A few weeks back I decided that it was time to move on to the next era of watching TV: having a Media Center PC. Since we already have a couple PC’s at home, I had to find a budget solution to convince my wife, so I “transformed” an “old” PC into a state-of-the-art Media Center. The configuration of the PC is pretty straight forward: a Pentium IV running on 3Ghz, 1GB of RAM, and a 75 GB hard disk. The only hardware that I had to buy was a TV tuner card and a remote control. I went for the Hauppage WinTV-PVR 500 MCE which has 2 TV tuners, so you can record something and watch something else at the same time (a must have feature in my opinion).
The installation of Windows XP Media Center Edition was quite easy, just like a normal Windows XP. Also the Hauppage card installation was a bliss (got the latest MCE drivers from their site). The remote control (which comes with an USB infrared receiver) is really just plug-and-play, no driver installation required. After this easy installation came a disappointment: watching Live TV on the Media Center caused a lock-up after some time (some times after 5 minutes, sometimes after 60 minutes). I also noticed that when the PC was going to crash, the audio and video were getting slightly out of sync. I tried a lot of things to solve this issue: getting the latest drivers for all my hardware, getting the latest updates for Windows XP MCE, disabling hardware one by one and so on. But none of these solutions solved the crashing. Finally I looked on the internet for some help and on many forum postings (see links below) I found many people having the same problem. Luckily some of them were kind enough to post their solution! The solution is: do not use the latest NVidia drivers for your video card (I used a NVidia 5700)! The magic number is 66.93, when I installed this version of the drivers my problems went away. So now my Media Center is running like a charm!
After a couple of weeks using the machine, I’m convinced that it enhances my overall TV experience. I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV, and the typical problem is that when I can watch TV, there’s nothing on TV! Now with the Media Center, I have always something to watch: it’s so easy to record something; watch it and delete it. I just love it! I was a little bit afraid that my PC couldn’t handle recording and viewing Live TV at the same time (cause it’s not the latest hardware), but even recording two things and watching a record show at the same time works without any glitches. Very nice! The next thing I need to figure out is how to burn a recording to a DVD which can be played on normal DVD players as well. I’ve tested some applications like ArcSoft ShowBiz, but the creation of a DVD takes 2 hours. Anybody found some faster applications?
Good community sites: