In Media Center there's a page called “More Programs” that contains links to applications that have been installed for use in Media Center.  It's easy to add a link on that page to a web page that you might want to view from Media Center, perhaps the current traffic conditions (very useful in Seattle) or the weather forecast (normally rain in Seattle).

Links are stored as MCL files that contain a small bit of XML that looks like this:

<application url="http://server/path/page.html" name="Name of the page"
bgcolor="RGB(1,33,186)"
startimage=".\StartImage.png"
thumbnailImage=".\thumbnailImage.png"
sharedviewport="false">
</application>

Set the url to the page you want to use and change the name to the name you want to appear in “More Programs” - You can also specify a path to a PNG file to use as a thumbnail in the thumbnailImage and startimage attributes.  The image referenced by thumbnailImage will appear in “More Programs“ as the link your page and the one referenced by startimage will appear on the Media Center start page if your link appears there.  bgcolor specifies the background colour of Media Center (in this case a shade of blue similar to the one Media Center uses) - this will appear around the shared view port and around the transport controls that appear when you move your mouse - you can set it to any RGB value.  The shared view port is the area of the display that video and music appear in when they are not the primary experience - it appears in the lower left corner of the display.  You can tell Media Center to show or hide the shared view port while you are viewing the page you are linking to by setting the property to true or false.  In this case false is probably the best option as the page you are linking to will not be designed for Media Center and so the shared view port will hide some of the information on the page.  Don't worry though, your media will continue to play.

Now that you've created your MCL file you need to place it somewhere that Media Center can find it  That place is “c:\documents and settings\all users\start menu\programs\accessories\media center\media center programs\“.  You can also get to this folder from the Start menu by clicking the Start button, then All Programs, Accessories, Media Center and then right clicking on “Media Center Programs“ and clicking “Open“.

You can now view the page you've linked to by starting Media Center and going to “More Programs“ from the start page and you should see a link with the thumbnail image you specified (if you specified one - you don't have to).  Click the link to go to the page.  You'll probably be presented with a dialog saying that the page isn't designed for Media Center.  If you click “View Now“ you'll see the page right away, and if you click “View Later“ a link will be created on your desktop so you can go to the page later.  Pages that aren't designed for Media Center may not display very well when using a TV as a display and may be difficult to read from a distance.  I'll cover how to design a page for Media Center in a future post.