Home Servers | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Friday, 11 April 2008 23:28:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Sling1Scoble posted something that's had my attention all evening (well, off and on anyhow - I'm easily distracted). Have you seen the Slingbox from Sling Media? It's may just be the perfect gadget for me. Think something along the lines of a Media Center extender (note: it's not one of those, just try to think along those lines), only instead it extends any TV image to pretty much any computer anywhere you have a fast connection to the Internet.

"The Slingbox is a compact and elegantly designed, state-of-the-art electronic device that connects to the back of your TV. It redirects, or “placeshifts,” the TV signal from your cable box, satellite receiver, or digital video recorder (DVR) to your computer or laptop of choice, no matter your location — so long as you have a high-speed Internet connection."

It's something close to pure simplicity, too: Plug it in, hook it up, install the SlingPlayer software on your PC, and BAM! You're controlling and watching your TV, DVR, set top box or whatever you use from your computer, wherever you may be.

It's for PCs now, but more is coming very soon:

"In the coming months, SlingPlayer software will be available for select PDAs, smart phones, and Macintosh computers and will be fully compatible with the Slingbox."

You can check it out at:

http://www.slingmedia.com

And then, of course, there's Orb, for some of the same people who are interested in Slingbox (the geeky ones who are not looking for a plug-and-go solution since Orb uses your home PC and a tuner card), and it's especially nice for those who have Windows MediaCenter Edition):

http://www.orb.com



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Geek Out | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 20 September 2005 19:38:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 21 March 2005

If you think about it, people interested in Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) should be the perfect audience for podcasts, so it makes perfect sense that Ian Dixon should fire up The Windows Media Center Show. He also has a weblog where he covers lots of Media Center stuff.

There's already two episodes online as of the time of this writing, and more to come:

Nice start, Ian - keep it up!



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Monday, 21 March 2005 20:55:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Media Center Customizer 2005 is a cool app that lets you customize (wait for it) your Media Center Edition PC the way you want it set up.

If you want to tweak your MCE 2005 settings and experience, you might want to give it a try. Read the full list of changes and get the download here. Cool stuff.



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Monday, 21 March 2005 20:41:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 19 January 2005

Microsoft Expert Zone WebCast: How to listen to digital music in your car
Wednesday January 19th, 10:00am Pacific Time

I have a project pending where I plan to do some serious computer-in-the-car stuff. So, I took note of the fact that Microsoft is putting on a live webcast in their Expert Zone Wednesday morning at 10am Pacific Time about that very topic: Digital music and spoken word and podcast or whatever.

"...But you need a way to connect your digital audio to your car stereo. The topic of this WebCast is how to find digital audio to listen to, how to connect a portable audio player to your car stereo, and how to support and power it while you drive. This presentation also discusses how to replace your car stereo, how to add a hard disk-based audio player, how to burn custom CDs with digital audio, and where to turn in the online community when you need help and have more questions about digital audio."

The PowerPoint deck can be downloaded prior to the event, as well.



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Mobile | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Wednesday, 19 January 2005 01:17:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 17 January 2005

Car_pc1

Now here ya go - awesome cool stuff. I've been spec'ing out touch screens and mobile PC cases the past few weeks, and this guy's got some serious mobile Media Center happening.

Video, pics and a great description are available on the hossweb.com site.

My own project (in design mode, not yet acquiring parts) won't be in-dash, and include GPS nav and voice commands. We'll see if I ever get around to it



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Geek Out | Mobile | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Monday, 17 January 2005 21:17:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 04 December 2004

Got Windows XP and/or Media Center 2005? Then you’ll probably want to get the new Holiday Fun Pack for Windows XP.

There’s lots of cool stuff in there. Note that one thing Microsoft does not make very clear up front is any of the details about the Tweak Media Center 2005 power toy that’s included. Check out this article on Sean Alexander’s digital media blog for some more info in that regard.

If you’re visually motivated and into the winter thing, I don’t see why you would want to skip this download…


Download the Winter Fun Pack 2004 now! Spice up your music, photos and more with amazing holiday visualizations, skins, powertoys and other fun add-ons. There’s something for the whole family!

The Winter Fun Pack 2004 includes:

Stunning Holiday Vizualizations for Windows Media Player 10
Ring in the holiday cheer! Give your desktop the Holiday touch with three cool seasonal Player Visualizations. Enjoy the HOT new WhiteCap Holiday Viz with nearly 20 holiday images that explode in vivid color including a snowman, candy cane, shooting star and more. Cool down with the chilling Ice Storm Viz, then warm up next to the fire place with the Yule Log Viz.

Amazing Holiday-Themed Skins for Windows Media Player 10
Give your Media Player a wintry makeover with 5 skins for Windows Media Player 10 including Frostbite, Ice, and Ginger man and Ginger woman skins. Also, take Windows Media Player 10 to the next level with the hot new Halo 2 skin, which is sure to be one of the hottest selling games this Holiday season. [Ed: Halo 2 skin and Holidays? Uhhh… Ok…]

PowerToys for Windows Media Player 10
Let Windows Media Player 10 take the pain out of your holiday parties with Holiday Auto Playlists (including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas). Personalize your email or blog by showing the song that’s playing on your desktop. And for power users, easily export your media library information into Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access and others.

Photos, Media Center and More!
Get into the holiday spirit and transform your desktop into a winter wonderland with new captivating desktop wallpaper images from Corbis. Get more out of Media Center 2005 with the new TweakMCE 2005 powertoy. Download Kris the Holiday Dancing Elf, Photo Story 3 for Windows, and more!

(via Sean Alexander)



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Saturday, 04 December 2004 09:05:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 03 December 2004

Don’t know that I can make the drive from Portland to the Seattle area for it (I may try), but if you’re a Windows MCE nut, there’s a Media Center Geek Dinner set to be held on Thursday the 9th in Bellevue, Washington.

See Michael Creasy’s blog for the details.

(via Eric Rice)



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Geek Out | Windows Media Technology
Friday, 03 December 2004 20:56:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 07 November 2004

I discovered Microsoft PhotoStory 3 last night via a link from Sean Alexander's blog. By the way - Sean has one of the best weblogs on my subscription list - If you are in any way interested in digital media, do yourself the favor of checking out his blog often, or subscribe to his feed here:

One free download later (5 megs), I was up and running with a very cool app that let me go through a whole slew of digital photos I took while on my vacation recently. I was able to edit, tweak and arrange the images and create packages of images, with narration and music and titles. It works, and in fact it pretty much rocks. I kicked out a few windows media video files with sound and everything to send people who have asked for such a thing. None of the ones I created last night are geared for this web site, but I will likely put together a few to post along with my vacation pics a little later on.

Clean up and edit your photos. Add transitions, motion, music, narration, and other effects, then publish it to a movie-like format that others can view. Put it on a web site, in an email, on a CD or DVD, or even on a mobile device that will play Win Media video.

If you're looking for an easy but classy way to package up photos to tell a story and/or to send to people in a way they can easily view, this is for you - recommended.



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Sunday, 07 November 2004 16:09:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 06 November 2004

Coming November 7th? That's tomorrow...

Rumor is more will be revealed Sunday during ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and ESPN's Sunday Night Football. Sean's teasing us!

Ahhh - here we go... Info from the Seattle Times.

Microsoft is using the campaign to pitch Media Center Edition, a version of Windows that has digital TV, scheduling and recording capabilities and a TVlike remote control. It's installed on PCs with TV tuners that start at about $1,000.

Also new this fall is a companion device called Media Center Extender. It's basically a small box with a radio antenna that sits on a TV. It lets users wirelessly get digital media from a PC — including recorded movies and TV shows — to sets elsewhere in the home.

Intel is pitching its Pentium 4 chips with hyperthreading, a technology that boosts PC performance during data-intensive tasks such as digital-media processing.



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Saturday, 06 November 2004 19:37:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 20 October 2004

AnandTech has a review of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, that - well - tops all the other reviews for word count, clarity and how deep they get into the software. If you're at all interested in learning about this version of the Windows XP operating system, check out the 17 pages of detail, detail, detail:

http://www.anandtech.com/multimedia/showdoc.aspx?i=2240

(from digitalmediathoughts.com)



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Wednesday, 20 October 2004 19:45:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 16 October 2004

Among the many, many new Media Center PC news items to hit the street this past week, I forgot to mention one that has had me all excited ever since it was first mentioned some time ago: The Media Center Extender for Xbox.

I'm in the process building a Media Center Dev Machine so I can work on a few tech ideas I want to explore and try. Since I already have an XBOX, I will probably pick this title up and use it to set up part of my Media Center network at home. I just have to work out the details around tuning the satellite box and whether I am going to be able to get a decent Portland HDTV signal out here (and hence which capture device and tuner I'll use and whether I have to use one or two tuners).

The Xbox title is one of the Extender line (a set-top box is also available) that Microsoft is releasing with this new version of their media-centric operating system.

Information from xbox.com:

With a wired or wireless connection to the Media Center PC (sold separately), the Xbox console now allows you to enjoy the digital entertainment media from your PC when and how you want. The included remote control and IR receiver also support DVD movie playback. Just grab the remote, drop in the Media Center Extender DVD in your Xbox, and get ready for an entertainment revolution! A whole new world for your Xbox awaits …

  • Watch and record television shows.
  • Enjoy a free integrated TV Program Guide with no fees.
  • Access your Media Center PC’s digital media library music, videos, and pictures.
  • Stay connected with instant messaging and Xbox Live™.
  • Watch DVD movies.
  • Listen to FM and Internet radio.

Screen-shots are available at xbox.com:




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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Saturday, 16 October 2004 11:17:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Windows XP Media Center Edition launched this morning, with support for high-def TV, multiple tuners, and lots of other cool stuff.

Some confusion over licensing, and earlier claims that it would be sold at retail. I think OEM's will have better access, but not so sure about being able to purchase a copy all on its own...



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 12 October 2004 12:07:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 06 October 2004

From a gamepc.com review of Windows XP Media Center 2005 (code-named Symphony while in development) written by Chris Connolly, which is set to release next week - and it sounds like you'll be able to buy it all by itself, without having to buy a PC at the same time (which is exactly the option I intend to take advantage of):

"... Fortunately, Microsoft finally listened, and are opening up Windows XP Media Center Edition for everyone. Their latest version, Media Center Edition 2005, is now selling on the open markets, and is available to all. While the OS itself is not officially launching for another week, we were able to get our hands on this final product to give everyone a first hand glimpse of how Media Center Edition 2005 (Codenamed Symphony) works in an uncontrolled environment ..."

I jumped ahead, looking for the HDTV verdict, as there have been conflicting reports as to whether it is supported or works:

"... Now, setup for our analog TV stream was a piece of cake with the Hauppauge WinTV card. HDTV was a bit more troublesome, even when using ATI's brand new HDTV Wonder card. Many expected that Media Center 2005 and the HDTV Wonder product would be announced together and become the "duo" for hardware/software HDTV for the PC. Unfortunately, this really isn't the case. Media Center Edition 2005 does have integrated support for the ATI HDTV Wonder product out of the box. Even when the card's drivers are installed correctly, MCE2005 will not detect the card as a valid TV Tuner. ATI's Multimedia Center DTV application won't even work in the operating system, outside of the Media Center application. Our suggestion is stay away from this combo until ATI puts out a set of "Media Center Certified" drivers. All in all, outputting content to an High-Definition TV / monitor is no problem. Getting an HDTV stream to play on Media Center, well, that's up in the air at this point. We couldn't get it to work, but we haven't tried all of the available HDTV options out there ..."

This is an extensive review of the new version of Windows XP MCE. Note that another review by Thomas Hawk is a little more critical, but does a good job of pointing out the improvements as well as what Thomas wishes was different.



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Wednesday, 06 October 2004 21:25:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 05 October 2004

Buy.com is taking pre-orders for the soon-to-be-released Media Center Extender devices made by Linksys.

What are Media Center Extenders? They are devices that communicate with a Windows Media Center 2005 (I believe that is an actual requirement, but will need to check) computer on your home network, allowing you to view and use media stored on the PC on your television systems. Think of it as an integration device that connects TV to music, images, live and recorded TV items on your Media Center PC. Note that Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will also be released soon.

  • Connects your Home Entertainment Center to a Windows Media Center PC through a Wireless-A, Wireless-G, or wired network
  • Watch home or downloaded digital movies and browse your digital pictures on your television. Also watch, pause, and record live TV shows
  • Listen to your digital music collection and Internet radio through your stereo system 
    Select entertainment from on-screen menus with the easy-to-use remote control

So, what's so cool about that? Well, this device converges the media stored on your PC with the rest of your AV equipment - It means you can store all that video, music and image data and information in one place (on the Media Center PC) and view or listen to it anywhere you like on your home network (such as on your TV, your home theater system, the stereo system, etc). Plans are that you'll even be able to add a Media Center Extender title to your XBox system and watch movies, view pictures, and listen to music there.

Bobsled you say? Yeah. Code name for the Microsoft project while it was under development.

Find out more about Windows XP Media Center here, and more about Media Center Extenders here.

(info via Charlie Kindel)



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 05 October 2004 16:56:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 23 September 2004

I know he didn't mean to (so I won't act all flattered or smug or anything), but Robert Scoble just sort of summed up the better part of my topic/category list for this-here-blog of mine, over on his blog...

I thought it would be interesting to compare his list of cool upcoming topics for the future to what's categorized or searchable right now on my site. So, I did just that and have added the links, below. Not a bad start, and it points out to me where I am falling shorter than I had realized in my content. Hey Robert, thanks for the copy. :-)

“For the next 18 months, where are the business opportunities going to lie? Tablet PC. Bigtime. Windows Media Center. Gonna be a big deal. SmartPhones. Wanna watch how fast the Motorola MPX220 sells when it's released in the next few months? Xbox Live. You only need to say one number and everyone knows exactly the Xbox thing I'm talking about: "2." Visual Studio 2005. Tons of stuff coming there. MSN has a whole raft of things up their sleeves. And we haven't even started talking about BizTalk, SharePoint, Exchange, SQL Server, 64-bit Windows, SBS, CRM, LiveMeeting, and OneNote, among other things.”

It also gives me a gut-check on my existing blog categories. Here they are, with the ones that apply to this posting checked:



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Blogging | Mobile | Office 2003 | OneNote | SharePoint | Tablet PC | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Thursday, 23 September 2004 06:51:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 02 September 2004

Microsoft today released Windows Media Player 10 to the web.

Jump on over and grab the download, find out about some of the new and forthcoming devices that take advantage of the technology, check out the WMP 10 trailer (300Kb), or view out one of the online streaming videos just released that describe the new features of the technology:

Sync Your Portable Media Center Device with Your PC  
Synchronize Music and Pictures to a Portable Media Center Device  
Convert and Sync Video to Your Portable Media Center Device  
Using Windows Media Player 10 to Create a Digital Jukebox  

Cool stuff. I like the Bliss add-on visualization, that's nifty.

Broken image in the WMP10 UII have only found one minor glitch so far (and its one that occurred in the tech-beta version, as well, but this is a fresh install on a clean, non-beta-poisoned computer). In the upper right corner there is a broken image icon, reminiscent of Internet Explorer. I wonder how much IE is leveraged in the WMP10 interface. Interesting. A reboot did not fix the issue, either. Clicking on the broken image placeholder resultsi n the same menu associated with the down-arrow image to the right of the broken one.

Time to find a Portable Media Device! :-)



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Thursday, 02 September 2004 15:50:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 09 July 2004
Omar posts about new Portable Media Center devices available for pre-order on Amazon.com:

 
Creative Labs 20 GB Zen Portable Media Center


Samsung Yepp YH-999 20 GB Portable Media Center

Very nice. Time to do some research and get on the list for one of these. The Media Center Experience is about to take off in a big way. Both can store up to 80 hours of video, be that TV, movies or home movies, over 10,000 songs and up to 100,000 photos. See a demo of what there are all about here.

Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Centers are handheld entertainment devices that make it easy to store and play recorded TV, movies, home videos, music and photos transferred from a PC with Windows XP. You can watch and listen to your favorite entertainment anytime and anywhere – in the palm of your hand or through a TV or stereo. It’s simple to sync your music, video and pictures from your PC with Windows Media Player 10, and fast and easy to find the entertainment you want to play on your device. Portable Media Centers also support Windows Media Audio and Video plus other leading file formats, so you can choose from a wide range of music, videos and pictures.”



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Mobile | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Friday, 09 July 2004 19:33:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 08 July 2004

On Channel 9 today, there's an interview with Jason Flaks, a Microsoft program manager on the Media Connects team. He demos some of the new Windows Media Connect technology that's set to come out in the future. This is very cool stuff - and it looks like it will be a big market - I know I will be on the wagon!

There's going to be a real market not only for users of these devices and technologies, but for businesses that truly understand them and can help the "common-folk" adopt and use them. Building a complex home media system like we're about to see hit the market is not a trivial task. Sure, it will get easier over time, but for a while a least, there will be a real need for professionals who can take the technology investments made by consumers and make them work really well.

I'm excited about the next wave of media devices and systems. It's been under-reported and under-estimated. All your media (pictures, audio, video) usable across multiple systems and devices. Stream the program recorded on your PC across the network and view it on the screen attached to your XBOX. Project your digital images on the 10-foot projection screen. Listen to your MP3s in any room, and automatically sync your music and video with your portable media device to take with you. Browse your media libraries on the MCE PC from your DVD player. The possibilities are nearly limitless.



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Windows Media Technology
Thursday, 08 July 2004 20:34:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 09 June 2004

The final release of Windows Media Player 10 was done on September 2, 2004. Click here for more.

I recently posted about the Windows Media Player 10 technical beta release. Since I have seen a rather large number of search engine referrals from people looking for ways to uninstall the software (it may not be very friendly in that area, but what can you expect from a tech beta...) I thought I would post a quick update. As far as my experience with uninstalling, I was able to do a system restore and successfully revert back to WMP9 (some have said this did not work for them - but that was not my experience). As far as I can tell, system restore is the only real way to roll back from Win Media 10 (Click Start-All Programs-Accessories-System Tools-System Restore. Note that you need to restore to a point *before* the one where that shows you installed Media Player 10.)

Note: Judging by the number of search referrers from Google and Yahoo that point to this entry with “uninstall windows media player 10” in the referrer address, here is a starting point that hopefully will help - but the linked pages are not my advice, and I make no warranty of any kind:

Support Newsgroups at Microsoft for Windows Media Player 10 Beta
Thread:
Uninstalling 10 to 9
Thread: Can't use/uninstall WMP10

Who would have thought my web log entry would be first on Google for that phrase? Crazy...

And a quick (not quite as helpful) note to people who installed and are having problems: This is beta software, blatantly labeled as such, so a bug-free experience should be the exception, not the rule. In other words, no surprise whatsoever that it's glitchy. That said, please use the newsgroup link above and post your issues with helpful and descriptive language. Remember the newsgroups are for getting help and reporting problems, so don't flame, but be complete in the info you provide. For a list of the information you should provide, look here. Help make the next version better - earn your whining privilege. ;-)

Lots of opinions out there about the interface changes and - surprise surprise - lots of people whining about why the beta release isn't perfect. My opinion is that the interface changes are a step in the right direction. It's just easier to use.



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Wednesday, 09 June 2004 20:32:01 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 02 June 2004

The final release of Windows Media Player 10 was done on September 2, 2004. Click here for more.

Note: Judging by the number of search referrers from Google and Yahoo that point to this entry with “uninstall windows media player 10” in the referrer address, here is a starting point that hopefully will help - but the linked pages are not my advice, and I make no warranty of any kind:

Support Newsgroups at Microsoft for Windows Media Player 10 Beta
Thread: Uninstalling 10 to 9
Thread: Can't use/uninstall WMP10

Who would have thought my web log entry would be first on Google for that phrase? Crazy...

And a quick (not quite as helpful) note to people who installed and are having problems: This is beta software, blatantly labeled as such, so a bug-free experience should be the exception, not the rule. In other words, no surprise whatsoever that it's glitchy. That said, please use the newsgroup link above and post your issues with helpful and descriptive language. Remember the newsgroups are for getting help and reporting problems, so don't flame, but be complete in the info you provide. For a list of the information you should provide, look here. Help make the next version better - earn your whining privilege. ;-)

Microsoft today announced the technical beta of Windows Media Player 10. Anyone can download and give it a whirl, so long as you're running Windows XP.

Just keep in mind, it's beta software, and so your mileage may vary, especially if you need to uninstall or roll back and use protected media files, so player beware. Be sure to read the release notes before you install. Miracle of miracles, and something I have noticed we are seeing more and more often, thank goodness: No reboot required!

Looks like end-to-end media usability, from file to device synchronization, is the goal here. They're playing up advanced support for a big variety of media devices, which is to be expected after all the announcements recently about media-anywhere products.

I did get a broken image in the UI, and the streaming appears to be a WinMedia v9 experience. I noted tabs in the player named “Rip” and “Burn,” and direct support for these. In fact, everything is generally well laid out and easy to find, which is nice.

The interface is sleeker and easier to get around in. It was nice to fire it up and not have to download the funky HTML content on a “Guide” page - by default it started in the “Now Playing” (play-list) mode. Cool.

I don't do a lot of online media purchasing yet, but there's built-in support for online stores (presently there are links to Napster and CinemaNow.com). In the player, a static page describes a new “digital media mall” concept, where a variety of stores will be available to download, stream, rent or purchase media content.



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Wednesday, 02 June 2004 21:05:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 31 May 2004

Not a truly exciting name, but the idea certainly is interesting: A machine that plays XBOX, yet-to-be-seen XBOX 2, and PC titles, includes a full release of Windows, and will sell for around $600. They're calling it “XBOX Next PC” in focus group studies.

Sounds good to me. If you're talking XBOX and Windows, we're looking at MediaCenter PC version of Windows almost certainly, which means the hard drive(s) are for more than just games (video and audio too). The Media Center extenders and other devices will take a new leap with this. Since this is planned for after XBOX 2, I'd have to assume it based on Longhorn, so my imagination is running wild.

I've been part of these MSFT focus groups in the past (for other products, can't say more than that), and I can tell you one thing from those experiences: Microsoft is a company that will put serious money into dreaming big, and then even more money into building the things that look like they'll fly high.

Can't wait to see where this goes.



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Windows Media Technology | Tech
Monday, 31 May 2004 21:02:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 15 May 2004

A little while back, I blogged about technologies that have been around for a while that I had not yet “made the leap” into. As is usually the case, once I make a list, I tend to act on it (I should probably make more lists :-)). Here's an update on my previous post.

  • MP3 Players - Still checking these out, not sure it's where I want to go. I am thinking some of the upcoming multimedia devices might be a better option for me. Maybe. We'll see.
  • IP Telephones - I made the leap and signed up for Vonage. I even downloaded a soft-phone, which is a program that runs on my computer and acts just like a regular phone (well, pretty much like one). So I can use the soft-phone anywhere I go on my laptop, or the real phone at home. Cool stuff.
  • Picture/Audio/Video Blogging - I've made the leap here in the area of blogging with audio using audioblog.com, which is a coolio service that works great and has a nifty feature set. Pictures and video might be in the future, but since I am already a little self-conscious about posting my voice, we'll see.
  • Windows XP Media Center PC - Have not gone there yet, and probably won't until I get a better idea of what's available. I have some relatively picky requirements for home, since I want to do multi-room and feed into my home theater system, etc. Microsoft is going to be releasing lots of new stuff for XP Media Center edition that will meet my needs I think, including devices that may turn out to be better than a plain-old MP3 player (as mentioned above).

Weird that I'm totally geeky in certain areas (I have a freakin' GPS device in my car that I can speak commands to, and it speaks back to me and shows me the maps and stuff, for gosh sake - freaks people out when they use it). I guess these days our areas of geekdom have to be limited to what's important to each of us as individuals. There's just too much geek-fodder out there to do it all.

But I'll try. ;-)



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Random Stuff | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Saturday, 15 May 2004 12:47:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 09 May 2004

There are a number of technological leaps I have not yet made, many of which are pretty commonplace nowadays. Most who know me look at me as one of those guys who's always first to acquire and use new technology, but in some cases that's just not true.

Here are a few facts about me and technology adoption, and where I see myself in the near future with regard to each:

  • I don't own an MP3 player - In fact, I never have. Sure I've listened to MP3s on my computer before (but not nearly as much as everyone else I know). I have not jumped on the MP3 wagon yet. I do digital media for sure - I've run Windows Media servers at work for a few years now, I have a hacked TiVo at home and have even put together my own PVR before, and I've used a Pocket PC and Smartphone in the past (both of which can play MP3s with Mobile Windows Media Player), but never have I actually owned an MP3 player. My boss once told me about how he uses audible.com, which is a cool service where you can download electronic books and stuff. That may be what eventually gets me to buy one. We'll see. iPods are looking pretty cool to me.
  • I don't yet do IP telephony - This is an area I was exploring earlier today, and it's what got me thinking about the things I have not yet bought into. I was researching Vonage phone service and features, after I started playing with the idea of audio blogging (Maybe you can see the connection, I know it's a stretch, but that's how I got from virtual-there to virtual-here, so to speak). This is something I am seriously considering trying out. Vonage not only now allows you to have a IP phone bridge device for your normal phone to plug into, they also support installing and using a software phone on the laptop (or whatever computer you like). I like the idea of being able to travel and have my phone ring on my laptop when I am logged in. They also have some cool voice mail features, including delivery of voice mails as email attachments and the ability to access your voice mail on the web. Now, how cool is that?
  • Picture/Audio/Video Blogging - I know this is not exactly something that everyone's doing, but when it comes to my list of things I think I should have done by now, this is definitely on it. I've wanted to do picture blogging for some time, but I don't have a camera phone (I use a blackberry phone since that's what really meets my hectic needs and work-style). The idea of being able to record an audio blog entry, however, is pretty cool to me - and if I could combine a camera-phone image with called-in audio recording and post them together, well that would be really cool. I'm definitely looking into this. Not sure what practical use it has, but it sounds like fun to me. Oh, and it has to work with dasBlog, which has a number of interfaces for getting remotely submitted blog entries created. For audio blogging on the road, I am looking at AudioBlog.com (Looks awesome and just went into closed beta release - I've applied) and AudBlog.com (which I have already tried, and while it's kind of cool, it just doesn't seem to work too well for my needs - and it's a bit limited in terms of what you get for the buck). Fun stuff, coming soon I hope.
  • Windows XP Media Center PC - I have been saying I want to get a Media Center PC for quite a while now, but still have not done so. With the new possibilities created by Microsoft's planned releases of new networked/connected Media Center “extender” devices, the level of desire has been continually increasing on my part. I need to buy a new computer for home anyhow (mine's pretty much dead), but I guess my only fear is that before too long some new OS and the accompanying mega-hardware requirements will replace what's on the market now. I dunno - I'll have to keep thinking about this one.


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Blogging | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Sunday, 09 May 2004 16:26:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 08 January 2004

More cool Microsoft media stuff. I've run Windows Media server systems for the past 4 years. When Windows Server 2003 came along (actually .NET server betas), I got excited for the first time since first working with the technology - the improvements in the 2003 Windows Media Services were huge.

Something equally cool is here: High Definition Windows Media Video. Specially encoded DVDs will allow movie content at resolutions greater than the standard DVD's 480i - Now resolutions up to 1080i will mean really, really great pictures.

“The movies will be available at retail in two-disc DVD sets that contain both the movie in standard definition for playback on any DVD player and a companion DVD disc that contains the entire feature film in high-definition video and 5.1-channel surround sound using WMV HD, for playback on a Windows® XP-based PC.“

This web site has some links to sample content. Big downloads, so use a fat pipe connection. :-)



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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Thursday, 08 January 2004 21:53:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Some have speculated that Windows XP Media Center Edition was a dead horse (a stance I still don't fully comprehend), but then came the 2004 release, and now comes an announcement that they will be extending the Media Center reach to - get this - other devices, including (glad I bought one!) the XBOX. And hey - the Portable Media Centers have already got me sold. Wow - this is a big announcement, when you think about it.

The Windows Media Center Extender technologies and products were just announced at CES 2004. Arrival slated for later this year. Microsoft has a cool PDF brochure that gives a good picture of what's in store. It looks like you buy a remote and some software for the XBOX (in the case of that product) and off you go. Cool - maybe we can finally make use of that hard drive in there for real. Now if they would just put a web browser in the thing... :-)

The other options - Extender TV's (can you say “Borg?”) and what looks to be an Extender appliance-type device, also look interesting.

One way or another this looks like the way of the future for television and multi-source media use. Whether Microsoft's technology is the defacto standard or not, this is likely indicative of where things are going.

Anyone have a link to Gates' keynote video at CES? I can't find it. That would be cool. :-)

On a related (well, at least similar) note, Snapstream is stepping up their game. Nimble company there. Wow. My TiVo, as much as I love it, could - possibly - become a thing of the past, although they did announce HD support and other cool stuff for later this year.

Thoughts?



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Windows Media Technology
Thursday, 08 January 2004 18:36:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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