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New Release – KidMango
28 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

Release #9 for the Gonzee family of applications is Boxee’s first full skin app of exclusively children’s content – KidMango!

KidMango is a new entrant in kids video, providing an online syndication platform, a web destination and an on-air programming block.  The KidMango library brings together popular shows from some of the world’s best producers of animation and live action and includes over a thousand videos covering everything from Einstein to aliens, vampires to Leonardo da Vinci.

Over 100 different series including Care Bears, Dennis the Menace, and my personal favorite, Doodlez

Over 100 different series including Care Bears, Dennis the Menace, and my personal favorite, Doodlez

The KidMango online syndication network is focused on supplying kids web site publishers with video that can be seamlessly embedded into their sites.  It launched in early August and already reaches 450K UUs/month.  Kids looking for an immersive video experience can find the entire library at kidmango.com where the videos are searchable by topic and organized by age group so that parents of preschoolers, older kids and tweens can all quickly find the content that is most appropriate to them.  KidMangoTV, a programming block in partnership with MyFamilyTV, pulls from the library for three hours of daily programming and is now available in over 60MM homes in the US.

zOMG!  Care Bears!

zOMG! Care Bears!

The team at KidMango are big fans of the Boxee platform and with the launch of their app seek to fill an unmet need: KidMango is the first kids video app for Boxee.  The structure for the app matches the kidmango.com site with the content organized by three age groups.  While the youngest children will need help from their parents in playing shows, older kids will have no problem loading up their favorite programs.

In addition to being a content landmark serving as Boxee’s first application for kids, this release is a big technical milestone for Gonzee apps as it featured our first Brightcove integration.  By working with playlists and players configured by the team at KidMango specifically for Boxee, we were able to deliver an identical experience in Boxee to that available on their website including Brightcove’s robust reporting, pre-roll advertising options, and skin.

Congratulations to the team at KidMango for pioneering the kids market on Boxee!

New Release – eGuiders
28 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

I am thrilled to announce the release of the ninth Gonzee app, eGuiders.  A bold, unique service in the world of online video, eGuiders.com is a collection of fascinating people sharing their personal favorite video picks on the web.

This release features video content from YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion, Crackle and other video sharing sites, curated by a team of “eGuiders,” media mavens who handpick and review the most interesting and entertaining online videos.  In addition to the core team of eGuiders– which is made up of an array of traditional and new media professionals from filmmakers and producers to editors and designers–the community also features notable guest eGuiders, including John Landis (Animal House), Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara (King of Queens), Damon Lindelof (Lost), Willie Garson (Sex and the City), Margo Alder (NPR’s All Things Considered) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit), among many others. The Boxee App allows users to watch a variety of entertainment organized by genre including Animation, Comedy, Drama & Genre, Documentary/Non-Fiction, Music, and Viral as well as the ‘Pick of the Day’.

Interesting videos handpicked by interesting people.

Interesting videos handpicked by interesting people.

This app is special in the Gonzee portfolio as it combines two important factors I look for when developing a Boxee app: original, indie content and freshness.  The picks by the eGuiders crew consistently capture some of the original genius being hatched online and with the site getting updated with 10-12 videos a day, there is always something new to watch.  In the two weeks I’ve been developing the app, it has already become a daily stop whenever I flip on the TV.

Congratulations to the eGuiders team for bringing their curated video experience to the television on Boxee!

New Release – Associated Press
23 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

Gonzee app numero ocho is now available on the Boxee App Box!

A name synonymous with global news, Associated Press is perhaps the furthest reaching news organization on this planet.  The not-for-profit cooperative serves as the backbone of modern journalism with their news is published in 1,700 newspapers and used by more than 5,000 television and radio broadcasters.  This application serves up their latest video content which is updated with 15-20 segments each day, including Top Stories rollups every 12 hours.  Politically neutral and extremely concise, the AP Boxee app is a great news-on-the-go resource for folks who need to stay up to speed without parsing large menus or reading pages of headlines.

Associated Press

This release provides both Flash standard def and H.264 video for the last few days of Associated Press content.  Future releases will include archives browsing, a “Today’s News” playlist and many more surprises.

Building In-Window Navigation
21 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

This week I had a client with a navigation requirement that can be frustrating for a lot of Boxee developers.  The application was for KidMango, an online video service chockful with excellent high quality children’s content like Care Bears, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Dennis the Menace.  Their service categorizes their extensive library in four age groups, so a natural requirement of their Boxee app to provide users with the ability of using those groups as navigation options.

Kid-friendly navigation ftw!

Kid-friendly navigation ftw!

One option would be to create entirely different windows for each age group for four xml files total.  But this is not 1994 and we’re not using FrontPage; this option is entirely too unwieldy to maintain.  We could leverage the API and use SetContentURL in an onclick event for each button, but some of these age groups have as many as 50 series in their RSS feeds.  Navigating on Boxee systems with poor hardware would lead to a very jerky experience; we definitely need a loading dialog.

So, for this unique use case I came up with this approach for In-Window navigation.  It satisfies our need to keep our code maintainable, while providing a strong experience for all hardware profiles.  Consider the following code attached to a button control:

<onclick lang="python"><![CDATA[
import mc
params = mc.Parameters()
params['title'] = "KidMango Kids"
params['link'] = "rss://apps.gonzee.tv/kidmango/series.php?channel=kids&pages=3"
mc.GetApp().ActivateWindow(14000, params)
]]></onclick>

Obviously assuming we’ve loaded the mc library already, what we’re doing here is giving each button two parameters – a title and a feed.  We then reactivate the existing window to trigger the Progress Dialog and load our container with the new feed.  Now we need to set up our list container to accept the data we send it:

<content type="url" url="App.Param(link)">

This method looks for the link parameter to connect the list container with a feed.  But, with this approach, it means that the initial state of the app will be blank – no good for sure.  We can solve this by attaching an onload event to the window that queues up the list container with the default feed:

<onload lang="python"><![CDATA[
import mc
params = mc.GetApp().GetLaunchedWindowParameters()
if (len(params) == 0):
mc.GetWindow(14000).GetList(111).SetContentURL("rss://apps.gonzee.tv/kidmango/series.php?channel=home&pages=5")
]]></onload>

And viola!  Junk hardware friendly in-window navigation. For this tip in action, install the KidMango app available soon in the App Box.

New Release – AL TV
20 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

The seventh Gonzee app release just got published to the App Box: AL TV!

For two decades, pop culture has been brilliantly lampooned by “Weird Al” Yankovic.  The curly haired, accordian toting comic musician is the prolific mind behind such hilarious parodies as “Eat It” and “Smells Like Nirvana.”  Resurgent following the geekcore rap hit “White and Nerdy,” Weird Al is now on Boxee with the AL TV app providing a collection of his classic parodies, new “Internet Leaks” series, and videos he’s directed for other artists such as Ben Folds’ “Rockin’ the Suburbs.”

altv

This release makes available Al’s entire catalogue on Boxee from “Dare To Be Stupid” to his new video from his Internet Leaks series “CNR.”  Available in Flash standard definition and higher quality H.264.

HEADSHOT! – Gonzee App Makes Mashable’s Top 5
15 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

The social media blog Mashable just posted their Top 5 Boxee apps with their favorites from the App Box.  Big ups go to some of my personal faves like Facebook Photos, Pandora and – my personal Number One – We Are Hunted.  A Gonzee app gets some love as well, with Pure Pwnage making the list.  Jennifer Van Grove writes:

Though this hit web series will soon find its way on your television (in Canada that is), one of Boxee’s most prolific application developers, Rob Spectre, has turned the series into a nifty Boxee app. So, you can watch the made-for-the-web series in all its glory on your television right now.

Source: Mashable

Source: Mashable

Quite an honor to get some work placed in the same field of recognition as these apps, but the big winner is the dev community.  Installing Boxee apps is a viral usage loop; the more people install and find great content, the more people will install and find more great content.  Every user that gets introduced to the App Box is another step closer to making this platform their primary source of home entertainment where the users – not the cable companies – decide when, where and how they want to watch their favorite shows.

BOOM! HEADSHOT!

Boxee Shortcut Keys / Hot Keys
13 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

After scouring Boxee documentation and the message boards for 20 minutes, I finally was able to string together a comprehensive list of Boxee shortcut keys.

For the edification of other Boxee users and developers, that list is reprinted here:

Avid KeyboardMenus and Navigation

esc – back
-/+ – volume up/down
\ – window/full screen mode toggle
a – library status
h – home screen (refresh when already in home)
Arrow keys – up, down, left, right

Video Player

“P” – Play
“Q” – Queue
“I” – Info
“S” – Suspend/Exit Screen
“X” – Stops the currently playing media
“F” – Fast Forward (hit multiple times to go faster)
“R” – Rewind (hit multiple times to go faster)
“<- -> arrows” – Seek back, forward
“.” (period) – Next
“,” (comma) – Previous
‘{‘ – Move 10 secs back
‘}’ – Move 10 secs fwd
Space – Pause/Play
Backspace – Parent Directory

Adding Animation to an External Control
12 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

One of the elements I liked most in building the UI for AL TV was the drawer animation coming from under each thumbnail to provide the label of the ListItem. That UI mechanic is present all over the Boxee application and using it leaves more screen real estate to fit in a greater number of thumbnails.

Show me your drawers.

Show me your drawers.

The implementation was easy – two “slide” animations on the label and a background image for the ListItem in the panel container.

<animation effect="slide" start="0,-100" center="auto" time="200">Focus</animation>
<animation effect="slide" end="0,-100" center="auto" time="200">Unfocus</animation>

zOMG! Those thumbnails totally drop their drawers when you focus on them now.

Having opposite elements for Focus and Unfocus, the drawer slides cleanly out and back in as a ListItem receives and loses focus. When starting out developing my new Associated Press app, I knew I wanted to leverage a similar mechanic, but was unsure if it would fit with the app’s feel. The target length of experience, breadth of content, and probably userbase for each app probably didn’t share much on the Venn Diagram.

Making a news app look like a music video app wouldn’t please many users, after all, and the AP content lent itself to more of a scrolling ticker list design, a la Auto-Tune The News.

unfocused

Youkilis suspended?! But why?

A panel, album-cover like navigation was totally out for the AP experience, which I envisioned being brief, daily and ubersimple. Only one thumbnail visible from 30 feet away and text bigger than Jesus. A drawer would be great for the meta information like publish date and description, but those would be located in a label external to the list container. Without performing the animation within the list container, how would I be able to get the drawer effect I was looking for? The answer is the “condition” attribute. Just as the value of the animation elements used in AL TV were the conditions we desired – Focus and Unfocus – so to can we set arbitrary conditions using the Boxee API. Consider the following XML:

<animation effect="slide" start="0,-105" center="auto" time="200" condition="Control.HasFocus(111)">Conditional</animation>
<animation effect="slide" end="0,-105" center="auto" time="200" condition="!Control.HasFocus(111)">Conditional</animation>

Instead of the value of the animation element being our desired behavior, we instead choose “Conditional” and then use the condition attribute.

Ah.  With focus we can see the metadata, which tells us he was suspended for punching out a douchebag from the Detroit Tigers.  Well done drawer animation and well done Youkilis.

Ah. With focus we can see the metadata, which tells us he was suspended for punching out a douchebag from the Detroit Tigers. Well done drawer animation and well done Youkilis.

In this case, we use the Boxee API to determine if our list container does or does not have focus. If it does, pull out the drawer with the metadata. If it does not, slide that back up cleanly as the user clicks on other things. This simple animation did much for the professional, clean design of the app, except the slide would always happen before the list container was finished parsing the RSS feed. To prevent this, we can use the visible element to make sure it plays nicely and waits until the RSS is finished loading.

<visible>!Window.IsVisible(DialogProgress.xml)</visible>

This same attribute can be leveraged for all kinds of zooms, fades, and rotates to killer effect, limited only by your imagination in terms of the use cases. GetWindow, ActivateWindow, IsPaused and many other methods can trigger animations that would be useful to the user. You can see this tip in action with the Associated Press app, soon to be published in the App Box.

Boxee Secures $6M B Round
12 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

Boxee just announced the close of a second round of funding, infusing the company with another $6 million in cash.  Combined with the $4 million raised at the end of 2008, Boxee just hit eight figures to put the screws to the television status quo.  General Catalyst leads the round with participation by Boxee’s previous investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.

It’s a big round in this environment for a pre-revenue startup, an indicator of Boxee’s disruptive potential and solid traction thus far.  But more interesting to the Boxee developer is how the money intends to be spent.  Boxee CEO Avner Ronen details the goodies in store for the dev community:

Attracting more developers – While we have an App Store on Boxee, we know it needs some love. For Developers, we know it needs to be easier to develop and monetize apps. For users, we’re going to make it easier to find apps on Boxee. Last but not least we’re going to extend the APIs so everyone can do more with Boxee.

Sounds like some great stuff soon to be unlocked for us developers, undoubtedly soon to debut in Gonzee apps.

Site Launch
11 August 2009 by Rob Spectre

Woo! I finally decided to put up a site for my efforts in Boxee development.  This site is intended to be the primary resource for the collection of Boxee apps that I’ve released.  It will feature tips and tricks on developing Boxee, hints and helper for using Boxee and of course full release notes and support of the growing collection of Gonzee applications.

Welcome to gonzee.tv.

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