Windows Media Center 2005 – First Look

May 3, 2005

The parts arrived for my overly-cooked PVR, and I got a chance to assemble it and install Windows Media Center 2005.

My first impressions?

Umm… Wow!

Here’s a (rather lengthy) first look at MCE 2005.

Installation Notes

Software – Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005

Hardware –

  • CPU – AMD Athlon XP 3000+
  • RAM – 3 x 512MB DDR400
  • Motherboard – MSI K7N2 Delta2-LSR (NForce2/Socket A)
  • Case – SilverStone Lascala SST-LC13-B HTPC Case
  • Power Supply – Thermaltake Silent PurePower TT-420AD
  • Hard Drive – 1 x Western Digital 160GB SE Ultra ATA
  • Hard Drive – 1 x Seagate 200GB SATA
  • Video – BFG GForce FX5700LE
  • Tuner – Hauppauge PVR-250
  • Keyboard – Airboard
  • Remote – Microsoft Media Center 2005 OEM Remote

Everything but the case, motherboard, power supply and remote were repurposed from the previous incarnation.

The HTPC is hooked to a basic RCA DRD435RH DirecTV Receiver via SVideo, and to a JVC 32″ TV via SVideo. Audio out is (currently) stereo out to a Home Theater receiver.

Be Sociable, Share!


4 Responses to “Windows Media Center 2005 – First Look”

  1. sara on October 2nd, 2005 9:22 am

    How do I install Windows Media Center??????????????????????????

    Ive got yhe MSDN CDs. I look nto the first CD and it starts as Normal Win XP installation. Later asks for CD2..I browse through the CD to reach a cab file and continue. It fininshes, I restart. Nothing!!! Back to Win XP!! Help!!!!

    Do I have to format and reinstall or what?? Does it have to boot from the CD???

    How do I install please????

  2. Simon on October 14th, 2005 3:22 pm

    Hey Sara

    I had the same problem initially… turns out it needs to be a full “Clean” install”. Back all your files up, blow away the hard drive and start from scratch and after you’re done you’ll have a shiny new Media Center icon in your Start menu 😉

    Good luck setting it up (I’m still struggling with that part! LOL).

  3. Dirty Al on November 9th, 2005 4:12 pm

    Are you looking set up a digital replacement for your clunky
    old VCR? Are you looking to copy live TV to your hard drive
    for editing and burning to recordable media? Well Windows
    XP Pro Media Center Edition is definitely NOT for you!

    That’s what I thought I was gonna do, so I spent quite a wad
    building a new system. It’s mandantory that you do that. You
    absolutely must have a super-charged CPU, a large-capacity
    SATA hard drive or two, an MCE-compatible TV tuner card
    and a special Microsoft MCE Remote Control. (The system
    laughs at you if you try to configure it with only a mouse)

    Everytime you buy something new, it turns out you still don’t
    have enough. The end result is that you find out the whole
    project was a big waste of time to start with! The shows that
    you copy to your HDD you’ll find are in a format you’ve never
    experienced before (.dvr-ms) which is totally unfriendly to
    people who want to save their favorite shows and movies
    onto recordable digital media.

    It seems that Microsoft has joined in with this copyright-protection
    frenzy that has taken over the world of entertainment. And
    I mean they have joined in with a vengeance! They don’t give
    a rosy rat’s ass what their customers think about it either. This is
    really ironic, considering the fact that Bill Gates got started in
    the computer business by copying other people’s software.

    Whether or not you personally think these new laws are valid,
    the fact remains that people have been copying live TV for
    about three decades now, for their own domestic use and with
    no thoughts of piracy or profit. But now that we’ve graduated
    from VHS to DVD, for some reason the industry moguls have
    gone livid with paranoia, certain that everyone who breathes
    is trying to “steal” from them. Forget that practically nobody
    sells the stuff they record.

    Well, save a televised movie to your new expensive SATA
    HDD and then try to transfer it to DVD-R, +R, RW, or whatever.
    You can’t do it! You can only view the saved content through
    Media Center, as long as it’s still on your hard drive which, as
    we all know, can fill up pretty dang rapidly.

    The unprotected shows can be recorded to DVD, but you’re on
    your own to find the software you’ll need to re-encode DVR-MS
    to regular MPEG first. The first program I found cost 40 bucks
    and took over two hours to encode a half-hour episode of
    Malcolm in the Middle. And that was only after I re-set it up
    from three initial crashes. Then I had to find more software to
    help me cut out the commercials which the first program
    dishonestly claimed it could do. Luckily I already own DVD
    authoring software, so I didn’t have to purchase that. But then,
    after all that work and expense, I found out that the end product
    really and truly SUCKS. The video is actually worse than VHS.

    And, speaking of VHS, try to transfer your old tapes to DVD using
    this piece-o-junk system. It would take too long to relate all the
    gory details here, so just trust me that it’s not worth the immense
    trouble to even try it.

    Do yourself a favor. Buy a standalone DVD recorder to connect
    to your cable or satellite receiver in place of your old VCR. It’ll
    be much cheaper and simpler, not to mention the fact that the
    end result will be much higher quality and, most of all, it works!

    I wish somebody had told me all this stuff before I spent all that
    dough. My only consolation is that I now own a really kick-ass
    gaming computer.

  4. Chuck Lawson on November 9th, 2005 4:58 pm

    Hi Al!

    You’re certainly correct — Media Center Edition is not for everyone.

    If you are looking for a DVR + DVD Player that can also play music, run slideshows, and play other windows-friendly digital video, and also have a machine that can function (at least somewhat) as a standalone PC, then it might be the right system for you.

    If not, then you’d really ought to consider going to off-the-shelf, standalone devices. For example, if you’re looking for just DVR functionality, a Tivo is simple to set up, and it just works. Likewise, as you mentioned, there are probably a lot simpler, faster and more reliable ways to do things like convert VHS video tapes to digital video.

    Even if MCE is just what you’re looking for, I’d think long and hard about buying an off-the-shelf MCE system rather than configuring one yourself. There’s a reason why MCE is only sold as an “OEM Operating System” — getting it configured and running properly is not for the faint of heart.

    I’ve been building PCs since motherboards first started being sold as components, and I had a lot of grief getting a working MCE system running. There are a =lot= of moving parts, and making the thing run properly and reliably is a matter of not only the right parts, but the right versions of the right drivers working together properly. This is often the difference between an MCE system that “sorta works” and one that you can leave turned on for a week or two at a time and be reasonably sure that it will function properly and record all of the programs you have scheduled.

    The whole DRM issue is yet another can of worms that adds a fair amount of complexity to the situation; I just had a rather lengthy donkey-ride though that section of hell myself (I posted about it in the last few days, if you want to go read it). I wish the DRM situation would just dry up and go away, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime in the near term.

    Sorry to hear you had so much hassle! It sounds like you built a pretty nice cutting-edge machine. If you still want to do PVR stuff on it, you might well want to look at SageTV and BeyondTV; both of them are a little less epic in proportion when compared to MCE, and as such, are probably a little more forgiving of machine configuration issues. As less well-known systems without a side agenda of becoming content sales vehicles (which is obviously part of Microsoft’s game plan), they’ve gone less far overboard in DRM-based appeasement of the content providers, as well.

    – Chuck

Got something to say? [privacy policy]

You must be logged in to post a comment.