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Permalink to this day Monday, January 24, 2005

If you are a fan of bonus DVD content here is a the list of discs with MCE specific features built by Interactual:

  • Secondhand Lions
  • The Butterfly Effect
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Theatrical)
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Extended)
  • Elf
  • Laws of Attraction
  • Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (Rated & Unrated)
  • Cellular

Also, I've updated the list of DVDs that have Interactual's MCE software on them (it's longer than the above list). Click thru for a description of the problems you might run into playing them on MCE (and the solutions).
3:52:20 PM  Permalink to this item []

I'm collecting feedback on HP's z545. If you have any feedback you'd like to give please email me mail at mattgoyer com or leave a comment.
2:37:55 PM  Permalink to this item []

Media Center PC World, Mac Mini – Is It The Best Media Center….PC? Their conclusion is no. And so HTMini takes them to task and says it's fine with the exception of HDTV. The first article forgot to point out the lack of digital audio. That's a deal breaker for me (yes you can buy an adapter..)

Update: Ming compares building a Shuttle MCE PC with building a Mac Mini Media Center. Conclusion is that the Shuttle is $860 and the Mac is $1400. A big difference! But if owning a Mac makes you cooler at school then do what you gotta do.
11:45:21 AM  Permalink to this item []

BBC, Bill Gates plots a Windows future:
We have brought out the Media Center PC. That's really our showcase. It shows how with a single remote control you can get at all these capabilities and then we are making sure that it connects up to everything else.

Read the interview if you're interested in BillG's thoughts on the future of home entertainment.
11:43:07 AM  Permalink to this item []

Thomas Hawk, E Television and LaCie Big Disk Problems:
Well this weekend I attempted to rehook a television signal back into my MCE machine and I was reminded that television indeed may be the biggest thing still holding Media Center back. The issue really boils down to two things. 1. Really poor television quality and 2. Incredibly complex set up.

Thomas, that sucks about your TV quality. I personally haven't experienced this, but I'm curious what TV tuner you have? I know you're using an upgraded machine so maybe a newer card would fix the problem because I know we made significant improvements in TV quality from 2004 to 2005. Also, are you using the latest drivers for your card? They can have a huge impact on quality.

For those that want to understand the technical reasons why Thomas's video may be degraded, my co-worker Charlie Owen, responded at length in Thomas's comments:

All of the encoding of the content for DirectTV is done at the 'head end' with *very, very* expensive equipment. Essentially, you are downloading a file from the satellite and decoding it on your DirectTV set top box for display on your HDTV.

All of the encoding of the content for Media Center is done on the Media Center PC with consumer quality equipment (some of which is really good and some of which is only so - so). Another Analog --> Digital conversion is introduced with the use of digital cable / satellite sources which *could* be the source of your degraded quality.

For example...

DirectTV = Source --> Encode to Digital --> Download to Set Top Box --> Decode to Analog --> Out To Display

Media Center with DirectTV = Source --> Encode to Digital --> Download to Set Top Box --> Decode to Analog --> Out to Media Center --> Encode to Digital --> Spool out to hard disk (equivalent to Download) --> Decode to Analog --> Out to Display

As for the TV setup problem. Ideally we would include a DVD decoder but for many reasons we don't and instead leave it up to the computer manufacturer to ship the correct one.

To understand some of the reasons why we might not ship with a Microsoft supplied DVD decoder read the anonymous comment in Thomas's blog:

DVD decoders are not free, they're licensed (MPEG2 is a proprietary algorithm). Most DVD drives come with a DVD decoder of some sort (usually bundled in with a software player like WinDVD or PowerDVD). Suppose Microsoft were to bundle a DVD decoder with MCE 2005. This means that the average consumer purchasing a MCE computer at Best Buy will end up paying double for a DVD decoder - once for the one bundled with the DVD drive and once for the one bundled with MCE. Rather than unnecessarily push the price of MCE up (estimate $20, which would be a ~15% increase), Microsoft chooses to let its OEM's decide when and how to include a DVD decoder. It's a logical choice that saves you money.

Though yes, that error message sucks and should be improved. We really should tell you what's wrong instead of hiding behind a generic message.

Keep in mind with a fresh MCE 2005 machine straight from the store should have all the right decoders and drivers installed. Sounds like our 'depending on computer manufacturers' upgrade story could use some work. And ideally a customer should never have to know what MPEG stands for or what DVD decoders do. Customers have that luxury with Tivos and .
11:30:55 AM  Permalink to this item []

© Copyright 2005 Matt Goyer.
I work at Microsoft in the eHome division on the Windows XP Media Center Edition team as a Program Manager.

Disclaimer: The posts on this weblog are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confer no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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Updated: 4/11/2005; 10:31:45 PM.