James O'Neill's Blog

May 2, 2006

Media Centre Edition is dead, Long live Windows Media Centre.

Filed under: Apple,Photography,Windows Vista,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 12:31 pm

I want an Xbox 360. Someone gave me an original Xbox and the games still impresses me. When I got the Xbox I already had a cable TV decoder, VCR, and DVD player lashed into the back of the TV. I gave the DVD player to my Dad because the Xbox did that job. But it’s not a pretty piece of furniture and it’s noisy. The 360 is better in that regard, wireless controllers are tidier, and it’s ability to display photos, play music and so on makes gives it greater “lounge appeal”.

Part of the 360’s advantage is high definition pictures – so a few weeks ago I replaced my 16-year old TV with a widescreen TFT one. The new TV supports DVB-T – “Freeview” to anyone in Britain, which means farewell cable decoder (and £20 a month saved). But I can’t tape digital stations; and my 16-year old VCR isn’t widescreen either, I need to play my old tapes, but it’s time to find a new recording solution

Windows Vista does away with a Media Centre edition, “Ultimate” and “Home Premium”  include Windows Media Centre as an application. The Xbox 360 can act as a media extender, so you don’t need a PC under the TV. I think that’s ideal: with a TV decoder and Vista on the PC in my study, it can be a big store for music, photos and recorded videos.  Except: that PC is old and underspecified for the job. So I need a new PC, maybe even a 64-bit one, and no doubt the monitor will be replaced at the same time. I learnt about backup the hard way, and with more storage my backup system will need a re-think too.

Vista is going to solve another problem for me. I have something like 15,000 digital photos, and little by little I’m digitizing my way through 20 years of film. No filing system I’ve found works. Back in 2002 when I was a Sharepoint Portal Server Guru, I summarized what I had learnt amount managing thousands of documents in “The Taxonomy ten commandments”, the last of which was: Readers will find documents by browsing categories or by searching. If readers are exposed to your folder hierarchy you are doing it wrong! The things that applied to documents in Sharepoint then apply to photographs on my hard disk now. Category driven search folders in SPS have given way to Tag driven ones in Vista – and Vista’s are much easier to use.
For example: I have hundreds of photos of my daughter and her friends. If I tag pictures with the names of people in them, then two clicks “stacks” my pictures by tags, each tag becomes a search folder – all the pictures of a particular friend are in one place.. two more clicks burns those pictures to CD. Further, the tags are  EXIF fields just like technical details of a TIFF or JPEG. If someone looks at the CD in 20 years time, they can see who else is the picture and when it was taken: I wish I had that for all my old negatives.

Trying to get control over all this content, causes some other headaches. My wife’s music is in Apple’s AAC format for her ipod – mine is in WMA for everything else. It seems we need to stick to MP3 as the only common denominator. Formats are a nuisance, even without DRM, or   Content, Restriction, Annulment, and Protection as  zdnet calls it http://news.zdnet.com/2036-2_22-6035707.html . DRM’d files either work on Windows media player (including mobile), or on the ipod, but not both, plug the iPOD into the Xbox 360 and it will play

 [Rhetorical question] Our server folks think about the customer who has some Unix/Linux as well as Windows.  For Vista I wonder if our media folks have considered households like mine with both an iPod and a Windows mobile device ? Media sync is broken in the interim build of Vista I have at the moment, so I can’t check.

I hope to avoid wiring a TV aerial connection for the PC – it is difficult  to wire anything in the old house where I live. For that reason, I use 802.11b to provide internet connections to laptops, desktop, and Xbox. I’ve had it since the summer of 2000, when I imported my own Linksys box from the US. I noticed that Linksys’s free-standing Media extender supports only 802.11A or G variants, so my 11Mbit/sec network may be too slow and need upgrading.

I can’t help feeling something’s gone wrong here.  I wanted a new HDTV games console. So I’ve upgraded to an HD TV screen, which caused me to change my digital TV provider, which in turn has made look at changing how I record TV, to do that I’ll be replacing my OS, which means changing the PC hardware. To make it all work may mean reformatting all stored music, going back and tagging photos and revamping my wireless networking. And the one thing that’s staying ? the 16 year old VCR because I still need to play old tapes. Maybe with Vista I will finally digitize them.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: