Goodbye WMC, it's been a long ride

Chat with other TGB members about whatever is on your mind.

Goodbye WMC, it's been a long ride

Post#1 » Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:15 pm

So it's been about a month now living with my new setup and I won't be going back. Some back story first:
I have been using Windows Media Center since the XP days (pre Rollup 2 if you remember that far back). I am pretty sure I even played around with Freestyle. I still think it is the greatest product Microsoft has ever developed, and was (and still am I guess) bitter when they left it for dead. I lived with, and worked around it's shortcomings (things like Emby classic helped) for the past few years up until they pulled out Netflix. At that point I combined my WMC PC with my WHS server (another great product killed too soon), essentially making the WMC machine my server. I went with Xboxes as extenders on all TV so that I would be able to utilize the streaming apps which worked well enough for awhile. The streaming apps were great but everything was very slow. The real pain though was playing my own media collection. MKV were hit and miss, even MP4 quality often looked much worse than it should, and skipping around in a file often would crash WMC requiring the extender to restart.

I have been looking at WMC alternatives for a long time now. I tried SageTV for awhile, more recently Openelec Kodi PCs, Fire TVs, Nexus Player, etc.....but always went back to WMC. Over Christmas break I got an Nvidia Shield TV and decided to give it a trial run with my family (wife, and daughters age 2 and 4). What a revelation this piece of hardware is! It is just unbelievably fast and stable. So enough ramblings, here is the new setup:
-Shield TV in family room
-Nexus Player in bedroom
-ServerWMC running on WMC PC
-Kodi (Aeon Nox 5 skin) is used for Live TV, recordings, and local media (Emby add-on for Kodi). Everything else disabled in the skin.
-Andoid TV apps for everything else.

These things will play anything you throw at them, in the highest quality. Kodi has really progressed with it's Live TV integration and is rock solid for me. You can go from watching something in Kodi, to watching something on Netflix in literally seconds. There are many other great streaming apps as well we use regularly (PBS, PBS kids, HBO Go, Pandora). Anyway, we all love the new setup and would not want to go back.
*****DISCLAIMERS****
Yes, I know I am technically still using WMC (as my backend). This was mainly for convenience, and in case I wanted to easily go back. The great thing about this setup is that the backend can be easily swapped out for many others that will run on Linux, Mac, Win10, etc. I will eventually go this route, mostly to get the superior guide data from Schedules Direct. I would use NextPVR personally. Or you could move to Emby's Live TV implementation, and not use Kodi altogether. Aren't options great?

Yes, this is limited to OTA or copy freely cable. I'm using a cablecard now and my cable company does not flag anything. If they did I would drop them and go OTA only. With all the other options Android TV provides we find ourselves watching cable much less these days anyway. In fact I tried to cancel cable last year, but a billing snafu has left me with all my cable channels and a very low payment so I will keep riding that out.
3rob3
 
Posts: 539
Joined: 28 August 2011
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#2 » Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:31 pm

Yup, love my SHIELD :D

BTW, Showtime Anytime is out for Android TV now too (if you have it, noticed you mentioned you use HBO GO).

Enjoy your new setup. I'm waiting for Tivo to come out with their app for Android TV (if they do, but reasonable to assume they will - as it's in beta [or maybe just came out of] on Fire TV which is Android based). This allows you to view recordings only, then I'll schedule/maintain recordings via the regular Android Tivo app (which I do a lot now - just like I did with MMC on WMC). I'll keep the Tivo Minis at the TVs though for others/a fallback.
Ed 
 
Posts: 769
Joined: 24 May 2014
HTPC Specs: Show details

Post#3 » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:36 am

Spending some time today trying to resolve my guide issue and this topic title piques my interest.

I have a fairly long history with Media Center as well but I have not been a heavy user of the program for several years. In 2007 I purchased an XP 2005 MCE, had my standard cable connected to it. Used the DVR functionality through a 360 in the living room. I was never overly impressed with the picture quality but it was streamed SD content so I was not critical of Media Center. In '08-09 I found myself in Iraq again. My nice, compact laptop's hdd died while I was over there. While I did repair it I ended up getting a Vista laptop as my new mobile entertainment center. I very much liked the new Media Center layout and performance. I ripped all of my DVDs, installed Media Browser. When I got home I installed Windows 7 on my desktop mostly due to WMC. Although I was never quite happy with the performance streaming to my Xbox 360 my own media. I was home then and it was often just easier and less frustrating to just grab the disc. Later I was using ATT Uverse which was feature rich and played right on the 360. I also purchased a Roku to better handle streaming services.

When I moved back to a prior residence stand alone fiber optic internet was an option. Finally, I could completely cut the cord. The Roku served well, multiple were added, and later an Amazon FireTV was added. Still, OTA live broadcasts were out there and going unwatched by me. I had to upgrade my tuner card and find a creative way to connect an antenna but I was back in business. Really only for things like the Superbowl but I could again watch live TV in the living room.

I really used it pretty rarely. 360 is old and noisy and I don't ever run out of things to watch that I need to turn on live TV. I really didn't think much of it when the guide was out of date. Wasn't the first time it happened. Besides, ABC, NBC, and CBS often don't come in at all even though many others from the same town some distance away come in fine. Anyway, after doing a fair amount of research today I can surely sympathize with the hard core user that has worked to build their WMC experience.

I remember when Media Center first came out. TV on your PC! Um, that's dumb. Your TV is far better at being a TV than your PC is. Later somebody was telling me how awesome Windows Media Center is on the Xbox. You could bring everything from you PC to your living room. What a missed boat this was. I only remember one Linksys extender, a package for the original Xbox, and the 360 as extenders. Could Microsoft not have made a lot of money pushing the extender solution and licensing the platform to various hardware manufacturers? Might they not have sold many more Xbox Ones if they had just continued Media Center at it's current level of functionality? Perhaps they would not have wanted to as the console hardware is a sort of loss leader. I don't know.

Of course I can still use my PC for over the air tuning without the guide. I'm confused by this though since Rovi does have guide data for my area and Microsoft says there was an update in July to switch to Rovi but they must not be referring to an update that was pushed out via Windows Update because I haven't been able to find it. I understand that every feature isn't going to be supported eternally but the PC has the hardware to tune the channel, the software has the ability to control the hardware, and the listings are online where they are supposed to be. There is no reasonable reason for this not to work. All of this hassle is not going to push me to upgrade this PC to Windows 10, buy an Xbox One, or subscribe to a TV provider.

Oh, but I was pushed to purchase my first Sony console.
Wookie06
 
Posts: 4
Joined: 8 February 2014
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#4 » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:57 pm

Ed  wrote:I'm waiting for Tivo to come out with their app for Android TV (if they do, but reasonable to assume they will - as it's in beta [or maybe just came out of] on Fire TV which is Android based). This allows you to view recordings only, then I'll schedule/maintain recordings via the regular Android Tivo app (which I do a lot now - just like I did with MMC on WMC).

That sounds like a great setup too. We watch very little Live TV so that would work fine in some rooms. As you know I was VERY close to going Tivo during that summer sale.
3rob3
 
Posts: 539
Joined: 28 August 2011
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#5 » Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:39 pm

The new TiVo Bolt looks much closer to a WMC replacement than what SD is planning to do with their DVR software. The Bolt has commercial skip and fast-speed watching, both features we use in WMC, along with integration to major streaming services (including 4K support) and Plex (for personal music, photos and videos). And, they even support cable On Demand (at least with Comcast).

We've also been using WMC since the early Windows XP days and now have 6 Xbox 360s running as extenders.

When WMC was first released and while Microsoft was still investing in WMC development, WMC was the best option available. But Microsoft hasn't invested anything in WMC development for a long time, and TiVo and cable/satellite "whole home" DVR solutions have caught up now.

SD may be mis-reading their potential market. They appear to be shooting for a simplified DVR interface - trying to attract less sophisticated users to buy their hardware and use their DVR software. It's not clear those users will be interested in "rolling their own" DVR environment, purchasing a tuner and a PC or NAS box - seems more likely the users most interested in a simple DVR will chose the easier path - and use a TiVo or cable/satellite DVR - which almost no setup at all.

SD's market would appear to be the more sophisticated users - that have been willing to invest in a WMC PC and network of Xbox 360s and accept the additional complexity in exchange for more control over their "whole home" DVR environment. And, at least so far, it appears SD is not developing a solution that will be interesting for this group - who is likely their largest customer base...
bob_p
 
Posts: 268
Joined: 8 July 2011

Post#6 » Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:55 pm

"You Guys Are Driving Me Tivo"
User avatar
Crash2009
 
Posts: 3696
Joined: 17 May 2012
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
HTPC Specs: Show details
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#7 » Sat Jan 23, 2016 5:57 pm

3rob3 wrote:That sounds like a great setup too. We watch very little Live TV so that would work fine in some rooms. As you know I was VERY close to going Tivo during that summer sale.


Well with the Live Channels app on the SHIELD, the only thing I'll be missing is scheduling/maintaining recordings on the SHIELD itself, which is where the regular Tivo app on my phone/tablet come in. One of them is always with me anyway. Kodi just isn't my cup of tea, even with skins (especially for just DVR, as I prefer Plex for movie/TV rips). I just don't like the look/feel (and it's just another layer/link in the chain of things to troubleshoot/that could go wrong). Different strokes for different folks though. Plus, like I said I'll still have the Minis at the TV for the 'full' DVR experience. I'm one of the ones who has no problem switching inputs as long as it gets me what I want (and is seamless really with a Harmony).

bob_p wrote:.....


I don't think SD is making their solution for simple users at all. You have to change recording directory via the registry and such, among all the other 'quirks' and areas where their solution falls far short. It seems SD is just making this app specifically for those people at SD, and you either take it or leave it (and I think it obviously caught them off guard with how many even techie-people didn't like their way of doing things - which is why the program is so delayed/set back already as it is. They honestly though everyone would be cool with using it exactly how they use it). They'll never get broad appeal in this niche market with what they have (which is why even on their own forums you see multiple people saying 'screw this I bought a Tivo'). They'll figure this out sooner or later (like when they're begging for renewals). Hopefully for those few who really do like it, or claim to, it's not too late by then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ed 
 
Posts: 769
Joined: 24 May 2014
HTPC Specs: Show details

Post#8 » Sun Jan 24, 2016 3:30 pm

I really, really want to stay on a DIY DVR solution - that gives me more control over how my DVR & clients are configured and the functionality we have - including the ability to watch live/recorded TV, personal/downloaded videos, and have access to streaming & cable On Demand programs.

When Microsoft was investing in WMC - it was the best available on the market and attracted 3rd party developers who extended the environment to fill in the gaps. But that was years ago - and we're still using the same WMC, now with less 3rd party support and an uncertain future.

When Microsoft announced they would not bring the stagnant WMC over to Windows 10, I invested in the SD DVR Kickstarter project and installed a Comcast X1 DVR - two clear options for replacing our WMC environment, which must support both DRM and whole home DVR (replacing our 6 Xbox 360 extenders).

While the Comcast X1 DVR is a huge improvement over their previous DVR offerings, it still falls short. They've done a great job integrating live & recorded TV with their streaming and On Demand services, but it still a "closed" system. They control the ability to fast forward/reverse skip for some programs - and will unlikely ever have anything close to commercial skipping (which would impact Comcast's revenue). And you can't access your own videos or other streaming services. Since we get a free X1 DVR with our cable package, we'll probably always have the X1 DVR here, but, with the limited functionality still present in their X1 offerings, can't justify paying monthly fees for the X1 STBs.

To be fair to Silicondust, they never claimed in their Kickstarter campaign description that they intended to make a WMC replacement - they always said they would be making a simpler "reimagined" DVR. Though Kickstarter supporters can rightfully claim SD promised a WMC replacement, because SD included at 3rd party video review - which states he intends to use the SD DVR as a replacement for WMC for himself and his family. At least for this first release, it's pretty clear SD is going to fall far short of providing a WMC replacement. They've opted for simplicity, dropping basic features like a program guide grid - and if you need DRM, you can't use 3rd party solutions like Kodi or Plex. We already own 3 SD cablecard tuner boxes (one purchased as part of the Kickstarter investment) - so I still hope SD will see the light - and figure out how to provide a complete WMC replacement - likely partnering with someone else who already has a complete whole home DVR environment, and is primarily missing DRM support.

After all of the people have commented on TiVo, I spent time yesterday researching this. I have a spreadsheet created last spring to evaluate the SD DVR and X1 DVR, comparing them to how we use WMC. The SD DVR fills in very little of the spreadsheet. Surprisingly, the combination of 2 TiVo Bolts and a network of TiVo Minis provides almost everything we have today in WMC - plus adds new capabilities that we'd like to see - like integration with the major streaming services and Plex (to access our personal music, photos and videos). The only area that isn't clear is how we would watch recorded programs "offline" while travelling (on a plane or in a hotel room), since TiVo has dropped their Desktop software - and it looks like they are now focusing only on Apple and Android devices for remote/offline viewing. [Really want to have offline viewing on our larger display Windows tablets & laptops.]

If a miracle happens and SD does eventually come out with a WMC replacement, we would end up spending $30 per year with them for guide service plus have to purchase replacements for our Xbox 360s. With X1, we would save on the monthly cablecard rentals, but have to pay monthly fees for each of the X1 STBs to replace our Xbox 360 extenders. For TiVo, we'd have to purchase two Bolts, pay annual $150 service fees for each (after the first year), and purchase TiVo Minis to replace the Xbox 360s.

SD's "reimagined" strategy doesn't seem to make much sense. Their current customer base is likely much more interested in a more powerful DVR solution than what they are planning. Potential customers who want a "simpler" DVR, seem more likely to prefer the fully supported TiVo or cable/satellite DVRs - and would likely not plan to "roll their own" by using a PC or a NAS coupled with SD tuners. It seems more likely that most (if not almost all) of SD's cablecard customers are more likely to stay on WMC for as long as possible, and when they decide (or are forced) to make a change, they will more likely skip over SD's less functional DVR and go to whatever solution (at that time) provides the most functionality and flexibility.

Since every solution is going to end up costing more than what we are paying today with WMC, SD may also have guessed wrong on their pricing and business model. If SD could provide (likely with 3rd parties) a complete whole home DVR replacement for WMC, it's likely that community is willing to pay more the $30 per year - in order to continue to have the control we are used to having with WMC - as long as the out-of-pocket costs still provide a short and long term savings over TiVo or cable/satellite solutions.

For now, we'll continue using our combination of WMC, Plex and Smart TV apps - which is working well. Though, I'll admit that if we could come up with a good solution to watch offline TiVo programs on our Windows laptops, the better integration and committed program guide service support with TiVo is tempting, even if we have to spend more to get it...
bob_p
 
Posts: 268
Joined: 8 July 2011

Post#9 » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:28 pm

To view TIvo offline as well as perform many other functions, you can still download Tivo Desktop or run kmttg or pytivo. I haven't used them much since I have no need for offline viewing, but I did use pyTivo to transfer all my old WMC recordings to Tivo.

To save money, you can still get affordable lifetime units used. My first 4 tuner Roamio with lifetime was $300. I just picked up another for $400.
mdavej
 
Posts: 1443
Joined: 20 August 2012

Post#10 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 1:21 pm

I did some cost projections for using WMC, SD's DVR (assuming they add enough functionality for it to be a WMC replacement), Comcast's X1 and TiVo - to replace our 7 cablecard tuner WMC with 6 Xbox 360 extenders..

Continuing to use WMC is the least expensive - because we already own all of the hardware and software. Our cost is only the cablecard rental - $22.50 per month.

The SD DVR solution, assuming we only buy new "extenders" for around $150 each would average out to $50 per month over 3 years and $40 per month over 5 years.

Comcast's X1 service, renting DVR and STBs, would cost us $60 per month.

And, using 2 TiVo Bolts and 5 Minis would average to $69 per month over 3 years and $57 per month for 5 years.

From a cost standpoint, continuing to use WMC is our best option - but we're stuck on pretty old software and getting a program guide that seems to be just barely supported by Microsoft - with an uncertain future.

Because of the cost of purchasing extenders to cover all of our TVs, SD's DVR solution will cost us much more than using WMC, and, at least so far, it appears they are going to fall far short of a WMC replacement - so we'd end up spending more and getting less capability.

The X1 service is significantly better than their old DVRs, but still has limitations (we watched an On Demand movie last night - and the lag for doing FF/REW is pretty bad). And in the long run, this will always be the most expensive option because of the device rental, assuming that we use the same hardware for the next 3 to 5 years.

The TiVo service was surprisingly competitive. They include the first year of guide service in the Bolt purchase - so a new 500GB Bolt really only costs $150 plus the first year subscription.

But one thing that could significantly impact this analysis is what happens if/when Comcast begins deploying 4K programming. We're likely only going to have 1 4K TV in the house (which we have today), so we wouldn't need to replace everything to provide 4K support - only what's connected to the 4K TV. With Comcast, the equipment is leased, so they would exchange boxes when new equipment is available. For everything else, we'd likely need to purchase new hardware, which would impact the cost comparisons.

I'll do more research into the offline TiVo options, though we will likely stick with WMC for now - and see how things develop - the new SD DVR software (and their partners) and what's going to happen with 4K Comcast service.
bob_p
 
Posts: 268
Joined: 8 July 2011

Post#11 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:47 pm

$22.50 per month for CableCARD rental??
RyC
 
Posts: 615
Joined: 21 August 2012

Post#12 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:24 pm

RyC wrote:$22.50 per month for CableCARD rental??


I was recently quoted $9.95. It's hard to say if there are taxes or fees beyond that but it's very likely.

I have a contract at a great price so it's also likely that my price structure doesn't mirror that of others.
User avatar
mcewinter
 
Posts: 984
Joined: 30 June 2011
Location: Chicago
HTPC Specs: Show details
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#13 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:26 pm

Hmm Comcast charges me $2 for a CableCARD and then gives me a $1.50 bill credit or something like that. I'm surprised Comcast would charge you so much
RyC
 
Posts: 615
Joined: 21 August 2012

Post#14 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:48 pm

RyC wrote:Hmm Comcast charges me $2 for a CableCARD and then gives me a $1.50 bill credit or something like that. I'm surprised Comcast would charge you so much


I have a contract for basic TV + HBO (multiple HBO channels) and internet for $100 a month for two years. I imagine my price structure holds different rules, per se.
User avatar
mcewinter
 
Posts: 984
Joined: 30 June 2011
Location: Chicago
HTPC Specs: Show details
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#15 » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:33 pm

In the last year, Comcast in our area increased the charge per cablecard per month to $9.95, minus a $2.50 "customer equipment" credit - which puts the charge around $7.50 per card per month. When we had to replace one of our cablecards a few months ago, Comcast was unable to perform the swap without changing our cablecard charges - so our monthly bill for cablecard rental went up considerably - just to get the replacement card.

The projections were run assuming we'd have at least 8 cablecard tuners for live TV and recording programs. This means 3 cablecard tuner boxes - which is the $22.50 charge. WMC is pretty efficient in sharing tuners between live and a program recording on the same channel. It appears the new SD DVR software may not be as efficient and could use a separate tuner for each instance of watching a channel live or recording the channel - which is why I was planning to have 3 cablecard tuner boxes, to ensure we don't run out of tuners - especially for when a recording wants to begin.
bob_p
 
Posts: 268
Joined: 8 July 2011

Post#16 » Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:46 pm

I'm going to thank my lucky stars for our bill, then:

XFINITY Bundled Services
Preferred XF Double Play Includes Digital Preferred, Streampix, selected premium channel, Digital Converter, access to On Demand Programming, and Blast! Internet.
$99.9901/29-02/28
HBO Included in bundle
$0.0001/29-02/28
Term Agreement Applies 24 Month Term Agreement on account. Visit www.xfinity.com/myaccount for details.
$0.0001/29-02/28
Total XFINITY Bundled Services$99.99
Additional XFINITY TV Services
Customer Owned Equipment
($2.50)01/29-02/28
Total Additional XFINITY TV Services($2.50)
Other Charges and Credits
Broadcast TV Fee
$4.5001/29-02/28
Regional Sports Fee
$3.0001/29-02/28
Total Other Charges and Credits$7.50
Taxes Surcharges and Fees
TV
Total Taxes Surcharges and Fees$6.43
Statement balance$111.42

One CableCard and I own my own cable modem.
JTScribe
 
Posts: 264
Joined: 22 June 2011
HTPC Specs: Show details

Post#17 » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:39 pm

JTScribe wrote:I'm going to thank my lucky stars for our bill, then:

XFINITY Bundled Services
Preferred XF Double Play Includes Digital Preferred, Streampix, selected premium channel, Digital Converter, access to On Demand Programming, and Blast! Internet.
$99.9901/29-02/28
HBO Included in bundle
$0.0001/29-02/28
Term Agreement Applies 24 Month Term Agreement on account. Visit http://www.xfinity.com/myaccount for details.
$0.0001/29-02/28
Total XFINITY Bundled Services$99.99
Additional XFINITY TV Services
Customer Owned Equipment
($2.50)01/29-02/28
Total Additional XFINITY TV Services($2.50)
Other Charges and Credits
Broadcast TV Fee
$4.5001/29-02/28
Regional Sports Fee
$3.0001/29-02/28
Total Other Charges and Credits$7.50
Taxes Surcharges and Fees
TV
Total Taxes Surcharges and Fees$6.43
Statement balance$111.42

One CableCard and I own my own cable modem.


This is exactly what I'm paying, almost to the penny. I also have one CC and own my modem. Now...call them and ask how much a second card will cost per month. My guess is $9.95.
User avatar
mcewinter
 
Posts: 984
Joined: 30 June 2011
Location: Chicago
HTPC Specs: Show details
5+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#18 » Thu Jan 28, 2016 1:17 pm

What happened to us - was that to make any changes to our service, including even replacing a failed cablecard, their support staff was unable to get the new cablecard to activate until they had put us under the new subscription plan - with the $10 per month (minus $2.50 credit) - which resulted in raising the charges for all of the cablecards we have. I spent hours on the phone with Comcast's technical and billing support plus hours at the local Comcast store - and all they could do was change us to the new $10/month plans - and recommend I contact their phone support staff to try to optimize our service plan to bring down the overall charges - and was able to get at least a short term discount on our plans to help bring the costs back down (at least temporarily).
bob_p
 
Posts: 268
Joined: 8 July 2011

Post#19 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:43 am

3rob3 wrote:So it's been about a month now living with my new setup and I won't be going back...


I've officially ditched WMC also, but I am staying on cable card and made the switch to JRiver MC. Just can't live without 9 tuners and Terabytes of storage. Finding powerful enough "extenders" under $150 was bit of a challenge but now have that worked out. Things I like about JRiver over WMC:
- Accurate Guide listings from any source/provider you want.
- Nice looking grid style guide, big beautiful tv series and movie cover art.
- Simple to setup scheduled recordings/series from any Windows machine in the house.
- Excellent video playback quality (including no more 29/59 bug).
- No more sporadic "HDCP Error" on my tv screen right in the middle of watching live tv or a movie.
- Flawless playback of live tv and recorded shows on any Windows machine in the house including wifi laptops.

Only thing I loose is HBO/SHO but maybe JRiver will try again on that.

Two Ceton Echos are available now.
tzr916
 
Posts: 445
Joined: 28 May 2013
Location: Stockton CA
HTPC Specs: Show details
2+ YrsTGB Veteran

Post#20 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:01 am

how much will you part with the echos for?
cwinfield
 
Posts: 400
Joined: 12 February 2013
Location: Monroe, NC
HTPC Specs: Show details

Next

Return to The Green Button Lounge



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron