What else can I do with Windows Vista Media Center?
March 26, 2007 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I just got a new PC with Windows Vista and have been exposed to Windows Media Center for the first time. What neat things can I do with it?

Can I add channels to the online media library? It comes preset with Comedy Central and MSN and so forth, but can I add to that list (something like, say, AOL's in2TV?) Are there any must-have plug-ins or hacks I should explore?

Basically I want to know what else the software can do. Searching for raw information on Media Center only brings back lots of marketing and PR talk about how great it is which gets tiresome quickly. I should add that I did get the remote control for the PC but did not opt for the TV tuner card, although I plan to pick one up later on down the road. I also didn't get a media extender since I didn't see the need for one at the moment.
posted by Servo5678 to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I use WIN MCE and love it. I have satellite TV and a dual tuner on my computer. I can watch TV or record programs while away, like a TIVO, but you don't need a DVR with media center.

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx (win XP)
Great info and even vista help here:
posted by JayRwv at 10:55 AM on March 26, 2007

when it isn't crashing, mce does some neat things for me without needing too much tweaking to accomplish.

1. i have folders dedicated only to storing downloaded videos I get from various sharing sites. they are organized by type and then author or title within that. so one folder might say "shorts" and then "comedy" and "drama" etc...

2. i have a torrent program (utorrent) that allows automatic filtering of downloaded content into the specified folder heirarchy, so that videos matching the proper criteria (such as stuff by my favorite video maker) goes into the proper folder.

3. I made the top level of folders within this heirarchy into default folders for windows media center to look in whenever I browse my videos category in there. so now when I open mce, I go to videos, and whatever I have in there is automatically organized by category, author and title without me having to think about it, even when I'm downloading it.

4. for extra special niceties, if you download video from a site that supports rss feeds, you can get the videos you love downloaded, filed and organized automatically and never even have to think about it. you just go into mce and browse around and whatever's new is right there waiting for you.

lastly, if you have a pc remote or a wireless keyboard it makes dealing with the navigation from the couch a lot easier.
posted by shmegegge at 1:26 PM on March 26, 2007

If you have a properly tagged music collection, Media Center will automagically download album art in the background for your whole library. This makes browsing by cover much more fun than looking at empty blue squares. Importing a large (1200 album) collection took me a long time on my aging single core system, but the end effect is very cool.
posted by tracert at 3:30 PM on March 26, 2007

Definitely look at the various plugins that are available.

You should check and see if your tuner box is compatible with one of the plugins that allows you to control it. One of the big drawbacks to HTPCs is the simple fact that you need a cable box external to it. The tuner in your computer ends up being a simple passthrough to get the video on the screen. With MCE, though, there's a couple of plugins that'll allow you to not only change the channel on the cable box, but allow you to record HD broadcasts through the firewire port of the cable/satellite box.

Also, note that XP MCE doesn't allow you to have an ATSC-only tuner as the only tuner in the box. You'll need an NTSC tuner with MPEG encoding support in order to do TV (you can have both, but you MUST have an NTSC card to begin with). There are hacks that circumvent them, but I prefer to do things according to how they're supposed to be done. That prolly explains why my stuff just works. :) It was worth the $50 to get a proper tuner to avoid all that work and instability..

Speaking of which... tracert, you should probably take a closer look at whatever you've got setup to do those nifty things for you if your machine keeps crashing. I realize the reality of the world is to not take blame for anything and just pass it over to Microsoft, but the simple fact of the matter is my MCE is up 24/7 and never, ever crashes.
posted by Spoonman at 9:15 AM on March 27, 2007

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