Recently a few friends of mine have got their hands on Windows 7, and are loving it. One of the common things I am seeing these guys do is to setup Windows 7 PC’s in their living room, next to the PC, to play their movies and record live TV. Nothing new, and something I have avoided until now.
The reason I am now looking at this is because my friend and neighbor (hi Vic) decided to shove down my throat that he had something setup before me. Rightly so, I am meant to be “Mr. I.T” around these parts and he was showing me the new improved Windows 7 Media Center and a cool plugin called Media Browser before I had even heard of it. My dear wife can blame Vic for the entire evening last night, and day today, spent trying to get this thing up and running…..
Right there…. that is my first comment about this whole Media Center lark. Its meant to be easy, and at one level it is…. setting up an Xbox 360 to connect to your PC to play movies is just fine, setting up Photos and Music is also pretty easy, but that is where the ‘easy’ ends, and the ‘pain’ starts. A few times today, I shouted quite loudly at my computer.
Not all files are the same….
After you get Media Center talking to your Xbox, you would expect the Xbox to play everything the PC can right? Wrong. AVI files are not the same, there are various encoders and types of AVI files. Such a pain in the hole, I cannot tell you! The fact that Microsoft do not update the Xbox quickly to support new formats is beyond me, they really should! That said, the fact that there are so many formats is also beyond me. (Just look at this one example of how to get MKV files playing to get the idea of the hellishness that it is!)
Obviously, I am not going to re-encode all my movies to a lesser format just so they can play on it, and I am not (right now) going to put a PC in the living room, though this is the real solution….
So, the answer, even though it sucks, is to install an outdated piece of software on your Media Center PC. If you follow this guide on installing Transcode360 on Windows 7, it will work (it did for me anyway). Transcode360 “streams” the file from your PC, converting it on the fly. It works, but its a hack! Lets hope MS improve this on the Xbox 360, and soon. Not being able to fast forward and rewind is a massive pain on the extender. I can see reference to that issue in google going back to 2004!
Mediabrowser, the new cool…..
Mediabrowser is a plugin for Windows Media Center that takes away the dull(ish) look and gives you backdrops, cover-art, Meta-data for your movies and TV series. Here are some images from the add-in just to give you an idea of its coolness….
Bottom line, its cool…. but I think I mentioned that.
It is not without problems (remembering of course that it is free!). Notably on the PC it runs really quickly. On the Xbox as an extender, or the Linksys extender its a lot slower, though still usable. I had to disable the opening enhanced screen in the settings because this hung the extender. I am hoping that the team writing this will improve the speeds on extenders!
Also, on the extenders I got an error every time I tried to load the Mediabrowser plugin. (I cannot remember the exact error), but to get it working I had to give full user permissions to the folder C:ProgramDataMediaBrowser on my Media Center PC to fix this issue.
How about the MetaData………?
Well, this is the easy part (relatively)! Another bunch of talented coders have written a tool called MediaBrowser
This tool allows you, on the Media Center PC, to download current Metadata for your movies and TV Series so that Mediabrowser can display it all.
Simply point it to your video share and it will help you get all the metadata, images, actor information and more into your system quickly and easily.
Again, there are a few bugs, but we can only hope the development team continue on fixing them!
But Nick, you have a Hauppauge HDPVR and DigiLinX. How did you tie that in and get live TV working and controlled?
That’ll be the next post 😉