Around Christmas time I wrote up "My Experiences setting up Windows Media Center 2005" and it continues to be quite a popular item so I thought I write a wee update to a few common questions or observations I've had over the last 6 months...

So 6 months on...

Firstly, MCE 2005 continues to rock, once I figured how to get my home built system stable it has remained so and the system is constantly hammered and just keeps on doing what it should do. 

Secondly I'm not a big TV watcher, reckon most of it's drivel, but there is some great content but either too busy, bad timing or just forget, with MCE, I just record a series using the MCE Guide and watch what I want when I want (thanks EPGRunner), so my TV watching habits have changed significantly and I rarely watch live TV broadcasts.

Thirdly, when folk visit they are invariably drawn to it and being a "softie" it's just great demo fodder and cool to show off its great social interface especially after stumbling over Microsoft Bob:-)  If you follow Longhorn and Avalon then one day all UI will be silky smooth like MCE!!

So here's a quick update from my first blog item on Media Center...

1) I want to add MCE 2005 to an Active Directory Domain.

Well MCE 2005 is a consumer device so the common experience is not going to be about hooking it up to AD and the MCE Prod group moved to XP Home Edition to reduce cost to system builders.  If you have MCE 2004 you can add the system to a domain and then upgrade to MCE 2005 and life will be good and you'll have access to the domain dialogues etc. 

If you are starting fresh with MCE 2005 and you have a network card with a driver that is on the MCE 2005 setup disk then you have one chance at install time to get the system in to a domain but you wont be able to change the domain later as the domain UI bits don't get installed. 

I also run Windows Media Center Edition on my work laptop, the laptop NIC wasn't on the MCE Setup disk so hooked up a trusty old xircom PCCard Adapter that was supported out of the box by MCE and got it on to a domain that way.  You could also build your own RIS Server add the driver for your boot system image and then PXE boot your MCE system from the RIS Server, but yeah life is short.

2) Which codec did I get along best with.  Your mileage may vary depending on graphics card etc..

I've finally settled on PowerDVD 6, it's stable and just seems to work.  To get it working properly with the MCE remote control then make sure you go in to the "Cyberlink Settings" and set the "Video Stretching" mode to "CLPV" else you cant select DVD movie menu items properly.  Dunno why this made a difference but it did and I spotted a few other folk with the same issue.

nVidia DVD Decode 1.00.67 was OK, but I think at times it might have been responsible for the system becoming unstable and in general the codec wasn't up to the quality of others on the market.  I see that nVidia have a new beta DVD decoder here, from the quick search on www.thegreenbutton.com it seems to be a welcome update.

WinDVD 6.0. Again your mileage may vary but I struck an annoying issue that is pretty widely reported on various MCE sites.  When fast forwarding Recorded TV it would hang and MCE would report that it had lost the TV Signal.  You had to stop and restart the recorded program to get it play again - so that didn't last long.   But plenty of folk say it's a superior codex and have it working with MCE so worth giving it a whirl but try before you buy and check that you can pause and restart recorded TV without problems.

3) High Definition HD Reception over Digital Terrestrial in Oz

Both the video and audio work in Victoria for SBS and Channel Seven over High Definition broadcasts - I think the audio works because it's Mpeg encoded, I've lost track on the encoding standards used for HDTV.

4) What MCE addins do I use.

  • My Movies is awesome and IMHO the best MCE addin since sliced bread and I will be making a donation!! nuf said, thanks Gibbo and CV for a pointer to this:-)
  • Quite like the RSS Reader off the downloads from www.thegreenbutton.com
  • Also have Skype (awesome audio quality) and MSN IM 7.0 (for full screen video conferencing, shame no MCE integration)
  • bar that nothing else, think best kept simple

5) Disk space

In my original post I said that 160 gig disk was a bit light.  I partitioned with a 5 gig c: system partition and the rest for my media.  Well I spotted a 200 gig SATA drive for $A150 and couldn't help myself.  I have MCE set to record to my D: drive so I spanned (extended) my existing D: drive in include the new drive.  To do this you need to fire up the disk manager, change the drive types to dynamic, right mouse click the existing D: drive and select the extend option and select the newly installed (and unpartitioned) disk, easy:-)

6) An Additional Digital Terrestrial Tuner

Occasionally I want to watch another channel while recording and currently have only one turner in the system which at times can be frustrating.

I built the system using a bare bones Shuttle case, it has only one PCI slot and I'd like to add an additional tuner, my current plan is to to this with the HauppaugeTV Nova-T USB2 adapter.  You can put up to 3 tuners in a MCE 2005 system but they have to be of the same type, eg all digital terrestrial or all set top box etc...  Well we'll see and I'll have to save a few more pennies first...

6) and finally...

If it aint broke then don't break it, leave it alone - yeah, I know, tough for a boy but you'll go blind and MCE will stop working.  I do in fairness keep up to date with the latest ATI Graphics drivers and all windows update patches but that is about all nowadays as it's pretty sensitive to change...

Oh and Ian Dixon runs a great MCE blog site - see http://spaces.msn.com/members/iandixon/PersonalSpace.aspx