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After reading how FrontRow is a crap I ended up playing with Windows XP Media Center Edition only to learn that is crappy too. Namely, per official Microsoft Extender FAQ the whole MediaCenter - Extender architecture is as good as its extenders and extenders are closed source. So I do get decent experience on a PC, but in the living room Xbox extender is pretty much useless for anything but playing mp3. The reason for that is that Microsoft do not support any codecs but Microsoft's and there is no way (and there will be no way) to install 3rd party codecs/software on the extender, be it Xbox or Xbox360. One could install ASP and AVC codecs on MCE PC, but when it comes to playing the stuff thru extender, well even WMV7/8/9 .asfs and .wmvs could not be played of MCE PC which is bizzare because same .asfs and .wmvs could be streamed over http (The easiest way to test it is to create an .asx with a refference to actual material).

So Windows XP Media Center Edition is for PC and PCs are PCs - noisy, don't have remote, etc and generally are built to do what PCs are built to do, unless of cause, they are Mac Mini. But wait a second, Mac Mini runs Windows these days and does MCE too (well, they picture iMac and not exactly MacMini, but still it works on Mini too). So after all, regardless of FrontRow and Freevo fiasco, MacMini could still make it to my living room as next generation Media Center (h264 720p and beyond), this time around though, it would most likely run MCE.

There are just couple things now that stop me from buying MacMini right-away

  1. No XP drivers for native IR-receiver
  2. Making sure that either remote from Xbox extender will work with IR-receiver, or MacMini remote could be used to some extent to control MCE.
  3. DVI TV or at least DVI to S-video (or VGA to S-Video) converter available at Amazon and CompUSA for the same $19.99.
So what would happen first - they hack IR driver for XP or Yohan Wintel boxes drop in price bellow $500 making Minis too expensive? For now Amazon still runs $25 mail in rebate, this time till end of May.

Unlike FrontRow, Media Center on MCE is quite extendable. In fact there is an Media Center SDK, so the first thing to do once I am done playing with Media Center plug-ins and TVTonic is to write my own that would play my RSS feeds similar to TVTonic but from my media center server. Posted on Monday, April 3, 2006 1:09 PM Video , podcasting , IP TV , Mac | Back to top



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