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Vista and ASF - Playback problem
Friday, Sep. 21, 2007

(The following was tested with Windows Vista. Details may be different for other versions)

I installed Windows Vista on my work computer a couple of months ago (see bb20070802_01.asp) and things have largely gone well so far. There have been a few rough edges, however, which brings us to the topic for today.

The Problem

I have a wireless webcam at home, a Linksys model WVC54GC (Ref. 1), connected to the home network, and pointing out the front window. It has a motion-detection feature, so if anything moves (a delivery truck, or the neighbor's dog, e.g.), it captures a brief 5-second video clip and sends it as an email attachment to my email address (Fig. 1 below). This is a convenient way to keep track of the house while on vacation, or just at work.

Fig. 1 - Motion Detected

Figure 1 - Motion Detected - Video clip attached

Viewing the video-clip is a simple matter of double-clicking on the attachment, which launches Windows Media Player v11 (WMP) and displays the video. This used to work as planned on Windows XP, but in Vista the Media Player shows just a black window, no video content is displayed (see Fig. 2 below).

Fig. 2 - Oops, no video!

Figure 2 - Oops, No video!

The mouse cursor blinks every so often, as if WMP is trying, but the display window remains blank. I tried solving the problem by saving the attachment to a folder on disk, then opening that saved file with WMP, but it made no difference.

So I gave up for a few weeks, until I found a solution today.

The Solution

This is not so much a solution as a work-around.

Some web searching led me to a discussion thread on the Linksys forums (Ref. 2) which contains not one, but two workarounds.

The first workaround, posted by Icebreaker, is to simply rename the file extension from .asf to .asx. I tried this (Fig. 3) on the file I had saved earlier, and, somewhat surprisingly, this works (Fig. 4 below).

Fig. 3 - Before renaming

Figure 3 - Original .asf filename extension

Fig. 4 - Renamed file extension to .asx

Figure 4 - File extension renamed from .asf to .asx

Fig. 5 - Video works now in WMP

Figure 5 - Video plays correctly in Windows Media Player after renaming

The second workaround, posted by JonChambres in the same discussion thread, is to use the VLC Media Player to play the .asf files.

VLC is a free open-source media player for a number of platforms, including Windows Vista (Ref. 3). I downloaded and installed it from their web site, and indeed it correctly plays the .asf files (Fig. 6 below).

Fig. 6 - .asf plays well in VLC player

Figure 6 - The .asf file plays OK in VLC player

This has a major advantage over the first workaround, since the file does not need to be renamed, I can now view the video by simply double-clicking on the attachment in the mail client.

While installing the VLC player I had taken care to un-check the default setting of associating various media formats to open with VLC, so I now needed to associate .asf files with VLC player. I did this in Windows Explorer by right-clicking on the .asf file, then selecting "Open With" and "Choose Program" (see Fig. 7).

Fig. 7 - Choosing default program for .asf files

Figure 7 - Choosing default program for .asf files

This brought up the next dialog (Fig. 8) where I chose VLC Player from the suggested programs. I took care to "check" the box labeled "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file", then clicked OK.

Fig. 7 - Choosing VLC Playter as default program for .asf files

Figure 8 - Choosing VLC Player as the default program

While not a true solution to the original problem (see Discussion below), this is an adequate workaround, and I can now view the .asf videos by just double-clicking on the files or attachments, and it launches VLC Player to display them (as in Fig. 6 above).

Discussion

The above is a workaround that does the job, but does not explain why Vista has problems playing .ASF format files in Windows Media Player. The ASF format (Ref. 4) is Microsoft's own format, and very widely used, so this is even more puzzling. All indications suggest this is a bug in Vista or Windows Media Player, yet it has gone un-patched for the last 11 months that Vista has been released. I have applied all required and recommended Vista and WMP patches. The version of Windows Media Player is the latest available (v11.0.6000.6336).

We cannot explain this entirely from the evidence available, but perhaps we can narrow it down a bit.

The first possibility is that there may be something wrong or non-standard with the these particular .asf files created by the Linksys camera.

[...to be continued...]

References

  1. Linksys WVC54GC camera - http://www.linksys.com/....
  2. Cannot playback recorded .asf video... http://forums.linksys.com/linksys/board/...
  3. VLC Media Player http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
  4. Advanced Systems Format (ASF) Specification http://www.microsoft.com/windows/.../asfspec.aspx

Comments
(in order from older to newest)

"Thanks a million. I am so glad my search is over. Since having vista I've had all sorts of errors. Thanks to you my grandson's video is playing on my windows vista."

Oct. 11, 2007, 8:22 AM by Iris K.

"Thanks so much for the fix! I've been battling this issue since I got my new laptop a few weeks back. I could not play the ASF video files my camera made to save my life. I had to swap back and forth between my new laptop and my older XP machine..."

Nov. 5, 2007, 1:03 PM by Kristy.

"Another alternative for Winamp users is to associate the ASF files to Winamp. Winamp still has the ASF codecs in it."

Dec. 19, 2007, 1:38 PM by Plan D.

"Thanks for this solution. I got my laptop a few months ago and so a bunch of headaches with Vista. What I donīt understand is how i could get a solution from a different source and not from Microsoft. We were using a different brand camera and the video plays very well in WMP11 on XP machines."

Jan. 24, 2008, 11:07 AM by Antonio Z.

"Thank you thank you thank you! VISTA has REALLY annoyed me this week with it's challenging personality. I've been a couple of hours trying to view these files and really annoying my wife."

Mar. 15, 2008, 9:13 PM by Julian T.

"Thank you for your post. This is the first info that has made sense to me about the issues I have been encountering for several months..... now to get M$ to fix it......"

Apr. 3, 2008, 8:58 PM by Kevin M.

"Congratulations in the name of all except Microsoft, for the solution. Just in case you got a little bit more of time, maybe you could answer also about the same type of files but, streamimg, I mean... a radio on line, for example: http://www.nave.cv/cvtelecom/. As we all said it was perfectly working fine on XP. Thanks for all"

Apr. 29, 2008, 9:23 AM by anonymous.

"Thank you for posting this solution! Just got a new computer with Vista and was pulling my hair out trying to view the webcam video."

June 16, 2008, 4:15 PM by CC.

"I'm a bit of a late-comer to the party, but thank you so much for this work-around! It's not just web-cams. I've been trying to view clips on WMP from my digital camera since I got Vista, around ago year now. You'd be amazed at the sense of relief, even joy (steady lad!) when I changed the extension, double-clicked and it ran! Another way round this of course, is to convert the files to .wmv etc or .mpg etc. There's loads of software in web-land for this, but then there's all that messing around! As asked above, why hasn't MS done something about this by now? Thanks again to the Basement Guys."

June 29, 2008, 8:56 PM by Chairman Mal.

"Nice one."

July 8, 2008, 2:31 AM by chris.

"Great - went for 2nd option - have the exact same cam and have been looking hi and low for a solution for Vista. Thx a million."

July 16, 2008, 4:36 PM by PJO.

"My daughter bought an Aiptek digital video recorder/camera/mp3player, and once the video files are uploaded windows movie maker and windows media player shows no picture all it will do is play the sounds. I changed the extentions and yes, windows media player will show the video and the sound but when I burned them onto a DVD and when the DVD was played on a dvd player it said error disk and would play it at all. I have been working on this for two days now. I am out of options and extremly unhappy with windows vista."

July 26, 2008, 12:53 PM by Diana.

"I can not solve the broblem with Vista and ASF on my computer. I would like to watch interesting sport videos from www.yle.fi/urheilu/mediasali/ but since the videos are in asf format, I can not see them. I have tried several different players and codec packages without any success by so far. Even VLC 0.9.4 player does not show the asf videos. I hope that someone could help me..."

Nov. 1, 2008, 4:03 AM by JJi.

"Thanks a lot, been looking for a fix to this problem for a while. Great post, thanks!!"

Dec. 4, 2008, 11:36 PM by Keith

"Thanks!!!!!"

Dec. 19, 2008, 2:44 PM by nsf

"Thank you for your work on this solution. My security cameras are now back up and running here at my house now that I can view the motion detection capture with VLC. Thanks!"

Mar. 7, 2009, 11:26 AM by D225

"Another twist. If you delete the ".asf" bit and have no file extension and then get WMP in Vista to play the file - it plays just fine!

My guess is that it is a Register problem in Vista.

Also XP Windows Explorer shows a snapshot of the file, but it does not do this in Vista - again pointing to a Register problem.

Because the asf files are played with the standard codecs - Vista has the codecs."

Jul. 12, 2009, 1:29 PM by JF

"tnx for this info. but this not work in my home premium vista. i only resolved the problem when i downloaded the codec from http://www.acelp.net after i installed it, wow my asf audio file play in media player 11 that i thought before it only play in xp. download & install the 32bit acelp codec and thats it the problem solved. gud day!"

Aug. 9, 2009, 4:18 PM by mathed1925

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