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gehenna
2nd February 2007, 12:39 PM
Hi guys,

Okay let me preempt this by saying I'm no M$ lover by any stretch of the imagination, and my little tirade the other day was not in support of one OS over the other as I'm sure many people already understand...

I bought Vista Home Premium a few days ago and installed it what was my current XP Media Center 2005 box in the lounge.

I have an XP Pro box in the study which is a basic internet browsing type machine. I've setup file sharing and installed a few extra drives, so its got around 1TB in it at the moment, and there's around 600GB in the drives in the lounge.

Now here's where it gets interesting. The UI in Vista Media Center is pretty cool. I've setup shortcuts in my TV subfolders (comedy, drama, etc....). The shortcuts are pointing to folders on my XP Pro file server. Just as a laugh I decided to try and view an episode of Stargate on the Media Center, by streaming it over the 802.11g into the lounge. I have to say, it worked A LOT better than I thought it would. No skipping, no jerking, no image degredation. In fact, while I was watching it I was also able to transfer files between the two computers at almost full speed (or rather - speeds i'm used to with 802.11g).

At this point I'm impressed! With the Media Center DVR functionality it really is an amazing piece of gear. It has it over Front Row, it has it over Apple TV. It really has it over most products on the market. Well i should be more specific - for people who are techy and who like to have that little bit more than just a basic dvd recorder or dvr - it has it over all those less intense products.

I like it a lot, I'm all for Apple getting ahead and their products are ace no doubt about it. But they are going to need some serious features in Lepoard and Apple TV to one-up M$ on the Media Center side of things.

Aside from that, the OS gui is clunky, Aero is a waste of time, its hard to navigate. It's a bit of a dog. but once you press that green button on the remote and media center loads up - it SHINES!

Who's with me?....or am I about to get flamed? :)

Mike

thebag
2nd February 2007, 12:42 PM
Hi guys,

Who's with me?....or am I about to get flamed? :)

Mike

Get that fire retardant suit out,

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 12:43 PM
Each to their own. But can you "pull" content from the couch rather than "pushing" it from the PC?

smilne360
2nd February 2007, 12:45 PM
vista media center is cool.
OSX media center is cool.
OSX MC is simple, Vista MC not so simle.

gehenna
2nd February 2007, 12:45 PM
Each to their own. But can you "pull" content from the couch rather than "pushing" it from the PC?

Well there is no need to. As the shortcuts in Vista MC are already pointing to shared folders on the file server, they're constantly up to date. i mean, you download a show into its appropriate folder on the file server, open vista and its there.

i can't see the difference. unless apple tv somehow gets to a point where you can physically purchase from itunes, the "pull" functionalty is moot

gehenna
2nd February 2007, 12:54 PM
vista media center is cool.
OSX media center is cool.
OSX MC is simple, Vista MC not so simle.

this is true to a point, but looking past that fact what do we think? its a given that people who buy MS media center products are either getting an oem box and not knowing anything about what they're doing, or building their own from scratch - with a lot being the latter. so if thats the case then ease of use is subjective.

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 01:05 PM
I don't get it. Are you running a PC in the lounge? This is the stumbling block - the masses have shown they don't want a PC in the lounge. This is why AppleTV has a chance of succeeding.

iSlayer
2nd February 2007, 01:16 PM
i definatly agree with you when you say windows has a better media center software setup right now.
But at this stage apple really havent tried to build a full blown media center setup so its hard to compare them right now.

Frontrow has along way to go to become a full blown media center app. If apple made it one and made macs with built in tv tuners then windows would have some serious competition.

In terms of hardware pc's dont quite compare to macs just yet though. A mac mini with an eyetv is much better then most pc media centers price wise, quality wise and a mac mini is quiter then most pc media centers and definatly quiter then any desktop pc.

gehenna
2nd February 2007, 01:18 PM
I don't get it. Are you running a PC in the lounge? This is the stumbling block - the masses have shown they don't want a PC in the lounge. This is why AppleTV has a chance of succeeding.

oops, i should probably elaborate a bit on that. it's a pc yes, but it's a silverstone case so it looks like any other home theater amplifier or the like. its aesthetically designed to be at home in the lounge.

i think if more people were switched on to the freedom you get from having an actual computer in the lounge there may be a lot more people jumping on board. right now its the whole "the computer in my office is complicated enough, i don't want another one in the lounge".

i mean in a sitting after work i can do: record 2 channels at once on tv, surf youtube or msn or reuters for the news, check the metservice weather, use teletext, view all my divx/avi/mpg/mp4/mov files, listen to my music collection with visualisations and all that, play games, view my dvds both on the hard drive and on disc. its a very flexible system. oh and browse pictures, listen to radio. and theres an untold number of plugins you can get.

as far as i can see all you can do with front row is browse your itunes/iphoto library through a gui. thats it? apple tv opens a few other doors with regard to compatability with other peoples equipment when they bring it to your house. but apple tv hinges a lot on the whole US itunes store where you can buy tv and movies as well as everything else. what about the rest of the world. thats where the flexibilty of a vista media center comes in surely?

MactrixAUS
2nd February 2007, 01:32 PM
I use both. I have a Desktop PC set-up with Windows Media Center. In my opinion, this leaves Front Row for dead. I know, Apple have never developed a fully-blown Media Center, but at the moment I guess this is it.

I love how it's set-up. Easy to use. It's got your TV, Pictures, Videos and everything. Best of all, it goes straight to my Xbox 360. So this is great for me at the moment. I also believe with the release of Vista (running it now) it leaves the original Media Center in the dust.

king89
2nd February 2007, 01:37 PM
as far as i can see all you can do with front row is browse your itunes/iphoto library through a gui. thats it? apple tv opens a few other doors with regard to compatability with other peoples equipment when they bring it to your house. but apple tv hinges a lot on the whole US itunes store where you can buy tv and movies as well as everything else. what about the rest of the world. thats where the flexibilty of a vista media center comes in surely?

I have a Mac Mini serving as a MediaCentre with an EyeTv in the lounge room. While I can not stream (just add a shortcut to network folders in the Movie folder) video from my other computers to my satisfaction (the video is jumpy) I can play all types of media (except WMVs) through the simple Perian plug-in. I am also able to stream music from the computers and have access to their playlists, which is a plus for anybody who has a large collection. With a wireless keyboard and mouse I can access the internet and all that jazz, just not play graphic intense games (Civ IV) as the graphics card is not supported.

The real advantage of going down this road was how easy it was to setup, the MacMini is so quite which is important factor for me as it sits about 30cm behind the couch. Using OSX also allows me to just sleep the computer and have it activated in seconds and only needing a restart when system updates come out.

Windows Media Centres suit individuals who want to much around with the technology. I just want simple access to my media without all the hassle of a complicated setup. I must say that I have not any experience with the Windows MC, but I have lots of experience setting up windows computers and their various networking problems.

I just wish that Apple would allow third parties such as Eyetv to access Front Row.

lavo
2nd February 2007, 01:54 PM
I think Apple are caught between a rock and a hard place on media centres. Yes, Front Row is easy to use, especially with the Apple remote. But I see the Apple TV as a large iPod. You can take content from elsewhere, but it is really designed to pull content from iTS. Since video content on iTS is US only at the moment (well, Europe as well in Northern Spring, supposedly), it kind of sucks. It would be soooo much better if iTunes had a video converter built in, so you could throw in the divx/wmv content, and it would convert it in the background to mp4 (seeing as Apple will only use that standard).

The way I see, MS are providing something that consumers want now. Apple are providing something that points to what consumers will want in the future.

EDIT: Speeling mistaks!

rtc
2nd February 2007, 02:07 PM
i definatly agree with you when you say windows has a better media center software setup right now.
But at this stage apple really havent tried to build a full blown media center setup so its hard to compare them right now.

Frontrow has along way to go to become a full blown media center app. If apple made it one and made macs with built in tv tuners then windows would have some serious competition.

Spot on.

Win media centre kicks apple's arse, because apple haven't got a media centre. The nearest they've devloped yet is frontrow, which is not a media centre. Win MC kicks frontrow's arse.

Win is more chronologically advanced than apple in terms of media centre.

BUt if apple get their act together and design a rival, i expect big thinigs.

For now though, winMC wins becuase apple literally has no competition.

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 02:07 PM
We also have to look at this from the point of view of the average Joe. Media Center might be better for the tech-savvy, but for someone who just wants simple plug-and-play, AppleTV might be better.

As for PCs in the loungeroom, I wish Apple would push the Mac mini more as a media centre PC. It only costs $200 more than Vista Ultimate Edition!

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 02:09 PM
Incidentally, are you folks saying Front Row isn't a media centre because it has no TV component? It's obvious Apple's model is pay-per-download via the iTunes Store. Once iTMS.au gets movies and TV, you might change your "tune"!

rtc
2nd February 2007, 02:14 PM
Incidentally, are you folks saying Front Row isn't a media centre because it has no TV component? It's obvious Apple's model is pay-per-download via the iTunes Store. Once iTMS.au gets movies and TV, you might change your "tune"!

Riddle me this:
Can frontrow play any media content (licensed or otherwise) from anywhere on my hard drive or network?

No.

So is it a media centre? I.e. the centre of all my media?

No.

lavo
2nd February 2007, 02:14 PM
I'm not holding my breath for Aus. iTunes video content :-) There is a good chance most of us might be singing a different tune by the time that happens!

4 years to get music, and even then the Australian store was missing Sony at the launch (which was a fair percentage of Australian content). Its going to take a lot of muscle this time to get the Australian tv networks to shift their thinking away from pay per view option that is starting to come out online (WMV10/11-based), to the pay and own version peddled on iTunes (Fairplay).

thebag
2nd February 2007, 02:18 PM
Not knowing much about this subject and looking at it from the sidelines,

the one think Apple need to do is make it so you can plug a TV receiver into the USB port of that AppleTV(we need an Apple smilie) box and set up front row to access the TV function.

Then Apple would be in the running with regard to Media Centres

I know personally I would have bought AppleTV if it had TV tuner functionality, but not if I have to pay Apple for content that at this moment comes free to Air or on Foxtel, lets face it how many times should we have to pay.

Just some thoughts

Mark

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 02:20 PM
Riddle me this:
Can frontrow play any media content (licensed or otherwise) from anywhere on my hard drive or network?


Pretty much. It will play anything in your iTunes and iPhoto libraries, Picture and Movie folders, and can discover content on network-connected computers via Bonjour. It will play pretty much any format if you install the right plugins.

As for licensed content, admittedly it's limited to Fairplay. But then WMC is limited to Windows Media DRM...

lenman74
2nd February 2007, 02:30 PM
Incidentally, are you folks saying Front Row isn't a media centre because it has no TV component? It's obvious Apple's model is pay-per-download via the iTunes Store. Once iTMS.au gets movies and TV, you might change your "tune"!


even then, I think they would have to turn off the broadcasts before people will stop wanting to record them for free. I think tivo's and PVR's generally have a long way to go before they are redundant.

SRG
2nd February 2007, 02:31 PM
Incidentally, are you folks saying Front Row isn't a media centre because it has no TV component? It's obvious Apple's model is pay-per-download via the iTunes Store. Once iTMS.au gets movies and TV, you might change your "tune"!

Yes but why should I wait for that. I have Eye TV and I don't want to pay for shows I can record for free. There is just to much stuffing around to get this all working in Front Row, so I end up watching from Eye TV direct via a wireless keyboard and mouse (which is just to complicated for my wife).

IMHO opinion Apple is starting to get a bit greedy about Itunes and paying for everything. They need to get with the fact that many of us are using Eye TV and work with Elgato to make that work in Front Row without us having to play with anything.

lavo
2nd February 2007, 02:37 PM
How long before the AppleTV is available? I wonder how long it will take for someone to hack it and make that USB port usable..... ;-) There must be some way to do it!

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 02:42 PM
It supposed to be out this month.

iPirate
2nd February 2007, 03:04 PM
Riddle me this:
Can frontrow play any media content (licensed or otherwise) from anywhere on my hard drive or network?

Put an alias to the top level of your computer in your Movies folder. You should now be able to access your entire hard drive. Front Row will follow aliases without a complaint.

SRG
2nd February 2007, 03:08 PM
I could be wrong, but my Front Row does not detect Eye TV files (even with the aliases). To get them I would have to convert them to Ipod format (would be great if I am wrong and someone knew how to get Front Row to see them untouched).

lenman74
2nd February 2007, 03:24 PM
How long before the AppleTV is available? I wonder how long it will take for someone to hack it and make that USB port usable..... ;-) There must be some way to do it!

What do you reckon. Could the USB port be there to hook up an external tuner like the ones used by eye TV and thus turn it into a PVR for those who care to. That would be a semi-elegant solution.

iPirate
2nd February 2007, 03:36 PM
I could be wrong, but my Front Row does not detect Eye TV files (even with the aliases). To get them I would have to convert them to Ipod format (would be great if I am wrong and someone knew how to get Front Row to see them untouched).

EyeTV files are in some random format that QuickTime Player cannot handle (unless you have the right codec). If you cannot play those files in QT player, you can't play them in Front Row. Simple.

I believe with EyeTV, it installs a kind of MPEG-2 Driver, and if you export to MPEG Program Stream (under Native Formats: No re-endoding) you should be able to play those files in Front Row. I know I can.

rtc
2nd February 2007, 03:54 PM
1. USB transport data speed will be limited. I want firewire or wifi.

2. iPirate - good hint re aliases. Johnny - yeah it plays content as long as its in my movies/music/pictures directories in my home folder and as long as it's in formats that itunes/iphoto can read. That's my exact point. What about all those files that itunes won't have a bar of but VLC can play? What about ripped or unlicensed content? Exactly.

3. I want to plug TiVO or Foxtel or Apple TV into a mac mini and be able to select inputs in frontrow's menu. "Movies-Music-Photos-DVD-TiVO-Foxtel-AppleTV-ThisComputer'sHardDrive-Network" is what frontrow's menu should look like. BTW I don't know if even win media centre can do that.

lavo
2nd February 2007, 03:54 PM
What do you reckon. Could the USB port be there to hook up an external tuner like the ones used by eye TV and thus turn it into a PVR for those who care to. That would be a semi-elegant solution.

I have few thoughts on this.

Firstly, Apple are covering all bases. I seem to recall Apple saying something about radio being dead when they were sprouting about the iPod. Almost all of their competitors had inbuilt fm tuners, and there must have been enough customer demand in the end for Apple to produce an fm attachment for the iPod. So they put in a USB port, which is useless now, but gives them the opportunity later on to introduce their own tv tuner if there is enough demand.

Secondly, the exclusion of a tuner in AppleTV might have been the unwritten agreement between Apple and the tv networks/movie studios. To get the content onto iTunes, without the draconian DRM of WMV, Apple had to make sure Apple themselves don't introduce a tv tuner. Seeing as the content appears on iTunes 1 day after it is screened in the US, it could cut sales considerably if people just recorded the show to their AppleTV rather than purchase it the next day on iTS.

Finally, the AppleTV could quite possibly just a generic piece of hardware in an Apple designed box. For all we know it could be a Foxtel IQ box, with Apple firmware rather than the Foxtel stuff. The USB port on those Foxtel boxes are a service port.

Out of the three, I would not be the least surprised if it is the last one. Steve never said that the AppleTV runs OS X, a la the iPhone. Its just an iPod on steriods :-)

marc
2nd February 2007, 03:58 PM
I really like Vista media center. It's certainly one of the best software solutions for recording TV that exists today. I'd rather run OS X and have a mac mini though, so I'm using that and a TV Duo from Miglia.

In my experience, EyeTV is much easier to set up and maintain, even if it doesn't look as nice (yet) and doesn't have as many features (yet).

Some thoughts:

Elgato have already stated (http://elgato.com/index.php?file=products_eyetv&PHPSESSID=ca1f9465b960a76afee95e6a181a3ae0) a way that EyeTV works with AppleTV, and they've also stated they'll be improving this in the future. My guess is they make it so you can auto export to iTunes, making the AppleTV a really good media extender. So a Mac + EyeTV + AppleTV = Very good media center.

I also think Elgato will surprise us with EyeTV version 3 at some point soon. They have a great product and have been developing it quite quickly. I'd expect the "full screen menu" portion of EyeTV to be the main thing they'll spend time on.

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 04:01 PM
Johnny - yeah it plays content as long as its in my movies/music/pictures directories in my home folder and as long as it's in formats that itunes/iphoto can read. That's my exact point. What about all those files that itunes won't have a bar of but VLC can play? What about ripped or unlicensed content? Exactly.

As I said in my post, there are QuickTime plugins that will handle most of the popular codecs.

lavo
2nd February 2007, 04:07 PM
Here is another thought with EyeTV. As marc said, there will be some sort of auto export to iTunes of recorded content. As for live content, why not create a streaming link in iTunes? Its hard to tell on the demo whether internet radio streaming is available under music. If it is, then their must be some way of making a local video stream available for the iTV. Is it possible?

rtc
2nd February 2007, 04:09 PM
As I said in my post, there are QuickTime plugins that will handle most of the popular codecs.

Okay then that leaves only files you can't play with any available quicktime codec, which admittedly is a small portion on most people's computers but still exists nonetheless.

marc
2nd February 2007, 04:12 PM
Here is another thought with EyeTV. As marc said, there will be some sort of auto export to iTunes of recorded content. As for live content, why not create a streaming link in iTunes? Its hard to tell on the demo whether internet radio streaming is available under music. If it is, then their must be some way of making a local video stream available for the iTV. Is it possible?
Local as in, on the AppleTV's hard drive?

lavo
2nd February 2007, 04:14 PM
Local, as in streaming from a Mac with an EyeTV to the Apple TV box (or a PC with a tuner card). Then a radio station in iTunes actually becomes a tv channel. Eliminates another box in the tv unit :-)

Musky
2nd February 2007, 04:21 PM
a quick question for all you WMC users out there, I'm thinking of upgrading my OS from XP so I can stream to my Xbox 360 but am I right in saying that you can't do that with Divx files?

marc
2nd February 2007, 04:25 PM
a quick question for all you WMC users out there, I'm thinking of upgrading my OS from XP so I can stream to my Xbox 360 but am I right in saying that you can't do that with Divx files?
That's true.

You can get something to convert to WMV on the fly. Quality is lost and there's some other issues, but it works (apparently).

feeze
2nd February 2007, 04:26 PM
Johnny - yeah it plays content as long as its in my movies/music/pictures directories in my home folder and as long as it's in formats that itunes/iphoto can read. That's my exact point. What about all those files that itunes won't have a bar of but VLC can play? What about ripped or unlicensed content? Exactly.


And media centre is restricted to formats that windows media player can play. Hell, prior to vista, windows media centre couldn't even natively play DVD's. You had to install a decoder (I think you also needed the decoder for TV as well).

Both media centre and frontrow are just graphical interfaces for the OS's pre-existing functionality. As such, they are limited to the same limitations are their respective media players.(although media centre is potentially more versatile as it does allow support for certain 3rd party developers)

We have Windows Media Centre 2005 and I love it. We certainly don't use it to our full potential but it has become very handy.

My only complaints are;

*It is an absolute pain in the arse to build one from scratch. It does not just run on any old hardware.
*No native DVD support, so you have to buy an DVD decoder (I think the same went for TV too). *If you want to burn your TV shows to DVD, you have to purchase a special 3rd party programme.
*The TV shows are recorded in an obscure format and stored in an obscure directory (which I believe is hidden because I cannot find it)
*There is no picture in picture
*There is no electronic TV guide (and yes I am aware of ICE TV)
*It's seems that the skip button is inconsistent in the amount of time it skips (also skipping forwards seems to skip further than skipping backwards)

I have yet to have a look at Vista Media Centre as we are a bit cautious about buying Vista for this machine.

But overall we are very happy with Media Centre 2005.

rtc
2nd February 2007, 04:27 PM
a quick question for all you WMC users out there, I'm thinking of upgrading my OS from XP so I can stream to my Xbox 360 but am I right in saying that you can't do that with Divx files?

Is the DIVX problem the comptuer or the xbox? If it's the computer, there must be some way of capturing its graphical output on the fly and streaming that instead, with the divx file playing locally on the computer.

marc
2nd February 2007, 04:32 PM
Is the DIVX problem the comptuer or the xbox? If it's the computer, there must be some way of capturing its graphical output on the fly and streaming that instead, with the divx file playing locally on the computer.

You can get something to convert to WMV on the fly. Quality is lost and there's some other issues, but it works (apparently).
Can't remember the name of the app, but it's possible.


*It's seems that the skip button is inconsistent in the amount of time it skips (also skipping forwards seems to skip further than skipping backwards)
That's normal. I have my (Mac with EyeTV) set to 30 seconds when pressing right and 7 seconds when pressing left. I'm not sure how you change the settings on MCE for this.

MactrixAUS
2nd February 2007, 04:56 PM
Incidentally, are you folks saying Front Row isn't a media centre because it has no TV component? It's obvious Apple's model is pay-per-download via the iTunes Store. Once iTMS.au gets movies and TV, you might change your "tune"!

Apple doesn't have to dominate in everything you know. IMO, Windows Media Center owns because of it's connectivity to everything around it. It's extensive. It was made to be married with your entertainment and living room.

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 05:04 PM
Apple doesn't have to dominate in everything you know. IMO, Windows Media Center owns because of it's connectivity to everything around it. It's extensive. It was made to be married with your entertainment and living room.

Shame it needs a fully fledged PC in your living room too!

MactrixAUS
2nd February 2007, 05:07 PM
Shame it needs a fully fledged PC in your living room too!

You don't buy a PC for your living room. You use it as a computer, just like any other computer. The difference is you have the option there to make that connectivity.

There is no such thing as just Windows Media Center. I have my Desktop PC running Vista Ultimate in my Study. It wirelessly connects to my 360 with MC. Easy as that.

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 05:31 PM
How is that different to a Mac with Front Row and/or AppleTV? Aside from the TV recording function, that is.

I have a feeling this discussion is going around in circles...

marc
2nd February 2007, 05:55 PM
How is that different to a Mac with Front Row and/or AppleTV? Aside from the TV recording function, that is.

I have a feeling this discussion is going around in circles...
Media Center + Xbox 360 can view the EPG and schedule TV programs etc from your sofa (via the Xbox). AppleTV + Mac can't.

Both solutions are good though.

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 06:20 PM
Unfortunately because Apple sells TV shows it will never let us watch them for free. Not that I mind, since I don't watch much TV anyway.

Quasar
2nd February 2007, 07:08 PM
Incidentally, are you folks saying Front Row isn't a media centre because it has no TV component? It's obvious Apple's model is pay-per-download via the iTunes Store. Once iTMS.au gets movies and TV, you might change your "tune"!

I doubt I will. But then I like watching my content for free. I don't like the pay per download model.

Quasar
2nd February 2007, 07:11 PM
I don't get it. Are you running a PC in the lounge? This is the stumbling block - the masses have shown they don't want a PC in the lounge.

Well...for those, there's the 360. It lets you access all the Media Centre features I think. You even get the bonus of it being a gaming box :)

MightyAtom
2nd February 2007, 07:30 PM
Is the DIVX problem the comptuer or the xbox? If it's the computer
Technically the problem is the Xbox, MS don't provide any DIVX codecs for the Xbox.

You can always use a program like Transcode360 (http://runtime360.com) to transcode the DIVX video on the fly and stream it to the Xbox, works beautifully with MCE 2005. There have been some problems getting it to work with Vista, the latest version apparently works (didn't for me though).

Johnny Appleseed
2nd February 2007, 07:32 PM
Well...for those, there's the 360. It lets you access all the Media Centre features I think. You even get the bonus of it being a gaming box :)
Yep, it'll be down to Xbox for the gamers vs AppleTV for the non-gamers!

gehenna
7th February 2007, 07:29 AM
My only complaints are;

*It is an absolute pain in the arse to build one from scratch. It does not just run on any old hardware.
*No native DVD support, so you have to buy an DVD decoder (I think the same went for TV too). *If you want to burn your TV shows to DVD, you have to purchase a special 3rd party programme.
*The TV shows are recorded in an obscure format and stored in an obscure directory (which I believe is hidden because I cannot find it)
*There is no picture in picture
*There is no electronic TV guide (and yes I am aware of ICE TV)
*It's seems that the skip button is inconsistent in the amount of time it skips (also skipping forwards seems to skip further than skipping backwards)


I don't agree with the first point. I've built several MCE boxes on both brand new hardware, and also older pentium boxes with generic hardware. While the software can take a bit of tweaking to get it working properly, you'd be surprised how low-spec'd the hardware has to be to run it successfully.

DVD and TV playback works with PowerDVD or WinDVD, or any other DVD codec. You only need to purchase those programs if you want to take advantage of their added features like 5.1 surround, video processing etc. You can quite easily use the free versions to get DVD and TV playback working properly.


TV shows are recorded as dvr-ms format and you can choose where they are located by going into the Settings screen within MCE. You can also get free conversion programs to convert these to avi or DVD. You can even use these programs to schedule automatic conversions and archiving to DVD or hard drive. Basically once it's setup you never need to touch it again. when the program sees new content in the dvr-ms folder it auto runs the conversions.

EPG is not supported in Australia or NZ but IceTv in australia (As you mentioned) is pretty much good to go, BladeRunnerPRO is also extremely useful and powerful and you can get a fully functioning EPG for free that way.

Skipping forward and back in avi/divx etc can be configured in the settings screen. I usually have it set up so that you skip forward 15 seconds, and skip back 7 seconds. you can also setup DVD skip functions. I have it setup so that my skip forward is 15 seconds, skip back is 7 seconds, and the channel up is chapter forward, channel down is chapter back.

You might want to check out (if you haven't already) some plugins for MCE2005 like TweakMCE (from microsoft), and MCE Customizer. Or www.xpmediacenter.com.au