Linking to pictures on Flickr
This morning I delayed going to work because I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises I ever saw from my old apartment in Zeist. I had to take some pictures and uploaded them straight away. You can view the entire set on Flickr.
By the way, you can still buy this magnificent view as I haven't sold my current appartment yet. Next Friday I will get the key to my new apartment in Amsterdam in this building:
Vista Media Center
And finally to put some technical content into this post: I have been busy with front-end development lately. We finished a new version of Rabobank TV. No new functionality, just support for new set-top boxes. I cannot disclose which ones yet. I started to really dig into Windows Presentation Foundation and started reading Petzold's Applications = Code + Markup.
I've tried to wrap my head around why Microsoft is unleashing yet another markup language onto the world: Media Center Markup Language (MCML). It allows you to create flashy applications for Windows Vista Media Center. The Media Center UI uses this markup itself, so you can create the same effects that you see in the Windows Media Center shell. That will enable you to create a much richer user experience than you can create with a Hosted HTML Application like Rabobank TV.
However, Rabobank TV must work on a slew of different STBs that have nowhere near the horsepower of a media center. I have seen STBs that take 5 seconds to do a page transition between two HTML pages that takes 0.5s in Windows Media Center.
MCML is so close to WPF that it begs the question why it exists. The answer is that it was created and used in a product long before WPF. It just wasn't exposed in previous versions of Windows Media Center. Moreover MCML can be remoted to Media Center Extenders like the Xbox 360. The extender will render the MCML. WPF (XBAP) applications and Hosted HTML Applications cannot really be remoted to extenders. For WPF and Hosted HTML Applications, Media Center will send 5 FPS of screenshots to your extender. More details in this Channel9 thread.
Will it be worth investing time in learning MCML? Microsoft has said that no MCML design tools will be released. You will have to resort to handcoding XML. Creating WPF applications with Expression Interactive Designer and the "Cider" design tools will certainly be easier.
I guess that it all depends on how succesful Vista Media Center and extenders like the Xbox 360 will be at penetrating the living room. Vista Media Center will be included in Vista Home Premium Edition and Vista Ultimate Edition. Home Basic users will be able to upgrade their Windows edition online without needing a reinstall. So the market potential is bigger than that for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.