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My plans for a "whole home" Windows Media Center setup were just crushed

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
My current setup is two DirecTV HD-DVRs and the Directv whole home service. I love this setup for TV watching. I have one DVR hooked up to main living room plasma. The other DVR is in the theater, hooked up to the receiver/projector via HDMI and also ran to my bedroom TV via component. I also currently have one Xbox 360 and one Panasonic bluray player hooked up only to the projector.

That being said, I'm considering cord cutting...or dish ditching. I've been doing some "proof of concept" testing the last few days with Windows Media Center and the Xbox 360. My original thought was to build one central HTPC housed in the theater that would again display on the projector and my bedroom TV and then have a couple Xbox 360's working as extenders for the front living room TV and kids bedroom.

I would want this system to display both recorded TV (from an OTA tuner) and also rips of DVDs and Bluray discs. 4 year old twins and physical media DO NOT mix well smile.gif

So far over the last few days I've discovered several issues with using the 360 as an extender. I think I've figured out ways around most of them though.

Tonight I started researching the futureproofing aspect of my plan and looking into Windows 8 and the Xbox One. That's when my plan started to fall apart. First of all, Media Center is no longer included in Windows 8 anymore, it's an add-on that essentially doubles the cost of the OS! mad.gif Media Center also barely gets a footnote mention on Microsoft's website now. Furthermore, there is little to no info regarding the Xbox One as being a true Media Center Extender.

It sure looks like the death of Windows Media Center and Windows Media Center Extenders is certain.


Cutting to the chase here..besides a handful of $300 Dune or Popcorn Hour boxes, what else is available that will do what I want? $150 xbox 360's sure are enticing little media extenders!

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 32
What are your issues? I have Xbox 360 extenders, my purpose the same as yours. Aside from occasional lag in reading and navigating through my movie collection (200 or so mkv files) and limited audio support my system is great. Win7 server, and no plans to upgrade to Xbox One.
post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
First I tried watching some downloaded TV shows in MKV/MPG/M2TS that were H264/Divx through the 360 and using WMC-Vista and it couldn't play any of them.

I later tried using WMC-WIndows 7 off my laptop and that worked. My only minor concern now is fast forwarding and rewinding seemed a little buggy and the video would crash when trying to RW or FF with the M2Ts file.


My next test was trying to use My Movies to watch a DVD-ISO on the Xbox. I had to sign up for the 21 day trial of the full version of My Movies to be able to turn on transcoding for this work. Using my desktop with a Core2Quad and WMC-Vista, to send video to the 360, the video would play fine for several minutes, then start freezing and stuttering.

Again, I was able to solve those issues by switching the Core I7 laptop with WMC- Windows 7. But again, fast forwarding was extremely laggy.


How do you go about streaming your DVDs/BRs to the 360?
post #4 of 32
Covert to m4v, my Xboxes have no prob playing these. Or if you want to transcode use Play On.
post #5 of 32
XBOX are a good game consoles. Other than that the WMC is painfully slow even when all the media is ripped / encoded to MV4.

You are better off building HTPC's and using WMC or JRiver.
post #6 of 32
I use xbox 360 as extender for live/dvr tv / online services. I use a netgear neotv 550 (EOLd) for local video playback. From what I can tell, there's no single device that does this all well.
post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by CornDwg01 View Post


How do you go about streaming your DVDs/BRs to the 360?

All of my DVD/BR are ripped to mkv, h264/AVC or MPEG2, AC-3 audio. I get a 1-2 second buffer delay at the beginning of playback, from there everything is smooth as silk.
post #8 of 32

After a year my opinion is use WMC (Xbox and or PC) for TV and nothing else... either use XBMC (HTPC) or a cheap streamer for everything else. Sure you have two devices but the rest of your life will be so much easier... smile.gif Also, if you change devices down the road your media will still be loseless and supported without any issues.

 

Regarding the death of WMC... it died a long time ago. However with it still being supported in Windows 8.1 the guide data is still kicking.


Edited by Charles R - 8/2/13 at 1:54pm
post #9 of 32
post #10 of 32
I'm confused how the cost of adding WMC to Windows 8 "nearly doubles" the cost?

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/feature-packs

Looks like it costs $10 to add WMC, where are you getting Windows 8 for ~$10?

The question of XB1 support (or lack of) for WMC extender is an open question that a bunch of us would like an answer to. Worst case scenario I'll pickup a couple 360s to use as extenders for the next 5-10 years. By then hopefully something better will come along.
post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by c.kingsley View Post

I'm confused how the cost of adding WMC to Windows 8 "nearly doubles" the cost?

 

Windows 8 Pro is required to install Media Center so you have to upgrade to Pro if you aren't there already... however OEM Windows Pro is only $30 - $40 more than Windows 8.

post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles R View Post

Windows 8 Pro is required to install Media Center so you have to upgrade to Pro if you aren't there already... however OEM Windows Pro is only $30 - $40 more than Windows 8.
My mistake. I guess those price points really changed after I bought an early copy.
post #13 of 32
WMC has always been sooooooooooo close to being great. Its not all Microsofts fault the restrictions that CableLabs puts on cablecard really prevented mass appeal. After using WMC and Xbox 360's as extenders for a couple of years I finally switched back to having a cablebox in every room it just wasn't worth the hastle. I could handle the quirks but my wife was always frustrated.
post #14 of 32
I'm also weighing the option of cutting to cord...ditching the dish (as I have DirecTV). I've already completed a limited PoC in regards to using a single External Antenna to distribute OTA signals to all 6 TVs in the house without issue. I currently use Plex with a number of streaming devices connected to those TVs to access my media collection. What I really need is an affordable device that will provide Programming Guide data for the OTA broadcasts in my area; this is really the only thing holding me up. I've looked into Boxee, but read too many horror stories about the performance of their devices and I want this to be as user friendly as possible; TiVo, too expensive; maybe I could get away with building very low cost HTPC/Win7/MCE boxes, but was looking to avoid that....although I could get rid of the streaming boxes if I went that route.

Alas, I'm still looking.
post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlacMagik View Post

I'm also weighing the option of cutting to cord...ditching the dish (as I have DirecTV). I've already completed a limited PoC in regards to using a single External Antenna to distribute OTA signals to all 6 TVs in the house without issue. I currently use Plex with a number of streaming devices connected to those TVs to access my media collection. What I really need is an affordable device that will provide Programming Guide data for the OTA broadcasts in my area; this is really the only thing holding me up. I've looked into Boxee, but read too many horror stories about the performance of their devices and I want this to be as user friendly as possible; TiVo, too expensive; maybe I could get away with building very low cost HTPC/Win7/MCE boxes, but was looking to avoid that....although I could get rid of the streaming boxes if I went that route.

Alas, I'm still looking.

Maybe a Roku or Samsung Blu-Ray player for all of your streaming/plex needs and a 360 as a Media Center Extender?
post #16 of 32
Already using a few Roku's/GTV devices and a Samsung TV. Checking Newegg for a cost effective, very small unit that I can use as a HTPC with Win7/MCE to see if that will give me what I'm looking for. Maybe if this works for my needs I can get rid of the Roku's/GTVs since that functionality will be available on the HTPC.
post #17 of 32
post #18 of 32
I re-purposed an old laptop, replaced the hard drive with a 1TB hybrid and put Windows 8 Pro with Media Center on it. I use that in conjunction with a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime CableCARD tuner as my DVR. I do not have any extenders, but I can watch live TV on either of our PS3s via the DLNA server in the CableCARD box. Since we only get basic cable and all content is flagged copy freely, I can expose the recorded content via Plex and my PS3s can play it. I have some software from Ceton that allows me to view the program guild and schedule recordings from my Windows Phones and other devices. It is slightly clunky, but we do not watch much television outside of the living room and it works well enough to get buy with it for now.

We use Roku 2 XS boxes and Plex Media Server for all of our local media, as well as for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and the rest of our streaming services. I am playing around with some software on my media server that can transcode recorded TV to mkv while removing the ads and put the resulting files somewhere Plex can pick them up. The biggest issue I'm having is that the old 2.13Ghz Core 2 Duo mobile CPU is really not up to doing it quickly enough and it takes too many resources from other things to let it run automatically.

I am seriously considering a switch from cable to Aereo when it becomes available in my area, partly because it works beautifully with both Roku boxes and mobile devices.
post #19 of 32
In regards to the WMC extenders (either 360 or Dedicated Linksys boxes), in the WMC settings turn of the menu sounds and animations. That helps with of the lag.

Still looking for a suitable .mkv solution.
post #20 of 32
I can get my 360 to play DVD mkv's no problem using Shark007 codecs......its getting the 360 to play nicely with my BD mkv rips since I have the hi-def audio tracks on them.

Toys
post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toys7505 View Post

I can get my 360 to play DVD mkv's no problem using Shark007 codecs......its getting the 360 to play nicely with my BD mkv rips since I have the hi-def audio tracks on them.

Toys


+1
post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toys7505 View Post

I can get my 360 to play DVD mkv's no problem using Shark007 codecs......its getting the 360 to play nicely with my BD mkv rips since I have the hi-def audio tracks on them.

Toys

You're not trying to play Blu-Ray Discs on the Xbox 360 are you? Maybe I've misunderstood.
post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toys7505 View Post

I can get my 360 to play DVD mkv's no problem using Shark007 codecs......its getting the 360 to play nicely with my BD mkv rips since I have the hi-def audio tracks on them.

Toys

Convert your BD rips to m4v via Handbrake and they will play...

Xbox 360 won't play HD Audio.
post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Otter0911 View Post

Convert your BD rips to m4v via Handbrake and they will play...

Xbox 360 won't play HD Audio.

Or use Plex to transcode. However, it isn't very reliable lol. Plex for the PS3 works much better.
post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by GusGus748s View Post

Or use Plex to transcode. However, it isn't very reliable lol. Plex for the PS3 works much better.

That too...
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdb4133 View Post

Maybe a Roku or Samsung Blu-Ray player for all of your streaming/plex needs and a 360 as a Media Center Extender?

I have been using this option for a couple years now. I have a Samsung bluray player which I use for Netflix, disks, etc. The 360 is used for all recorded tv from the media center PC. However, we have no ability to watch Netflix in our bedroom, so I have to hook my phone up to the TV. Also, I own two XBOX 360s and zero games. They are only for Media Center.

I understand lack of cable card support has prevented full market penetration. However I don't need this and there is still a large market of people who use OTA or basic cable. For all of us, I see these things as being the big show stoppers for making this a popular solution:
1) Lack of ability to bring all functions of media due only to MS's requirement for an XBOX gold subscription. Why do I have to buy a gaming subscription just to stream Netflix directly on the XBOX? (Yes, I also have Playon, but find it very unreliable, and I can't ff/rw.)
2) Lack of extender options. There were some options on the market and then they all disappeared. I think they came out too early and there was no market. I have used MC for many years (I would consider myself to be an early adopter). However, when I started using it I found that at least three devices had been made and were already removed from the market.
3) Occasional problems with the Extender not being able to log into the PC (may be an issue with my system), but I normally have to get back out of bed, reboot the PC once or twice. Sometimes I have to wait until the next day (not do anything, but it starts working again).

In general, these are not major issues, but they are easily solved, and would make for the only smooth whole house personal DVR. For now, it is a very usable not so smooth personal whole house DVR.

It seems that some dumbass thinks that they are getting more money by charging fees for trivial things like ability to stream Netflix. Instead they are driving users away in droves. I am considering to switch over to the Linux version of Media Center soon as I can use Mini-PCs and not have to pay $100 for an OS on each one.
post #27 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Briago View Post

I have been using this option for a couple years now. I have a Samsung bluray player which I use for Netflix, disks, etc. The 360 is used for all recorded tv from the media center PC. However, we have no ability to watch Netflix in our bedroom, so I have to hook my phone up to the TV. Also, I own two XBOX 360s and zero games. They are only for Media Center.

I understand lack of cable card support has prevented full market penetration. However I don't need this and there is still a large market of people who use OTA or basic cable. For all of us, I see these things as being the big show stoppers for making this a popular solution:
1) Lack of ability to bring all functions of media due only to MS's requirement for an XBOX gold subscription. Why do I have to buy a gaming subscription just to stream Netflix directly on the XBOX? (Yes, I also have Playon, but find it very unreliable, and I can't ff/rw.)
2) Lack of extender options. There were some options on the market and then they all disappeared. I think they came out too early and there was no market. I have used MC for many years (I would consider myself to be an early adopter). However, when I started using it I found that at least three devices had been made and were already removed from the market.
3) Occasional problems with the Extender not being able to log into the PC (may be an issue with my system), but I normally have to get back out of bed, reboot the PC once or twice. Sometimes I have to wait until the next day (not do anything, but it starts working again).

In general, these are not major issues, but they are easily solved, and would make for the only smooth whole house personal DVR. For now, it is a very usable not so smooth personal whole house DVR.

It seems that some dumbass thinks that they are getting more money by charging fees for trivial things like ability to stream Netflix. Instead they are driving users away in droves. I am considering to switch over to the Linux version of Media Center soon as I can use Mini-PCs and not have to pay $100 for an OS on each one.

If you are only using OTA then something like the Simple.TV or TabloTV with a Roku might be a better option.

When you are having these issues with the 360 Extender connecting is there anything particular going on? Is it possible your network card is set to go to sleep?
post #28 of 32
I am only using the Xbox Media Extender to allow my wife/kids to use the Xbox TV in the bonus room to watch recorded TV from WMC on the main home theater system.

For everything else, the Western Digital Play device is the ticket (full disclosure: I have no affiliation with them). It plays every format natively and supports 1080p and will play files off of your local network. Last I checked, you need to buy an app with Roku for this simple feature (I still use and enjoy the Roku however). The Roku also has trouble with 1080p...something to do with the bitrate support. About the only thing that prevents the WD Play from being a superset of Roku for my needs is Amazon Video on Demand.

Another good option is to buy a cheap AppleTV and get XBMC software onto it rather than buy a full blown PC.
post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdb4133 View Post

If you are only using OTA then something like the Simple.TV or TabloTV with a Roku might be a better option.

When you are having these issues with the 360 Extender connecting is there anything particular going on? Is it possible your network card is set to go to sleep?

For $400 for just the Simple.TV device, plus what ever the Roku costs, I'll keep with what I have. I think the losing the connection to the windows PC is related to a software conflict on the PC (too many programs installed). However, that may be an ok option for someone deciding and hasn't yet invested in a TV tuner card. My whole setup cost ~($130 for a dual-tuner card, +$250 for 2 Xbox 360s). That is less than the cost of just the Simple.TV device and provides a gaming console at two TVs. Coupled with a newer smart Blu-ray player (mine is not smart, it only supports netflix), you could stream from internet sources as well as wirelessly couple your phone to the Blu-ray player to play content from your local network (of course requires you to have all Apple or Samsung components). As an alternate you can get an HDMI/Wi-Fi plug to stream any android phone to the TV allowing access to everything you can get on your phone.

It is hard to beat the cost of using a PC as a DVR when if you are already using a box PC; since the only cost is the tuner card.

For the Simple TV, I would have to get the most expensive option to be able to have dual tuners (as I have now), plus to setup recording TV series. I also don't like that the box seems to be somehow dependent upon their service. So if they went out of business it would become a useless brick. How can setting up series programming be dependent upon a premium subscription!?!?

The Tablo TV may be ok, but doesn't seem to be for sale yet. Though I also want my setup to support ClearQAM, which Tablo doesn't say right now. I'll check it out later.
post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Briago View Post

For $400 for just the Simple.TV device, plus what ever the Roku costs, I'll keep with what I have. I think the losing the connection to the windows PC is related to a software conflict on the PC (too many programs installed). However, that may be an ok option for someone deciding and hasn't yet invested in a TV tuner card. My whole setup cost ~($130 for a dual-tuner card, +$250 for 2 Xbox 360s). That is less than the cost of just the Simple.TV device and provides a gaming console at two TVs. Coupled with a newer smart Blu-ray player (mine is not smart, it only supports netflix), you could stream from internet sources as well as wirelessly couple your phone to the Blu-ray player to play content from your local network (of course requires you to have all Apple or Samsung components). As an alternate you can get an HDMI/Wi-Fi plug to stream any android phone to the TV allowing access to everything you can get on your phone.

It is hard to beat the cost of using a PC as a DVR when if you are already using a box PC; since the only cost is the tuner card.

For the Simple TV, I would have to get the most expensive option to be able to have dual tuners (as I have now), plus to setup recording TV series. I also don't like that the box seems to be somehow dependent upon their service. So if they went out of business it would become a useless brick. How can setting up series programming be dependent upon a premium subscription!?!?

The Tablo TV may be ok, but doesn't seem to be for sale yet. Though I also want my setup to support ClearQAM, which Tablo doesn't say right now. I'll check it out later.

Ouch! I didn't realize the Simple.TV dual tuner version would be $400 with the lifetime subscription! Ouch! Yeah going with a WMC setup is much better in my opinion. I have been running multiple 360's as extenders for years off a Windows 7 PC that also acts as my main PC for Plex and pretty much everything else. With all of the PC gaming deals out there I have decided to get back into that realm so I bought a used HP dc5800 Mid-Tower from eBay for $60 shipped that I'm going to use as my Media "server" with an extra Win7 license I have from the 3 pack I bought years back. I'll keep my existing PC for gaming and other uses (Lenovo K410 deal I got for a bit under $200 a few months back).

I have one Roku in another part of the use that we mainly use for online services and Plex. The small footprint is nice but I still much prefer using the Samsung BD-D5700 & BD-D5300 blu-ray players for Plex because of the better/vast file compatibility and just a better looking interface.

You really can't beat using a Win7 PC as your main "Whole Home DVR". It gives you the flexibility of going to OTA, QAM or CableCard solutions while also running Plex and whatever else you want to run on it.

I do really wish MS would get rid of the stupid policy of needing to be a Live Gold subscriber to access services you already pay for like Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Netflix, etc. Even youtube! I really wish there was a native plex app for the 360 as well, then I probably would never need the Blu-Ray player! smile.gif
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