Happy Birthday Windows Media Center

Happy Birthday Windows Media Center

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Windows Media Center Program Manager Charlie Owen highlights that this year Windows Media Center celebrates its 5th anniversary on September 3rd. With Windows Media Center's upcoming birthday, Ed Bott decided to take the opportunity to celebrate the event by writing about how Windows Media Center has taken over his living room.  Ed takes three pages to describe setting up Windows Media Center in his living room and his experiences using it. Ed's goal was to turn Windows Media Center into a centralized hub for all his digital photos, music and video - consolidating his data into a single digital entertainment point within his house. Those interested in Ed's specs and pricing for his Windows Media Center set up - he's posted them here. I'm going to follow in celebrating Windows Media Center's 5 year anniversary just like Ed by posting about my very own Windows Media Center set-up I have in my living room.

My Windows Media Center PC is a custom PC by Velocity Micro called CineMagix Grand Theater Entertainment System specifically for Windows Media Center. It is currently running Windows Vista Home Premium with the following specs:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2.13GHz
  • 2 GB DDR2 PC5300 DDR667
  • ATI Radeon X1950
  • ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner (for Digital CableCard features)
  • Integrated Intel High Definition 7.1 Channel Sound, with Optical and Coaxial Digital Outputs
  • 2 x 250GB Seagate 7200.10 16MB Cache SATA/300
  • Integrated 10/100/1000MBps Gigabit Ethernet Network Adapter

The PC cost $2,215 and currently rates a 5.1 on the Windows Experience Index. As noted above, my Windows Media Center PC has CableCard abilities. Through Comcast (who supplies me with the CableCard), I have ability to watch and record HD content through my ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner. I plan on covering my experience with CableCard and recording HD content through Windows Media Center in a later post but it is absolutely amazing. I was able to completely ditch the digital cable box supplied by Comcast replacing it with my Windows Media Center PC.

   

Connected to my Windows Media Center PC is my 42-inch LG HDTV. It fully supports 1080p (1920x1080 screen resolutions) which is what my Windows Media Center PC is running at. The HDTV essentially is the monitor for my Windows Media Center PC.

Just like Ed, I use the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000. This keyboard is perfect for Windows Media Center. It is light, thin, and has some great quick-access buttons for launching essential Windows Media Center features like the Guide and play controls. For a complete review of the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 - Andre Da Costa has an excellent review on his blog.

I also have a second Windows Media Center PC - my main desktop PC in my office (the one with the dual monitors you've seen in all my videos). It currently runs with an ATI TV Wonder 650. When I'm working, I have Windows Media Center running on the second monitor. The ATI TV Wonder 650 is capable of over-the-air HDTV but unfortunately I don't have the proper antenna to get this capability. But I have the ability to watch and record standard definition TV.

So to continue the celebration of Windows Media Center's upcoming birthday - tell me about your Windows Media Center set-up. How do you have Windows Media Center running in your home? I'm really interested in hearing about other people's set-ups.  

23 Comments
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  • Even though this post is two years old I have been searching for this info for a whil. Thank Brandon!

    Comcast is now announcing that cable will no longer work with analog tuners. I have two media centrs (I love them!) but with dual analog tuners.  It looks like I have to either upgrade to a higher end PC or get a new tuner card? I am unclear.

  • Brandon,

    Can Windows Media Center be configured to allow dual HD "picture-in-picture" (or picture-next-to-other-picture) on a TV?  Thanks.

    Travis

  • Nay Uk
    2 Posts

    hello, i'm not sure exactly how to change them. i know a bit about computers but vista is very, confusing. media center says, "no photos were found" even though it displays how many photos are supposed to be in there. any futher help would be great. thanks

  • Nay Uk, have you made sure that your Media Center library is configured to look for the images in the specific folder that has those .jpg's of yours?

    - Brandon

  • Nay Uk
    2 Posts

    Why can't I get media center to display my .jpg's?.When using Media Center I cant view any of my jpgs pictures.Now It say "no picture were found". I can't see only media center.

    please help me.Thank you.

  • kirste
    1 Posts

    I had the same problem regarding Vista Media Center not displaying any of my jpg/jpeg pictures and I just found a fix that worked from this link:  http://www.mediacenterstuff.com/faqs.htm

    The Q&A that worked for me is:

    Q: My JPG images will not display. How do I fix that?

    A: This seems to be a common problem with systems that have Office and/or PhotoShop. You can fix it easily...

    Run REGEDIT from the Start/Run dialog.

    Expand HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, scroll down to JPG and JPEG entries.

    Click on JPG or JPEG entry - on the right should be an entry for PerceivedType.

    That entry should say "image".

    If it's not there, add it by right-clicking on JPG or JPEG and selecting New/String Value.

    Enter "PerceivedType", then press Enter.

    Double-click on PerceivedType, then in the dialog enter "image".

    Make sure you check both JPG and JPEG - you may need to fix both.

  • davo
    1 Posts

    I'm having the same problem as Rowdy (Aug 30). ie. I am running Vista Home Premium. When using Media Center I can't view any of my jpgs pictures. I can see the folders but it says 0 items in the folder.

    This is really really annoying. Please please someone help.

  • Tac-Elf
    7 Posts

    Oh and one other item:

    5.  Partner with Windows Home Server team to have media center services be part of that OS.  If that's not possible, get Vista (and thus media center) the storage capabilities of WHS.  In otherwords, there's shouldn't be a reason why WHS couldn't be your home server + media center server.  Seems like an obvious scenario all combined into one box.  A real opportunity...

  • Tac-Elf
    7 Posts

    Generally I'm happy with Vista Media Center (VMC) and have been running it 24/7 since Vista shipped, with little downtime.  Of course, there's always room for improvement:

    1.  Fix the wake-on-lan issues when an extender tries to connect to the VMC box.  It never succeeds in sustaining a connection in this situation, though it wakes the machine properly.  Thus I'm forced to keep the VMC box running 24/7.  That's between 1-2kWh wasted per day depending on a box's idle power usage.

    2.  Work out some solution with CableLabs so I don't have to waste the investment I've made in my non-OEM PC.  I would glady pay Comcast their digital subscription if I just had cable-card ability w/o having to spend $2500 on a new OEM digital cable PC.  Really:  It's just the motherboard/BIOS that needs certification...

    3.  Partner with the XBox team to get well-known codecs (like DivX) to work over an XBox 360 extender session.

    4.  Partner with whoever it takes so the DVD juke-box scenario works over an XBox 360 or other generation 2 extender.

  • Very poor function. Even not good than the free XBMC on old XBOX console.

  • Rowdy, are you storing your photos in your "Photos" directory under your user profile? Windows Media Center by default should pick your photos up if so. If you're using an entirely different directory - you may need to go into the settings of Windows Media Center to find and add the directory so that Windows Media Center finds your photos.

  • Darn it I really need that setup, or even cable, but Im to cheap, nice setup though :-)

    Actually Il'd settle for OTA ATSC tuner that outputs an SD signal, but currently the set top boxes but are too expensive ($200 at most stores).

    Ild love to play around with Media Center more, but the OTA analog signal I get without cable is pretty bad so its not really worth the effort until I buy cable or a OTA ATSC tuner.

  • rowdy
    2 Posts

    Hi,

    I am running Vista Home Premium. When using Media Center I cant view any of my jpgs pictures. I can see the folders but it says 0 itmes in the folder. This is really annoying. Please help.

    Rowdy.

  • Lucus1
    1 Posts

    Looking forward to reading your experience with CableCard and recording HD content through Windows Media Center using the ATI Wonder Digital Cablecard Tuner.  I too have Comcast and am in the market for a HTPC, but am on the fence for buying one with this recent technology.  I'm actually having a tough time finding a positive review on the subject (other than this one), and have little faith in Comcast installing a CableCard in a pc.

  • I too am having trouble figuring out how to get the mouse released from a full screen Media Center display.  I have two monitors connected to an xfx8600 video card running Vista Ultimate.  When I have Media Center maximized I cannot use the other monitor since the mouse will not move to it from the maximized Media Center window.  Any suggestions?

  • hen770
    3 Posts

    adir1

    you should have the ability of HDCP at your screen ("secure DVI" imply that i think) for watch HD content.

    though that today it is unessential if you using analog connectors, though if you using digital connectors (DVI, HDMI) you have to be with HDCP abilities, if not the content would degrad to half of the original content (that is mean that HD content will look like DVD).

  • adir1
    9 Posts

    Thanks for info.

    Just to clarify, I am mostly interested in HDTV, and not standard tuner. Over the air antenna is not working well for me, probably due to excessive distance from HDTV stations.

    Thus, I am trying to figure out my options with getting HDTV from our Comcast cable provider, without buying their silly DVR.

    So if I purchase OEM PC as mentioned, and hook it to my plasma via DVI, I should see full glory HDTV and be able to record it, right?

  • adir1, to answer some of you questions -CableCard TV Tuners are currently only available in OEM PC's (like Velocity Micro, Dell, or HP to name a few).

    In regards to DVI, you're 42" plasma TV and Windows Vista - it should all work together although I'm not familiar with "secure DVI". There is no DRM in Windows Vista that would prevent this from working.

    You can go out and buy a TV tuner PC card and put it into your PC (such as the ATI TV Wonder 650 I also mentioned above) that does standard television just fine.

    - Brandon

  • adir1
    9 Posts

    Looks like the ATI Tv Wonder Digital Cable Tuner only comes pre-installed on PCs. So that means I can't custom build my machine and stick it in there, right?

    But there is even a bigger issue for me, looks like. My 42" plasma only comes with DVI (although some documentation says 'secure' DVI or something). Will that suffice for Vista's content management DRM?

  • I love using Media Center - when i first bought my new system w/ Vista & Media Center - i never expected to use Media Cetner as my primary way of watching tv!

    Currently I have my LCD tv connected to my computer via VGA cable, and thats how I watch tv.

    I have two questions that maybe you'd be able to help me with.. You mention that you have two screens, one screen always has windows media center on while your at work - how is that possible? WHenever i have media center on, the mouse is always restricted to the screen that has media center.. Do you just not have it in full screen mode? I think its annoying how if MC is in full screen mode you are unable to use the other monitor to do anything.

    Secondly, how didyou get the background image on that first image on the post? I cant seem to figure out how to get any background on MC except the default image.

  • Brytown
    32 Posts

    I use media center all the time! Nice machine!!!

  • I've actually been using XP Media Center 2005 with a 20" CRT TV (yup, horrible setup). I intend to buy a new TV some time during December. Until then I guess I have to live with the small text size.

  • Titan602
    34 Posts

    Once I switch my ISP get wireless internet, I'm going to use Media Centre on my Xbox 360!