MediaBox: New Interface

Cory Blog, Hardware, Web

Last month I successfully installed Windows 7 on a custom PC and hooked it up to my TV so that we can watch Netflix, hulu, and whatever else. I installed a VNC client on the PC and am using Snow Leopard’s built in VNC Viewer (Screen Sharing) which acts as the MediaBox’s remote control. It’s not as convenient as a standard TV remote, but I did this all for free- so you can’t beat that at any cost.

(By the way, any recent Mac has built in screen sharing and it can actually be initiated within Safari, no doubt,  found in the path: /System » Library » CoreServices » Screen, or “Connect to Server…” from the Finder’s Go menu. All you need is the IP address of the machine you want to connect to and the port number. For a PC, you have to install a vnc server client first. I used RealVNC Server. I started the first connection using Safari because it let me drag the favicon to my desktop and give it nice little custom icon. In the address bar, type “vnc://ip.add.ress/port#”. More information on Screen Sharing can be found here and here. Let me also just mention, before I continue, that if you’re using Snow Leopard and you continually get just a white screen when you start the connection, navigate to /System » Library » CoreServices » Screen and press cmd+i and check the box for 32bit. That will solve it. Ok, enough side notes.)

While reading my daily dose of, I came across an article about a guy who put a touchscreen PC in the wall of his kitchen. While I like the concept in it’s complete entirety and must implement it someday, it stood out to me how he created a custom iphone-like desktop interface with which to interact. He just built a website, hosted it on his own computer, and used XP’s Active Desktop feature to display the webpage a background. After reading this, I thought to myself that it’s totally doable for my MediaBox. And it would be simple to do and simple looking. Maybe a few bigger icon links at the top for the more general viewing sites and a few specific icons for shows we (my wife) watch regularly.

So without further delay, here is the current draft of the website. Click to View Website

Basically it serves one purpose as an interface for the MediaBox- to get us to where we want to go. It sure beats a plain desktop with a few icons. There’s only one problem. I said I’m running Windows 7, a version of Windows where Active Desktop was taken out. Active Desktop never caught on in the many, many years it was included in previous versions of Windows. Honestly, I never had a use for it, until now. And now that it’s gone in current versions of Vista and 7, I think people are realizing how powerful it really was or could have been. So ya, I don’t really have a way to DISPLAY the webpage on my desktop, but I’m working on it. If you have a good solution, leave it in the comments.

I’m excited to try this out and will continue to work on the design. But it’s been really fun so far.