Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Welcoming WordPress 2.1

This change can be called as a Birthday Gift for my subdomain “”. It celebrated its first year on 27 Feb 2007. The website though, has evolved through 9 years (since 1998) and has found itself on many different domain names, using various technologies for delivering content. It is rightly said “The only thing constant, is change.”. So today we move on to another technology…

This post is being made through the fantastic content management system called WordPress. You can check it out on I have tested it for more than 6 months, and I seem to like its simplicity and its power, rather the power hidden behind its simplicity! In the last 9 years of the existence of my website, on various domains under various titles using various content management systems… I have found that if a website can be edited “at whim”, there’s a better chance that it is updated regularly! What else gives itself to such purpose than a blog? Yet WordPress is not just a blog… is has facility to make static, hierarchical pages – just like a regular website. Hence m choice.

Another reason for selecting WordPress – though I like to have a fancy CMS, but I don’t like the cluttered look and feel of most of the content management systems we have around. This is a website devoted primarily to photography, it should be simple and straightforward because its audience includes mostly people who are not concerned with stuff like “CMS”, “Subversion“, “PyQt4” and “FreeBSD“. They usually don’t really care how many guests and registered users are online. They probably don’t want to know what version of software I am using. Infact, they don’t want to be bothered by this post either!

WordPress lets me keep other pages in the front, and hide the blog away – for the really enthusiastic people. Also, an important feature – I can embed Gallery2 into WordPress, making the experience of browsing this website as seamless and painless as possible. This post is actually “behind the scenes” – the website is still showing the “Website Under Maintenance” page… once I finish setting up the plugins and skin for the site, I’ll lift the curtain. Hope this change is a pleasant one. Apart from the broken links, there should not be much trouble – though I’ll try my best to make proper redirects ASAP. And friends, thank you for your patience, support and encouragement! Keep rocking.

Play divx and DVDs on your extender

I played with Transcode 360 this week, and I highly recommend that you give it a try.  Transcode 360 is a well-written (meaning user-friendly and seems polished) addon for MCE 2005 that will allow you to play back all of those video file formats that have been frustrating you for so many years on the extender.

I tested Transcode 360 and had great success with my HP extender, but unfortunately the original XBox is not liking the video stream that it’s getting which results in a jerky playback.  But as you can guess from the name of the app, it works great on the XBox 360 including 5.1 digital audio playback.

Rather than putting together several of my own screenshots, take a look a look at this blog posting.  Note that in the last couple of beta releases the author has switched away from windows media encoder (I’ve never had much luck with WME, ever) over to mencoder which means that this seems to be more performant that WME based apps.

If you have ripped DVDs or Divx files that you want to play back on an extender, give Transcode 360 a look.  There are even rumors of some integration talks between Transcode360 and My Movies.

Quick and dirty rundown of the Gates’ 2006 CES speech

Several of my MVP friends are in Vegas this week for CES, but alas I am in lovely Allentown, Pennsylvania working like a chump.  Lucky for me the Gates CES speech was webcast and I’m sure it’ll be available for you to watch as well.  But for those of you who can’t watch the whole thing, here’s a running commentary on tonight’s content.

My summary:

There were a few new and cool things I saw tonight:

  • DirecTV allowing HDTV content into MCE
  • Some interesting new PMC devices and obviously a refreshed PMC platform
  • Comedy Central will be providing content via Online Spotlight
  • includes some very cool TV services including remote recording, remote access to MCE information, and long overdue – recommendations.
  • I’m concerned about how many times they alluded to using the PC and 360 as the new advertising platforms.

Below you’ll find the transcript I typed up on the fly – it’s unedited and probably pretty sloppy but here you go…

Bill starts by saying he’s proud to be named Time’s person of the year, glad that he beat out mother nature; had there been one more hurricane he might have lost. 

He recaps last year and focuses on 2006 – Office 12 will be launched and Media Center in the mainstream.

He moves to a flatscreen that might be mounted in the home with all of the information that might be useful to a family.  It includes a map showing the location of all of the family members (GPS), bubbled up news video items that are related to you with the ability to track that topic.  That video is now available on the cel phone to watch on the way to work.

Bill arrives at work with 3 huge monitors and authenticates via fingerprint, that news story he was tracking is on his desktop.  He then logs in to a video conference about the article with various execs.  He then picks up a tablet which is an extension of the main desktop system and drags content from the tablet onto the desktop and into the video conference.  He drags one of the telecon participants into an IM application to have a side chat.  A notification pops up to let him know that due to traffic trouble he’ll need to leave early for the airport – alternate routes are sent to his PDA.

In the airport, he places his celphone on a “smart table” where he authenticates via fingerprint and the table turns into a full display for the cellphone.  Drops a business card on the table and it brings up the info.  Drag the business card onto the cel-phone’s display (on the table) and it adds it to his contacts.  A contract is sent to his phone and requests a digital signature.  Pick up the phone and the table shuts off.

Sets the stage saying that broadband access is taking off, and that software will now enable

Anywhere in the house having the movies you own coming up, sharing pictures with friends and family and screens around the house, annotations.  If these things can all be driven through a central interface, they will take off.  Likewise this software needs to work on any device – it’s software for the user not for the device.  Presence, preferences, information all follows you to your devices.  Watching TV and chatting with your friends about it should be a straightforward thing.

Alot of your information will be stored out on the internet, and once you authenticate that information will be available to you.  Very reliable and very secure cloud storage.  Easy connections between people and devices.

A huge component to this will be the investments that have been made in the Windows platform, both 2’ and 10’ interface. 

Vista Demo – Aaron Woodman

Fresh UI with all applications surrounded in glass.  Taskbar shows live previews of the applications including motion video, as does ALT-TAB.  Flip3D allows you to scrolll through all of your applications in a tilted 3D mode.

Sidebar on the right contains gadgets with information or functionality at a glace – egg timer, weather, pictures, fox sports gadget for up to date sports info.  Can be dragged to desktop for more info.  Sideshow is a small LCD on the side of a laptop to allow quick access to information like calendar without turning on the PC.

Start menu allows you to search for the app, or access the library and search for content anywhere on the PC.

IE Tab Browsing with a twist – all tabs shown in a “slide sorter” type view (my description not his) for quick access.

Windows has built-in parental controls including web restrcitions, time limits, game ratings.

Experiences:  Gaming, memories and music.  He plays Flight simulator with his XBox 360 controller plugged directly into the PC. 

He then opens up the windows photo gallery, including tiny thumbs with larger hover-over images and more useful metadata searching.  Also includes a built-in editor as part of the photo browser, and always saves an original version along with the edited image.  Finally he opens a slideshow with some cool effects, white border around photos and motion, with video mixed into the same slideshow interface.

He then opens up the next version of WMP, which is a clean interface including primarily album art.  Under genre, there is a digital stack of covers to show you how much is in each stack.  Performance has been improved, a 10,000 song library is scrolled through quickly with album art and metadata flying by.  Search is integrated as well.

Van Tofler from MTV comes on stage to announce the new partnership “Urge”.  MTV has a history of bringing music to a new format – TV.  This is a unique approach to digital music – big labels and indies, history behind the music, mood-based personal soundtracks.  The development of Urge will be driven by users feedback and customization.  Urge will change, as thankfully did MTV (Flock of Seagulls reference). 

Demo of urge [looks like a big flash webpage] embedded in WMP.  You can search Urge using the standard WMP navigation, including the entire 2 million song library.  Content includes songs and text.  Channel hubs will be built for the television brands like VH1. 

He searches for Justin Timberlake, and gets music plus some additional content.  A playlist is presented with Justin Timberlake music and other music that is similar.  Justin Timberlake saunters out onto stage to talk up Urge [unconvincingly].

Bill Gates returns to talk about portable technology and begins with Tablet PCs.  New technologies will reduce the cost premium for tablets, including cheaper passive digitizers.  Research has been working quite a bit on handwriting to learn as you work with it.  Driving tablet to mainstream is a major commitment.

Windows Mobile is another major area of investment, with 100 smartphones and 93 operators worldwide.  Bill shows a Palm Treo with photo-based dialing and says how easy it is to use with one hand [note that he uses 2 hands for the demo though].

He shows a Philips phone that is integrated into messenger for VOIP calling, allows you to browse your Messenger buddy list on the phone LCD.

Next Bill moves over to the video.  [Oy, he talked about targeted advertising]  He talks about getting video that is more personalized to you including shows you want, and condensed newscasts down to what is interesting to you.  One experience will get your mainstream video, tail content (niche programming), and will blow open the channel-based culture.  IPTV trials are expanding this year into many different areas, and content will be made available anywhere you want it.  This is where Media Center comes in.

There are now 6.5 million copies of Media Center out in the market, and that will grow into many different areas including portable devices.  There will be alot of enhancements to MCE in the vista version.  The intel partnership is very important with the VIIV platform (pronounced like five).  There are other partner content providers as well desigining new capabilities via Online Spotlight.  They are also partnering with DirecTV to get the Directv video onto the MCE PC, and will also connect up to portable devices and Xbox 360 in HDTV.  Also Sky in the UK will be setting up a video on demand option for media center customers in the 2’ and 10’ experience for existing customers (?).

Joe Belfiore takes the stage to demo MCE.  Announces Comedy Central Motherload with streamed content from Comedy Central and some additional content in a webpage-like interface.  There are 5 new partners today including comedy central.

Joe shows a tiny PC from Averitek (sp?) which looks about the size of an external CD burner, available for $499 with not tuner, $1000 with a tuner. 

He also shows the Toshiba Gigabeat, with a 30GB hard drive with about 4 hours of battery time.  Also shows the familiar MCE interface.  Device flips 90 degrees to watch horizontally and navigate vertically.  Watches Hitch which was downloaded via Vongo from Starz. 

He then shows an LG PMC device which looks alot like a creative Zen but with a widescreen display.

Joe shows, and focuses on a TV service for live that includes content that is recording, guide, and a recommendations service based on your MCE habits and can be tweaked manually to let it know what you like. 

Next he moves to Windows Live Messenger, and one of the contacts is a TV service bot.  Demo initially fails but then comes back with a conversation about TV activities.  “These are the shows your friends like” which is a list based on the preferences of your buddies.  He then asks “What’s on tonight” which brings up a guide.  Then “How about showing SciFi” which filters the list down to SciFi and offers up a trailer for Battlestar Galactica.  “Would you like to record this show?”.

Next up is HD-DVD showing a Toshiba player coming out this spring for about $400.  HD-DVD then fires up on MCE to show not only video quality but interactivity as well.  Scenes and menus are overlays on top of the video instead of swapping out to another screen.  It can also allow you to bring up scene-based information such as actor bios for those who are in that scene.  Player can be internet-aware to keep the content up to date.  Producer commentary is shown via a floating talking head as a layer on top of the video.

Joe goes to “Managed copy” to copy down the high-def version of the movie to the hard drive.

Next we move to the Dell digital cable receiver.  You plug in the cable in the back, and on the front is a slot for your cablecard.  This gives you access to HDTV over digital cable on your Vista Media Center [hard for me to get excited about this since it’s only available in the US].

The new media center UI takes advantage of widescreen high-definition displays.  Joe demos the horizontally-aligned album art, and shows the stacks of album covers by artist or by year.  The movie library shows movies that are available either via DVD changer or that were legally downloaded from HD-DVD. 

Peter Moore comes on stage to talk about the XBox 360. 4.5 to 5.5 million XBox 360s will ship by June.  Celestica will join as a third manufacturing partner to meet additional manufacturing demand.  Xbox Live marketplace allows users to get to new content via the 360, including music and movies.  More partners are coming, including the first sponsored game – Texas Holdem poker.

MS will be releasing an external HD-DVD drive for the 360 this summer.  Xbox 360 is driving the sales of new HDTV monitors, with 50 HD games by this summer.  Al Bernstein comes out to demo Fight Night Round 3 with Bill Gates vs Steve Ballmer (Bill wins).  A playable demo will be available on XBox Live tonight [now that’s a cool addition to the console wars].

Bill Gates returns to summarize:

  • High definition is a key theme in XBox, MCE, DVD
  • Partners are enabled (including advertisers) by the new platforms
  • This all has to work across all these devices and be user-centric