Automating Bittorrent in Media Center

February 19, 2007

TorrentFreak has a sneak peak of Aufero, a new (and apparently open source) project to nicely integrate bittorrents into Vista Media Center, including managing media, and creating automatically downloading wishlists, etc.

Sounds nice (or it would if I was running Vista MC, anyway), but even though the author appears to be giving quite a bit of thought to solving them, I think there are some huge challenges ahead for anybody that wants to build that kind of wishlist technology today.

There is a really severe lack of standardization in how most video torrents are labeled and classified — often times, the title isn’t even spelled correctly, let alone anything else.

Maybe standardizing on URLs to services like IMDB would help that (at least for movies), but then there’s all the other stuff –

What’s the video format? I don’t wanna watch iPod encoded video on a large flatscreen display.

What was the source? Keep your cammed, telesync’d, r5line’d stuff to yourself, please. Likewise, if there was an HD source available I don’t want to see some letterboxed SD episode of whatever.

Got subtitles? In English? What format?

One disc or two?

…and the list goes on. Beggars and bittorrenters can be choosers, but today pretty much only by actually reading the post that accompanies the torrent — or sometimes even the comments.

Or that’s what I hear, anyway. Not that I’d know anything from personal experience or anything, etc…

How-To Fix MCE 2005 Restricted Content Problem

November 8, 2005

I’ve had a problem since shortly after re-installing my MCE 2005 system (complete with update rollup 2). Although everything was working fine at first, a few days later I wanted to view a DivX clip from Windows, outside of MCE.

I installed a DivX codec (in fact, I installed FFDShow, since it included several codecs I wanted and it has a fairly low processor overhead in the configuration I needed; I was careful to insure that it wasn’t installed for any of the MS formats), and attempted to launch Windows Media Player.

Since this was the first time I’d run it on this system, it led me through all of the initial configuration questions and then came back and said “Media Player 9 is not installed correctly” (I have no idea why it wasn’t v. 10), and asked me if I wanted to download a fresh copy and install it.
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Born Again MCE 2005

October 30, 2005

I am talented at destroying Media Center PCs… If you’ve got a media center you want trashed, send it to me…

I’ve been slowly fighting my terribly unstable (OEM) Media Center PC back to something approximating normality. I had a big breakthrough a week or two ago, when I replaced the motherboard audio with a PCI audio card, and added yet another fan. This only left my long standing problem of lockups when background update was enabled, which meant I had to switch it on to run windows update and guide updates manually, and then switch it back off.

Life was good. Until Thursday night, anyway.

I sat down to watch a little bit of recorded TV, and it blew up rather spectacularly. Reboots ended up either locking up in POST, or getting a blue screen of death as soon as Windows loaded…

Smells like a hardware failure!
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Disable “Most Recent” Function in MCE

September 2, 2005

I don’t know about anybody else, but it annoys me that Windows Media Center puts up thumbnails on the home page for the “Most Recently Viewed” (or listened to, etc.) items in Videos, Pictures & Music — sometimes it’s cute, but more often it’s just annoying.

Fortunately, Chris Lanier has the trick to make this “feature” go away. You can even choose to have it on one section but not another.

Warning — this requires a bit of regedit hacking, so proceed cautiously. With any luck this will soon make it into one of the various “Tweak” programs.

HP x5400 Media Center Extender

June 14, 2005

Over at eHomeUpgrade, Tim Coyle reviews an HP Media Center Extender that he bought on closeout.

I was very impressed with the overall experience of the Media Center extender – I thought it really imaged the Media Center interface well and I didn’t notice any major differences between the two. The extender will suffer due to your network bandwidth so get a fast network if you want to stream TV and video because you are going to need all of it. (Yes the extender has limitations on how much bandwidth it can stream but routers are cheap it’s always better to have overkill than just-not-enough) Even with these issues the extender gives you so much opportunity to place your digital content where and when you want it that it is too tempting to pass up.

He then muses a bit on why they’re closing these out, and suggests that sales may have been down due to the retail price ($300 or so).

I think that’s fairly close to the mark, but more to the point it’s the bang-for-the-buck factor.

$300 will buy you a fairly nice Tivo (which comes with monthly fees, tho).

Alternatively, you can go buy an XBox with a pretty hefty discount these days, along with the XBox Media Center Extender software, and have a Media Center Extender that has a DVD player for less than $250. Plus hey, it’s an XBox.

Granted, you won’t have built-in wireless, but moving much video even over an 802.11G network is a pretty thankless experience, particularly if you plan to do anything else with it at the time.

Worse, with the XBox 360 now announced, and slated to have much better Media Center integration, selling a standalone box without any other features for $300 has to be a pretty tough sale to make.

MCE Video Driver Issues

June 4, 2005

Apologies for the light blogging this week — I hate “Monday Holiday” weeks, since it seems like you play catch-up all week long. At least I’m finally caught up enough to have a couple of minutes to rub together…

Another reason for the delay is that I’ve been meaning to post an article on upgrading a single-tuner Windows Media Center Edition 2005 box to a dual tuner box. Unfortunately, while the process was straightforward, I ran into a problem I didn’t expect.

My box was quite stable with a Hauppauge PVR 250 (old style, not the MCE version) and a BFG GeForce FX5700LE video card.

When I replaced the PVR 250 with a PVR 500 MCE, I started having problems with lockups and crashes. These all appeared to be playback related, not encoding related.
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Ricavision PLIX EMC 3200HD Media Center Edition PC

May 26, 2005

If you’re looking for the “Three Ps” of Media Center Editions setups (Pretty, Pre-built, and Price-is-no-object) you might want to look at the new Ricavision PLIX EMC 3200HD Media Center Edition PC. eHomeUpgrade has the story.

The company actually has two models out now, but the one that caught our attention is the PLIX EMC 3200HD Media Center PC (retail $2,499). The 3200HD comes in a gorgeous jet-black enclosure, sporting a bright blue LCD, front panel volume control knob, a concealed fontside hot-swappable 2.5-inch 80GB slim hard drive for removable data storage, 3.2Ghz P4, 200GB of internal storage, and is equipped with a dual tuner NTSC and ATSC (over-the-air HD) card capable of 1080i resolution. But if over-the-air HD is not your thing, the slightly less powerful $1,999 EMC 3000 is steal for what it comes packaged with.

It’s pretty, but I still have trouble figuring out what market these boxes are going after. You can buy a pretty substantial standalone HD PVR for less than $1K — the more functionality you add beyond that, the more it seems that you are going after the serious tweak market — which are the people who’d probably be most inclined to build their own.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my MCE 2005 box, but most of the value to me over what I’d get from, say, an HD Tivo with Home Media, is the ability to dink with things with impunity in the OS underneath — and if I do that, I might as well roll my own.

Still, it is a way pretty box…

Windows Media Show: Orb Networks

May 23, 2005

Ian Dixon has a new Windows Media Center Show podcast, where he interviews Joe Harris, VP of Marketing from Orb Networks.

Orb allows you to stream digital content from your MCE system to other ‘net connected devices.

He also talks about opportunities for working on a digital TV project at Microsoft Ireland.