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REVIEW: Schedule and playback MCE TV recordings with Doug Berrett's MCE WebGuide
Posted by Arne Hess - on Saturday, 03.09.05 - 17:10:46 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 23412x
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MCE WebGuide is a utility which is created for Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition (only) and provides remote network and Internet access to schedule and manage recorded programs on the Media Center Edition PC.
It provides easy and convenient access through (any) web browser and also includes a mobile version to work perfect with Windows Mobile based Pocket PCs and Smartphones.

MCE WebGuide Features

  • Allows you to schedule recordings of shows anytime and anywhere from a web browser (PC and Windows Mobile)
  • Installs quickly and runs with the familiar easy-to-use MCE interface
  • Accesses your own MCE PC which means live scheduling without delays (PC and Windows Mobile)
  • Provides LAN-based access to recorded TV shows via networked PC's with playback in Windows Media Player (PC only)
  • An improved homepage that provides quick access to recent and upcoming recordings (PC and Windows Mobile)
  • Improved guide listing that scrolls in-place, rather than scrolling the whole browser. This makes it very easy to get program info without having to scroll to the bottom of the page (PC and Windows Mobile)
  • A much improved search interface. Similar to Media Center, you can now get your search results grouped by show rather than just sorted by date/time (PC only)
  • Ability to set manual recordings and adjust the settings of scheduled recordings (PC only)
  • Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Smartphone enabled EPG
  • Localized languages include: Dutch, French, German, Norwegian and Swedish (PC and Windows Mobile)

MCE WebGuide is a handy utility I was looking for for a long time already, basically since MSN launched its "MSN Remote Record for Media Center" service to manage recordings from any PC - especially if I'm not at home. However, the MSN service is available in the U.S. only which means it's not working for me in Germany and it's not supporting Windows Mobile devices but you need a full-blown PC browser to get it working. :-(
While there are some great applications like Orb or Highpad Media Control available for the Media Center Edition / Pocket PC combination both lacks some features: while Highpad Media Control doesn't supports access to the EPG (you have to enter the channel name as used in Media Center which can become complicated if you don't enter it exactly as it is used) so far I haven't got Orb running to support my TV-cards which means with Orb I can neither stream live TV nor I can schedule a recording.

However, with MCE WebGuide you get a convenient user interface - familiar to the MCE UI - to easily schedule your recordings remotely since it gives you access to the original MCE EPG!

Another great feature is that you can easily access your TV recordings (from PCs only, Windows Mobile isn't supported) to get played on any PC in the network (doesn't matter if it is the LAN or a WAN). However, MCE WebGuide doesn't includes a streaming server which means the recordings are played uncompressed. Basically it means you can not playback your recordings over the Internet (as long as your MCE isn't connected to a real pipe which most of our Internet connections aren't; even a T1 connection isn't enough) but within your LAN only and even within a LAN a WiFi b connection (with 11 Mbits) might be not enough, better use WiFi g (with up to 54 Mbits).

However, as great WebGuide is, the installation is a little bit tricky because you have to install IIS (or any other web server but IIS is recommended for easier setup) and .Net Framework on your Media Center PC. While .Net is standard today (everybody should have it installed) not many might want to run a web server at home nor many knows how to maintain it (even if it is simple but you need some time to get how it is working).

Even for me (for instance the::unwired is running on a Microsoft IIS server) it was difficult to install it because you have to install IIS first and .Net after. Also I hadn't IIS installed on my MCE and it took me around one hour to get everything uninstalled and installed in the right order plus adding some settings you have to add manually if your Windows XP PC is running Service Pack 2. Nevertheless, after a couple of reboots I got it running:

As you can see above, it looks pretty familiar to the original MCE UI on both - Windows XP PCs and Windows Mobile Pocket PCs but keep in mind, this is how it looks if you access it through a web browser - it's not a Remote Terminal session or anything but a pure web service! Well done, especially that a Windows Mobile compliant version is part of the whole package.

WebGuide is available for free from the developer but you should carefully follow the installation tips:

  • First install IIS
  • Second install .Net Framework (again)
  • Third install WebGuide
  • Forth make the required security changes

Now I don't need MSN Remote Record for Media Center anymore, even if it is launched sooner or later in Germany.

Cheers ~ Arne

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