Hot Donkey! Introducing Flickr Plug in for Media Center

slickrmce

…Sort of.

Those of you who read this blog with any regularity know that there are two pieces of technology that I am crazy about. Well, there are more than two, but two (of the many) that I yammer on frequently about are Microsoft’s Media Center platform as well as the popular Flickr photo sharing site (almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world). As those of you who are regular readers know I have been asking (no begging) for a Flickr plug in for my Media Center PC for quite some time.

Although a Flickr plug in has been developed for TiVo (Series 2s only), as of yet nothing has come to market for Media Center. There is of course a Flickr screensaver developed by an outside developer called Slickr, but nothing formally specifically for Media Center. Although rumors have abounded about the development of one in the pipeline, neither Microsoft, Flickr or any outside developer has brought one to the public… until now… kind of sort of.

You have to do a tad bit of work, but today I’m going to share with you the way to turn Slickr into your own Media Center plug in for Flickr.

Slickr is a super slick piece of technology. When I tried it originally it didn’t work so well for me, but the most recent version is pretty much rock solid. It works super well as a screen saver and I’d recommend it to anyone. One thing it lacks though is integration with MCE. It also lacks things like being able to randomize a slide show (although Gabe the developer sent me a private email saying that this would be an easy thing to add).

In order not to chew through Flickr’s bandwidth (although I still suspect it is one of the more taxing ways to access Flickr, so I seriously hope my writing this does not threaten the app) Slickr basically downloads whatever photos you tell it to display to your hard drive. At first I was not aware of this and thought it was streaming the shots only. This would make sense to do it this way though as once the shot was downloaded once, it wouldn’t continue to tax Flickr’s bandwidth ongoing or if you forgot it was running and went to bed, etc.

But because Slickr downloads all of the images you tell it to to your hard drive, what this also means is that once you run Slickr to cycle through all of your favorites, instead of continuing to use Slickr as your screensaver, you can instead point Media Center to the folder on your PC where these files are downloaded to to create your own MCE Flickr Plug in.

The photos are kept in the following path: C:\Documents and Settings\Thomas Hawk\My Documents\My Pictures\Slickr\User\tom@thomashawk.com\Favorites. You have to modify the path above for your own PC of course.

Why would you want to use this method for Slickr rather than Slickr itself for your Media Center? Easy.

1. You have much more control over your slide show this way. For instance, supposing you have fav’d some very cool (but well slightly erotic) photos on Flickr. You want them in your Flickr favorites stream for your own retrieval later, but you don’t want them on your living room PC. By using Slickr as a MCE plug in you can go through the photos folder and manually remove any file that you may not want for public consumption.

2. By using Slickr as a MCE plug in you can also have your music album art and band/songtitle, etc. show up as songs change on your MCE.

3. You get the benefit of the transitional effects built into Media Center (although Slickr’s default transitional effects are pretty cool), randomize your slide shows, etc.

So there you go folks. It takes a little doing, but, hot donkey, your Flickr plug in for Media Center has finally arrived.

You can download the most recent version of Slickr here. By the way, Slickr is just some cool Flickr toy that was developed by Gabe in his spare time (amazing that one guy can do this while neither Yahoo! nor Microsoft have been able to give us this toy for the past year). If you want to show Gabe your appreciation, he does accept Paypal donations on his site.

By the way, if you enjoy my photography and want to check out a Thomas Hawk slide show tour of San Francisco on your Media Center, just point Slickr to user email tom(at)thomashawk.com (change the at to @ of course) and insert tag “San Francisco.” Make sure you have original size images checked for full high res fun. Set your cache to a high number and let it run for about 24 hours. When you come back you can copy all of the photos to a Thomas Hawk San Francisco Slide Show folder and you’re off.

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One Comment

  1. Steve says:

    Coincidentally, I was going to let you know about the Flickr viewer I just found on the Avel LinkPlayer I purchased recently. Although the UI is rudimentary, some of the images fail to display, and you can only do a slideshow of all images from a username, it’s a start. And, the simple UI (for entering in a username or selecting one of their suggested keywords) is in HD, so it at least looks good. Apparently, it’s being put together by IO Data to enhance the connected DVD players they and others sell, so it my be updated at some point.

    But, it did give me a couple ideas:

    1) Should Flickr allow users to define a 16:9 crop area to optimize images for display on an HDTV, and maybe a 4:3 crop for SDTV? So, you upload an image, and if you want, you select “suggested cropping”, and then resize a 16:9 box on the image; then when a program is pulling images for a slideshow, the program includes an API parameter for HDTV, and Flickr sends down the cropped/resized images (anything without a suggested 16:9 crop is sent as normal). Wouldn’t this be a crucial part of a great HDTV flick slideshow?

    And, 2) So, now with a HDTV DirecTiVo and a network-connected HD-capable DVD player, I’ve got everything pretty much covered. But, is there really that much more functionality in the DVD player than a TiVo could provide? If TiVo comes out with a Series 3 player with a Blu-Ray/HD-DVD drive, and the ability to stream HD content (via Divx, WMV, etc.), along with the existing HMO and Flickr plugin; is that the ultimate device? Other than gaming, would that be the only thing most people need next to their HDTV? What if they made one in a wall-mounted form factor, to put up next to a flat panel? What else would anyone need? Maybe they could add an amp and speaker connections, but that may take the integration a little too far. But, an HD TiVo + HD disc drive + HD streaming, who wouldn’t want one?