Multiple uses for an HTPC?

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zambine

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Multiple uses for an HTPC?

#1

Post by zambine » Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:07 pm

steveo_in_sd wrote:Not to cause you any distress, zambine, but you are aware that in addition to a W8.1 Pro license there is a second purchase "Media Pack" required to have WMC, yes? This is separate from the Pro upgrade. You should also get that, as well, because I would imagine that when Microsoft takes 8.1 off the market they will stop offering the digital-only Media Pack license and you won't be able to buy it second hand or through a retailer.
Thanks for the reminder steveo I am going to buy that as well since it's only 10 bucks.

And ajhieb I agree with your points but as I said in a previous post this HTPC is used for web browsing by myself and my family. It's one of the main reasons the wife gave me the green light to build one. Who wants a Windows PC hooked to their 110" projection screen without being able to surf the web? Ah, first world problems are so hilarious!

[Moderator note: topic split from Windows 10 thread]

adam1991

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#2

Post by adam1991 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:35 pm

Who wants a Windows PC hooked to their 110" projection screen without being able to surf the web?
Lots of people. People who understand the concept of "the right tool for the job". People who understand that a Windows machine is a tool, and can be a great unitasker in the case of WMC.

It's not by definition intended to be a universal tool, and we all know what universal tools end up being anyway.

There's a reason you have a toolbox with lots of tools.

LuckyDay

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#3

Post by LuckyDay » Tue Jun 23, 2015 5:09 pm

adam1991 wrote:
Who wants a Windows PC hooked to their 110" projection screen without being able to surf the web?
Lots of people. People who understand the concept of "the right tool for the job". People who understand that a Windows machine is a tool, and can be a great unitasker in the case of WMC.

It's not by definition intended to be a universal tool, and we all know what universal tools end up being anyway.

There's a reason you have a toolbox with lots of tools.
That's a broad generalization of the ideas here, but it's mostly correct.

I use my HTPC for TV, Gaming, and web browing, but I'm more the sort of person that doesn't expect it to be perfect for all three tasks. It works perfect for TV for my needs, it works well enough for the other two.

That's why I'm more in the boat of not really caring whether Win10 has WMC. I would like to have DirectX12 but it's not a deal breaker for me or something that would make me build an entirely new system just for gaming.

poit57

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#4

Post by poit57 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:47 pm

adam1991 wrote:
Who wants a Windows PC hooked to their 110" projection screen without being able to surf the web?
Lots of people. People who understand the concept of "the right tool for the job". People who understand that a Windows machine is a tool, and can be a great unitasker in the case of WMC.

It's not by definition intended to be a universal tool, and we all know what universal tools end up being anyway.

There's a reason you have a toolbox with lots of tools.
I agree with LuckyDay that you are unfairly generalizing how WMC is commonly utilized. For me, I have what I consider to be a "dedicated HTPC" -- used only for entertainment consumption connected to the home theater in my living room. Even with an HDHR Prime with cable card, and as great as Widows Media Center is, it still doesn't completely fill all my television viewing needs.

There are occasions where a recording is missed (power outages, breaking news stories, signal interference, forgetting to schedule a recording). Since WMC doesn't provide access to on-demand service from the cable providers, the backup solution for these instances is either using TV networks' modern apps from Windows Store or browsing online to stream episodes from Hulu or directly from TV network websites. I don't know why web browsing should be precluded from an HTPC build. Sure, streaming TV via web browsing wasn't really a thing when the first version of WMC was introduced, but it seems like a pretty obvious usage of a modern-day "dedicated HTPC."

mdavej

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#5

Post by mdavej » Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:03 pm

Web browsing is great on an HTPC. Problem is the OP fears an unsupported OS will make him less secure, which it will. So the only solutions are to not use a browser at all, keep using a browser and take his chances with an unsupported OS, or to switch to a supported OS. If you want to be 100% secure, you shouldn't surf the net on your HTPC, or any PC for that matter.

Personally, I think life is full of risks, and I consider common-sense web browsing on even an unsupported OS to be a very low one, unworthy of all this hand wringing.

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Crash2009

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#6

Post by Crash2009 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:15 pm

I'm with ya on the "One box that does everything", however, it appears that is not possible. So, in my setup, I figure I have the next best thing, and that is several boxes that do different jobs. 101" projector screen, and a couple 32" TV's. The one box that does everything (for me at least) is my HDMI 4X4 Matrix Switcher with an HTPC, 2 echo's and a laptop as sources. Any source to any or all screens. It's a pain switching from one source or destination, to another, but I enjoy the flexibility.

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#7

Post by mdavej » Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:46 pm

Crash, it sounds like now you need a decent universal remote to go with all that stuff. The Nevo C2 will do it all for $16 on ebay. Just lay out all your options on one screen (or two or three) and program macros for each. Easy as pie.

zambine

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#8

Post by zambine » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:22 pm

Thanks for all the discussion guys you really gave me a lot to think about. WIth your help I had decided to keep Win 7 as long as possible and then upgrade to 8.1 much later but things did not go as planned.

After being reminded by steveo_in_sd that I needed to purchase Windows Media Center in Windows 8 separately I realized that I needed to already be on a Windows 8 OS in order to be able to purchase WMC.
There was no option I could find to purchase a WMC upgrade code outside of the "Add features" option on the control panel. So I was then worried that the upgrade option may not be available later on when I finally upgraded to Windows 8.1 in 2019-2020.

Since I already had the Win 8 upgrade code I took the plunge and installed Windows 8 with a clean install, upgraded to 8.1, bought/installed WMC, and re-setup my guide and other programs (took forever!).
Luckily I only have Xbox 360/One extenders which work with Win 8 and was able to get WMC to auto-launch by putting it's shortcut in the windows Start Up folder.

Everything is working great and I am covered with security updates until 2023 so I can continue using web browsing and other online features without security issues for a long time barring MS shutting off WMC guide updates on me. Thanks again guys!

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newfiend

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#9

Post by newfiend » Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:09 am

I use my HTPC for multiple things. I use Windows 8.1 w/Media Center as well as Steam Big Picture Mode, Web browsing, I use Controller Companion to launch Windows 8.1 Apps from the Start Screen for more TV streaming options.. It's a multi-purpose "tool" for me.. I don't have a problem surfing the net on the Big Screen.. My only suggestion would be once you have your HTPC all configured the way you like, Make a system Image. If things go south (virus etc.) you can restore your c: drive back to a good state without having to "re-configure/re-install" all that software.
If you want an easy way to launch and navigate modern apps from the couch I highly recommend controller companion for anyone using Win 8.1 Media Center.. http://www.thegreenbutton.tv/forums/vie ... =49&t=8832
newfiend~

paqman3d

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#10

Post by paqman3d » Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:10 pm

Like I mentioned in the Windows 10 thread, my HTPC is the centerpiece of my living room. Everything I do entertainment wise runs through it or will. Blu-ray, Steam, Netflix, Hulu Plus, WWE Network, Media Center, emulators for classic systems with full rom sets and correct controller adapters, YouTube and general web browsing, music storage.... I'm looking to get a Live Gamer HD device so I can play and record gameplay from my PS4 and Wii-U while doing other things on the PC without switching inputs.

When I upgrade to 10 and have to move WMC to another build, I'll have my Xbox 360 connected to my HTPC so I can still watch it that way as well.

To me, an all in one box kind of makes the most sense for me. For instance, I just got done watching a Live special on WWE Network after watching a random episode of Thundercats I had on my hard drive. Meanwhile, my DVR is recording something on Boomerang and Steam is downloading updates and patches. I'm about to take a shower and play Sega Genesis through Kega Fusion (Ninja Turtles is calling me). After I'm done with that I'm going to catch up on DVR. I like how everything just flows, man. Even if I lost Media Center, my HTPC is still the heart of my living room. Even if it is a glorified game console/Roku, doing these tasks on a PC is just easier lol.

I started researching HTPCs years ago after streaming solutions and my under powered hardware started failing me. I got tired of fiddling with trying to stream MKV files over my network to play in my living room on PS3 because it took ages to transcode. I had a laptop I tried hooking up through HDMI, but I couldn't watch anything 1080P without making it melt and emulators were slow as heck on it. My only option was lugging my big desktop out to the living room -- which my girlfriend made me do each time we wanted to watch a HD movie I downloaded, or anytime we felt like playing an old emulated game or something. It's a full tower and a beast of a case, so that got old fast.

I needed something with horsepower to not run into these problems again. The more I looked into it, the more crap I wanted to do on it and it just became this monster I turn on to do everything with ease while I relax on the couch.

heck, I'm upgrading my video card next year for 4K gaming and investing in a 4K 3DTV. My HTPC is literally going to power that image. I wanted a projector for movies, but gaming in 4K is a bigger deal to me. Esp. since the current gen consoles will not offer that at all. It's a chance to have a unique experience.

mdavej

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#11

Post by mdavej » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:09 pm

You love 1080p and want 4k, yet you settle for 720p Hulu and Netflix? HBO and Showtime PC streaming is even worse. Why would you watch those on a PC? And watching Bluray on a PC is easier? That gave me nothing but problems, not to mention it's far more expensive than a standalone player. IMO, investing $20 in a decent universal remote is far easier and better than trying to do everything on a PC.

Ed 

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#12

Post by Ed  » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:30 pm

mdavej wrote:yet you settle for 720p Hulu
Don't have a choice there; Hulu is 720p on every platform and every device. They don't do any 1080p streaming. Just FYI.

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DavidinCT

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#13

Post by DavidinCT » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:12 pm

mdavej wrote:You love 1080p and want 4k, yet you settle for 720p Hulu and Netflix? HBO and Showtime PC streaming is even worse. Why would you watch those on a PC? And watching Bluray on a PC is easier? That gave me nothing but problems, not to mention it's far more expensive than a standalone player. IMO, investing $20 in a decent universal remote is far easier and better than trying to do everything on a PC.
Blu-ray can be tricky, dam DRM problems always cause issues with 3rd party programs. ANYDVD-HD solves that.

HTPC can be used for everything, It's getting it work in harmony that can be tricky. There are some limits, Netflix has a 4K option for some shows (house of cards and a few others) but, it's not $8.99 a month for that, it's $12.99 a month. Then the source where you can view them. A website can be tricked into a WMC ICON, so if that is needed, it could be done.

Running video sources directly into a PC, like a 360 or Xbox one can be tricky, as there is always a delay and will cause lag, minor but, it can affect some fast moving games (COD etc).

For the record, I use Windows Media Center on a 65" 4K 3D TV, I run WMC at 2160p @ 60hz and it looks awesome. I have assorted clips and some small movies done in 4K (there are a bunch of small things on the internet, you just need to know where to hunt)and they look just as good on WMC as they do from a USB 3.0 drive directly in my TV.
-Dave
Twitter @TheCoolDave

Windows Media Center certified and WMC MVP 2010 - 2012

mdavej

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#14

Post by mdavej » Mon Jul 13, 2015 4:18 pm

My main point is the web versions of streaming services are greatly crippled compared to the streaming device versions. IOW, just compare the 240i on Showtime Anytime web page to the 720p on a Roku. Same goes for 720p Netflix on a PC versus 1080p (and beyond) on Roku. Now try controlling both with a remote.

Last time I checked, I could get a very good standalone BD player that also did Netflix at 1080p for about $40. But ANYDVD plus a BD drive would run me nearly $150, not to mention the cost of updates and the difficultly in using a remote.

PCs are great at WMC and file playback, but discs and streaming apps, not so much. I agree you CAN do it all on a PC if you're willing to make a lot of compromises, spend a lot more money and possibly break a lot of laws.

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DavidinCT

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#15

Post by DavidinCT » Tue Jul 14, 2015 3:47 pm

mdavej wrote:My main point is the web versions of streaming services are greatly crippled compared to the streaming device versions. IOW, just compare the 240i on Showtime Anytime web page to the 720p on a Roku. Same goes for 720p Netflix on a PC versus 1080p (and beyond) on Roku. Now try controlling both with a remote.

Last time I checked, I could get a very good standalone BD player that also did Netflix at 1080p for about $40. But ANYDVD plus a BD drive would run me nearly $150, not to mention the cost of updates and the difficultly in using a remote.

PCs are great at WMC and file playback, but discs and streaming apps, not so much. I agree you CAN do it all on a PC if you're willing to make a lot of compromises, spend a lot more money and possibly break a lot of laws.
Your right here, Sure if you DONT already have a Blu-ray player in your HTPC, that is a nice cost (I have one of those old HD-DVD and Blu-ray players), then software could cost $30-60 (PowerDVD 15 comes with a Media Center plugin that works pretty well with the MCE remote and is still updated). Try this option first and if you have problems running some titles, ANYDVD tends to fix it.

There is a level of trickery if you want to run all these streaming services on a HTPC, sure there is some "older" addons that still work with WMC. Running Netflix on 720p looks OK but, after watching it native on my TV at 1080p, it does look better, so I am sticking with that.

The Problem is, all these plugins came out when WMC was in it's hey day, where the eHome team was alive and support was out there (the OLD TGB before Microsoft screwed it up). If Microsoft soft actually still supported it, I would BET you would see 4K Netflix, You tube that was actually fully usable. and tons of other streaming options. Nevermind what you would find in a place like this.

WMC is only a Live TV/Recorder storage now, any other streaming content needs to be plugged in, anything native that STILL WORKS, is outdated and could use a major update...

I just wish WMC was still supported and loved by Microsoft...and we could really have our dream HTPC....sigh..
-Dave
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Windows Media Center certified and WMC MVP 2010 - 2012

mismjy1

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#16

Post by mismjy1 » Fri May 13, 2016 4:25 pm

Old thread, but it got me thinking about it again. I'm in the crowd that does a bunch of things on my $200 Intel NUC HTPC, including:

- WMC for OTA recording and commercial skip (stored on NAS)
- Netflix via Win 8.1 app (1080 + DD)
- Amazon prime streaming via Chrome (used to be horrible, now looks good)
- BBC iPlayer app
- Kodi for ripped movies, music, bluray playback
- Steam streaming with XBox 360 remotes (leveraging my desktop)

I have certainly hit a few bumps - tried HBO Now for a bit, but it looked terrible. Also I didn't anticipate my son's Minecraft fever when I setup the machine, or might have gone with an i5 NUC. However, I also tried an Amazon Fire Stick and just hated it. So we have a few content holes, but in return we have an elegant, inexpensive solution with lots of entertainment options and very low monthly cost.

Personal computers with any OS are capable of delivering all the content and quality we need - what stops that from happening is vendors trying to lure us into their individual ecosystems. I don't think that will serve us well over the long term.

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