Windows Home Server Cannot Even Mount Backups

September 12th, 2009


Windows Home Server has had it’s fair share of?embarrassing?issues that really shouldn’t happen to a server. First of all, it didn’t really support the sort of home power users who were buying it, because it didn’t support backing up 64bit systems for the first year after launch. Secondly, it was corrupting files (I personally lost a few photos to that when they were corrupted while rotating them). Thirdly, until recently you couldn’t back up the server itself, so it was a fairly lousy place to store files.

Now a new issue is becoming more common, which is the inability to recover backups. More and more users are reporting that when trying to mount a backup, the process gets to 81% and then gives the error “Cannot mount the backup”. This was meant to be resolved with Power Pack 3, but from personal experience, I can tell you that it is not, even in the final version. To make matters worse, the symptoms are that you can mount a backup once on each client machine, and then never again. So you get the false sense of security that everything is working fine if you check the backups, but it fails as soon as you really need it. Read the rest of this entry »

Auto Play DVDs in Media Center in Windows 7

September 7th, 2009


One of my great annoyances with Windows 7 is that you don’t have the option to auto-play DVDs with Media Center. I logged it as a bug during the testing phase, and was informed that it was intentional – something along the lines of if you wanted to use Media Center, it would be open already, so auto-play wasn’t appropriate.

Anyway, I disagree, and fortunatly someone has come up with a fix for the problem. Mikinho over at Seven Forums has produced a simple registry change to get Media Center added to the DVD movie auto play options. I tested it out, and it all works great; Read the rest of this entry »

Fix table rendering problems in IE8

August 6th, 2009

Those of you who do any serious web design know that using tables to define the layout of your page is so 1995. The only way to design your page is with css.

Those of you who actually really do any serious web site coding also know that you will sooner or later be asked to work on a site that makes heave use of tables, and when faced with re-coding the whole system to use css or sticking with tables, it’s often going to be stick with tables.

Unfortunatly, IE8 has a nasty habit of simply ignoring any table cell widths you specify and rendering them as whatever size it sees fit on a truly random basis (refresh the page and see a different layout!). Fortunatly I found a solution to get IE to behave nice again. You can use the?table-layout: fixed style to get it behaving well again, so just stick the following in your stylesheet (you do at least have one stylesheet don’t you?);


And there you have it – freedom to continue coding?like it’s Web 1.0 time!

WebTelek Media Center Add-In

June 28th, 2009

WebTelekSome of you might have noticed that there hasn’t been much going on with TunerFree for a few months. I can now reveal why that was. For the past 2 months I have been working with Russian internet television provider, WebTelek, on a Media Center interface. WebTelek specialize in providing television and radio programs over the internet for the Russian market, both at home and abroad with the ex-pat market. Today they have Live TV from almost 70 channels, 20 days complete coverage of Catchup TV for over 50 of those channels, and thousands of movies, with growing content all of the time.

WebTelek approached me with the request to create a top of the range Media Center interface for their internet television service. They already had a web interface and a Media Portal interface, but wanted to expand in to Media Center. One of their biggest concerns was that it look great so that they could confidently have a superior interface to their competitors. That was a challenge that I was happy to take on, especially with the prospect of developing new library components that I could use in TunerFree.

I won’t be publishing the full code for this project for obvious reasons, but wanted to share some of the key things I learnt from this project.

Read the rest of this entry »

BBC iPlayer mobile on vodafone 3G

June 11th, 2009

iPlayer mobleThe BBC have had an iPlayer widget available for a few mobiles, including a nice widget for Nokia phones. It has worked great on my N85 for quite some time now, but only when connected with wifi. I assumed that was an automatic restriction since whenever I clicked on play when not in wifi, it told me that it only worked over wifi. I had also played with editing the javascript in the widget and had success with version 1.5, but not version 1.6.

I was therefore amazed to read this post on the bbc blog today in which it claims that both Vodafone and 3 support watching BBC iPlayer mobile over 3G. I did some playing with the settings, and discovered why I haven’t got it to work in the past. I always select the Vodafone Internet GPRS access point when accessing any online functionality, because it is typically a more open network. It turns out though that the BBC iPlayer treats that as a non-Vodafone 3G connection. If you change the streaming setting in Real Player to use the Voadafone Live access point, and connect to the iPlayer widget with the Vodafone Live access point, you can watch iPlayer over 3G on your Vodafone mobile. Fantastic! Just remember to go in and set the access point for real player back to something else for watching other content (seriously Nokia – that one’s a disgrace.)

The only thing that doesn’t work is that the walled garden of Vodafone Live doesn’t allow you access to the thumbnail pictures when browsing the programs, but hey, you can’t have everything can you?

Unfortunatly the bbc live mobile site still doesn’t work on the N85. No idea why, since it has more codecs than the phones that do support it, but I think the BBC just aren’t interested in the device. N96 seems to be their preferred Nokia.

Wanted: Plugin developers for TunerFreeMCE

June 9th, 2009

I am currently working on a plugin feature for?TunerFreeMCE to allow other people to produce plugins for TV content from any source. The idea is that you specify some metadata about the channels (e.g. channel names, logos, details of how to get the program list), and the TunerFree code takes care of reading it and producing a list of programs.

At the moment I am looking for people who would like to work on a plugin to test this. Ideally you need;

1) A channel that you want to add
2) html and xml skills to be able to produce the metadata

If you are interested in producing a plugin, e-mail me at



Lovefilm suspiciously helpful support

May 11th, 2009

Lovefilm have started using a new style envelope. Compared to the old ones (above), they are a pain to use. I thought I would let them know, and sent them this e-mail;

I just got one of your new style envelopes. They are dreadful! The zip part shreds, the tear off bit doesn’t tear off, and there is sticky bits left on it. Bring back the old ones.

and within 10 minutes I got back the following response;

We would like to inform you that we have forwarded your concern regarding the envelopes to our relevant department and they will do this for you as soon as possible.

I know I am influential, but I didn’t expect to get a promise that the company would do a U-turn and ditch the new packaging quite so easily! I’ll have to use my powers more wisely next time.

Get TortoiseCVS working in Vista

May 9th, 2009


I’m sure that there are many developers completley frustrated by TortoiseCVS‘s inability to work with Vista. Tortoise is easily the best open source CVS integration too, essential for any serious developer who needs to use a proper revision control system (no, creating an occasional backup, or relying on Vista’s “Previous Versions” feature is not source control). The problem though is that it just constantly seems to crash when using Vista, giving errors like “TortoisePlink has stopped working”. After a lot of googling turning up dubious solutions about disabling UAC and other equally dubious solutions. Finally I found a good workaround though. Go to?C:\Program Files\CVS Suite\TortoiseCVS and edit the properties of TortoisePlink.exe to set it to run with Windows XP compatability mode. Now it’ll run with much more success. Read the rest of this entry »

Simpler popup dialog

April 19th, 2009

In a previous post on adding a version checker to media center, I gave an example of how to write a popup dialog box for media center. There is also a simpler version of the Dialog if you don’t need to know anything about the response, e.g. if you are simply showing an information message. This simpler version doesn’t require a callback to be defined, or any complex button definitions. It just needs a title, some text, a button name, a timeout and whether or not it is modal. Here’s an example;

      <Condition Source="[Preferences.TwitDialog]" SourceValue="true" ConditionOp="ChangedTo">
          <Set Target="[Preferences.TwitDialog]" Value="false"/>
          <Invoke Target="[AddInHost.MediaCenterEnvironment.Dialog]"
                  caption="Authorize Twitter"
                  text="Please authorize twitter."


The buttons can only be ones from the list described in the documentation. A modal window requires either the user or a timeout to close it before any other actions can be done, whereas a modeless window allows the user to continue with other things in the meanwhile.

The dialog is fired in this example by a property which is set in the code to true, and then set back to false when it is read. The condition only fires when the value is set to true in the first place by using the ConditionOp.

Front End and Back End Synchronization in MCML

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. Read the rest of this entry »