Need appletv, have windows :(
March 31, 2008 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Appletv for Windows Media Center?

I have a media pc in my home office, where I record a lot of television using Windows Media Center. I want to play this in my living room, one story up from the office and about 30 feet further.

Something like AppleTV seems to do the job nicely for Mac owners, but is not compatible obviously with Windows Media Center. I need to record the television, because it's stuff that will not be on pirate bay or any other torrents (it's domestically produced dross that I need to see for professional reasons). So apple tv + torrents are out.

I tried burning a dvd with the recorded stuff, but windows won't let me (file type not supported or something).

So basically: what device will let me browse my tv library in the living room (remotely controlled) and play my recorded stuff on my tv (it's HD ready or full HD, forgot which, but it does have this new connector type). Wireless would be optimal, but I could wire up if needed. Even better would be the ability to upload certain files to the device in the living room (like apple tv, sigh), so as not to be dependent on the wireless connection.

One last thing: I'm aware of myth tv and other dvr options that might be compatible with apple tv, but I'm currently not looking at those. So it's Windows Media Center compatible hardware I'm looking for. Go rabbits, kill, kill!
posted by NekulturnY to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think an XBOX 360 is going to be about your only option, with your requirements.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:33 AM on March 31, 2008

The Xbox 360 is by far not the only option.

Windows MCE (actually, WMP 11, but that's not really important) can act as a UPnP Media Server on your local network. There are dozens of UPnP Media Player devices that will play video from such a server, including the Xbox 360. Here and here are some lists of others. There is at least one (fragile looking) hack that will bring UPnP to AppleTV.

UPnP is a widely published, if less than stellar, standard. There are many implementations of it, and most of them will interoperate more than well enough to watch content from most media servers. It's not perfect, but it's much better than a walled garden (where an Xbox 360 is the only choice for Windows MCE users, and an AppleTV is the only choice for OS X users).

FWIW, you will be far less frustrated with a split player/server setup if you use a traditional, wired network connection between the player and server. Latency is a killer in streaming-media applications, and it doesn't take but a few re-transmitted packets to make the video skip or pixelate.
posted by toxic at 9:34 AM on March 31, 2008

Actually the difference between MCE and WMP is quite different. Recorded shows under MCE are stored as DVRMS, which is NOT compatible with devices that play/stream WMV.

If you want the freedom of other devices, a utility like MCE Buddy can transcode DVRMS into divx, h.264, wmv, etc. If you don't want the hassle, get a MCE extender like an XBOX 360.
posted by mphuie at 9:40 AM on March 31, 2008

Recorded shows under MCE are stored as DVRMS, which is NOT compatible with devices that play/stream WMV

Point taken... but UPnP is really just a transport layer, and is format-independent -- a device's ability to play a particular file format is more of a factor of the player not the server.

An increasing number of networked players do handle DVR-MS just fine (most notably, D-Link's DSM-510 and 520).
posted by toxic at 10:03 AM on March 31, 2008

I do what you describe (over a greater distance, actually) with a 100-foot USB and s-video cable coming out the back of my PC. It goes upstairs, runs under the baseboards, and pops out right behind my TV.

Into the USB cable I have plugged a Microsoft eHome infra-red receiver, and I use an MCE Remote and Remote Keyboard from the couch. I did have to hack one of the remote keys to do "switch to 1024x768 and run Meedio". (I don't use the MCE app itself, personal preference.)

This setup works better than any client-server solution I have ever seen or tried, since it actually IS the PC downstairs that I'm controlling with a second keyboard/remote (the TV is just a "mirror", though a very distant one). It's less-than-zero configuration.

As long as your PC video card has s-video out, I think this is the cleanest solution.

If you are committed to a mini-box that is a client to your PC as server, toxic has it right: a 360 is the best option. It's cheap, and you get a nice games box for free.

Relying on UPnP servers etc is risky, in my experience, since you're beholden to codecs and goofy interfaces. A PS3, for example, will SEE your PC full of video, but it'll only understand how to play a fraction of it... and do so with a nigh-unusable UI.

There were other AskMes about this... I described my setup here a couple months ago... but I can't find them right now.
posted by rokusan at 10:05 AM on March 31, 2008

Errr... okay so that isn't really what Toxic MEANT, but I'll say it on my own: the 360 will be the cleanest, easiest, slickest and least-headachey solution if you want client-server. But my oldschool long-ass cable is even better. ;)
posted by rokusan at 10:14 AM on March 31, 2008

okay so that isn't really what Toxic MEANT

Well, no, not exactly. But, I don't disagree with it. What I meant was that the Xbox 360 is not the only option. It may very well be the best option for some people, but not for others. I was more interested in pointing out the other (and often cheaper) options.

I do like the long wire idea though. It'd be even better in HDMI (or otherwise all-digital), as there'd effectively no signal loss across the long cable.
posted by toxic at 10:26 AM on March 31, 2008

The best option out there is the Xbox 360. It does exactly what you want, is high-definition ready and can be networked via ethernet or through an optional wireless adapter. It is designed to work with Windows Media Center and is really easy to set up. The price point is a bit steep at $349 but you also get a game console for leisure time.

You also have the choice of a variety of "Windows Media Center Extenders" such as this one from Linksys which I've heard pretty good things about ( I'd still say the 360 is a better investment though.
posted by cgomez at 10:34 AM on March 31, 2008

It'd be even better in HDMI (or otherwise all-digital), as there'd effectively no signal loss across the long cable.

I've thought about that, and will probably consider it if I ever get around to getting a semi-modern television instead of the old 38-inch big-ass tube. There is a little signal degradation, in that colors are ever-so-slightly washed out when compared to the LCD monitor next to the PC, but I'm not enough of a videophile to mind.
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on March 31, 2008

Just nthing the opinion that streaming HD content to the Xbox doesn't work very well. We get a lot of pausing and skipping when trying that. I'm told that a wired connection would fix it.
posted by bryanjbusch at 11:41 AM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: so on an Xbox, there's no possibility of uploading content to the HD of the Xbox before watching (like on an appletv), only streaming from the computer (wireless or via LAN)?
posted by NekulturnY at 2:53 AM on April 1, 2008

You could plug in a Flash drive.
posted by bryanjbusch at 7:48 AM on April 1, 2008

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