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October 25, 2014

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Microsoft ships Windows Media Center TV Pack update - to OEMs only

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 18th 2008 9:04AM
Windows Media Center TV Pack
As reported last week, Microsoft has been working on an update for Windows Media Center that adds support for international users and removes the restriction on the number of TV tuners you can use. The update, which has often been referred to by its codename, Fiji, has been veiled in secrecy. Now it looks like there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that Fiji has shipped. A Microsoft knowledge base article refers to a "Windows Media Center TV Pack," which was released on July 16th. The bad news is, the update was released to OEMs, not to end users. In other words, there's no way for you to download and install the update on your Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate computer. You'll have to wait until Microsoft either issues a wider release or until you purchase a new computer with the software preloaded.

[via Geek Tonic]

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CinemaNow movies now available in Windows Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted May 22nd 2008 6:29PM

CinemaNow MCE

Raise your hand if you'd kind of forgotten that CinemaNow existed. Go ahead, don't be shy. While Apple, Amazon, and Netflix have been making headlines for distributing digital movies and TV shows over the last year or so, CinemaNow's been doing this for ages. Along with MovieLink, CinemaNow was one of the first digital distributors to sign deals with major Hollywood studios. (MovieLink had a bit of a leg up, since it's co-owned by several of those studios).

CinemaNow's not resting on its laurels. The company today launched a partnership with Microsoft to bring CinemaNow content to Windows Media Center. That means you can browser and purchase or rent videos using a remote control and a 10 foot interface. CinemaNow has over 3400 feature films, 3000 TV episodes, and 2900 music videos in its library.

If you don't notice the CinemaNow icon in the "more TV" section of Windows Media Center right away, try going into settings and forcing Windows Media Center to download updates.

CinemaNow isn't the first company to launch an MCE application. MovieLink and Vongo have had a position in the Showcase section of Windows Vista MCE for some time.

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Netflix recruits MyNetflix MCE developer

by Brad Linder, posted May 19th 2008 11:02AM

MyNetflix

Netflix has hired Anthony Park. Now, normally I wouldn't bother writing a post to let you know that a media company has gone and hired a developer. But Anthony Park happens to be the guy who created MyNetflix, one of the first Windows Media Center plugins that allowed you to stream videos from the Netflix web site on your TV using Windows Vista MCE.

Park says he'll be working on a research team "to build the next generation of the Netflix user experience." What that means is he'll be helping develop the user interface for accessing the Netflix service on a variety of different devices. If Netflix develops software for the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, or AppleTV, Park could be involved in developing the GUI.

Park says he also plans to continue developing MyNetflix on his own time.

[via Ian Dixon]

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iPlayer plugin for Windows Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted May 9th 2008 3:55PM

iPlayer MCE

The BBC may be porting its iPlayer internet television service to the Nintendo Wii and other video game consoles and set top boxes, but for some reason the BBC has ignored the mos obvious way to get web content onto a TV: Windows Media Center.

Most computers sold today come with Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate, which means that they already have Windows Media Center software designed for displaying video and web content on a TV screen. Taking an application like the iPlayer, which is designed for keyboard and mouse navigation, and integrating it with Windows Media Center for remote control navigation should be a breeze. And it turns out, it kind of is. Since the BBC hasn't designed a MCE plugin, developer Martin Millmore made his own.

The plugin isn't perfect yet. While you can navigate iPlayer content with a remote control, Millmore hasn't been able to get programs to play or switch to full screen mode without using a mouse. And of course, the iPlayer service won't work if you don't live in the UK. But that's a feature, not a bug.

[via Ian Dixon]

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mcePicasa brings Picasa web albums to Windows Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted Feb 17th 2008 1:05PM
mcePicasa
Windows Media Center makes it easy to browse any photo collection stored on your PC using a remote control and a 10-foot interface. But what if your pictures are stored online, not on your PC? Media Center plugin mcePicasa lets you login to your Picasa Web albums and view your online photo albums from the comfort of your couch.

Installation couldn't be easier. Just download the setup file, run it, and when you next load Windows Meida Center you should find a Picasa icon in your More Programs menu. Click the icon and you can enter your Picasa username to access your web albums.

In my test, mcePicasa only managed to locate one of my Picasa albums, even though I have several different folders. The current release is just an Alpha, so hopefully the kinks will be worked out eventually. The program is also open source, so if you know your way around Windows Media Center plugin development, you can lend a hand and help make mcePicasa better.

[via Ian Dixon]

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More ways to stream Netflix videos on your Media Center PC

by Brad Linder, posted Feb 14th 2008 5:27PM

MyNetflix isn't the only Windows Media Center plugin for watching streaming movies from Netflix. Well, not for long anyway. NetflixMC is an upcoming plugin that will work with Windows Vista Media Center and Windows XP MCE. MyNetflix is Vista only.

NetflixMC lacks some of the features of MyNetflix, like the ability to manage your queue. Pretty much all you can use NetflixMC for is finding and viewing "Watch Now" movies from the Netflix web site. But the application's slick interface makes up for its limited feature set. Not to mention that it's nice to see a developer who hasn't forgotten about Windows XP users. Most of the cool new applications I've seen in the last few months have been Vista specific.

Independent developer Ryan Gray is also working on a Netflix Watch Now plugin for MeediOS, an alternate media center for computers running Windows. You can check out a video of his MeeFlix plugin in action after the jump, or read more about it at the MeediOS forums.

[via Chris Lanier and Missing Remote]

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Media Center plugin tells Facebook contacts what you're watching

by Brad Linder, posted Feb 13th 2008 4:01PM
Facebook Media Center
If you're the sort of person who doesn't do anything without updating your Facebook status first to let all of your friends know that you're eating dinner, heading to work, reading a book, or updating your Facebook status, have I got a Windows Media Center plugin for you.

Developer Jussi Palo whipped up a little Facebook application that will automatically update your Facebook status to reflect what you're watching with Windows Vista Media Center. If you're watching a program called "News," your status will be set to ".. is watching News." If you're watching a DVD or listening to music, that will show up too.

In order to run install the Facebook Media Center plugin you'll need to download an executable file to your Windows Vista machine, run the installer, and reboot your system. Then you need to login to Facebook. Everything else happens in the background. Unfortunately you're login information won't be remembered, so you may have to login to Facebook every time you restart your PC.

[via Ian Dixon]

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Coming soon: Watch Netflix online video using Windows Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted Jan 27th 2008 12:58PM

Sure, Netflix is great if you like waiting for DVDs to show up in the mail or if you don't mind watching online video using a web browser. But I kind of like watching movies on a TV screen. And while I've got a computer permanently plugged into my TV, the last thing I want to do is pull out a keyboard and mouse and open up a web browser to watc my movies, when I've got Windows Media Center and a remote control.

Fortunately, it looks like someone's developing a Windows Media Center plugin that will let you watch Netflix videos without a web browser. Development is still in the early phases, but the promise is that you'll be able to find available movies and stream them in full screen mode all without visiting Netflix.com in web browser. When it's complete, the plugin should let you login to your Netflix account, browse and search Netflix "watch now" movies, and possibly even add DVDs in your queue for ordering the old fashioned way.

[via Missing Remote]

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Hulu + Windows Media Center = true Internet TV

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 29th 2007 12:58PM
Hulu on MSN
I don't even have a beta invitation to Hulu yet, and already I can tell you that the new online video service from NBC and FOX is a game-changer. Sure, you can't download episodes and burn them to DVD or carry them with you on your iPod. But because the service provides free ad-supported streaming episodes of a bunch of series you actually want to watch, Hulu could make a serious dent on iTunes, Amazon, Joost, and other services that let you watch videos on your PC.

And since Hulu is partnering with online video sites like AOL and MSN, you can already watch quite a bit of Hulu content today, even without a beta account.

But there's one thing you can't easily do with Hulu -- yet. And that's watch the videos on your TV. But something tells me that's about to change very quickly. When Microsoft launched its new "Internet TV" component for Windows Vista Media Center last month, we were impressed by the technology but a bit disappointed with the content options.

The only videos available were from the MSN Video site. That means it's a bunch of clips from popular programs, user-generated content, and a handful of music videos and concerts. There was a grand total of one TV series with full length streaming episodes available. And while I love me some Arrested Development, I was really hoping for a bit more.

As of this morning, there are 80+ series available on MSN Video. Not all of the shows are from Hulu. There's also some CBS programming, including 18 billion different versions of CSI. There's no way to access these shows from the Windows Media Center interface yet. But I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before these episodes start showing up in MCE.

Update: I just got an email from someone at MSN Video PR, and it appears Hulu content will not be available through Internet TV. I suppose NBC/FOX don't want to cannibalize DVD sales, but this is still pretty disappointing news.

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Add Joost to your Windows Media Center menu

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 9th 2007 4:30PM
Joost MCEOne of my main complaints with Internet TV platforms like Joost, Babelgum, VeohTV, and Vuze is that while they work great when you're sitting in front of your PC, they're kind of a hassle on your TV. And let's face it, I'd rather watch video on my TV than on my notebook PC.

Joost is probably the easiest IPTV service of the bunch to navigate with a remote control. And now thanks to a member of the Green Button community there's an unofficial Joost button for Windows Vista Media Center.

All you have to do is download and unzip the file and the batch installer file. It will add a Joost button to the TV + Movies menu of Windows Media Center. The button will also show up in the programs menu. When you click the Joost button Joost will open up. We know, it's surprising, but true. When you close Joost your Windows MCE interface should come back up.

This isn't the first time we've seen a Joost plugin for MCE, but the new Joost button is a bit more attractive than the old version.

[via eHomeUpgrade]

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Niveus releases media center companion software

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 4th 2007 11:00AM
Niveus Media Center CompanionWant to scare the heck out of your kids? While they're watching TV in the living room go ahead and open up your laptop in the office and start changing the channels on them. While I'm pretty sure this isn't what Niveus had in mind when they created their Media Center Companion software, it's certainly what I'd do. If I had kids.

The Media Center Companion lets you control access data like cover art, TV recording details, and photo thumbnails on any PC in your house. You can also use your second computer as a remote control for your media center. For example, if you want to play music from your media center without turning your TV on, just fire up the companion software on your laptop and select your playlist.

Niveus Media Center Companion is sort of like the grown up version of the company's Pocket Remote software.

Up until now, Niveus only made the companion software available to customers who had purchases Niveus media center PCs. But now the company has released a public beta version of the software that should run on any machine running Windows Media Center. The program is free while in beta, although we suspect Niveus will slap a price on the software when it's officially launched.

[via Missing Remote]

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Sync your Zune with Windows Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 3rd 2007 2:00PM
ZuneWhen I first heard that Microsoft was going to launch its own media player last year, I just kind of assumed it would work seamlessly with other Microsoft products, like I don't know, Windows Media Center.

But it turns out that if you wanted to watch recordings you'd made on your computer on your Zune, you had to jump through a few hoops to convert your recordings to WMV and export them to your Zune. Now that Microsoft has announced the specs for the next generation of Zunes, it looks like the company has finally added support for synchronizing the little guys with Windows Media Center.

This makes the Zune into a pretty useful portable media player for MCE users. Rather than spending time converting each video you want to watch, you can just automatically keep the last few day's worth of recorded programs synchronized with your device so that when you get stuck on the train you'll have plenty to watch. Of course, if you're stuck for more than 5 hours you're out of luck, because while you can get 20 hours of audio playback on a Zune, the battery tops out at about 5 hours of video playback.

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Microsoft releases software update for new media extenders

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 1st 2007 6:00PM
Windows Vista updateAlthough none of the new media center extenders announced last week have actually been released yet, Microsoft has issued a software update that will enable their use with Windows Vista machines.

The update is available for Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate users. There's no word on what the update actually entails, but Microsoft describes it as enabling support for "new types of Windows Media Center Extenders, such as digital televisions and networked DVD players."

That certainly makes it sound like there's no reason to download the update if you're using an Xbox 360 right now. But if you have a chance to try it out, let us know if you notice any changes in the Xbox 360 extender interface or performance.

[via Jason Tsang]

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Microsoft hires developer of WebGuide, sets program free

by Brad Linder, posted Sep 6th 2007 10:00AM
WebGuideFor years, developer Doug Berrett has been toiling away at an application that really should have been developed by Microsoft. WebGuide provides a slew of ways to interact with your Windows Media Center PC on the go, whether you want to remotely schedule recordings or stream recorded TV shows.

Well, it looks like Microsoft noticed Berrett's work, and the company went and hired him. While this is great news for Berrett, it's also good news for you. Because it means that WebGuide is now available as a free download. No more $18 fee to register your software.

Berrett will be working with the Media Center team to push Media Center "into the high-end custom installation market," which means he won't be offering updates to WebGuide anymore. But he did push out one final release yesterday. Updates for Windows Vista and Windows XP MCE 2005 editions include:
  • Updated "now playing" screen to not update the progress bar as often in full screen mode
  • Fixed login text entry on Xbox 360
  • Added auto-redirect to mobile pages for mobile devices
Congratations Doug!

[via Missing Remote]

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Control your Media Center from a UMPC with Mirage

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 12th 2007 7:30AM
Mirage
Sure, it's nice to have a fancy remote control to go along with your expensive media center PC. But if you've got a laptop or UMPC lying around, it could be the best remote of all, giving you near-complete control over Windows Media Center running on your PC.

Autonomic Home's Mirage is a Flash-based program that works with Media Media Control Server to give you control over music, video, and photo playback. Mirage works with Windows Vista and Windows MCE 2005. It acts as more than a remote control. If you're using it to play music on your PC, Mirage will display metadata like album art and ID tags. If you're controlling TV playback, you'll get similar data. And so on.

Mirage is free while in beta, and includes a free trial of Media Control Server. But a full version of Media Control Server will set you back $500. It's obviously meant more for professional use, but Mirage looks like a great consumer level product. Hopefully a future version will include some of the same functionality without the high price tag.

[via Chris Lanier]

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