Following the less then stellar Microsoft ads with Seinfeld, Microsoft finally goes on the offensive.
I’m beginning to really respect their ad campaign that felt misguided with the Sienfeld ads. Here is some more courtesy of Paul Thurrot…
As you probably know the new Zune Software was released last tuesday. I think most of its functionality has been talked about in great detail on other blogs; so not to repeat what has already been said, I decided to create a video of my favorite new feature.
For a lot of common artists the now playing screen shows beautiful artwork and information about the artist.
A lot of people these days store their media content(Pictures, Music, Videos) on a networked drive or server. This becomes a challenge to handle from client computers, due to having to always find the folder in Network Places or by typing in the path.
A little known fact is that Vista gives you a built in way to manage these folders.
- Click Start -> Your Login Name (in my case it is Owner)
- This brings you to a general directory with all your personal folders. Right Click Pictures and click Properties
- Now click the Location Tab
- Here you can change the location to where your pictures are located on the network drive
- Click Ok, you will be prompted with with “Do you want to move all the files from the old location to the new location?” – You should say Yes to this or you will end up with multiple Pictures folders.
- Now repeat steps 1 through 5 for Videos and Music.
You should do this by default on all computers used in your house and everyone will be adding and managing media in the same place. This makes things a lot easier to manage and backup.
Bonus Tip: I would also recommend creating a shortcut to these folders in the windows explorer Favorite Links. You can do this by dragging and dropping them there.
Most programs that manage your media are defaulted to look at these directories, so they’ll be pointed at the right place automatically.
As part of my home entertainment setup for my new place, I’ve been evaluating HTPC options to bring all my media content to the living room TV. Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing the different software and hardware solutions that I have had personal time with.
Historically I have been a big fan of Windows Media Center, but now the market is saturated with options, so making a decision is a lot harder.
First up lets talk about XBMC and where it stands as a media center platform on Windows.
XBMC or Xbox media center is an open source application created for use on a hacked first generation Xbox. Although it has a huge fan following on the Xbox, this review is limited to the windows version of it. The default skin for it isn’t very aesthetically pleasing, however there are two gorgeous skins (Aeon and MediaStream) available that make it a viable option for the living room. All the screen shots in this review are taken using the Aeon skin.
Like most other media centers, XBMC supports
- TV Shows
TV shows are a little misleading, since it doesn’t really have DVR functionality. They are actually shows that already exist on your computer. So technically Videos, Movies and TV Shows are the same thing however its nice that they are separated out.
I’m very impressed with the customizability of XBMC; since its open source, its being actively worked on constantly, especially in the skins department and you can change backgrounds, fan art (more on this later), menu items etc. to make it look and function exactly as you you would like it.
Music, Videos, Movies, TV Shows
XBMC has two main views for you to get at your content. The Files view is generally used to manage and add content, while the Library view is for every day use of browsing and playing your content. Below are some images on what that looks like.
Music – Album View
XBMC uses the concept of fan art which is extra artwork that is used as a background when content is selected. This reflects the context of what content is selected. Below are some screen shots that reflect it. This currently doesn’t work for music (as far as I know).
This is a standard media center weather application, although it is nice that it is added by default.
As you can see from the screenshot above, some details of the skin still need some work. But on a whole things look very good.
Note on Stability
XBMC for windows is still in its early stages, so there are some kinks that still need working out. On my Vista machine there are times when it crashes for no apparent reason, however its still very usable.
- When skinned can look very aesthetically pleasing. To me its the best looking media center application available
- Very Customizable
- Open source and actively being developed
- Still has stability issues
- No DVR functionality
- Takes a while to setup the way you want it
Its been a long time since I’ve blogged here, but its time I make a come back.
Things are definitely getting exciting in technology these days; with the iphones (and their especially cool app store), new zune software, holiday season coming up, windows 7 going beta next year etc.
Also, given the fact that I just bought a new condo and am working on setting up the tech for it, I finally have enough to say again to make blogging worthwhile.
So stay tuned.