Xfinity iPad App is Amazing

Posted Posted in Connected Home, iPad, iPhone, Media Center

If you are a Comcast customer, have a compatible DVR and an iPad (or iPhone), you have access to a free app in the iTunes store that is definitely a game changer.

I’ve used myDVR on my iPxx devices to remote schedule recordings, and I watched the CES demo video that Brian Roberts did and drooled.

xfinity1

After installing the app, at first run, a welcome screen appeared, which I dismissed (being a Type A) kind of geek. Actually, after logging in, I could tell that the application already knew about my two DVR boxes as they were already paired from my use of myDVR.

The Guide in this new app is FAR more usable than the one included with the original Comcast iPhone app. There are filters, as shown below (but I have not yet found a way to specify favorite channels.  Filters aren’t “sticky” so being a HD snob, I do have to turn the setting for HD only to ON each time I launch the app (and am hoping this will change to a sticky setting).

xfinity3

Once a show is selected, two choices are available,record or watch on TV. Record works in the same way as the older myDVR app,but WATCH TV is awesome. As you can see below, when WATCH TV is selected, an animated icon pops up and the channel changes on the TV. (Full disclosure, when I installed this yesterday, channel changing didn’t work for me. I opened a ticket and it was fixed 24 hours later).

xfinity2

Comcast has more features coming, including the ability to watch some shows directly on the iPad.

(Update 11/17) Engadget has posted a video showing off both current and future capabilities of this app. Currently (and I’ve reported this to Comcast), the On Demand listing in the app isn’t as up to date as the EPG on the STB itself. Also, with On Demand, you still have to pick up the Comcast (or Harmony-whatever) remote to confirm “purchase” of an On Demand asset. I’ve asked that they consider a settings option to override this annoying behavior. We’ll see.. (I’m thinking of getting a Red Eye mini which will at least let me confirm from the iPxx device).

What makes this app interesting to me is that, to change channels, NO IR device is needed. This is a good thing because the iPad/iPhone devices do not have onboard IR (although there are some third party add-on devices available). The iPxx device actually communicate with the DAC (Digital Addressable Controller) via some web service that sends commands to the local DAC when you make a channel selection over your WiFi or 3G Internet connection. To accomplish a real time channel change, a lot of moving parts need to communicate and work seamlessly. I’m impressed.

Thanks, Comcast, for a great contribution to my connected home lifestyle!

Connecting Multiple IP Cameras to Windows Media Center

Posted Posted in Connected Home, Media Center, Networking, Windows 7, Windows Media Center, Wireless Streaming

After publishing a piece on how to connect an Internet enabled camera to WMC, iPhones and iPads yesterday, I received a couple of emails basically saying, “great, but I want to monitor more than one camera in a master view like stand alone IP surveillance software”.

I thought about this for a bit and then tested to see if an HTML page could be hosted locally, placed in the C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsAccessoriesMedia CenterMedia Center Programs folder with the appropriate MCL and PNG file. The answer was yes, and this now opens the door to more customizations.

Further, I thought that the still images needed to be refreshed. Not much value in watching an image on the screen that just sits there. I fired up Microsoft Expression Web and created a page and added in a META REFRESH tag to reload every xx seconds (I used 30 seconds as the interval). While tables should not be used for layout on a page designed to be viewed in a real web browser (a deprecated means of coding), a nested table structure proved perfect for display inside Windows Media Center. I specified the Segoe UI font and ended up with something that looked pretty decent and worked.  Here is the view inside Windows Media Center:

mycameras

(more…)

Connecting an IP Camera to WMC, iPhones and iPads

Posted Posted in Connected Home, iPad, iPhone, Media Center, Networking, Wireless Streaming

Motivated by the upcoming yearly Halloween onslaught of youngsters and the not so young about to come through my condo complex, I started thinking about how to integrate an Internet capable surveillance camera with my connected home and devices. I’m not a “real” developer, but I’m a pretty smart geek (IMO) and I started looking around for ideas that  I could borrow and customize.

My goals were to be able to check activity in my parking lot/walkway on demand from Windows Media Center, my iPhone, and my iPad. The web is a wonderful wealth of information, and putting this together was not really difficult. And definitely worth sharing with others.

(more…)

Sonos S5 Music Players, Connected, Converged, Fantastic

Posted Posted in Apple, DLNA, iPad, iPhone, Media Center, Networking, Software, Sonos, Technology, WHS, Windows 7, Wireless Streaming

I’m not easily impressed, but my jaw is hanging open today after installing two Sonos S5 Music Players to cover my home with end to end music. I’ve used computers, Media Center Extenders and all kinds of hardware and software in the past to move music around my home, but I always had to cobble together pieces and use separate devices and controllers to get what I wanted.  What did I want? Well, everything imaginable. The list below is not in any particular order:

1. The ability to stream from ANY of my computers (using Play To or anything else) to more than one music player/renderer simultaneously.

2. To be able to control the volume above individually or together.

3. Play Pandora Radio and other Internet sourced digital music

4. Use existing/create new playlists

5. Use iPhones, iPads and  iPxxx whatever to control and manage the device as a remote control (including graphical menus).

6. Use the system as an alarm clock with choices to wake from alarm, music, Internet music, whatever

7. Wireless connectivity in my Living Room

8. A system that was upgradeable.

9. Quality sound

10. Expandability

I’m still stunned that I found a system that does ALL of the above. (And I’m betting I discover more features – I’ve only had a few hours experience with this all, so my exploration and discovery has only just begun).

(more…)

Stream Movies, Audio from iDisk to Your iPxxx

Posted Posted in iPad, iPhone, Media Center, Networking, Wireless Streaming

I’d forgotten that I’d converted many Battlestar Galactica Recorded TV files recorded using  Windows Media Center to mp4 files and stashed them away on a NAS drive.

I just had one of those A HA moments and uploaded one of them to my iDisk in the cloud  (which comes with my MobileMe subscription).  I had been thinking of iDisk as a place in the cloud to stash files, but not as a streaming server.  I downloaded the iDisk app to my iPad (and to my iPhone) and yup, I’ve got another place to store media files that can be served to my computers and iPxxx devices over the Internet.  Apple supplies 10GB of cloud storage space (compared to the 25GB Microsoft supplies with SkyDrive, but MS doesn’t seem to have an App in the App store <G>).

Here are a couple of captures from my iPad:

mestream3

mestream4