Replacing Media Center Interface With Windows 8 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 30 Old 12-25-2012, 03:48 PM - Thread Starter
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(Please, I know that people here don't like Windows 8, but no comments about how bad it is, or anything like that).

So, I think that on Windows 8, the Media Center interface is kind of redundant; plugging into the Metro start screen makes more sense. I was hoping Microsoft would allow pinning directly to the sections of Media Center when the final version of Windows 8 released, but they didn't do that.

Even still, I want to see if it's possible to force it to work the way I want to. After researching the ways to directly launch certain sections of Media Center, I threw together this as a proof of concept as a separate user on my Windows 8 laptop. I haven't decided yet if I'll be going forward with this method when I put together a new HTPC, because there's an issue with one of the methods being used to launch certain parts. Anyway, here's the video of how it works, if anyone is curious:


Now, to get that to work, here's the series of shortcuts I made:

Guide: %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /mcesuperbar://guide
Live TV: %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /mcesuperbar://tv?live=true

Recorded TV: %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /directmedia:tv
Pictures: %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /directmedia:pictures
Music: %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /directmedia:music

For Media Browser, I wanted to jump directly to the folders I use- one for TV and one for Movies, so I had to use the Entry Points listed in the registry. Those are different for everyone, and are enumerated at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points . Otherwise, if you just want the main app, it makes the shortcut for you: %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /entrypoint:{CE32C570-4BEC-4aeb-AD1D-CF47B91DE0B2}\{FC9ABCCC-36CB-47ac-8BAB-03E8EF5F6F22}

And then off to the side but not displaying, I have a shortcut to Steam Big Picture Mode: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Steam.exe" -bigpicture

The big problem I'm having so far that's preventing me from definitely using this is that the /directmedia shortcuts all have a problem where the taskbar pops up in front of Media Center. If I can figure that out, I might end up doing this. The thing is, it's not that useful to use this setup right now, but as more video and audio streaming apps come out, then its utility could increase drastically.

Edit: Though, it DOES work for those /directmedia links if the ehshell task isn't open already, so I might attempt putting together a batch file for each one, with the command taskkill /f /im ehshell.exe prior to opening each shortcut, maybe that'll fix it. I think that'd also fix the "Movies | Movies" glitch that you see in the Media Browser titles.

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post #2 of 30 Old 12-26-2012, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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So my alternative to creating a batch file for each one (which pops up a new command window every time) was to use a small program called Hidden Start.

So, basically each command becomes (to use Music as an example):
C:\hstart64.exe /NOCONSOLE /WAIT "taskkill /F /IM ehshell.exe" "%windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /directmedia:music"

It now of course flashes the empty desktop for a second before loading Media Center to the direct page I want, but at least this way the taskbar doesn't get in the way of everything and make Media Center unresponsive to controls.

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post #3 of 30 Old 12-26-2012, 11:35 AM
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Very cool. Windows 8 demurely has some potential. Really I think the big thing is getting the live TV , guide, recorded TV working seamlessly as all the other stuff you can already do outside wmc
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post #4 of 30 Old 12-26-2012, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah, other than the brief flash of the desktop for half a second, it does work pretty seamlessly the way I have it set up right now.

Of course, my laptop doesn't have a TV card, so I can't test fully on Windows 8 with that, but testing the shortcuts on my Windows 7 Media Center did work perfectly.

In case anyone doesn't want to watch the video, here's the end result:

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post #5 of 30 Old 01-03-2013, 07:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Something unexpected came up so I had to put my new HTPC planning on hold, but I did decide to implement this on my 'old' one.

It's working pretty well, I'm really liking it, though I have to figure out some more apps to install even if only to fill in the empty space... wink.gif


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post #6 of 30 Old 01-03-2013, 07:23 PM
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The major bummer with Windows 8 is that most of the metro apps don't seem usable with a remote control. For instance, you basically have to have a mouse or touchscreen to use the Netflix app. Plex just updated their metro app to make it remote friendly, but I doubt other developers will be so inclined. Still, the metro interface may serve as a good interface to launch HTPC front end applications like WMC, XBMC, Steam Big Picture. I like what you've done here!
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post #7 of 30 Old 01-03-2013, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Yeah, the lack of remote support is a little annoying. At the same time, I have a mini Bluetooth keyboard that can be used for that sort of thing, so that helps out.

Microsoft really should have put some guidelines in for remote use (or even keyboard / arrow key use, since that's really in effect the same thing), but they don't really care much about the PC in the living room anymore. Maybe the Xbox 3 's apps will be built off of the WinRT framework, to give developers some incentive for remote support. Or more likely, that's just wishful thinking on my own part. biggrin.gif

I also wish that the Start screen could be navigated with a 360 controller, honestly. I mean, all of the games I have installed support the 360 controller in-game, but I still have to use the remote (or keyboard and mouse) to load them.

Edit: Well, The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running and Jetpack Joyride don't support the 360 controller, but they do work with a keyboard. biggrin.gif

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post #8 of 30 Old 01-03-2013, 07:54 PM
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check out XBMC Boss for Windows 8:

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=146485

Description
XBMC Boss goes beyond remote controlling your XBMC server. You'll be delighted when browsing your libraries and discover full screen fan artwork, cast information, and lastfm descriptions. You'll love being able to navigate your entire media library without interrupting your currently playing media and being able to leave your media server's screen turned off while still being able to control your music listening experience.

Currently supports XBMC V11.0 "Eden" and V12.0 "Frodo" Beta 1

Privacy Policy:
XBMC Boss communicates with your XBMC server to retrieve information about your media library (for example: music, tv shows, and movies) and additional information that XBMC already retrieved for you (for example: album covers, tv show banner art, and IMDB plot outline and rating). XBMC Boss also retrieves additional information from third party services such as album descriptions and artwork from Lastfm and fanarttv, but doesn't require you to create an account to identify yourself to these third party services.

Features
  • Main page with most recently added content gets you where you want to be quickly
  • Setup tutorial to get everything configured painlessly
  • Controls to play/pause, stop, play previous/next, mute/unmute, scan library for audio or video, and quickly navigate to your music, TV shows, or movies
  • Simply begin typing in the music, TV shows, or movies listing pages to search
  • Zoom out from the Music, Movies or TV Show pages by pinching screen (or Ctrl+Mouse Wheel Down) to quickly navigate large collections
  • Supports Windows Search across your XBMC library content
  • Artist thumbnails and fanart provided by last.fm and fanart.tv
  • "Now Playing" screen shows currently playing media and buttons to manually control XBMC
  • Supports multiple connections so you can control all your XBMC servers with one device
  • Supports both XBMC v11.0 'Eden' and the currently-in-development XBMC v12.0 'Frodo'







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post #9 of 30 Old 01-03-2013, 10:43 PM - Thread Starter
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I have to admit, I'm not sure how that's related at all to what I'm talking about. Except for the proof of concept I was trying out, what I want is these apps running on the HTPC itself; the app you linked appears to be just remote control of a program on another machine.

Also, I'm pretty tied to Windows Media Center for most of my content because I need an extender running in another room (and because I need live TV for premium channels); this way gives the extender access to the same content it always has in the same way it always has, and gives me the added benefits of complete customizability and third-party app support for other services, which Media Center itself has always had very little of. Switching to XBMC (or switching back to it, I first got started with this stuff back when XBMC was actually running on an Xbox wink.gif ) would duplicate functionality I already have working well. What I'm looking for is more of a way to enhance what Media Center has been bad at.

Don't get me wrong, it looks pretty impressive, but just not quite sure how it's all that relevant.

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post #10 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 07:17 AM
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I like where you are going with this. Plus i am genuinely surprised that Microsoft didn't just build MC/Features into the Metro Dash similar to what they did on the 360. My biggest gripe with Win8 is all the duplicate features it has. But it has a lot of potential, and this thread has me contemplating upgrading my HTPC to Win8. Although I am pretty much just using Steam Big Picture for now on it.
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post #11 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 07:19 AM
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How many are using windows 8 now? I'd imagine this is only going to grow.

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post #12 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 07:20 AM
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There was a rumor last year that Windows 8 would bring back/enhance the ability to have dual audio output. Anyone have any idea if that came about?
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post #13 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 10:38 AM
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yeah, my post about XBMC was more aimed toward lockdown571.

check out the Windows Store to see if anything fits your needs. it's kind of a horrible design which forces you to click and open everything to see what the app is about. Metro VLC is coming to Windows 8 and PLEX is out now. There's an app called Great Windows Apps which attempts to collate and organize which apps are actually popular in the Windows Store.

And a tip for those that have a very limited selection of apps: under Windows Store settings > Preferences. DO NOT ENABLE "make it easier to find apps in my preferred languages" or "make it easier to find apps that include accessibility features". I accidentally enabled these on my father's PC and his selection was tiny. One would think that if English was your preferred language, these choices would limit the apps to English apps. THAT IS NOT THE CASE. These options will limit the number of apps shown so that they're easier to see versus the sea of tiles that you would normally see.

He had 1/10 the amount of apps to browse from compared to my Windows Store on my system. It took a lot of sleuthing to figure out how different his Windows 8 setup was different from mine.
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post #14 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 10:52 AM
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Hmm. Cool that you are doing this but I think I'll stick with WMC in Win7 right now. Eventually there will probably be no choice but to use Win8 I suppose. By then the early adopters like you will have figured everything else and have written a guide that I will be glad to pay a nominal fee to access so I can set it up.

biggrin.gifbiggrin.gif

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post #15 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Well, another large incentive that pushed me to it was also the fact that I've had an Xbox Music subscription (née Zune Pass) for about 6 months or so, so I've stopped purchasing music. The Windows 7 Zune client does work with the Xbox Music subscription, but there's a different type of DRM on Xbox Music than with Zune. The Xbox Music client itself needs a lot of work still, but the service running it (and the 'cloud collection' feature) is something that quickly integrated into my usage on the phone and PC.

Also, the WMC Netflix client interface looks like total garbage compared to the Windows 8 one. The Windows 8 one doesn't work fully without a mouse, as already mentioned, but that was a tradeoff I was definitely willing to tolerate to get the better UI.

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post #16 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 11:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncarty97 View Post

There was a rumor last year that Windows 8 would bring back/enhance the ability to have dual audio output. Anyone have any idea if that came about?

Honestly no idea, I only use the single HDMI output.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Layd Dly View Post

I like where you are going with this. Plus i am genuinely surprised that Microsoft didn't just build MC/Features into the Metro Dash similar to what they did on the 360. My biggest gripe with Win8 is all the duplicate features it has. But it has a lot of potential, and this thread has me contemplating upgrading my HTPC to Win8. Although I am pretty much just using Steam Big Picture for now on it.

If you have a Windows 8 Pro license, it's probably worth setting up as a VHD at the very least to give it a try without affecting your main OS (especially while the Media Center upgrade is still free).

Anyway, tonight I'll be experimenting with OblyTile to make those desktop shortcut icons into Metro-styled icons to make it feel more cohesive.

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post #17 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 11:38 AM
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I finally decided to register an account here because this subject interests me a ton.

I recently did migrate from Windows 7 with Mediaportal/Plex/Totalmedia Theater 3 to using the Windows 8 Metro interface exclusively. I'm using WMC for Mediabrowser only and MPC HC as the video player and Totalmedia Theater 5 for bluray. I use Unified Remote to control the machine. Here's some stuff I ran into that I found were limitations (i'm at work so i'll elaborate more later):
  • I couldn't find a reliable way to hide the mouse cursor. My old method, a program called Nomousy, worked in Win7 but not Win8. I found another program that had claimed to hide the mouse cursor after a certain number of seconds but it wasn't consistent. For now I move the cursor out of the way with Unified Remote.
  • The taskbar cannot be hidden easily. I used to be able to in Win7 using Taskbar Eliminator but that doesn't work in Win8. I have it set to autohide and both it and the desktop background are black so it mostly looks like a blank screen when switching between programs. When I have programs open though the top of the icon highlight on the taskbar is still visible on the bottom of the screen when a program is open even when the taskbar hides itself.
  • There's no setting to make the metro menu appear automatically after a regular desktop application is closed. For now I manually call it up after closing a program but it would be nice to have. I know metro apps do this and I want to figure out how to set that in general.
  • Some fullscreen applications don't do true fullscreen anymore (Steam Big Picture mode) and the ones that do make Win8 cause my TV to flicker (probably to a new refresh rate) for a brief moment interrupting the flow of what I was doing. Example: WMC. I have it setup to use the desktop resolution and refresh rate but most of the time, when I launch Mediabrowser, the dang screen flickers. Sometimes it doesn't flicker when I open Mediabrowser which confuses me. It's really annoying and I still haven't figured out how to stop that. This also happens with games even when their resolution/refresh rate is set to match the desktop's.
  • Adding a metro tile to the menu was a massive pain. I eventually found a program that can do it. I'll post a link to it later. EDIT: jhoff80 posted the link to OblyTile which is the program.
  • I wanted to have a shortcut on the metro menu that, when opened, opened my video library directly instead of opening something like Mediaportal and then going into videos. I also wanted it to close itself if the back button is hit in the root of my video library. It seems that there aren't many htpc programs that can be opened directly in a specific section as a standalone application. So, for example, I cannot call Mediaportal.exe -section=video and have Mediaportal open just the video section and close itself if I back out of the starting page of the video section. This is why I am using Mediabrowser since I can boot WMC into a specific section. The limitation to Mediabrowser however is that if I back out of its starting page it merely goes back into WMC's home menu instead of closing itself so I can go back to the metro menu.

Overall I love it despite the limitations. It boots up incredibly fast (a fraction of Win7's) and it feels like more like an appliance instead of a computer in the living room.

If I remember to come back here when I get home from work i'll elaborate a bit more and possibly provide screenshots of my setup.
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post #18 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 11:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Squega View Post

I finally decided to register an account here because this subject interests me a ton.
I recently did migrate from Windows 7 with Mediaportal/Plex/Totalmedia Theater 3 to using the Windows 8 Metro interface exclusively. I'm using WMC for Mediabrowser only and MPC HC as the video player and Totalmedia Theater 5 for bluray. I use Unified Remote to control the machine. Here's some stuff I ran into that I found were limitations (i'm at work so i'll elaborate more later):
  • I couldn't find a reliable way to hide the mouse cursor. My old method, a program called Nomousy, worked in Win7 but not Win8. I found another program that had claimed to hide the mouse cursor after a certain number of seconds but it wasn't consistent. For now I move the cursor out of the way with Unified Remote.
  • The taskbar cannot be hidden easily. I used to be able to in Win7 using Taskbar Eliminator but that doesn't work in Win8. I have it set to autohide and both it and the desktop background are black so it mostly looks like a blank screen when switching between programs. When I have programs open though the top of the icon highlight on the taskbar is still visible on the bottom of the screen when a program is open even when the taskbar hides itself.
  • There's no setting to make the metro menu appear automatically after a regular desktop application is closed. For now I manually call it up after closing a program but it would be nice to have. I know metro apps do this and I want to figure out how to set that in general.
  • Some fullscreen applications don't do true fullscreen anymore (Steam Big Picture mode) and the ones that do make Win8 cause my TV to flicker (probably to a new refresh rate) for a brief moment interrupting the flow of what I was doing. Example: WMC. I have it setup to use the desktop resolution and refresh rate but most of the time, when I launch Mediabrowser, the dang screen flickers. Sometimes it doesn't flicker when I open Mediabrowser which confuses me. It's really annoying and I still haven't figured out how to stop that. This also happens with games even when their resolution/refresh rate is set to match the desktop's.
  • Adding a metro tile to the menu was a massive pain. I eventually found a program that can do it. I'll post a link to it later. EDIT: jhoff80 posted the link to OblyTile which is the program.
  • I wanted to have a shortcut on the metro menu that, when opened, opened my video library directly instead of opening something like Mediaportal and then going into videos. I also wanted it to close itself if the back button is hit in the root of my video library. It seems that there aren't many htpc programs that can be opened directly in a specific section as a standalone application. So, for example, I cannot call Mediaportal.exe -section=video and have Mediaportal open just the video section and close itself if I back out of the starting page of the video section. This is why I am using Mediabrowser since I can boot WMC into a specific section. The limitation to Mediabrowser however is that if I back out of its starting page it merely goes back into WMC's home menu instead of closing itself so I can go back to the metro menu.
Overall I love it despite the limitations. It boots up incredibly fast (a fraction of Win7's) and it feels like more like an appliance instead of a computer in the living room.
If I remember to come back here when I get home from work i'll elaborate a bit more and possibly provide screenshots of my setup.

Something like this will solve some of your problems. I do not know if it works on Windows 8 though. Regardless, it can break your system, so definitely make sure everything is backed up before you try it. There are other solutions to change the Windows shell as well. I would try searching around.
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post #19 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 12:04 PM
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If you remember? You don't get to come in here and make a detailed post such as that and then "forget" to come back!

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post #20 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Something like this will solve some of your problems. I do not know if it works on Windows 8 though. Regardless, it can break your system, so definitely make sure everything is backed up before you try it. There are other solutions to change the Windows shell as well. I would try searching around.

Much appreciated. I used to replace the shell when I used WinXP and then Win7 but I ran into issues with certain programs not running at startup so I opted to run the full explorer shell but hide it as best as possible since it seemed more stable. That was the appeal of Win8 for me: a native interface friendly for htpc use that seemed more like an appliance out of the box than a desktop so I don't need to replace the shell. I'm still working on the kinks to my approach though and i'll definitely have a look at that link.
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post #21 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 12:07 PM
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If you replace the shell, is there anyway to still get to the desktop if you need it?
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post #22 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncarty97 View Post

If you replace the shell, is there anyway to still get to the desktop if you need it?

Yes. It should be in that guide. Basically you open task manager (ctrl+alt+delete), run explorer, and then run the instant shell application again, and you can undo the changes. Or you can just use the run dialog in task manager to run whatever application you need to. One time I did have this break though, and I was not able to undo the instant sheller changes, meaning I couldn't get the Windows task bar back. So make sure you backup.
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post #23 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 07:04 PM
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Replacing the shell in Windows (any version) requires only one registry entry. To undo it, just delete the registry entry. You can still use Task Manager to run explorer.exe if you need the desktop but don't want to remove the replacement shell.

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1437212/8mc-tips-tricks-and-tweaks
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post #24 of 30 Old 01-04-2013, 09:52 PM - Thread Starter
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So, the video is still uploading to Youtube, but here's the current implementation I've got going once I switched to using OblyTile for the shortcuts:



Edit: Here's the video:

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post #25 of 30 Old 01-05-2013, 05:35 AM
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Very nice. It would be cool to replace the default WMC background with the metro one. Ugh, so much darn potential if microsoft had just required simple directional pad navigation for all the apps.
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post #26 of 30 Old 01-05-2013, 01:49 PM - Thread Starter
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To address some of your points:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Squega View Post

  • I couldn't find a reliable way to hide the mouse cursor. My old method, a program called Nomousy, worked in Win7 but not Win8. I found another program that had claimed to hide the mouse cursor after a certain number of seconds but it wasn't consistent. For now I move the cursor out of the way with Unified Remote.
  • The taskbar cannot be hidden easily. I used to be able to in Win7 using Taskbar Eliminator but that doesn't work in Win8. I have it set to autohide and both it and the desktop background are black so it mostly looks like a blank screen when switching between programs. When I have programs open though the top of the icon highlight on the taskbar is still visible on the bottom of the screen when a program is open even when the taskbar hides itself.
  • There's no setting to make the metro menu appear automatically after a regular desktop application is closed. For now I manually call it up after closing a program but it would be nice to have. I know metro apps do this and I want to figure out how to set that in general.
  • Some fullscreen applications don't do true fullscreen anymore (Steam Big Picture mode) and the ones that do make Win8 cause my TV to flicker (probably to a new refresh rate) for a brief moment interrupting the flow of what I was doing. Example: WMC. I have it setup to use the desktop resolution and refresh rate but most of the time, when I launch Mediabrowser, the dang screen flickers. Sometimes it doesn't flicker when I open Mediabrowser which confuses me. It's really annoying and I still haven't figured out how to stop that. This also happens with games even when their resolution/refresh rate is set to match the desktop's.

I haven't found anything good for hiding the mouse yet either. I did the same thing with turning the taskbar black (and removing all icons from it) and haven't had the issue you mention. But again I only use Media Center and Steam on the desktop. With Media Center flickering, I only really get that when Live TV is enabled, and with games. In my experience, that type of thing where the monitor has to re-sync on the signal is based on the 59Hz versus 60Hz thing; Media Center uses 59Hz, so you need to make sure the desktop is set to that too. As for closing desktop programs and going back to Metro, my trick has been not to close anything. I just press the Windows key and leave anything on the desktop open in the background, which works pretty well as long as I stop any content playback (because otherwise it will continue playing). Having Media Center still open in the background isn't going to use enough resources on my system to really matter, and as for Metro apps, I just leave those open too, because Windows will automatically suspend those when it needs the resources from them.

The rest of the stuff, I don't use those programs so I don't know anything about.

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post #27 of 30 Old 01-05-2013, 03:55 PM
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Have you thought of using EventGhost to try and map remote keys to make the metro apps work?
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post #28 of 30 Old 08-17-2013, 09:37 PM
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Any progress on this?

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post #29 of 30 Old 08-18-2013, 09:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Not really any progress, because I've been happy with the way things work mostly. Unfortunately, most apps still don't work with a remote control, but otherwise I'm happy with my setup this way. I've got a "Mouse Control" mode on my Harmony, and a mini Bluetooth kb/mouse that I use to control apps like Netflix as of now.

I have been a little disappointed in the (small) number of streaming video apps though. Netflix is the main one that exists. I use MLB.tv too, but it's a horribly written app that crashes often and never remembers my credentials so it's a pain using on the TV. For the rest, I used a Hulu Plus trial but that wasn't worth paying for to me so it remains on my start screen just to keep the column full. I really still want to see Amazon Prime Instant Video, HBO Go, NFL Sunday Ticket, and more services of that ilk. Hopefully when they get written for the Xbox One, they'll be easy enough to port over that many developers do that.

I am a little curious though about the WinRT version of MB3, whenever that ends up coming out. I'm hoping it'll allow me to skip some steps and maybe even give more control of my media for things like switching on commentary tracks and stuff.

Microsoft could also do some things to make the experience better in certain situations. Besides remote support being added to every app, I'd love to see Xbox controller support system-wide (currently I have to use the IR remote to select Steam, and then switch to my 360 controller to navigate in Big Picture). And if they really want to get crazy, whenever the new Kinect is released for the PC, they should give it full system-wide control (voice and camera) as well. Unfortunately though, Microsoft seems to only be interested in the Kinect as a developer tool when used with a PC.

I'm also a little curious and concerned about Windows 8.1 when that comes out. Hopefully it won't break too much in its upgrade install... but I have a feeling that over the winter when shows are on break that I'm going to have to do a clean install to make sure everything is exactly how I want it.

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post #30 of 30 Old 08-18-2013, 09:36 AM
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The lack of Amazon streaming and remote issues is a bit disappointing. While I'm not the biggest fan of 8 I think the interface has potential as a HTPC front end. When you install the update let me know if you run into any issues.


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