I Need To Think Outside The Media Center Box

media comments edit

I’ve been locked into a way of thinking - that for my media center solution I need to get a Windows Media Center with some network attached storage and connect all of that up so I can use the Xbox 360 as a Media Center Extender to watch movies.

I’m starting to think maybe I’ve been barking up the wrong tree and it’s time to re-examine my requirements and assumptions.

There are a lot of limitations to Media Center Extender technology, not the least of which is that they don’t support playback of movies ripped in either ISO or VIDEO_TS format, which is one of my primary goals. I not only want easy access to my movies, but I want no quality lost when I put them on the server, I want no features lost (extras, audio tracks, etc.), and I want to be able to re-create a watchable DVD from it should my original die.

So I need to open myself to new possible solutions:

  • Would it be better to have a dedicated home theater PC for each room where I want to access the movies? I could just have each one talk to the network attached storage device.
  • Is Windows Media Center really the answer? Is there some other Windows product that might do the job like MediaPortal?
  • If I just go for a dedicated home theater PC, am I limiting myself with Windows? Would Mac and Front Row or iTheater be a better solution?
  • Is there some sort of hardware device that just works that I don’t already know about?

I’ll continue to search, but I think I’m going to broaden the scope. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Mac that I can try this stuff out on, so I’m going to have to do a lot of reading. I might try out MediaPortal on a virtual machine to see how that goes. If anyone knows of any other devices I should look at, let me know in comments.