Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wii Wi-Fi Woes?

The Nintendo Wii comes with built in Wi-Fi capabilities. However, some people who their access points set to 802.11g-only mode may find that they have trouble connecting their Nintendo Wii (possible error codes that you might get include 51330, 52030 and 32002).

In order for your Wii to connect wirelessly to an 802.11g network, the access point needs to be set in 'mixed' or 'auto' mode (i.e. a setting that is not exclusive to 802.11g devices). This setting should be available in your Wireless settings page on your router/access point. This suggestion is even documented at the following page under bullet point 5 in the following statement:

Ensure that the router is set to broadcast in "mixed" or "b/g" mode. Routers set to "g only" may not be able to allow a successful connection from the Wii console.

Note that for most consumer level access points, when a 802.11b device connects to a 802.11g access point (if such connections are allowed), all the clients associated with that same access point are forced down to 802.11b speeds (54 mbps for 802.11g vs 11 mbps for 802.11b). For some, this might be a problem.

Those with two (or more) access points in their houses can set one of their access points to serve 802.11b devices exclusively, and have the other access point(s) serve 802.11g devices only. This way, you get the best of both worlds, your 11b devices such as the Nintendo Wii will be able to connect to your network via the 11b access point, while your 11g devices can connect to other 11g-only access points to operate at their fastest speeds possible.

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Media Center 2005/WMP10 Update

For those Media Center 2005 users that are still using Media Player 10, Microsoft released an update to address Windows Media Player 10 automatic update failures after installing Update for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB913800).

You would need this fix if you see the following symptoms:

The Windows Media Player 10 automatic update does not complete. Additionally, you receive the following error message:

A more recent version of Windows Media Player is already installed.

Note This issue also occurs when you click Check for Player Updates on the Help menu in Windows Media Player 10.

You can download the fix directly from Microsoft Downloads at the following link, and more information about the fix can be found at its Knowledge Base article (KB926251).

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Friday, December 22, 2006

IIS in Media Center 2005 (or earlier)

The question of whether Internet Information Services (IIS) is included in Media Center 2005 has come up all too often on the Media Center newsgroups over the last week or so. As a result, here is the answer.

Media Center 2005 (and previous versions 2002 and 2004) have always included IIS 5.1, which is similar to what is included in Windows XP Professional. This should come as no surprise, as Media Center is built on the Windows XP Professional platform. Because of this common platform, the same restrictions on IIS 5.1 in Windows XP Professional also exist in the IIS that comes with Media Center.

IIS 5.1 for Windows XP Professional or Media Center is designed for users developing a Web service for home or for office use. It can service only 10 simultaneous client connections, only one Web site, and it does not have all the features of the server versions. If you need the features of the server versions of IIS, you'll need to use Windows Server 2003.

To install IIS on a Media Center computer (or XP Pro), follow these instructions:

  1. Goto Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs
  2. Goto Add/Remove Windows Components
  3. Scroll down to the Internet Information Services (IIS) item and check the selection
  4. Hit the Next button, and then Finish to complete the setup.

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Free Autodesk software for students

For qualifying students, you may qualify to get Autodesk software for free.

Autodesk has created a free networking site for students in the fields of architecture, design, civil and mechancial engineering. Members of this community will be able to:

  • download free student editions of Autodesk software
  • find jobs
  • discuss projects & share work
  • learn from community experts
  • find out about industry and educational trends in your field
  • take self-paced tutorials on all downloadable products
  • ask & answer questions
  • make new friends!

To sign up, all you need is a school-issued email address from a college or university.

Software that is available for free include:

For more details, visit the Autodesk Student Community site.

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CyberLink presents HD DVD/Blu-ray Playback solution for PCs

CyberLink is about set to release a new product that will allow for the playback of HD DVD and Blu-ray Discs on your PC.

CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra claims to give its users "The No. 1 High-Def Movie Experience on the PC". You will be able to do the following with this software:

  • Watch new high-def movies on HD DVDs and Blu-ray Discs
  • Experience exceptional audio quality with 7.1 home theater audio, and high-definition Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD
  • Enjoy extreme image performance with optimization for the latest graphics cards
  • Access interactive movie content with support for BD-J and iHD
  • Play movies with a choice of advanced controls and smart DVD utilities

For those of you with an Xbox 360 HD DVD Player, you can use CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra to watch HD DVD content on your computer.

For more information and ordering information, please see CyberLink's page.

I would expect to see more HD DVD/Blu-ray playback products from other providers in the new year, so it should be exciting to see what CyberLink's competitors have in store.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

'More HOV lanes planned' Response

To the Editor

In response to the article 'More HOV lanes planned' published on the Wednesday, December 13, 2006 by the Toronto Star, while I believe creating more High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on the 400-series highways (including the Queen Elizabeth Way) is a good start, more aggressive action should be taken, especially in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Highway 401, with its Collector/Express lane system presents a unique opportunity where a tolling system would work in a manner more acceptable to the public. A toll on the Express lanes would still allow for people who don't want to pay tolls to travel the system via the Collector lanes. Transit vehicles, delivery trucks and emergency vehicles would be exempt from any tolls. Users would have a choice in whether they want to pay a toll or not; the highway would still be usable by those that don't want to pay a toll; and the movement of goods through Southern Ontario via Toronto is not compromised.

The money raised through these tolls could go toward 400-series highway maintenance, and also become another source of funding for public transit all throughout Ontario. It would not be too costly a venture to implement this proposal, as existing infrastructure is essentially in place. Electronic tolling stations, similar to those on the 407 Express Toll Route (ETR), could be set up where the 401 Express lanes start and end, as well as all transfer points between the Express and Collector lanes.

Hopefully the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has considered an idea similar to my proposal as something they could implement in the future. It would kill a few birds with one stone.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Nintendo replaces Wii Remote Wrist Straps

Nintendo has announced that it is offering to replace the original version of the wrist straps on the Wii Remote with a newer, stronger version. This essentially applies to people who were first to get the Wii, as consoles shipping starting in early December already come with the newer version of the strap.

To see the difference between the two straps, see the following picture.

If you have the original version of the wrist strap, you can order the newer version at Nintendo's Wii Remote Wrist Strap Replacement Request Form. You will need your Wii serial number, as well as a valid e-mail address to order these new straps.

Nintendo expects to begin shipping replacement straps around December 21st. It will take 5 to 9 days for delivery depending on your location. Until then, Nintendo advises you to follow their recommendations listed at the Safety Information for Playing Wii web page.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

TTC service revisions allow for Lower Bay station viewing

The Toronto Transit Commission recently announced plans for revised subway service along the Bloor-Danforth subway line weekends in Feb/Mar 2007 in order to perform necessary major structural repairs to the tunnel roof between St. George and Bay stations.

As a result of this revised subway service, people who are on the eastern portion of the Bloor-Danforth line (between Kennedy and Museum stations) during Saturdays and Sundays from February 18 to March 31, 2007 will have an opportunity to see Lower Bay subway station.

Lower Bay station sits below the current (Upper) Bay station. It was open to the public for six months, when the Bloor-Danforth subway opened in 1966. Originally, the Bloor-Danforth subway line was 'interlined' with the Yonge-University subway line. The operating arrangements of this setup had a train starting from Eglinton Station, going around the loop via Union, turning left after Museum and going through upper St. George Station before getting onto the Bloor-Danforth line and arriving at Keele. This train would then reverse direction and take the Bloor-Danforth line all the way to Woodbine (via lower St. George and upper Bay) before reversing direction again, taking the wye through Lower Bay Station, returning to the Yonge-University line and heading back to Eglinton.

In the first six months of operation, two major issues emerged:

  1. A single disabled train was enough to bring the entire subway system to a halt.
  2. Passengers had difficulty deciding which trains to take at either St. George or Bay stations.

The TTC surveyed its passengers about this subway arrangement, and the results of that survey, coupled with the effects of the abovementioned two issues, convinced the TTC that interlining the two subway lines was more trouble than it was worth. As a result, the two subway lines were separated and Lower Bay station was taken out of commission and closed to the public.

Over the years, Lower Bay station has since been used as a setting for film companies to shoot subway scenes. Examples of movies that used this station include the 1995 film 'Johnny Mnemonic' and the 1990 film 'Darkman'. In addition, the television show 'Due South' also used this station as well. The station has also been used to test new subway signs, to test platform improvements, and to store used equipment. Those traveling on the Bloor-Danforth line can still catch a glimpse of the station from the front-end window of a westbound train just after leaving Yonge. Others may have heard of the station as part of urban infiltration stories that have been posted on various internet sites.

For those of you that want to see this long lost station, you will have your chance on Saturdays and Sundays from February 18 to March 31, 2007. Hopefully the TTC will advertise this opportunity for the public to see a piece of its past. It would seem to be an easy way to gain a few extra fares, in addition to allowing people to see something that would normally be off-limits. I know I plan to check it out, you should as well if you have the opportunity.

Update: February 24, 2007 - See here for details about Lower Bay and its inclusion into Doors Open Toronto 2007.

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ATI Driver Updates - Catalyst 6.12 and Theater 550/660 drivers

ATI released updated drivers for its Radeon 9500 and higher video cards and tv tuner cards based on the Theater 550/660 chipset.

For those of you using Windows XP Media Center 2005, these drivers should be useful to you.

Direct links to the download pages are available here.

Additional updates can be found at the Catalyst 6.12 release notes.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Karl Hale Named Toronto Rogers Cup Tournament Director

Tennis Canada announced that Karl Hale is the new Tournament Director for the Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament in Toronto for 2007, replacing Grant Connell, who resigned to concentrate on his real estate business and to help his wife raise the twins she's expecting in February.

As new tournament director, Karl will lead all player relations, act as the official spokesperson for the Rogers Cup held in Toronto, and liaise with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and ATP. He will represent Tennis Canada at tour-related meetings and functions.

Karl will continue in his role as the head racquets professional at the prestigious Donalda Club in Toronto, where he has held the position since 2003. Interestingly enough, this Club is literally on my doorstep, but chance of me ever becoming a member there are remote due to the Club's exclusivity.

Karl has been involved in tennis for quite some time, both as a player and a tennis professional. From 1986-1992, Karl was a top-ranked Canadian player and ATP ranked. He also represented Jamaica in the Davis Cup for 10 years as a player and a coach. He was honoured as the first Canadian to capture the International Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) Professional of the Year award. This past summer, he was the tournament director of the Celebrity Tennis Challenge for Jane/Finch Kids during the Rogers Cup presented by American Express. He founded and developed the Daniel Nestor Celebrity Charity event which has raised more than $300,000 in the event's first four years in support of the Tennis Canada's Go for Gold Olympic program and North York General Hospital. He also founded the Helping Hands Foundation Charity for Jamaican Hospitals and Schools. He also spent tennis time overseas, coaching in Tokyo, Japan for five years, working at the prestigious Kashiwa Lawn Tennis Club teaching adults and juniors. He worked with several Top 50 players, including former No. 1 Monica Seles in 1995.

Assuming that I will be volunteering at tennis tournament again this upcoming year, I look forward to working with Karl.

For more information, please see the press release at Tennis Canada's website.

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V2 Extenders vs MCE2005

We all know the story about V1 Extenders and how they won't work with Vista (see previous blog postings, V1 Media Center Extenders vs. Vista and Additional Information on v1 Extenders/Vista for that story). However, another question that has come up recently in the newsgroups and TGB forums is whether upcoming V2 Extenders would work in Media Center 2005.

I finally got a definitive answer from my sources at Microsoft, and it is the following:

The Media Center Extender Platform Adaptation Kit enables partners to build Extenders for use with Windows Vista. Because Extender technology is a superset of the PlaysForSure device program, these devices will also be able to connect to Windows Media Connect/Windows Media Player Network Sharing running on Media Center 2005 PCs. They will not, however, connect to Media Center 2005 as Extenders.

Note that when I say V2 Extenders, an Xbox 360 would, for all intents and purposes, not be considered to be a V2 Extender, as it will, in many scenarios, exceed what a V2 Extender can do. I would further elaborate on this, but unfortunately, I don't have any information that I can publicly disclose at the moment.

Basically, to summarize:

  • V1 Extenders will work as an Extender on MCE 2005 only;
  • V2 Extenders will work as an Extender on Vista only; and,
  • Xbox 360 will work as an Extender on both MCE 2005 and Vista.

My recommendation? Get an Xbox 360.

For more information about V2 Extenders, visit the MCX Partner site. They may have more information to release (however, it would likely be under NDA).

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Wii Safety Notice

Nintendo sent out a safety information e-mail to those who registered their Wii consoles. For those that didn't get it, it basicaly warns you to be mindful of three common sense items:

  • Wear the wrist strap when using the Wii Remote;
  • Do not let go of the remote during game play; and,
  • Allow adequate room around you during game play.

If you didn't get the e-mail, here is a screenshot of the e-mail.

For more Wii-related safety information, visit Nintendo's Wii Health and Safety Precautions page.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wii Sports: Home Run Derby 10/10

Ever do an activity that is frustratingly addictive? For me, the latest such activity was the Home Run derby in the Nintendo Wii game, Wii Sports.

In the Home Run activity, you are given ten balls to hit out of the park. You can even hit the balls out of the stadium (but I wonder if it is possible to hit it out of the stadium over the scoreboard... that, I have never done).

All too often, I have missed one ball to ruin my chances at 10/10. More often than not, it is either the first pitch, or the last pitch. I have even hit 18 home runs in a row, but to the game, that doesn't count for much (miss the first pitch on the first series of ten, miss the last pitch on the second series of ten). I can see how people would get frustrated and eventually end up having a little accident with their Wiimote.

Finally, this morning, I hit 10/10. Chalk up another challenge that has been conquered!

The next challenge will be ten 'out of the stadium' home runs in a row.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ferrero Rocher: How I Eat This Chocolate

Rocher chocolates, made by the company, Ferrero (otherwise more commonly known as Ferrero Rocher) are one of my favourite chocolates. They are reasonably priced, and the taste and texture presented by each chocolate makes it quite an enjoyable experience, at least to me.

The chocolate is self-described on its packaging as follows:

Delicious, distinctive Ferrero Rocher fine hazelnut chocolates. The unique combination of creamy chocolate and a perfect whole hazelnut that is wrapped in a light, crisp wafer shell, covered in smooth milk chocolate and sprinkled with hazelnut pieces. Savour the Ferrero Rocher taste experience anytime!

I could eat these things pretty quickly; however, when I am bored, I typically like to deconstruct these chocolates and eat each part of it separately. This is probably the engineer part of me breaking through; after all, I was in an engineering program prior to becoming an urban planner.

How do I do this? Read on...

After taking it out of the golden package, I proceed to carefully peel off the first layer of chocolate and hazelnut to expose the wafer shell. I dispose of this outer layer of chocolate and hazelnut into my mouth.

Next, I break the wafer shell into its two halves to expose the inner chocolate and hazelnut. Not going to waste, the wafer shell finds a home in my mouth.

An attempt to liberate the hazelnut ensues, as the chocolate is orally removed. Lastly, the freed hazelnut is devoured, and all is well until the craving for the next piece of chocolate kicks in.

To further demonstrate this deconstruction of the Ferrero Rocher chocolate, here is a summary picture.

Do you have your own special way of eating this chocolate? I would love to know if others enjoy their Ferrero Rocher chocolate in this manner.

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Intellipoint and Intellitype Pro Final for Vista released

Microsoft has taken its Windows Vista versions of the Intellipoint and Intellitype Pro software for mice and keyboards respectively, out of beta and has released them online for immediate availability.

Both Intellipoint and Intellitype Pro (version 6.1) are available in 32 and 64 bit versions in various languages. Links to the download page are available here:

With the previous final release of the 32 bit Fingerprint Reader software (64 bit support is not available at this time), all that is left is software for the Microsoft LifeCam products. Microsoft anticipates releasing finalized software for the LifeCam in January 2007.

For more information, see the Microsoft Hardware Windows Vista Support page.

Update: January 03, 2007 - Updated links to Microsoft's website

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Auto vs Motorized Bollard... Curiousity Satisifed

When I was in Europe last spring, I recall seeing many places use automated or motorized bollards to restrict vehicular access into various areas. I was always curious as to what would happen if a car got caught going over one at the wrong time. You know you had these same thoughts too!

Thanks to Youtube, I have satisifed my curiousity. Check it out!

<a href="">Video Link</a>

In the words of Dmitry Tursunov, this is "impossible to watch without a condescending smile."

It is too bad we won't see any of these motorized bollards in Canada, as our weather is likely too extreme for these to last any given amount of time.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Vista Media Center and Date Formats

Some of you may have noticed that when you are viewing your Scheduled Recordings listings, the date format doesn't show the day of the week. Others, depending on their settings, may not have any problems seeing this.

Notice that the day of the week is not shown

Media Center uses the long date format that is defined in your Regional and Language Options Control Panel. For some formats, the day of the week is not shown. As an example, English (United States) shows the day of the week in its Long date format, but English (Canada) and English (United Kingdom) do not. There are other formats that also don't show the day of the week in its long date format. You can see this in the below two pictures (focus on the Long date item).

To fix this, you can either:

  1. Change the long date format so that it includes the day of the week.
  2. Change the Current format to one that does have the day of the week (i.e. English (United States).

Most people will likely want to do the former, so here is how you go about fixing it.

  1. Go to Start and type "intl.cpl" into the Search/Run bar to open the Regional and Language Options control panel
  2. Under the Formats tab, hit the 'Customize this format' button
  3. Click on the 'Date' tab and turn your attention to the Long Date entry
  4. Add the letters that define the 'Day of the week' (dddd) to the Long Date format.
  5. Hit Ok to accept.

Prior to the fix

After the fix

Once this is done, Media Center will show the day of the week in the Scheduled Recordings listing.

Notice that the day of the week is now shown

Note that this change is done on a per-user basis. As a result, if you want to change this for other users, repeat the above steps. For Extender accounts, this is perhaps the easiest way to change the format is the following...

  1. Go back to the Regional and Language Options control panel by going to Start and typing "intl.cpl" into the Search/Run bar
  2. Go to the Administrative tab and hit the "Copy to reserved accounts..." button
  3. Check the 'Default user account (new users)" checkbox
  4. Hit Ok to accept out.
  5. Open Media Center and go to Tasks, Settings, Extender
  6. Uninstall the Extender, and then re-install it

After doing this, the Extender will have the new Date format enabled on its account. This method will always work; however, I have sometimes seen that the date format change once you have changed it for another user (even though logic would dictate that it not change). YMMV.

Hopefully you find this useful. On a side note, I wonder why English (Canada) and English (United Kingdom) don't have the day of the week shown in the Long Date format? I don't think it is because we have an aversion to seeing it? Anyone have a plausible explanation for that one?

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What's your Nintendo Wii number?

If you have a Nintendo Wii, it may interest you to know that each unit has a a number associated with it. This number acts as your unique identifier that allows Wiis to communicate with one another and add each other to your address book.

To find out your Wii Number, follow these instructions:

  • open the message board
  • click create a message
  • click on the address book
  • click on previous page arrow, or the minus "-" button

Once you have your friend's Wii number, you can add them to your address book. This allows you to send messages to each other. You can even share pictures that are on your Wii.

If your friends don't have a Wii, you can still add them to your Wii via their e-mail address. Any messages set to these e-mail addresses would show up in their Inbox, just like any other e-mail would. They would be able to reply to your Wii once you have added their e-mail address to your Wii (this should prevent any spamming, you will effectively white-list e-mail addresses that you want to receive messages from).

Every Wii has a unique e-mail address, which is the following:

w[Your Wii number, minus the square brackets and spaces]

If you want my Wii number, send me an e-mail, and I'll get back to you to get that process started.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Toronto Star Article Published

As discussed in a previous blog entry, my brother and I were interviewed by the Toronto Star for an article about the Nintendo Wii. This article, written by staff reporter Matthew Chung, with the title 'A bad case of Wii whack', has now been published both online and in print (Sunday, December 3, 2006 issue, Page C3) in the Arts & Entertainment section.

For those of you wondering how clean my basement is as mentioned in the article, I have some photos posted at my blog entry, 'Our basement is finally clean!'. It definitely isn't a source of embarrassment to my parents anymore (at least, I wouldn't think it would be).

In the article, there is a quote that is attributed to me that I did not make (i.e. "I got overexcited to a point where I didn't really notice where (the table) was anymore") so I will be e-mailing the reporter to see if that can be fixed. Based on the article, it would appear that the above quote was made by the other person whom the reporter spoke to.

Unfortunately, the online version of the Toronto Star does not have pictures, so I will check the paper (yes, I still get hardcopy of the Star at home) to see if there is an accompanying photo with the article. If there is, I will update this blog posting with a quick scan of it.

Update: December 3, 2006 - Here is a scan of the accompanying photo that was published with the article...

Jason Tsang, left, dodges a vitual hook from brother Gary in a round of Wii boxing as pal Benny Ng looks on. Tsang says Wii made him clean his basement. - David Cooper/Toronto Star

Update: December 4, 2006 - The online version has been updated, the quote in the article has now been attributed to the correct person.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Microsoft Hardware Vista Support

Microsoft has made available software and information to enable Microsoft Hardware devices to work with Windows Vista.

There is now software available for the following hardware devices:

  • Mouse (IntelliPoint) and keyboard (IntelliType) Hardware beta device software for Windows Vista is now available.
  • Webcam (LifeCam) software to work with Windows Vista will be available in January.
  • Fingerprint Reader software posted is final, not beta, software.

Final software for keyboards and mice will be available by end of December 2006.

The software installation links are as follows:

For more information, see the Microsoft Hardware Windows Vista Support website.

Update: December 09, 2006 - Intellitype Pro and Intellipoint are now out of beta. See the blog entry, Intellipoint and Intellitype Pro Final for Vista released, for more details.

Update: January 03, 2006 - Updated links to Microsoft's website

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Ready for a New Day?

Microsoft is asking businesses all around the world if they are "Ready for a New Day"? Businesses need new ways to support collaboration and new tools for communication without sacrificing security or breaking the bank. Microsoft hopes to provide this with the combined power of Windows Vista, the Microsoft 2007 Office system and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 so that businesses can unleash the true potential of their most important resource: their people.

At various local launch events held in the US and Canada, find out how other companies have achieved success through collectively implementing these new releases. Various customer success stories illustrate how using these products can simplify how people work together; help to protect and manage content; help people to find information and improve business insight; and to reduce security threats and deployment costs.

If you want to attend any of these launch events, you can still register at the following sites:

I'll be at the Toronto event on December 5th, so if you see me, feel free to say hello. My only hope is that they don't play any CĂ©line Dion songs during the event, especially 'A New Day has Come'.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Interview with the Toronto Star

A couple of days ago, there was a particular comment on my Nintendo Wii blog entry that caught my eye. At first, I thought it was a hoax, but further investigation showed me that there was a really good chance that it was a legitimate inquiry.

It turns out that Matthew Chung, a staff reporter from the Toronto Star, was looking for people in the Toronto area for research into a story about the Nintendo Wii, with a focus on Nintendo Wii-related injuries or damage to household furniture/appliances. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I sent him a response.

Matthew got in touch with me the next morning and we chatted about the Nintendo Wii, including asking questions about the topics mentioned above, and getting some my thoughts about the Nintendo Wii and gaming in general. He then arranged for us to meet up on Thursday morning along with a Toronto Star photographer to further talk about information that he needed for his article and to give him a demo of the Nintendo Wii in action.

Because of the Nintendo Wii's innovative movement-based controller made up of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, we talked about precautions that need to be taken while they are being utilized. This includes ensuring that there is adequate space in the area where the Nintendo Wii is played (especially on all three axes), ensuring that there are no objects that might disrupt game play (including fellow players) and the usefulness of doing exercises like stretching prior to engaging this form of potentially strenuous activity. He asked about close calls that we had, including me nearly hitting Gary in the head while playing Tennis, and nearly accelerating the remote into either the ceiling, the wall or my computer desk/chair. Thankfully, we haven't had a Wii remote flying into and destroying a television screen (hopefully this never happens).

Prior to demo'ing the Nintendo Wii games, I also showed Matthew some of the warning messages that are displayed when the Nintendo Wii is powered up, and when each game starts up (i.e. Health and Safety warnings, Wrist Strap warnings, proximity to other objects warnings etc). We then played some games from the Wii Sports game that demonstrated the Nintendo Wii's capabilities, such as four player tennis, bowling, baseball home run derby and golf. At the end of the demo, even Matthew commented how he was working up a sweat and how he was starting to feel the effects of the physical activity, especially in his arms and shoulders.

Hopefully Matthew was able to get all the information he needed for his article, and I am looking forward to seeing his article in this Sunday's Toronto Star in the Arts & Entertainment (A&E) section. I am especially interested to see which picture is chosen to accompany this article, as we spent some time trying to get a good action shot of my brother and me, with Benny in the background as the audience.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our basement is finally clean!

For any of my friends and/or who have had the (mis)fortune of visiting the basement of our house, many have been all too kind to not mention the horrible state of disarray that it has been in for the last decade or so (if not longer). If anyone ever picked up on this, there was a reason why my house was never offered up as a meeting place for group projects (this, along with the fact that people would get lost trying to find my house).

As a constant source of embarrassment for my parents, they have been on my case for as long as I can remember to clean up the area. But we know how that type of a plea can fall on deaf ears, especially when it is so easy to maintain the status quo.

While I don't have a proper 'before' picture, here is one picture that gives you a glimpse of how bad our basement was (at times, it was even worse than this).

Thanks to our acquisition of the Nintendo Wii, the above state of the basement did not allow enough space to get the most out of the game play offered by the Nintendo Wii controllers. Over the last week, my brother and I have cleaned out the basement to a point where we now have enough space for the Wii, and I am still be able to have my Media Center computer setup along with all the networking components and any other necessary cabling items. This clean-up task was completed last night with the relocation of the cables under the table where the tv is now located. Here is the 'after' shot.

As you can see, there is a lot of space for up to four people to play on the Wii, there is more desk space for my computer (on the left side of the above picture), and all the network infrastructure (switch, access points, cable modem, VOIP gateway etc) is now centralized and more importantly, organized. As a bonus, I even have a dual monitor setup on my computer now (my mom was wondering where her LCD monitor went... she eventually found it in its new home).

LCD HDTV with the Xbox 360, Xbox 360 HD DVD Player and the Nintendo Wii. Off to the left, you can see all the networking gear.

Media Center computer with dual monitor setup. I have my normal desktop on one monitor and Media Center on the other monitor)

My parents are (more or less) happy with the outcome, but don't tell them that a game console was what finally prompted me to take action!

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nintendo sells 600,000 Wii consoles

It looks like Nintendo has gotten off to a great start with its Wii console, selling over 600,000 units in the first week of availability since its North American launch. According to Nintendo, over $190 million USD has been spent on the system, accessories and games. In contrast, Sony was estimated to have sold 259,000 units of its Playstation 3 console that was released 2 days earlier than the Wii.

For many still looking to get their hands on a Wii, many of the large stores in Canada such as Best Buy, Future Shop or Walmart continue to see demand exceed supply, as there is no product available on store shelves.

Nintendo is set to release the Wii in other markets, with its Japan launch on December 2nd, its Australian launch on December 7th and its European launch on December 8th.

Perhaps a contributing factor for this quick start is the cost of the Wii. Coming in at $279 CDN, it is much cheaper than the Sony Playstation 3, which costs either $549.99 or $659.99 or the Microsoft Xbox 360, which costs either $399 or $499 depending on the exact hardware configuration.

Of course, with this price difference, there is also a difference in what these systems are capable of. Nintendo's Wii does not have the high-powered graphics subsystem, an all-encompassing online play system or the inclusive home entertainment portal (i.e. Blu-ray, HD DVD, Media Extenders, etc) that is offered by either the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Instead, Nintendo has tried to make games more immersive, largely due to its unique motion sensitive controller. You can see my previous blog entry about the Nintendo Wii for more details about the controller.

Which console design philosophy will win out in the end? Super-high powered graphics, integration into a home multimedia setup, inclusion of online play or unique gameplay options? It is clear that each one of these elements on its own won't be enough to turn the tide in this console war. The winning console will ultimately have features that incorporate aspects of all these elements. The company that finds the best mix at the right price will likely end up on top.

It will be an exciting next few years as this battle for console supremacy ensues and I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Remote Desktop Connection (Terminal Services Client 6.0)

Microsoft released its Remote Desktop Connection (Terminal Services Client 6.0) software today for Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

Remote Desktop Connection (Terminal Services Client 6.0) provides a way to use any new Terminal Services features introduced in Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Windows Server Code Name “Longhorn” from a computer running Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1.

The following are new features found in this Remote Desktop Connection update:

  • Network Level Authentication - Network Level Authentication is a new authentication method that finishes user authentication before you establish a full Remote Desktop Connection and the logon screen appears.
  • Server authentication - Server authentication verifies that you are connecting to the correct remote computer or server. This security measure helps prevent you from connecting to a different computer or server than you intend. This also prevents you from unintentionally exposing confidential information.
  • Resource redirection - The Remote Desktop Connection 6.0 client update helps you redirect Plug and Play devices that support redirection.
  • Terminal Services Gateway (TS Gateway) servers - A Terminal Services Gateway (TS Gateway) server is a type of gateway that enables authorized users to connect to remote computers on a corporate network. These authorized users can connect from any computer by using an Internet connection. TS Gateway uses the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) together with the HTTPS protocol to help create a more secure, encrypted connection.
  • TS Remote Programs - TS Remote Programs is a feature of Windows Server Terminal Services that lets client computers connect to a remote computer and use programs that are installed on it.
  • Monitor spanning - Remote Desktop Connection supports high-resolution displays that can be spanned across multiple monitors. However, the total resolution on all monitors must be under 4,096 x 2,048.
  • Visual improvements - Remote Desktop Connection now supports 32-bit color and font smoothing.

You can find the downloads here:

More information can be found in this release's Knowledge Base article (KB925876).

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Ronaldinho's Amazing Goal

Whether you follow soccer (or as they call it everywhere else in the world, football) or not, there was a pretty amazing goal scored this past weekend in the Barcelona vs Villareal Premier Liga game by Ronaldinho.

According to the commentary, descriptions of this goal and the compliments directed at Ronaldinho included some of the following:

A thing of beauty and brilliance.
It was as electrifying as a hair dryer thrown into a hot tub.
Like Betamax, they do not make them like him anymore.
An extraordinary goal by an extraordinary player that will send these people into their dreams tonight thinking of heavenly things.
Absolutely bamboozles his defender with this virtuoso goal.
That's not human... it is superhuman.

Think this is an exaggeration or is it really as good as described? Check out the goal for yourself and be the judge.

<a href="">Video Link</a>

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Friday, November 24, 2006

ATSC in Canada with Windows Vista

Now that Microsoft's Windows Vista has been finalized, fellow Media Center MVP Peter Near has updated his ATSC instructions for those of us living in Canada. This is essentially what I had to do to make ATSC work as described in my recent blog posting, Media Center in Vista.

You will need basically the following items to pull this off:

  • A computer with Microsoft Windows Vista (you can do the same with Media Center 2005, those instructions can be found here)
  • A decent ATSC tuner for your PC. I am personally using a DViCO Fusion HDTV5 USB Gold, Peter notes some other cards in his instructions.
  • A good quality UHF antenna appropriate for your area

You can read about some of my experiences with the above three items in my blog entries, First Foray into HDTV, HDTV Antenna Update, HDTV Antenna Update Part 2, and Media Center in Vista.

For the detailed bits of getting ATSC to work in Canada (including screenshots of all the important steps), please follow this link to Peter's ATSC in Canada with Media Center Vista (RTM) blog entry.

Thanks Peter for this great guide (and all the other helpful bits of advice along the way).

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Media Center Keyboard Shortcuts

In a previous blog posting, Media Center Trick Play Functionality, I briefly talked about keyboard shortcuts that you could use in Media Center.

While Media Center was optimized for a 10 foot interface, that is, it was designed to be shown on a screen 10 feet away and controlled with a remote (a la sitting on a couch), it also has a two foot interface, that is, it can be controlled via the traditional mouse/keyboard combination.

Most Media Center users likely have the Media Center remote (or some similar device) but in some usage scenerios, it is not practical to reach for the remote when you are using the mouse and keyboard. For example, I might be watching Media Center in windowed mode, while sending e-mails or working on spreadsheets. Unless you have three arms (one for keyboard, one for mouse, and one for the remote), it is arguably unproductive to reach for the remote. In such a case, it is good to know that there are keyboard shortcuts for almost all of the commands found on the Media Center remote.

Shortcuts that I commonly use include going to the Recorded TV menu, going to the Guide, Skip/Replay of Live/Recorded TV and Channel Up/Down.

For a list of Media Center keyboard shortcuts, see the following links:

What's different between the two Operating Systems?

From what I could tell, some shortcuts were removed (i.e. shortcut to Messenger functionality was removed in Vista, because that feature doesn't exist anymore) but more or less, there haven't been any substantial changes.

One remote function that I have found that does not have a keyboard equivalent is the 'Return to Last Viewed Channel' function. I have been bugging this since the first Media Center beta in 2002, but no action has been taken yet. On the Remote, while watching TV, pressing either the OK or the Enter button on the remote would bring you back to the last channel that you were on previous to the present channel (for example, if I go from channel 14 to 28, pressing OK or enter would bring me back to 14) . I wonder why they left this one out..

Anyways, check out the keyboard shortcuts, it might help to increase your productivity (ironic, eh?)

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nintendo Wii

So I lined up for a Nintendo Wii this morning. I arrived at the Best Buy on Laird Dr in Toronto at 4:45 am. Ended up being 25 out of 74 (I admit, I sort of cheated, as my brother Gary and his friend Benny 'saved' a spot in line for me since midnight). Store opened at 8:00 am, and we were back home by around 8:45 am or so.

There definitely was a need to line up early, as many people who came later did not go home with a console. Even as we left, we still saw people lining up down the street at Future Shop, which was slated to open much later (10:00am).

The base unit, priced at $279 CDN, came with the following items:

  1. Wii Console
  2. Wii Console Stand
  3. Wii Remote
  4. Nunchuk
  5. Sensor Bar
  6. Wii AC Adapter
  7. Wii AV Cable
  8. Wii Sports Disc

Also picked up an additional Remote for $44.95 and Nunchuk for $24.99 and a couple of games.

I also had an American Express coupon which gave us $30 off on any Best Buy purchase over $300, so we even managed to save a bit of money.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the Nintendo Wii is its unique controller. The Wii Remote is both wireless and motion-sensitive and it offers an intuitive, natural way to play games. The ergonomic controller plays into the conventional motions you might make everyday. On other consoles, if you wanted to hit a drum, swing a tennis racket or swing a bat, you would use your thumbs on a controller to perform the movement. With the Wii Remote, you can use regular motions to help make you the center of the game. For example, when you hit the ball while playing tennis or baseball, you actually simulate a swinging motion to hit the ball, or to punch someone in boxing, you perform a punching movement.

The Nunchuk controller plugs into Remote and expands the amount of things you can do. Two examples given include first-person shooters and a football game. In first-person shooters, the controller carries the burden of movement, freeing you to aim and fire using a more natural motion with the Wii Remote. In a football game, you can make your quarterback elusive with the Nunchuk controller while you look for an open receiver to throw to using the Wii Remote.

Here are some pictures.....

Picture of the Nintendo Wii

Nanchuk and Remote

Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD Player, Microsoft Xbox 360 (unfortunately, I don't think a Sony Playstation 3 is in the cards anytime soon, if ever)

Both systems going at the same time (Wii Sports: Bowling vs. Gears of War)

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Media Center SDK for Vista released

Aaron Stebner announced on his blog that the Media Center SDK for Windows Vista has now been released. For those interested in developing on the Media Center platform, this is an essential download.

Aaron also notes that a power toy, named the MCML Preview Tool Launcher, has also been released. You will need to have the Media Center SDK for Vista installed in order to use this power toy. He states the following about this power toy:

This tool makes it much easier to preview markup as you write it by eliminating the need to type in file paths or URLs and adding the ability to track the history of previous files that you have viewed so you can jump back to them quickly. Also, it makes it much easier to configure the command line switches supported by the MCML Preview Tool in the SDK.

Both the Media Center SDK for Vista and the MCML Preview Tool Launcher are available for download at the following URLs:

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Demand for Windows Vista RTM overwhelm MS Servers

With demand for the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version of Windows Vista overwhelming their download servers, Microsoft has temporarily removed the x64 version of the Windows Vista from, MSDN and Technet download sites to reduce server load.

Those that have already started to download the x64 version will be able to continue downloading it; however, no new downloads of the x64 version will be permitted until the server load is lessened.

The x86 version of Windows Vista will still be available, but new downloads may intermittently not be offered when servers near full capacity.

Microsoft plans to offer the x64 version of the Windows Vista for download again once the download demands on their servers settle down.

It is awesome to see all this interest in Windows Vista, and hopefully things return to a state of normalcy in the next few days. In some ways, this is almost a virtual version of scenes that happened when people rushed into stores to get their hands on Playstation 3 gaming consoles. Only here with these Windows Vista downloads, no one is being physically trampled in the stampede.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Media Center in Vista

With the release of Windows Vista for MSDN Subscribers, I installed it on one of my computers today.

This was the perfect opportunity to install my DViCO Fusion HDTV5 USB Gold to act as the ATSC HDTV Tuner in Media Center.

As many of you know, ATSC HDTV in Media Center is only officially supported in the US (for both Media Center 2005 and Vista's Media Center). Because I am in Canada, this should have been a setback. But thankfully, where there is a will, there is a way. Coupled with my recent antenna install, as mentioned in the blog postings, First Foray into HDTV, HDTV Antenna Update and HDTV Antenna Update Part 2, I was ready to have Media Center tune into these HDTV broadcasts.

Because ATSC HDTV is not officially supported in Canada, you'll have to resort to registry hacks. Following instuctions provided by Media Center MVP Peter Near in his blog entry "OTA HDTV in Canada on Vista betas", I was able to get Media Center to receive all the channels through my antenna. Peter mentions that he previously had trouble with CFTO and WIVB reception; however, thanks to his efforts with both those tv stations, they can now be viewed in Media Center.

Here are some screenshots of Media Center in action.

ATSC HDTV in action (CTV HD) - notice the Transport Control Bar is much less obtrusive than previous versions of Media Center

ATSC HDTV channels listed in the Electronic Programming Guide

The Extender Manager is now presented via the 10 foot interface

Viewing a HD Recording via the Xbox 360 Extender

If you are in Canada, and you have the right hardware, you can set this up too. If you run into any issues, take a look at my previous blog entry, How to troubleshoot ATSC issues in MCE, for links to some helpful tips that will help you troubleshoot.

As for me, I desperately need more than 512 megs of RAM for this computer. Windows Vista on 512 megs of RAM is like running Windows XP on 128 megs of RAM.

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