CenterStage: developing the Mac Media Center interface

MacityNet talks with Ivan Guajana, one of the several european developers involved in the Center Stage project. [Italian version on this page]

center stage

Well Ivan, you’re kwnow among our readers as you wrote some news and reviews for MacityNet, how are you involved in this project? And when it started at all?
Did The idea come out before or after the presentation of Mac mini?

The project was started on January 13, 2005 by Neil Curry, also known as Mr Zippy, so right after the Mac mini was presented to the public. I think that the Mac mini itself was the missing piece for a media center built on top of the Macintosh platform.
I am working at the front end part of the project, currently developing an OpenGL-based view, which is able to show, animate and apply filters to images.

At this time my contribution to the project has slightly diminished due to exams, but I am going to put much more time into coding for the CenterStage project as soon as the examination session is over.

How many developers are working on it and the teamwork is accomplished?

According to the Developer page ( we are at least 11 developer working on the application itself. Other people work hard to maintain the website updated and to write the necessary documentation, for both end users and developers willing to extend CenterStage.

How the software is structured?

CenterStage has been thought from the beginning to be as flexible as possible. The flexibility comes from a plugin-based structure, which allows people to write their own functionalities for the system. The application is logically split in front-end and back-end, the former being responsible for the presentation of the data coming from the latter. In this way we can have our movies stored in a mac somewhere and access to them using the front-end from another mac. A stand-alone server is planned.

When launched, CenterStage will take over the whole screen and will allow the user to browse his/her movie collection, listen to music, play slideshows of the images stored in iPhoto’s library and so on. The flexibility of the system allows any kind of functionality to be added, so expect plugins to browse pictures not stored in the iPhoto library, integration with popular console/arcade emulators such as MAME, and others.

Another interesting feature of CenterStage will be the ability to have modules such as weather , stock market, RSS reader which will gather information from the web and present it to the user during his activities. For instance, imagine having a ticker at the bottom of the screen showing the latest headlines from Macity while you watch a DVD or TV show.

Is there room for plug-ins, skins and add-ons?

Definitely yes! I cannot stress this too much. Anyone with some Objective-C/Cocoa knowledge will be able to add his/her own functionality to the system. We will be working on ways to make the skin creation process as easy as possible, allowing users with little to no knowledge of programming to create skins.

The target is a multimedia server but what about the integration of VOIP, iChat, telephony gizmoes like Phlink or Web services like Meteo, Traffic?

All of these are functionalities which will be somehow present in CenterStage, either built-in or courtesy of some developer writing plugins. Once the developer’s documentation is out, we expect the number of plug-in developers and therefore available plug-ins to grow fast, because there is a lot of interest around this project.

Many users worldwide are using the Mac mini as “CARputer”.. there is space also for the integration of  GPS?

Sure, a GPS plugin is something which could be developed.

Still talking about the “automotive market” Is the interface conceived also for easy use on small touchscreens like the ones you can install on a car?

The primary goal of the project is to serve as a media center for the home, so the the interface is not specifically designed for small screens. However, I don’t see any problem in creating a skin for such an application. The default skin could also work, according to the resolution of the screen. The interface should scale well.

How long will it take to get the final version?

For the beginning of the next week we plan to release a first public alpha version of CenterStage, featuring a completed framework to build plugins upon. It will allow movie playback and should give an idea of the potential of the system. There is currently no precise release date for a final version, but a version featuring the most important functionalities might be released sometimes in April.

Will CenterStage be in English only?
No. Many people have already volunteered to translate CenterStage in many languages and Italian is among of them.

What does CenterStage have more than other windows/linux-based media center solutions?
I think that the real advantage of CenterStage will be the platform it is based on. MacOS X is a great operating system and we are looking forward to integrate many new technologies coming in Tiger, which are nowhere to be found on other platforms. Furthermore, it will be more stylish, as it is usual for Macintosh applications ;-)

Where can people get more information?
I would definitely suggest to have a look at the project’s official site, where you will find many more details.
Have a look at the complete feature set, the road-map, many beautiful GUI mockups and so on. You can also get the latest version of the code from the subversion repository and compile it yourself using Apple’s XCode.

How can people contribute to the project?
Help is always appreciated, not only for the coding part, but also for testing, documentation writing, feature suggestions. Visit the forum linked from CenterStage’s homepage and contribute to the project!

The CenterStage First public Alpha Release will be ready for your download starting from March 17 this page.

The mininum requirements are:a Mac with PowerMac 4 1 GHz, 256mb RAM, 32mb AGP graphics
OS X 10.3.x

center stage screen

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