When I was in Brisbane last year, my friend Luke showed me a Windows XP Media Center. I thought it was pretty cool and I’ll tell you why.
For those who don’t know what the fuss is all about, a media center is like a hard disc recorder (PVR), Foxtel IQ or a Tivo. That’s one of those devices that allows you to record TV shows, pause live TV and play it all back later.
They are usually made up of:
- Hard Disk to record shows onto
- A TV Scheduler program
- Connections to your TV and Stereo
They might also have a DVD burner inbuilt.
I had played with a Windows XP Media Center a few years ago, but digital TV was pretty new then and the digital TV recievers that I had were not compatible with the Windows Media Center software.
Digital TV has come a long way since then and so has the Windows Media Center platform. The hardware to make it all work is now much cheaper and easily avaialble.
So why does Windows Vista Media Center rock?
Well, Media Center is so much more than a Tivo, a Foxtel IQ or a PVR. Those things are purely oriented around TV. But whilst the media center might be connected straight up to your plasma TV or projector, it can also be another PC on your network. So with Media Center you can:
- Easily network with your other computers
- Share files, photos and videos around the network (think digital cameras and mobile phones that are already connected to your PC)
- Connect to and browse the Internet easily in a familiar environment
- Download and access online media (Think torrents – nothing illegal of course ;-), youtube, Bigpond movies).
What I found is that there is so much to watch on free to air TV but it’s never on when you’re there to watch it. Vista Media Center fixed that for me, so I cancelled my Foxtel subscription.
So when I have a moment, I can sit in my lounge, browse through some old photos while listening to some cool tunes. When I’m done, I’ll browse through the TV shows that I’ve recorded and find something worth watching!
Now if only we could get the free to air networks to buy some up to date and decent TV shows like The IT Crowd and The US Office…
I’ll tell you a little bit about how to put your own Media Center together later…