Next gen features on Windows will 'make or break' the HTPC experience and determine what device controls the living room.
Some of these new functions are hardware related, some are software, and some features (such as internet streaming/download) will be modified by progress in the courts and boardrooms.
This thread will track the progress of new functions and info will be harvested to continually update the first post elements as follows:Content:
- Bluray playback from archive/disc
- DISH content playback
- DVD-Audio/Legacy media playback
- FLAC/MKV support
- Internet streaming/download
Hardware and support systems
- Windows 7 MC/Open Source front ends
- Touch Screen/'Iphone' control of front-ends
- USB 3.0 Hifi Amps
- Hardware requirements - including 'gaming'
- Home media serving - 'fail safe' software and hardware
This will not attempt to be a definitive source of all HTPC info. Rather, this thread will serve as technical 'brain dump' area, link to other threads, and the first post will continually evolve to present the best 'value' mix of hardware and software for the DIY.
Bluray archiving/live playback: In addition to impressive thumbnail/media info support, Mymovies.dk
offers software that allows '1 Touch' ripping of bluray drives from within Windows Media Center. Arcsoft TMT 3 and Cyberlink 9 allow playback of Bluray discs. In a fit of corporate scat throwing, Microsoft has enabled burning of Bluray discs, but still does not support playback.
Satellite input: Dish Network's 'Draco' project
potentially offers Live and Recorded content viewing from any Windows 7 Media Center machine.
DVD-Audio Legacy media support: DVD-Audio software players include an exciting new project called ShaPlay
that could bring DVD-Audio playback from ISO or physical media directly into the front-end. An SACD solution lacks the necessary playback hardware as there are no physical SACD drives available for the PC.
MKV/FLAC codec support: MKV and FLAC top the list of desireable. In addition to the venerable FFMPEG approach with Shark codec packages (32/64 bit)
, the Divx technology preview (32 bit)
also enables MKV support using Microsoft codecs (which brings h.264 gpu acceleration). FLAC requires usage of WMP Tag Support
Win 7 MC/Open-source front-ends: MeediOS
are great competition for Microsoft's Media center. XBMC will possibly support Bluray archive/playback by year's end and this customizable front-end benefits from the wide codec support offered by FFMPEG.
Home media server software and hardware: convenience and protection are the dominant - and competing - themes. How can media be served to the house, but also be protected from hardware and software corruption? FlexRAID
offers impressive 'Snapshot RAID' hardware protection, but does nothing for virus/accidental deletion in it's current form. Can write-access in a windows ecosystem be limited to new file writes? Or is 'read only' folder sharing from a locked-down administrator machine the only viable way to ensure protection?
Internet streaming/downloads: Piratebay defeat aside, 2009-2010 could be the year that the 'old school' distribution mentality succumbs to reality. Everything exists for consumer and artist to be brought closer together via internet distribution, and Bluray/BD-Audio is not 'it'
. Netflix is aggressively pushing forward a new delivery model, and companies like Norway's 2L
are delivering lossless, multichannel audio via the intertubes.
USB 3.0 amps and other hardware: to date, the PC still has to be tied to the receiver. However, Windows 7 has support for Room Correction, and given the right hardware development on the audio side, an HTPC could potentially displace a lot of hardware in the A/V rack. Goodbye quickly obsolete hardware, hello one box of simplified Hifi goodness (power/ethernet in, audio/video out).
Touch screen/Iphone control: Windows Media center is still based on the 10 foot interface and thus presents problems for touch screen control and Iphone like media selection. The obstacle to touch screen control has not changed: the OS and GPU cards refuse to output the same content at different resolutions (1080p big screen, 720p touch screen). However, XBMC has an excellent Iphone interface
and will soon allow a small 10" touchscreen with coverflow media capabilities.