Windows Media Center’s popularity on the rise

According to this report Media Centers are gaining in popularity. I bought one myself a week ago and I'm very happy with it. I was looking at purchasing a new desktop, mainly for work-related activities, and for my wife to edit her digital pictures. As I kept thinking about it I realized that I wanted a media center. A few of my colleagues have one and they rave about them quite a bit. Plus my TIVO can only store about 35 hrs worth of TV and there's constantly at least half of that taken up by Highway to Heaven episodes (I can't get enough of it... don't ask). I'm planning a 4 week trip for later this year and given all the shows I like to watch there's no way that a month worth of entertainment is going to fit.

My original plan was to have a local shop build me a customized rig when I stumbled upon a fancy HP Media Center with a 21" widescreen LCD monitor at some well known warehouse store. Resistance was futile... I bought it and ended up spending twice my original budget. First time ever that I buy a name-brand desktop. Anyway, it's working great. Last night I installed the Windows Media Center Extender on my XBox and for the first time in years I was able to watch shows from my home country on my television set. TV recording is the next step. If it's as easy to setup as the rest was, we'll be up and running in no time!

I've heard more than a few people complain about the lack of innovation in the PC space in the last few years. Maybe the reason why Windows Media Centers are so popular is because they open up such a brand new set of possibilities. If you're already living the "digital lifestyle" a Media Center is a must-buy.

Comments (7)
  1. Jeff Parker says:

    Hey Denis, I have a question for you maybe you can ask a few people. I have been wanting to use Media Center for a long time. However no one seems to be able to answer a question I have about it. Will it work with Comcast. I have asked retailers, I have asked comcast. No one seems to know. I want basically to be able to record movies and tv and stuff from cable. Now I know TiVo doesn’t work with Comcast unless you buy a cable box for Tivo and a cable box to watch tv, then to watch your TiVo you basically have to switch cable inputs to your TV. Hence I am skeptical on media center. I know comcasts own propriatary DVR works with their system but unknown on the media center. Specifically watching one channel while recording another.

  2. MSDN Archive says:

    Jeff, I’m not sure I fully understand your question but let me try.

    The Media Center should work with any cable/satellite TV provider. The output from the set top box provides the input for your PC. From what I understand (I haven’t done the setup yet on my own system) the infra-red emitter on the PC controls the box.

    The information you provide about hooking up a TIVO suggests to me that you’re talking about a dual tuner situation ("Specifically watching one channel while recording another"). It turns out there is an article on this very subject at

    I hope this info helps. I still haven’t done that part of the setup myself so I’m sorry I cannot be of further assistance right now. I’ll ask one of my colleagues to read your question and see if he can answer it.


  3. Brad Richards says:

    Jeff, I’m currently using MCE with Comcast cable. Now I just have basic (analog) cable so it is as simple as connecting the coax to my tuner card and letting MCE auto-scan the channels. I’ve never had digital cable, but as I understand it you simply need something called an IR blaster to get this setup to work. The IR blaster allows MCE to change channels on your Comcast digital STB. The feed coming out of the STB is what you connect to your tuner card. If you do a web/newsgroup search on ‘MCE Comcast Digital Blaster’ you are likely to find all the info you need.

  4. Brad Richards says:

    I see that I didn’t address your specific question on dual tuners. Here is an article that should be helpful:

  5. Jeff Parker says:

    Cool thanks Brad that article is what I am looking for. I think I can do what I want. I knew the basic cable stuff would work but it is more movies and so on which you need the cable box to view, now in the apartment I have 3 cable hook ups. I might have to run a long cable from one room to the other but I am not against that I have done wierder things running wires in an apartment.

  6. MSDN Archive says:

    I’m finally done with the full setup so I thought I’d post a quick update in the form of a comment.

    I had to call the satellite company in order to activate one of the spare set-top boxes I had laying around. I hooked the input to the wall and the output to the computer’s tuner. After that, it is pretty easy. Windows Media Center identifies the signal, asks you if you have cable or satellite … things of that nature.

    The hardest part was setting up the IR blaster so the computer can change to channel on the set-top box. If you have a remote for your box, then it’s pretty easy. Windows asks you to press certain buttons and automatically figures out what you have based on the signals it receives. If you don’t have a remote (that was my case, the extra set-top box had been saved from the trash but didn’t come with a remote) you have to give the box’s brand and try the various possibilities one by one. It was made even harder for me by the fact that my computer has 2 outputs for 2 IR blasters and I spent a while trying with the wrong one (which isn’t clearly indicated in the UI).

    In the end it seems to work. At some point though, the channels stopped changing properly. I had setup a taping on one channel, the computer believed it had switched to that channel, but it taped a completely different one. And when I tried to watch live TV and change the channel from the Media Center’s remote, I could clearly see the problem. The computer believed it has sent the IR signal and reflected the info on the guide and such but the cable box hadn’t switched channels. Everything seems to be back to normal now. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause of that temporary glitch.

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