Monday, January 31, 2005

.NET Array Expectations

While creating a mini C# code generator, I discovered that .NET Arrays don’t behave the way I expected with respect to the Equals and GetHashCode implementations. The expectation wasn’t based on any documentation, just what would be expected from a consistency point of view. I expected to be able to compare two different array instances (of bytes in this case) to see if their value contents were the same. Similarly I expected arrays with the same size and values to return equivalent GetHashCode values. It looks like the Array Equals and GetHashCode methods are actually just the default System.Object methods. There’s probably good reason for this (probably performance related), but unfortunately there isn’t time to look into it in more detail at the moment. All the fundamentals of a framework such as .NET can be simple in concept, but not easy to fully comprehend. I’m not explaining myself well here, but concepts such as identity and equivalence are deceptive with respect to their simplicity.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Wrestling Gold from Today's Software Projects

Here are a few excerpts from “Wrestling Gold from Today's Software Projects” at IT Conversations:

These have been posted here just a handy reference I can quickly pass on to people and customers that don’t want to listen to the entire audio program but would benefit from a few gems of information.


Friday, January 14, 2005

MCE 2005

I set up a Windows Media Center 2005 PC today with a standard PC and the following extras:

A number of blogs I’ve read on MCE gave the impression it was a breeze, but I’m sorry to say there were a few frustrating moments. It’s understandable that Microsoft are only offering MCE as an OEM product because of the support issues. Having the possibility of arbitrary hardware/software combinations is just a recipe for a support industry.

The frustrating aspects were:

  • The need to buy in an mpeg decoder. The MCE application comes up with a decoder error. I installed the Power-DVD decoder and the system just hung when trying to access analog tv input. Eventually installed a trial of Intervideo’s WinDVD software and things were up and running. I really don’t understand this “get your own decoder” crap with respect to Windows media functionality. This sort of stuff should be just standard and part of the operating system. The run around from sorting the decoder out was the most hassle out of the exercise. The set up actually would have been a breeze without the the flow on hassles from sorting out the decoder issues. I ended up trying different driver versions when there was no need, which sucked up some time.
  • No Australian EPG (Electronic Program Guide). This is a pain and sucks a lot of the customer value from an MCE system in my opinion. I heard on the Gday World podcast that Altech may be supplying such a service sometime in the future. Hope so, I do like watching TV but would like to do it on my own schedule and do it easily.
  • In the channel scan, it gave Channel 9 a nice label (probably because of the Nine MSN link). All the rest were just frequencies. I couldn’t find a way of changing the channel labels – it’s probably there and some extra time will find it.
  • There are pauses between requesting an action and getting the response. The hardware is low priced but current (P4 3.2, PCI express) but you still don’t get the immediate response from a dedicated home entertainment device. It may sound nit-picky but I was sub-consciously wanting a quicker response to going to TV mode, changing channels etc.

Some good points include:

  • Just the whole concept of easily recording the programs I want to see when I want see them is the way to go. Australian hasn’t been exposed to the Tivo style functionality in a broad sense so it’s new to us.
  • You can remote desktop into it – handy for changing the media PC set up without having a normal monitor connected.
  • It’s just standard Windows XP mostly. This may be stating the bleedingly obvious, but after the things up and running you realize the media center portion really is just another app. There are pro’s and con’s with this but it certainly is flexible.
  • There’s a 120GB in the PC. In high mode the media center reports that you can store 40 hours of recordings. It’s much higher at the lower quality recording options. The lower quality options seem pretty good for typical TV use anyway.
  • The remote works beautifully.

At the moment, the MCE PC is just in the office – will probably test it out at home as a trial in the coming week.