The Redeye Complex

Sunday, January 31, 2010
An Idea

Being the end of January, the tech industry has shown off its new computers which will appear in stores at some time in the year. Computers in the form of tablets with touch screens seem to be really taking off.

Touch screen interfaces have been with us for a few years now. We've used them in MP3 players, cell phones, and GPS devices.

I use a HP Pavilion tx 2000 series laptop which allows me to touch the screen to do something. However even with the latest Windows OS (Windows 7), the computer is really not that touch usable.

I originally bought the computer because I needed a laptop. What I also wanted to do is experiment with a touch screen to control a music player.

What puzzles me is that even with a powerful OS like Windows, it still seems rare to find applications that allow me to use the touch interface.

My mp3 player is the Samsung YP-P2. Its touch screen interface is not too bad. So why can my computer not do the same thing?

The idea then is to use the power of Windows 7 to create a usable touch interface. Where to start? Windows Media Player.

Windows Media Player has the skin feature which basically allows you to create an interface to control media playback. I am only interested in playing music, so my touch skin does not have much in the way of visualizations. No windows for video. And no windows for the playlist.

Basically I want buttons. Large buttons that you can easily find and tap. No slider bars either.

So after a couple days of reading about how to write skins for Windows Media Player, I have created a skin called Light Tap. If you are running Windows, just click the link to install. Or you can just download/save it, rename the extension to ZIP so you can browse it.

There really is not much to this skin. Just a few image files along with the XML document with the WMS extenstion. No JScript there .... yet.

All I thought I needed were buttons however when testing this it became clear that I needed some feedback on what WMP was doing. So I had to figure out how to display text somewhere on the skin. The text lines include the file name being played, the current time position, the total time of the current track, and volume.

I think I am going to add more stuff. As you can see, there is room for a couple more buttons. One could be MUTE and the other could be RETURN TO STANDARD WMP VIEW. We'll see. For the moment I am going to use this for a days to see how I like it.

Here are some keywords so people might stumble on this in Google searching ...
Windows Media Player

Here are some reference documents for writing skins:
Microsoft MSDN
Skin tutorial by Ritesh Kawadkar
The Ultimate Windows Media Player Skinning Guide
Programming Fundamentals and Innovation taught through Windows Media Player Skin Creation by Todd Shurn


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