Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Rocks!

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Rocks!

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Okay...I have a confession to make. To-date, I've purchased four TiVo units, and I'm currently running the DirectTV DVR that includes the TiVo service. My wife and I are both TiVo addicts, our friends are sick and tired of us talking about it, and I firmly believe that it's the only way to watch TV. Yes, I realize that it runs Linux, but you know what? It's an excellent product, and they've nailed the user interface. However, although the standalone edition allows you to browse digital media, the DirectTV version does not, so we're left with only a partial solution.

As you can imagine, I've followed our Ultimate TV and Windows Media Center releases quite closely. Believe me when I tell you that I'd love nothing more than to purchase our own stuff. However, I refuse to spend my money on something that I don't believe will offer me a real benefit, and until the recent release of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, I didn't believe that we were there yet.

I had heard so many good things about the 2005 edition (for example, see Paul Thurrott's review) that I decided to try it myself. The software and hardware are now available for OEM sale which makes it much easier to evaluate (as a matter of fact, the software is also available to MSDN subscribers). I've always had a problem with the thought of buying a whole computer just to play back my media. Part of the reason I really like TiVo is because it's an appliance that requires no maintenance on my part. I already have a few computers to maintain...I don't need another one. And I didn't look forward to having a computer with all of its associated cables in my home theater. I want something that looks more like A/V equipment (frankly, like TiVo).

Because of a recent computer purchase, I now have an extra P4 1.8GHz machine in need of a job. Although the video card doesn't have a built-in tuner, it does have S-VIDEO out, making it a perfect test machine. So tonight, I installed MCE 2005 and connected it to our home theater. The installation was a breeze, the configuration took only a few minutes, and the interface is easy to use from a distance. And even though it isn't an "appliance," Windows XP Service Pack 2 now allows me to configure the system for automatic updates which makes maintenance simple.

So you can appreciate our situation, my wife and I have ripped over 1,600 CDs to a media server (WMA 192Kbps), we have about 9,000 digital photos, and around six hours of digital video. I'd really like to be able to browse all of our media on our 64" HDTV. We've tried a number of solutions in the past (like the Turtle Beach AudioTron, a good device, but not for that many songs), but we always gravitate back to the Media Center interface. It's clean, logical, and intuitive.

Well, after playing with the interface and working with media over our 802.11g wireless network, I can tell you that we've finally nailed it with the 2005 edition. It's trivial to find music, even among 1,600+ CDs. We're both visual people, so we enjoy the ability to select CDs using the album covers. But, it's also easy to use the remote to search by artist. Response is snappy, and I'm pleased to find that my MSN Radio subscription works just fine. I'm not sure if I'd ever use it, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that my favorite blog reader, NewsGator, is one of the online services. It's also a straightforward exercise to configure network shares, so I can distribute media across more than one device. Slick.

I'm sure that I'll eventually purchase something like the HP Digital Entertainment Center z500 series, because it looks and feels more like the appliance that I'm after. Couple that with a few of our new Media Center Extenders, and we can proliferate media throughout the entire house. Tell there anything better than a gadget addiction!?

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  • Did you get it to record TV from Comcast yet? I dunno we had this discussion I am still sceptical. Comcast has those encrypted channels like HBO and so on I would still like to record and watch them.
  • I am in almost the exact situation, addicted to TIVO and using AudioTron for the music.

    Are you able to view/record DirecTV channels inside a MediaCenter box ?
    Can you watch TV while playing a CD ?

  • "Yeah Microsoft"

    Now, once you realize that the media center PCs are way over priced, then the value proposition drops again. And TiVo's 300$ price point becomes a lot more palatable for the people making 40K a year.

    A hacked Xbox with a Media player is gaining ground because of the utility of the xbox as a sub-PC... thats where the money is... appliances, not full blown PCs for doing things that dont NEED a full blown PC.

    Ask yourself, "Do I use this full blown Media Center PC for anything that couldn't be done using a much smaller, much cheaper, much less processing power appliance?"

    I would venture a guess that your not developing C# applications on your 64" HDTV. I would also guess your not hosting an ASP.Net application on your media Pc.

    NOW Consider Media Center 2005 for XP embedded... THEN you might have something.

    Build a 500$-700$ box that does it all, and is FOCUSED (like the media center PC's are) on Media, and managing media, and displaying media.
  • JC...I don't know. I'm not using it for the TV least not yet. I'm guessing that you can have the Media Center PC control your DirectTV box.
  • I like everything Media Center 2005 promises, but until it works natively with Directv they way a TiVo does, I'm staying away from it. Although it would be realy nice if they get out some hardware with Directv/Dish support.
  • I have been researching XP MCE for the past month now, and was thinking about putting it on my x-mas list, but i have a question. I have another computer with all my videos on it, am i going to be able to have those video files shared and be able to watch them on my media center, or shoud i just copy the files over?
  • Kevin...that was one of my questions too. Fortunately, you can add both local and network folders to your media list. So you can leave the media where it already is. Just remember that video uses more bandwidth than audio alone, so you'll want to make sure your home network is up to the task.
  • Yes you can record DirecTV programs, although not any in high definition. I think you hit the nail on the head when speaking of the interface. Seems to me that while other devices like TIVO can record programs, it's all about the interface. BEing able to seamlessly integreate all your music, movies and streaming content is one of the biggest advantages of MCE. Plus, you can stream content to other rooms using the same interface and use a remote. I dont agrere that MCE is overpriced.

    Yes TIVO is less expensive but it doesnt do nearrly the same things. Sure you can network TIVO to your computer to play content, but it;s limited with the file types. And you have to manually load them into TIVO just to play them through the interface.

    One other point. More content providers are hopping aboard and priding content for MCE. Sure you can just watch content on your PC, but this new content is integrated within the MCE interface. Again, it boils down to a more uniform user experience in my opinion.

  • Oh man, I just got an HP Media Center 2005 for around a grand. So far so good. Has Athelon 64 3400+ 2.4 ghz. Runs real Quiet, not a speed demon, but no slouch, so far pretty stable, reliability unknown only had for a week but has been running constantly. HP Model M1050e. The software bundle really bites. It's all limited to trial to purchase, for example, Office Smaill Edition 3 month trial, Norton Secuirty and Virus protection are the same scenerario.

    Rumors, Microsoft may implement Media Center 2005 or future revisions on the next Generation of Xbox
    Xbox 2 Basic
    Xbox 2 Middle
    Xbox 2 Media Center

  • I'm currently trying to decide between yet another TiVo (HD this time) or a Media Center PC. My biggest concern is whether or not Media Center can control the DirecTV set-top box. I currently have a few TiVo's, some integrated with DirecTV and some not, but even the non-integrated TiVo Series 1 can control the set-top box serially or via IR. That is the type of functionality I'm looking for with Media Center and if can't provide that then the integration between the two must be cumbersome as you'd have to change the channels on the DirecTV receiver manually, correct?
  • Anyone know the proper sequence if you want to whipe out the machine and reinstall?

    Do you use the original Media Center install first, followed by SP2, and then 2005?
  • Anyone know how import media center files into a video editor?
  • can you set windows mce 2005 to record live tv without commercials?
  • I'd like to know that also. That's why I'm trying to import the media center files into a video editor, so I can edit out the commercials.
  • Won't change channels I spent hours upon ours with HP tech support redoing some big shister called me and said dirrectv is not compatible give me a break you mean to say I got ripped off again by HP and microsoft??? there must be a way for the media center to change the channel on my dirrectv 10 reciever anyone please help HP can't the have not the knowledge in there support.
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