My Media Center Goal

media comments edit

I’ve gotten some emails about my recent rounds with Windows Media Center with various suggestions and concerns and it made me realize that I may not have been clear about what I’m trying to accomplish with the media center. As such, here’s what I’m trying to achieve:

  • On-demand style access to my large selection of DVDs. I would like to be able to browse through the set, select one to watch, and watch it. Better still would be the ability to search for a particular genre, actor, or title if I’m thinking about one of those things to help me in finding something to watch. I have come to discover that several folks don’t actually re-watch DVDs, or aren’t interested in that sort of thing. I do re-watch my movies and enjoy them, hence my investment, but as the collection has grown, the convenience of finding the movie I’m looking for and getting things all set up has become lacking - it’s a pain, so we find ourselves not making as much use of them as I’d like.
  • Ease of use. Whatever the solution is, I’d like it to be an easy thing to use. The whole problem right now is that finding the DVD to watch is cumbersome; this shouldn’t be just as cumbersome or we won’t use it.
  • Ease of setup/maintenance. I don’t want to have to spend my life trying to set the thing up and tweak and tweak and tweak to get it to go. This sort of rules out many of the Linux-based solutions I’ve seen. (Granted, this is somewhat colored by my experience level with various OS setup/troubleshooting - I’m a Windows guy, and I can probably manage with the simplified UI of MacOS, but I’m not eager to get into what I feel is an overly-complex console interface. And, yes, this is a personal thing - some folks might feel the Windows solution would be more cumbersome. This isn’t a point for debate.)
  • Use this system as a backup for my DVDs. My dad has had discs go bad and I’m sure I’ve got some, too. I’d like to be able to re-create the movies as needed should the disc go bad.
  • No lost features/quality. I paid for the whole DVD. I don’t want to watch movies in a lower quality (re-encoded/compressed) than they appear on the DVD. I also paid for the extra features - deleted scenes, etc. I want access to those. Note that I can give a little on this if there is at least a path to get from the lower-quality/lower-access solution to the complete solution.
  • Extensibility. If I need more storage, if I want to add access to the collection from a different room… I want the system to be extensible. This is a fairly all-inclusive general statement.
  • Cost. I don’t want it to cost a lot. If it looks like it’s going to be, I’d like to be able to add to the system in increments rather than having a large up-front investment.

I am specifically not concerned with recording TV, streaming audio, or really any other features of the Media Center. If they’re there, so much the better. If not, it’s not a deal-breaker.

That’s what I’m aiming for. Next stop - actual hardware!