We talked about this when they announced that Jerry Seinfeld had signed on to promote Windows for Microsoft. If you were watching the big NFL kickoff Thursday night, you might have seen what that looked like. If you missed it, it's embedded after the jump. I've watched the commercial a few times now, and I'm torn. I agreed with Brad's take in the original post, that Seinfeld may be a few years past the point of ideal pitchman.
That being said, the first half of the commercial is quirky, and pretty funny. The idea of stumbling on Bill Gates in a discount shoe shop is an amusing place to start. And Gates does a good job as the straight man for Seinfeld. I really like the odd cut to the family watching through the glass. "They run tight." It all pays off nicely with that familiar image of Gates on his Platinum Shoe Circus Clown Club card. It loses steam when they leave the mall. A moist and chewy cake computer? I think the writers got tripped up by the iffy tag. The future. Delicious.
There are two problems with this strategy. First off, while he was an icon of the 90's, Jerry Seinfeld hasn't been relevant for a few years now (Bee Movie didn't do so well, despite his major attempts at promotion). American Express got him when he was a big deal and I'm sure more people used their production as a result, but I'm not so sure that would work now. Plus, it's not like he needs the money.
Second, the Vista operating system has gotten bad press. I mean baaaaaad press. Much of it deserved. Microsoft would be better served by having Jerry pitch whatever operating system came next rather than Vista, because there is a lot of negative publicity there to counteract.
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]
Here are some of the issues addressed:
- Improvements for recording teleivion programs on systems with analog TV tuners
- Fixed a bug that sometimes caused a blank screen to appear when switching between full screen and windowed modes while playing a video
- Empty removable media devices should no longer be displayed in the galleries
- Solved a memory leak in extender sessions
- Regional fixes for Chinese media center users
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.
Microsoft has reportedly begun testing the next generation of Windows Media Center, which bears the codename Fiji. There's not a lot of information about the beta test. We can't say for sure how many users are involved, or if and when Microsoft will expand the beta.
It's likely that the update will add support for the upcoming DirecTV tuner. But other than that, it's not entirely clear whether Fiji will sport any new features, or whether it'll just be a refined version of Windows Vista Media Center.
Microsoft is on track to release Windows 7 sometime around 2010. Windows 7 is the codename for the operating system that will eventually replace Windows Vista. Fiji, on the other hand, will be an intermediate update that will basically bring a new version of Media Center to Vista users. There's no official word on when Fiji will be released, but it could be out by the end of this year.
Participants in the private beta are bound by a pretty strict non-disclosure agreement, which is why it's been difficult to get any real information about the beta. But if anyone feels like sharing some info feel free to hit the tips link at the top of this page.
Embedded Automation has released a beta plugin for their budget home automation software that lets you control your lights, home security system, and personal video recorder all at once. The company's mControl software is basically a cheap version of the Life|ware software from Exceptional Innovation. While EI charges thousands of dollars for their software, you can get mControl for under $100.
So what exactly does the new mControl Vista Media Center Controller driver do? It lets you send and receive messages to your Windows Vista Media Center machine. That means you can have your TV playback pause any time the phone or doorbell rings. Or if you leave the lights on in another room, you can have a message pop up periodically reminding you to turn them off.
Currently it doesn't look like you can use the software to automatically dim your lights when you're watching a video and bring them back up when you hit pause. But that sort of functionality should be available in a future release.
In order to use MceFM, you'll need to have a Last.fm account, but accounts are free, so that's easy. The plugin isn't much to look at. You can enter an artist name and MceFM will connect to Last.fm, find your music and set up a playlist.
One of the coolest features of this plugin is that you can find music similar to songs and artists already on your computer. Just locate a track in your music library and then click the More button on your remote (or hit the Ctrl+D keys on your keyboard to bring up the context menu and select More), and you can search Last.fm for similar music.
[via Ian Dixon]
- Yougle 0.4.0 automatically saves your data more frequently so you don't have to worry about losing your saved filters or other information in the event of a crash
- New content sources have been added
- Google Video has been removed from the list of sources, due to problems with playback
[via Ian Dixon]
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]
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]
I first looked at the MCC software back in October when it was in beta. At the time, I was pretty certain Niveus was going to slap a price tag on the final version, but it turns out it's still free.
The Niveus Media Center Companion comes in two versions. The basic version is available for anyone with Windows Vista, while the full version requires a Niveus branded computer. The full version includes controls for media extenders and television features. But the basic version will let you control your picture and music libraries. Probably the coolest feature is the on-screen remote control that essentially lets you control your entire Windows Vista Media Center system without buying a separate remote. You know, if you happen to have a spare computer lying around.
The software comes in two parts: a server which you set up on your Windows Vista computer and the companion software which can run on any Windows XP or Vista machine. It's great for laptops or UMPCs.
[via Chris Lanier]
But what if you could turn your PDA or cellphone into a SideShow device? We've been hearing for ages that Microsoft plans to add SideShow features to Windows Mobile devices, but it looks like Ikanos Consulting has beat them to the punch. The company is beta testing its Go Gadgets software that lets you use any Windows Mobile 5.0/6 phone or PDA as a SideShow device. That means you can use it as a remote control, or if you're away from home, you can schedule TV recordings, check a grocery list, or access other features on your home PC.
Ikanos is also developing an iPhone compatible version of its software. While turning an Apple product into a Windows SideShow device might sound a bit crazy, it actually makes a lot of sense. Ikanos is developing a web-based service for interacting with Windows Vista SideShow. And since Apple's vision for the iPhone was all about web-based software applications, all Ikanos has to do is ensure that their service works well with the iPhone's Safari browser. The iPhone application isn't available for download yet, but you can grab a beta of the Windows Mobile by emailing Ikanos at beta _at_ ikanosconsulting.com.
Check out a video demonstration of the Windows Mobile software after the jump.
[via Mobility Site]
But very few hardware makers have really taken advantage of SideShow. We don't see it in many media center remote controls, which is where it would really come in handy for a PVR nut.
But the::unwired suggests that we could be seeing a whole lot more SideShow action soon if Microsoft develops a SideShow application for Windows Mobile. Suddenly your phone or PDA could turn into an awesome remote control for your Windows Media Center. You'd be able to play music, schedule recordings, or perform other basic actions without turning your TV on.
There've been inklings that Microsoft was going to launch a Windows Mobile version of SideShow since May. But now that Microsoft has released a new SideShow SDK that features support for QVGA screens and Bluetooth (read: features that many Windows Mobile devices already have), we wouldn't be surprised if a full release was just around the corner.
The plugin lets launch emulators such as MAME and KEGA using Media Center's 10-foot interface. You'll need to figure out how to get the games on your own. Here are a few of the updates in the latest version:
- Now you can close your emulator from EMUCenter. Previously you could only launch applications.
- Faster, smoother movement between games
- Choose different appearance for different games or systems
- Search for games by name
- MAME automatic update now downloads in-game art
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