My new Windows Media Center PC


I'm a huge nerd. This is the reason that I'm compelled to do things like replace my TiVo with a Windows Media Center PC. I recently donated my old computer to some friends who were relocated out of New Orleans, and decided to take the plunge into MC. The more cynical of you out there might suggest that I donated the old machine solely to have an excuse to buy another machine... I have no response 🙂


Parts in the system (note that MS is not endorsing these products or retailers, but I like them and Newegg has always been good to me. You shoudl assume that being in the Visual Studio for Devices team has not prepared me for Media Center, and that I really don't know what I'm talking about):
* Antec Overture case that I'm reusing from another project (here's the updated version http://www.antec.com/us/productDetails.php?ProdID=15730). This case is fairly good looking and low profile, so it fits in reasonably well with my stereo rack.
* Athlon 64 X2 3800 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16819103562). Dual cores make it way cooler than those ancient single core processors.
* Asus A8N-E (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813131530). This particular board came highly recommended from a few people internally. The nForce4 Ultra chipset seems to be the best match for AMD64 processors, and has a huge featureset (other than IEEE-1394, which seems like a weird omission to me). There are also SLI versions of this board (Premium has a heat pipe instead of a fan, which makes it exceptionally quiet), but I don't need a gaming rig. I'm using the built in sound on the board.
* AOpen Aeolus GeForce 6600 video card (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814135183). A relatively cheap video card that can run without a fan. Fits my needs and the card seems to be running great. It comes with VGA/DVI/S-Video output, and an adapter to go from S-Video to component video (don't ask how this works, I can only assume it's black magic). This card should be able to run games nicely, but that's not my primary concern.
* Hauppage WinTV PVR 500MCE dual tuner capture card (http://www.hauppage.com/pages/products/data_pvr500mce.html). This was a used part I bought with a remote and IR receiver from a friend of mine. Seems to work well, I'm hoping to improve the video quality somewhat using the tweaking tools that are out there.
* Plextor PX-716A SATA DVD burner. I picked this up at Fry's locally when my old drive died. Large cache, burns pretty much any format, reads any format.
* 1 gig of Corsair memory. 2x512 meg sticks, DDR400 (PC3200). From some previous bad experiences, I don't buy no-name RAM.
* Dell 2000FP secondary monitor.


Anyways, I'm still working out some of the kinks, but overall I'm really nerdy... happy. Currently I have one core disabled because of video glitches, but I believe this is solved by affinitizing the media center processes to one core, and I'm want to improve the television quality, but that's probably because I've been watching a lot of DVDs lately and I'm not used to standard definition television. I appreciate some of the little touches, e.g. the thumbnail picture that keeps showing what I was watching when I'm navigating through all of the menus. I really detest the remote control designs that I've seen, it's enough to make me pulls out my Philips Pronto and re-program it, as even thought it isn't tactile, the design on the standard remotes just isn't good enough to keep them around, as opposed to my TiVo remote.


The integration between all of my media/devices is what I'm enjoying the most. I already have most of the music I own ripped to 128/160 kbps WMA, which sounds great over my real speakers rather than the dinky little "computer speakers" I had hooked up before.


Thoughts on MCE?


Comments (3)

  1. michael says:

    how do you *legally* get a copy of MCE when you build your own pc?

  2. JeffAbraham says:

    Originally MCE was only available to large OEMs, but in the last year (or so) Microsoft has changed its policy, and you can now purchase the OEM version of Windows MCE 2005 if you are buying hardware (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16832102311). I believe that originally this was done for support reasons; the first versions of MCE were very finicky about hardware requirements and drivers, later versions seem to support more mainstream hardware.

    Of course, for me it was much simpler, as I can legally download and dogfood copies of many Microsoft products from our internal shares.

Skip to main content