I have a Windows Media Center PC the ownership of which has been a mixed experience. I love many of the features – the convenience of everything in one place, being able to record a TV series at the press of a button, pause TV while I make a cup of tea, do a quick web search in the living room on the TV, get rid of my VCR, DVD player and Freeview box etc but I have had a lot of problems – mainly due to the hardware (quality and configuration). I’ve rebuilt the box several times for various reasons (and it always takes me about 3 times as long as I predict). And for one reason or another it’s lain dormant for a few weeks (mainly because I’ve been moving house). Anyway, an entry in Mike Taulty’s Blog and a memory of a former colleague singing the praises of Orb made me pull my finger out and get my MCE setup again in my new place.
One thing I will say is that – as a geeky type – you forget how high your tolerance threshold can be compared to, er, less geeky people. For example – it’d never really crossed my mind that there is a rat’s nest of cables behind the TV and through to my amp that my girlfriend just doesn’t understand – it’s in the “Uhuh – and the point of that is?” category. Same for the noise that my MCE hardware makes – I tolerate it (mainly because I don’t want to pay for some quieter kit) – it’s a much bigger deal for her. So, in a desperate attempt to win her over I started searching around for the killer app that she couldn’t say no to.
Step forward Orb, an application that allows you to access your Media Center content from anywhere. Orb provide an app that runs on your Media Center PC that will stream your content to a remote device (PC, Pocket PC, Smartphone etc) via a simple web interface. At least that’s what they said. And, that’s pretty much what it did too. I created a new user account on my MCE box specifically for Orb as I had trouble running as non-Admin and I can now connect and listen to my music or watch recorded TV from other rooms in the house. I’m assuming I can do it from other places too but haven’t left the house to test it yet…
Word to the wise though – a tactical error let me down at the last hurdle. Instead of simply demonstrating how we can now listen to any one of our 250 or so CDs in the study and leaving it at that (she’s a dedicated iPod / iTunes user – will she never see the light? 🙂 ) I decided to show her recorded TV streamed to a PocketPC. I was staggered to be watching Green Wing (the episode with the charity slave auction – looks like the show is currently airing in the USA at the moment on BBC America – you lucky people!) on my Pocket PC (Orb automatically detects the speed of your connection and streams content appropriately). She was not quite so impressed. Looks like I need to regroup and consider alternative strategies. In the meantime, I’m enjoying streamed music in the study and looking forward to being able to watch Top Gear in Los Angeles at the PDC… 🙂