I know I'm going nuts with the blogging today, but it has been a long time since I put pen to paper so to speak and so a lot of things have happened or have been mulling around in my head for the past little while. Things have been very busy so I just didn't have the desire or the energy to blog about anything.
One of the things that I finally managed to accomplish was the wiring of my house with about 500ft of cable so that my office could have more connections and each of my TV's would have a couple of data connections behind it. I've been procrastinating over this for about four years now, in between trying to figure out the best approach for a media center solution. There are so many way to provide a media center solution, but when you start wanting PVR for live TV as well as the ability to distribute this amongst multiple TV's in the home, you choices narrow down quite quickly. The other limiting factor that many solutions present are the video formats they support. After humming and harring I ended up on the Windows media center and Xbox Media Center extended solution. It is certainly costly between getting a copy of Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, a Tuner Card and a couple of Xbox's, but it definitely works, albeit with a few quirks that I find a little bothersome.
The biggest stumbling block has been trying to figure out why some TV channels aren't de-interlacing properly during the encoding process. I called Hauppauge about my HVR2250 tuner card, and they pointed me to MS's DECCHECK as a way to change to a new codec; the one that comes with PowerDVD for example. The app allowed me to change it, however, that hasn't really seemed to work. Supposedly VMCD is one that is designed for Vista, so I'll have to try that instead when I get a spare moment.
Another bone of contention I have with Windows Media Center is the interface. They've made the classic mistake of compromising usability in preference for a prettier interface. There is no easier way to select a choice from a group than in lists that can be grouped in different ways. The crucial error they made was in limiting the view to just a thumbnails view. Not only does it require resources to view the small pictures, but it adds absolutely no functionality, slows down the listing process and takes away from the productivity. Why is there no option to view it as a simple list? I'm sure there is a plugin I can find that will do the trick. Which of course is one of the bonuses of this product. There is a large number of plugins for the software. Strike that last statement, I just had a student say that you can change the listing view. I honestly haven't had the time to play too much with it, so I'll have to investigate.
The wrinkle in the whole affair is that you Media Center Extenders can't play Xvid/Divx. Oh I can play it locally on the Xbox from the Media Blade, but Media Center won't transcode the Divx or Xvid to the Extender! I find this a little negligent on MS's part, but I've got to think there has been some political pressure from somewhere to have prevented that. Either that or they are planning to kill the media extender idea and focus more on making the xbox a native HTPC device. This certainly looks plausible based on some of the peaks I've had of the new XBE coming on Nov 19th.