My new toy, an Xbox 360 and the pain of transcoding

3 03 2008

Last weekend I finally got signoff on a new gadget from my wife, a lovely spanking new Xbox 360. The main reason I wanted it was to extend my media centre PC that we have been growing ever more dependent on.

The media centre extender functionality was really simple to set up and all managed by an easy to use wizard. Within about 5 minutes I was able to record and replay TV live from my main PC running Vista Ultimate.

Now whilst I love the extender to bits, there is one thing it doesn’t do very well and that’s play DivX’s. In fact it doesn’t do it at all. Thanks to a recent update to the dashboard, you can watch DivX’s via the 360’s media blade, but not in the media centre itself. This is good, but to be honest the whole user experience is a bit shite.

Enter Transcoder 360, this bit of software sits on your media centre PC and adds an extension to the GUI allowing you to convert or Transcode divx’s and xvids on the fly into Media Centre.

Setting up the software isn’t that easy. In fact, getting the software to work with Vista x64 was downright painful. So I thought I would write a post detailing it, that an CodeJedi wanted details as well. First up, getting the software, there are heaps of versions of Transcode available, the only one I could get to work was this one.

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OptusQuota : Update – Build

20 01 2008

I have made a small update to the OptusQuota Vista gadget to support the new Optus Fusion plans that don’t have offpeak.

The change is pretty simplistic and changes the messages and stats provided to the user if they are using one of these plans. I haven’t changed the graphics yet, but will in the next version.

The new version is available from Existing users will get an update notice on the flyout window containing a link to the new version.


  • NA in offpeak if you are Fusion user
  • Changes to the flyout data if you are Fusion user
  • Change to the determine background logic as reported by Grumpywookie when you are over quota

I am now starting to work on the next version, which at the moment has the following features slated:

  • Support for Skins
  • Dynamic graphs for usage (peak / offpeak and days)
  • Dynamic appearance for different plans (Fusion)
  • Improved network / connectivity detection
  • Undocked view
  • Slicker look / feel

If you have any feature requests not listed above, drop me a line via and let me know!

Vista x64 support in iTunes 7.6

19 01 2008

I couldn’t believe it, Apple have finally come through and I can now sync my iPod Touch via my x64 Vista PC, instead of my work laptop.


They also brought out a new software update for the ipod, version 1.1.3 that contains a customisable main screen, web clips and for an extra $20 will allow you to install the iPhone apps such as Maps, Email, Stocks, Notes and Weather officially (ie not jailbreaked).  Now that they are available officially, I will spend the $20, I tend to use the mail and weather a fair bit.

You can get iTunes 7.6 from here

A new year, a new gadget

1 01 2008

During 2007 I worked on a massive project that almost killed both me and the team in terms of the sheer amount of work we managed to squeeze into a very tight timeframe. As the project went on for almost 7 months, we needed a way to let the team members know where we were and how long was left. So I came up with a countdown that was displayed over my desk showing how many days of coding, testing and UAT were left which served to focus the dev team a bit more. It worked a treat but was very manual.

Anyway, during the latter half of last year all our developers laptops were upgraded to run Vista and of course get the excellent Sidebar. So I figured it would be cool to develop a sidebar gadget that provided the same information but could focus the developers every time they looked at their desktop instead of having to look above my desk.

So here is the fruit of my labours, the Countdown gadget.

Countdown Montage 2ย Countdown Montage 1ย ย  Countdown Montage 3

The gadget at the moment lets you set a date, an event title and a colour for the background.ย  I have a few other bits I want to introduce like consuming an iCal feed and the ability to check a network drive for a date but they will come in a later iteration.

Of course the use of the gadget is not constrained to just software milestones, you could also use the gadget for things like:

  • Days until birthdays
  • Days until going on holiday
  • Days until public holiday
  • In face, days until ANYTHING YOU WANT!!

At the moment I am after people to test the gadget, once it’s been tested for a week or so and anything nasty has been worked out of it, I will submit it to the Live Gallery and give it to the world.

If you are interested in testing this gadget, drop me a line via or leave a comment on this post.

Update : The testing is over and build 1.0.0 has been released at the Live Gallery for download.

Underwhelmed by Yahoo Messenger for Vista.

9 12 2007

A while back I was speculating about the impending release of Yahoo’s WPF version of Messenger  (Codename :Diablo).

I was quoted as saying :

Come on, I need some more Vista eye candy ;)

I didn’t realise that’s all it was, eye candy.

This past Thursday a preview was released, initially for 32 bit Vista only after a snafu, but a couple of days later for 64 bit. I installed it yesterday and it looks nice as you can see below:


But that’s it. It does messaging, but not a lot else from what I can see, certainly not all the cool things that Yahoo were spruicking at CES early this year like custom applications and video sharing are nowhere to be seen.

I know the Live Messenger guys have had a lot of criticism over the lack of WPF in their application, but it seems to have way more functionality. Whilst a few months ago I was willing to forego functionality for prettiness, now I want the functionality and it can be as ugly as a bag of spanners for all I care.

Vista SP1 r0x0rs

9 12 2007

I have been running Vista SP1 builds for the past couple of months. Other than the obvious speed increases that I have already touted on the x64 reliability updates on thing I have noticed is the system has become more stable. The last build and the current build of SP1 (RC preview and now RC1) have been phenomenal. Although I didn’t really appreciate how phenomenal until I checked out my Reliability Monitor this morning.



Back up to 9.03!! I had dropped below that the day after I installed Vista on this box. Now I should say my computer is on 24/7 and get’s used pretty heavily by either myself or my wife and I am still installing stuff and uninstalling it, so our usage patterns haven’t changed. Therefore it must be the SP. so well done MS, SP1 is looking good ๐Ÿ™‚

Disaster and my saviour… Windows Vista Backup Restore

21 10 2007

This week I decided to spend the last of my Nerd fund on a new 500 gig hard drive for the Bohemoth. In the last few weeks I have been loving Vista’s Media Centre and have been recording heaps of shows to convert to xvid and then watch at a time that is more convenient to me and Rach (which isn’t very often with two young kids). Anyway, the shows are all being recorded in HD and were starting to take up some serious disk space. An overnight batch process takes the shows, converts them to xvid and then deletes the huge ms-dvr files that VMC creates.

Anyway, I digress, after installing the 500 gig drive, I decided it was time to merge the two partitions on my existing HD into one. I got some software to help, read the manual, all ok with Vista, all ok with resizing the OS drive so I gave it a go.

D0h. BSOD. Reboot. BSOD. Reboot. BSOD. Shite.

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New Gadget: Freeway Times

28 08 2007

Every day I commute about 2.5 – 3 hours from Berwick into South Melbourne and back, sometimes I use the Monash Freeway, others I use the Princes highway, mainly based on whether the Monash is busy or not.  Nine times out of ten, I have to make a decision to turn onto the Monash at Warrigal Road, or continue down Princes, this decision has been hit or miss in the past and has caused me to queue all the way home several times.

VicRoads have an excellent website that will tell you the travel times on all the major roads in Melbourne but I often forget to check it before leaving the office. This is where the Freeway Times gadget enters, sitting prominently on your sidebar letting you know the travel times instantly before leaving the office to go home. In fact, it will also sit on your home Vista machine and tell you the traffic times before you leave home too!! I figured that I would find such a gadget useful, and decided to upload it and share it with others who may commute and use Vista ๐Ÿ™‚


The gadget lets you configure the freeway you will be travelling on, as well as which direction you will be travelling on it. There are two directions you can configure, AM Direction and PM Direction. If the computer time is before 12:00am and 11:59am then the AM Direction will be used, between 12:00pm and 11:59pm, the PM Direction is used.

At the moment, the gadget only supports the freeways in Melboune, later versions will hopefully include the main roads and the ability to customise the direction switch over time.

At the moment I am waiting for the gadget to be approved by Live Gallery. In the meantime you can download the gadget from my Skydrive account.. 

More information about the gadget can be read here

Debugging Vista Sidebar Gadgets

26 08 2007

I learnt something today that I didn’t know was possible. For months I have been struggling debugging gadgets I have written using a number of techniques including:

Well it seems I have been doing it hard. Thanks to the guys over on the Sidebar MSDN forums, they have pointed me over to the new updated Sidebar documentation where there is a fantastic overview of how to use Visual Studio to debug by attaching it to the sidebar executable. Once up and running you can inspect variables, step through and set breakpoints etc. Fantastic!!

My PC wouldn’t sleep, but now it does :)

14 08 2007

The Behemoth has been running like a dream for the last week, however there was one small niggling issue, the sleep mode just wouldn’t work. Every time I put the PC to sleep in Vista it would thrash the hard drive, blank the screens and look like it’s going to sleep only to instantly turn back on. Bloody annoying.

After some digging around on Whirlpool (have I ever mentioned how good there forums are and knowledgeable the users?) I found that I wasn’t the only one. I had been fiddling with the jumpers on the motherboard, after all I built it and some teething problems or just plain stuff ups were to be expected, but they all looked good. On closer inspection of the event viewer and after reading Whirlpool it seems the problem was configuration..

When the system resumes from sleep an event is written to the event log:


The event includes details of what caused it to wake up. Now I didn’t have many USB items installed, so it was pretty easy to work out my wireless mouse / keyboard were the culprits.

Now how to stop them causing the system to wake up? It seems that under Vista there is an option tucked away on the keyboard and mouse control panel properties. To get there do the following:

1. Control Panel


2. Choose Keyboard from the control panel, click on the hardware tab, then properties


3.  Click on Change Settings, answer the UAC prompt


4. Choose the Power Management tab, uncheck the “Allow the device to wake the computer” option.


After doing this for both the keyboard and mouse, the computer will now sleep until I press the power button to resume. ๐Ÿ™‚