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Adding DVBViewer to Windows Vista Media Center

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Feb-2008 12:29

During the last week we managed to get the most excellent DVBViewer running in our Windows Vista Ultimate box (the Apple Mac mini we have in the lounge) as reported in my previous post.

But reality is you don't want to have to always use a keyboard to leave the Windows Media Center interface, manually run the DVBViewer and then use the keyboard again to to get back into the Media Center application. You can automate this sequence with a couple of XML files and other two batch files.

Ideally you would have DVBViewer configured to start in full screen and stay on top. You will also configure a remote control to use instead of a keyboard. This is all done through th Options menu on DVBViewer.

I then read about creating the XML files and use them with the MCE Registration API. Once these are created you can then create a strip and add the tiles to it. This second step involves some registry modifications and I found out that using the MCE Menu Customizer would be faster and error free.

So I have created a couple of XML files that create two applications and entrypoints that you can then add to the Media Center menus - and I am making the files available here.

So these are the steps:

1.Download the file and unzip it in the same folder where DVBViewer is installed - it must be installed on the default folder (\Program files\DVBViewer)

2.Double-click dvbviewermceregister.bat to create the icons which will be added to the "Online Media" strip.

3.If you want these in their own custom strip then download MCE Menu Customizer and execute it - just drag-and-drop the application tiles to the "+" signs and name the strip.

4.Restart the Media Center UI and you are all set.

The "Digital TV" tile kills the Media Center interface and start the DVBViewer. If you have DVBViewer set for fuil screen then you will have your DVB-T channels in a couple of seconds.

You can configure a button on your remote control to exit the DVBViewer application. You can then use the green button to restart the Media Center interface. If you restart the Media Center without closing DVBViewer then you can select the "Stop Digital TV" tile to close it from within the Media Center.

One small user interface problem though: when you select any of those two tiles you will see a warning "You must be connected to the Internet to use this feature". Don't worry - it will go away in a few seconds and I don't really know why it's showing this (yet) since there's no Internet access at all on those two tiles.

If you want to uninstall the tiles, simply double-click the dvbviewermceunregister.bat file to execute it.

Thanks to Koen for his quick reply to a newbie question - I could have found the answer if I read the MSDN links I posted before.

Windows Home Server doing well in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2008 09:14

An interesting bit of information I found in the Windows Home Server blog:

In order to compare the sales results of a smaller country with a larger country, you need to come up with a relatively simple way to equalize the field of play. So, if you look at Windows Home Server sales divided by the number of households with a broadband connection in each country, you get some interesting results. Here are the current rankings of the top 16 seeds in the Windows Home Server World Cup competition. 
  1. Norway
  2. New Zealand
  3. Denmark
  4. Germany
  5. Switzerland
  6. United Kingdom
  7. United States
  8. Australia
  9. Austria
  10. Canada
  11. South Africa
  12. Sweden
  13. France
  14. Netherlands
  15. China
  16. Japan

This is really cool. Windows Home Server is more than just another file server. It's not a backup on LAN like Apple Time Capsule -it is more than this.

I use Windows Home Server here. Of course I could simply run Windows Server and use shared folders for everything. But with Windows Home Server you get automated daily backups, data redundancy on select folders, and a console that allows you to monitor the status of your network - and with some cool Windows Home Server add-in software you can keep adding functionality.

It also comes with a domain you can use for free so you can access your home server from anywhere with Internet access. You can setup a photo website with the Whiist add-in and have your friends and family see it.

We currently have more than 2 TB (terabytes) of data including digital content and computer backups stored in our home server - and I think it's really cool to actually have that much data stored somewhere always available wherever you are.

Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1: available now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Feb-2008 05:00

Microsoft has slightly changed its plans on how Windows Vista SP1 will reach users. Instead of a "March release", the company has decided to rethink the way users will have access to this release, so here is the new timetable:

- Beta testers: NOW!
- Volume license: English release now, other languages to follow
- MSDN and TechNet subscribers: sometime mid February
- Download center and Windows Update: sometime from mid March

To start with, if you are planning installing this update, then you should read the list of Hotfixes and Updates in Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

I have downloaded and installed Windows Vista SP1 from Connect (I was involved in the original beta testing).

It wasn't without bumps though.

First I tried the Windows Update method, which requires a special installer downloaded from Connect. It didn't quite like my laptop and wouldn't install. Initially I thought it could be something related to drivers.

As you may know, Microsoft will perform a slow release because some device drivers, the little programs that control your peripherals, aren't working that well with this version. The idea of this slow release to end users is to make sure all PCs are updated with new drivers and then have SP1 installed automatically.

But I knew this shouldn't be a problem on my laptop, which is a "Windows Vista Premium Ready" Acer machine.

So I tried the standalone installer. The update was uneventful - start it and forget it. I did not have to do anythinng and after a couple of reboots the system was updated.

I immediately completed a manual backup to my Windows Home Server, and also created a new restore point "After SP1".

Windows Vista SP1 RTM is available on Connect for download in two flavours - standalone installer and ISO images. These are the files details:

- Windows6.0-KB936330-X86-wave0.exe (434.50 MB)
- Windows6.0-KB936330-X64-wave0.exe  (726.5 MB)
- 6001.18000.080118-1840_iso_client_sp_wave0-FRMCSP0_DVD.iso (1,161.72 MB)

Although I had Windows Vista SP1 RC1 installed on this laptop on a previous build, I am still testing the SP1 RTM. So far so good and I am enjoying this "refresh".

I can confirm then it works fine on an Acer Ferrari 5000 laptop and also on my Apple Mac mini-based Media Center (booting Windows Vista through Bootcamp).

Now to check the odd stuff that wasn't quite right before.

Attending the 2008 Summer Road Trip - Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Feb-2008 20:11

Cool, it is time for the Wellington IT professional crowd to get into the "2008 Summer Roadtrip".

This tour is coming to Wellington this 13 February, at the Paramount Cinema and will bring the latest information on Microsoft's new IT Pro software - includingWindows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

Chris Auld and Jeremy Boyd, and Darryl Burling are touring the country (yes, driving all the way) showing off all the stuff in Windows Server (Virtualisation, IIS, etc), SQL Server (File Stream, Spatial data types & queries, etc) and Visual Studio (LINQ, CSS designers, etc). 

In each location they will be joined by a local speaker.

When you register you enter the draw to win one of two server hardware, Windows Home Server software and more. And you get another entry in the draw if you invite a friend.

These are the remaining dates (click for more information on each event):

  • Wellington – Feb 13
  • Nelson – Feb 14
  • Christchurch – Feb 15
  • Dunedin – Feb 18
  • Invercargill - Feb 19

    I am attending the Wellington meeting this week. I hear about 400 people are registered - so make an effort to show up - look for me there!

  • Windows Vista SP1 RC2 = RTM bits

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Feb-2008 09:21

    If you are planning the deployment of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 in your organisation or at home, here is a tip I got from a conference call with the Windows Vista team in Redmond: the last Windows Vista SP1 RC2 (build 1800) released to beta testers contains the same bits as the Windows Vista SP1 RTM announced a couple of days ago.

    It means that for all of you out there planning compatibility tests, migration, etc you can safely use the RC2 as a base platform for testing.

    Microsoft Windows Server 2008

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Feb-2008 17:29

    I've just finished downloading Windows Server 2008 RTM from Connect. You will notice that MSDN and Technet only have the 64 bit version, while Connect lists all versions but only for the next 30 days.

    It took only 29 minutes to download Windows Server 2008 32 bit. I am now going to use this to upgrade the test environment on a virtual machine. This is in preparation for the migration of our Geekzone production server from Windows Server 2008 RC1 to RTM.

    We have been running Windows Server 2008 RC1 on Geekzone for almost three months now as part of an early adopters programme with Microsoft. The experience couldn't have been better.

    During this time we had only a couple of updates installed, only one restart because of this and installed a second drive to mirror the system. Modifying the drive to a dynamic partition and creating the mirror did not require a restart (as I remember it needed on Windows Server 2003) and all completed ok.

    I have heard comments from Geekzone users on how they feel the site has been more responsive in the last few month - and I've noticed this too.

    If you want to find out more about Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 check the Summer Road Trip.

    As for Windows Vista SP1... I am waiting for it to be available for download, ready to install on my laptop.

    New Geekzone Blogs Windows Vista Sidebar gadget

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Feb-2008 10:44

    Thanks to Chaks, who developed a Geekzone Blogs Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar. He was inpired by our Geekzone Forums Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar, originally developed for us by Provoke.

    If you follow the Geekzone blogs or forums and use Windows Vista make sure you download those gadgets.

    If you are using Mac OS X or Konfabulator and would like to develop similar gadgets for these other platforms, please contact me.

    A workaround for the Path Too Deep error in Windows Home Server

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jan-2008 19:53

    Since my first time experimenting with Windows Home Server I face an enigmatic error message when copying large files (anything larger than 4 GB): Path Too Deep.

    No, it is not really. Sometimes this error happens even if I copy a file with a single character name from the root folder on any non-storage pool disc drive to one of the Windows Home Server shares. And this happens only when copying those files inside the server itself. There's no Path Too Deep in this operation. It's just an error message that doesn't explain anything.

    The error won't happen if I copy files from one disc on the server to another folder on the server from a client PC. But this is no a feasible workaround because copying a bunch of 30 GB files roundtrip over the LAN is an exercise in patience, if you have tried network copies with Windows Vista.

    I've submitted this as a bug during beta, applied a debug driver, installed a fresh copy of RTM, and submitted this as a bug again. So far no fix for this, not even in Windows Home Server Power Pack 1.

    Of course it is not as bad as the Windows Home Server file corruption bug. Bad it is bad if you have large files that reside in a drive on your server and you want copied to the storage pool - for backup purposes for example.

    I found out that this error only happens if you use the standard copy procedure: select file(s), Copy, select destination, Paste. Or drag and drop from source to destination.

    So I decided to try alternative copy methods. And I found that Teracopy is much faster, can be paused/restarted and most important: it does not show the Path Too Deep error.

    It can be configured to completely replace the standard method - even being invoked when you Copy & Paste or drag-and-drop a file or folders.


    Features I would like to see on Windows Media Center and content

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Jan-2008 13:46

    In my previous blog I described how I put Windows Media Center on my Mac mini, and what plugins I am using. In this post I will just expand the previous topic with some of my requests for on-line content and interface features.

    As a large screen, entertainment-oriented user interface, Windows Media Center is really good. It is intuitive and it works well from the distance you will probably have in your lounge.

    But my first "must have" is an EJECT option in the UI. This new option would actually eject media inserted in an optical drive. Hw innovative!

    As described before the Mac mini doesn't have an EJECT button, and neither does the Microsoft Media Center remote control. And there isn't an EJECT option in the Media Center interface either. 

    Lucky the plugin MyMovies has an EJECT option. But this should be there, just after "Watch DVD".

    Next is the content itself. While having a plugin such as Yougle allows you to watch YouTube, MSN Soapbox and Apple Quicktime movie trailers, I realy want movie rental downloads in New Zealand.

    And I don't mean something that uses a browser, but an actual Media Center interface (better if the service offers APIs so others can create plugins for other software and devices) that would allow me to browse the catalogue, rent and download the movie directly from Media Center without having to ever see a web browser.

    Then comes the infrastructure. People who are fortunate to live in a cable modem serviced area with speeds of 10 Mbps or more or even ADSL2+ should have no problems in downloading a full length movie in just under one hour.

    But providers should make sure the servers aren't in Australia or somewhere else.

    They should be here in New Zealand for fast delivery. And the ISPs should help fostering this by for example not charging traffic to these specific servers or charging a fraction only as "local traffic" - like TelstraClear used to do in the old days.

    Then it's on-line TV. I don't like to have another box for cable TV. I don't want to have a sattelite dish on the roof. I want an all IP solution. Providers, deliver IPTV now and integrate with Media Center. TVNZ, you can enhance TVNZ On Demand to provide this. Make it come to my lounge. I don't want in the browser!

    Again, make an API available so that people can develop plugins for other devices or software. And make sure you have XML feeds with your programming guide.

    Microsoft could and should help too by creating incentives for local companies to invest in the media industry.

    And again Microsoft, where's the damn EJECT button in the remote control?

    Windows Media Center on an Apple Mac mini

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Jan-2008 12:36

    After moving our digital media collection to the Windows Home Server, my plan involved using some sort of a networked digital media player to be able to stream this content inside the house - mainly to our lounge.

    This is nothing new here because we already have a Squeezebox, but that works with music only.

    I found references to some interesting products - the Popcorn Media Tank for example - that included music, photos and video, but I wanted something easy to use, with wireless LAN support - and most importantly something that didn't look like an IT departement had landed in our lounge.

    So I thought of using Windows Media Center, based on Windows Vista Ultimate.

    Just one problem though and that is most of the PC cases are either too big, or noisy because of the fan requirements, too costly when part of a completely new PC, or simply plain ugly.

    So I thought I should look at the temple of modern computing design, Apple. And I ended up settling on a Mac mini. Mind you this is not the first Mac in this house of Windows. But this is a special one, because it is the first computer in the lounge (except for laptops sometimes).

    The best thing about the Mac mini is certainly the size and design. It doesn't look like a computer and it's not much bigger than a paperback. I choose the smallest one with 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1 GB RAM and 80 GB HDD - no need for large storage because everything is on the Windows Home Server.

    So I ordered this on-line from the Apple Store and had it delivered next day (sorry DSE, but your sales guy in Featherston St missed a sale by being dumb and not allowing the one you had there to be transferred to my local store in Johnsonville).

    Anyway, I was really impressed with the small box delivered to my door. I opened it and in less than ten minutes of the initial Mac OS configuration I was running Bootcamp and installing Windows Vista on this machine.

    Windows Vista installed really fast and all the drivers were delivered with the Mac OS DVD that comes with this box. I installed Avast antivirus, Daemon-Tools and configured the box to use Windows Vsta as the default OS.

    Basically if it runs on Windows Vista it will work on this hardware - including ReadyBoost.

    The next thing was the installation of a few Media Center plugins and the first three were MyMovies, Yougle and Media Center RSS Reader.

    Yougle allows you to play social media content from sites such as YouTube, MSN Soapbox and others - including Apple Quicktime trailers! The Media Center RSS Reader is obvious.

    But the most important plugin was MyMovies. It allows you to create a database of the movies you own and then cross-reference movies, actors, directors, etc on the big screen. You can find a biography and then check all the movies you own where that actor worked. It will also automatically load the movie for you before playing. And it solves a big problem too...

    You see, I installed LogMeIn so I could manage ths box from my laptop because it does not have a keyboard and mouse - only the Microsoft MCE Remote Control. But there's no EJECT button in this remote control and there's no EJECT button on the Mac mini either! MyMovies solves this problem because it lists the movies in your database and the movie currently in the DVD drive - including an EJECT option.

    Overall I am really happy with this setup and even over wireless LAN it can play DVDs streaming from the Windows Home Server with no problems at all.

    UPDATE: Just to be complete, I've posted a couple of features I'd like to see to enrich the Media Center experience...

    freitasm's profile

    Mauricio Freitas
    New Zealand

    I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

    I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

    Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

    If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

    Here's is my full disclosure post.

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