August 6, 2009

Which version of Windows 7 do you need

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 5:35 pm

There are lots of Windows 7 versions available, they’ve just gone live for download for the IT Pro’s and Developers who subscribe to Technet and MSDN, but which version do you need?  This is the simple guide:

Home Premium: Most home users will want this, you get all the media features (like Media Center).  It’s the sweet spot, most consumers will want this.

Professional:  Most small businesses will be going for this option, it’s also good for home users who fall into the “enthusiast” category – that is if you like to play.  You can join a business network (a Domain or Active Directory) with this.

Ultimate: If you want EVERYTHING including the ability to encrypt USB drives to keep them secure.

Enterprise: If you’re a big business you’ll want this.

Home Basic: This version is lower priced, but misses out on most of the media features and other cooler stuff.

Starter: You might get this if you buy a net book, otherwise you won’t be likely to come across it.  It’s the most basic version suitable for low powered PCs.


How to tell if your new hardware is Windows 7 compatible

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 5:05 pm

Compatible with Windows 7 The Windows Blog has some interesting information about the Windows 7 logo scheme.  For those who don’t know about it, which is probably most people, the logo scheme helps to clearly identify devices that give the best experience with Windows 7.  The networking changes in Windows 7 are superb and it’s even easier to set stuff up quickly and most importantly securely with Windows 7.  The logo scheme gives you the guarantee that everything will work perfectly, including things that have traditionally gone a bit awry such as UPnP or discovering other devices on your network.

Also worth noting is that any network device that support media playback, like TVs and network speakers with the logo will be fully DLNA compliant too so there’s a good chance they’ll work with other components of your DLNA setup.  Logoed devices will also appear in Device Stage so you’ll only have to go to one place to configure your devices.

July 7, 2009

Streaming in Windows 7 – PlayTo with play lists

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 2:27 pm

It’s not just individual media files that can be played over the network with PlayTo, whole playlists can be sent to other machines too.  There are a couple of things you need to do, first make sure you have a machine running as a Digital Media Server (have a look here to find out how to set that up in Windows 7).  Second there needs to be a Digital Media Receiver on the network (have a look here to find out how to make Windows 7 into a DMR).

Play to playlistBuild a play list

The first thing you need to do is build a playlist in Windows Media Player, so drag the files into the right hand pane of WMP after making sure the Play tab is active.  If you really like it then enter a name, it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to save it, you don’t have to.

PlayTo the play list

Next just go the top of the pane and click the PlayTo drop down, it’s highlighted in the picture to the left of this text, and select the device you want to play it to.  If your devices have names that mean nothing you can change them easily by following the instructions in the Beyond the basics post.  That’s it your play list should start to play on the target device and a window should pop up for you to control the playback.

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clubhouse Tags: clubhouse, windows7, how-to, PlayTo, media player, challenge-windows 7

May 12, 2009

Streaming Media in Windows 7 – network settings

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 5:20 pm

get wmp ports One useful bit of information that we’ve not yet discussed is how to configure your network for streaming from Windows 7 over the Internet.  The configuration is really simple, but it can depend on what type of router you have on your home network (the router is the device that shares your internet connection around your house, probably via WiFi).

[Edit: You shouldn’t need to make these changes, network streaming uses a newer version of IP (IPv6) and something called Toredo tunnelling to enable remote streaming.  You will need what’s described next if anyone providing the connection back to the home PC is blocking IPv6 for some reason as IPv4 is used as a backup method of connection]

The first thing to bear in mind is that Windows 7 makes use of a feature of most modern routers called uPnP (or universal plug and play) that allows other devices on the network to make changes to the configuration of the router.  In this case Windows 7 attempts to open a couple of ports automatically to allow the remote PC to connect to the PC in your home to stream the media.  Some people prefer to turn off uPnP because of security fears.  In that case you’ll have to manually open the correct ports on your router.

  1. First we need to workout which ports to setup, so launch Windows Media Player and select Stream > Allow Internet access to home media… then select Diagnose connections then select the link for Port forwarding information and make a note of the port numbers.  In my case they are 44505 and 10245.
  2. Open up the web configuration interface of your router, normally (
  3. Find the option for “Port mapping” or NAT and add two ports
  4. Add two “rules” to open 44505 and to map it to the name of your Windows 7 PC that holds the media and also add a rule to map port 443 to port 10245.

Hopefully, if you are having problems that’s one reason out the way as to why.

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clubhouse Tags: "playto", "windows 7", "how-to"

May 1, 2009

Streaming Media in Windows 7 – Streaming your collection over the Internet

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 2:28 pm

One of the coolest new features that came along with the Windows 7 RC was the added functionality of being able to stream media over the Internet, so where ever you are you have access to your entire collection.  Many of us have had this type of functionality with Windows Media Center and Web Guide in Windows Vista, but this makes it much easier.

It’s a two part puzzle though, two Windows 7 PCs need to be linked together to enable streaming.  When you are outside the home this makes it nice and secure to share media, don’t forget there’s a good chance you’ll want to do this over a public network.

Enabling Internet Streaming

enable internet streaming As with all the rest of these posts the most strait forward way to configure the streaming options is to use Windows Media Player, so launch it and click the Stream button to access the setting.  To turn on Internet streaming select Allow Internet access to home media… and a popup will appear with more options on it.

There’s a very important requirement to secure access to your media over the internet and it all revolves around a clever feature called Linked IDs.  A linked ID links the login on your PC with a Windows Live ID, so your PC knows that any Linked IDs are also you, and it forms the basis of access over the internet to your media.  Linked IDs can also be used when sharing media in a HomeGroup in Windows 7.Link online IDs

Click Link an online ID and a window will pop up where the details of the IDs to link are set, this can also be done through Control Panel. The first thing that’s needed is to setup the links to an Online ID provider, like Windows Live, click Add an online ID provider to start off.

Your favorite browser will fire up and go to a list of available providers, right now Windows Live is the only one, but it’s possible for others to become providers – so you could end up using your Facebook account.  On this page select Windows Live and a download page will appear for the Windows Live ID Sign-in Assistant.  Download the version for your type of installation, either 64 or 32 bit and run it, once it’s installed a new provider will be added to the Link Online IDs page.

link online id with provider Now you can actually link your IDs together, so select the Link online ID link under WindowsLiveID and enter your Windows Live ID details (username and password).  Once the ID has been verified you’ll be taken back to the Link Online IDs page but now it will display the linked ID.  Click OK.

Next you’ll need to go back to Windows Media Player and the Internet Home Media Access dialogue will be up still, select Allow Internet access to home media to confirm that’s what you want to do.  Since it’s a security thing UAC will pop up asking for confirmation.

Enabling Internet Streaming on the PC that you want to stream to

The second part of the puzzle is to link a second PC to enable the streaming, again it’s simple but not very obvious what to do.

On the second PC do exactly the same thing as above (how did you not guess that ???) and now on your second PC you’ll see that the first PC is listed under Other libraries and the two are linked together.  In fact both PCs are linked as pears, both is capable of both streaming and receiving media.

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April 30, 2009

Streaming Media in Windows 7 – PlayTo

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 2:30 pm

Windows 7 includes some clever functionality to allow you to remotely play music around your home through a very simple to use feature called PlayTo.  There are a couple of things that you’ll need to take advantage of PlayTo, not least of which is a second device, either another Windows 7 PC or a device capable of supporting the DLNA Digital Media Renderer (DMR) role, for a list of devices that can, take a look here.

So assuming you have two PCs that are running Windows 7 one will be the streaming media server (or DMS) and one will be the DMR.  To enable what’s necessary to have one of the Windows 7 PCs act as a DMR have a look at this previous post, this post will first look at how to enable the DMR role on a Windows 7 PC and then, how to send media to it.

Allow remote control of my player Enabling the DMR role

The most simple way to enable any streaming media functionality in Windows 7 is to use Windows Media Player to turn it on.  Launch it and click the Stream button to find the options which appear as a drop down.  Then select Allow remote control of my Player… a popup message will appear to allow you to confirm, select the option to Allow remote control on this network

If you ever want to disable the functionality just do the same thing and select Do not allow remote control on this network to turn it off.

Once the Windows Media Player has been setup to be remote controllable whenever it’s running it will be possible for someone else on the network to send media to the PC and that media will play.

*Note: The DMR role is only available if Windows Media Player is running, which actually gives you more control over when media can be sent to your PC.

Playing somethingplayto

The next step is to actually get something playing, again it’s really easy to do.  Within Windows Media Player select what you want to play, and right click it, then from the popup menu select Play to then select the device to send the media to.  This is why it’s a good idea to have the devices named well, I covered that in this post.

It’s not just within Windows Media Player that you can select content to “Play to” it’s also possible to play content directly from Windows Explorer, just do exactly the same as you would in Windows Media Player.

The next installment in this series will show you how to stream media over the Internet using Windows 7 and then we’ll come back to Play To with a post on using Play To to stream a play list

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clubhouse Tags: clubhouse, windows7, how-to, PlayTo, media player, challenge-windows 7

April 29, 2009

Streaming Media in Windows 7 – beyond basic configuration

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 2:31 pm

more streaming options Following on from my first post on Windows 7’s streaming media functionality, and how it’s changed a little in the Release Candidate this post talks a little about the more advanced options for configuring network streaming. 

Access to all of the features in this post is gained easiest through Windows Media Player.  Click the Stream button and select More streaming options… to open up access to the Media Streaming Options page of Control Panel, which is the central hub of configuration for media streaming.

Changing the name of the library

One of the most simple things that you can do, but one that actually adds a tremendous amount of usability is to give the library a meaningful name.  It might sound rather simple, but when you have a few PCs in different rooms in the home it makes a real difference.  The best way to use this is to name the library after where the PC is or after who’s PC it is, for example my office PC is called “Study”, my living room is “Lounge” and my kitchen is “Kitchen” whilst my laptop is “Si”.

This really comes into it’s own with the PlayTo features, which allow remote control of media devices, where it becomes really handy to know where the media will play, for example PlayTo > Kitchen.

Controlling what individual devices can play streaming options content settings

It’s possible to control exactly what can be played by each device on the network from the server and in this way you can place some limitations on what those remote devices can see.  For example you can prevent your kids PCs having access to an music on your PC that might have adult lyrics.  These settings are available on a per device basis and also the defaults can be changed (it’s the defaults that apply to new devices).  It’s also possible to restrict the available content to only media that you like, based on ratings.



It’s also possible to completely block the access that a device is allowed to the library by changing the Allowed drop down to Blocked.

Preventing (or enabling) Standby

power options Imagine the scenario, you’re enjoying your favorite aria (or death metal, whatever floats your boat) then … silence … it all stops, how annoying would that be.  Well it could quite possibly happen if the PC isn’t set to stay out of standby.  To control the power options select Choose power options, (then its time to surface the feature for controlling power)  Change when the computer sleeps then Change advanced power settings then scroll down to Multimedia Settings then When sharing Media and expand the option (phew you made it!)  From here we decide when the computer can sleep if it’s sharing media and there are 3 options:

  • Allow the computer to sleep – does what it says, which could stop streaming mid (er) stream.
  • Prevent idling to sleep – stops the PC from being able to sleep, your media will continue but the PC will use plenty of power
  • Allow the computer to enter Away modeputs the PC into a special state when it’s idle turning off the monitor to save as much power as it can.  This is probably the best option.

Selecting either the the last two makes sure your media keeps streaming.

Ok so that’s that’s some of the less basic and less obvious configuration explored, next up we’ll be looking at using PlayTo and how cool that feature is.

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April 28, 2009

Streaming Media in Windows 7 – Media Server

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 7:55 pm

The first building block for a home media network is to have a streaming media server.  The function isn’t turned on by default, but it’s very simple to enable and very powerful once it is.  The quickest way to access streaming media features is to use Windows Media Player, it brings everything into one place but it’s also possible to enable the server component through Control Panel.

Windows 7 as a media server

Allow device to serve To turn on the media server component launch Windows Media Player, click the Stream button and select Automatically allow devices to play my media…

A confirmation screen will pop up, to which you’ll need to select the first option to Automatically allow computers and media devices

Allow device to serve - confirm

 Once it’s turned on all the media that’s in the library on your PC will be available for any other network media aware devices on the network to use.  Those other devices include other Windows PCs (including Vista and XP machines and Windows 7 PCs) and any devices that are DLNA certified and capable of taking on that Digital Media Player role.  Have a look here for my list of devices that can do that.

From another Windows PC if you go to Windows Media Player (it’s best to use WMP 11) then look in the left hand panel then you should see the PC that’s library you’ve just shared listed under Other libraries.  Now you can play that media from the second PC without having to first move it over your network!  So if you have a house with lots of computers all around the house, and you enable the server it doesn’t matter which PC your music or video is on, you’ll be able to watch it anywhere.

One of the best features you get using Windows 7 as a media server is that it acts as something called a “transcoder” which overcomes one of the worst and most troublesome issues with digital media.  No not DRM, but formatting and encoding.  Media files can be formatted and encoded in lots of different ways, and typically the device where you want to play the media back has to be able to translate that media encoding using a codec – it’s kind of like a phrase book for a foreign language – and if it doesn’t have the codec it won’t be able to understand the file.  Windows 7 sorts this out by asking the device that’s receiving the file what it understands, then Windows 7 sends the file in that format, it acts just like a translator meaning you can throw the phrase book away!  Obviously the Windows 7 machine acting as a server needs to know what to do with the file, so it needs the codec.

If you ever want to turn media streaming off then just do the above, but select Do not automatically allow computers and media devices from the confirmation pop up window.

There are some more advanced settings too that you might like to adjust, and they’re available from Stream > More streaming options…  The options here allow for more advanced control over what’s streamed, where it’s streamed to and a couple of other nuggets…but I think that’s another post…

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April 27, 2009

Streaming Media in Windows 7

Filed under: Windows 7 — Simon May @ 7:57 pm

With the Release Candidate of Windows 7 available thanks to torrent sites and the MSDN / Technet release and public releases just around the corner it’s time to have a look at the new streaming features of Windows 7.  This series of posts will explore how to turn on and use the network media functions.

This post is the first of a 6 part series on Streaming Media in Windows 7, here’s the topic list (they will be linked up as they are published).

  1. This post, the introduction
  2. Windows 7 as a media server
  3. Beyond the basics
  4. PlayTo
  5. Streaming your media over the internet
  6. PlayTo with playlists

For those who haven’t explored the network media features of Windows it’s basically a frame work that allows pictures, video and music to be played around your network, without the files having to be moved first – it’s something called streaming.  In streaming one device on the networks hosts the media file while another device can be responsible for playing the media.  There are loads of advantages to streaming, but three of the big ones are:

  • No need to move media in advance of wanting to play it.
  • No need to have media in the correct format for the device where you want to play it.
  • You stay in control, all media can be held in one place, there’s no need to have it spread out on different devices to be able to use it (but you can if you want).

Network media in Windows 7 has a few components to it, but Windows is able to undertake a number of roles in a streaming network.  The main roles are as a Digital Media Server – meaning it hosts the media, Digital Media Player – meaning it can select and play media from a server, Digital Media Renderer – meaning it can have media sent to it and be remotely controlled, and finally it can be a Digital Media Controller – which means it can be a remote control.

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April 26, 2009

Choosing a new laptop

Filed under: How I Use...,Windows 7 — Simon May @ 12:26 am

I recently started a project that meant it was time I needed a new laptop.  My previous laptop, which was a couple of years old, a Gateway laptop with 15” just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  Over time the battery had stopped holding it’s charge, and the processor (a Celeron M) just wasn’t capable of what I needed to do (it involves running Virtual Machines) and even with beefed up RAM it just wasn’t making me happy.

So with the above requirements in mind I went looking for a multi core laptop with loads of RAM and a good “bang for my buck”.  I don’t play lots of games on Windows but I do need to be able to multi task well to use those virtual machines and entertainment of another kind, the ability to use Windows Media Center really wel,l was right up there on my list of requirements.  One thing that bugs me about most entertainment laptops is there massive size, since I didn’t (and still don’t) intend on getting rid of the Gateway laptop, I wanted something pretty small – I though about a netbook initially, but the power just isn’t there.

With Windows 7 just around the corner I wanted a device that I’d be sure could take advantage of everything it has to offer, and from a hardware point of view that meant that I wanted to be able to use multi-touch.  This was actually a far more important factor for me than any of the above and it narrowed the field immediately.

So to recap, lots of RAM, fast processors, small, multi-touch…not too much to ask for.

imageSo a little research under my hat and it was time to hit the shops, well not the shops but the online stores.  The device that started to come out on top every single time was one of the variants of HP’s TX2 entertainment laptops.  It could have been built according the spec above.  Around the same time, Ian got a TX2 in to review, and it looked like just what I wanted….so I grabbed it!  Engadget named it “Tablet PC of the Year” so I new I was onto a good thing.

I’ve got to say that since I’ve owned it I’ve been totally blown away by it.  As soon as I got it I installed the Windows 7 Beta on it, and found the drivers for the Touch screen and got it going, the multi-touch experience in Windows 7 has to be seen, or rather touched, to be believed.  I really love being able to navigate a web page by touching it, zooming in, scrolling going back and forth is super simple and really intuitive.

It’s really quick too and I’ve have 3 virtual machines running at the same time doing all sorts.  The fact that it has a little Media Center remote built in is something that really floats my bloat, although I need to change the IR ID (it keeps firing up Media Center in the office when I’m watching TV in the lounge!) also it came with two batteries and that means a total battery life of about 6 hours!

So what’s the point of this, none really I just love this PC and want to talk about it a bit,  and with Windows 7 going to RC very soon I’m sure some folks are going to go looking for a PC that gives them a great Windows 7 and Windows Vista experience.

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