Stock Windows 7 Media Center with library menus by Media Browser 2.6 (Diamond theme)
One of my goals is to try in some ways to keep my system looking stock, but adding some nice touches. That's why I won't upgrade to Media Browser 3 - they removed the ability to launch directly into a "media collection."
I use my system for live tv and disc playback just as much as I do archived media. So I'm normally launching from the main menu of Windows Media Center. I thought having to leave that and then go into another, different menu interface to use Media Browser was a bit jarring.
When Media Browser 2.x crates a new "media collection" it also creates a unique entry point for that collection that can be manipulated in the registry. When I want to watch movies, I click an icon that looks like the default WMC movie library, but it launches me into Media Browser's movie library.
Inside the movie library it doesn't look much different than any other minimal Media Browser theme. I like how it handles tv shows though. A solution for shows and mini series like From the Earth to the Moon were my main impetus for ditching the default movie library:
and I like looking for unique movie posters to put in the gallery:
also created a library for concert videos that sits on the music strip, where I felt it was more appropriate. Most of them were recorded off Palladia and detelecined back to 1080p24 mkv files:
And my favorite reason for Media Browser entry points? My emulator collection made possible through the MB plugin called Game Browser:
Each game system has two icons - the console and the controller. The console is shown by default, but the controller is shown when you highlight it. All of this can be manipulated in the registry. And here is what happens when you select a console:
I play all my classic console games with a Wiimote. I use the basic Wiimote to play NES, the Classic Controller for SNES and Genesis, the nunchuk for Atari games, and I have yet to find a suitable N64/Gamecube solution. I have a PS2 style USB controller that I use for PC games like Vice City, but I don't like trying to use it with N64. Ive seen N64 style USB controllers. Ive also seen an Instructable to use my Ardunio as an N64 to usb adapter. I think after I visit my parents next week that I'll try finding my old green N64 remote and going the Arduino route. I should even be able to make it bluetooth wireless if I screw around with it long enough.
When you select PLAY on a game Game Browser uses the same logic to launch an emulator for a given rom type that MB uses to launch an external player for a given video file type. To close the game and go back I've mapped several of the buttons inside the emulator setup to ALT+F4. Pressing those two together allows me to immediately close the emulator and go back into Game Browser
One of the emulator benefits over consoles is the ability to apply various upscaling filters. They work to smooth out the jagged/pixelated sprites. Heres a screen grab from Mega Man 2:
Even with archived discs and rom files I still use a lot of physical media - I'm a bit surprised WMC actually doesn't support CDs. One of the things I've been doing is using my HTPC to digitally capture old home movies for my parents. That same software (ATI's Catalyst Media Center- it came bundled with my first tuner) also lets me record my favorite talk radio show every day. It drops it into a folder that I can easily access on my phone.
After I launch the VHS capture frontend my remote controls the power, play, stop, fast forward, and rewind buttons on the VCR. On the PC it controls the directional navigation, record, stop record, and rewind/fast forward of the video capture stream. Screen captures of Catalyst Media Center (the software I'm using) didn't work out well with a tape playing, but you can imagine how it looks:
Speaking of radio, I run FM thru my HTPC too:
Ive used my Xbox 360 in extender mode to send the local fm broadcast audio from Steeler, Penguin, and Pitt Panther games to my stereo while my HTPC shows video on my tv.
For new discs I just can't wait to rip, things from the library, or "making of" special feature discs I use Arcsoft Total Media Theater 5. I've ripped out all the PNG files that have a default blue WMCesque background and replaced it with ones that mirror the Mobius theme I'm using
One of the reason I love HTPC is that you don't have to change tv/receiver inputs to use different kinds of media. I've created some MCL files to allow me to access streaming media sites inside WMC without leaving the frontend:
As for tv/dvr usage I organized my guide by channel name and added the wonderful program My Channel Logos. Since I organize by name I don't have to try memorizing channels. If I'm on Root Sports, and I want to watch Turner Classic Movies, I go down. I also got rid of sd channels and anything I won't watch to keep the guide clean.
For DVR control I definitely recommend Ceton's excellent My Media Center app, which is available on most (all?) mobile platforms for a few dollars. Makes finding things to record more fun and also is great for scheduling remotely when you're not at home: Edited by pittsoccer33 - 2/20/14 at 12:53pm