Tag Archives: HTPC

The Death of Windows Media Center

Windows Media CenterThere were rumors this past month that Windows Media Center would not be included in Windows 10. Sadly, this was confirmed this week via a tweet by Gabriel Aul (General Manager of OSG Data and Fundamentals team at Microsoft).

We can confirm that due to decreased usage, Windows Media Center will not be part of Windows 10.

And with that sad news, I can now move on to the planning of my next media management solution for my family. But before that happens, I’ll continue to enjoy the benefits of my WMC until Windows 7 becomes outdated.

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Is Hulu the Future of TV?

HuluOne of the hottest sites on the web these days is Hulu.com. Founded in 2007, it provides TV shows and movies for free on their website in return for time watching their commercials. Although this sounds very familiar to the standard TV model, it’s not. First of all, you don’t have to be sitting at your computer at a specific time. You can sit down and pick the show that you want to watch. You can also pause and rewind the show, however you can’t skip the commercials. One other downside is that you don’t have access to just anything that you want, you have to pick from a limited set of shows (albeit the list is growing all the time). Remember that this is a website, so unless you have a computer connected to your living room TV (like we do), then you are required to be at your computer. Yet with all that taken into account, it’s been wildly popular with the the techie crowd and is now expanding to the “Facebook crowd”.

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Netflix Arrives for Vista Media Center

Netflix on VMCGood news for families (like ours) that use VMC (Vista Media Center) in their living room (or I guess anywhere you watch TV). Over the next 48 hours, Microsoft will be rolling out a new plug-in for their software that will allow you to watch content from your Netflix Instant Queue. I mentioned back in December when the NXE update arrived for the XBox 360, that it would be nice to have a better player for the PC.

I only wish that the PC player was as good. On a PC, you need to disable the screen saver otherwise you’ll be moving the mouse periodically. The quality is good on the PC player though. There are a couple Vista Media Center plug-ins for viewing shows, but they aren’t on the same level as the XBox player. I’m going to continue looking at them since the browser based player doesn’t work well from 10 feet away. Not being able to use the remote to pause and fast forward the movie is very unattractive on an HTPC.

Looking at the feature list, this plugin will support the pause, fast forward and rewind using the remote that I’ve been looking for and will also include a rather snazzy interface. There is a Microsoft video that will show the new VMC Netflix plugin in action. There are a couple of unofficial plugins that provide for Netflix viewing, but none of them look this good.

The only downside with the new plugin is the lack of extender support. However with Linksys and others discontinuing their extender devices, the whole extender ecosystem seems to be falling apart at the seams. Note to Microsoft: please produce a version of your XBox 360 that is quiet. Regardless, thanks for sharing the love with my VMC. Now we just need Netflix to step up to the plate and provide fresh content on a regular basis.

Are DVRs Just Collecting Dust?

This article on the Economist brings up some very surprising numbers on DVR usage. Ten years after the introduction of the digital video recorder (Tivo being the best known), about 29% of homes in the U.S. have one (according to Nielsen). Those families with DVRs watched pre-recorded shows less than 20% of their total viewing time. Given the ease at which you can skip commercials, it is surprising that only half the commercials are skipped (on average). All told,  less than 3% of all advertisements are skipped. Even that is offset because people with DVRs watch more television (than those without DVRs).

I can tell you right now that I would have been a huge outlier in that study. For one, we don’t watch a lot of network or cable television. What we do watch is pre-recorded almost exclusively. Even when we watch sporting events, we will typically pause it for twenty minutes and then skip through commercials on the fly. Our Vista Media Center makes it easy to do. I would imagine that I watch less than ten commercials a month (missing a huge chunk of pop culture in the process). In fact, I really think the season sets are great since they are just pure shows.

Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone and I’m not sure whether it is a lack of technical savvy or just an enjoyment of commercials. Judging from Facebook status updates and quizes, I’m way behind the curve on television watching. I don’t even know most of the shows out there. Go figure. I guess I should be thankful that most people watch the commercials anyway so that the status quo doesn’t change and broadcasters look for new ways to pay for their programs.