Windows Vista Media Center

As far as I'm concerned, Windows Media Center is one of the best-- if not the best-- applications Microsoft has ever created. And it was written in .NET to boot.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Uncommon Thread?!

Pretty cool… I wonder just how much of that functionality will be available in other countries (Germany for example). And I fear that the answer will be “not a lot.”

With iTunes movies and shows only for Americans (and thus the total uselessness of the Apple TV on this side of the pond) too, I feel a little disappointed in both Apple and Microsoft to be honest.

Now I could talk about how maybe this influences the European downloaders like the Pirate Bay, but I’m beginning to ramble, I’m afraid, so I’ll stop now.

Well, my wife watches television, too… and yes that is her Britney Spears as well. Although I don’t mind classic pre-skank Britney.

Have you ever tried MythTV? If so, what’s your opinion compared to Vista?

I tried using Vista Media Center and didn’t really get very far…I pointed it at my music and film collection (on another server via 100meg connection) and it just stalled; in the end I just end tasked it. Also when looking at xvids I get an annoying crash in something called COM Surrogate. Very Annoying.


It’s unfortunate that Windows (and Media Center) still don’t support clear QAM256–unencrypted digital cable channels. Most providers don’t encrypt the local network affiliates, and some leave even more channels open. Cards like the A180 and the Kworld ATSC-110 support QAM, but Windows doesn’t have the driver framework necessary. They work great on Linux with MythTV though. Shipping a product with such crippled HD capabilities, especially since most Media Centers are running on high-resolution displays, just doesn’t make any sense.

I know this isn’t Microsoft’s fault but by not being able to build my own HTPC with CableCard I have zero interest in Media Center. I’ve been happy with my buggy Motorola box which records HD – once I can add cable card to my HTPC and move the content around my house as I like, I’ll look at a Media Center again; until then, no thanks…

It also does not support DVB Texting which is used all over the world for subtitling DVB-T broadcasts.

But, yes, it’s still the best mediacenter out there, the open source alternatives all have their own issues, mostly stability.

I don’t use any mediacenter software anymore on my HTPC, I simple have icons on the desktop to the programs I use such as DVB Viewer and PowerDVD and start them when I need to.

Yeah Vista Media Center is great – except for these two caveats:

– v1 extenders are now paperweights. The only supported extender is the Xbox 360. Which sucks 2x since my extender was silent and the 360 is LOUD.

– CableCARD will ONLY be supplied for OEM “certified” Vista Media Center HTPCs. That means us DIY’ers are S.O.L.

From what I’ve heard, both these issues stem from DRM. Grr…

I have a living room PC which runs both Windows XP Media Center Edition (or whatever it’s called) and MythTV. MythTV was way harder to set up (took me the better part of a week), but at least it eventually worked. Media Center… not so much. Probably some kind of driver issue. Anyway, MythTV is awesome, but they do need to fix the setup stuff. All the stuff involved in getting it to run is totally ridiculous.

Now if only they’d show some more non-crappy shows on TV. I only ever watch the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, Simpsons, South Park, 24 and Prison Break.

Digital cable seems to be the poor cousin of Media Center. I wonder why that is …

I live in Germany (cable provider KabelBW) and use a TechnoTrend TT-budget C 1500 with both Vista and MCE2005.

The trick to get it running is to install the BDA drivers and a mapper that mocks a DVB-T card using frequency mappings (all available from TechnoTrend).

However, as has been said before, QAM 256 modulation is not well supported, even more when the in-house cabling quality is sub-standard.

Personally, I stopped using MCE because there seems to be no way to easily sort and weed out my 400+ TV and radio channels, QAM 256 reception is poor and the TechnoTrend budget Remote Control is useless.

I’m using Technotrend’s network (non-BDA) driver and TV app, where most things work (except certain HD channels). I hope a better BDA driver will arrive shortly and I can somehow find time to write an MCE app for the channel sorting.

Add an MCE supported remote control and I’m again spending too much time watching TV …

BTW, The Daily Show is available on comedycentral.DE for one day from 1500 CET after the original screening. The advantage over comedycentral.COM/motherload is that it’s in fewer pieces and (currently) without ads.

been using mce for quite some time. i like it. one of the few ms products that i actually like…


What can ya do; she’s powder blue.

I just hooked up my Vista desktop computer to my Xbox 360 yesterday, and I was blown away. I’m running wired from desktop to access point and 802.11a wireless from access point to Xbox, and the signal is fantastic. There is no lag to speak of with the interface now (MCE 2005 on XP was laggy for me) Flipping channels from the cable being streamed from desktop to Xbox is as quick as flipping channels via a cable box, and the interface puts my cable provider’s interface to shame.

I’m surprised no one mentioned Remote Record. Being able to go to MSN’s TV listings on a separate computer and setting up my Media Center PC to record a show is one of my favorite features of MCE. I haven’t tried it yet in Vista, but I’m hoping the feature’s still in tact.

This is a shame, I waited for Vista in hopes that they would add QAM support and although the speed increases sound nice, I am not sure I will be making the move to Vista just yet. MC2005 works great with my setup. I have remove all of the cable boxes in the house and now have 3 Xbox 360’s to control TV and DVR capabilities throughout the house. With IPTV coming by the end of the year to the 360 and Windows Media Home Server, I am going to pass on Vista until they add QAM support.

Thanks for the blog, you are the first person to specifically answer the question I have been looking for.

Do you happen to know if the MCE support for DISH Network is any better than it is for MCE for XP? The problem I’ve had (and yes, I’ve looked at all of the great MCE “hack” sites and other sites to no avail) and that others have had is that we can’t force MCE to send a “select” button to the set top box and are forced to have workarounds because the screen saver on certain models will ALWAYS come on.

That’s been my only significant complaint about the MCE is that with my DISH it’s kludgy at best.

I have to agree with you Jeff - MCE for Vista is the single reason I upgraded my box. What’s even nicer - while my Vista MCE sits in the closet, aero turned off for perf reasons (Im running it on a 2.1celeron), it works beautifully with the 360 in extender mode (in fact, its faster via extender than when running on the box itself).

I’ve been running SageTv ( for years now and am very happy with it. No monthly fee as well, and they come out with periodic updates on a regular basis. Like MythTV, there are also third party add ons that are available, and a complete development environment to create your own add ons. I’ve written a couple of Sage utilities myself in .Net, though the core server and client is all Java based. It also fully supports the MVP Media Extender so you can hook up as many TVs as you like to one server for around $80. Oh, but unlike MythTV, setup is a snap.

I have been a big fan as well of the XP version and recently switched to the Vista version. Although generally it looks prettier I don’t think I can wholeheartedly recommend everyone to upgrade as there are some stability issues.

I recently wrote a blog entry about my experiences, see:!8A48A27460FB898A!788.entry

BTW, I use it in the UK and it works fine with digital television, including my dual channel receiver.