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THOUGHT: The fragile Windows Media Center requirements are way too complicated
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 22.07.05 - 00:17:18 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 11296x
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As you might remember, some weeks ago I bought a Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 - finally. Unlike I've initially planned, I bought a complete system from Medion which isn't working that bad at all not to say I'm pretty satisfied so far since it includes more or less everything I need in a form-factor I was looking for (at least I was looking for everything but not a Tower). It includes everything? No, not really or yes, maybe?

Last fall, when the Portable Media Center became available, I bought a Creative Zen PMC from Amazon in the US and even if I don't like the way how Windows Media is doing the synchronization, it does its work in terms of audio and video synchronization with my office PC (a non-MCE PC but Windows XP Professional only). However, one benefit of having a MCE and a PMC - I though - is that this combination works together without any headaches but no way. For three weeks I wondered now why my MCE wasn't able to sync the recorded TV shows to my PMC and finally I found the answer (thanks to Cobra from the German MCE-Community): it was the MPEG2 video decoder, Medion (the OEM of my Media Center) used, namely the CyberLink video decoder.

An interesting fact is, that Microsoft offers a free utility to check your MPEG2 codecs on your MCE and according to this tool, my PC was okay:

Anyway, this was a good starting point for a deeper investigation and I followed "Cobra's" suggestion to try a different MPEG2 decoder. Microsoft is suggesting several decoders on their online help page and I went with the nVidia decoder, even if my graphic card is from ATI. Anyway, nVidea is offering a full 30 days trial version and after the installation, the video synchronization between my MCE and PMC worked immediately, even without a system reboot!

Now my MCE is running hot, converting 15 recordings and copying them to the PMC - finally!

Okay, but I have to admit that Joe User will never find this problem and will stay lost. Neither the shoop where I bought the MCE, nor Amazon where I bought the PMC nor anybody else will be able to help you, if you don't know the proper online resources and in this combination, these kind of technologies will never make it to the living room of Joe User because it is way too difficult for non-geeks to get these systems working proper.
Two things frustrates me most:

  • That I bought a "Microsoft Windows" system which isn't/wasn't compatible to other Microsoft systems because a faulty encoder (which works well stand-alone on the MCE for TV recording, no discussions).
  • That the requirements of the Media Center Edition are so difficult that a regular user will never get it how to get a PC working as a MCE.

I seriously hope "Loghorn MCE" will make it easier, whenever it will be released but Microsoft have to work closer with manufactures and developers to make MCE a success!

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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Comments
Posted by Richard Sargeant on 28.07.05 - 12:39:57

Arne, (greetings!)

This is a classic case of "RTFM", or in this case read the * screen. On your first screenshot it quite clearly suggests you set the Cyberlink decoder (which certainly DOES work with MCE) to be the preferred decoder. You didn't, so the Nero decoder, probably installed after Cyberlink, took precedence.

Then you installed the nVidia decoder, which set that as preferred. Then, of course, it worked.

I doubt you purchased your MCE box with a full copy of Nero installed, so something you did to the boy after purchase (installed Nero) introduced an incompatibility. If I'm wrong, then you can blame your supplier for not preconfiguring things this way.

I'm thinking you don't actually need to buy the nVidia decoder, excellent though it is. Just set Cyberlink to be preferred.

By the way, for others who read this, a sure way to mess up a working MCE is to add lots of codecs. The rule is, "The fewer, the better"!

RS

Posted by Jon Burge on 29.07.05 - 20:19:15

I agree.  You probably installed an incompatible program that changed the default video codec.  I had the same problem after installing various video programs in testing.  Eventually, I just downloaded and reinstalled Windows Media 10 again (this was after I had used the Microsoft utility to change preferred decoder and none of them worked).  After the reinstallation everything worked fine.  I think Microsoft has to do something to make the program try different codecs on the machine to find one that works if it does not.

Posted by Arne Hess on 05.08.05 - 10:18:45

Richard Sargeant wrote:

This is a classic case of "RTFM", or in this case read the * screen. On your first screenshot it quite clearly suggests you set the Cyberlink decoder (which certainly DOES work with MCE) to be the preferred decoder. You didn't, so the Nero decoder, probably installed after Cyberlink, took precedence.

By the way, for others who read this, a sure way to mess up a working MCE is to add lots of codecs. The rule is, "The fewer, the better"!

First of all I agree, the fewer the better but it has nothing to do with RTFM.
The screenshot isn't 100 % up to date because I made it after I've installed the nVidia driver.
While the Cyberlink driver works fine for watching/recoding TV, it definitely isn't working for getting my TV synced with my Portable Media Center and here it comes to the bottom line of the thought: an out-of-the-box Media Center PC, preconfigured by Medion (hopefully according to the Microsoft specs and recommendations) isn't working with another Microsoft product from the same line: Media Center. Clearly this sucks and as a Joe User customer you would be lost since you would never expect that the driver is faulty nor you would know where to look for more information or a different driver.
I've uninstalled Cyberlink now, just using nVidia and it works perfect. I can watch/record/sync my TV as well as I can watch my DVDs!

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