UI quality of WMC + Extender as a multiple-DVR replacement? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi there,

I'm considering taking the leap of replacing my two Comcast DVRs with a HTPC solution in the living room and XBox 360 extender in the bedroom, using a Ceton tuner for up to 4 streams.

It's my understanding that the XBox 360, as an extender, will essentially let me stream the entire living room experience and UI into the bedroom (including the guide, DVR recordings, etc.). I'm on wired ethernet so performance should be sufficient.

What I can't find anywhere on the Internet is a comprehensive review of what the UI and user experience is like with WMC, and if there are any differences on the XBox 360.

For example, on the remote for my Comcast DVRs, I have one button that will instantly bring up the guide, and another that will instantly bring up the DVR menu. I assume I could customize this kind of behaviour easily enough for the main PC, but what about the XBox 360, where things are less customizable? For example, this seems to be the standard XBox 360 remote, but I don't see a button labelled "DVR" on it.

Can anyone briefly review for me what it's like to use WMC on both an HTPC and XBox 360 extender, what the remote control functionality for the XBox 360 is like, and whether I'm setting myself up for disappointment and frustration if I go down this road? I'm mostly looking for reassurance that the XBox 360 user interface is at least as smooth as a normal DVR's when used for that purpose.

Thanks,

Dan.
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post #2 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 02:18 PM
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My Linksys will work w/ any MCE remote and believe the Xbox is the same, some MCE remotes have more functions than others but most will most likely have everything you're used to on you Comcast remote(I'm never used their remote but I'm sure it's about the same as TWC, COX and FIOS). As far as I know all MCE remotes have Guide and DVR keys.

Most things will be done quite similar to most cable providers DVR remote except for last channel is done by pressing OK while watching live TV, the back will only put you into the last screen/menu.

I think MC has one of the best guides out there-looks, function and that it gives you 2hr of listing at a time.

As a whole the 7MC user interface is quite nice and easy to use and if you find you don't like how they do something it's more likely just because it's different from what you're used to and not because it's a bad way to do it.

The experience on the extender is about the same as in 7MC other than a few menu items aren't available and the remote doesn't respond as quick(some find it annoying but IIRC the Xbox is better than other extenders).

Here's some screens shot I had taken of my 7MC, keep in mind I have done customization(guide/mini guide are showing more listings than default, back ground image, colors).














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post #3 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the detailed response and the screenshots, lovemyram4x4. From what I've seen the UI looks pretty straightforward and definitely sexier than the standard DVR UI. Again, though, most of my concern comes back to how effective it all is on the XBox 360 where your control and ability to customize is a lot more limited.

Here's another example: I can skip ahead 30 seconds on recordings by pressing a button on my Comcast remote (although I had to enter a secret code in order to do it). I presume I'd be able to set up a similar feature on the main HTPC, but what about the XBox 360 extender?

(I know if I can get commercial-skip working it would make this feature mostly obsolete, but it's a good example of an extremely convenient feature I use all the time on the Comcast DVR that I don't know if I could preserve on an XBox 360 extender...)

Dan.
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post #4 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 02:51 PM
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Actually skip forward/back is far superior in 7MC that any other DVR I've seen. Not only you can you set how far it skips by default (I set 29 sec forward and 8 sec back for the more common 30 sec commercials and to compensate for the time it takes to press the button) but you can also push 5(or any number) then skip and it will skip 5 x default skip amount, or you can put in the numbers for a time and it will skip to that point. I use automatic commercial skip so I don't use the skip keys that often anymore. All the custom things I do on 7MC show up the same on my extender even auotmatic commercial skipping.

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post #5 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 04:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovemyram4x4 View Post

Actually skip forward/back is far superior in 7MC that any other DVR I've seen. Not only you can you set how far it skips by default (I set 29 sec forward and 8 sec back for the more common 30 sec commercials and to compensate for the time it takes to press the button) but you can also push 5(or any number) then skip and it will skip 5 x default skip amount, or you can put in the numbers for a time and it will skip to that point. I use automatic commercial skip so I don't use the skip keys that often anymore. All the custom things I do on 7MC show up the same on my extender even auotmatic commercial skipping.

May I ask what kind of remote you use for your HTPC, and for your extender? Is there software included to customize the remote features for the extender, ie. assuming the extender is an XBox 360 (I understand that's pretty much the only choice these days) is there a way to map the feature to a button on the remote, given that the XBox doesn't exactly have a robust operating system?

Thanks,

Dan.
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post #6 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 05:38 PM
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I actually use 2 different remotes for the HTPC, neither required anything custom on the HTPC it self for normal functions. At first I was only using what sound like a complicated set up but really isn't and it makes use more simple, it has a Harmony remote programed to work as my TV's remote and all IR commands go thru the TV, each devices IR commends are then saved on the TV by using that devises remote(for the HTPC I used a MCE remote, AVR it's remote, etc) when ever I switch an input the TV uses the IR codes stored for the device on that input and also switches inputs on the AVR, making for no need of multiple remotes and/or change devices on the remote, I more recently added a fancy wifi remote but keep the harmony around because the wife is scared of the new remote(translation to lazy to learn how to use it which is manly just the new location keys). I use a MCE remote on my extender even though it has less function keys than the Linksys remote but I like the layout better and I don't really use the other keys and again no customization needed is it uses standard MCE IR remote commands(I believe the Xbox is the same).

So in short you can program your fancy programmable remote to use MCE IR codes, buy 1 of the many MCE remotes made by various companies or use the one that comes w/ it to control you HTPC and/or extender and shouldn't need any custom remapping of keys to get functions your used to and/or available in 7MC. Custom mapping is usually used for launch third party apps that don't integrate into 7MC or maybe some custom hotkey function both of which wouldn't be available on the extender.

The Xbox may be the only one that is still made but you still buy the other extenders and at times even new in box and in most cases for much less. All extenders aren't created equal, each seem to have pluses over others and non of them can do it it all. If all you really want to do is share tuners and recordings then something like a linksys DMA2100 could be better as they use less power, are silent and could be had really cheap. If you wanted BD playback using another HTPC and tuner sharing could be better but since you're on Comcast DRM could be an issue for recordings and using an extenders is the only way around it other than using a sling box or similar.

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post #7 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 06:19 PM
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Just to wet your imagination more with WMC -

http://www.hack7mc.com/

Here some themes - http://www.aboutonlinetips.com/windo...center-themes/

If you think that's cool, you haven't seen Media Browser in Action yet -



This theme is called Vanilla

Here's a Gallery of Media Browser users - http://www.mediabrowser.tv/forum/vie...hp?f=10&t=1389

You can set it up for not only Movies but Music and Recorded TV

Then you have My Channel Icons which is constantly updated and Remote Potato that will do remote scheduling and even stream content from your Media Center to your mobile device.

For Internet Content beyond the Internet TV plug-in which you can install once Windows gets all its updates and you set up Media Center. Beyond that, there's SecondRunTV 2.0 and MacroTube which is available on TheGreenButton web site, which is the Microsoft owned forum for Media Center.

Have fun, watching four streams and using an extender is just the TIP of the iceberg... You'll be looking at local or network attached storage pretty soon...

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post #8 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovemyram4x4 View Post

Actually skip forward/back is far superior in 7MC that any other DVR I've seen. Not only you can you set how far it skips by default (I set 29 sec forward and 8 sec back for the more common 30 sec commercials and to compensate for the time it takes to press the button) but you can also push 5(or any number) then skip and it will skip 5 x default skip amount, or you can put in the numbers for a time and it will skip to that point. I use automatic commercial skip so I don't use the skip keys that often anymore. All the custom things I do on 7MC show up the same on my extender even auotmatic commercial skipping.

Ya! Com Skip with Show Analyzer and compress without killing PQ with MCEBuddy 2.0

I didn't know there was a Game Time! plug-in! - http://community.mediabrowser.tv/per...-alpha-release

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post #9 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks all for the helpful feedback. I've looked into the extensions, etc. and it's all very exciting... what mostly has had me concerned are the simple things, though. The Comcast box sucks but the one thing it's good at is being an appliance, with all its functionality already mapped out onto a cookie-cutter remote. The main HTPC hasn't concerned me as much because it's an open PC you can pretty much do whatever you want with, but the extender (and particularly how appliance-like it behaves with a remote) has been much harder to get information about.

Once I have a set-up going, I will attempt to make some kind of review or video addressing these issues for other potential converts.

Anyway, I feel a lot more confident now about its ability to function as an appliance. If anyone else has any insight they'd like to contribute on that matter, I welcome it.

Thanks,

Dan.
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post #10 of 21 Old 01-24-2011, 10:43 PM
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Its simple to operate WMC even for Wivess and Children are never a concern.

WAF goes down if it doesn't work right, but as long as you K.I.S.S that is not an issue and I used my daily without any errors and it changes faster than most cable boxes do

Here's a layout of a typical WMC remote -



Here's what one of the Xbox 360 remotes look like -



I think your over-concerning yourself. Cable Boxes aren't all that hot, slow menus, confusing sub-menus, fees. Didn't I mention FEES! MC EPG Info is free... You can also edit it if you want several ways, inside Media Center and there a program that has more advanced features.

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post #11 of 21 Old 01-25-2011, 05:49 AM
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With WMC you can hide the channels you don't get/want from the guide, with cable boxes/DVR's you have to sift through all the channels each time.
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post #12 of 21 Old 01-26-2011, 08:48 AM - Thread Starter
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I've gone ahead and ordered the parts for my build. Here's what I'm going with:

SilverStone Sugo SG02B-F MicroATX case (2 external 5.25" + 2 internal 3.5" bays)
3x 80mm SilenX fans (to replace and supplement the stock fan)
Intel Core i3 550 3.20 GHz w/onboard graphics
ASRock H55M/USB3 R2.0 motherboard
OCZ500MXSP 500W modular PSU
4GB RAM (A-Data Gaming Series DDR3 1600)
60GB OCZ SSD for the OS
2TB 7200rpm/32MB Hitachi Deskstar for the DVR, etc.
Antec VERIS Elite Multimedia Station (internal IR panel + remote control)
LG 10X Blu-ray Writer (just for kicks)

It's going to take anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks for the Ceton card to arrive, so I'll have plenty of time to tinker around with my build before I'm able to watch TV on it.

Hopefully this will be plenty sufficient to manage the 4 streams from the Ceton card (say, recording two, decoding/displaying one, and streaming another to the extender).

Dan.
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post #13 of 21 Old 01-26-2011, 10:37 AM
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That should handle everything just fine and those 2TB deskstars are pretty fast and might even be able to handle commercial scanning on 2 shows at once if/when you do along w/ recording and playback needs.

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post #14 of 21 Old 01-26-2011, 11:45 AM
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You can cut back on the power supply, i3 has very low power demand. Not down to Atom levels but close enough, especially if your not going to upgrade to graphics cards.

You can save a few dollars there.

Robert Heron updated his Atom HTPC to Sandybridge i3 with InfiniTV4 -


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post #15 of 21 Old 01-26-2011, 12:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj4monie View Post

You can cut back on the power supply, i3 has very low power demand. Not down to Atom levels but close enough, especially if your not going to upgrade to graphics cards.

Yeah, I figured I was going a bit overkill on the power supply, but I really liked the idea of getting a modular PSU... it should help with the cable managment in the small case, seeing as this is my first ever from-scratch build (although I've done plenty of installing of drives, memory, PCI cards, etc. so I have some idea of what I'm getting into). So given that I wanted modular the 500W OCZ was the lowest-power/least-expensive-after-MIR/highest-rated option on Newegg.

Besides, better too much than not enough, right? Maybe someday I'll want to migrate to a bigger system and this PSU will hopefully still be sufficient.

Dan.
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post #16 of 21 Old 01-26-2011, 12:16 PM
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Yeah I didn't notice the 500w PSU that's more than you'd need in that system even if you put a gaming GPU in. The good news is the PSU only uses as much power as needed for the load, the bad news it probably won't be as efficient at these lower loads it will see than a smaller PSU.

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post #17 of 21 Old 04-05-2011, 09:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok, well, months later I finally have my Ceton card and my HTPC build up-and-running. Here are my initial observations after several days of use:

1. I got the Antec VERIS Elite multimedia station, but quickly discovered that the supplied remote, while great for controlling a computer, was going to be a poor experience for controlling a TV/DVR. I bought the Logitech Harmony 300i instead, which works and feels great, although I'm having trouble setting up some button mappings (the Harmony software specifies MCE buttons that don't exist in the iMon software, and vice-versa).

2. Comcast set-top boxes have an "Exit" button, and so does my Harmony remote, but there is no equivalent function that I can find in WMC! "Exit" should close any menus that have been opened overtop of live TV/recorded TV/video playing, etc. I'm not sure what to hook this button up to, and I miss the functionality!

3. For the most part the XBox 360 is working GREAT as an extender. I originally bought the standard Microsoft XBox 360 Universal Remote, but I am disappointed with the feel of it, and it has no button to display recorded TV, so I am swapping it for this remote instead, which looks a bit more ergonomical, has the recorded TV button, and according to user reviews controls the XBox just fine.

4. I set up commercial skipping (which is very cool) along with buttons on my Logitech remote to enable/disable it, but as I feared there doesn't seem to be any way to custom-configure remote buttons on the extender, so I can't toggle the feature on and off for the XBox. I'm concerned that if commercial skipping doesn't work perfectly I'm going to have to disable it entirely, because if I can't toggle it off on the extender it's going to be a big problem.

5. My HTPC seems to be having a weird problem where (even with no USB ports in use) Windows will start thrashing that a USB port is connected/disconnected. I've tried turning off power management to the USB hubs, but it's still happening... problem is I don't know if it's an issue with the motherboard or case and since I ordered them both online I don't expect it will be easy to get service on either one at this point.


So far, even with my complaints this system is a BIG win over my previous setup, and requiring only a single CableCARD for the entire household is rocking.

Dan.
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post #18 of 21 Old 04-05-2011, 11:40 AM
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2. Comcast set-top boxes have an "Exit" button, and so does my Harmony remote, but there is no equivalent function that I can find in WMC! "Exit" should close any menus that have been opened overtop of live TV/recorded TV/video playing, etc. I'm not sure what to hook this button up to, and I miss the functionality!

I mapped my Exit button to the "back" button from the WMC remote. This now functions the exit button found on my STB remote. This was pretty simple for me to set up since I was "learning" every button for the Harmony. I just used the WMC remote first to see which buttons I would use in WMC then I wrote them down on a piece of paper and wrote the corresponding Harmony button I would use for it next to the WMC button. Then just took my time and went 1 by 1.
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post #19 of 21 Old 04-05-2011, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankspin View Post

I mapped my Exit button to the "back" button from the WMC remote. This now functions the exit button found on my STB remote. This was pretty simple for me to set up since I was "learning" every button for the Harmony. I just used the WMC remote first to see which buttons I would use in WMC then I wrote them down on a piece of paper and wrote the corresponding Harmony button I would use for it next to the WMC button. Then just took my time and went 1 by 1.

Yeah, problem with that is the WMC "Back" function is pretty complicated; it can wind up reopening menus you'd previously closed. Maybe I'll just map it to "Live TV" and it won't work as expected for recorded stuff... :/

Dan.
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post #20 of 21 Old 04-05-2011, 04:54 PM
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Are you by any chance hitting the WMC button when you're done watching something to go back to the main WMC Screen? If yes then that is why it's cycling back through "closed" menus.
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post #21 of 21 Old 04-05-2011, 05:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankspin View Post

Are you by any chance hitting the WMC button when you're done watching something to go back to the main WMC Screen? If yes then that is why it's cycling back through "closed" menus.

The reason doesn't matter; it's ineffective as an alternative to "Exit" as long as it's possible to do that.

Dan.
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