Windows Vista Hates Networks?

I received a Roku media player for Christmas, and wanted to hook it up to stream some holiday music right away.  Pretty simple install on the hardware side, plug it into AC, plug in a pair of speakers, and configure it for WiFi (or hardwire to the LAN) – total time <5 minutes – very nice.

I then remote desktoped into my main home PC, a Vista Ultimate box that lives upstairs in my office, to configure Media Player 11 for streaming to the Roku.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Vista had already found the Roku device on the network, and was prompting me as to whether I would like to share media with it.  Wow – too easy – technology never works this well the first time!  I told Vista to stream to the Roku, and figured the hard part was over.  I then launched Media Player 11 to add songs and create playlists ( I generally use Media Monkey for managing and playing audio – I’ve had bad experiences in the past with Win Media Player screwing up my MP3 Tags).

I pointed Media Player to my NAS device, and told it to add all the tracks to the library.  With over 100Gigs of music and 30,000 tracks, I figured it would take a while so I’d check back later.  A few hours later all the songs were loaded, and seemed to play just fine in Media Player, so I created a few playlists.

I then scrolled through the menus on my Roku, and was easily able to locate the new playlists, but they all showed ‘0 Tracks’ – not good.  I then tried to scroll through artists, and saw that only the sample songs shipping with Vista showed up.  Weird.  Several reboots and Google searched later still no joy.  I’d now been ignoring holiday duties for at least an hour messing with this, so I gave myself 15 more minutes to find a solution.   Luckily I finally came across a forum thread (somewhere) that noted Vista would not stream music from network drives or shares – a few minutes later I found a registry hack to fix this (hope this helps save others the time I wasted):

right click HME and add new DWORD value
name it EnableRemoteContentSharing
make the Hex value a 1

What a mess.  I can certainly understand that this was done for security, DRM, or some other reason in Vista / Media Player 11, but not letting the user know this when they add network shares to the song library is just horrible.  Something as simple as “check out KB article 1234” would have been fine, but leaving users to search for a needle in a haystack to fix this deficiency is no good.

If Microsoft wants to own the ‘connected home’ and living room media center market like they do the desktop, they need to do some work in the UX (User Experience) department.  Some of my (non-techie) friends and guests ask “How would us normal people have ever figure that out?”   And they were right, but I guess most ‘normal’ folks wouldn’t have a 1TB NAS device in their home…yet 🙂

Oh, and yes, once I fixed Vista, the Roku Rocks!!