Weekend Project: Windows Media Center

Yes, I know that the correct english spelling of Center is Centre.

Windows Media Centre

Thanks to the generosity of Jeffa, I scored an old Mini-ATX case with power supply. Yeah, being the junior on the team – I get all the hand-me-downs.

Some hundreds of dollars later from AUSPCMarket, and I have my first ever:

  1. AMD based PC (AMD Athlan64 x2 6000+)
  2. Gigabyte Motherboard PC (GA-MA69GM-S2H)
  3. Self-constructed PC (only a screwdriver required)
  4. Media Center PC (Vista Ultimate)
  5. Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 8000

Not being a hardware type, the moving of cables, CPUs, fans, more cables and stuff made the physical construction a little longer than an expert. There are still some internal wiring bits to complete: hard disk light at the front and CD audio. Also missed that the our Acer LCD TV has VGA and PC Audio. The cables I purchased were not correct.

The toughest part was installing the power to the SATA DVD/CD drive, and ensuring the CD eject button had enough clearance to work.

The first PATA (this was a surprise!) hard disk was stuffed, so off to plan B with a 500Gb PATA and we’re away. The motherboard would not boot up with this hard disk attached; so the old disk is a throw away.

Using the onboard graphics and USB based TV tuner is probably sub-optimal. Need to fix these.

To add/change

  1. Dual channel PCI DVB-T card
  2. DivX support (complete at 9:40pm)
  3. TV Guide so I can record TV successfully.

Oh, and the cats love the extra space. The case and CPU are quiet and relatively cool. The cave aspect of the case make it a perfect hunting spot:


Toshiba Hard Disk Upgrade

As my internal 100Gb hard disk on the Toshiba M400 (T2400) had only 5% free space: even after archiving photos and podcasts, I could not reduce the free space to under 10%.

Time for a new HD. Purchased from Auspcmarket, 200Gb 7200 RPM Seagate Momentum drive.

As much as this Toshiba has limitations that are starting to annoy me (read: screen real-estate: can I have a new XPS now, please. ta.) – adding and deleting the hard drive was extremely simple.


  1. Windows Vista “Windows Complete Backup” (in Backup and Restore) to second hard drive
  2. Physically remove old drive, install new drive
    1. remove two screws holding in the plastic cover
    2. use the plastic tab to remove the hard disk in it aluminium bay
    3. remove four screws holding the SATA hard disk in the bay
    4. insert and replug new SATA hard disk
    5. reverse install procedure.
  3. PXE boot from network, where we have a network based, System Recovery
  4. A pleasant UI appears; only confusing part was ensuring I had a copy of my disk drivers on USB
  5. Restore from the backup, onto the new hard disk.
  6. Reboot from new hard disk
  7. Using Computer Management>Disk Management, Right-click “Extend Volume” to the full 200Gb
  8. Done

Performance of the disk drive: 4.9 to 5.4; that is a10% increase.

iTunes, iPod Touch and Windows

iTunes, iPod Touch and Windows Integration

It’s nearly a week since I upgraded my iPod from a generation 3 to one of the cool, uber-geek iPod Touch devices. As a 99.5% Windows Vista user, I am impressed.

The iPod Touch works on our home wifi. In the morning I check emails and other overnight happenings from the comfort of my bed in Safari.  The synchronisation between my Internet Explorer (Vista) and Safari (iPod Touch) browsers works well.

It beeps at me when I have an appointment. My contacts are in there.

All it needs is a mini email application. A slightly less finiky onscreen keyboard. A camera and a VoIP. Oh, that’s right — that’s an iPhone!

Flikr, Windows Live Photo Gallery is goodness

Sydney Harbour

As Larry mentions in his post, the latest beta of Windows Live Photo Gallery is out.

After installing it, the first feature I tried out is the new "upload to Flickr". I am a Flickr Pro user: the ability to see and comment on my friend’s photos is like attending slide-show evenings from the comfort of your own computer.

The internal buzz in the leadup to announce even got Jeff Sandquist hyped! And Long Zheng, an excellent photographer also loves it.

Windows Vista added support for tagging photos as another mechanism for organising your digital memories. Windows Live Photo Gallery reflects these tags when upload into Flickr. Now as a Flickr user, this was a wow! moment.

Watch and listen to my (first) screencast.

PC with 512Mb of RAM? Install Vista Home Basic

Ed Bott, from ZDNet in the US recently tested Windows Vista Home Basic on a 2002-vintage PC with 512Mb of RAM – and found the operating system responsive and usable.

Surprisingly, even the visuals on this system were a treat. With a three-year-old video card, this system was capable of running Vista’s Aero graphics. But because Aero doesn’t run on Home Basic, I was stuck with the Vista Standard display. It lacks the transparent window borders and whizzy live previews on taskbar buttons, but otherwise the look is indistinguishable from a system running Windows Vista Ultimate.

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Microsoft Windows Vista support with Adobe Applications

(Link thanks to John Dowdell) Bridging my old world to my new world, this document details the support for current Adobe applications with Microsoft Windows Vista. It is well worth a read, especially as Adobe products: Flash Player and the Adobe Reader are very common installs.

Summary: no Acrobat 7 support for Vista, only Acrobat 8: with an update expected first half 2007 for full support. There are known issues with Acrobat 8 on Vista. Similarly with Office 2007; the update will have support. You can make PDFs directly from Office 2007 using the Save as PDF and XPS plugin.

For Adobe Creative Suite 2.3: (note that Creative Suite Premium 2.0 with Acrobat Professional 7.0 is not a good combination). For Macromedia Studio 8, the following seems to also apply.

we are not currently aware of major issues that would adversely affect customer use of
Adobe Creative Suite 2.3 on Windows Vista

In the document, it is worth noting the paragraphs in regards to the forthcoming, pre-announce status Adobe Creative Suite 3.0:

…Adobe Creative Suite 3 is being designed for and thoroughly tested on 32-bit versions of four editions of Windows Vista—Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate.

Adobe Production Studio (video products) seem to install OK, but Vista is not recommended as an OS. EncoreDVD is reported to not work on Vista. Shame, as I was just about to purchase a Production Studio for some Microsoft video projects. 

Altsys/Aldus/Adobe/Altsys/Macromedia/Adobe Freehand? Oooh. Maybe not so good:

Adobe does not plan to update Macromedia FreeHand to install or run on Windows Vista

Do go have a read, and look at the support forums: Vista in Adobe Support Forums.

As a Microsoft Vista and an Intel-based MacBook Pro user, this year is a key year for Adobe products.

Vista is made for Tablets. And pens.

I have my new tablet PC (which I’ve named Captain Darling), and l am highly surprised how excellent the text recognition works on Vista. And not only the text, it’s also the whole Aero interface: it lends itself to the pen. lt’s the whole UX. Windows flip 3D rocks with a pen!

My last experience with text recognition was attempting to learn that weird Palm graffiti system. Before that I attempted to yet that Apple Newton stuff working. And l haven’t trained the recognizer yet! The best part of the Newton environment was the programming language, Newtonscript. Dynamic, object oriented and very rich.

Now You ave probably thinking: you have to purchase a Tablet PC thing. Nope, just avail yourself of a WACOM tablet. Bingo. Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate becomes a Tablet PC.