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Once upon a time, I don’t think anyone should waste time reading this post, because it’s really just for me, in case I ever have to rebuild my Media Center PC again. It was a royal pain to troubleshoot the lockups caused by the audio drivers.

System:

  • MSI K7N2GM2 Motherboard
    • nVidia nForce2 chipset
    • nVidia GeForce4 MX Ingrated Graphics
    • Realtek AC ’97 Audio.
  • Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 Analog TV Tuner
  • Seagate 200GB 7200 RPM SATA HD

Steps:

  1. Install Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.
  2. Install the latest MSI system drivers (5.10) using the Setup.exe.
  3. Install the latest nVIDIA video driver (93.71) using the Setup.exe.
  4. Install the old Realtek audio driver (5.10.0.5990)  using Setup.exe. System will lock up with newer driver.
  5. Install the latest Hauppauge driver (2.0.48.25037) using Update in Device Manager.
  6. Install Windows XP Service Pack 3.
  7. Activate Windows.
  8. Install Windows Updates, including any optional updates for Media Center and .NET 1.1. (Maybe skip Windows Media Player 11, it has caused problems in the past.)
  9. Install decoder.
  10. Run Media Center for the first time and follow setup wizard.

Additional steps:

  1. Install and configure antivirus.
  2. Change workgroup.
  3. Add/remove Windows Components: take out MSN Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Messenger.
  4. Set Program Access and Defaults: take out Outlook Express, Media Center Radio, Online Spotlight, Windows Messenger
  5. Install TweakMCE, enable My DVDs.
  6. Use MCE Standby Tool to enable standby, remote, and autologin
  7. Set password for main account, disable Fast User Switching.
  8. Turn off Windows startup and exit sounds.

Once upon a time I really wanted to be able to watch Hulu on my Windows Media Center 2005 PC, and control it with my remote. I tried ZeeVee’s Zinc app, but I couldn’t even get it to display, due to OpenGL version issues. Now finally, Hulu has created a Desktop app that supports the MCE remote control, and it works pretty well for a Beta. Here’s how to integrate it with Media Center so that you can start it up and control it from the comfort of your couch:

  1. Make sure Media Center is closed.
  2. Download and install Hulu Desktop. (On Windows Media Center (XP), it will install to C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\Hulu Desktop.)
  3. Open Notepad (Start Menu/All Programs/Accessories/Notepad) and paste in the following:
    <application
       title="hulu"
       id="{1E9EFD13-8440-4af9-A20B-039B07790C32}"
       companyName="hulu"
       description="Watch Internet Television">
       <capabilitiesRequired
          directX="true"
          audio="false"
          video="false"
          intensiveRendering="true"
          console="false"/>
       <entrypoint
          id="{975A008C-BFD2-40bb-984A-4B88BA7613EB}"
          run="C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\HuluDesktop\HuluDesktop.exe"
          title="hulu"
          nowPlayingDirective="pause"
          description="Watch Internet Television"
          imageUrl="C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\HuluDesktop\hulu.png">
          <category category="Services\TV"/>
          <category category="More Programs"/>
       </entrypoint>
    </application>
  4. Replace the instances of “YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE” with your actual user name.
  5. Click File/Save, navigate to your HuluDesktop installation directory if you are not already there, name the file “HuluDesktopMCE.xml”, pick “All Files” from the Save As Type, and click Save. (If you don’t choose “All Files” the file may save as HuluDesktopMCE.xml.txt.)
  6. Download this icon and save it to your HuluDesktop installation directory.
  7. Open a command prompt (Start Menu/Run/”cmd” or Start Menu/All Programs/Accessories/Command Prompt) and issue these two commands:

    cd C:\Windows\ehome

    RegisterMCEApp /allusers “C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\HuluDesktop\HuluDesktopMCE.xml”

    (Insert a “/u” between “RegisterMCEApp” and “/allusers” if you want to uninstall.)

  8. Open Media Center and navigate to More Programs, then click on Hulu.
  9. Enjoy.

Source: Guide: How to Integrate Hulu Desktop to Media Center

Once upon a time I was getting bugged that my TV would cut off the edges of the video when I tried to watch Live TV, or playback Recorded TV on my Windows Media Center. My set up: Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 with a S-Video connection to a Toshiba 32″ CRT television.

From everything that I’ve googled on the issue, this appears to be intentional, and is called overscan. Apparently, the electron gun at the back of the Cathode Ray Tube televisions didn’t used to be very accurate, and couldn’t hit the exact edges of the screen. So manufacturers set the gun to fire wider than it needed to. This cuts off a portion of the video at the margins, but the work around has been for TV producers to define “title safe” and “action safe” areas of the screen and keep everything important in this area when filming.

Newer display technologies like LCD and Plasma don’t suffer from this problem and can output perfectly aligned images. This allows standards like HDTV to be possible. And now, because some programs are starting to be filmed in HDTV and then converted back for regular TV viewing, the “title safe” and “action safe” conventions are being ignored.

I first noticed this while watching an episode of The Simpsons. Text crucial to understanding a visual gag was cut off on my screen, and so I started to look into the problem. I discovered that in order to fix the problem, I would have to trick Windows Media Center. Here’s how:

  1. From the Media Center main menu go to Settings/TV/Configure Your TV or Monitor
  2. Choose Next (Ignore the “Watch Video” part)
  3. Choose Traditional TV/MonitorTelevision as your Display Type
  4. Choose DVI, VGA, or HDMI as your Connection Type
  5. Choose Standard (4:3) as your Display Width
  6. If your Current Resolution is set to 800×600 leave it, otherwise change it to 800×600
  7. Choose Finish this Wizard

This tricks Media Center into outputing without an overscan margin, because it optimizes itself for display on a non-overscan monitor.

UPDATE: If the above does not work, put the following in the registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Settings\MCE.PerUserSettings]
“optimizeFor”=”ComputerMonitor”

decorative_letter_once upon a time I figured out how to use the Microsoft Remote to turn my Windows Media Center on and off. The pre-built MCE systems (like the HPs) came with this function, but I built mine myself and had to figure it out. This was a while ago, but I thought it might be useful to someone out there that’s still trying to get the most out of Windows Media Center 2005 like I am. I cobbled together this information from several forums and sites. This solution requires two things: an ACPI compatible motherboard that supports sleep mode S3, and a working Microsoft Remote Control (and receiver). And also, you shoud know in case you don’t: turning off the MCE really means putting it into standby mode. It has to be in standby mode, rather than shut down or hibernating, so that it can wake itself back up to record shows.

  1. Reboot your computer and go into the BIOS settings (probably under Power Management) and set the sleep mode to S3. This may also be called Suspend to RAM. You may also need to set your BIOS to allow Wake from USB. Sorry I can’t be more specific, BIOS settings vary widely from motherboard to motherboard.
  2. Put this in the registry

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\usb]
    “USBBIOSHACKS”=dword:00000000
    “USBBIOSx”=dword:00000000

  3. Go into Device Manager, under “Mice and other pointing devices” right-click “HID-compliant mouse”, choose Properties, click the Power Mananement tab, check “Allow this device to bring the computer out of standby” and click OK. If there is more than one HID-compliant mouse object, try each one until you find the one associated with the remote.
  4. Set the computer to automatically sleep after a reasonable time of inactivity, I used one hour.

 

Now you should be able to turn on/off your Windows Media Center by pushing the PC power button in the upper right corner of the remote. Also, the TV power button in the upper left corner can be used to control your TV, if you teach the MCE remote. You can find the instructions at the bottom of the MCE Remote Manual. And they all lived happily ever after.

Source: Microsoft Support

Once upon a time. Anyway, I have my Windows Media Center set up to look for videos on a network share on my main PC to populate My Videos. Recently, I decided I wanted to be able to delete videos on the main PC using the Windows Media Center remote. It’s just easier that way. If I watch a video and decide that it’s a waste of space, I can delete it from the comfort of my couch. I used to be concerned about accidentally deleting things, and so I never worried that this didn’t work. I reconsidered because of three factors: laziness, the fact that Media Center has a confirm delete dialog anyway, and rapidly diminishing hard drive space on the main PC.

As it stood, when I tried to delete a video in My Videos with the remote I received the message “COULD NOT DELETE FILE”, with the sub heading “Media Center was unable to delete [file name here].” I knew that this had to be a permissions issue, so I started playing around and eventually fixed it.

Here’s how to fix the problem. This solution assumes that the user that runs Media Center on the Media Center PC also exists on the sharing PC and has the same password, if any. It also assumes that the Media Center user has full control of the share on the sharing computer (“Permissions” on the Sharing tab in Properties of the shared folder). And the instructions are for Windows XP, but Vista is very similar.

  1. On the sharing PC, in Windows Explorer, right click the shared folder you want to be able to delete from.
  2. Choose Sharing and Security.
  3. Click on the Security tab.
  4. If your Media Center user is not in the list, click Add and use the dialog box to add the user.
  5. Click Advanced near the bottom.
  6. Select your Media Center user and click Edit.
  7. Make sure that Apply Onto has “This folder, subfolders and files” selected.
  8. Check “Delete Subfolders and Files” and “Delete” in the Allow column.
  9. Click OK, OK, OK.
  10. You should now also be able to delete videos from My Videos from the comfort of your couch.

 

And they all lived happily ever after. ZZZZZZZZ

nce upon a time I enabled a feature in Windows Media Center (MCE) called My DVDs. I tried it out for awhile, and then turned it back off because I never used it. But I was single then, and now I’m married, and my wife has found a new application for it.

My DVDs can be enabled by using the TweakMCE powertoy published by Microsoft. Once turned on, it switches the Play DVD function on the MCE Start Menu to the My DVDs function. The new My DVDs menu lists DVDs you have in the DVD drive, and all the ripped DVDs you have in any of the folders MCE looks in for content.

Why is this useful? It’s very convenient to play DVDs directly off the hard drive or network rather than tracking down a DVD that may or may not be on the shelf where you thought you left it. Of course, this form of DVD storage uses up a ton of hard drive space, but we’ve found that for the few DVDs that my wife uses constantly (exercise videos and the like), it is worth it.

One of the cool aspects of My DVDs is the integration with the AMG lookup service. It takes a little bit of tweaking, but MCE can use the same service it uses to list info about movies in The Guide, to fill in the info for ripped movies. Here are the steps to use to get a DVD working smoothly in My DVDs.

  1. Rip your DVD. (I use DVDFab)
  2. Move the new ripped DVD folder (the one that contains the VIDEO_TS folder) to a directory that Media Center looks in for content.
  3. Use notepad to create a file in this folder called [Your_DVD_Name_Here].dvdid.xml, with the following contents:
  4.  <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
    <Disc>
    <Name>[Your DVD_Name_Here]</Name>
    <ID></ID>
    </Disc>

  5. If you haven’t already done this, place the DVD in the DVD drive of your Media Center PC with Media Center open. You don’t have to watch it, just give MCE a minute, it’s going online to AMG to get info.
  6. Use Windows Explorer to go to C:\Documents and Settings\[Your username]\Application Data\Microsoft\eHome\DvdInfoCache. (You may need to choose “Show hidden files” in Tools/Folder Options/View tab in order to see these files)
  7. You should see at least one or more XML files in this folder. Open them up until you find the XML file that is for your DVD.
  8. Scroll down to the bottom of the file and locate the “<dvdid>” tag.
  9. Copy the data between the tags (should look something like “e0dab1f1|fbf3fe71″.
  10. Go back to the file that you created earlier ([Your_DVD_Name_Here].dvdid.xml) in notepad and paste the data between the “<ID>” tags, and save.

 

Now when you go to My DVDs in MCE, you should see your DVD listed, with the cover art displayed and lots of neat info about the movie. And they all lived happily ever after. ZZZZZZZZZ

Source: DVDxml.com

nce upon a time I found that our trusty Windows Media Center couldn’t see or playback certain file types. Our Media Center is the center piece of our entertainment setup; we use it to record TV, watch live TV, and playback videos from the network (and occasionally look at photos and listen to music). So, when I found that it couldn’t see or play .rmvb or .mp4 video files, I started googling. Here’s what I found that worked, boiled down for your convenience. All the software referenced here can be found on free-codecs.com (among other places on the web).

Enable .rmvb Playback

  1. Install Real Alternative. It contains just the bare basics you need for Windows Media Center to play Real audio and video. You don’t need the full RealPlayer off the official site for two reasons, you’re not going to need the Player, and it’s a bloated piece of junk that tries to take over your PC.
  2. Add these keys to the registry.
  3. [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.rmvb]
    “PerceivedType”=”video”
    “Content Type”=”video/realmedia-VB”

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Multimedia\WMPlayer\Extensions\.rmvb]
    “Runtime”=dword:00000007
    “Permissions”=dword:0000000f
    “UserApprovedOwning”=”yes”

  4. Enjoy watching .rmvb files in My Videos in Media Center.

 

Enable .mp4 Playback

  1. Install the Haali Matroska media splitter. This lets Windows Media Center look inside the mp4 container.
  2. Install ffdshow. This is a great little tool. Besides enabling mp4 playback, it replaced three pieces of software I was using: Xvid, Divx4.12, and AC3Filter. During the setup you may also choose to disable the audio support portion (I only left AC3 enabled, to send Dolby to my stereo through S/PDIF.)
  3. Add these keys to the registry.
  4. [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mp4]
    “PerceivedType”=”video”
    “Content Type”=”video/mp4”

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Multimedia\WMPlayer\Extensions\.mp4]
    “Runtime”=dword:00000007
    “Permissions”=dword:0000000f
    “UserApprovedOwning”=”yes”

  5. Enjoy watching .mp4 files in My Videos in Media Center.

 

And they all lived happily ever after. ZZZZZZZZZ

Sources: The Green Button for the rmvb info. The Green Button and AfterDawn.com for the mp4 info.

nce upon a time thumbnails stopped working in My Videos on my Windows Media Center. My files are stored on another Windows computer, accessed over the network. In some folders, thumbnails worked just fine, but in others, Media Center would just display the default icon, then start slowly rebuilding each icon. But if I surfed away from the folder and then came back, the same thing would happen, the icons would be gone, and Media Center would start rebuilding. Not a huge problem, but definitely annoying. Here’s how to solve it.

  1. Open Windows Explorer (My Computer) on the computer with the video files.
  2. Click Tools, then Folder Options, switch to the View tab.
  3. Choose “Show hidden files and folders”, then click OK.
  4. Navigate to one of the affected folders.
  5. Find the “ehthumbs” (or “ehthumbs.db”) file and delete it.
  6. Undo the change you made in step 3 and close Windows Explorer.
  7. Check to see if Media Center can now create and save thumbnails in that folder.

As a sidenote, if you’ve never been able to get Media Center to save thumbnails, it’s probably a permissions problem. You may want to make sure that the user you use to run Media Center has write access to the share where you keep your videos on the network.

And they all lived happily ever after. ZZZZZZ

UPDATE: If the above solution doesn’t work for you, and it’s not a permissions issue, you can try a slightly more drastic step: delete the Video thumbnails cache file.

  1. Close the Media Center application.
  2. Open Windows Explorer (My Computer).
  3. Click Tools, then Folder Options, switch to the View tab.
  4. Choose “Show hidden files and folders” and uncheck “Hide protected operating system files”, then click OK.
  5. Navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\[Your User Name]\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\ehome.
  6. Find the “Video” (or “Video.db”) file and delete it.
  7. Undo the changes you made in step 4 and close Windows Explorer.
  8. Restart the Media Center application.