Over the last week, my thoughts have turned to what I'll be doing after MEDC 2005.  First and foremost, my attention will switch to the international MEDC events, the first of which I'll attend is Berlin, Germany on June 6th.  You can find out more about these "Best Of..." international events at http://www.medc2005.com/worldwide.html.

One of the things I'm planning to do after MEDC is build a Media Center PC.  Now let me start by saying I'm a fan of Tivo.  In fact, I was watching a little TV in my hotel room this morning and spent a second trying to figure out where the fast forward button was.  Tivo is a great PVR but recently I've started to find it limiting.  It can only play it's own proprietary file formats, it's very slow to copy content off of it and it's expansion capabilities are limited ... it's difficult to add new hard drives or upgrade the processor etc

Which made me think about the 0.5 TB file server I've got hosting a lot of music and video content in my apartment.  The box is currently only a PII-450 with a half Gig of RAM.  That's not really media server material apart from the disk space.  It's actually an old box that I used to use as a desktop machine which I'd stripped down to bare essentials and boosted memory and hard drive space.  With 4 high capacity hard drives it was starting to run a little hot in the old case so I bought a new one from Frys which has multiple exhausts, 4 in case fans and a special exhaust for the processor!  It's now running a lot cooler circa 33 or 34 degrees C.  I'd also added hard drive fans to the two 200 Gig drives to keep them cool.

Having got a respectable case which looks good in the living room, I'm now turning my attention to turning this machine into a full on Media Center PC.  First stop is an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB which will give me TV out capability from the box.  That means I can use it to view video files we already have stored on there right away without even needing Media Center.  Next stop will be a new MOBO/processor/memory.  That's the expensive step so any recos are welcomed.  I'm thinking about one of two Asus boards (here and here) with the former being preferred because it has more memory expandability.  I'm planning on a Gig of memory and an Intel processor ~2.8GHz or higher.  Hyperthreading preferred!  Final step is a TV Tuner Card, the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR150 MCE looks a likely choice.

So the next month or two look like they'll be pricey.  So why am I going to the effort :

* I like the fact that Media Center can play multiple video standards and is effectively open and codec based so future support of new files is easy

* I like the integration of pictures and music into a single experience with the tiled previews.  Tivo can do this but I don't think the experience is as slick

* I can keep my Media Center PC upgraded over time through adding processor, memory or hard drive capability

* I can run apps on my Media Center which means I can add new features

What will happen to my Tivo?  It's 275 hour so I'll probably move into into another room like our den or maybe the bedroom.

Wish me luck ...