XBox One – No Windows Media Center?

The latest incarnation of the XBox – the XBox One has been out for a while now. It is a extremely powerful box, filled with all kinds of tricks and a next generation Kinect. Voice controls and snapping live TV tricks abound.

But Microsoft shipped this unit without a key component to many TV enthusiasts including me. In the last two versions of XBox you could use the device as an extender to Windows Media Center running on a PC on your network. Sadly, Microsoft chose not to ship the One with this ability. Instead, they are looking at turning the console into a media device that has what I am guessing, less ties to external media providers – namely your cable or over the air providers.

Instead, Microsoft seems to be planning on using the XBox One to provide content directly to you, cutting out the middle man, and presumably picking up some of the subscription or even providing content that they create internally. By doing this they can use the black little box as a revenue generator beyond just games. Also, as more and more content is web based, maybe they just think acting as a set top box DVR is just a short term proposition at this point, and nobody will be using it anyway. Google often throws out great products that many many people use too, like Reader, but is still just a small percentage of their overall user base. I think this is what Microsoft is doing here. Sure they are alienating a passionate group here, and they are vocal, but they are small fish in a large pond.

This is a sad thing for the folks out there that use the device to consolidate their media experience into a sole device running in their living room or theater. I hope Microsoft changes their tune on this one. They could do so by releasing an app in their app store that connects to the media center, even charging for it, and many would jump on board with the One. Until that happens, I think many will continue to evaluate Android, Roku, Sling, and other options to access their Windows Media Center content.

Foscam fi8910w Disable Audio

I purchased a Foscam fi8910w for use in the nursery. All in all, I have been fairly happy with it. I added the in-laws to a “Visitor” group so they could keep an eye on the new little bugger and thought, hey wait a minute! There is no way to disable the audio!a

After a bunch of Googling for a way to do it, I still had no answer. Turns out, at least as of this post, there is no way to do it in software permanently. This is pretty disappointing. I think many people would use a feature where external viewers could have the webcam audio disabled.

There is one way to disable the audio, though it is a physical patch, and doing so would disable it for all users – which really isn’t a good option either. If you want to disable it completely, you can stick a 1/8 inch mono plug from RadioShack or Ebay into the audio in on the back side of the camera. Doing so will trick the unit into shutting off the on-board microphone. There is a quick video of it over here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfMW0ED0hQg

 

 

 

Windows Media Center: “An error was encountered while configuring your computer for use with this extender”

I recently had an issue during an install of a Windows Media Center Extender. The install may have failed do to the install being interrupted by a power outage and it seems like some files may have been corrupted on the MC PC.

I was receiving the error:

An error was encountered while configuring your computer for use with this extender

when I entered the 1234-5678 type code in the PC to add the extender. In the Event Viewer there was event 523 with the details “Media Center Extender Setup failed at step 120.” The error was -2147467259.

I found a post that cleared up the problem by following the steps below:

Go to C:\windows\system32\grouppolicy and delete the contents of the folder (including the directories).
You will need to untick Hide Protected Operating System Files and select Show Hidden Files and Folders before you browse.

I have windows 7 pro and an Xbox 360.

Hope this helps, and use the advice at your own risk, but it just worked for me. I copied the files elsewhere just in case before I deleted them, but didn’t need to do anything with them, as they were regenerated when I added the extender.

 

The Problem With Google’s Nexus Devices: No Accessories

I love the Google Nexus line of devices. They have proven to be solid performers, well designed, and always the first to receive updates to the OS when Google rolls out the latest “dessert”. I have owned each and every Nexus device, and look forward to the next but the strategy by Google has one fatal flaw that will keep the Nexus line from really competing with Apple: Accessories.

When Apple and Microsoft release their latest iOS or Surface device, they include some amazing accessories that make your purchase even more useful like keyboards, docks, cases, covers, and the like. Most people complain that they do it to mop up a bunch more money from the consumer, and while that is partly true, it delivers a pile of perceived value to them as well. A well designed and integrated keyboard for my new tablet? Wow, that makes it feel like I don’t need a laptop. That is value.

The latest round of Nexus devices, the 4, 7 and 10, are all amazing devices. So I should head on over to the Google Play store and pick me up some accessories, right? Wrong. 6 months after the 7′s release and a month following the release of the 4 and 10 there is exactly 1 accessory available in the Play store for these devices: a bumper case for the Nexus 4. And it has been out of stock for all but a few minutes of that month.

Google is missing the boat here. They need to create an ecosystem for their devices by adding a bevy of accessories that make their awesome Nexus devices even more amazing. They seem to think that competing on price and feature will win the war, but without accessories to back the device up, they will continue to attract the tech savvy, but not the masses. The Nexus 4 has the capability to charge wirelessly!!! Ummm, but not included in the box and a month after release, not even a leaked rumor about a date you might be able to pick one up. How about a keyboard for the Nexus 10? Nope. A official cover for the Nexus 7 that uses the “close to turn off” magnet? Not happening, unless you count the ebay Chinese junk. Come on Google, make more than just a Nuxus next time. Make a collection of Nexus branded and designed tech that changes the game.

Nexus 4 Review

OK, it’s been a few weeks since the new Google phone arrived, the Nexus 7 so it’s time for a bit of a review. I have had all of the Nexus devices over the years and my initial thought when i started using the 4 was that this phone is the Ferrari compared to the American muscle cars of past devices. Here is the Good and the Bad:

GOOD

  • Fit and finish – this phone just feels great in your hand, smooth and buttery (see BAD though) and the glass makes it feel solid and sexy.
  • GPS – this has to have the best GPS of any device out there. When choosing Navigate there is no delay ever – it always has your location ready, unlike past Nexus devices.
  • Google Now – I love this feature. Integration of my Google searches, Gmail and mapping plus all that is around me in the form of notification “cards” – what is there not to love? I’m all in.
  • Wireless charging and nice little bumper – these are in theory as they are back ordered, but I know both will be great.
  • Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro – this processor screams. Project Butter (Google’s effort to make Android “smoother”) shines on this device
  • Decent battery life – although I have had a few issues with run away Google serice processes, I am happy with this device’s battery consumption – it’s taken me through the day and I am a pretty heavy user.
  • The screen is beautiful – next to my other Nexus devices, this phone looks amazing – bright and crisp.
  • Google will update this phone over the next few years with Key Lime Pie and any other OS upgrade that it will handle – usually on the day it is released. No other line of phones is treated to the Google OS love like the Nuxus ones.

BAD:

  • No user replaceable battery – this is just about a deal breaker for me. I love to carry an extra battery or two when I am out exploring a city, but this device has no way to replace the battery. I will try a external charging device and decide where I will land on this one in the future.
  • Slickest Phone EVER – Wow. I never knew a phone could be this slick. I will break it for sure. I think the Gorilla Glass 2 enhancement was to create glass that you could ice skate on or something. Be prepared to put a case or bumper on this thing, not because you are afraid to scratch it, but because you are afraid you will throw it.
  • Camera – Not the best, not the worst. I wish a nexus phone had the best on the market, but it’s not the 4.
  • Wifi issue in 4.2.x – There seems to be a wifi connection issue in 4.2 and 4.2.1. When roaming around wifi connection points the Nexus 4 will drop it’s connection (the icons all turn grey) and you have to shut down the radios or go airplane mode and back to get them to re-connect. There are open issues in the Google forums for this, and some people seem to have better luck than others with their router hardware. This did not exist in 4.1.3, and is present in my other Nexii after the upgrade too, lets hope Google pushes another update soon to fix it.

All in all, this phone is a winner. If you can stand the few negatives, you will love this device – it is the best Nexus to date. I say pull the trigger, especially if you can pair it up with some cheap carrier plans (like the T-Mobile Value plans) that don’t feature carrier subsidy for phones. Currently at $299 and $349 for the 8/16GB versions.

Testing in Production

This is a topic that always draws some great responses when discussed where I work. Do you Test on your production systems?

I always come to the same conclusion on this one. Why wouldn’t you want to test in production? I know, I know. Your system is too “special” or “secure” or “regulated” or whatever to be able to test in production. So what are you going to do? Let your customers test it for you? Throw the code over the wall to the people that matter most and hope that it works for them? Take the chance that your customer will just understand when the house of cards comes crashing down in a burning heap of lame?

To those that say it just can’t be done, I say that maybe your system is just lacking testability – you haven’t built it right. To me a testable system is one that has a great handle on control and is inherently observable. If you can’t control and observe the software, you are dead out of the gate. Often, if you solve the control and observation issue, you will find a system that you can test in production – because you engineered it to be easy to do so in any environment.

So take a look at your systems and ask yourself if there are any measures you can take to affect the testability of your system in a way that would lead you to be able to test your system in production. Face it, no matter how you try, your QA systems will never be the same as your production systems. The data, traffic, configurations, scale, timing, etc. will just never match well enough that the tests you run in those environments will catch everything. Change control, make it observable and make sure your system works in production before your customer does it for you!

Centralized vs. Federated Integration Test in the Enterprise

I have been working on the question of federated vs. centralized integration test practices in the enterprise lately. As I have done some research into the topic, I have found that few resources are around on the topic. While some white papers exist, it appears that most companies are in the federated camp: relying on individual divisions to create their own integration test strategies – even when there are many ties among their applications that could benefit from a centralized approach.

Some companies like Google have extremely large tests that involve many applications, and even automate them to some extent. Most though, including the ones that I have worked for, spend time testing software from within their respective silos in an effort to protect their own. Each of these groups tend to create and maintain redundant sets of tests that cover their application needs.

The problem is that many of these needs are the needs of many of the other groups and a great deal of redundant and poorly performing tests are written. Every group creates a test to “create a user and password” for instance. Each is created in their silo and when the functionality changes, each breaks in their own way. Tests that perform things as trivial as this, and of course much more elaborate are created all of the time that could be shared.

Creating a centralized integration test group may be able to fix this redundancy issue and help protect production quality as you do so. Sharing resources, test data management, and testing know how might be a way to create a group that solves the issue of poor communication across your organization when it comes to system integration test. This one set of testers will help build the “moat” that protects your production castle from impending doom.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus 4.0.4 to 4.1.1 Status 7 “Assert Maguro” Error Fix

I was excited to see that the Android 4.1.1 Update for my Samsung Galaxy Nexus GSM/HSPD+ device (Standard GSM device from the Google Play Store) was out and downloaded the files from Google for the upgrade. I hadn’t unlocked the bootloader on the phone yet, so I did that and went ahead and rooted it as well using the Galaxy Nexus Toolkit. That process went well (I was pretty happy even with the push-button ease as it rebooted and applied the appropriate unlock, patch, and Clockwork Mod Recovery).

I copied the appropriate “takju” update file to the device root (mine was the JRO03C to IMM76I Linky-Link Here) and rebooted into recovery. When I went to apply the update file though I received the following error:

assert failed: getprop(“ro.product.device”) == “maguro” I I get prop
(“ro.build.product”) == “maguro” >  ”Status 7″ error

What???? No Jelly Bean for me??? After I stopped crying and started an hour of Googling the issue I found some possible culprits:

1. You have a non-stock ROM applied

2. The ClockworkMod Version you have flashed to your device is incorrect

Well, the first one does not apply – Mine is stock all the way. But the second one is interesting. Turns out, when you use (at least the version that was out there today) the Nexus Toolkit to apply the Clockwork Mod Recovery, when you choose GSM, is the wrong version.  The Toolkit installs the 5.5.04 version, which is for CDMA, but should have installed 5.5.02 which is correct for the GSM version. To fix this, I simply installed ROM Manager on the phone from the Google Play Store and flashed the correct Clockwork Mod Recovery version to the phone (if you choose Nexus GSM it chooses the correct one for you.) Then a quick reboot into recovery, apply update from SD, and reboot. Then you have your wonderful Jelly Bean!

Here is the link to the Toolkit - It’s pretty awesome, even though it steered me wrong on the Clockwork Mod version.

Hope this helps others with the same problem!

Android Emulator 4.x API 16 Keyboard Issue

I was working on an android issue today where I wanted to use an emulator with no keyboard present. I tried creating a few different versions using API Level 16 4.0.3, and could get no keyboard present by editing the AVD in the Android Virtual Device Manager. After several attempts (and hey, this thing starts so darn fast each time you edit it) I was ready to quit trying. In other versions the on screen keyboard is launched when you tap the EditText, but for some reason all I would get in the latest emulator is the “Select Input Method” notification in the shade… not a keyboard even if I messed with the input settings.

Turns out the key is to add the Keyboard support = No to your AVD and then when you launch it, choose wipe user data. Ah, secret incantation that now exists that didn’t before! Thanks!

LG Tone HBS-700 Wireless Stereo Headset

OK, I have piles of headphones, Bluetooth, wired, earbuds, over the ear cans, and the junk ones from Apple. This week I felt it was time to explore the bluetooth realm again and started looking around for a new set. I have had a couple of Motorola units in the past – the S305 which are just OK – sort of bulky and awkward to wear, but with decent sound. The other Moto set I tried was the S10-HD “Rokr”, and this was complete junk. Don’t sweat while you work out or POW! You now own a $70 hunk of plastic. Many people have had the same issue – don’t go here.

So I found the HBS-700 on Amazon, from LG – a company I have been impressed with lately with other products. The review was pretty good, so I pulled the trigger and ordered a set. When the package came, I read through the packaging and was happy to see it even said “water resistant” – guess they did some research and it turns out, people work out with headphones on.

Setup was a breeze, it connected to my Samsung Nexus S Android phone in seconds without a pass, and I was ready to go. The sound is great, no hiss, and really nicely isolated with the ear-buds – which is a odd thing about this headset. The HBS-700 main device hangs around your neck, and wired, normal ear-buds are strung from it to your ears. At first I was leery that this setup would be good, but surprisingly it is the best I’ve had in a headphone solution. The best part of the head set is that there are no wires from your neck to your waist, where wired sets always get in the way. You hardly notice the unit around your neck, and you can easily run without them really being noticed.

The battery charges quickly, and I wore the unit for about 8 hours before I charged it, and the package says 10 hours listen/talk time. Call quality is great, the neck unit vibrates when a call comes in – which is nice if you don’t have the earbuds in. You can store the ear-buds in the end of the neck unit with their built-in magnets, which seems nice but the 6 inches of wire in the area for each bud still seems like it might catch on things, but has been pretty good so far in my week trial.

The controls are great with volume, FF, RW, Pause/Play and a phone button that brings up the voice recognition system for actions like “call Lisa Smith”. The power button is small and in a strange spot on the side, and after a week I still have to take it off and search for it. The device supports Bluetooth version 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP) and comes with a one year warranty.

I really like this headset, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good Bluetooth solution for their mobile device. The Android market even has a app called “BT Reader” that works with LG devices and reads your text messages to you when they arrive – still testing this out to see if it is as decent solution, but not expecting much – it doesn’t turn down the music as it reads them, and crashes now and then. Also, you have to manually press a button on the screen for it to read it – so not terribly impressed with it.