Category Archives: XP Media Center

Wow! Orb is really, really cool!

I tried to connect up with Orb Networks back during the beta program but was unsuccessful (can’t blame them, it was beta software).  After the announcement recently that their service was going to become free, I decided to try it out again.

Why is Orb cool?  It allows you to do some really amazing things with your media by simply installing a little tray icon on you MCE PC.  It’s simple, it’s elegant, and I have to think that under the covers it’s actually very powerful stuff.  Anybody can install Orb and transform their MCE machine into a web media server.

The buzzline is that you can use Orb’s software to view your recorded TV anywhere on any device.  Okay, I can see why that gets the top billing because it is indeed cool but there’s alot more going on at Orb that I think will be more useful than TV on your cel phone.

The thing that really caught my eye was the photo sharing option…  I have so many photos from my digital camera that any sort of hosted photo service option is out of the question.  The files are on my disk, I just want some way to share those on a website with my friends and family.  Orb allows you to do this very easily – just go to their web site, click on the folder you want to share and voila you have a public site that your family can get access to.  No web servers to install, no need to copy files to somewhere else, no need for your family to install weird P2P clients.  If the photo is on your Media Center, it’s automatically on your website.  That’s the kind of simplicity that average people need.

And there’s all the other stuff that’s very cool as well:

  • See what’s on TV, set it to record in MCE
  • Watch Live TV, streamed realtime at a filesize that works for your internet connection
  • Listen to your music files
  • Watch your home videos

It’s completely integrated with MCE, and I’m amazed at how well it works. 

Next step in my opinion is for Orb to work on the website UI and do some usability testing with non-technical users.  Make it look like MCE a bit more, make the buttons big and obvious, and clean things up a bit.  They’ve got a winner on their hands.

Conversion Script for MCX videos

I ran across a posting in the newsgroups today from Oscar Calvo, who has put together a short script to re-encode a video collection into WMV for playback on extender.

He states in his blog:

Well, I had a large collection of divx files on my computer.  For this reason and many others[1] I decided to convert all my video collection into WMV. (I have already converted all my mp3 collection into wma, Why not all my divx collection?).

My first task was to find a tool from Microsoft to convert to WMV, Have you used Windows Media Encoder? It sucks big time. It’s not reliable, it uses your CPU to the point where you are not able to use the computer for anything else and the user interface is not very friendly.

All I needed was a simply tool that will take an avi file and convert it to a wmv file.

If you’re looking to convert a video library to be more useful on MCX, this might be something to try out.

Next version of MCE to be called an “update”

Two words – “about time!”.  I’ve been a vocal advocate both in the user community and with my contacts at Microsoft that the upgrade process for MCE has been atrocious and needs fixing.  In the past, users had to convince their OEMs to provide an OS upgrade to them or buy a new copy of XP MCE if they wanted to get onto the latest version.  I would argue that the Operating System hasn’t seen a real upgrade since MCE 2002 and that users were just getting fleeced due to terminology.

The next version of MCE will be properly called an update, which is what the other ones should have been called as well.  This change in terminology should mean that users can get the upgrade free from Microsoft directly, hopefully as part of the standard Windows Update process.

The next version of MCE will be Longhorn, and I’ll have no problem telling people that they’ll have to pay for that one.