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Tag: Windows Media Center

Moving from Windows Media Center to Linux Media Center

Posted by Alan at 4:34 PM on November 13, 2011

When I first decided to put a computer in my home theater cabinet I wasn’t sure how much we would really use it.  After all, I wasn’t ready to give up DirecTV so I wasn’t concerned with the DVR functionality because there is no DirecTV tuner available.  What I wanted was to have all of our photographs viewable on the TV, our music (almost 100 GB) to be playable through our receiver and speakers, and our DVD’s to be ripped and placed in an easier-to-access location than a drawer.

Consequently, I bought a cheap used desktop (as in non-tower case) computer off of Ebay.  My first goal was price and my second was something that would sit on a shelf in the cabinet with the HD DVR, receiver, and the like.  Because I wasn’t sure how much we would use it, I went cheap – a Pentium 4 processor system.  I did some back-end upgrades when I received it – I added RAM and upgraded the video and sound cards to give it SPDIF audio out and DVI video out.  This got the video and audio into the A/V receiver via a SPDIF cable and a DVI to HDMI cable.  The system has been solid for two years running Windows 7 Ultimate, with Media Center set to open on Startup.  I have customized the software also – Media Center Studio is great for tweaking the WMC interface, and MyMovies is a much better DVD library than WMC’s built-in library.

The computer is now outdated – okay, maybe it was when I bought it – and we use it EVERY day.  I am faced with two options – buy a new computer or scale back the load on the existing one.  In the long run, I will be buying a new PC.  In the short term, however, I am considering scaling back the software – not the functionality, just the processor and memory intensive parts of it.  In fact, I will be adding functionality while my computer does less work to run it.

I stumbled on Linux Media Center a couple of years ago and was intrigued by it, but never took the plunge.  Since then I have checked back with their website periodically and watched it evolve.  I have marveled at the functionality it brings that isn’t present in Windows Media Center.  There’s control of the home security system, home automation, telephones, and more.  Sure, some of that can be added to Windows Media Center, but it’s added – not built-in.  And, in some cases, it will cost you.  Linux Media Center also comes with mobile apps for smartphone and tablet use, while WMC doesn’t.  There are unofficial WMC apps, like the MyRemote for Android, which I use, it’s not quite the same as a full-featured, fully-integrated app.

So, I am now contemplating taking that plunge that I have so long considered.  Over the next few days I will install Linux Media Center and will begin exploring and writing about what I encounter and what I like and don’t like.  In the meantime, I have posted a couple of random screenshots below and if you want more information, you can visit LinuxMCE.com.

Boxee And Hulu Integration In Media Center

Posted by angelo at 6:30 PM on September 15, 2010

If you’re a Windows Media Center user then you, no doubt, are disappointed by Hulu‘s snubbing of the platform.  You probably also have waited for Boxee to arrive.  After all, Netflix jumped on board about a year ago.  Why not the other major players?

Netflix is always quick to jump into whatever platform they can get themselves on.  They get it.  I’m not saying Hulu doesn’t get it, because I think they do.  But, they are handcuffed by NBC and Fox.  With the recent release of Hulu Plus came the announcements of the platforms they are now available on.  After avoiding it for the first couple of years, they are no longer afraid of getting on actual living room TV’s.  Well, they told themselves they were avoiding it, but every geek in the world was already watching them on the TV.  So where is the deal with the biggest computer company in the world?  With the recent release of Media Center embedded and the first set-top boxes starting to leak out this could be a major cash-cow for Hulu.  Think if they made Hulu Plus a part Media Center and Media Center embedded!

Boxee, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same strict, old-fashioned bosses that are behind Hulu.  They jumped straight onto the AppleTV platform, but beyond that and PC’s they didn’t seem to seek out partners anywhere.  And, of course, they didn’t actually partner with Apple – it was a hack that Boxee pushed.

So, Netflix seems to be the only forward-thinking company in this space.  Maybe Amazon, since they have partnered with a few set-top boxes and Blu-ray players, but they also have not jumped onto Media Center.  Now all of these are available in Media Center via pretty simple hacks and plug-ins.  You can find instructions for Hulu here, Boxee here and Amazon Unbox here.  I use the Hulu plugin and Amazon hack on my own HTPC.  I expect that, sooner or later, both Hulu and Amazon will come to Media Center, but with the soon-to-be-released Boxee Box, I am not sure they will be looking to partner with anyone.

What Will GoogleTV Mean for Media Center?

Posted by Alan at 6:42 PM on July 13, 2010

What will the impending release of Google TV mean for Windows Media Center?  We have heard everything from set-top box killer to another Boxee to a complete failure.

In short, it probably won’t mean much to the Media Center community right off the bat.  But, that could change as time goes by.  And not just for Media Center users, but for all HTPC enthusiasts in general.

The SDK is expected early next year and I would imagine that many Media Center developers will begin projects soon after that.  What will those projects look like?  I have no idea.  But, I have no doubt it will be ported into Media Center in short order.  It probably will run on your current HTPC hardware.  The only required “upgrade” may be to an HTML5-compliant browser.

It may not be a competitor to Media Center, but instead, a partner.

I think the biggest question, at the moment, may surround Bing.  Yes, Bing.  In case you haven’t noticed, they have recently added a LOT of interesting media features.  Try searching for a TV show and you will find links to sites where you can watch episodes of the show, such as Hulu, the network website, etc.  You’ll also find episode guides, links to purchase the DVD’s, and all sorts of other relevant information.  But the big one is the links to watch episodes.  If this can be packaged up and added into Media Center then it may do what Google TV will do and beat them to the punch.

But, I doubt that is all that Google TV will be.  We won’t know for a while yet, but I suspect Google may have one or two surprises in store.  And, with it being open-source, developers can added a lot more surprises.  It can only mean better things for HTPC enthusiasts.