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Charlie Owen and John Canning - Media Center exposed, Part II

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John Canning and Charlie Owen's passion for the Windows Media Center comes through in this segment.

Here you get a full demo of what Media Center is. We give these two guys all of our objections. Hope it's interesting for you.

About halfway through the video you also get a look at a new Portable Media Center.

The Media Center community site they talk about is "The Green Button."

Will TV ever be the same again? And, who'll win the fight over the remote control?

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  • you should sell these boxes with two or more remotes included Smiley
  • You know, after having watched only a few minutes of this video I was already convinced that I need to buy a Windows Media Center.

    After having watched half of the video, I now feel that I can no longer live without a windows Media Center.

    And after having watched the complete video, I feel a strong urge to go out and tell all my relatives, friends, and every customer of the company that I work for, about these cool devices and sell a Windows Media Center to each single one of them! Smiley
  • Very interesting indeed.  I do wonder Angel how my 2 gb of pictures which are in a rather disorganized mess in Windows folders could be sorted in Media Center.  Furthermore, same goes for music...

     Oh, and one other thing...what are the minimum system requirements to build my own Media Center PC?

    Thanks,
    Dan
  • In Manip's opinion the MC-PC is ahead of its time. The hardware is just not ready yet. 

    For the general public to buy it you would need a ~

    Price: $150-
    CPU: 3Ghz+
    RAM: 512Mb+
    Video Mem: 128Mb+
    Sound: High Quality
    Ports: TV Out (Various Ports), TV In (Various Ports), Digital Out, Digital In
    Note: 100% Silent, no fans at all


    That might seem silly price/features wise today, but in two years? As I said when the hardware hits those specs the media centre PC concept will take off.

    I wish the media centre stuff was a product instead of an OS. If it was something like Office or Visio I might buy it, but as it's an OS I no way am I going to be paying £80 again for some extra stuff.

    The next generation should be sold as a product AND an OS so as to not exclude anyone.

    Question: Where does the 'guide' information come from? With Tivo you have to pay them £10 a month for that...

    Here in the UK we have Sky Digital, which is a digital Satellite set-top-box. It has built in games. Not like crappy card games but like tetris and various original games which are Designed to be played with your TV remote control. Can the media centre play simple TV remote games?

    Couldn't the Media Centre PC be 'smart' and learn that you are using a low-quality device, and run a background service that in idle periods converts to low quality video?

    With the portable Media Centre PC, what kind of programming bits can us VS2003 guys do? Would you need a special dev kit (which costs $$$) to develop applications for the portable version? I just ask because if I end up with a portable one at some point I want to know I can hack it.
  • gavgav GuitarGav
    Here in the UK a lot of people are now used to digital recording of TV via the Sky Plus set top box and service.
    I doubt Sky would allow recording of their material on a Media PC as it would take revenues away from Sky Plus.  However, it would be great if you could use Media Center to interface with the Sky Plus system.

    It's also possible to copy shows from Sky Plus to video.  It would be nice for Sky to add copy shows to My TV.

    Since their set-top box is a PC this shouldn't be hard to do.

    Support for DAB Radio would be great too. As well as playing, add scheduling and recording of radio shows.

    And finally, how about allowing people to upgrade their existing XP installation to Media Center.  Perhaps this could be via a 3rd party.  For example, if Sky and MS (UK) work together, an "upgrade my PC to a Sky Media PC" would make it easier for consumers as well as increasing both companies market share.

    I would certainly buy a Sky/Media Center extender to get them to work together, but couldn't justify to my wife in buying a new PC (I can get WMC as I'm an MSDN subscriber - but why scrub my existing Windows Setup?)

    Thoughts?
  • gav wrote:
    Here in the UK a lot of people are now used to digital recording of TV via the Sky Plus set top box and service.
    I doubt Sky would allow recording of their material on a Media PC as it would take revenues away from Sky Plus.  However, it would be great if you could use Media Center to interface with the Sky Plus system.


    Well you would use the Media PC the same way you would use it with anything, plug the TV Out from your sky box into the PC and record the video output. You would then plugin the media PC into the TV. There is nothing sky could do to stop that.

    You couldn't use Sky's TV Guide information at all and that is the main disadvantage of a media centre PC compared to Sky+ (You would have to pay someone like DigiGuide money for the guide information if you wanted it on the media PC end of things - you could still us the sky guide but not record via it).

    Of course you couldn't change the channel via the media centre PC either. Unless you're creative, buy a infrared addon and write a program to use it to simulate the Sky remote (massive hack).

    PS - Isn't Digital Radio already dead in this country?
  • I'll buy one ... if you put it in XBox 2
  • GaryBusheyGaryBushey The blob in the upper right hand corner is my dog
    The big problem I would have is with my HDTV I cannot get any over the air programming (due to where I am actually situated) but there does not appear to be any HD recorders from cable.
  • A few quick answers to the questions...

    dantheman82 --> ...how my 2 gb of pictures which are in a rather disorganized mess in Windows folders could be sorted in Media Center.

    You can sort by Date or Name in Media Center and we use the file and folder structure My Pictures folder.

    dantheman82 --> Furthermore, same goes for music...

    Media Center uses the Windows Media Player Library to organize your collection.

    For a more in-depth view into the Media Center feature set check out the  Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Reviewers Guide

    Manip --> Where does the 'guide' information come from?

    Guide data is licensed by Microsoft from third parties and provided to the end user free of charge (absolutely NO monthly fee for the guide).

    Manip --> Can the media centre play simple TV remote games?

    Yes (several are shipping today).

    Manip --> Couldn't the Media Centre PC be 'smart' and learn that you are using a low-quality device, and run a background service that in idle periods converts to low quality video?

    Sure.  There are several utilities floating around which convert Recorded TV to WMV -- not sure if any of those use idle time for the conversion, but it's certainly possible.

    Manip --> With the portable Media Centre PC, what kind of programming bits can us VS2003 guys do? Would you need a special dev kit (which costs $$$) to develop applications for the portable version?

    As far as I know, the Portable Media Center does not enable third party software extensibility.

    gav --> Bunch of UK observations and questions.

    I've asked one of my UK colleagues to read this thread and answer accordingly.

  • Forgot one...

    dantheman82 --> What are the minimum system requirements to build my own Media Center PC?

    Check out Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Setup Instructions where I document some of these at a very high level.
  • MinhMinh WOOH!  WOOH!
    Is it safe to say that with all the hardware vendor partners, that MCE won't be sold separately as a stand-alone software product? I'd want one because I already has a living room PC as my media center. But the Windows XP GUI is wearing me out. I need one of those remote controls.
  • charlieo wrote:
    Manip --> Where does the 'guide' information come from?

    Guide data is licensed by Microsoft from third parties and provided to the end user free of charge (absolutely NO monthly fee for the guide).



    Thanks a bunch for the replies. I have a follow-up question for the UK team.

    Do we, in the UK, also get 'tv guide' information free of charge?
  • charlieo wrote:
    Forgot one...

    dantheman82 --> What are the minimum system requirements to build my own Media Center PC?

    Check out Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Setup Instructions where I document some of these at a very high level.


    Thanks for the useful info!

    System requirements I found:
    • 2 Ghz processor or better (3+ Ghz if you plan to view WMVHD or ATSC HD)
    • 512MB RAM
    • Primary Hard Disk Drive (Minimum 20 GB) for operating system and applications.
    • Secondary Hard Disk Drive (Minimum 80 GB) for storage. (The illustrations in this document are representative of what you will see with two hard disks installed in the computer.)
    • Media Center compatible TV tuner / encoder.
    • Media Center compatible display adapter.
    • Media Center Remote Control and IR Transceiver
    That sounds pretty reasonable.  However, if I were to Angel not have TV on the box and (b) buy all the hardware stuff separately (display adapter, display, and remote control/transceiver), where and how could I do this?

    Also, is it possible to upgrade an XP Pro system to XP Media Center 2005 or would I need to install it side by side?

    Thanks for the quick responses!
    Dan
  • MCE2k5's UI is still far below the end user experience of Tivo.  Sit any person not familier with either down in front of both systems, and I guarentee that they will be much happier with Tivo.  Have used both for years, I still can't stand the remote or MCE interface.

    There is no doubt that MCE has more media features, but considering the cost, it should.  MCE2k5 is still not ready for general user consumption.  It's still a early adopter/geek toy.  Until they figure out how to build a good UI that makes sense, and a good remote, this product will still have a niche audience.

    Things MCE needs to solve:
    -Websurfing from the remote (10 ft. display)
    -Built in seamless Antivirus and Antispyware
    -Automatic updates without prompting
    -Downcoding recorded video to more compressed formats to make it more porable from the 10 ft. display
    -Less buttons on the remote!  Many buttons are never or are rarely used.  Make shortcuts instead (similar to Tivo)

  • You might be right but MCE is free, Tivo costs £10 ($15?) a month. Also MCE can be easily (by me) programmed / hacked / tweaked. I gotta hack.
  • rhmrhm
    You have two problems in the UK: (1) the way set-top-boxes work here is you have a seperate remote for them to change the channel and only the channel on the box goes to your TV or VCR. So unless the PC has some remote-control emulator and the smarts to change the channel on the STB it's only useful for recording the 5 analog terrestrial services. (2) A lot of channels here are very slack on scheduling so traditional downloaded EPGs are unreliable. You can get around a lot of the trouble if you have an option to add time to the start and end of the advertised program time, but you still have problems with overrunning sports events etc. On Sky+ the EPG gets updated live and it's pretty reliable for these kinds of events. A media centre hooked up to the net permanently might be able to match that with a good EPG service, but Tivo couldn't with it's dial-up EPG retrieval. These two reasons are basically why Tivo died on its' arse over here (it was out some time before Sky+ was available).

    Can Media centre use any DirectShow capture card or does it have to be a special approved card? A slight improvemetn can come to the above scenario if you can use a DVB receiver card. You can then watch/record all 30 or so Freeview channels on the digital terrestrial service. You can also get DVB satellite receiver cards but they're really only useful in Europe where the more open market for satellite service led to the divorcing of CAM (content access management) from the receiver as a plugin PC Card. In the UK Sky is the only satellite broadcaster and they use a proprietary CAM which is only available in their boxes so you can't buy a PCI card that'll pick up Sky which means things like Media Centre will never have a chance in the UK unless Microsoft does a deal with them.
  • Minh--> Is it safe to say that with all the hardware vendor partners, that MCE won't be sold separately as a stand-alone software product?

    It's not currently offered as a shrink wrap product in retail like Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home.  In a nutshell, here is how the OS is available...

    1) Bundled with a Media Center PC from an OEM.

    2) Available from a System Builder with a Media Center PC or qualifying part(s).

    3) Via an MSDN subscription starting with the Operating System SKU.

    Links to (2) and (3) are provided in the setup docs on my blog.

    dantheman82 --> ...buy all the hardware stuff separately...where and how could I do this?

    There should be links in the setup docs -- anywho, check out the Designed for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Logo Partner List for a list of components -- where you buy is up to you.

    dantheman82 --> Is it possible to upgrade an XP Pro system to XP Media Center 2005 or would I need to install it side by side?

    Upgrade is not possible in any supported scenario.  Dual boot (side-by-side) is acceptable.

    jhs2 --> Things MCE needs to solve:

    jhs2 --> - Websurfing from the remote (10 ft. display)

    Done, via Online Spotlight.  These experiences are tailored for distance UI and interaction via remote.  The majority of existing web pages on the internet today won't work (well) with a remote and it's not a trivial task to 'automagically' transform any random web page into one compatible with a remote and distance UI.  You can create a MCL for *any* website you wish, drop it into C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs and launch from More Programs.

    Also, check out Newsgator Media Center Edition -- you can browse your selected RSS feeds in Media Center using this tool.  The Channel9 videos are available directly on Media Center in this fashion and its how I watch all the great content here myself.

    jhs2 --> - Built in seamless Antivirus and Antispyware

    Done.  This is Windows XP, so all your favorite protection tools are available, many preinstalled by the OEM or System Builder.

    jhs2 --> - Automatic updates without prompting.

    Done.  Windows XP SP2 has this feature and by default the Media Center guide data is downloaded automatically *unless* you change this behavior during Media Center First Run.

    jhs2 --> - Downcoding recorded video to more compressed formats to make it more porable from the 10 ft. display

    Done.  We have a 'Sync to Device' feature available in More Programs which will transcode content and sync it with the device.

    jhs2 --> - Less buttons on the remote!

    Done, get yourself one of these.

    jhs2 --> ...Make shortcuts instead (similar to Tivo)/

    Give me a pointer to 'TiVO shortcuts' and I'll pass that along to the remote control team.

     

     

  • moofishmoofish Living in Scotland, UK
    I have a Windows Media Center PC and have only watched the first video of this series, it looks like this is the place is the one getting all of the attention.

    My questions are simply:

    1. The BBC in the UK, and exclusively for the UK (due to funding issues) are to open their huge archive of content freely available for viewing. However they are going to create a standalone web based player that uses Bit Torrent like streaming to speedily transfer the video files.

    I would like to know if it would be possible for the BBC to conect up their archive directly to WinMCE and have all the functionality there. It might take more than the SDK can do, but surely MS and the BBC can come to an arrangement.

    2. This is another one for the BBC, they have some wonderful radio stations.For any of you whom thought that the Radio was dead think again, the channels provided are fantastic. My point is that many, many millions of pounds is poured into the BBC broadcasting side of radio and yet Windows MCE support radio so poorly.

    I would like to see support for:

    i) Digital radio
    ii) Recording of radio (analogue/digital) don't sweat it MS if someone wants to record form the sound card they already can
    iii) A Program Guide - the BBC has scheduled programmes for the entire week with past broadcasted programes also. Even the ability to "listen Again" to aired shows, I'd like to see that built into MCE.

    3. I would like to see a P2P internat program inside MCE, don't be afraid. With DRM you should be safe, anyway I do not much fancy the high end expensive programmes such as CSI or Friends, these are likely to have DRM on them. I would like to post or swap programmes like Postman Pat or The Magic Round About (the original).

    MS must show faith in their DRM protection and what better a way than to offer a fool proof P2P sharing program within MCE, linking it to the Messenger buddy list and searching for users with the same tastes, that would get people filling in their MSN profiles.

    If I can watch it for free, record it for free and providing their are not restriction then why not have a community sharing the programmes. Sure there might be transatlantic barriers etc.. but I feel it would work.

    Samuel
  • Manip wrote:
    gav wrote: Of course you couldn't change the channel via the media centre PC either. Unless you're creative, buy a infrared addon and write a program to use it to simulate the Sky remote (massive hack).


    Actually, my experiance has shown this not quite true. I use an scientific atlanta explorer8000 set top box at home, and i hook it up to my zd7000 MCE notebook when i go there, there is a IR connector that can plug into the back of my IR reciever, and can go in front of the reciever on the set top box. the media center software let me configure it to work properly with that box (so i can use my MCE remote all the time). I dont know how true that is for all set top boxes, and i did that on MCE2004, i cant be sure that functionality is even still there, or if it was a HP feature they added. I dont know how other MCE systems work, but thats my experiance Wink

    -Dan
  • Andre Da CostaAndre Da Costa Created with PhotoDraw 2000 V2
    I'm running it on my laptop, its a really nice OS, I like the Energi Blue Theme, but Media Center is not compatible with my video card so I have say I don't have any interest in that aspect of the OS. I know, its strange, but I love PhotoStory and other extra goodies that came as a part of the Microsoft Plus! Pack.

    My Question is, why does the installation require 2 disk? Couldn't you have compressed the contents of disk 2 on disk 1?
  • I hope this post isn't too "commercial," but it seems pretty applicable for readers of this post's content.  My company Xtras.Net decided to assemble a set of DYI hardware components for creating your own XPMCE 2005:

    http://www.xtras.net/Products/xpmce2005hardware.asp?rl=825ACD4D-738A-46F7-B2F6-727A0126CA47">http://www.xtras.net/Products/xpmce2005hardware.asp

    We did so to empower .NET developers to be able to get a second working MCE 2005 box cheaply so they could create MCE 2005 add-ins. We knew nobody wanted to use their living room MCE 2005 for development and miss taping Monday Night Football, or Desperate Housewives. Smiley Plus who can afford to buy two MCE's from HP, Dell, or Sony?

    Our kit requires you to get the MCE 2005 O/S from somewhere. One way is via MSDN Universal. If you don't have MSDN Universal, we are giving the hardware kit away to people who buy MSDN Universal at a sister website of Xtras.Net called MsdnSource:

    http://www.msdnsource.com/Offers/XPMCE2005/?rl=3372E4BE-27FA-4758-B5F7-F1EA40BC29CA">http://www.msdnsource.com/Offers/XPMCE2005/

    (If this post was too commercial, please ask an admin to delete it and let me know at mikes * at * xtras *dot* net so I'll know better next time. Smiley
  • Sounds interesting.  It would be nice to find out what kind of AGP Video Card (basically what model, how many megs, etc.)  is included in your xpMCE2005hardware package. 

    It's interesting to note that you mentioned:
    "Our test bed was an AMD Athlon 700Mhz with 256Mb RAM and a 20Gb hard disk, and XPMCE 2005 runs reasonable well on that box, especially for testing .NET apps."  Well I have a similar machine and it would be interesting if it could work on that machine.

    No, I'm not associated with your company, but I find the info helpful.  And it's interesting to know that you're the owner of the website as well.  Maybe you or someone could mention where .NET fits into the equation because I'm a .net developer who'd like to incorporate my .NET knowledge of winforms/compact framework/ASP.NET into XPMCE 2005. 

    BTW, thanks a lot for your info, Charlie.  You're a real help...



  • smillersmiller Shawn Miller
    During this video there was a mention of podcasting using BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) to use up spare bits of bandwith to download RSS enclosures as a means to get video/audio/photo/etc content into your Media Center.

    Ironically enough, I've already developed this exact application and have been using it for months now.  I recently posted this as a free download @ http://www.nuparadigm.com/Products/Toys/

    It's called DrizzleCast (because it "drizzles" the downloads to you quietly in the background using idle bandwith).  It's a podcast client for Windows that uses Microsoft BITS technology to download RSS enclosures using idle bandwith. 

    It's perfect for adding RSS enclosure (aka podcast) content to your Media Center.  We've used it to tune to the RSS feed for MSDN's Channel9 videos (http://channel9.msdn.com/rss.aspx?ForumID=14&Mode=0) to download directly into My Videos and for .NET Rocks Internet Audio Talk Show (http://www.dotnetrocks.com/DotNetRocks_FullMP3.xml) to download directly to My Music.  Each day we come home and find new media content to check out directly in Media Center's 10 foot interface.

    The best part is that it's pretty automatic.  Just tell it what the RSS feeds with enclosures you're interested in, where you want it to download the data to, and let it do its thing.  It downloads the files quietly in the background when you're not actively using your network connection.

    http://shawn.redorchard.net/
  • Thanks, smiller!  That's an awesome application of the idle bandwidth.

    Dan
  • moofishmoofish Living in Scotland, UK
    There was a bit in the news today about voice comands from Opera software (http://winbeta.org/comments.php?id=2651&catid=1). I would like to know if MCE will get voice commands, if not in the next release but the Longhorn release.

    My point of view is that the design of the MCE interface is such that ease of navigation is a top priority, will voice commands replace this or complement it? I imagine voice commands would work well at 10foot distance when even menus are too fuzzy, i.e. "enlarge text"

    It would also be good to teach the west manners, something hotly debated in the UK. Much of the youth and adults have lost the courtecy that keeps society slick, why not have voice commands default to prompt a users to say "please enlarge text" rather than just barking "enlarge text".
  • gavgav GuitarGav
    smiller wrote:

    Ironically enough, I've already developed this exact application and have been using it for months now.  I recently posted this as a free download @ http://www.nuparadigm.com/Products/Toys/



    Good use of BITS.  Just tried your app.
    Unfortunately, like many of the podcast downloaders, there's no support for proxy server authentication.
    Another feature would be to store individual authentication for a feed for sites that require logging in.

    ....and to make it a really cool MS tool: write it as a plug-in for MS Media Player (is this possible?).

  • My panasonic video cassette recorder has this function called 'External Timer recording Control' which means it starts (and ends) the recording when it detects a signal from my Sky digibox.  I can set the digibox to come on automtically using the Sky EPG.  Can you do the same with a media centre - i.e., it starts recording when it detects a signal?

  • Very cool!

    I have been ignoring this platform for way to long.  I beg for mercy.

    Thanks for another excellent` video!
  • WinInsiderWinInsider Mike, MCAD

    Question: Any chance that we will see 64-bit edition of Media Center?  It would seem a nature fit to leverage power of 64 bit computing for multimedia type applications.  It would enable new scenarios.

  • I have a Telewest digital cable service here in the uk, and the set top box is a Pace 4000 (I believe, the customer service at telewest is awful when it gets technical).

    I know on the back of the box there are IR ports (used on TiVo boxes to control channel changes), two ports that are the same as headphone and pc speaker connectors labelled: 'IR REMOTE IN' and 'IR BLASTER OUT' it also has a USB 1 port and a crossover ethernet port (doubt either of them would work for channel changes though).

    Of course it has 2 scarts for picture output however is lacking the seperate audio channel outputs.

    When it comes to TV on the pc I have been searching for literally years for something that lets me change the channel on the pc without the digibox remote and it would appear I've almost found it.

    I would really appreciate it if anyone had any info on how I would get an IR blaster from my PC to my digibox that would be compatible with media center 2005, also I would like to know what kind of TV Tuner card I am best purchasing. I have been looking at the WinTV PVR-150 with hardware MPEG2 encoder however it is priced at around £60/$110-$120 USD here and that is really out of my price range.

    Note: just confirmed with Telewest that they don't support nor endorse nor know anything about the IR blaster feature, they couldn't even tell me it was on the box! So they are no help *sigh*.

    If this feature was available to me I would more than happily get media center on my pc and use it! My spec is more than adequate the only part of this that sucks is the graphics card but I would be willing to fork out for a new gfx card too if I could get this channel changing and a tv tuner card to work so ANY help, greatly appreciated!
  • moofishmoofish Living in Scotland, UK
    http://desktops.engadget.com/entry/1234000970041809

    Anyone been here, its a great load of comments (is that what blogging is?) on MCE's future, a real let the dam burst on the ideas side.

    For what it's worth I think that MCE should harness Microsoft move to localise the feel of services, like Messenger shows weather. Well I would like to trade movies via P2P/torrent right in MCE through Messenger contacts or a community in MCE.

    Trading TV shows to show both sides of coverage is very appealingl, plus French TV is trashy and sometimes I feel like that...

    Samuel, UK
  • moofishmoofish Living in Scotland, UK
    Although still in beta and only a few clips are available, oh and UK only restrictions, the BBC have some video content online for download:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/calc/radio1/index.shtml
  • EMS, a market research company based in London (Chiswick) is looking desperately for owners of Windows Media PCs, male between the age of 30 and 40.
    We would like to do interviews with Media PC owners here in our office. The incentive is 50 pounds for 1 hour of interview!
    If you are interested, please reply!

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