Media Centre

I run MCE on Windows 7 as the main television ‘controller’. In the UK a lot of the television stations have various catch-up TV utilities with the most well known being the BBC iPlayer (though sadly their Board of Governors prevented them from syndicating content from other providers).

I’d like to be able to use a single pane of glass to access all the types of television I view, so I want something that integrates MCE, iPlayer, 4OnDemand, ITV Player etc. but I’m not so worried about live streaming of shows.

Using MCE with plug-ins/extenders to add the functionality I want seems the most logical choice as MCE is fully TV and remote integrated. iPlayer integration is the logical first step as the BBC have the largest back catalogue, however, Microsoft and the BBC cannot agree a deal to integrate iPlayer as has happened in the Wii so I’m forced to look at the Open Source market.

In the past I’ve tried TunerFree MCE (http://www.milliesoft.co.uk/tunerfree.php) but in my opinion that tries to do too much. Not only does it support catch-up downloads but also streaming, Hulu, the UK providers etc. Because of this it supports the flash based content delivery of the various providers which I feel doesn’t integrate too well with MCE – pause and exit functionality don’t work too well. On the version I tried you could effectively have live TV and the streamed content both playing at the same time with no way to stop the stream playing (admittedly that may no longer be true with the latest version).

So I’ve started using an iPlayer only extender to MCE over at http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au/community/windows-media-center-plugins-addons/40492-new-iplayer-plugins.html. So far my experience has been pretty good as it appears to download the wmv version of the show before playing though I’ll put Wireshark on the LAN to confirm that. Apparently it also supports playback via the Xbox360 Extender.

The only fly in the ointment to getting it up and running is that I had to use Media Centre Studio to configure MCE as the installer failed to put an icon into MCE even though it show up as an extension. All the MCS online help is a bit vague in that it assumes everyone knows the difference between the Ribbon and a tab when referring to the Start Menu (it’s the latter) and the Entry Point really is down at the bottom left of the screen.

Now I wonder if I should dust off my ancient coding skills (.Net 1.1 MCSD – how many years ago is that!) to see if I can come up with a 4OD version of the code….

Laters

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About Matt Sinfield

Work in the IT industry but have a couple of hobbies, Snowboard, Kitesurf and of course XBox
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