Syncing Windows Home Server, Zune and Windows Media Center!

Syncing Windows Home Server, Zune and Windows Media Center!

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Windows Home Server was a large part of CES this year. I was pleasantly embraced by all you fellow Windows Home Server users and I joyfully shared the new features sets that Power Pack 3 empowered your home server with. The beautiful thing about our booth is the ability to walk everyone step by step, on how to take advantage of these new features. For those of you who were not at CES, I’d like to take the time to share with you those steps that I shared with CES attendees. One of the key scenarios that got a lot of interest at the show was how a Zune music player can benefit from having a Windows Home Server around as well. This post goes into more detail about why and how it all works together.

As most of you probably know, Power Pack 3 is a free update for Windows Home Server that comes down from Windows Update. You can find install procedures within our blog, so please, if you have not updated your Windows Home Server yet, do so! For the rest of this post, I will assume you already have your Windows Media Center, Windows Home Server + Power Pack 3 and your Zune setup.

Before we get going in the details, let’s start by talking about why I’m so jazzed about our Zune + Home Server scenario. The key benefit in my mind is in how the Zune player can be a great way of transporting all of your recorded TV from a Media Center PC on the go. But I’m getting ahead of myself…Let’s paint a picture for you:

Before I left for CES earlier this month, I set several recordings of my favorite TV show to be recorded and then compressed to Zune format. I am not sure if you have ever used a Zune HD but I was extremely surprised with how long the battery lasts playing video. WOW! I consistently played 6 hours of content on the trip -no charging. My laptop wouldn’t have made it through my first connection flight let alone the whole trip. Yes, I had a connection because I bought my plane ticket a little late and had to arrive very early in the morning for setup. At least I was well prepared with my media!

So here’s the details of how I managed to stay completely entertained during my flight(s):

1. Open Windows Media Center and verify that you have your TV shows set to be recorded. Next, , go back to the main Windows Media Center menu and scroll up to your Home Server tiles. Select TV Archiving to begin.

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2. TV Archiving will display <Series>, <Programs> and <Settings>. “Series” will display the series you have selected to be recorded. Series are multiple shows or multiple episodes. Programs display individual recordings and will only apply to that one episode/recording. It is up to you to decide which one you would like to use or use both. I’ll be selecting Series recordings because I’m excited to watch a few seasons of my shows on my next trip. In order to continue, you will need to select at least program or series.

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3. Now that I have one selected, I can scroll over to settings to decide what I would like to do with these recordings. I personally like to Archive all recordings automatically, but this is another optional feature for you. I also have 6TBs of space on my home server… not that I’m bragging. :) *cough*

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4. “Create a compressed copy” is the feature we’re going to enable here. In order to take advantage of this feature, you have to move or archive your content to your Windows Home Server or you cannot select this. Since we’re working with a sweet Zune HD, set the format to Zune. Finally, scroll down a little further and set the saved folder to “Home Server Videos folder” (or one of your choice). To make things easier for this step by step, please select “Home Server Video folder” and click Save.

Now what we’ve done here is set Windows Media Center to record our shows and then make two copies of the show on our Windows Home Server; one in its original full quality format and the other in a smaller Zune format to preserve our space on our Zune. After all, we have lots of play time to take advantage of, let’s make the most of it.

I do want to call out a little secret that you can take advantage of. Some TV shows – especially those that are transmitted in HD - use AC3 audio and because of that, your shows might not compress. In order to fix that, you’ll need to download and install an AC3 codec. I know it sounds complicated, but it’s not and most importantly - it’s free. I personally downloaded mine from http://download.cnet.com/AC3Filter/3000-2170_4-190264.html?tag=mncol#userreview but you can get yours from wherever you like. [Note that the below process is not supported by Microsoft, and users should proceed with caution. This is presented merely as an option for users.]

Let’s take a quick sidebar to walk you through a quick step-by-step for installing the one codec that I’ve used on my own, AC3Filter:

1. After running the file you just downloaded click Next

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2. Leave all options default and click Next

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3. Then click Install

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4. With the codec installed, now we can move on to setting up the Zune! Your Windows Media Center is well on its way to creating your giant TV show collection in Zune compatible form. Let’s tell the Zune to look at that folder and to sync with it.

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Since you’ve already installed Power Pack 3, your Windows Home Server’s Video shared folder has already been added to your libraries. Zune software is setup! That was easy. You didn’t have to do anything!

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Here I have “X-Men” ready and converted. It does take a while (maybe overnight) to convert. I already had this one completed, so you might want to be a little patient.

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5. Finally, I can sync this video to my Zune by right clicking and selecting, “Sync with Zune HD”. Repeat this for all of the videos you would like to have on your Zune HD and enjoy your next flight to where ever you go!

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As an added bonus, you can even watch this newly created WMV file through your Zune software. How cool is that?!

JB

6 Comments
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  • pnear
    80 Posts

    I've been searching for a way to keep my Recorded TV directory synchronized with a Mobile Recorded TV share.  Theory is that at any time I can plug in my Zune and it will sync up with the latest and greatest recordings, then I can take them with me on a plane, train, etc to get caught up.

    I've come across several solutions that can convert everything in the Recorded TV directory to a mobile version, but the Mobile Recorded TV share continues to grow infinitely.  The desired behaviour would be that when a file is watched and deleted on the Media Center PC, it would also be deleted on the Mobile Recorded TV share.

    Does the archive function keep compressed versions in sync, or is it an archive of everything I've ever recorded on the Media Center?

    Thanks,

    Pete

  • jaxim
    57 Posts

    I'm not clear what the big advantage is to let Windows Home Server do the compression rather letting the Zune software do it.

    Pros:

    - Windows Home Server can compress recorded TV files with AC3 audio if you have the right codec whereas the Zune software cannot.

    - Automatically compresses the recordings so when you want to sync your Zune with a TV show, then you don't have to wait for the show to compress.

    Cons:

    - Once you are done watching the show on the Zune, you have to remember to delete 2 video files rather than 2.

    - Sometimes you don't always watch a TV show on the Zune, so again when you watch the show from Media Center, then you have to remember to also delete the Zune version.

    - Before going on a long trip, you can instead use the Zune software to compress only the video files you wish to watch - rather than using Windows Home Server. Sync your Zune the night before and therefore you only compress the videos that you wish to compress.

    So aside from the AC3 issue, I'm not sure if I would ever use this feature to pre-compress my videos. Does anyone see any other pros/cons?

  • jaxim
    57 Posts

    "The key benefit in my mind is in how the Zune player can be a great way of transporting all of your recorded TV from a Media Center PC on the go."

    Unless of course your TV recordings have AC3 audio. Then you cannot sync your recordings on the Zune. man, I miss this feature!

    thegreenbutton.com/.../389604.aspx

  • Anything marked "Copy Protected" will not compress and you will get fail notices in your activity history. At least with the AC3 filter it will not stall like it did before.

  • I didn't read alot on this but does this stop the DRM issue? I have a ATI HD Cable Card box and I can't get past the DRM from Media Center to another PC.

  • roteague
    26 Posts

    Any issues with configuration this under Vista?