Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to re-enable Windows Media Center in the Default Programs control panel on Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate

I wanted to point people to yet another useful Media Center-related article by Aaron Stebner, which is actually a follow-up post to an entry that was posted yesterday.

To summarize some information from the previous post, it is possible that launching Windows Vista Media Center will fail and will instead display the following error message:

Title: Windows Media Center
Text: Windows cannot open this program because it has been prevented by a software restriction policy. For more information contact your system administrator.

Aaron looked at the startup code for Windows Media Center, and found that in addition to the Group Policy setting that was previously described, it is also possible for this error dialog to appear if Windows Media Center is marked as disabled in the Set Program Access and Computer Defaults control panel on Windows Vista.

How to work around the issue
You can use the following steps to enable Windows Media Center in the Set Program Access and Computer Defaults control panel if it is currently disabled:

  1. Click on the Start menu and choose Default Programs
  2. Click on the item named Set Program Access and Computer Defaults
  3. Choose the Custom configuration
  4. Under the Choose a default media player item, make sure that the box to the right of the Windows Media Center item that is labeled Enable access to this program is checked

Note - you do not have to select the radio button to the left of the Windows Media Center to make it the default media player if you don't want to, but the Enable check box must be checked or Windows Media Center will refuse to launch on your system.

For more technical details, see Aaron's blog posting titled, "How to re-enable Windows Media Center in the Default Programs control panel on Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate".


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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to use Group Policy to enable and disable Windows Media Center in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions

In case people missed this, I wanted to point people to this useful Media Center-related article by Aaron Stebner.

Some people may run into an issue where there was not a shortcut to Media Center available on the Windows Vista start menu, and when they tried navigating directly to c:\Windows\eHome\ and running ehShell.exe directly, they received an error dialog with the following information:

Title: Windows Media Center
Text: Windows cannot open this program because it has been prevented by a software restriction policy. For more information contact your system administrator.

In Windows Vista, a Group Policy setting was introduced to allow administrators to configure systems to not allow Windows Media Center to run. This setting was designed to be used in locked down environments such as corporate networks where Windows Media Center is not needed on a day-to-day basis. However, it is possible that this setting could end up getting configured on home systems as well.

How to work around the issue
If you see the above dialog when attempting to launch Windows Vista Media Center, you can use the following steps to disable the Windows Media Center Group Policy settings using the Group Policy Object Editor in Windows Vista:

  1. Click on the Start menu and type gpedit.msc to locate the Group Policy Object Editor
  2. Run gpedit.msc and click Continue to allow it to run elevated
  3. Expand Computer Configuration (for per-machine settings), then Administrative Templates, then Windows Components
  4. Click on the Windows Media Center item under Windows Components
  5. Right-click on the setting named Do not allow Windows Media Center to run and choose Properties
  6. In the Properties dialog, change the setting from Enabled to either Disabled or Not Configured and click OK
  7. Expand User Configuration (for per-user settings), then Administrative Templates, then Windows Components
  8. Click on the Windows Media Center item under Windows Components
  9. Right-click on the setting named Do not allow Windows Media Center to run and choose Properties
  10. In the Properties dialog, change the setting from Enabled to either Disabled or Not Configured and click OK
  11. Close the Group Policy Object Editor
  12. Try to launch Windows Vista Media Center again

If you see this dialog on your system, it is important to check both the Computer Configuration (per-machine) and User Configuration (per-user) locations for this setting because if either one of them is enabled, Windows Media Center will not launch and will display the above dialog.

For more technical details, see Aaron's blog posting titled, "How to use Group Policy to enable and disable Windows Media Center in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions".


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Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Xbox 360 died

I guess I can join the club of those who have had their Xbox 360 die on them.

My Xbox 360 has the "Three Lights Flashing Red" error also known as the infamous Red Ring of Death (RROD)...

Thankfully, this unit is still under warranty. Hopefully the repair turnaround time isn't too long.


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hawk-eye issues at the Australian Open

During the past two weeks of play at the Australian Open, the Hawkeye system, which I have blogged about in the past, has been used for player challenges of line calls in both of the main arenas, Rod Laver Arena and Vodafone Arena. However, being an optical based technology, lighting conditions can throw off the system, and this happened to occur at Vodafone Arena, where the line calling device was being used for the first time in 2008 (the system was only available in Rod Laver Arena in 2007).

It was discovered at Vodafone Arena that there was a period of 30 to 45 minutes when there is a large shadow that goes across the entire court when the roof is open. This shadow happened to disrupt the Hawkeye challenge system to a point where it cannot be guaranteeed the minimum accuracy requirements that the system is required to have. It was discovered that the nature and darkness of the shadow, coupled with the height of the roof at this arena that were contributing factors to this issue.

Once this issue was discovered, it was announced that the Hawkeye system would not be available during the time the system was affected. Tournament director, Craig Tiley, said the following:

"In light of the fact that Hawkeye cannot guarantee 100 percent accuracy, 100 percent of the time, we will not use the Hawkeye system during this time, at the Vodafone Arena. The players will be informed when Hawkeye is not working."

Some players were unnerved by this development. Australian Peter Luczak said he noticed some problems during his second-round loss to David Nalbandian at Vodafone on Thursday.

"He (Nalbandian) was getting a little bit frustrated because the Hawkeye wasn't in play for some reason. It doesn't work when the shadow is halfway across the court."

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia was affected by it during her first-round win over Sonara Cirstea.

"It's not unreasonable to expect that the technology works properly. When it breaks down it throws your concentration. My opponent was causing me enough problems without me worrying whether the device is working properly."

Hopefully, this issue will be resolved for future events.


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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Amazing Tennis at the Australian Open

So I have a weakness for giving up sleep to watch great tennis matches. It's the worse during the Australian Open, as there is a 16 hour time difference between Eastern Standard Time (UTC -5) and Eastern (Australia) Daylight Time (UTC +11).

Last night, I was up until 5:15 am (EST) watching the Roger Federer/Janko Tipsaveric 3rd round men's singles match. By now, most people know the result (Federer won in an epic five set match, 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7/1) 5-7 6-1 10-8). Amazingly enough, this was suppose to be the last match of the 'day' session, with two more matches to follow in the 'night' session.

When I woke up to get ready to go to work at 10:00 am (EST), there was still tennis going on. Turns out the first match, a women's single match between Venus Williams and Sania Mirza, went the full three sets, and the nightcap between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis was only in the 3rd set.

When all was said and done, play finally ended at about 4:30 am (Melbourne local time). Here I am thinking that the 1:30 am end to one of the US Open matches that I attended last September was late. I guess that thought goes out the window.

Now the challenge is to get my sleep cycle back on track for work on Monday... woohoo!


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Friday, January 18, 2008

Air Canada Mobile Check-In

Air Canada has a new way to check in for their flights. You can now get your boarding pass for qualifying flights using your PDA (personal digital assistant, such as Blackberry or Treo) or cell phone.

Our new boarding pass feature is an enhancement to our existing Mobile Check-in service. If your mobile device supports 2D barcode technology as most do, you will now receive two SMS text messages to confirm your check-in: one SMS text containing the details regarding your flight, and another SMS containing a link to a barcode image. For each flight checked in via your mobile device, you will receive these two SMS text messages. If your itinerary does not qualify, you can still use Mobile Check-in service and print out your boarding pass at a kiosk or with an agent. When using your mobile device, the access to log on remains the same mobile.aircanada.com.

For more information, check out Air Canada's Mobile Check-in webpage.


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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Media Center and DVD Streaming

Fellow Media Center MVP Chris Lanier reports that DVD streaming will officially be added to Media Center in the near future.

According to our own TGB @ CES blogger Jerold, Media Center is officially getting DVD Streaming support. Not only that, everyone’s favorite pink haired Media Center employee (Jessica Z) has seen it in action. Jerold couldn’t squeeze a timeline out of Jessica, but he wonders if it will be a part of Fiji.

This has been a feature that many Media Center users have been waiting for. For those of you who don't know what this feature is, essentially, this would allow the viewing of a DVD (or potentially one of the High-Def DVD formats) loaded into a reader drive on the Media Center computer on an Extender. While it likely wouldn't be too difficult to implement from a technical standpoint, there are other reasons why this hasn't been done yet (i.e. legal reasons).

If and when this feature is added, it should definitely help with the adoption of Media Center by the masses. Coupled with the newly released v2 Media Center Extenders, physical media should no longer be a limitation to enjoying these multimedia experiences within one's connected home. It is features like this that will help make Bill Gates' 'Next Digital Decade' vision a reality.

Update: January 9, 2008 from Jessica Zahn

On DVD streaming: I think what I said here was that there is a compelling "soccer mom" scenario. As a mother, I know first-hand how many DVDs get scratched, lost, or damaged by my children. I'd love to throw all my DVDs into a changer and remote them to wherever in my house.

However, we haven't announced this as a feature included in any future release. We play with all kinds of ideas - we're software developers, after all, we have to prototype things! - but whether and how they make it into our products is another story.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

The Log Driver's Waltz

Raise your hands if you remember this one!

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPDi9DzihrE">Video Link</a>

This three minute bit is something that most children from my generation in Canada will remember. Great time filler material between tv shows.


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