LinuxMCE looks promising


LinuxMCE for Ubuntu looks promising, but ugly. I haven’t had the time to try it out yet. They have made a video comparing it to Windows MCE. If you ask me, they should have focused on showing the demo of LinuxMCE and dropped the so called comparison. At first glance it looks interesting but way too ugly and complicated for the average user. I’ll have to try it out to be able to give some qualified thoughts.

Now, if they could give me a complete distribution with Ubuntu + LinuxMCE + drivers on a DVD that I could pop into a MacMini and have it up and running in a matter of minutes…

Until then, you can have a look at their demo.

Link to video. Link to project page.

LinuxMCE looks promising

TV from your media center to your mobile

I haven’t tried it yet, but this looks like an interesting plugin for Windows Media Center: Mobile TV Center 1.0

Watch TV on more than 500 mobile phones, Pocket PCs, iPod, PSP and portable media players. Take your TV programs on-the-go. All the shows that your record with your Windows Media Center are automatically converted in the background and transferred to your mobile phone, iPod, Pocket PC, Palm. Simply record TV-shows for your portable device by selecting a tv-show in the EPG (on-screen program guide).

I’ll be back with more info when I have tested it.

Other products with similar functionallity: TMPG VideoSync and SlySoft CloneDVD Mobile.

(Thanks, Oyvind and Ståle)

TV from your media center to your mobile

When will this media center thing catch on?

Friday bonus video. Bill Gates from CES 2005 on YouTube.

Okay, so everybody and your grand mother still have no media center at home. Where are they? By now, all of us should own such a magic box. With music, images, movies, broadband and TV in a nice simple interface where everything is available at the touch of a button.

True media centers are still something for the people that are way above average when it comes to interests and knowledge about computers. I have already published my recipe for when gadgets break through. Let’s have a reality check on media centers:

Engineers – is it possible?
-Yes. There are nice boxes out there that offers fantastic capabilities of handling media.

Marketers – have you done your job?
– Partly yes. Microsoft have launched Media Center Edition and done quite a bit of marketing. However, I find most of the marketing pretty lousy. Too much focus on features. They should have focused on the story. What will happen in your home? And, the most important people of them all, the sales people in the shops have no clue. Absolutely no clue.

Economists – is it cheap enough?
– No. Not at all. We need a proper, noiseless, nice looking media center for under $500,- Right now a proper media center is at least $1000,-

Usability – is it easy to use?
Yes. And a huge NO! When it works it is easy to use. As long as it is running I can give the remote of our media center to whomever visiting our living room. No problem. They find music, videos, images, recorded shows, the electronic program guide, the broadband services and the TV channels. It is in fact much easier to use than a traditional setup with separate boxes for DVD, CD, TV and radio. When I have people visiting and they have a look at the media center in our living room just about everyone instantly asks for price and availability.

Trouble is that there are still two major problems with media centers (in addition to price):
1. Setting it up
2. Keeping it running

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference where we put up a digital living room to show people some of the possibilities. We had the most modern and state of the art components you could imagine. A new media center, an HD capable LCD screen and a multi channel amplifier with 6 speakers.

Getting image and sound from the media center was pretty easy. Setting up the TV channels and program guide was as usual a pain. But, getting the image completely right with 1:1 pixel mapping and the audio in six channels was nearly impossible. With my degree in engineering, huge amounts of experience with media centers and several very clever people around me we did not manage to get proper multichannel sound and a perfect HD image out of the media center.

No offense when it comes to your grand mother, but she’ll have to wait a second before this is possible to use for normal people.

I know that a media center is more complex than a regular DVD player, but the vendors need to work on this. Media centers will not be something for the masses before you can buy it (for under $500,-), take it home and connect audio to your amplifier and video to your screen, turn it on, do some simple setup stuff and then use it happily ever after.

And eventually that will happen. “I want one of these, where can I get it?” is the mantra at home when I show people our digital home. No doubt about it, people want the functionality. When you get used to it it is very difficult to imagine a living room full of several different boxes, different remotes and shelves full of plastic containing digital media. Digital media deserves to live a life on hard drives and in the network.

…and by the way, you find more about Bill Gates and stuff going wrong during presentations over at “Nobody’s perect (redux)” on Presentation Zen.

When will this media center thing catch on?

Adobe Photoshop Elements and MCE

I am using Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 to administrate my images. To make collections, simple editing, tagging and organizing.

I have more than 30 000 images in my collection and Photoshop Elements is one of the programs that actually handle that amount of pictures.


The picture module in Windows Media Center is pretty limited. And it does not support automatic rotation based on EXIF info. That is extremely annoying. And, when I have tagged a series of images with “The best pictures from the summer of 2006” I want to be able to run that exact collection as a slide show on my TV.

Now, if you install Photoshop Elements 4 on your MCE box you will get an option in more prorgrams that starts a Photoshop Elements plugin for MCE. It has the pretty slow and boring navigation like online spotlight services and most of the other plugins for MCE, but it lets you browse tags, collections and calendars from Photoshop Elements in MCE on your TV screen.

I must admit that on my 30 000 pictures collection it is quite slow, but as long as I have made the collection in Elements first this is a nice way to look at it on the TV screen.

And, it lets you view PSD-files in MCE and rotates images based on EXIF info…

Adobe Photoshop Elements and MCE

TVedia – An amazing networked media frontend!

TVedia is a media center frontend with some extremely interesting networking functionallity and a very nice interface for YouTube, Google Video, Flickr, LastFM and other media related web sites.

I recently gave it a run on my Windows Media Center Edition box. The installation was very easy. The MCE remote worked at once with no configuration.

Excellent media library

You let the software scan your drives for media files and it builds a database that lets you browse your images, videos and music. So far so good. A full screen media browser like all the others out there. And, after my quick test I must say that it is a very good one. The animated user interface is fast and user firendly, but not as smooth and slick as Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). The advantage is the fact that TVedia has modest hardware requirements compared to MCE.

Universal plug and play

But what’s so special about TVedia compared to all the other available options? The network integration. During installation it asked if I wanted access to the media that TVedia found on the other computers on my network. I said Yes, and when installing TVedia on another box on the same network all my media showed up there as well. No questions asked, no configuration. It just worked.

TVedia is a universal plug and play (UPnP) client and server. Meaning that it will communicate with your UPnP enabeled phone or media server. I haven’t tried this yet, so I’ll have to come back to how this works. You can read more here.

Web video in your living room

But the functionallity that impressed me the most is TVedia’s nice integration with sites like YouTube, GoogleVideo and Flickr.

With TVedia these sites are suddenly available from your remote on the big screen in the living room. The experience works very well. You can search for video clips and browse categories. Compared to the YouTube and GoogleVideo plugin for Windows Media Center Edition this experience is way better. Of course, the quality of the videos on these sites doesn’t look very good on your 42 inch LCD, but the playback is done through ffdshow and gives you an experience as good as possible. When trying to predict the future of technology a couple of things are pretty certain. The quality will be better! This is a preview of some of the functionallity that the future of big screen entertainment will give you.

Such a nice interface for these sites can turn out to be very interesting and really emphasize the possibilities of Long Tail Content in your living room. (If you want to know more about the long tail Chris Anderson explains it in The Media Center Show here. Or, of course Wikipedia comes you your rescue with a great article.)


For Flickr you can even upload pictures to your account directly from TVedia. You can browse your own sets, your friend’s pictures, search and browse tags.

When running a slide show of photos from Flickr TVedia downloads the largest version available and present them with nice transitions on your TV.

If you add the fact that TVedia plays protected music from both iTunes and MSN Music and has an open interface for plug in development you are close to the perfect media center. And you can’t complain about the price of $35,- either.

So what’s the catch?

Unfortunately, there’s a big one. No TV functionallity yet. You need to run it in cooperation with SnapStream Beyond TV or another proper PVR software. I have years of experience with such solutions. Running one PVR software and another media library software. That is not at all something that I would recommend. The fact that Windows Media Center Edition provides me with both a media library and a proper PVR with an EPG was my main reason to switch to this platform.

The usability, navigation and stability always suffer when running several programs. TVedia version 3.5 had PVR capabilities, so I really hope that 8Dimensions will add a proper PVR with EPG to TVedia version 4 as soon as possible.

But, if you’re in for a tiny bit of tweaking and maintenance, the combination of TVedia and the already mentioned SnapStream Beyond TV will give you a media box with far more functionallity than a plain MCE 2005 box from Microsoft.

So far this is one of the most interesting products I have seen in this space for a long time! The music library, networking and online features are way better than what I am used to in MCE. Please guys, add a proper PVR and you have a winner on your hands.

TVedia – An amazing networked media frontend!

Automatic transfer of files from Media Center to iPod and PSP

I haven’t tried this one out yet, but another product from Pegasys is already my favourite video encoding tool. I use TMPGENc Xpress 4.0 for most of my high quality video encoding already.

VideoSync from the same guys seems like a promising product. It supports DVR-MS files from Windows Media Center Edition (in addition to a bunch of other formats).

The most interesting feature is the possibility to set up a watch folder. Meaning that you can tell the software to constantly watch a folder on your computer and immediately start transcoding and publishing to your favourite mobile device if a new file arrives in this folder.

You find a very detailed list of alternative methods of transfering video to your iPod here. And a related post on here

Automatic transfer of files from Media Center to iPod and PSP

PlayerPal – Media center control from your PSP

PSP and PlayerPal
PlayerPal will let you control iTunes or Windows Media Player from any device with a browser. Your PDA, laptop, playstation portable etc.

NetRemote and Girder could give you similar control, but PlayerPal looks like a pretty interesting and user friendly solution.

It will work as long as you have a browser on the device you want to use as a remote. No client needed. I haven’t had time to try this one out yet, so I’ll have to get back to it.

PlayerPal – Media center control from your PSP