New Media Center Setup

mcupdatedI’m testing some new equipment for work and what better way than to put it through it’s paces as a new media center pc. Out with the old server, in with the a new nano pc. I’ve also had to try out a new wireless router because the Asus routers, installed with DD-WRT, were intermittently dropping their connection. Therefore I’m trying a new Buffalo N450 gigabit wireless router that has better range and comes pre-installed with DD-WRT. I’ve spent the past few days (in between the kitchen and living room remodel) to get the nana pc configured and so far, I’m pretty impressed. It’s now in place and driving our media center, so we’ll see how it does over the next month or so….You can see my previous configuration here!

New Computer Desk

So after months and months of consideration and desk shopping, we decided to build our own workstation in the computer room. Probably not the best weekend to work on this since Lenora has the flu and we really couldn’t do any work outside, but we made the working conditions the best as we could and pressed on. Didn’t think it’d be so easy to fill up a 10 foot desk, but I’ve managed. It’s been a great project and we saved a ton of money by building it ourselves…!

Acer W700 And Windows 8

acerBad news for cynical tech bloggers, grenade-lobbing Internet trolls, and everyone else who’s been attacking Windows 8 for the sheer thrill of sport: I’ve been using a Windows 8 tablet for over a week now, and the experience has been a revelation.

Indeed, if you’ve been judging Windows 8 based on how well the RTM version works on a traditional desktop PC, you haven’t been privy to the full OS experience.

My tablet test model was a preproduction version of Acer’s W700, which Acer officially announced Thursday, promising a ship date of October 26 and prices starting at $799. Until I began using the W700, my Window 8 experience consisted of playing with the OS on a non-touch laptop, and spending a scant few minutes with it on random tablets and hybrids at press events. But now that I’ve devoted some serious quality time to the W700, I can report that the operating system breaks compelling new ground.

In fact, Windows 8 might even disrupt the mobile space if consumers deign to give Microsoft a fighting chance.

Interested? Intrigued? Maybe even a little frustrated or angry because Microsoft might actually be doing something right? First let me tell you about Acer’s new hardware, then I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how Windows 8 performs as a tablet OS. [Read more…]

The Right Remote For Your Media Center

remote_0The Gyration Gyroscopic Media Center PC Universal Remote Control and Compact Keyboard Suite is my first choice for the ultimate Media Center remote. This nifty combo consists of a compact wireless keyboard and the star of the show; the not so compact gyroscopic media remote. There are no drivers included, for the simple reason that neither peripheral needs any. Thus installation is a simple as one could hope: in true plug and play fashion, you simply plug it in, press the buttons to connect each device through RF, and you’re ready to go. If you’ve ever used a Wii controller, then you’re already familiar with the Gyration remote. In fact, Gyration is actually the unknown mastermind behind the Wiimote’s very gyroscopic system. I won’t go into great detail about this combo only because it’s no longer made and very hard to come by. If you’re lucky, you may find just the remote itself on eBay for around 80 dollars and most of the time, it’s missing its needed usb dongle. However, if you are lucking enough to find one intact, grab it! It’s like gold. Of course, it’s programmable as well, so it can easily be setup to control your tv and other auxiliary devices. I’ve used this particular combo for many months, but unfortunately, just last week, they gyro in the remote failed. But the keyboard still works like a charm and hopefully I’ll get many more years use out of it. When my Gyration remote failed, I’ve been forced to use the ever popular official Microsoft Media Center remote. Don’t get me wrong, this is an awesome remote and if you have one with the TV button on it, consider yourself lucky. But for me, I want and need a controller with a built in gyration mouse. You’d think there would be plenty of brands selling such an option, but the fact of the matter is, there aren’t. This option is very, very hard to come by. Is the gyration mouse necessary? Absolutely not, most media center remotes work flawlessly with your media center, but for me, the optional mouse control is invaluable. Once you use it, you’ll know why. Which brings me to my new remote. A Dell Premium Remote (Dell XPS M2010 Media Center Remote). If you compare the two in the attached photo, you’ll quickly see the similarities. The key layout is pretty much identical, it also gives your hands on control of your audio files through its integrated LCD screen. Like the Gyration remote, it too is programmable. I’ve just started using this controller tonight and so far, I’m very happy with it, especially since its backlit. Unfortunately, like the Gyration controller, this particular remote is no longer made and can be very hard to find. It was never bundled with the keyboard like the Gyration was, but it was bundled with the Dell XPS M2010 media center laptop. However, you can still find it on eBay for around 80 dollars. Dell still makes a media center remote (RC61R), minus the gyroscopic mouse. [Read more…]

Windows 8 Media Center

Ok, this is the last update on this until I have a significant change in the setup. Picked up an Apple TV 2 today and incorporated it into the setup. Still have some issues with Time Warner Cable (because they suck). Will hopefully work out the bugs with Time Warner this week and finally have everything working the way that it should. So far, very happy with the setup minus the Time Warner issues!

Windows 7/Windows 8 Media Center

I’ve spent some time the past few weeks updating our Media Center with software and hardware and the necessary apps to run on your idevice. Again, I’ve built this with a minimal amount of money and most of the parts are off the shelve or end of life parts that just needed some upgrades. If you’re interested in building your own Media Center, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll help you out the best I can…! It’s a great holiday project! Click on the image to expand it, then right click on it to save locally to your pc.

Windows 7/Windows 8 Media Center

A lot of you have been asking about setting up your own Media Center PC…I’ve included a post that I did about this time last year, however, the only thing that has changed is how I do my cable tv setup. Instead of using a Hauppauge 1800 internal TV tuner, I’m now using a Silicon Dust HDHomeRun Prime. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I get asked a lot about building a media center pc at a reasonable price. What are the benefits of having a media center pc and how does it integrate with other equipment. There really is no simple answer and I can assure you that there probably aren’t any two media center setups identical. It really doesn’t have to be an expensive project either. You’ll just have to take your time and shop around. Since I hardly ever throw anything away that has to do with pc’s or servers, I had most of these parts on shelves and in drawers. So, I’ll explain my setup (which is always changing) and maybe it’ll give you some kind of idea of what to do in case you want to build your own media center pc. A lot of money can be saved by going with a Linux distro and media center software for Linux, neither will cost you a dime. I’m a Windows person, so that’s direction I took. I’m using Windows 7 Ultimate and the license isn’t cheap.