Media Center Blues

I have one computer, whose sole purpose in life is to be a media machine.  Back in the day, this box had pretty much bare minimum hardware in order run Windows.  Something like 256MB of RAM, of which 32 were shared with onboard video.  But it worked.  I plug a TV into it and pop in a dvd and it works.  AVI files on the hard drive never gave me any trouble, either.  My biggest concern was that I had to have several different applications for different types of media.  iTunes does exactly what I want it to with mp3’s.  BSplayer does exactly what I want for digital media files, like .avi or .mpg, etc.  PowerDVD ($$) works nice for DVDs (kinda).  But really, I want one app that does everything.  And I want a simple user interface.  In fact, I would rather just hook this machine up to a TV, unplug the monitor, keyboard and mouse, and just have a remote.  What a concept!  Well, along came Windows XP Media Center 2005.  Woohoo!  NOT!  After doubling my RAM, and installing a 64MB video card (essentially doubling the video memory), Media Center actually starts up.  And it plays DVDs, after installing PowerDVD (I guess Microsoft needs PowerDVD alongside it, so that it knows what to do).  And… oops, my TV card isn’t supported in Media Center.  Okay.  New TV card.  Alright. now we’re getting somewhere.  Got myself the cool Microsoft remote control and everything works.  I can watch DVDs, AVIs, MPGs, listen to mp3s, all within one easy to use interface, with a remote.  Cool.  But… it is soooo slow.  And it crashes more often than Windows 95 Beta.  What gives?  And the remote only works in Media Center.  So when I have to install yet another lovely Microsoft update, I either have to connect a keyboard or use VNC…

But what’s that?  There is yet another thing that Linux can do for me? Freevo? MythTV?  There are open-source alternatives?  And they are free? What? So here I go again with another project.  Bye bye Windows.  I can’t get Linux installed on this thing fast enough.  Wish me luck on my Freevo project this weekend.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

3 Comments

Jean PierreJuly 28th, 2006 at 00:10

The german computer magazine c’t has published information about a project called VDR (“Video Disk Recorder”).

It’s a media center solution based on Debian Linux. It is primarily intended to work with DVB-S (satellite) cards, but there are also users who succeeded in getting digital cable (DVB-C) TV cards up and running.

Rand - fadda monJuly 28th, 2006 at 20:40

I have been trying for years to get to your goal. Haven’t tried in the last two years, there are rumors that Linux can actually do that now (based on mplayer). I wish you success!

FredJuly 29th, 2006 at 12:18

I wish you success too. And as I am probably actually gonna be involved in that process, I hope we succeed quickly and can spend more time on watching stuff than setting it all up :)

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