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  • Revisiting Windows Media Center as a front end...

    During the current rebuild of my CarPC, I have been playing left and right with different front ends, their stability, look and feel, usability etc. While most of them offer a lot of "functionality", I'm finding that none of them "look and feel" as good as a stock system, for e.g. the stock Mercedes command system, the Audi MMI based system or the BMW iDrive. Why is that?

    Is that because the front end may be written by one company/person, while the additions/plugins are written by many others? Is it because we haven't focussed enough on the "usability" and user experience of these front ends?

    I'll take Windows Media Center as an example. First, this is NOT designed to be a car front end as such, it is designed for a "media experience" in your living room. However, THAT experience is absolutely beautiful. The media listings, searching, playback, album art, browsing etc etc are absolutely FLAWLESS. And the interface is "intuitive" and pleasing, which I find to be lacking in almost all car specific front ends.

    Thoughts?

    I almost feel like adding a few pieces of functionality to Media Center to make it more car friendly, the basic framework is there.

  • #2
    I can give you a thought.

    You're comparing a piece of free software written by volunteers in their free time on their own good will to a multi-million dollar corporate software project written by software engineers that get paid to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and develop/design desired products.
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    • #3
      i have to agree with kapone.... WMC (windows 7) is a great, nothing comes close
      now to use it for carfront end... well the WORK involved would be way too much, and without the knowleged of WMCs internals... really close to impossible task
      the best thing for WMC is media browser, simply amazing...

      now i believe with say RideRunner you could develop a carpc user experience that has equal look and feel to say Audio's MMI or BMW idrive
      again its work, and graphic talents a must

      need a professional ManMachineInterface designer, who knows intutive

      FYI, i dont have a Carpc
      -Thanks
      Mitch
      www.rush2112.net

      "Did you test it in carwings??"

      Sun, Come shine my way
      May healing waters bury all my pain
      Wind, Carry me home
      The fabric of reality is tearing apart
      The piece of me that died
      Will return To live again

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      • #4
        I have a button on CF 3.0 to open Windows Media Center 7. I tried their app loader plugin, but the developer has no interest in integrating WMC with CF, and he ignored me.

        It works, kind of. I let it load on top of CF, mute the audio, and, with a 3G Internet connection, I can check a lot of things - Netflix works, for instance. As well as any Media Center Plugin, sports scores, players, latest pictures, etc.

        I only use it parked, or when the wife is driving. I miss permanent arrows to navigate side to side and up and down. It has a lot of command line parameters so you can launch it playing tv, radio, or browsing videos, whatever. I plan to integrate hotkeys to my steering wheel (joy con) for basic play/pause/next/previous/up and down control. I also use the high contrast white option, so the screen background s all white, with black/dark text and pictures: it was made for the car that way, highly visible!

        Some paramenters:

        ehshell.exe /directmedia:tv

        Launches Windows Media Center in full screen mode and navigates to the recorded TV library. Great if you sync the weeks night shows from your HTPC. They can share recorded tv content with you car. I don't do this mainly because MSdvr files are too big. But it would work. I think there's a way to stream content from your WMC HTPC via internet, so you don't need to copy any files to your carputer.

        ehshell.exe /directmediaictures

        ehshell.exe /directmedia:music
        Launches Windows Media Center in full screen mode and navigates to the [COLOR=blue ! important][COLOR=blue ! important]music [COLOR=blue ! important]library[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR], a new switch as part of Windows HotStart feature that can be used to launch Windows Media Center and cause it to navigate directly to one of the built-in experiences.

        ehshell.exe /addinfallbackpath:<path>
        This parameter starts Windows Media Center and causes it to use to locate and load add-in assemblies. This location is only used after Windows Media Center attempts to load add-in assemblies from the global assembly [COLOR=blue ! important][COLOR=blue ! important]cache[/COLOR][/COLOR] (GAC) and %windir%\ehome. This switch can be combined with the /entrypoint switch described above to allow prototyping of Windows Media Center [COLOR=blue ! important][COLOR=blue ! important]applications[/COLOR][/COLOR] without needing to install an updated assembly to the GAC each time you rebuild your project in Visual Studio.


        ^^^^ WTF? No idea what that means...LOL




        More here:

        http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb189052.aspx
        Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
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        07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

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        • #5
          i think he ment to use WMC completly, not just as a media player
          no other Front End SW would be used
          and you could!
          just so much work
          -Thanks
          Mitch
          www.rush2112.net

          "Did you test it in carwings??"

          Sun, Come shine my way
          May healing waters bury all my pain
          Wind, Carry me home
          The fabric of reality is tearing apart
          The piece of me that died
          Will return To live again

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by mitchjs View Post
            i think he ment to use WMC completly, not just as a media player
            no other Front End SW would be used
            and you could!
            just so much work
            Yup. And here's my reasoning.

            Take RR or CF for example. They provide a basic framework for skinning, overlays, (some) media management etc. And then, over time, things like GPS, phone support etc has been added.

            Now, take WMC as an example. It ALREADY has all of the overlay framework written and it is vastly superior to almost anything out there. Now, when it comes to "skinning", yes, WMC is not skinnable per se, unless you wanna muck around with the embedded bitmaps in the ehres resource files. That IS a drawback, but not in my opinion, a show stopper. Between the standard MC color scheme and the high contrast (black and white) schemes, it has pretty good skins to begin with.

            It even has radio support built in! Although it only supports "tuner cards" for radio, and none of the external radio units like the Visteon or Directed radios.

            Now, what it lacks is, GPS, phone as basic building blocks.

            Adding GPS can't be THAT difficult. Hell, the amount of time the developers here have spent in embedding iG, Mappoint etc into various front ends, we could have done that easily with MC as well. And you know what? I'm not one for idle talk. I'll take on that task. I'll embed Mappoint into MC. Why Mappoint? Because I have it. (I have an enterprise MSDN subscription)

            As far as phone goes, yes, a native .NET bluetooth stack will be "ideal". I think some folks here have already written that. I'd love to get together with them and see if it can be integrated.

            And Mitch...how about writing a "virtual" radio tuner device driver, based on your work with HD radios? That may make it work with ANY application (including MC) that has support for the Windows radio framework.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by kapone View Post
              Yup. And here's my reasoning.

              Take RR or CF for example. They provide a basic framework for skinning, overlays, (some) media management etc. And then, over time, things like GPS, phone support etc has been added.

              Now, take WMC as an example. It ALREADY has all of the overlay framework written and it is vastly superior to almost anything out there. Now, when it comes to "skinning", yes, WMC is not skinnable per se, unless you wanna muck around with the embedded bitmaps in the ehres resource files. That IS a drawback, but not in my opinion, a show stopper. Between the standard MC color scheme and the high contrast (black and white) schemes, it has pretty good skins to begin with.

              It even has radio support built in! Although it only supports "tuner cards" for radio, and none of the external radio units like the Visteon or Directed radios.

              Now, what it lacks is, GPS, phone as basic building blocks.

              Adding GPS can't be THAT difficult. Hell, the amount of time the developers here have spent in embedding iG, Mappoint etc into various front ends, we could have done that easily with MC as well. And you know what? I'm not one for idle talk. I'll take on that task. I'll embed Mappoint into MC. Why Mappoint? Because I have it. (I have an enterprise MSDN subscription)

              As far as phone goes, yes, a native .NET bluetooth stack will be "ideal". I think some folks here have already written that. I'd love to get together with them and see if it can be integrated.

              And Mitch...how about writing a "virtual" radio tuner device driver, based on your work with HD radios? That may make it work with ANY application (including MC) that has support for the Windows radio framework.

              Yes, that would be great.

              I don't need phone and navigation features. Still I don't think WMC is ready for the car. Navigation is still difficult with a touchscreen.
              Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
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              07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by RipplingHurst View Post
                Yes, that would be great.

                I don't need phone and navigation features. Still I don't think WMC is ready for the car. Navigation is still difficult with a touchscreen.
                This part is intriguing. Why do you think so? Is it controllability, skinning, transport mechanisms, viewability, ???

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                • #9
                  virtual drivers ?!!? to make a driver that is BDA compatable is WAAAY over my head
                  -Thanks
                  Mitch
                  www.rush2112.net

                  "Did you test it in carwings??"

                  Sun, Come shine my way
                  May healing waters bury all my pain
                  Wind, Carry me home
                  The fabric of reality is tearing apart
                  The piece of me that died
                  Will return To live again

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    in any case you could write a WMC add on that controlled the HD Radio
                    that prob isnt that hard
                    -Thanks
                    Mitch
                    www.rush2112.net

                    "Did you test it in carwings??"

                    Sun, Come shine my way
                    May healing waters bury all my pain
                    Wind, Carry me home
                    The fabric of reality is tearing apart
                    The piece of me that died
                    Will return To live again

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mitchjs View Post
                      virtual drivers ?!!? to make a driver that is BDA compatable is WAAAY over my head
                      It's not THAT bad...lol, but I hear you.

                      Originally posted by mitchjs View Post
                      in any case you could write a WMC add on that controlled the HD Radio
                      that prob isnt that hard
                      That's an option, but then you'd have to create your own radio management UI in MC, rather than use the existing one, which is excellent. All it needs is a driver that translates standard radio framework commands to our own for interfacing with these external radios. While not simple, I think that would be the "elegant" solution.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RipplingHurst View Post
                        ehshell.exe /addinfallbackpath:<path>
                        This parameter starts Windows Media Center and causes it to use to locate and load add-in assemblies. This location is only used after Windows Media Center attempts to load add-in assemblies from the global assembly [COLOR=blue ! important][COLOR=blue ! important]cache[/COLOR][/COLOR] (GAC) and %windir%\ehome. This switch can be combined with the /entrypoint switch described above to allow prototyping of Windows Media Center [COLOR=blue ! important][COLOR=blue ! important]applications[/COLOR][/COLOR] without needing to install an updated assembly to the GAC each time you rebuild your project in Visual Studio.


                        ^^^^ WTF? No idea what that means...LOL
                        lmao, I guess you're not a .net programmer? the GAC (Global Assembly Cache) is a common repository in windows (specifically the .net frameworks) where any assemblies can be loaded, and then references by all applications in the current namespace. For installation/setup projects, the apps will often load their referencing assemblies into the GAC, so the applications don't need to track the .dll files themselves... if they're in the GAC, they're always available.
                        (I'm sure you all really wanted to know that...)


                        In regards to using MC as a front end, I don't see what the issues are. If you have the PC, with WMC on it, and tied to the car's electronics correctly, why wouldn't it work? (I'm assuming Win7 w/ MC supports touch screens... if it doesn't, obvious problem).

                        I can easily see the lack of plugins for logging/ecu, and some of the more car-specific features (not that you couldn't write the plugins, but...), but basic media functionality should work.

                        There are SDKs for WMC as well, you've got to know .net instead of java, but you can do a lot.

                        With that said, I think the custom/open-source community generally avoids MS development for many reasons... and there is a LOT more customization available there, then in the MS space... and you've got a ton more support (ie community).

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                        • #13
                          A few thoughts:

                          first, BMW's Audi's system are all developed with big budgets by a closely knit team of engineers and designers. They also have a narrow scope, aren't skinnable, pluggable, or anything else that we enjoy in modern frontends. While this does not appeal to the hacker ethos, it does to the average consumer who doesn't care about anything other than it working as expected. If effort were to be put into limiting the functionality and making everything just work we'd have an equal system. I doubt any of the current frontends have professional human interface designers (save maybe CF, maybe). Furthermore, if any 3rd party develops any UI it may or may not be consistant with the rest of the interaction rules defined by the original developers.

                          That said, some systems in this community do have a set of rules/guidelines that 3rd party developers are expected to understand. It also helps when you own the entire platform and not just the frontend software :P. I can't really imagine being able to alt-tab out of Audi's interface into XP's explorer shell. It's completely unprofessional for a product to have two conflicting interfaces.

                          I also wrote a blog on why interfaces like WMC/android/mythtv are a bad idea in the car. It's a short read, but an important concept.
                          Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
                          Current author of Automotive Message Broker (AMB).
                          Works on Tizen IVI. Does not represent anyone or anything but himself.

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                          • #14
                            alt-tab hehehe...

                            you shouldnt have a "KEYBOARD" in the car anyway
                            not one that you can do alt-tab on

                            and all this fun stuff "COULD" be done
                            its just daunting task, and getting it started is the hardest part
                            -Thanks
                            Mitch
                            www.rush2112.net

                            "Did you test it in carwings??"

                            Sun, Come shine my way
                            May healing waters bury all my pain
                            Wind, Carry me home
                            The fabric of reality is tearing apart
                            The piece of me that died
                            Will return To live again

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kapone View Post
                              This part is intriguing. Why do you think so? Is it controllability, skinning, transport mechanisms, viewability, ???
                              Well, it was designed for a remote control input. So the transport buttons (play, pause, etc.) are minuscule on the bottom right of the screen, and they disappear from view all the time. It pressuposes hard buttons. On the main menu, to go up and down, left and right, there are arrows, but they only appear in sight when you move the mouse or touch the screen somewhere, and they're tiny, compared to the rest of the interface. Often than not, you actually click on the closest function (radio/settings, whatever) than on the arrow.

                              Now, I have disabled Win7 native touchscreen capabilities, and installed Touchkit drivers. Maybe if I enable that the arrows grow bigger, etc? Hummm.
                              Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
                              Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

                              07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

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