Archive for January, 2008

MCE / Vista Premium Movie playback codecs

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Just as an add on to the MCE post – to make sure we were able to playback everything a few bits of software were installed -
Divx (most downloaded videos use this)
K-Lite Mega Codec Pack (has all the codecs to play movie and song files eg. XVid)
DVD Region Free (so the Media Centre will play ALL DVDs not just the local region ones)

Windows XP Media Centre MCE 2005 and Vista Premium

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Microsoft have a great AV product called Windows Media Centre which has a remote control driven front end to watch and record TV, play DVDs, and play media files (movies and music) all from a PC. So it can be a Set Top Box (SD and HD), DVD Player, Media player etc. all in one. So lets put it all together and see how good it is! There is a bit a trial an error here so have a read of how we made it all work step by step.
We got a PC with a 3Ghz HT Intel CPU, 512MB DDR Ram, 128MB x300 PCIx and a 160GB hard drive, XP MCE (now replaced by Vista Premium) and an analogue TV Tuner card. Many of these bits were just not up to the sort of system being built so parts that got upgraded were -
We replaced the CPU fan for a simple silent model, the Analogue TV Tuner was replaced with a AverTV Duo Hybrid card (using PCI-E – see our catalog) which is a DUAL DIGITAL TUNER card – allowing us to watch live one channel and record live another channel at the same time (like having 2 set top boxes). The RAM was upgraded to 1.5GB as per the TV tuner card box, and then some time was spent on the video card.
Since the x300 TV picture was not great, trial an error got us to end up with a MSI ATI 2600PRO PCIx card (see out catalog). The latest ATI software has a slightly better set of options than NVIDIA for TV position, size and brightness. Also we used the S-VIDEO connection since that give a much better picture than the RCA option (its going to a rear projection standard TV). OK now for the software.
We had the Microsoft MCE keyboard, IR Receiver and MCE Remote (see out catalog) which have all the functions needed for the PC and Media centre. Dont wast time just getting the Remote – there will be times you want to do things in normal windows and for that the remote is useless.
For XP MCE (not Vista PREM) you need to log on to the net and download all the latest updates for windows – one of which is a MCE update that allows the MCE keyboard to work outside of Media Centre. Once thats done you can start playing with the keyboard (which has a trackpoint like mouse on it to navigate) to do any work you need. We downloadeed the latest ATI drivers, played with the TV settings until the right position, size and bright was fixed, then ran MCE and had a play with all the settings. Its fairly intuitive – go into the settings, scan and tune the TV, and away you go. After all the prep work the unit ran very well – only the TV Guide does not work out of the box (not sure why – ask the Aussie Free To Air TV stations and Microsoft) so the last bit was to find a TV guide. There is a great FREE one at: http://www.epgstream.net which has some software to download and a simple walk through on how to setup the channels. Once this was done – we had a great working PVR/HD STB/DVD/TV/Media player that was also able to surf the interent, record TV programs off a TV guide – all on our TV, and stream movies from another server PC.
AND if you have an LCD TV or plasma – the quality would be even better…