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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

ngRC Version 2 Beta 1 out now!

ngRC-next generation Remote Control

turn your iPhone/iPod touch or your PSP into a cool WiFi remote control. ngRC gives you the abability to control your VMC/MCE (Vista Media Center or XP Media Center) and all your connected extenders with only one remote control.

But controlling your media center remotely is not the only thing, ngRC is able to do. Do you want to play music from your library, without switching on your television? No problem: ngRC enables you to browse through your complete music library, play music, add to playlist, etc… So you can stay in your kitchen and choose another song, that should be played, without the need to walk to your TV in the living room. Even if you want to play another music on your extender in another room, just switch ngRC to that extender and choose the wished music there…
And the best: ngRC is completey free of charge.

Here is a list of features of ngRC:
Full feature remote control (replacement for IR, let you control your media center over WiFi)
Useable on all iPhones, iPod Touch, PSP, PC, Tablet PC (everything that is Browser-Capable)
Extender Support (control every extender from every room, with only one remote control)
Music-Library-Search (Browse your media center music library by Album, Artist, Playlist, Genre, Title, view Album Details, Title-Details, etc…), filter music by keyword.
Play selected music
Add selected music to playlists
Show actual playing title
Show actual playing playlist
Nice Covert-Art display (mirror-effect)
Direct Jump from Home-Screen to TV Guide, Recordings, Pictures, Videos
You can download the Windows XP and Vista-Setup of ngRC from here:
On Sourceforge there is also the Source-Code available of ngRC.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

ngRC Version 2 new screen shots

The beta release is expected within days or so we have been told, in the mean time here are some screen shots to keep you going until then.
The developer Oliver Schulze is not asking for donations, but if you like his software and find it useful perhaps you could send a small donation to Oliver and buy him a beer for all his hard work! You can find his Paypal address on this page.

Updating Zune 2.5 to 3.0 problems and issues

Well my Zune 3.0 upgrade could have gone much better! It can't have gone much worse that's for sure!

My Zune 2.5 software detected that an update was available it then launched a Zune Setup window, brown background with the Zune logo and that was it nothing else happened, left it for a good while still nothing. So closed that and went to the site was down for maintenance or so it told me. Did a refresh 5 minutes later and the site was back, I downloaded the Zune 3.0 installer.

Once I had the Zune 3.0 software installed after a reboot, I plugged in the Zune device, Windows Vista then decided it needed to install the device driver again for the Zune device, it failed twice on the third try the driver was installed.

The Zune software then advised me I had to upgrade the Zune device firmware to 3.0 which it did. However the Zune software never told me the installation had finished, I just had a cancel button. Back and Next buttons were both greyed out. One admission, is that I was playing an album in the background in the Zune software, probably should have not been doing that whilst trying to update the device!
I kept the Zune device connected via the USB cable, the Zune had rebooted and done its thing, the About in Settings on the device confirmed 3.0 version level. Games had appeared on the main menu but no Market Place option, probably because I am not in the US.

So I figured the update had finished I closed the Zune software and re-opened it. I then started a sync, the only items to be added to the device were 38 photos however it is still syncing now taking bloody ages and only at 27%. Its doing some update routine on all my 3800 + music tracks, no idea why it's having to do this? But its slow and my PC seems slower as a result.

First positive thing, I like the new clock in the top right hand corner on the Zune device lol! But will you have to keep resetting to the correct time every time the battery dies, I suspect you will.

Update: Just to let you know it did finally finish updating / syncing.

See the screen shots, click them to make them larger.

Zune 3.0 Released today 16th of September

I'm just downloading the update file as we speak.

What's New:

Device Features:

New capacities
We've added 16GB and 120GB devices to the lineup, both with a glossy black front and a black metal back.

Buy from FM
Hear a song you like while listening to the radio on your Zune? Your device will identify it, and download it the next time you sync.

Browse Zune Marketplace wirelessly
Download music directly to your Zune: at home, at a cafĂ©… wherever there's a wireless hotspot.

Zune has partnered with high-speed Internet access provider Wayport to let customers wirelessly shop Zune Marketplace on their player at more than 9,800 McDonald's restaurants across the U.S.

New Zune Originals
Even more designs for you to personalize your Zune.

Zune Channels
Combining the best features of podcasts and playlists, subscribe to channels by Billboard, The FADER, and radio stations like KROQ and KEXP.

You can now play games on your Zune! Devices come preloaded with Texas hold 'em and Hexic.

One of our most-requested features is here: audiobooks on your Zune, from and OverDrive.

You'll never again wonder what time it is.

Software Features:

Mixview, Just for You, and Now Playing
Dynamic representations of your collection, as well as artist and song recommendations based on what you and other members of the Social are listening to.

Rich search functionality
Zune software will offer you suggestions as you type, helping you find the name of an artist or band even if you don't know the correct spelling.

Social in the software
Set your favorite tracks, update your profile, change your status, and search for other Social members — all from within the software.

Social Features:

Windows Live Messenger integration
See your Windows Live Messenger contacts in the Social, and invite them to join with a click of the mouse.

New reputation badges
Get recognized for being a top reviewer or top forum poster.

E-mail notifications
Get a weekly digest of your friends' activities and real-time notifications of new messages and comments.

More play data
In addition to number of total plays, now see how many times a track has been added as a favorite or sent to a friend.

Monday, 15 September 2008

CallerID review of MCE Plug-ins

I decided to take a look at Caller ID and Windows Media Center to see what was available and how easy it is to set up? Mainly because as I am living in Thailand now and I never know who is calling the house phone, because I cannot speak to them in Thai that well!

My idea was to have a pre-configured contacts list of friends and family members over here and when they call, if no one is home but me at least I know who has called and can then tell the misses to call them back.
I will be taking a look at TapiRex and MCETapiRex first of all and then in a later review, I will be looking at Vista CallerID which is a free program, TapiRex is not free however, but is only $19.99 US and the MCE plug-in is free.

Frst some considerations have to be made to get CallerID working, your phone company needs to usually enable this service at extra cost to you. It cost me about 5 UK pounds to enable the service on my phone line and they even sent me a new telephone with a CallerID display not too bad at all!

Second you need a computer modem that will support CallerID. It's the Tapi 2.1 Modem drivers that handles CallerID and most newer modems come with Tapi drivers.
I had some issues with the in-built modem on my Acer laptop. If you are not sure your modem is enabled for CallerID take a look at this here where you can test it using Hyper Terminal. Hyper Terminal no longer ships with Vista but you can download it from here. Don't use the Release Candidate version as it has expired. You may also find this CallerID Repair utility helpful as well.

Thirdly the person who is calling you and their network operator needs to pass through the CallerID information, on mobile phones for example you can disable this in the settings so if you are testing with your own mobile phone make sure CallerID is set to Yes.

OK so now some of the more technical stuff is out of the way, lets look at TapiRex in a little more detail.
The software installation was pretty straight forward, you can pull in contacts from Outlook as I am not using Outlook on this PC, I picked the Database option for my contacts. It's just a simple case of adding in your contacts name, phone number and photo if you have one.

TapiRex creates a system tray icon and runs in the background waiting for incoming calls. By right clicking this icon you can gain access to the Options and Latest Calls List. This list contains a record of all the calls with information like: Date / Time, Duration, Caller, Callee, Incoming, Outgoing, Answered etc.

In the Options I had to tick two options under Connection, for my modem to work and pickup that there was an incoming call and for the notification to be displayed on screen.
These were: Get CallerID in "OnCallerID" and Handle as Data Modem. You may or may not have to set these opitons for your modem.

Once I had gotten the correct settings enabled it all then started to work, I called the house phone from my mobile phone as a test. The desktop notification popped up informing me of the incoming call, you can turn the desktop notification off, if you only want the MCE one switched on.
There is a very nice setting in TapiRex on the Notifications tab, where the MCE Notification is listed you can select the Edit button and turn on:- Pause media on incoming call. This is great if you are playing music or a movie and an incoming call comes in, it will automatically stop the media playback in Media Center cool!
The areas that I have blocked out in black on the screen shots are just where it shows the phone number of the person calling you.

Overall I think TapiRex is a solid application and with the MCE integration it makes an excellent addition to your Media Center setup, well worth the asking price of the software I feel. Next I will be looking at the free Vista CallerID to see how I get on with that.
Desktop and MCE notifications:

Saturday, 13 September 2008

ngRC Version 2 well in development

One of my favourite applications for Media Center ngRC (Next Generation Remote Control) Version 2 is currently under development by Oliver Schulze. You can find his home page here.

From what I've heard it sounds like version 2 is nearly a complete re-write from version 1 and the news sounds very promising indeed.
You can use this application to control your Vista Media Center PC and your Extenders using the web based program and because it's web based you can run it on your Sony PSP or Apple iPhone / iTouch, which are the main devices the application is designed for.

Check out the news items to keep up to date on the progress, but I think a beta release can be expect pretty soon.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Release Candidate build of the Windows Media Center Gadgets for Windows SideShow

The Release Candidate build of the Windows Media Center Gadgets for Windows SideShow has been released today. See the email below for further details:

Download the Release Candidate build of the Windows Media Center Gadgets for Windows SideShow here:Download

Please install this build and provide feedback. The final release will be posted to the Windows Live Gallery in the near future. While you are there, check out some of the great new gadgets that have been uploaded including Remotebook (for Facebook), AccuWeather, Twitter, System Health and Windows Live Messenger (all available in 9 languages)!

Support for Media Center Extenders:

Extenders are now supported if you are using a SideShow device that can pre-enable the gadgets. The Ricavision Vave100 remote control is an example of a device that pre-enables the Media Center gadgets.Try this with your Xbox 360 or other extender device and provide us with any feedback.

Additional instructions have been added to the Installation Instructions page about using the gadgets with an extender.

Connect Site Links:
Installation Instructions
Gadget general information and known issues
Send Feedback

Want to write your own Gadget in Managed Code? It's easy!You can download and install our easy to use SDK, which includes templates for a gadget that integrate with Visual Studio (2005/2008 including express editions). You can build and run the template Gadget right out of the box giving you an easy place to start to tailor your own gadget. Download this today from Microsoft Download Center:Windows SideShow Managed API 1.0 SDK

Have a Windows Mobile 5 or 6 phone?Download and install Windows SideShow for Windows Mobile Developer Preview

Your feedback has greatly increased the quality of this release!
Thank you so very much from our entire team for taking part in the Windows Media Center Gadgets for Windows SideShow Beta.

Thank you!
The Windows SideShow team


The gadgets don't appear to install on the TV Pack version of VMC, which is a real shame, not sure if the final release will be compatible?


I've been playing around with the RC1 release and I'm having a few issues with it and also find its lacking in functionality in places, see this thread here for my take on it.


Microsoft say that you will not be able to use this MCE SideShow gadget to control your Media Center Extenders using a Windows Mobile device. Something to do with SideShow running on Windows Mobile not being able to pre-enable the gadgets. See the above link to The Green Button thread for more information on this.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Zune 3.0 coming soon!

Microsoft have announced new Zune 3.0 software which is to be released on the 16th of September and also new Zune hardware a 120GB hard drive version and a 16GB Flash version. A new blue colour is also available.

Zune Upate Demo Video

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 8, 2008 — Zune, Microsoft Corp.’s end-to-end music and entertainment service, again revolutionizes how customers discover and connect to the music they love, where and how they want it. Starting next week, every Zune portable media player will let consumers wirelessly download or stream millions of songs on the go from thousands of wireless hot spots around the country. Free, powerful software and firmware updates will give Zune owners the ability to discover, tag and purchase songs directly from the built-in FM radio, wirelessly access the Zune Marketplace store on the go, and tap into interactive, personalized music recommendations that add even more value to the Zune Pass subscription. Zune is also expanding its device lineup with new 16GB and 120GB capacities as well as shiny new blue-on-silver and sleek all-black color schemes. The new features will begin rolling out on Sept. 16, 2008.

“Digital music services really come alive when they help people find not only the music they know they like, but the music they didn’t know they would love,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of Global Marketing for Zune at Microsoft. “With the combination of subscription, wireless access to millions of tracks, and powerful discovery features like personal recommendations and the ability to buy music from FM radio, Zune is taking the digital music experience to the next level.”

Wireless Connections
More than 61 percent of people say they discover new music by listening to the radio. (1) With that in mind, Zune is taking advantage of the wireless connection and the built-in FM tuner to deliver a new feature called Buy from FM, which lets customers tag and purchase songs they hear on FM radio stations (2) directly from the Zune device. When the customer is in a Wi-Fi hot spot, the song can be immediately downloaded to the Zune device. If Wi-Fi is not available, the device will have a queue of songs ready to download when connected to a home computer or in a hot spot. Buy from FM uses Radio Data System and RT+ data feeds within the FM broadcast frequencies that identify song and artist data and enable the Zune service to identify and deliver the track to the customer.
In addition, users can now access the Zune Marketplace music store directly from their device when they are in a recognized Wi-Fi hot spot, or through a home wireless network. To make it easy to discover music on the go, customers can browse lists of featured new releases and top songs and albums sorted by genre, or use the on-screen keypad to type in the song of their choice. Once they have picked a track or album, they can either download it or stream it directly to the Zune device.

Zune customers have a choice in how they acquire music: They can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription. Zune Pass subscribers can download or stream music to the device or their computer interchangeably, all for a flat rate of $14.99 per month. So whether a device has 4 GB or 120 GB of storage, Zune Pass customers can access and stream millions of songs directly to their Zune.

More Ways to Discover Music: Channels and Picks
The new Zune software update taps expert sources, recommendations from the Zune service and online music community, and the user’s own play data to create a dynamic, digital music experience where discovering music is easy and seamless.

Channels. Channels are an exciting new tool for music discovery. Customers can explore channels programmed by experts from the music industry such as the Billboard Top 100, The FADER magazine and KEXP radio, in addition to workout-themed channels tailored for high, medium and low impact, and top chart channels from all genres and subgenres. The powerful Zune software will even create custom channels for each user, based on favorite artists and genres. Channels are included with a monthly Zune Pass subscription and can be synced to the device for playback on the go. For non-Zune Pass subscribers, the Channels are available for a la carte purchase.

Personal Picks. Now the Zune software learns what kind of music users like and makes personal recommendations. When users log onto Zune Marketplace, they’ll find a new area called Picks where the Zune recommendation algorithm will suggest artists, albums and tracks based on the music they have been listening to, as well as channels they might like and listeners like them in the Zune Social.

The Zune Social online music community. Customers can connect with millions of like-minded fans and share music via the Zune Card, a real-time playlist of each user’s favorite and recently played tracks that can be accessed on the Web or within the Zune software, or synced to the Zune device. Zune Pass subscribers can play full tracks from Zune Cards synced to their device while on the go, and now the playlists will even automatically update with the most recently played tracks when Zune connects to a wireless hot spot. It’s like subscribing to a free feed of music from the sources people trust most — their friends.
Powerful Software
The Zune PC software is a free download at that provides rich discovery and media management capabilities to help consumers make the most of their existing music collections, in addition to providing access to the Zune Social and Zune Marketplace so they can add to it.

Mixview. Customers can select an artist, album or Zune Card to activate a dynamic, visual mosaic of related music and listeners. With each click users can take the view in a new direction, creating a fun, graphical way to discover new music. Mixview works with users’ current collection of music, in addition to tracks and albums from across the Zune Marketplace.

Now Playing. The improved Now Playing view is more interactive and cinematic. Users can sit back and enjoy the combination of great artist imagery, colorful effects, bio information and data from the Zune online music community, all combined in a full-screen view. They can also click to dive deeper into the music behind the picture, providing another great way to interact with their collection.
A new firmware update will also improve the experience on the Zune device. In addition to the new wireless functionality, Zune will bring new features customers have been asking for:

Games on the go. Two free games, “Hexic” and “Texas Hold ’Em,” will keep users entertained on the go.

Audiobooks. All Zune devices will feature support for audiobooks this fall from industry leaders in the digital distribution of audiobook content.

Audible. Customers can visit to download and sync favorite books from the 50,000 titles available from over 600 publishers and content providers.

OverDrive. They can download content from sites powered by, including 7,500 libraries’ Web sites worldwide. (
Device Pricing Information Effective Sept. 16
120 GB: $249.99
80 GB: $229.99 (3)
16 GB: $199.00
8 GB: $149.99
4 GB: $129.99 (3)
More information on Zune and related images is available at

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Whole home audio solutions from CasaTunes

Integrates Microsoft Windows Media Center for Whole House Audio

CasaTools, a leader in whole house audio systems, today announced two new whole house audio solutions for controlling and listening to audio throughout the house at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo. Both solutions support Microsoft Windows Media Center and share an advanced DVD-audio quality PCI-e sound card.
"As the Microsoft Media Center continues to grow in popularity, more households are asking for an integrated whole house audio distribution solution," said David Krinker, CEO of CasaTools. "CasaTunes was developed to plug n' play with Microsoft Windows Media Center and PC environments easily for a multi-source, multi-room music system with a single click from a PC, a TV remote or touchpad."
CasaTunes XLi, a basic version, plugs into almost any PC. Just hook up the CasaTunes XLa or a third-party amplifier, and speakers to output music and users can listen to music in up to six rooms of their home. Users can listen up to five separate sources of music: four internal sources such as songs stored in Microsoft Windows Media Center or Windows Media Player, Internet radio or music from a USB connected iPod and one external source of music, such as an XM Tuner. CasaTunes XLi is designed for the next generation of home automation by bringing a quality audio system to an IT centric home owner.

CasaTunes XLe, a professional version, also plugs into a PC and includes a separate box that can control music in up to 12 rooms of a home. Scalable, CasaTunes XLe can support up to four boxes and 48 rooms. The speaker set in each room can be changed independently from other rooms for special effects or better balancing. The XLe includes five internal and four external music sources to choose from in each box with integration to a home theater, doorbell and paging system. CasaTunes XLe is ideal for larger homes, multi-home dwellings and offices.
In both versions, zones can be set up to control certain areas of the home, like the kitchen, living room and dining room. The left and right balance, bass and treble adjustment of zones can be set and stored. Music can be selected by Album, Artist, Song Title, user assigned genre or playlist.
CasaTunes has built-in support for playing songs protected with Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) giving users access to a virtually unlimited collection of music available from several online music sites.
CasaTunes XLi is expected to be available this month and the CasaTunes XLe during Q4. Both will be sold through partners and authorized resellers, dealers, integrators and installers.
About CasaTools
CasaTools designs multi-room audio software and hardware solutions for Microsoft Windows Media Center and networked PC environments, allowing users to control and listen to music throughout the home. Its flagship product line, CasaTunes, is currently available through a network of sales partners. Founded in 2006, CasaTools is a privately held entity headquartered outside Orlando, FL with offices in Florida and Colorado. Visit for more information.

CasaTunes hardware products.


Monday, 1 September 2008

Replace the Explorer.exe shell with Media Center

I have just been looking at this guide written by Ryan Tollefson over at the Media Center Guides website, which enables you to make a VMC PC more appliance like by only allowing users access to the Vista Media Center UI and nothing else within the operating system.

I can confirm that this does indeed work having just tried it myself today. There is one known limitation however:

"The only known issue is that you'll not be able to change or mute volume because it depends on explorer.exe"

In my tests mute did work but changing the volume did not.

But if you are using an AV amp to control the volume level of your VMC system then this might not be so much of a problem. You can also see the thread here about this guide on The Green Button.