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Windows XP Media Center Edition Review 407

Harpreet writes "It took 2 months but someone finally published an informative review of the new Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system. AnandTech's review has got everything you could want, including pictures galore. It looks like the folks who make the Linux based Video Disk Recorder have a new standard to live up to." Update: 01/08 21:06 GMT by T : Read on below for a different (Free software, CD-based) approach to computer-A/V integration.

Trunkboy writes "There are a lot of PVR projects out there (Freevo, TiVo, Dave&Dina, etc... but MoviX is a little different. MoviX is an entire distribution (linux of course) that is designed to play avi/mpg/mp3/etc files from a computer. Upgrading is easy, because it boots from a CD! Videos/music can be stored on a local hard drive, or on a network share. This project is incredible, but needs more developers. Stop in and give Roberto a hand -- MoviX shows some great potential!"

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Windows XP Media Center Edition Review

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  • Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <research@aceretail.com> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @03:56PM (#5042123)
    Let's see how much unwanted DRM they lumber THIS one with...
    • Re:Well (Score:2, Informative)

      by Eric Damron ( 553630 )
      I don't know who modded the parent down as a troll but DRM is a legitimate concern here.
    • Re:Well (Score:2, Informative)

      by greechneb ( 574646 )
      I'd have to agree, seeing that xp reports back to home when you do file searches.

      You can only imagine what it sends when you record tv....
      • Re:Well (Score:5, Funny)

        by haeger ( 85819 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:49PM (#5042648)
        ...and that's why You'll always put a "personal firewall" on Your windows-machines and never let them out unless You specifically tell it to.

        I don't trust my win-box farther than I can throw it (which happens to be approximatly 7,5 meters if detached from all cables.)


        • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Daniel Phillips ( 238627 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @08:42PM (#5043953)
          ...and that's why You'll always put a "personal firewall" on Your windows-machines and never let them out unless You specifically tell it to.

          Putting a firewall on a box that's already running hostile code is a non-starter in terms of security. Remember, Microsoft has complete access to your system, and can do whatever they want to your firewall, including ignoring it completely. You'd be much better off front-ending your XP box with a firewall running on a Linux machine.
      • Re:Well (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I read the article you linked later in the thread. While (if it is true, haven't verified it yet) technically what you say is true, your phrase is misleading. When you do a websearch on google, do they not know who (ip address) is searching and what (keywords) is being searched for? How is this any different, besides you are unable to use a proxy to hide who you are? Read your own link, for local searches it does not "report back home" which is what your post implies.
    • Re:Well (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Read the following about details on DRM usage within Windows XP Media Center Edition. In most cases no DRM will be used at all. It is the responsibility of the provider to use CGMS-A (copy generation management system/analog) to mark a program for DRM.

      http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/windowsxp_med iacenter_copy.asp [winsupersite.com]
  • Freevo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Any_User ( 216748 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:00PM (#5042162) Homepage Journal
    This seems like a push to remove Freevo and the other Tivo-like software out of the market. The only problems with the PVR software your run on your general purpose computer is that other software gets in the way. I would prefer a dedicated machine for PVR usage and another for generalized computing.
    • I doubt that.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by notque ( 636838 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:09PM (#5042255) Homepage Journal
      I really doubt that Microsoft is making this software with any intention aside from

      3. Profit.

      I don't think they have any grudge for Tivo, they just would like to make money off anything they can.

      Microsoft has a wonderful monopoly going. Everyone knows they want/need a computer, and it comes packaged with so many things that most people don't have any idea what they bought it for.

      They just continue to package things in it that people will use. Tivo may never make it, but when Microsoft can just bundle things together, you will.

      I don't like corn, but if i had to buy it at the store every time I bought carrots, I would own a lot of corn, and you would never know I hated it.
  • Check out MythTV!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <`gro.daetsriek' `ta' `todhsals'> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:00PM (#5042164) Homepage

    The project mentioned in the topic is only for DBS satelite users. For everyone else, check out MythTV [mythtv.org]. This project is so impressive I cannot even explain all its features here. Just go look at it yourself. It is amazing, does almost everything TiVo does (including interactive electronic program guide), plus is a MAME front end, CD player, image browser, and more. Make sure to check out the screenshots!

    • This Website [freeplaytv.org] has some good info on how to build a Myth box. I believe you can also buy one from them if you're lazy :)
    • by radish ( 98371 )
      lesseee here, no season passes (doh!), no suggestions (doh!), needs a athlon 1800 all to itself (DOH!). Thanks, I think I'll stick with Tivo.
      • You can do the equivalent of a season pass, and you can restrict the recording of shows in certain ways too. I'm running a MythTV box on a 1GHz Athlon. Not the greatest video quality, but I think the only things I've paid for on the system are some quieter fans and a TV tuner.. I figure it's not a bad deal for $100..
    • Dave/Dina is similar to MythTV [apestaart.org]

      At the moment MythTV has beter TV-options, better layout and a better logo :-)

      DaveDina has more AUDIO options, at the moment.

    • From the MythTV website:

      What it does:
      *Basic 'live-tv' functionality. Pause/Fast Forward/Rewind "live" TV.
      *[lots of other really cool stuff]

      hmmm... that IS a cool feature...Fast Forward live TV.

      I'd think the box would pay for itself in a matter of days, I'll just watch CNBC and keep my Ameritrade account open and ready to go.
  • Of course (Score:3, Funny)

    by nrvous6 ( 590059 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:00PM (#5042165)
    Expect Service Pack 1 sometime in 2006...
  • Standards? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:00PM (#5042166) Homepage Journal

    It looks like the folks who make the Linux based Video Disk Recorder have a new standard to live up to.

    Yes, the Linux VDR people will have to figure out how to hide spyware in their (open) source code.
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:02PM (#5042179) Homepage Journal
    I have a TiVo.
    I use a TiVo instead of piping my cable through my computer for a reason.
    Its the same reason I have a football games on my GameCube.

    Some things are just better without the PC.
    Why would I use awkward PVR abilities of my PC (requiring me to sit in a specific spot, and use a mouse) when I can plop down on my couch and pick up the TiVo remote?
    There's a reason speciliazed components sell better than PC software geared to do the same thing.
    • Why would I use awkward PVR abilities of my PC (requiring me to sit in a specific spot, and use a mouse) when I can plop down on my couch and pick up the TiVo remote?

      As the article notes, there is a remote available for the MCE PC. There are also 3rd party remotes available if you want to build your own home theater PC.

      • Also, you can upgrade the space to your PC a lot easier than upgrading the space to your TiVO (which can't be upgraded without voiding the warranty and can only hold 2 hard drives anyway.) You can stick 8 200 GB hard drives into many cases (though probably not the HP they tested). Having the time to watch 1600 GB of stored TV shows is another matter.
        • But for the price of the Media Center PC you can buy 2 set-top PVRs with activation/service. And as a PVR owner two tuners is much better than unlimited space.

          Plus w/ replayTV you can just use DVarchive (http://dvarchive.sourceforge.net/) to offload your shows to your PC and stream them back to your replaytv whenever you want.
        • Actually you can now hold four drives in a tivo:


          The upgrade process on a tivo has been mainstreamed enough that upgrading your tivo drive is a pretty easy job.

          The main difference between MCE and Tivo is that on MCE a 93gb disk gets you 5 hours and change of recording at best. A 40gb Tivo gets you the same amount of time, so until Micro$oft stops using a bloated encoding system you're not getting value for your disk space.

          Personally, I still wouldn't trust MCE as my primary PVR. I don't want something that can be that flaky when recording stuff I want to watch.

          My Tivo does a wonderful job for that, and in 3 years my Tivo has never crashed. This is where you want to spend money: Linux is designed to remain up for infinite periods of time, and that has always been an issue that Microsoft has been weak on. You can make MS platforms reliable if you are willing to take the time and devote energy to it. I know, I manage a large mix of MS and Linux platforms. My linux platforms have always been "install and mostly forget" servers. All I do it keep them updated and tidy up sometimes. My MS platforms need babying, they are always finding a different way to require attention, and when MS needs attention *everything* stops until you fix it.
    • by KDan ( 90353 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:16PM (#5042322) Homepage
      I agree. The purpose of a PVR is simple and clear, and doesn't require all the complexity (and expense!) of a PC to manage.

      They would have done better to design a simple set-top box that you put on your TV and has all the fancy interfaces on the TV screen and the remote and all that, and which records the shows on an internal hard drive which is then accessible from your PC (through a Firewire, USB2, or even an ethernet cable), so that you can download/manage the files from your PC (which is good at that).

      Why buy a whole PC and leave it sitting next to your TV, afraid to use it for other things (like playing that LAN game of UT2003 when friends come round!) because then it might crash or somehow fail to record the show you wanted recorded??

      • PCs are cheap, and easy to upgrade. You do not need a 1000 dollar PC to make a pvr. You can do it much cheaper, with more feature(if you desire) and use different media to save you shows.Want to save it to Digital tape? no problem, cdr? no problem.

        You don't have to worry about spyware telling somebody what shows you recorded, and then having it tell someone everytime you watch it.

        Those are the advantages of using a computer. as far as asthetics, get a case that matches your entertainment center.
        • Well, you're right about some things. To bring this back a bit more on topic, if you choose XP Media Center, then you may be wrong. This is from the article:

          There are a lot of improvements that must be made in order for MCE to really take off however; first and foremost, the performance issues we encountered are unacceptable. Unfortunately, it may take mainstream Hyper-Threading enabled Pentium 4s with an 800MHz FSB in order to mask the stuttering issues that occur during normal use of MCE as a PVR. As far as stability goes, we'd expect the limited number of hardware vendors to more thoroughly stress test and ensure their machines won't be crashing in a media center environment; like we've mentioned before, who wants to explain why their TV just blue screened?

          You may really need a big ass expensive machine to do this right. Also, one other concern that they didn't address is sound. When my Tivo is recording and the room is silent, I can barely pick up the hard drive writing sounds. No fan, no other hum, nothing. Would you really expect that from a PC? I used to have a server in the room with dual CPUs and 3 hard drive (one SCSI monster) which made my room sound like you were in a car on the highway. Even after removing SCSI drive and one IDE drive, and otherwise altering the fans, it's still too loud for the living room.

          My point is just that having a PC vs. having an appliance involves more than just upgradeability. One of the reasons that modifying an appliance should void a warranty is that Tivo or ReplayTV can make assumptions about cooling, noise, and ventilation based on their tests on fixed hardware. You throw those out the window if you decide to put a 10000 RPM drive into your Tivo.

          Also, aesthetically, the HP they used didn't really look like it belongs in my entertainment center... it's vertically oriented, has a keyboard (!!!), and it otherwise annoying.

          Anyway, I guess if you have a spare PC or lots of money and want to get upgradeability in a familiar setup, go for it. I'd rather stick with my Tivo, with it's known privacy issues and have a quiet living room with low power consumption. I can see a place for both, and I'm sure people will buy the one that makes the most sense for them.


    • Did you read the article? No mouse required. And this isn't inteded to be on your workstation. It's intended to be used with a computer sitting next to your television/AV Receiver.

    • That is exactly why I didn't agree with Microsoft when they said that video streaming was going to power the next generation of PCs. Why would I want to sit at my PC for a couple of hours and watch a movie on my monitor??

      Lots of people have entertainment centers that allow the whole family to be comfortable while watching movies. I just can't see my family croweded around my PC watching "The Two Towers."

      Oh well, to each his own I guess.

    • It gets even more interesting. Remember Apple's "Digital Hub" strategy? Well, TiVo is now officialy a member, with Rendezvous support promised in the documents!

      This is different than Microsoft's strategy, as Apple is positioning its machines as the traffic controller, helping disparate devices exchange the relevant data. How about dumping your faves from TiVo onto your iMac and burning your own archive DVDs? How about a video iPod that can take your TiVo's recordings on the road? Or pictures from your digital camera into a TiVo album/slide show?

      Not interesting enough? Well, Apple's opened the source of Rendevous, and has no qualms about allowing a Linux adaptation of it! Apparently they want to compete on the basis of their hardware/software integration again, not just on lockout.

      So now we have two opposing philosophies: Microsoft's "embrace and extend", and Apple's "digital hub". One wants to take over the whole show, the other wants to connect and choreograph.
  • by Giant Ape Skeleton ( 638834 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:02PM (#5042180) Homepage
    This is just further evidence that any technological convergence is by necessity, first and foremost, a marketing convergence.


  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:02PM (#5042182)
    Computer Power User this month. Covered the HP with the emuzed card in particular
  • Lack of ATI support (Score:2, Informative)

    by dewboy ( 22280 )
    The article states that "the vast majority of TV tuner cards available will not work" -- and this includes all ATI All-In-Wonder cards. The only two cards supported are the Hauppauge WinTV PVR and the Emuzed Maui PCI PVR.

    Personally, I think I'll stick with my ATI card and Video Disk Recorder.
    • Sorry, but your ATI doesn't do hardware MPEG2 encoding/decoding-- while a WinTV PVR or Emuzed Maui PVR will.

      A hardware MPEG2 encoding/decoding board is what is needed for the Media Center OS.
  • direct link (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldimo ( 140734 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:04PM (#5042202)
  • by Chris_Stankowitz ( 612232 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:05PM (#5042208)
    "It took 2 months but someone finally published an informative review of the new Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system."

    I took me that long to get it installed.

  • by mao che minh ( 611166 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:05PM (#5042212) Journal
    Microsoft should get Ellen Fiess and Steve the "Dude" guy of Dell fame to market this 'innovative' (heh) new technology. Could you imagine how amazing that marketing campaign would be?
  • First, you can't buy the software to build your own. Which means most of the options right now cost a lot. I'd like to build a cheap(er) box aimed JUST at the Media Center features and not also need it to be a great gaming PC or whatever from Gateway.

    I don't want a PC. I want a nice AV unit in my component rack, like my TiVo. But the TiVo is getting dated. I need high def support. I need faster processing so I don't get annoyed at the menus. I think if you'd put the TiVo interface on the RePlay hardware we'd have a hit. Good interface with the best features.

  • by Angry White Guy ( 521337 ) <CaptainBurly[AT]goodbadmovies.com> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:08PM (#5042244)
    From the article:
    Before you can proceed in the program guide setup you have to scroll through the 44 pages of the Terms of Service and select agree. Once again, this is done fairly quickly using the remote just by holding the down-arrow and then hitting ok.

    That's good, sound advice there. Don't bother reading it.
  • by Milo Fungus ( 232863 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:11PM (#5042267)

    From the article:

    Before you can proceed in the program guide setup you have to scroll through the 44 pages of the Terms of Service and select agree. Once again, this is done fairly quickly using the remote just by holding the down-arrow and then hitting ok. (Emphasis added)

    Reading 44 pages is hardly a quick task, no matter if you have a remote control, scrolling mouse, or whatever. Unless it reads like 44 pages from a Dr. Seuss book. Then I wouldn't mind so much.

    You may not reverse engineer on a train, you may not reverse engineer in the rain. You may not share files with a fox, you may not let files leave this box...

    • Re:44 Page EULA (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shepd ( 155729 )
      >Once again, this is done fairly quickly using the remote just by holding the down-arrow and then hitting ok.

      So, basically, they didn't read it at all. If the reviewers can't be bothered, will the users be?

      For all we know, it might say in there that you need to give your first born to Bill G.
    • You may not reverse engineer on a train, you may not reverse engineer in the rain. You may not share files with a fox, you may not let files leave this box...

      It's not exactly Seussian, but it does rhyme =) (taken from the actual Win2K Pro EULA on my system):

      Don't use on multiple PC's, we'll call the software Nazi's.
      If this is an upgrade, you better have paid.
      This covers an update, it's not up to fate.
      You can sell your CD, if they agree to me.
      Don't reverse engineer, or live in fear.
      If we cancel at will, you throw it in a landfill.
      We collect your details, and we read your emails.
      Sun says don't trust java, because it will harm ya'.
      There are no warranties, we will not hear your pleas.
      It's protected by copyright, so don't try to fight.
      You will be tried in Redmond, we will have a big lawyer fund.
      You must be crazy, to read to the end of me.
  • More cliches (Score:5, Insightful)

    by M.C. Hampster ( 541262 ) <M,C,TheHampster&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:13PM (#5042295) Journal

    We need to develop some sort of global cache list so we can add the following from the article:

    Today's PCs on the other hand are infinitely more powerful than current set-top boxes...

    Isn't this a bit of an exageration? Obviously, they can't be "infinately" more powerful, but are they even considerably more powerful? I'm not too familiar with the spec's on PVR's, but I would bet they aren't that weak.

    • The MPEG encoding/decoding process on PVR's is hardware-assisted, so in terms of raw CPU power, not much is really needed. TiVo boxes, for example, have fairly low-end PPC chips.
    • I seem to recall that the Tivo's processor is somewhere in the range of 50-150MHz. The video encoding/decoding is offloaded onto special-purpose hardware. This means it's very hard or impossible for you to play video/audio formats that aren't hard-wired into the system -- a restriction you don't really have when you've got a PC with a GHz or so of processing power.

      Biggest downside of a PC from my perspective is the noise. I put together a MythTV box for my apartment, but had to go find some new fans to quiet the sucker down..
    • "Isn't this a bit of an exageration? "

      no, it's a lie.
      unless your in marketing, then there are no lies, only sales numbers.
  • by fons ( 190526 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:15PM (#5042306) Homepage
    We're trying to make a similar thing based on linux. (it's called DAVE/DINA and you can read all about that strange name -and more- over here [apestaart.org]).
    I must admit, we were pretty surprised with this version of XP. It looks really cool (we haven't tried it though).

    It made us realize we have to speed up our work on DAVE/DINA. So we're planning our first ISO-release this month.

    It will include:
    - Watching TV
    - RECORDING TV (only europ i think)
    - Playing/grabbing music
    - Music Database
    - Photo gallery
    - playing/grabbing DVD
    - playing DIVX

    but a lot of work needs to be done. We hope to lure some contributors with this release.

    But you can already start to help us now: Visit our website [apestaart.org], and comment on our plans (so we know what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong), or make us a cool new logo
  • Cable Boxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason.nashNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:16PM (#5042315)
    How do these and other open source projects handle things like cable boxes? The TiVo will change the box for me. I can't rely on a TV Tuner card to handle that since I need my digital cable box.

    Does anyone make IR blasters that will talk to those boxes that can be made to work?
  • by Mantrid ( 250133 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:26PM (#5042417) Journal
    I recently acquired a satellite system (DSS) with the PVR built-in (see my journal if you want to know more). Basically it just hooked up the same as the standard receiver. I've been using it for not quite a month and I just can't see going through the hassle of a media centre PC anymore. (I was looking at setting up something like that before - and being in Canada, I would have the added problem of finding a PVR that supports local satellite or cable options Guide-wise).

    Basically, having a set-up like this 'just works'. You press pause and TV is paused. You select the program you want to record out of the program guide or program search and it records it (you can choose to protect it, to prevent other recordings overwriting on a full HDD, and you can choose to start recording 1 minute early). You can go back and watch something that you recorded while it records something else. Every time you change the channel it begins buffering again automatically (up to 1 hour I think). It can hold 30 hours of programming. It can IR-Blast the VCR if needed also.

    I'm a PVR addict. Now I'm sure you can accomplish all of this and more using a PC with WMCE or whatever, but it's nice to not have a computer hanging around the room or having to show my wife how to get everything going. Sure I can't share with other PCs and I don't think it can really perform every trick that PC software or a TiVo can right now, but it does have an upgradeable BIOS. It is not hooked up to the internet or the phone line (if I ever bother with PPV then I'll have to use a phone line). I can tell the unit not to upgrade its BIOS without asking.

    Basically, a home theatre setup often borders on messy anyways - throwing a PC into the mix just further confuses things.

    And I definitely don't need a MS solution - don't need a BSOD messing up my TV viewing!
    • Can you save recorded shows as VCDs to be burnt to CD?
    • From his journal:

      the watch one show while you record another is a bit deceptive: you can't say, watch something on channel 100 and record something on channel 200 as one might be led to believe.

      Man I'd be raising hell with them if I were you. All this digital TV they plug and they can't even duplicate the functions of ananlog TV and a VCR.

      Is there any digital server that will alow you to tape a broadcast from one channel while watching a broadcast on another channel?

      • by Greedo ( 304385 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:55PM (#5042714) Homepage Journal
        This is a limitation of most digital TV (cable or satellite). The STB can only decode one channel at a time, so you can only do something with one live channel.

        You can get double LMB dishes, that provide two cables from the dish to the STB. None of the Bell STBs support two inputs, but you can buy another decoder for the second line for ~$99. Then you can record one show on the PVR and watch another on the other STB.

        (STB=set-top box)
    • Too bad you don't allow comments in your journal. I too have the BEV PVR and love it. Two comments:

      - The interactive weather isn't just Canadian cities, it's international

      - One of the great features in the BEV PVR, and missing from the MS box is the UHF remote, which means my PVR can be in my basement, away from my TV.

      - The IR thing that made you shit your pants ... cool eh? You can use an IR extender like this one [anandtech.com] (I think one came with my PVR), or just put your PVR near the VCR. The IR signal it sends out is strong enough. Doesn't apply to me, since my PVR is in the basement.

      - I didn't know the 5100 was discontinued ... where did you see that? I just got some mail from Bell promoting it.

      Now ... if I could only figure out what that weird "expansion port" is on the back, maybe I could read the recorded shows off the PVR and archive them.
  • Then I saw this:

    Even with our reinstall, there have been cases where the Media Center application crashed, requiring a full system restart before functioning properly

    I've got 2 Tivo's, both hacked, and neither has ever crashed or spontaneously rebooted on me (save one hang during first upgrade because I didn't disable write verify on the disks first.. my fault, I cut corners). There's no way in hell I'd trust a box that's not completely reliable to replace my trusty Tivos.
  • FTA:
    "ATI's latest All-in-Wonder line comes extremely close; closer than any previous attempt, but ATI is still bound by the tragic flaw of a PC based PVR - the Windows interface."

    This doesn't take a rocket scientist to add 2 and 2 in this case, does it?
  • This kinda reminds me of the whole "new" tablet design. Yes the technology is great, but who the hell are going to buy them (en mass)?

    TiVo (which I love, love, love) and ReplayTV aren't exactly setting the world on fire in terms of sales, so its not like there's a HUGE demand for these things. Also the price seems a hell of a lot higher than buying a functional computer and a TiVo seperately. How many people live in apartments so small they can't have both? College students are always bandied about for potential buyers, but my sense is that most would rather have a laptop. Plus, how many parents are going to plunk down that kind of money right after signing that check for school so their kids can record TV? I just don't think the cost would be justified (my dad would have laughed at me 'til he was blue in the face).

    Nice tech, tiny market. MS better watch out. There only so many "these'll change the world" ideas that don't pan out that hardware companies are willing to subsidize.
  • by Beebos ( 564067 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:31PM (#5042468)
    Do I really want my PC recording The Simposons while I play Unreal Tournament 2003?

    I don't think so! I have a 3.06 P4 with an ATI 9700 and its pretty much maxed out while playing UT 2003. I bet them same will be true with the upcoming Doom title.

    I'd much rather have my Replay 4500s doing their recording thing while I'm doing my computing/gaming thing.

    You can get two or three Replays for the price of a Media Center PC, I think. You can hook them up to your network and share programing between them, your PCs and friends on the net. And they won't steel CPU cycles from your PC.
  • by GusherJizmac ( 80976 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:34PM (#5042497) Homepage
    An interesting quote from the article

    "Whenever AMD or Intel release a new CPU, everyone asks the question what we need faster processors for? The most common response for that is "to enable future applications" and a couple of years ago, there was enough processing power in a cheap enough form to finally give the VCR a brain - the idea of a set-top Personal Video Recorder (PVR) was born."

    "Although MCE is by far the best first attempt at a PVR we've seen from any company, it isn't without its very noticeable flaws; the most serious of which happens to be this issue of performance. On a 2.53GHz Pentium 4, CPU utilization hovers around 30 - 40% while simply watching TV; note that this is with a hardware MPEG-2 encoder card and a very fast Pentium 4 CPU. We tried performing our own clean MCE install on the setup, updated all of the drivers and walked away with nothing better. There are clearly some issues with MCE as it shouldn't require such a high speed CPU to perform simple MPEG-2 decoding and writing to the disk. The CPU utilization drops to below 20% if MCE is closed and it's just recording in the background, which isn't too bad but still higher than you'd expect for a hardware MPEG-2 encoding engine that isn't relying on the host CPU.

    The Tivo uses a 75Mhz PowerPC, which was available many years ago and is a joke of a processor right now. It's also what enables Tivo to not cost $1000. The fact that this windows media center slows down noticable with a 2.xx Ghz P4 is embarassing. Tivo rarely exhibits any slowdown, and it's not only using a alledgely more inferior PowerPC processor, but one from several years ago running at 3% of the speed of this thing.

    • Tivo rarely exhibits any slowdown

      You ever try to reorganize 34 season passes? It takes about 10 minutes.
      • I don't really count that, because TiVo knows it will take a while and tells you. What the article was talking about was the UI slowing down at times w/out warning. While both do suck, I'd rather know that I need to wait and do all the waiting at one time, rather than wait on a slow interface....
    • I can tell you exactly why.

      Tivo uses several DSPs to handle the audio and video.

      MCE does everything through software which, in technical terms "sucks ass".

      This is just another way ms shoots themselves in the foot by forcing everything through windows.
      • >MCE does everything through software which,
        >in technical terms "sucks ass".

        RTFA. Microsoft specifically requires MCE PCs to come with a dedicated MPEG encoder hardware. It is not "doing everything through software". In fact, according to the article ATI and nVidia are having fits precisely because of the outrageous hardware requirements Microsoft has slapped on these systems.

        Sounds to me like yet another case of crappy, bloated code from Microsoft. What a surprise. Would never have seen that one coming.
  • This article (not the Slashdot article, but the review referenced) is really going around itself to lap up the MS PR releases here. First off, it never once questions why you would want this thing in preference to a TiVo or Replay. It does bring up the "advantage" of PC-based PVRs. Apparently it's the ability to convert your stored shows to any format you like... of course, they then explain that MCE can't do that, but they expect that MS will add it soon!

    They also skip right over any discussion of ease of use, setup, cabling, access to guide data, fees, etc. I'm assuming that the author simply read some releases, watched a couple of Simpsons episodes and then decided to write a review (mostly of the Simpsons, as it turns out).

    Oh, and I'm assuming that the assertion that this will be WindowsXP/Pro + MCE is a joke. I can't imagine that MS won't lock all of the "server" features in this, just like they do with XP/Home.
  • and that is crap. The ATI & nvidia cards aren't supported. This is too bad.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:42PM (#5042574) Homepage Journal
    The ASF wrapper also currently prevents transcoding into other media formats, such as DiVX.

    No it doesn't [geocities.com] :)

  • to raise the fucking hit counts and show more ads.

    Any particular reason this story couldn't of been 5 to 8 pages at the most?
  • Do Not Remove (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sfe_software ( 220870 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @04:54PM (#5042702) Homepage
    This is a bit OT, but why did HP put a "Do Not Remove" cap over the on-board VGA connector? There are perfectly valid reasons to run multiple monitors (especially on a "Media PC"), and there doesn't seem to be any reason to cap the connector off...

    Obviously the GeForce is a better card, but... why use a board with onboard video, just to cap it off? Seems like a hack to me; perhaps a driver conflict caused concern, so they disabled it in the BIOS and capped it off.. but it's very unprofessional IMO.

    Just a nitpick I guess...
  • But... (Score:5, Informative)

    by labratuk ( 204918 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @05:31PM (#5042982)
    you forgot to mention the best (IMHO) PVR software project,

    MythTV [mythtv.org]!

  • by kryptkpr ( 180196 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2003 @06:17PM (#5043171) Homepage
    From the review (important parts bolded):

    The guide is easy to navigate through and scroll speed is quite fast. The one thing that is worth noting that even on the HP's default Pentium 4 2.53GHz, CPU utilization can reach very high levels while scrolling through the list. Sometimes scrolling through the guide can cause the TV encoding process to stutter which is definitely unfortunate as stuttering isn't nearly this common with set-top PVRs. The problem here seems to be an issue with prioritizing threads, as the TV encode/decode threads should take absolute priority over any other threads contending for CPU time - especially those required to scroll through the program guide. ....

    The first time the guide starts up, resource usage also pikes which will sometimes cause the TV encoding process to stutter as well. What you may find yourself doing is making sure you don't start up the guide while you're recording anything important as the stutters will be recorded to disk.

    So, a 2.53 Ghz P4 can't handle opening the guide and scrolling through it? I have to make sure I'm not recording anything important while using the guide? Can M$ possibly get any more inefficient? Don't forget, this is with HARDWARE MPEG2! I wondered at first why cards without hardware MPEG2 codecs weren't supported.. now I understand.

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.