Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My home media setup.

A while back I realized kids + optical media = bad. I also realized kids really like to watch movies. So I made the decision to look into a media center and media center extenders. I looked over Myth TV and Windows XP Media Center originally. I ultimately decided to go with MCE. Therefore my initial deployment consisted of a Windows XP MCE2005 box, and 3 Modified XBOX's with XBMC installed. It used Samba shares, was relatively in expensive and all in all worked pretty well.

Times change things get updated and HD is king. These days I am using a Vista Ultimate machine as my MCE, and XBOX 360s as my extenders. This offers a couple advantages to my old setup.

-Streaming of Live TV
-True extender capabilities
-HD quality

Setup for a Vista MCE is pretty simple. I personally use a pair of Hauppauge HD Video Capture devices, there are a few to choose from almost all are compatible with Windows Media Center. I use a generic IR blaster for the remote as well. As for the XBOX 360s it is a relatively straight forward set-up to add these as extenders.

As for the DVD-Less media I eluded to in the intro, well that is slightly more complicated and quite frankly treads upon a legally gray line.

I use DVD rips on a file share to keep my kids from destroying originals. I personally use Xilsoft DVD Ripper to rip the DVDs into xvid or divx formats. After you have ripped the DVDs and stored them on a files share (you will need to give read rights to the everyone user) you can use the "Video" option on the 360s launcher screen. In the video option the 360 will have you point to your share. After you have pointed your 360 at the share, you can go ahead and try playing a video. The 360 is going to want you to connect to XBOX Live and download an update in order to play the content. After you have downloaded, and installed the content the 360 will restart. After the restart, grats you can save your DVDs from the terrors of toddlerhood.

There are a lot of other advantages to this setup. For example I have 4 TVs... 2 HD digital converters (Direct TV in my case). Then I simply use the extenders to watch TV in whichever room I am in. There is also the DVR capabilities of Media Center (Without the extra cost providers throw at you) And having access to other media (photos, music, etc.) anywhere in the house.

I have also come across several hacks and tricks for Windows MCE, I will go over those in a later post.

Related Links:

http://www.hauppauge.com/index.htm
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/media-center.aspx
http://www.xilisoft.com/dvd-ripper.html
http://support.xbox.com/support/en/us/nxe/xboxlive/troubleshooting/NetworkHelp_mcxpc.aspx

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