Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Opinion; What the next generation extender really needs...


Ok now I have got your attention time for what our friends stateside like to call an OpEd - an opinionated editorial.

I read a lot of Ian Dixon's post where he talks of the Media Centre as a server hidden away somewhere with extenders delivering content to the TV. It is a very well thought out argument for an effective model of operation.

That Model wouldn't work for me currently. Why not? Well I have a confession - about 70% of the time my Media Centre is not in the 10ft interface. Instead it is browsing the web, conversing in messenger or as I am doing now typing in a blog entry,

I am doing all this on a 37" screen from about 8ft and it is perfectly readable. I will admit I am blessed with good eyesight,  have also tweaked the font sizes up (changing DPI is the way to go)  and occasionally use Zoom in IE7 but it works and is very useful to me.

Others might argue they can do just as well with a laptop, of all places on their lap, and with less eyestrain. It is a fair argument and I do use a laptop for coding or when I want to do private work.

There is the rub the Media Centre is a very public interface people can see what you are doing. I think that is great! All too often we hear people complaining how technology is making us self-centred and anti-social. One of the truly great things about the Media Centre interface is that it is inclusive and social. The same holds true for my use of the web browser etc, People can see what I am doing and join in. It is fantastic for planning things like holidays etc.

Please don't get me wrong I love the 10ft interface for Music, TV and video and it is by far (especially with the enhancements in Windows 7) the nicest way to navigate my media.

I also accept that building a decent quality, quiet Media Centre that can live under a TV is challenging, I've done it  a few times but very challenging, and yes I do have an extender elsewhere in the house as a cheaper, quieter alternative.but it doesn't do everything I want.

It is unfortunate that over the years we have lost Messenger  from the 10ft interface. We have had an attempt at a web browser but it didn't work well for me. So here is my cry. Can someone please build an extender with:

an RF keyboard with a  touchpad (or at least a USB human interface device)

Remote Desktop Protocol built in. With remote desktop I could do all those wonderful things I do on my Media Centre PC now but hmmmm remotely.

That would make me happy and I could follow Ian's advice and put my media Centre away or even use something like a touchsmart. somewhere else in the house to feed my new super extender.

Now for all sorts of cost and licensing issues (not least you can't use Remote Desktop with Home Premium) this is unlikely to happen soon. So I guess I'm stuck with my little media centre under my telly which lets my watch TV, listen to music, show photos, Play blu-ray and HDDVD movies, record tv, watch catch-up and Internet tv and did I mention browse the web, do email and messenger. All in a box smaller than my last video recorder (oops showing my age

Of course WIndows 7 is coming  and that may have some interesting alternatives to using an extender.

P.S. I genuinely don't think that extenders need anymore codecs - transcoding should be done on the fly from any media that the PC can play and the PC should obtain the codecs.It is perfectly feasible to make this a transparent process to the user that they shouldn't need to think about it

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Maplin have RF MCE Keyboard with Built-in touchpad for 30 quid (£29.99) - UPDATE BACK IN STOCK as of 2nd April 2009 but now £49.99

Recently when asked what wireless keyboard I would recommend for Media Center use I have been mentioning the RK-278 MCE Keyboard from Maplin here in the UK. I really like these keyboards they have a good full size keyboard which balances nicely on your lap; a good selection of media center specific keys and most significantly a built-in touchpad. For those of us using Laptops day in day out this is just so much easier to get on with than the joysticks or trackballs that usually inhabit these al in one input devices. So even though they retailed at around 60 quid I thought the extra functionality worthwhile over other cheaper competitors. Now, in time for the holidays, Maplin have dropped the price to just under 30 quid - which is a bargain.

I think this offer is in store only as i can't find the keyboard listed on the website and my local store did not have many left.

They also currently have a rather neat RF based Media Center remote for sub 20 pound as well. CORRECTION: this is actually an infraed remote not RF (I'm sure it said RF on the shelf)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

VMCD 180,000 downloads - wow!

I was rather shocked to find that my Vista Media Center Decoder has just clocked up it's 180,000th download. That is an awful lot of Vista Media Center users tinkering with their codecs. I have no idea how that compares with other VMC tools out there but I'm impressed by the number. Its rather humbling to think of all those people using something I threw together. I just hope it has been useful to those who have downloaded it.

Can I repeat a small plea here: I get a lot of mail from people saying that VMCD is being flagged as being a Trojan by some SpyWare detectors. It is not but it does update the registry which some of the scanners semm to think is trojan-like behaviour. Again I can say the download from my site I have checked and double checked and it is not infected. So here is the plea, if you do get a report that it is a trojan can you report this as a false-positive to your anti-spyware provider. I am quite happy to supply anti-spyware companies with any data they need.