Archive for the ‘Media Center’ Category

Front End and Back End Synchronization in MCML

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

One of the issues that has been hardest for me to learn with developing media center applications as been the linking of front end items in the MCML layer with data that I have in c# on the back end. For a long time I struggled with binding values from the code in to front end, and making method calls from the front end in to the back end. I suspect that the reason I did this was because that is how it is shown in the Media Center SDK and documentation, so I thought it was the only way.

It turns out that the SDK is in fact showing the most complicated use case. There is a much easier way of linking the front end and the back end, that is so simple compared to the rest of MCML development that it’s almost non-intuitive. The technique is to create a UI item in your C# code, and then refer to that item on the front end. You don’t have two items, one front end and one back end. Instead you simply have one item that is referenced in both layers. That means that when you make a change to the value of the item in your C# code, the change is instantly reflected in the UI, and when you make a change to the value of the item in the UI, the C# code can reference that value instantly. Because it is the same physical item in memory. (more…)

Hear me on The Media Center Show this week

Friday, April 10th, 2009

I did an interview with Ian Dixon over a month ago about TunerFreeMCE, which is in this week’s Media Center Show. The content is hopefully a great advert for TunerFreeMCE, but it is bit out of date now, in that it talks about needing mouse clicks in some places, which is no longer neccessary, and also talks about future plans for doing radio, which has now been done too. I also talk about how BBC doesn’t work on extenders, but of course now you can download the BBC programs you can watch them on extenders too. Also in there is my prediction that more TV companies will move to Flash, which was proved right on the 1st April when channel 4 moved over to Flash.

I’m really pleased with the progress over the past month that has been made that has added so many more features, but the interview is still a great picture of the software. Have a listen on the digital lifestyle ?site or subscribe to the podcast.

Creating New Start Menu Strips

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

I’ve just read a great post over at the Hacking Windows 7 Media Center blog about how to add new start menu strips. It tells you how you can move Add-Ins out of the hidden depths that Microsoft has relegated them in Windows 7. I was chuffed to bits to see that the example that Michael uses is none other than TunerFreeMCE. Thanks Michael!

Flash in windows media center

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Since my TunerFreeMCE code has been out there for almost a year now, I have picked up a fair bit of experience of playing flash on windows media center.

Most of the TV companies who provide flash video do so using the Akamai tech stack to secure and stream their content. They build their own custom flash players on top of that to provide their own flavour to the players, e.g. related videos and so on. The probably intentional side effect of this is that it is really not trivial to get in to their flash streams and do anything with it. It’s not like the have an rtmp url easily accessible for you to get hold of. There are ways of doing it, but not easily. There is for example a project on sourceforge called rtmpdump ( which allows you to download flash videos from the BBC and from Hulu. (more…)

How to add an overwriting message to a console application in c#.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

As part of my TunerFreeMCE application, I have a console application which builds up a cache of all of the programs that can be watched. That can be a slow process at times, particularly on hulu and Five. I wanted to give the user some feedback of what was going on, so I put a bunch of Console.WriteLine messages in there. That worked OK, but it only gave people feedback when a task was finished, not when a long running task was in progress. What I really wanted was to add a progress update for long running tasks.


Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Happy New Year !!!
At last, just 6 days after the issue first happened, The Green Button is operational again! I’ll be responding to all of my backed up queries there shortly.

Creative Commons License?photo?credit:?Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

Project Kangaroo looses it’s bounce

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Kangaroo from Walka Water WorksSorry. I just couldn’t resist a pun. Perhaps the loss of future pun opportunities is the saddest thing about the demise of this project. Anyway, as noted on my main site, Project Kangaroo was shut down by the competition commission today.

Of course, if you are using TunerFree MCE, you probably don’t care that much – you already have a single interface for all of the UK content, so this wouldn’t have added anything new. From my perspective though, it’s hard to say if it is a good or a bad thing. If they had produced a single way of handling on-demand TV, it would have made my life much easier when producing a media center interface for it. On the other hand, if they had used their combined might to increase the protection in the system, they could have shut me out completley. Perhaps it’s best for all media center users that this didn’t happen after all.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tasumi1968

Windows 7 Versions

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Microsoft have just announced the versions of Windows 7 that they will sell. One of the most detailed descriptions I have reas is on Ian Dixon’s blog. For consumers in the UK though, the options are Windows 7 Basic (no media center, no Aero), Windows 7 Premium (adds Aero, Touch and Media Center), and Ultimate (adds domain support, Remote Desktop, Bit Locker).

This puts me in a quandry. I spent good money on Vista Ultimate licenses, mainly because I wanted the Remote Desktop capabilities which Premium didn’t have. Then I discovered that Microsoft had crippled Vista Ultimate between the beta and the final release by not allowing multiple simultaneous users, so I couldn’t remote in to my living room PC to fix things while people were watching TV. Basically that made my extra investment in Ultimate a complete waste of money. I am therefore probably going to go for Windows 7 Premium rather than Ultimate because I got so badly burned with wasting money on Vista Ultimate. At the same time?though I’m?worried that perhaps they have made it less of a lame duck this time, and I am going to miss out on something worthwhile. Damn you Microsoft! Your clever marketing to geek insecurities is working!

Perhaps Windows 7 should be the Vista Ultimate Extra that never appeared. Hint Hint.

The Green Button workaround

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

If, like me, you have been having issues with The Green Button‘s forums, you will probably be disapointed to see it isn’t fixed yet. There is however a workaround. Use Internet Explorer to log in to the site, and click on “Quick Reply” The Green Button workaroundThis opens a pretty nice editor to allow you to successfully post messages. Yes, I do think it’s coincidence that the only way to use this Microsoft site is with Internet Explorer.

Adding a version checker – code walkthrough

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I was reading an article today on Symbian Guru about how more and more S60 developers are doing the right thing by including an automatic check for updates to their code. It guilted me in to realizing that it’s one of the big features that was missing from my TunerFreeMCE application. It also made me realize that I didn’t know what the best practice was for things like that, so I googled “c# check for new program version” and frankly what came back was irrelevant or overly complex. I had some very simple requirements;

  • Minimal web traffic – I pay for this hosting you know!
  • Minimal application impact
  • Easy for the user