Making a perfect Media Centre….

Aside from the basic hardware that you need to run a Windows Media Centre machine there’s a big of a hardware and software learning curve to get the setup working sweetly. For different people the list will differ but I’ll share some things I’ve found….

Hardware
The biggest thing that I’d change with my initial setup is the fans ! The one on the video card is pretty noisy – and initial attempts to fit a Zalman VGA Cooler to it created a monster about 5mm too tall to close the case ! Knowing what I know now, I’d probably have put in a slightly faster processor (not that this one is a problem, just thinking ahead) and maybe gone for an even larger hard drive….

The biggest area however that you can tweak and personalise the solution is…
Software

WebGuide

Allows you to connect to your machine and schedule recordings from the other side of the world

SlySoft AnyDVD

If, like me, you often get DVDs from friends overseas this allows you to play them without region protecting getting in the way.

DVD Shrink
Sometimes you just want to backup your DVDs to the hard drive. It makes for easy access and stops the kids using them as a coaster. This app lets you make a personal use backup (with and without various levels of compression) of any DVD you own.

MyMovies

The ultimate way to manage DVD and Videos within your MCE. Browse your movie collection by titles, actors, directors or genres – all with covers and images. You can also password restrict certain movies by MPAA rating, build a multizone movie index and much more!
BladeRunner Pro
Here in Australia we don’t yet have a working EPG (Boo Hiss to the networks who copyright the data) so there are some work-arounds. BRP is pretty much the easiest and most comprehensive free solution.

FrontView
If you have a VFD or LCD display on your case, why not make it earn its keep when MCE is running

mceWeather
Sometimes it’s nice to get a bit more information than just looking out of the window. This utility grabs data from The Weather Channel to give you up to a weeks forecast

mControl

If you have an X10 installation, this allows you to control it from your MCE

Without a doubt a community forum such as XPMediaCentre (AU) is going to be your best source for support, advice and handy applications….

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