Ian Dixon wrote an article yesterday about a new iPlayer add-in for Media Center. It's not a bad interface if you just want BBC content (no ITV, C4, Five, Hulu or plugin support at the moment), and looking at it gave me a brainwave about how to stream BBC wmv content instead of Flash that obviously occurred to the other developer before me. Doh! TunerFreeMCE already had the ability to download BBC programs to your hard drive, and I realized that all I need to do is to pass that same download URL to media center, and it would start playing. Since I already had the code to support WMV and already had the code to get the download links, all I had to do was to wire the two together and add a preference for Flash or WMV for BBC content (Flash is probably still the best option for low bandwidth households, and is the most reliable way of playing programs).
I have now released version 3.4 with that new code in. There may be some subtle issues with combining the flash that is still required for Radio and Live TV with the WMV content, so let me know on the forums if you spot anything.
Channel 4 now have a good amount of their 4oD content on YouTube. That's a really interesting move, because it puts the content on a far more accessible and higher quality platform than their internal 4oD server. Presumably it reduces their costs, and at the same time makes the viewing experience much better for the user. The videos are full of adverts, so I assume Channel 4 still make good money out of it too.
Now the down side – you can't embed the video, so it's not as seamless as it might be to do something like bring it in to TunerFree.
And then the really bad news – Google are clamping down on people enabling access to YouTube on the TV. They have already been aggressively chasing Popcorn Hour for enabling YouTube access on the TV, and reportedly want a 7 figure licensing fee from anyone who wants to do it.
Fortunately TunerFreeMCE has a great plugin system which allows YouTube's public RSS feed to be read, and allows TunerFreeMCE to link off to YouTube to display the video. Since it just uses the public feeds and direct access to the site, it isn't breaking any YouTube rules. Click here for the plugin.
For some time now, ITV have been the only UK TV company to make their content available using silverlight, which also uses wmv behind the scenes. That has been great for Media Center users, because it has meant that the video played well on media center and on extenders.
It looks like on Friday ITV switched from Silverlight to Flash, which has temporarily stopped it from working in TunerFree. Apparently the reason is that they want it to be supported on as many computers as possible. Shame for media center, but I can see their logic.
Anyway, look for a TunerFree update in the next week or so.
By popular demand, I have brought back the MillieSoft forums. I had previously removed them due to an overwhelming amount of spam, but this time I have enabled some better spam filters that will hopefully stop that being an issue.
Anyway, use the forums for discussions, support and posting suggestions.
MSN have launched their MSN Player video service here in the UK. It features video from a number of sources, such as BBC classic programs (Bottom, This Life …) and some Channel 4 content too (How To Look Good Naked, Derren Brown and so on). The great news is that it has wmv content, so it can be played on both PCs and extenders. The bad news is that it's just web based and hidden behind a layer of flash. Fortunately that's where TunerFreeMCE comes in. I am in the process of adding the MSN Player content to TunerFree, and should have a version to release in a day or two so that you can watch this video on your Media Center PC and extender. Watch this space.
UPDATE: Version 3.1.0 is available now, which includes this functionality. You will be prompted to upgrade your existing installation, but ignore that – it's not working right. Instead, allow it to download but then exist media center, uninstall the old version and install the new version. Hopefully I will get the automatic upgrade working one day, but it's not today.
I am currently working on a plugin feature for TunerFreeMCE to allow other people to produce plugins for TV content from any source. The idea is that you specify some metadata about the channels (e.g. channel names, logos, details of how to get the program list), and the TunerFree code takes care of reading it and producing a list of programs.
At the moment I am looking for people who would like to work on a plugin to test this. Ideally you need;
1) A channel that you want to add
2) html and xml skills to be able to produce the metadata
If you are interested, e-mail me at email@example.com
Today Channel 4 announced that they will soon be offering all of their catchup content on 4OD, not just the last 30 days. That means that more than 4000 hours from 10,000 program titles will be added from programs like Shamelss, Ali G and Father Ted. TunerFreeMCE will of course be updated for the new content when it arrives, so look forward to that in July.
A couple of people have alerted me that Hulu content isn't being parsed at the moment. That means that the program count is coming up as 0 for Hulu. We are looking in to why that is and should have a new version with that fixed soon.
Update: Version 2.8.3 is available now to work with the latest Hulu contents.
The BBC have just started streaming some of their programs in 720p – the first time you can get real HD television in the UK without Satelite or Cable. With Version 2.8.1, TunerFreeMCE has added support for these streams. Just set the preferences to default to HD, and the HD streams will be shown when available. Also upgrade to this version to allow non-HD feeds to keep auto-playing and going full screen.
One word of warning – HD streams are broadcast at 3200kbps, so an hours program is 1.44 GB of data, so make sure you have an unlimited data plan if you want to watch HD content.
Version 2.8 of TunerFreeMCE brings a fantastic new feature – integration with twitter. When you link your twitter account to TunerFreeMCE, your status will be updated when you watch a program, so your followers will be able to see what you are watching.
Also added is the ability to see what programs other people have been watching, so you can keep an eye on what's popular this week. Check out the instructions for information on how to link twitter to TunerFreeMCE.