• Writing a Media Center Application in Visual Studio 2010

    Rocky River, Kangaroo IslandMy ISP (Internode) provides a number of unmetered streaming radio stations for its customers. A while back I’d followed some instructions on how to set up shortcuts in Media Center to link to some of these stations. This worked pretty well, until the ISP reorganised their server and all of the shortcuts broke. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write a simple Media Center application that could grab the current radio list from the published radio stream RSS feed, list those stations in Media Center and allow selecting a station and getting Media Center to start playing it.

    1. Download and install the Windows 7 Media Center SDK. This install some samples, the SDK help file and some templates (but only for Visual Studio 2008).
    2. Go to Charlie Owen’s blog and download his Addendum.zip. Amongst other things, this contains both project and item templates suitable for Visual Studio 2010. Follow the instructions to copy the templates into your Visual Studio templates folder.
    3. Download and install the latest WiX 3.5 build (WiX 3.5 includes support for 2010)

    Now you can start Visual Studio and you’ll see a new project template in the C# language section. There’s a few more things I needed to update to get everything working properly:

    • Search for “Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0A” and replace it with “Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0A” (eg. devinstall.cmd)
    • Search for “Windows Installer XML v3\bin” and replace it with “Windows Installer XML v3.5\bin” (eg. build.cmd)

    Then it’s just a matter of getting up to speed with the intricacies of Media Center application writing!

    The source code for the application (InternodeRadioMCE) is published on Google Code. It is very rough at the moment. As I get more familiar with the Media Center programming model I hope to improve it a bit!

    And the photo? It’s of Rocky River (courtesy of our recent holiday to Kangaroo Island) – and the closest thing I could think of to a stream (as in streaming radio!)

  • Rebuilding the home PC on a budget (part 2)

    So there I was, looking down the barrel of having to basically rebuild my home PC. It’s been more than a month since the box stopped working, and after further research I came up with the following revised shopping list:

    Component Model
    CPU AM3 x4 640
    RAM Kingston 4GB Kit(2Gx2) DDR3 1333
    Motherboard GA-870A-UD3
    CPU Fan Noctua NH-U9B-SE2

    That motherboard recently gained an ‘Editor’s Choice’ award from XBit Laboratories, which is nice.

    However, Duncan commented on my previous post that maybe the hardware wasn’t at fault. It was a good suggestion that I should really try and isolate what the cause of this problem is before just “throwing new hardware” at it (as he put it!).

    So I scrounged around and found a spare old hard disk that I was able to plug in to the system and successfully installed a clean version of Windows 7. So far so good, but then I noticed something odd – Windows insisted that I just had a basic VGA adapter. Nevertheless I then installed the most recent NVidia driver (96.85) and rebooted. Eureka! It booted successfully.

    Buoyed by this success, I then swapped back to the original boot disk and booted into “Safe Mode with Networking”, located the display driver in the Device Manager and uninstalled the existing driver. I then rebooted Windows.

    Rebooting worked ok, and I was now in VGA mode again. I then repeated the process of installing the NVidia driver and rebooted again… And it worked!

    So we’re now back working again, and I can leave my shopping list for another day Smile

  • Is it worth going naked?

    Following on from yesterday’s post I thought I’d run through the numbers to see what savings are possible with a change to a ‘naked’ Internode ADSL service and porting our home phone number to VoIP.

    Current monthly expenses | Service | Description | Cost | | — | — | — | | Broadband | Internode Easy-Broadband-Classic (50GB)* | 47.45 | | Telephone | HomeLine® Budget# | 26.95 | | Total |   | 74.40 |

    * – ‘grandfathered’ plan no longer available to new customers. Price includes 5% discount.

    # – HomeLine Budget plan activated before newer conditions were introduced which disallow non-BigPond ADSL providers, and also includes $6 to enable Caller Number Display.

    There seems to be two possibilities – the “Easy” plan (which also counts uploads but tend to have larger overall quotas) or the “Extreme” (which don’t count uploads). I’ve applied the 5% discount to the broadband plans.

    Easy Naked monthly expenses | Service | Description | Cost | | — | — | — | | Broadband | Internode Easy Naked Pure Broadband S :: 150 Gigabytes | 56.95 | | Telephone | Internode NodePhone2-Starter | 5.00 | | Total |   | 61.95 |

    NakedExtreme monthly expenses | Service | Description | Cost | | — | — | — | | Broadband | Internode NakedExtreme ADSL2+ Pure Broadband 60 Gigabytes | 66.46 | | Telephone | Internode NodePhone2-Starter | 5.00 | | Total |   | 71.46 |

    So unless I’ve overlooked something, it looks like there’s an opportunity to save up to $12/month.

    One thing to be careful of – there does appear to be a risk if you choose the “Easy Naked” plan. Turns out that you could end up on either an Agile OR Optus DSLAM, and if you’re not on an Agile DSLAM then I believe that NodePhone isn’t an option. I’m waiting for clarification of this in the Whirlpool forums.