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]
A tipster also sent EngadgetHD a few screenshots of the upcoming update, which adds a few new features like the ability to use as many TV tuners as you want, and to use a combination of tuner types such as NTSC, ATSC, QAM, CableCARD, DVB-T, PAL, or DVB-S. The update includes additional features for international media center users, such as support for ISDB-T and BML standards in Japan, and DVB-T and DVB-S in Europe.
But does that make Windows Media Center a failure? MSNBC seems to think so. In an article on Microsoft's hits and misses during Bill Gates tenure, MSNBC calls Windows Media Center a miss.
It's true that other products like TiVo and generic set top boxes have been more successful at infiltrating the living room. Not only do these consumer devices let users record and pause television, but in many cases they're letting users access internet services without a TV.
Meanwhile, few people want to stick a computer next to their television set. But that might not be the point. Windows Media Center might not be as familiar a name as TiVo, but the software is powerful and well thought out. And high end home theater PC makers have been designing fancy computers to take advantage of the software for years. And a growing number of companies are releasing Windows Media Extenders that let users access media on a PC connected to a home network without sticking a PC next to the television.
What do you think? Is Windows Media Center a hit or a miss? Keep in mind, MSNBC considers Halo a hit and Clippy a miss. So what I'm really asking is whether MCE fits in the same category as Clippy.
[via Chris Lanier]
While you can use it to play videos, music, and photos stored on your PC, the MediaSmart Connect has a few other tricks up its sleeve. You can access online radio and video streams using Windows Media Center. And the MediaSmart Connect has 2 USB ports and an HP Pocket Media Bay for additional stroage which lets you access media stored on a hard drive.
The box supports a bunch of formats including MPEG2/4, DiVX, XViD, DVR-MS, WMV, WMV-HD, MP3, WMA, AAC, JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, and PNG. You can connect it to your home network via an Ethernet port or over a wireless 802.11a/b/g/n network.
The MediaSmart Connect should be available for preorder later today for $349.
[via The Windows Experience Blog]
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
vmcNetflix already include features that other Windows Media Center Netflix plugins lack, such as support for media extenders like the Xbox 360. It'll be interesting to see what other features a community of developers can add.
You can download the latest version of vmcNetflix and check out the source code at its new home page.
[via Ian Dixon]
How often has this happened to you? You're sitting in front of the tube watching a recording of last night's Daily Show and suddenly your cat comes scampering into the room and won't leave you alone until you promise to play with her. Being too lazy to get up off the couch, you stare at your remote control and wish it had a built in laser pointer. Well, AMEX has just the product for you.
The company's upcoming RM-mp1 remote control can handle Windows Media Center duties, has a built in laser pointer, and a touchpad for all your mousing duties. The 104 x 38 x 12mm remote will come in black and white models, and ships with a wireless USB receiver.
No word on pricing or availability.
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.
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]
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.
Ever since it was first demonstrated that you could control the Netflix "watch now" interface from Windows Media Center, MCE plugins for Netflix have been populating like bunnies. There are now three different plugins that let you browse or search your Netflix queue and watch movies all from the comfort of your couch.
Missing Remote has an in-depth look at vmcNetflix, MyNetflix, and NetflixMC. And it turns out that not all Netflix plugins are not created equal. Some are Vista only, while others will run on Windows XP Media Center Edition. Al three have attractive interfaces and most of the features that you'd expect. But only one vmcNetflix supports Windows Media Center Extenders like the Xbox 360.
If you're looking for Windows XP MCE support, NetflixMC is pretty much your only option for now. And if you're looking for support for media extenders, vmcNetflix is the way to go. But if you're looking for a more detailed overview, you should check out the full article at Missing Remote.
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]
In other news, Snapstream Media CEO Rakesh Agrawal wrote in to let us know that his team has received a prototype unit for testing purposes. Snapstream makes the BeyondTV personal video recorder software for Windows, so it's safe to say that HD-PVR support will be added to BeyondTV in the not too distant future. Agrawal says he's not ready to make any official statement yet, since Hauppauge is still working on the hardware.
Blogger Dave Zatz has already confirmed that SageTV will support the HD-PVR, which means that it's possible the only major commercial PVR application for Windows that won't support the device when it's launched will be Windows Media Center. But Windows Media Center support is expected later this year.
It's not clear at this point whether media extender support will be included in a future release, because it's possible that the solution he came up with only works on his particular system and it's not clear if it can be automated.
For anyone who got lost in the first paragraph, a media center extender is a set top box that connects to your main Windows Media Center computer over a home network. So if you have one PC that you use to record and store TV, you can place extenders in other rooms in the house that will let you watch recorded TV shows and other content. In other words, some people don't have a PC in their living room, they just have an extender box, which is why it's pretty significant that someone figured out a way to stream Netflix videos over one.
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