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October 9, 2015


Windows Media Center H.264, DirecTV support coming later this year

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 9th 2008 10:03AM
Wi ndows Media Center update
There's good news and less good news and then some more good news on the Windows Media Center front. The good news is that Microsoft will be releasing an update soon, the bad news is that it won't include support for things like the H.264 codec or the upcoming DirecTV tuner. The good news (again) is that EngadgetHD reports those features are on their way, they just won't be ready by the end of July, which is when Microsoft plans to issue the next update to Windows Media Center.

A tipster also sent EngadgetHD a few screenshots of the upcoming update, which adds a few new features like the ability to use as many TV tuners as you want, and to use a combination of tuner types such as NTSC, ATSC, QAM, CableCARD, DVB-T, PAL, or DVB-S. The update includes additional features for international media center users, such as support for ISDB-T and BML standards in Japan, and DVB-T and DVB-S in Europe.

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Acer Aspire X1200 PC is cheap, tiny, and could be your next HTPC

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 8th 2008 6:31PM
Acer Aspire X1200
Who says home theater PCs have to be expensive? Sometimes all you need is a PC that's small enough to look good next to your TV, cable box, and video game console, and powerful enough to handle HD video. It looks like the Acer Aspire X1200 might just fit the bill. And this tiny (10.6" x 4" x 14.4") computer has a starting price of just $450.

The low end model is available today and packs an AMD Athlon X2 dual core CPU, NVIDIA GeForce 8200 graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, a 16x DVD burner, a 14-in-1 card reader, and Windows Vista Home Premium. For a few bucks more you can get a faster CPU.

Or if you're willing to wait until July 13th you can get a $700 model with a 500GB hard drive and a 22-inch "widescreen LCD display." There's no word on what the resolution for that display will be, but $700 is a pretty decent price for a home theater PC packing Windows Media Center functionality as well as the bundled CyberLnk PowerDVD and Arcade Live software. Of course, you'll need to pony up some cash for a TV tuner if you want to watch or record live TV.

[via Engadget]

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XBMC for OS X gets a new name: Plex

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 7th 2008 4:03PM
PlexThe media center software suite formerly known as Xbox Media Center is now available for the Xbox, OS X computers, or pretty much any PC that's capable of running Windows or LInux. But the XBMC name still makes it sound like an application for the Xbox only. So the folks working on the OS X version decided to rebrand their port. Meet Plex.

The team plans to roll out a rebranded version over the next few days, and will set up domains at plex2.com, plexsquared.com and plexsquare.com. Plex.com, like most four letter domain names, was already taken. The new software will also get a new skin soon. In the meantime, all I can really show you is the new logo.See it? That's it in the corner.

[via Automated Home]

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Sony VGX-TP1 media center PC line gets an update

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 25th 2008 10:28AM
Sony has launched 2 new two new versions of its circular home theater PC. Both the Sony VGX-TP1D and the VGX-TP1DQ sport 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo CPUs, 2GB of RAM, GeForce 8400M GT graphics, WiFi, and HDMI and VGA outputs. They also pack 4 USB ports, Firewire, media card readers, TV tuners, and a wireless keyboard.

But while the TP1D comes in white and packs a 320GB hard drive, the TP1DQ comes in black, has a 500GB hard drive, and a Blu-Ray burner (the cheaper model comes with a dual-layer DVD burner).

Both machines are due out in Japan in a few weeks, with the TP1D selling for the equivalent of about $1400, while the TP1DQ will set you back about $1850.

[via Engadget]

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Has Windows Media Center been a hit or miss for Microsoft?

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 24th 2008 4:07PM
Vista Media CenterMicrosoft has been offering Windows Media Center since 2002. But six years later, many PC users don't even know the 10-foot interface for viewing media and recording TV shows exists -- even if it's already installed on their computers.

But does that make Windows Media Center a failure? MSNBC seems to think so. In an article on Microsoft's hits and misses during Bill Gates tenure, MSNBC calls Windows Media Center a miss.

It's true that other products like TiVo and generic set top boxes have been more successful at infiltrating the living room. Not only do these consumer devices let users record and pause television, but in many cases they're letting users access internet services without a TV.

Meanwhile, few people want to stick a computer next to their television set. But that might not be the point. Windows Media Center might not be as familiar a name as TiVo, but the software is powerful and well thought out. And high end home theater PC makers have been designing fancy computers to take advantage of the software for years. And a growing number of companies are releasing Windows Media Extenders that let users access media on a PC connected to a home network without sticking a PC next to the television.

What do you think? Is Windows Media Center a hit or a miss? Keep in mind, MSNBC considers Halo a hit and Clippy a miss. So what I'm really asking is whether MCE fits in the same category as Clippy.

[via Chris Lanier]

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Boxee to launch social media center software trial Monday

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 13th 2008 10:56AM
Boxee is a media center suite that's a bit like MythTV, Windows Media Center, or Media Portal. It's a computer software suite designed for accessing your desktop and online media on a TV screen. But it's got something that none of those other applications do: a social side.

You can share media with other Boxee users and make recommendations. According to Crave, you'll eventually be able to connect your Boxee account with Facebook so you can access the social network on your TV set (and presumably vice versa to some degree).

The folks behind Boxee based the application on the open source XBMC project. Currently it runs on Linux and Mac, but a Windows version is due out later this year. Eventually, Boxee wants to make the software available for set top boxes so you don't have to go through the hassle of connecting a computer to your television set.

Boxee works with the Apple Remote, supports high definition video all the way up to 1080p, and has an attractive menu structure. On the down side, there's no support for DRM at the moment, which means you cannot use the software to watch videos purchased from online stores like iTunes or Amazon Unbox.

At first Boxee will only be available to a limited group of alpha testers. You can sign up for an invitation at Boxee.tv.

[via NewTeeVee]

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HP flips a switch and turns MediaSmart TVs into media extenders

by Brad Linder, posted Apr 18th 2008 10:09AM
MediaSmartHP is launching several new HDTV units with built-in media center extender capabilities. That means you can setup a PC in the office to run Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate and record television programs, and host your audio, video and picture files. And you can connect your TV in the living room the home network and access all of that media.

HPS's newest MediaSmart LCD TVs come in 42 inch and 47 inch varieties, both with support for 1080p resolutions and WiFi networking. The smaller TV will set you back $1900 while the larger one will go for $2400.

What's more, HP is pushing out a software upgrade to existing MediaSmart owners that will turn their old fashioned television sets into Windows Vista Media Center Extenders as well.

HP claims to the first company to release an internet-connected TV that can serve as a media center extender, and I can't thin of any other examples that would prove them wrong. Still, if you've got room in your living room for two separate devices, you'll probably save a few bucks by purchasing your TV and media center extender separately.

[via Engadget]

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Asus announces tiny media center PC

by Brad Linder, posted Apr 10th 2008 8:56AM
Asus CS5110
It looks like the success of the tiny Eee PC laptop is giving Asus ideas. Good ones, at that. The company has announced the Essentio CS5110, a diminutive desktop PC with a focus on multimedia. The CS5110 measures just 200mm x 290mm x 80mm, and includes an HDMI output for a 1080p HDTV or high resolution monitor. it also has S/PIDF output and support for 7.1 sound.

It's also got 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, and a cooling system designed to help keep the noise down if you put this little guy in your living room. Ther'e's rom for a 3.5inch hard drive, an optical drive, a 10-in-1 card reader, 6 USB ports, a VGA port, and line in/out jacks as well as your typical headphone and microphone inputs.

The computer runs Windows Vista Home Premium, which means you've got media center functionality out of the box. But I don't see any info about PCI or PCIe cards, so if you want to add a TV tune, it looks like you might need to find a USB model.

No word on pricing or availability.

[via Chris Lanier]

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MceFM: Last.FM plugin for Vista Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted Mar 22nd 2008 9:01AM
MceFM is an awesome little plugin for Windows Vista Media Center that lets you stream music from Last.fm. If you're not familiar with Last.fm, it's an online music recommendation service combined with a streaming radio service. All you have to do is type in the name of an artist or song and Last.fm will dig up music by that artist and then find similar songs you might like and start playing one song after another.

In order to use MceFM, you'll need to have a Last.fm account, but accounts are free, so that's easy. The plugin isn't much to look at. You can enter an artist name and MceFM will connect to Last.fm, find your music and set up a playlist.

One of the coolest features of this plugin is that you can find music similar to songs and artists already on your computer. Just locate a track in your music library and then click the More button on your remote (or hit the Ctrl+D keys on your keyboard to bring up the context menu and select More), and you can search Last.fm for similar music.

[via Ian Dixon]

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Using PowerDVD to watch HD DVDs and Blu-Ray discs in Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted Feb 21st 2008 9:53AM
Media Center HD button
Someone should really come up with standard keyboard shortcuts for media programs. Because it would make life a whole lot simpler when you're trying to configure a remote control to work with your computer's various media players. But until that day comes, Missing Remote has some tips on configuring Cyberlink PowerDVD to work properly with Windows Media Center and a standard Media Center remote control.

PowerDVD is the software that comes with many DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-Ray drives. And it works pretty well if you're sitting right in front of your computer. But if you've got a computer running Windows Media Center, you probably want to be able to sit on the couch and watch your movies with the aid of your trusty remote control. Unfortunately, Windows Media Center won't automatically recognize PowerDVD and add an option to launch the program to your menus. Fortunately, There's a third party plugin that'll do the trick. It launches PowerDVD when you click the button, and when you close PowerDVD you're returned to Windows Media Center.

So far, so good. But if you want to actually use a remote control with PowerDVD, you'll find that a standard media center remote doesn't work properly with Blu-Ray discs. You could remap all the buttons on your remote using software like LM Gestion, but you really just need one or two keys to be fixed. So Missing Remote has posted a configuration file that should work for most users.

Or as one user points out in the Missing Remote forums, you could also try ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre instead of PowerDVD. It works perfectly well with a Media Center remote control. But it also costs a good $90. And you'll have to figure out how to add a button to your Windows Media Center menus.

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Coming soon: Watch Netflix online video using Windows Media Center

by Brad Linder, posted Jan 27th 2008 12:58PM

Sure, Netflix is great if you like waiting for DVDs to show up in the mail or if you don't mind watching online video using a web browser. But I kind of like watching movies on a TV screen. And while I've got a computer permanently plugged into my TV, the last thing I want to do is pull out a keyboard and mouse and open up a web browser to watc my movies, when I've got Windows Media Center and a remote control.

Fortunately, it looks like someone's developing a Windows Media Center plugin that will let you watch Netflix videos without a web browser. Development is still in the early phases, but the promise is that you'll be able to find available movies and stream them in full screen mode all without visiting Netflix.com in web browser. When it's complete, the plugin should let you login to your Netflix account, browse and search Netflix "watch now" movies, and possibly even add DVDs in your queue for ordering the old fashioned way.

[via Missing Remote]

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Entertainer: Upcoming media center suite for Linux

by Brad Linder, posted Jan 10th 2008 1:57PM

While there's no shortage of applications that make it easier to access your media on a Mac, PC, or Linux computer, there's always room for one more, right? Entertainer is a newcomer to the Linux media center world, and while it's more of an Apple Front Row replacement than a Windows Media Center clone, it certainly looks like a promising application for home theater enthusiasts.

Entertainer is not available for download yet, but according to the project web site the software will let users manage movies, downloaded TV shows, music, images, and RSS feeds. There's no support yet for recording television programs from a TV tuner, which makes Entertainer a bit less functional than MythTV or Windows Media Center. But digital TV recording is something the developer says will be added down the road.

[via Digg]

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How to import your BeyondTV library into SageTV

by Brad Linder, posted Jan 2nd 2008 1:27PM
SageTV metadata importThere's a dirty little secret in the PVR world. Once you start using a personal video recorder, you're pretty much locked into continuing to use that recorder until you watch all of your recorded programs or decide you can live without them. That's because it's quite difficult to transfer your TiVo recordings to your generic cable company PVR.

Things should be a lot easier if you're using a PC-based PVR with software like BeyondTV, SageTV, or Windows Media Center. After all, your recorded shows are already on your hard drive, how hard could it be to try watching them with a new piece of software?

While you can certainly watch SageTV recordings in BeyondTV and vice versa, things get a bit complicated if you want to sort them by chronological order or view program descriptions. Fortunately, long time BeyondTV user Brent Evans has put together a comprehensive solution for importing your BeyondTV metadata into SageTV. That way users who might want to switch software packages can. Or better yet, users who want to test out SageTV without losing all of their recorded shows can do that too... and can still go back to BeyondTV if they like it better.

The whole operation isn't exactly user friendly. You'll need to download several applications built by members of the BeyondTV and SageTV community, export your BeyondTV data, convert it to a SageTV friendly format, and then import it into SageTV. But in the end, it'll all be worth it when you can see the cast of your cherished saved recording of Howard the Duck.

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Microsoft combines IPTV, HD-DVD, and Media Center divisions

by Brad Linder, posted Dec 24th 2007 3:29PM
Vista media CenterMicrosoft is a big company. And while I'm not trying to imply that one arm might not have known what the other was doing, any company with a lot of arms is bound to flail them occasionally. So it's kind of nice to see that Microsoft is combining several related departments into a new Connected TV business group.

On the other hand, you would have thought that a company that is focusing as heavily on digital technology for the living room would have already had a strategy for coordinating its various entertainment divisions. But until a few months ago, separate teams were responsible for IPTV, HD-DVD, and Windows Media Center developments.

I think that's the sort of discoordination that leads a company to launch a new software feature called "Internet TV" that is essentially just a 10-foot interface for MSN Video while Microsoft had a team of people working on providing actual TV through Internet protocols. I'm not saying that Microsoft should deliver IPTV solutions for free to Windows Vista Media Center users, but if you're going to call something "TV", perhaps you should provide more than just 3 seasons of the brilliant but canceled Arrested Development. Otherwise, just call that ta what it is: Internet Video.

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Media Portal II Preview released

by Brad Linder, posted Dec 18th 2007 8:57AM
Media Portal II
The team behind the Media Portal have released the first official preview of Media Portal II. Last month, we heard that the developers were planning a complete rebuild of the open source media center application. While users might not notice many new features or changes in the interface, Media Portal II is built to be much more developer-friendly. The new structure should make it easier for members of the Media Portal community to write updates, or create new plugins.

Media Portal II also has anew GUI and skin system making it easier for people to develop custom skins that can completely change the look and feel of the application. This is still a preview release, and lacks some major functions. For example, while you can use Media Portal II to access movies, pictures, weather, or music, there's no TV component right now. You can't watch or record live TV. Of course, if you have previously recorded shows in your library, you can use Media Portal II to watch them. But I wouldn't recommend replacing your current media center software with Media Portal II just yet.

[via floppyhead]

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