Improving MCE’s “My Pictures”
Although a lot of people are drawn to Microsoft’s Media Center Edition by the DVR capabilities, for me, one of the most exciting features is the “my pictures” area. With a 43″ plasma in the living room connected to my MCE machine I am able to put amazing slide shows on with my very extensive .jpg library (about 55,000 images at present).
As digital photography continues to explode in popularity more and more people will turn to plasma/lcd displays as the primary way in which they view their and others’ photographs.
I think that there are some key areas that the developers on the MCE team should be working on to improve “my pictures.”
1. Rating Photos. Similar to “my music,” you should be able to rate photographs on a one to five star basis and you should be able to do it with your remote merely by pushing a number from one to 5 stars. This will aid in creating photo playlists later. We all know that some of our digital photos are winners and some are under or over exposed, badly positioned, etc. but not quite worth throwing away. Having the ability to differentiate quality on a subjective level would be a nice addition.
2. Custom Photo Playlists. Some simple filtering needs to be made available. One of the things that I like doing with my photos is to do a search in Windows Explorer before someone comes over to my home and make a quick copy of all of the photos that I have with their name in the title. I then place these copied photos in a temporary folder labeled with their name and when they come over I can have a personal slide show only with photos of them running in the background. Creepy? Perhaps — but very cool. I should be able to quickly make these “name” style photo playlists in MCE.
3. Automated Photo Playlists. Similar to custom built playlists in Windows Media Player, Microsoft should also build a few automated style playlists similar in fashion to WMP. These should include: photos yet to be rated, 5 star photos, 4 and 5 star photos, photos not displayed recently, photos taken in the last month, photos taken in the last year. I’m sure you guys can come up with some more good automated photo playlists. I’d love to be able to sit down with my wife and say, hey let’s look at all the photos of the kids that we’ve taken in the last month with MCE being smart enough to read the underlying meta data from the digital camera.
4. Random Photos. In the original MCE (back in the dark ages) MCE had a problem with the random photo process as well as the random music process. Essentially when you went to play all music or view all photos it always started with the same song and the same photo. This was fixed in the 2004 version and when you started random music or photos, the first photo was truly random. This seems to have been unfixed with photos in the latest MCE 2005 version. Try it. Select a folder to play photos and it always will start with the same photo (assuming use transitional effects option is turned on). This is a bug in my opinion and one that should have been caught in beta. Whatever Microsoft did to fix this bug prior to MCE 2005 they should go back and incorporate into the new version when using transitional effects. Another bug is that within the first 10 photos or so it often repeats a subsequent photo twice. This happens quite frequently. I’m curious if anyone has any additional info on how the random photo algorithm works.
5. Meta Data. Microsoft should allow you to do searches of the meta data of your digital photos. You could then create custom photolists for instance of say only photos in New York, or only photos in San Francisco, or only photos of Italy in 2002, etc. etc.
6. My Art. I’m not sure how many of you remember a few years back when Bill Gates went around buying up all kinds of digital rights to fine works of art but Microsoft should release these with MCE. Perhaps they could call it “my art” and even sell it as an add on CD or subscription, but high res high quality professional artwork looks great on a 43 inch plasma. At minimum, Microsoft should reproduce (it could be as simple as scouring Google, etc. for images) a large collection of public domain works of art (which is easy to do with a lot of fine art being so old). This art should be bundled with the MCE and available immediately under “my art.”
7. Photoblogger, Online Spotlight. Microsoft should begin conversations with Brandon Stone, proprietor of the amazing photoblogs.org site. Brandon has done the best job to date of aggregating the various photobloggers out there that are publishing their work to the internet. Microsoft could use Brandon’s ranking system to identify who the top photobloggers are and then approach them as being “featured” on Online Spotlight (perhaps for pay, perhaps for free). The Online spotlight would appear as a folder of choice under the my photos menu. In this spotlight you could run through large collections of work by some of the most amazing photo artists out there today. I’m sure that many of them would be happy for the exposure.
You could also include aggregated searches of all participating photobloggers by id tags on their photos. This way, for instance, if you were about to take a trip to London, you could view fine photographs done by photobloggers of London under “my pictures” while your music played in the background.
8. Weighted Option. An optional feature you should be allowed to select under the photo options would be to display your photos at random but in a weighted manner. This would, for instance, in the random process display a 5 star rated photo 5x more often than a 1 star rated photo. Given a large enough collection this could help enhance the photo viewing process.
These are just a few suggestions about, my photos” — what I feel is one of the most exciting features of Media Center Edition.