Windows Media Center's Been Good To Me ...
If you’ve been puzzled at all whether I’m a geek at heart, this should remove all doubt.
A little background: Scoble noticed that there is some back and forth among strong advocates of the computer as media hub and developers over recent steps with regard to the Windows Media Center PC. I noticed that and the posting by Charlie Owen after having just made an emergency acquisition of a desktop computer equipped with the Media Center Edition 2005 pre-loaded. I am not in the target- market sweet spot for the Media Center. As you’ll see below, there is no television in this household, and we don’t have a cable subscription. What I am is someone who fits a fringe case that the current relatively-unrestricted adoption of Edition 2005 serves beautifully. So it was pretty amusing to see all of the angst about Microsoft not taking the lead in HDTV readiness and many other things that don’t matter to me at all. But Media Center Edition 2005 and the configurations that go with it saved my butt on a desperate Saturday night. It was with some amusement and delight that I made the following comment.
RetroSight :: Charlie Owen :: Windows XP Media Center Edition Development - Thomas Rants About Media Center
9/28/2005 11:02:38 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I notice the difference between the Media Center PC configurations out there and I'm grateful. It happened like this:
1. On Saturday, 9/17 I cratered my Tablet PC, at that time the most uptodate and powerful machine in my household. I did it with a BIOS update that failed and the machine would no longer boot. So, off to the repair center.
2. I was in sudden-death overtime on getting an M.Sc IT dissertation submitted, and the Tablet was my be-all-end-all system with everything on it. Yes, I had backed up all of my data onto an older machine over my SOHO LAN before I did the bonehead thing.
3. I'll be without the tablet for 2-3 weeks and that won't work. I have an old Windows 98 SE 600 MHz machine that I have been avoiding upgrading. Everything I do has been in Office 2003 and I must get onto a hot machine. It will take too long to back everything off the 98-er, add a bigger hard drive, and then build it up again.
4. I hot foot to Office Depot because it's late and cruise the aisles. All the machines come with either XP Home (don't want it), Windows Table PC, or Windows Media Center PC configurations. I know that the special editions are all XP Pro SP2 (want that) and I don't want to buy a Toshiba while there may be life in my Averatec again at some point.
5. Solution: A Gateway 831GM with Media Center PC but no TV tuner or any of the other things that make the H-P sitting next to it cost $200 or more more. Since I don't have a television or a cable connection, and I'm a recovering channel clicker, I don't need a box with TV tuner and I am also not that keen on an iffy removable hard-drive capability (since these integration cases seem to come and go with the season about as predictably as 8-track tape).
6. WOW!! I get a video switch which plunks the new tower next to my old one and actually gives me more desk space and my big LCD monitor to work on. And Media Center is fun but even more fun is I now have a 3GHz Hyper-threader, 250GB SATI drive, and dual-ported PC3200 RAM. I haven't bought a tower since 1998 and I forget what Moore's law and the free-enterprise system has been doing since. I also recovered all my data, reinstalled all the software I needed, and then only had to deal with removing the crap that shipped on the beast. (I removed one piece of crap too many. I didn't realize that the PowerDVD package on the machine was the source of the DVD decoders so I had to buy one at retail rather than go back and rebuild my system all over again from the recovery disks. [So PowerDVD is by no means crap, I just don’t like their splash screen and the fake automotive-DVD faceplate, since I love my Windows Media Player and controls I can understand without remembering how to use a VCR I don’t have any longer. — dh:2005-10-03]) I also have dual DVD drives in the machine, and one of them also writes every format known to man. So now all of my accumulated data is backed up on two DVDs as well as another SOHO machine. I had some memory problems (had to download and burn the Windows Memory Test utility and it worked great) and ran out and bought another gigabyte just in case (for about $0.11 per MB, tax included, holy smokes). The driver conflicts went away as I disabled extras and turned off IE plug-ins. I even arranged to set myself up to operate fully under a limited account (except when I have to install anything, of course).
7. Having no TV, watching DVDs on the computer monitor is our household form of video entertainment. The Media Player and the Media Center work just fine (via PowerDVD, I learned) and the quality is terrific. It's kinda nice to select music from album covers, though that's no biggie. No more wierdo pass-through MPEG decoder boards. That's a biggie. My big LCD is the crispest I've ever seen one.
8. One beef. The absence of Windows disks and any media other than complete restore media is a big pain. I *think* it is mostly on the hard drive, and I can turn on IIS when I am ready, but I'm never sure what the OEM weenies have done to the setup and I usually end up not liking it. I always like what I get with a clean install [from Microsoft retail-distribution disks].
9. Bottom Line: Looking for a full-up consumer-priced retail desktop, get a Media Center PC qualified configuration and only as much of the Media Center extras as matter to you.