A peek at Media Center in Windows 7

I don’t know how else to say it:  Media Center in Windows 7 is awesome!  This post won’t go too much into why, but rather will show the initial setup experience, which is still pretty cool.

When the user first opens Windows Media Center, he is greeted with the following screen.  He may pan left and right to get an overview of the software’s features, as I will do through a series of screenshots.

media center 01

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“MP3” Icon Sometimes Misleading in the Zune Marketplace

I have a Zune Pass, and I like to use my 10 free monthly song credits to “remove” the DRM from my favorite subscription (and therefore DRM’d) music by purchasing MP3 versions of the songs.  I right-click on a song that I like, and then click “More about this album” to go to the album’s page on the Marketplace.  If I saw the “MP3” icon next to the album cover art, I would buy my desired songs from that album.  From there I select the songs that I want, right-click on them, and click “buy”.  It was a quick process that I really didn’t think much of, until I just downloaded a DRM’d song from an album marked as MP3.

Here’s the deal:  The MP3 icon doesn’t necessarily mean that ALL of the songs are available in MP3, but rather it means that at least one is.  Take a look:

Here this album is clearly marked as “MP3”:
zune mp3 misleading 1


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Zune Reminds You to Use Your Free Credits

Since Microsoft updated the terms of the Zune Pass, users have received 10 free song credits per month to go toward owning music from the store.  This is a great deal for Zune users, because $15 per month not only pays for unlimited music downloads from the Zune Marketplace on a subscription basis, but also provides 10 songs to own.  (I see this now as committing to buy 10 songs per month and getting a $5 per month subscription, but either way…)  (Personally I make a point to only purchase DRM-free tracks.)

I was impressed to discover that recently when I went to click the “download” button next to a song, which downloads the song under the subscription, I got a popup reminding me to use my song credits.  I am very impressed that Microsoft would remind its users to get things from it for free.  Of course, if the user sees this as a nag rather than a reminder, there’s always that convenient option to disable the popup.  Microsoft, hooray! ;-)

zune credit nag

Ripped DVDs + Media Center, Better with Cover Art

Over the past few months I have really gotten into ripping DVDs to my computer in full quality (without re-compressing the video), so that I could play them in Media Center just as though I had put in the physical disk.  (I learned how to do that from a blog post on a Microsoft student site.)  Since each disk contains about 7.2GB of data, this did require getting a little more hard drive space.  Since I started I have ripped about 250 DVDs, but I had only taken the time to manually get the cover art for the first few that I ripped.  Getting coverart for the DVDs to show up in Media Center required going to Amazon.com, searching for the DVD, clicking through to the large picture of the box cover, saving that image, cropping it, and moving it to the DVD folder and naming it “folder.jpg”.  That was more mindless work than I wanted to put up with, so I did a little research.

Here’s a quick jump forward to the final product:
View Large

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