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Remote Potato v0.85 – Hands On Review

All I can say is Wow!  The latest release of Remote Potato is a huge step forward.  If you are not running this on your media center you need to go install it right now.  Here is the link: Remote Potato

I really thought that Big Screen EPG By Remote was going to make me forget about Remote Potato but I was definitely wrong.  Even though By Remote had some performance issues I thought the features were far enough ahead of Remote Potato to warrant a switch over so I did.  With this latest release I am definitely back with Remote Potato and I may be staying for good (especially since its free).

So let’s get into the good, the bad and the interesting.

The Good

  • Silverlight UI – The new Silverlight UI is amazing.  I say amazing in the context of having used the Silverlight UI in By Remote.  By Remote was slow and a little clunky.  Remote Potato’s Silverlight UI is snappy, looks great and loads the EPG data with great speed which allows you to easily pop in and set a show to record.  If by chance you do not like the Silverlight UI the regular HTML interface is still there. 
  • Custom Guide – I have a highly customized guide and the early versions of Remote Potato could not represent my exact guide in the browser.  I could still record but it was hard to navigate based on what I was use to.  That is no longer the case.  I now have a Remote Potato guide that looks just like my Media Center guide including the logos.
  • Streaming is back! – So most of us know that Windows 7 allows for streaming of content over the internet.  Well I have only gotten it to work correctly once and it also has the restriction of having to have a Windows 7 machine on the receiving end.  Remote Potato now has streaming through the browser enabled which means it works on any web browser with Silverlight.  My first test was a little rocky but it worked!  Of course this is only for DRM free content.

The Bad

  • XMLTV Files – Remote Potato still relies on XMLTV files instead of the native guide data.  It takes some work to get the guide data setup but it can be automated so it’s  one time setup.  It would be A LOT better if it was leveraging the guide data that you already are using within Media Center.  By Remote found a way to do so its probably only a matter of time before Remote Potato does it too.
  • Logos – Remote Potato has support for using your "My Channel Logos” logos within Remote Potato.  It makes the process very easy to get logos in or so I thought.  There were still a number of channels that My Channel Logos had been able to reconcile that Remote Potato did not pick up on like the local affiliates for example.  My Channel Logos assigned the NBC HD logo to WCNCDT but for Remote Potato I had to create a copy of the logo with the filename WCNCDT.png.  Small annoyance but it can grow depending on the number of channels you have to fix.  I tried to use the logo mapping file in conjunction but did not seem to do anything.

The Interesting

  • Mobile UI– The mobile user interface works great on my Blackberry.  It also solves the biggest gripe I had with the WebGuide mobile UI in that it let’s me easily jump to a specific channel.  I am interested to see if there is an iPhone specific mobile UI coming like the one By Remote has.  That one is slick and works great.
  • Streaming – I did not think I would care to have this back after the option to stream from Windows 7 was announced but after having used both I want it back.  This new feature took my surprised as I did not think anyone would invest the time to try to get it working again.  Nice to see that I was wrong all around.  I am definitely interested to see how this progresses.
  • Recorded TV List – The list is sorted based on when shows were recorded.  Why can’t we choose to also sort based on show title?  I use to use WebGuide to clean up my Recorded TV because it was so much easier and I could do it from anywhere at anytime.  I can do that here too but I cannot sort by Series in the Recorded TV section.

Remote Potato Screenshots

That’s all for now.  Look for more info later.

Remote Potato Updated

After what has felt like a “Remote Scheduling” drought of epic proportions for Media Center users we are now being flooded by two great remote scheduling applications: Big EPG ByRemote and Remote Potato.    ByRemote has been getting a lot of press lately but Remote Potato has not been sitting on the hands either.

Ian Dixon over at the Digital Lifestyle just reported on an update to Remote Potato and I must say that it’s really looking good.  Check out the screencast below:

 

So will all of these advances by the community stifle an official Microsoft effort or is there still a chance that WebGuide will come back?  Time will tell I guess.  In the meanwhile I am enjoying trying out Remote Potato.

Media Center App Store

MFMC_Logo iTunes and the iPhone have introduced every to the notion of an App Store.  One central location to get everything you need for your device or ecosystem.  Now Media Center has the same thing thanks to the Digital Lifestyle.

Made for Media Center is being positioned as the App Store for Media Center.  It is an open market that allows developers to submit their Media Center plugins and utilities and gives end users a one-stop location for Media Center plugins and utilties.

The site is still in Beta and the UI is still a little rough in my opinion but it has the pertinent information that you need.  You need to setup an account to download directly from the site but I think it will be well worth it as the site expands.  The team is already thinking ahead by creating a Media Center plugin so that you can browse the App Store from within Media Center.

Go check out the site.  I think this is a great step forward in creating a cohesive Media Center ecosystem for the enthusiast and for those that will be getting into Media Center in 2010.

The Digital Lifestyle Article

Screencast: Change WMC Menus with Media Center Studio

I have had a few requests for this so here it is.  A quick 8 minute video that shows how to do a number of things in Advent’s Media Center Studio.  In this video I create a new “Movies” strip to replace the default movies strip that ships with Media Center. Download the app here: http://www.adventmediacenter.com/

The changes will show up on the PC and on extenders.

Media Center Studio released for Windows 7

One of my favorite utilities for Windows Vista Media Center is Menu Mender.  It is a very intuitive and easy tool that allows you to customize the menu strips in Media Center.  The changes to the underlying architecture of Windows 7 did not allow Menu Mender to work with Windows 7 but as of yesterday not only is there an update but there is a whole new version of the application named Media Center Studio.

If you are familiar with Menu Mender then you will be instantly familiar with Media Center Studio.  There is some additional functionality like the ability to apply themes to the Media Center UI.  You can still turn strips on/off, rename strip menu items and move them around. 

The only restrictions is that native menu items (think “recorded tv”, “movie guide”, “music”) can only be moved to native strips and not custom strips.  Over on the Green Button there is another application that is out (but set to receive an update at any moment) that will allow you to move native apps to custom strips.

After trying out Media Center Studio I may end up using both applications.  I really want the “movie guide” from the native “Movies” strip to be moved onto my custom movie strip with MediaBrowser and OML and mikinho app from the Green Button seems like it will let me do that but I still like the simplicity of Media Center Studio.  Try them out and let me know what you think.  Remember these are both Beta software releases.

Next Gen WiFi Remote for Media Center

Last night I got home and immediately installed the ngRC (Next Generation Remote Control) utility app for Media Center.  I have seen a few apps come along that control Media Center via WiFi but this was the first one that I saw that would not only control the main PC but the extenders as well.

First let me say that the software is in Beta.  The install was pretty straight forward, but I did have to go into my processes and kill the main Media Center process.  After that I had to restart all of the extenders so that the app could recognize them.  Once I did that I was ready to go.

First thing to do was click on settings.  On the settings screen you choose which extender you want to control.  If you have Media Center up on the main PC is just gets listed as an extender in the drop down list.  The only issue here is that the extenders are given obscure names such as “Extender 1 (7554)” and “Extender 2 (7569)” which forces a little trial and error to determine which extender is which.  Not that big a deal.

I tried the web interface on an iPhone, a PSP and a laptop.  As expected every control worked flawlessly on the Media Center instance running on the main PC.  The real test was with the extenders which is how I primarily use Media Center.

I was more than excited when I used my wife’s iPhone to start playing songs on my Media Center extender that was sitting in the other room.  I was able to queue up songs or add a playlist.  It worked great.  The controls for the extender do have one known bug in that all the major controls are not fully functional (next, prev, the directional keys, ok button, etc).

In it’s current incarnation though I will definitely be using this at the next party.  I will pull up a laptop and invite all my guest to help DJ the party be selecting music and adding it to the queue.  This was a scenario that actually excited my wife.

I am looking forward to the future releases but this little app is in a great place right now.  Definitely go check it out.  Did I mention it was FREE!!! 

Menu Mender Updated


Yet another one of my utilities or plugins has been updated to support Media Center with TV Pack. This is a great trend to see. I have had a few problems with Menu Mender so I look forward to the upgrade.

BTW, Menu Mender is a great utility app that will allow you to do some customization of the main Media Center menu. Media Center does not allow for this customization and the only way to do it is hack the registry which is not easy and full of potential peril. Menu Mender makes this a lot easier.