Windows Cardspace Meets Windows Vista Media Center

It's again time to post a new blog entry. This time I thought it may be interesting to see how Windows Cardspace can be used together with applications built on top of the Media Center Presentation Layer (WMCPL). So and why do I think that Cardspace can be of very good use especially in a […]

It's again time to post a new blog entry. This time I thought it may be interesting to see how Windows Cardspace can be used together with applications built on top of the Media Center Presentation Layer (WMCPL). So and why do I think that Cardspace can be of very good use especially in a Media Center scenario? The answer is pretty straight forward because Cardspace not only enables you to manage information (claims) about you in an efficient and transparent way it also allows you to do this without necessarily using your keyboard.

No think of Media Center. Media Center is targeted to be used in a living-room in a leaned back scenario to provide what we call a 10-foot experience. So rarely will you have a keyboard at hand when it comes to the use of Media Center applications that require registration or authentication or more broadly spoken any sort of information about you. And when talking to customers we encourage application developers not to rely on the keyboard at all but only on the remote control.

So now I think it becomes clear that Windows Cardspace either with managed cards or even self issued cards could offer a great benefit to the user and the relying parties. So that's why I tried to have Windows Cardspace working in a simple WMCPL application. So here's what I did and what the issues were.

First of all I thought it would all be pretty much straight forward, create a Windows Communication Foundation Service using a Separation with the configuration representing my infrastructure (eg. certificates, etc.), deploy the service, start-up Visual Studio 2008 and use the great feature of "Add a Service Reference" which configures all the client side configuration stuff for you and then wire some UI up to visualize some meaningful data extracted from the security token. Sounds easy however there is on little roadblock in the scenario that doesn't make things that easy and that is that a WMCPL media center application is executed in a special media center runtime container and is deployed as a DLL which is executed by this runtime process called "ehexthost.exe". Therefore you cannot simply provide an app.config file with all the WCF/Cardspace stuff in it with your DLL as it will not be picked up by the runtime. So you better be off providing the configuration in code which is also not very difficult but it is more effort to do. However you could anyway let Visual Studio 2008 create the XML config for you and then you can use this as a template for transferring it into C# or VB.Net code. In my case the relevant code looks like this (without most of the optional binding attributes which are usually in the config when you create the service reference using Visual Studio):

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Microsoft, Windows Cardspace, Windows Vista, Media Center, Architecture, WCF, .Net 3.0, Security, Visual Studio, Cardspace, Windows Media Center, WMCPL