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November 19, 2005



"but by the standards in this industry Microsoft is actually looking relatively open and innovative"...

I can't say that their track record in this bodes well for Vista. I guess we'll just have to see how HDCP and their other DRM plans pan out. I also have serious doubts about device-to-device portability of content. I am trying to stay open-minded but I admit to a vague anti-MS bias ;)

Colin Guthrie

I'm surprised you don't reference MythTV (www.mythtv.org). This is an open source project that has been running with the same concept as media centre "extenders" for years.

This is a realativly mature and constantly developing platform.

I like it because I can tweak it to my hearts content and you don't need to worry about it not being open.....

It's maybe not quite as fast or slick as MS MC, but it's constantly evolving and it always has new and innovative features in the pipeline.


Hi Chris,
We just wanted to point out that your statement "it doesn't yet support streaming HDTV video" is actually incorrect. While it is true that Media Center is not capable of playing back HDTV video from digital cable, it is capable of playing back HDTV received over an antenna and piped into a PCI HDTV Tuner card. The Xbox360 Media Center Extender can stream and playback these HDTV streams. Also, the Xbox 360 Media Center is also capable of streaming WMV-HD files stored on your computer in either 720p or 1080p.

On the downside, the Xbox 360 Media Center Extender cannot play all your MPEG-4/Divx/Xvid/Quicktime files without transcoding them to a format it can understand. For more details about video playback on the Xbox 360, you should check out our FAQ:

chris anderson

Good point on the HDTV--I'd forgotten about over-the-air broadcasts, mostly because we don't have an antenna. (Does anyone actually watch HDTV that way?). So it's not a technical limitation, just a rights one.

For us, this isn't a big deal, since we don't actually watch any HDTV content anyway (we don't even have digital cable!). Presumably by the time there's enough HDTV content to entice us, the cable card upgrade to the Media Center will already be in place.


what more can be done that can't already be done with a modded regular xbox and xbox media center?

I see no reason anytime soon to change, plays everything I throw at it, supports hdtv, and hd-dvd is just a slim line ide device away.


Heck, yeah, people watch OTA HD content! Considering that's the only way to get HD through MCE, MSFT didn't give us much choice, did they? Luckily, I'm spitting distance from Sutro Tower in San Francisco, and can pull in a healthy number of digital stations off the air. Considering that even the current HD DirecTiVo gets its local HD programming from a seperate OTA antenna (at least until they launch their MPEG-4 encoded channels next year), there are probably lots of people who get local HD content in this manner. I'll have to admit, I've been pleasantly surprised at the ease of setup and the quality of HD through MCE. If it weren't for a dwindling few premium channels I like, I'd dump my satellite dish and go with my free (for programming, anyway) MCE setup instead. Sure would be nice if the content providers would bypass the cable and satellite companies and provide on-demand subscriptions direct via broadband. I'd pay $3/month for Outdoor Life programming in a heartbeat. Writing on the wall?....


"but by the standards in this industry Microsoft is actually looking relatively open and innovative"

Compared to whom? Sony or Nintendo? I think Nintendo has them both beat hands down on the innovation front. Whether that helps them or hurts them, we’ll have to see. The new controller will either be the next Power Glove fiasco or the new Gameboy for Nintendo.

chris anderson


I meant by the standards of the DVR/set-top box industry. In this post I was looking at the Xbox 360 not as a game console but as a digital media platform.


Hong Cho

> Does anyone actually watch HDTV that way?

Yes. That used to be the only way. And still that's the way that will give you the best quality. Cable/satellite providers tend to re-encode the signal.


Charlie Owen

Chris --> "...although they better fix the interface before they release it."

I'm not so sure the interface is actually broke. Check out the additional information I posted in response to Paul's assertion at https://blog.retrosight.com/PermaLink,guid,7a946cb1-f898-4d80-8781-2b40b079b2f8.aspx.

chris anderson


That was a very helpful post, which nicely explained the reasoning behind the changes. But I still think that the new interface is too cluttered and doesn't have enough "glanceable" information.

In music, for instance, it looks like you have to highlight an album cover to gets its name and other metadata. That's too much trouble. And why not have tabs for each letter, so you can quickly jump to the right part of tha alphabet, like in Outlook's Contacts view?

Big music collections are becoming more common and navigation and search is becoming harder. Based on what I've seen, I think you guys still have a ways to go on the Vista MCE interface. But I'm sure you'll get there...

Charlie Owen

Good thoughts, Chris -- thanks for taking the time to respond. Allow me the pleasure of addressing your concerns...

Chris --> 'It looks like you have to highlight an album cover to gets its name and other metadata. That's too much trouble.'

Our studies indicate folks primarily identify their albums by visual representation first (the album art) and metadata second. As long as the albums are grouped in a way they understand or choose they can pretty quickly find the album they want using the album art. I came of age in the early 80s, so can pick out a Journey or Foreigner album very quickly in a large sea of art. :-)

Chris --> 'And why not have tabs for each letter, so you can quickly jump to the right part of tha alphabet, like in Outlook's Contacts view?'

We actually have a feature today in Media Center called 'Jump In List' whereby you can triple tap in galleries or lists by pressing the corresponding number keys on the remote (2 = ABC, 3 = DEF, etc). From our usability studies (and from my work with partner apps) this approach is actually *faster* than attempting to navigate with 26 separate buttons representing the complete alphabet. For example, any letter in my list of albums, genres, tracks, or artists is no more than 4 button presses away with triple tap (Z being four presses of the 9 key). By contrast, if I'm using a virtual button on screen, I could be as many as 13 buttons presses away from my given letter choice, assuming the interface allows me to 'scroll around' from Z to A. Triple tap does carry a bit of a learning curve, but once users learn, it's super efficient. It's also one of the standard interaction models for most all of the current crop of cell phones so folks who use one of those will feel right at home.

Chris --> 'Big music collections are becoming more common and navigation and search is becoming harder.'

I couldn't agree more with this statement. There are folks out there with 100s of thousands of items in their collections (music, video, pictures). The changes we have made to Media Center in Windows Vista are in direct response to the problems associated with large libraries. It may not be apparent from static screenshots of an early build, but it truly is much easier (and faster) to navigate these large collections in Media Center for Windows Vista.

chris anderson


Perhaps I'm unusual, but I have no idea what the album covers of the music collection look like. For starters, much of the music was downloaded, often by the track, so I never saw the album cover in the first place. Second, even the music that did start in CD form tends to be the older stuff from my collection, and thus easily forgotten. Third, most of the music in my collection is indie stuff that makes a point of having obscure covers, so I can't read them even if I wanted to. Finally, it's not a safe assumption that Media Center will even find album art for everything. Right now, it's only finding art for about a third of my covers (curse of indie stuff).

Your other points make a lot of sense, but I'd like to urge you to rethink this one. Please find a place, or at least an option, to display the album/artist name in readable text below the cover. It's well worth the space it takes.

Charlie Owen

You've given us some good stuff to think about.

We do try to design Media Center for the mass market, which might mean it doesn't meet a specific user scenario. 'Unusual' isn't the word I would use while 'niche' is probably a more accurate descriptor. Since one of the characteristics of The Long Tail is an appeal to (seemingly) niche markets I'm sure we will have to do better in this area in long term. Allowing folks who don't fit the typical mold to go in a direction more suited to their own, unique usage model is very powerful. I'm kinda, sorta in the same boat with digital photography (I take a *bunch* of pictures) and none of the defaults in digital library tools really allow me to arrange things in a natural way for my brain.

Some of the 10 sorting options outlined in build 5231 return text only lists, which *may* satisfy some of your specific needs given only about 33% of your album art will ever be present 'automagically' and you personally don't identify albums by the art. What I didn't show in those screenshots is the default view when no album art is present -- we place the album title in the album art square. While the screen shots in Paul Thurrots are largely not representative, you can see this feature in https://www.winsupersite.com/images/reviews/vista_ctp2_10.jpg for the '200 KMH In The Wrong Lane' album.

I'm pretty sure you could simply do away with all album art if you so chose, turn off the feature which automatically downloads album art and rely only on the text feature. Of course, that's highly binary and most people want the album art, if available. You've got me thinking. :-)

Anywho, I'll really be interested in your thoughts once you have had some time to use Media Center in Windows Vista in it's final form.

chris anderson


One last thought. If you think about it, the conventional way of navigating a CD music collection is via the text on the "spine" or edge of the CD, not its cover, just as in a book collection. So perhaps that would be the way to do it. Show the album covers if you want, but underneath it also show the spine view.

But of course the broad point is that more display options are better; as you point out, one size doesn't fit all.


Can I second what Chris said above? About a third of my music was downloaded (ligitimately!) and for those tracks I have no idea what the album art looks like.

If album are is to be a key part of the Vista MCE interface, you will meed to include a much better almum art tool that works within MCE.

While I'm on interface, please please please can we have a "text list" option in My Videos? The thumbnails are of an ad which preceeded the show and are of no use whatsoever.


XBox is truly overhyped. It plays games and a few people will learn to use it in conjunction with a TV (i.e., the kind of people able to program a VCR). But long tail? I humbly suggest you sift through some interesting raw data to find a few gems: https://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid=1320&aid=-1

Not a MythTV hacker

With regards to the poster discussing MythTV - Linux is a hacker platform and MythTv (even KnoppMyth which is supposed to be easy to install and configure) is for hackers. While I'm not a novice to Linux, it wasted several days of my time trying to get supported hardware to work properly on my machine. I'm (personally) sick and tired of trying to use a Linux solution and wasting days on end trying to make it work as good as a click here to install solution on Windows. I'm anti-MSFT myself but at one point you have to say if the kids/wife can't use it **intuitively** without you sitting there with a keyboard then it's staying out of my living room. I love what I saw about KnoppMyth but it was just too easy to put together a Windows 2005 MCE system and spend my time doing what matters - watching/recording TV and drinking beer :). When the Linux guys start to make their stuff so that mainstream non-techies can use it, I'll jump on board..again. But for now I'll stick to my Windows MCE machine in my office and consider a MCE extender like the Xbox/Xbox 360 or Linksys product.

Wishing DVDs could be streamed from MCE through the Xbox360

I couldn't agree more with the comment about MythTV. The other part of the problem is that if MythTV or your Linux box encounters problems, there is likely noone to turn to at your work for help. As the resident "computer-guy" of my family, I would go crazy supporting my family's Linux PCs in their living rooms. Nothing about Linux is intuitive such that my 95 year old grandfather could use it, but he did figure out how to use the DVR from the cable company. The whole idea of downloading an operating system/software product is usually arcane enough. You mean, it didn't come preconfigured and installed out of the box from Walmart???? MythTV is a joke until it begins to take the entire user experience from the perspective of an older demographic seriously. For hackers, programmers and tech geeks, sure. For my grandmother or even my wife? Forget it.



I was wondering , can you brows on the internet whit the x-box 360 ?




Anyone have any feedback on the network performance of MCE extender/360? I am curious about how well it will work on a 54mb WiFI or 100mb LAN - Will it have to take time to buffer often, or will fast forward etc cause alot of lag while the connection catches up?

gregory kerr

great site but what i would like to know is can you use the old xbox dvd remote to control the playback of dvds on the xbox360 as i just aquired one of thease brilliant game consols?. bye for now greg

Jufni Rizada

Just surfing a bit..

Skyline gtr

do i have to have a media center pc to use the media on my xbox 360????


Can i use my media onm the xbox 360 for music and movies even though i havent got a media center PC ??????


I would like to say that "it doesn't yet support streaming HDTV video" is not right to myself.it is capable of playing back HDTV received over an antenna and piped into a PCI HDTV Tuner card. The Xbox360 Media Center Extender can stream and playback these HDTV streams. You could find right software to slove your problem here https://www.copy-dvd.org/

gifts for her

Very nice sharing.I was wondering this topic only.I have a question please solve you all guys.I would like to know can I get to other digital media content on XBox 360 without a Media Center PC?


Even then with an Xbox360 or a PS3 it's quicker to just stream whatever media your watching. I have Media Center and I almost never use it because it's glossy, slower alternative to Tversity and the other alternatives out there...

Hot Deals

Sound Good!one of the characteristics of The Long Tail is an appeal to (seemingly) niche markets I'm sure we will have to do better in this area in long term.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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