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How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: What’s Powering Your Media Center?

Whether your media center is laptop you occasionally plug into your television or a whole-house arrangement of computers with a home server dishing up the movies and music, we want to hear about your media center system and what you have installed on it.

With the recent release of XBMC 11.0 Eden, we have media centers on the brain. This week we want to hear all about your home media center solutions. What kind of hardware and software are you using? How do you have things configured? What tweaks have you applied to your media center to improve your experience?

Sound off in the comments with your media center knowledge and then check back on Friday for the What You Said roundup!

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/28/12

Comments (58)

  1. Dave

    XBMC via git on ubuntu, forget what version ubuntu now… But might give the new “installer” a whirl cause I have been pounding updates onto this machine for 6 months or so… it needs a refresh

  2. Jonathan

    Xbox

  3. Ryan

    Windows Media Center for recording live TV…otherwise I use Plex, it has a much slicker interface.

  4. Fernando

    XBMC 11.0 on Ubuntu 11.10

  5. WomboTheTyrant

    XBMC Eden running on an overclocked AsRock 330 box running Ubuntu 11.04. I named it MightyMouse.

  6. statsgeek

    Asrock Ion 330HT with XBMCbuntu (Eden) hooked up to my tv in the living room.
    XBMC Eden running on my macbook pro and my desktop pc.
    Windows Home Server (v1) running MySql to sync libraries. AirVideoServer feeding video to my iPhone when out and about.
    Dropbox syncing thumbnails and fan art across all three machines.
    Xbox 360 for Netflix
    Airport express connected to speakers in living room to stream music from iPhone/WHS running iTunes

    Btw… XBMC Commander for iOS is the most amazing remote app I’ve ever used and works exceedingly well to queue up video marathons of your own.

  7. wutname1

    I used to use a XBMC setup that stored all information in a MySQL DB and then all the clients used the central db so you could watch anything in any room or on any of my systems and the progress and watched status would sync.

    I now use Plex Media Server running on a Win 7 x64 system with 6TB+ of disk space it serves data up to My Living room 50″ TV controlled with a Harmony 880, there is a Dell Optiplex 745 on the bedroom TV using a Harmony 550 remote, and plex is installed on my work laptop, netbook, XPS laptop, Android A500 Tablet, and 2 Android Phones i am able to watch any of my media anywhere via MyPlex. My plans include buying a house adding another big screen down stairs and having a nettop hooked up and wall mounted behind the TV. Along with power and ethernet ran behind the TV so there are no wires visible.

    I use Intelliremote on my systems so that i can make custom script execute when buttons are pressed to perform advance actions like force closing Plex and relaunching it or rebooting the PC. I also have a set of AutoIT scripts running on every PC that is connected to a TV that monitors for frozen applications and will perform automated fixes as needed. It also make sure plex is always the active windows and is in full screen mode they will also close any application popups. The script is paused by pressing a key on the remote or it will pause if chrome is open.

  8. Gregg

    I use a Roku to play video on my larger display. It pulls the videos from my debian machine using roku_media_server, gpodder, mythtv, and podracer. The roku is also connected to an instance of PlayOn to get other videos. Since Comcast is going to stop providing analog channels, I’ll probably have to replace my tuner for mythtv with a SiliconDust HDHR3.

  9. wutname1

    Oh i also have a script run on my server at 1am it monitors plex logs to see if i am watching anything if not it will make sure all my computers are off. once it sees all systems are off and i am not watching anything it puts my server into standby and then wakes the server up at 10am. if i leave a PC on all night the script will give up trying to go into standby at 6am

  10. Karthik

    This is my current setup :

    HARDWARE-
    GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H
    AMD Athlon II X2 245
    4GB DDR2
    1 Western Digital Caviar Green WD6400AACS 640GB
    MSI R4350-MD512H Radeon HD 4350 512MB
    Antec Fusion 430 Case
    IR receiver [for remote]

    HD HomeRun
    Old server running Ubuntu + 2 1TB HDD for storage
    Logitech Harmony 550 remote
    IR Keyboard [to handle occasional glitches]

    OS-
    Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit

    SOFTWARE-
    Windows Media Center [ for live tv, recorded tv ]
    XBMC 10.0 [ for movies ]
    HULU Desktop [for tv shows ]
    BOXEE [ random videos, YouTube ]
    AutoHotKey [controls program switching from remote]

    CONFIGURATION-
    HTPC connects to TV [HDMI]
    HTPC connects to AV Receiver [OPTICAL]
    Harmony 550 remote controls everything [with the help of AutoHotKey and the MCE keyboard profile]

    Took me forever to make it work with the remote, but its all worth it in the end.

  11. Nixed

    VLC and Miro. I used to use XBMC, but the quality of video playback on my old Athlon 64 3200+ system wasn’t as good as VLC’s. I’m running everything on Windows XP so I can emulate some old gaming consoles and play some of my old games like Half Life 2 as well. .

  12. TheClaus

    XBMC running on ATV2 connected to file/mySQL server and sharing it out to all the rooms of my house.

  13. Nik Simpson

    Windows Media Center on Windows 7 (64 bit)
    Sharky Codecs for MKV and FLAC support
    My Movies 4 for TV and Film metadata etc
    VMCmote Server + iPhone app primarily for music, though it’s also a remote

  14. Henrique

    I store all my media on my Windows 7 desktop, and use Plex media server paired with Plex client for Samsung smart tv. I tryed XBMC, Twonky and Win7 native dlna sharing, but found Plex to be a much more pleasing solution, the only drawback being the absence of subtitle support.

    For the cases where subtitles are needed, I simply hook up my macbook to my tv with an HDMI adapter and fire up ol’ trusty VLC (in detriment of twonky, that has subtitle support but impractical interface)

  15. John

    XBMC 11.0 on Ubuntu 11.10 running on the ol’reliable acer aspire revo 1600 as a NAS box and have my other (5) computers remote into it. It’s a good media setup and makes for easy media access across the house and while away from home using subsonic.

  16. Henrique

    noting on my previous comment, I meant lack of subtitle support for the smart tv client, regular win/mac/linux client have subtitle support

  17. Andrew

    Custom Build:

    Motherboard: ASUS M3N78-EM AM2+/AM2 Micro ATX (#M3N78-EM)
    Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200 2.7GHz
    Memory: CORSAIR XMS2 4GB (PC2 6400)
    Video Card: nVidia GeForce 8300 (onboard)
    Case: Rosewill R379-M MicroATX

    Currently running Ubuntu 11.04 / MythTV connected to my cable box over FireWire. I can watch live TV anywhere in the house as well as record up to 1.5TB of HD content.

  18. Isaac

    I actually use Google TV. So far it hasn’t let me down. It’s simple, built in to my TV, and grants me access to my network, netflix, and web videos. I also have an xbox hooked up as well as a media center PC, my desktop pc, and an HDMI port at my couch for my tablet; but the Google TV interface is what I use probably 90% of the time.

  19. Tom

    Media Center Computer:
    Intel Quad Core CPU Q6600 @ 2.40 GHZ
    3GB of memory
    120 Gig SSD drive for system (Power on to fully logged into desktop is under 1 minute Gotta Love SSD Drives)
    250 Gig drive for Utorrent, & recorded tv storage until its transferred to the Home Server Folders
    OS Windows 7 64 Bit running Windows Media Center using 2 Hauppauge 2250 TV Tuners for up to 4 analog, 4 digital signals or any combination of the 4 for my Live & recorded TV which is then Transfered to my Home Server upon Completion of the recording.

    Server:
    Intel Core 2 Duo 6300 @ 1.86 GHZ
    2 Gig Memory
    7 TB of Drive Space
    OS Windows Home Server V1
    Air Video Server

    All computers & Xbox’s are attached to a Wired Gigabit Network with 2 Wireless N Access Points for wireless devices

    All Media is stored on the Home Server and streamed to WIndows Media Center

    Each of the three rooms in my house have a flat screen with an XBOX 360 attached and i utilize the Windows Media Center Extender for all my Live TV, Recorded TV, Movies, Music, Photos etc. Netflix is also used Via the XBOX 360 Console.

    My Home Server also has the Air Video Server running as well so that I may stream all my movies and TV shows that are ripped to my Server on any of my iphones, Ipod Touches, or Ipads from anywhere in the world.

    Itunes Match assures that all of my 2,500 albums are also available to me anywhere as well provided i have an internet connection.

  20. Black Knight Rebel

    A 60 GB PS3 is at the heart of my media center. Such a wonderful device.

  21. TechGeek01

    Currently, I’m running XBMC 10.0, but I will soon be upgrading to XBMCbuntu 11.0 (the standalone OS). I don’t yet have a media center, but I am thinking of setting one up. It’d be nice to access all of my media from every computer and device in my house, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

    I am building a computer, so my plan is to set up this laptop as a media server, and use my soon-to-be computer as my main computer. for now though, I’m not sure if I will go beyond this computer until then.

    I do have an old Win98 and a WinME. I’m wondering if I can keep XBMCbuntu CDs in them and run that to play from the soon-to-be media server with the small hard drives they have. My family and friends aren’t nearly as tech-savvy as me, so It’ll be a bit of a project doing this alone.

  22. UltimatePSV

    Mine’s set up a bit strangely, it’s all networked to the actual TV, which is on a different floor. I have an old desktop computer with a 1TB external HDD attached; it’s in a spare bedroom upstairs. It runs Ubuntu, and boots directly into XBMC and PS3 Media Server. I do this because that’s the best spot for a computer, and I like to stream my media throughout the house. It’s essentially a server, but you can actually watch the videos and such there if you really want to (there is a monitor and everything). I can also access it remotely from a different computer if necessary. The computer also holds backups of my computer’s important files in case I need them.

    The actual home theater area, on the first floor, has a Google TV box set up, hooked up via HDMI to my cable box, 1080p TV, and speaker system. I have an app called “GTVBox Video Player” to access watch all the media on my server; it even supports subtitles.

    I can also stream my media into my room via my PS3, as PS3 Media Server will transcode everything for me while I watch (I have a lot of MKV files, which are unsupported by my PS3).

  23. r

    What’s Powering my Media Center? …electricity.

  24. Garrett

    I’m running ushare (http://ushare.geexbox.org/) on my Ubuntu Server. I’ve tried a few different things including XBMC and I’ve found it to be the simplest way. You just have to point it at a folder, and run ‘ushare’ on the command line when you want to access your media. Or start it as a daemon, either way. It streams media via UPnP to my XBOX 360. I love it.

  25. gifi4

    I use PS3 Media Server, I’ve set it up to show 4 main folders: TV, Movies, Anime, Youtube. If I feel like watching something in surround sound, I’ll start the media server on my computer ( Off SSD. 2 seconds, if that) then I turn the PS3 on, go over to the video section and click on PS3 Media Server. Then I see the folders I listed above. I still have yet to add my music folder as it handles music excellently as well.

  26. Trevor

    I’m running Plex Media Server on Ubuntu 11.10. The machine itself is an i3 with 12 GB RAM, a 1.5 TB drive for the OS and three 2 TB drives in RAID 5.

    These are all being served up to various Mac and Windows machines using Plex’s client application.

  27. Betelgeuse

    Media Portal

  28. Steven Shaffer

    I was using Windows 7 media center until about 2 weeks ago. I’m now an XBMC convert due to all the articles I’ve been seeing, I decided to give it a whirl. I love how easy it is to customize (unlike MCE).
    My HTPC is running Win7x64 Ultimate and I use it as a whole house media/file server as well as a Torrent machine.
    My current hardware:
    AMD Phenom x6 1055T
    Gigabyte 880GA-UDH3
    XFX 4850 1Gb HDMI out to my flat panel tv
    8GB Kingston HyperX
    Crucial 120GB (for OS)
    (4) 2TB Hitachi HD (raid1)
    (4) 500GB WD HD (raid1)
    (2) 750GB Seagate (raid1)
    All stuffed into a Rosewill 4U rackmount server case modded to fit my home audio rack.

  29. Frank

    I use an old computer equipped with Lubuntu and XBMC

  30. skilletrocks

    XBMC through windows with an HDMI running under the house to my tv.
    Also I use plex to stream to my phone whenever i’m not at home and in the mood for some movies

  31. Anonymous

    I use my production rig for DVR-ing television shows, serving files, and like that. One of the downfalls with my set up is that I then have to trans-code all my .wtv files into MP4′s to make them ready for streaming. Thanks to MCE Buddy (http://mcebuddy.com) I can do it and even set up MCE Buddy to do it automatically. But I still have to manually copy meta-data since I like knowing things like sub titles, show descriptions, actors, etc. And for any more file whittling I then find myself relying on editors like Avidemux to get rid of commercials and any lead-in/out content that I don’t want. So I guess you can say that my main production PC is the heart of my Home Theater setup.

    But what I’d really love is a way to ditch Windows altogether and do all my DVR-ing with some version of Linux. I’ve tried MythTV. But let’s face it, MythTV is one PITA mother-f**r to get going especially if you a TV card. Right now, XBMC 11 looks promising. But with previous XBMC versions I never really understood the moronic setup or even a lot of it’s general use. Therefore, I just end up using Windows Media Center (WMC) since it’s pretty much built in and doesn’t require even half the effort to get it going. (You Linux developers just don’t seem to understand the concept of “KISS” – Keep It Simple Stupid! – especially when it comes to setting things up. And I won’t even go into the near total lack of any documentation.)

    Now, for the living room where my “big screen” lives, I use a simple LG Blue Ray player that has “smart” capabilities – done! I can stream stuff from my PC or just go right to the built in apps on the player itself and use services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. I can even connect a USB device directly to the player and watch stuff that way too. No need for even one PC running when I’m in couch potato mode – unless it’s to stream files.

    Now, I think I should point out that I almost purchased a “network player” (like a Roku box) at my local Walmart when I saw a particular Western Digital model on sale for only $29.95. “You can’t even get a cheap motherboard for a HTPC rig for that kind of money”, I thought. And when I started shopping for a blue ray player I saw things got even better. Eventually, I opted for a LG Blue Ray Player that also supported up-converting DVD’s as well as streaming content via WiFi. However, I was surprised how many manufactures don’t let you stream your own stuff since “DLNA” seems to be the feature that needs to be included. However, I did pay a little extra for DLNA. And since that Blue Ray player was a lot less money than a HTPC (I hope you see where I’m going)…

    The way I figured it, if I can do the same things with a cheaper “box” like a Blue Ray player for about $130 then why on earth would I want to spend more money on a more power hungry PC to do pretty much the same thing? It makes no sense. About the only thing my BR player can’t do is DVR shows. But didn’t I already say that my PC does all that?

    Therefore, I am now starting to think that HTPC’s may all be headed towards a dead end. Other than being able to DVR a television program or store/serve content, I really see no need for another PC “HTPC” or not. Add in the extra cost of electricity and I think you too would agree that running just one PC is enough. After all, don’t we have multi-core CPU’s and virtual environments that can act as more PC’s when needed? (Start thinking “green” and I think you may see where I’m coming from.)

    I hate to say it, but I think HTPC’s for the general user is dying off fast. Add in configuration problems, missing documentation, and the high cost of another PC (not only to build but to run) I think even most geeks may eventually “see” the light too. Don’t get me wrong! I like what I see with XBMC and I really like the thought of MythTV, but seriously? Can’t anyone get these things working as seamless and effortless as a blue ray player?

  32. Justin Garrison

    Currently I mostly use an apple TV with firecore. Although for the occational app I also have XBMC installed.

  33. landyle

    Always messing around. Current setup is based on a Media Hub (i5-660 – 16GB – 8 TB Server2008 r2 with hyper-v Win Home Server 1&2 and Win7 RemoteFX) for remote access, ripping/handbrake and primary NAS duties. HTPC = ION mini-itx HTPC in family room running Ubuntu 11, XBMC Eden, and Plex media server with a 2TB drive. Sometimes I take that small box with me in the RV, so it has a large synced (redundant) collection separate from the NAS. Having Plex Server and XBMC on it allows uPnp DLNA style and Plex service to other devices (GTV, ios, and my trusty DroidX)

    Bedroom is running Logitech Revue GoogleTV, which I have come to enjoy. Apps, browsing, and Plex GTV app work great (bought @ $99, not $399)

    Have gone in circles for the HTPC between Win7, OpenELEC, Ubuntu, back again. Might just start over with the new XBMCbuntu release (for fun).

    Have an order in for RaspberryPi and looking to implement that treat directly. Hobby time.

    Kids know how to watch a movie but the wife’s patience is constantly being tested.

  34. Jerry

    Media Server:
    WD My Book Live 1TB

    Networking:
    Belkin N750DB router
    Belkin AV200 powerline adapter

    Media Player:
    Sony Bravia 46″ LED TV
    HP Mini 110 netbook (spare machine)

    Software:
    Home Cinema Classic with AVC Decoder.
    (search around for “Home Cinema Classic play HD”, actually plays 720p content perfectly even on my crappy netbook with an atom!)

  35. SuAlfons

    Mediaportal (www.mediaportal.com)

    running on an ancient AMD64 @2GHz, 1GB RAM, 300GB HDD, WinXP Sp3. Housing is an also ancient Antec Aria (on its 3rd custom power-supply :-( )

    Mostly using it for SD Sat TV via an Cynergy 1200 DVB-S card. Just barely fast enough for this.
    DVD-Playback often stutters, so we use a PS2 for this.

    I have mostly lost interest in movie watching and certainly in TV watching. So it’s mostly used to entertain the kids.

  36. Dirk

    I use a Mede8er 400X
    Plays pretty much anything, very small and comes with a remote. Passive cooling so no noise.

  37. Philipp

    A Windows Home Server 2003 with 8TB disk space for serving the files over the network.
    And different Clients for playing the content.

    I use a custom built htpc in a nice black case. Windows 7 and Xbmc. For live TV i use dvbviewer. This htpc is able to play all new games in full hd on a 52″ television :-)

    My dad uses a Dreambox Hd8000 as client and for live tv connected to a 52″ LCD.

    And theres a notebook with xbmc installed in the kitchen.

    My brother uses his gaming pc with xbmc as a client.

    Different Android devises tablets and smartphones can connect to the whs shares to play content.

  38. Khan

    I have three Samsung 42″ 720p Plasmas and VIZIO soundbars (optical audio) with Apple TV 2 clients hidden on the back running Plex. I got the Plasmas dirt cheap around $350 during black Friday. For the living room, I have a Panasonic 65″ 1080p and Yamaha AV Receiver, 3 Infinity speakers in front, 2 JBL surround speakers, and a 10 inch Polk Subwoofer with a Mac Mini (Mid 2010) with 64GB SSD and the trusty Nvidia GeForce 320M. And two Harmony One remotes to rule them all.

    After using every NAS solution on the planet (Drobo, FreeNAS, WHS2011, QNAP etc.), I finally settled with Synology DS2411+. Its probably the most granular, full-featured, headache-free NAS solution. All my computer equipment is in the “server room” including the NAS. On the networking side, I have a 22-port HP J9028B managed gigabit switch, two RT-N16 routers, the main one on Tomato as its uber-stable and the services one (VOIP, VPN etc.) on DD-WRT and two WRT54G-RG as repeaters (backyard and garage). Probably, upgrade to N66U once 802.11ac routers are in the market and prices are sane. Seriously, $200 for a 4-port router??

    This summer I plan on wiring the whole house with CAT6 and audio zones so it will be a busy summer. Next up, theater room in the basement!

  39. Doug

    I am still using SageTV even though it’s kind of a dead end since it was bought out by Google.

    My house is about 900′ off the public road and has no cable TV or satellite. I have an old Athlon 64 in my office/shop near the road. I have cableTV and internet connections there for our business. I’ve run Fiber Optic cable to my house (750′) so I have internet at my house. All my TV watching, live and recorded, is through 2 SageTv extenders at my house. This allows a seamless viewing experience on my 2 TV’s. The server also houses all my movies and music. Time warner cable wanted $3500.00 to run cable to my house!

    Since the eventual fate of SageTV is unknown, I have been looking for an alternative. So far, nothing currently available seems to fill the bill. I am hoping that the Ceton Q and echo turns out to be as good as they sound. This would fill my needs for a true Server Client solution and allow cablecard support. I hate the thought of giving up SageTV, especially the auto commercial skipping, but I may have no choice.

  40. Huisie

    Running a small business from a home office, you learn that it pays to have a backup option – 2 PCs, 2 printers, 2 phones, etc. Customers are like teachers – they don’t like excuses. When something breaks down, I can switch to the backup. This includes keeping all data and media in sync – I use Windows Live Mesh.

    Office PC is a laptop with C: partition (OS + Apps) and D: partition (Data) on internal HDD and 2Tb external HDD (E\:Media), with 24″ LCD extrernal monitor attached.
    Living room PC is old desktop (Athlon X2 4850e, Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H) attached to 37″ LCD TV. Has similar HDD setup to Office PC, though 2Tb Media drive is internal.
    Router and switch are gigabit enabled.

    Portable install of XBMC 11.0 to Liberkey portable apps manager, which is installed to D: drives and kept in sync with Live Mesh.It’s not quite as effective as MySQL syncing, but I can’t make the desktop a media frontend, it has to stay a general purpose PC. This way, I can hole up in the Office or veg out on the couch, with watched/unwatched items up-to-date.

    I have a full satellite subscription, but SABnzbd, Sickbeard and Couchpotato do a great job of keeping my video up to date, near-seamlessly. Ember Media Manager takes care of any missed scrapes.
    Keeping all media info (trailers, posters, nfo’s, etc. separate from XBMC and saved with TV shows/Movies made upgrading from Dharma to Eden a breeze.

    I took years for me to finally make the plunge,move away from using my set-top box and set up a Media Center, but XBMC is just awesome. I do wish they would make the default player more mouse-friendly (for those of us who can’t dedicate a PC as a Media Center), but it’s trivial to set up an external player – PotPlayer, in my case.

  41. tamasksz

    WDTV Live with an external HDD… So simple, but works.

  42. Alco Matt

    I am using xbmc. Currently waiting for Raspberry PI to be delivered which will be hooked to my TV and playing content from my desktop linux machine.

  43. Jason

    Running Windows Home Server on an HP dc5700 with Tversity streaming video/audio/photos that connects to my PS3 with Netflix. Easy, simple profile in the living room that just needs a remote.

  44. Non-leading-edge

    Media server: Intel SS4200E with RAID, 4TB.
    PVR: MythTV back-end running on an older HP desktop with a Hauppauge USB tuner and OTA antenna.
    Front-ends: three of ‘em, a PayOn!HD Mini, a WD TV Live, and a PS3.
    Networking: I run two different wifi N networks, a 5 GHz network for the media, with three APs (one for the media server, and one at each of the two viewing rooms), and a 2.4GHz for everything else.

  45. Wilshire

    Hardware:
    – Synology DS411j NAS (4TB)
    – XBOX 360
    – PS3
    – Windows 7 Desktop
    – Galaxy Tab 10.1
    – Laptop Running Windows 8 Consumer Beta (No HDMI out)

    Configuration:
    – I use a NAS to manage/store all of my data and media (Specifically the Synology DS411j)
    – Use Synology Apps on the Galaxy Tab to view/stream media and files
    – Synology NAS mounted on both the Desktop and Laptop for file/content access
    – I use PS3 Media Server to serve movies and music from my NAS to my PS3
    – I use the XBOX for Netflix or Zune Media and gaming

    Future:
    – Purchase a nettop box to connect to my TV through HDMI to watch xfinity on my tv with as well as browse the web, etc…
    – Purchase a Tonido Plug to access my data/content from anywhere

    Does anyone have any other recommendations/thoughts on my future purchases for how to better access my content remotely or how to stream online shows to my TV with my current setup?

  46. Alex

    I started running windows XP with VLC and browsers, then moved to boxee. Now though, my “main” HTPC is windows XP running XBMC Eden. In the bedroom I have a 1st gen AppleTV running Eden, and in my basement, I’m running Mint with XBMC eden. My next project is to use mysql to keep all 3 in sync.

  47. Dave

    I started with a Western Digital Live TV and was delighted with this for a few years, but as time went on the lack of new features or online content (still no support for BBC iPlayer for example), having to unplug everything to transfer files to the hard drives and then hook the WD TV Live back up again and getting frustrated with the box not playing certain video formats which played fine on the PC. So I finally bit the bullet and build myself a media centre PC (6 core processor, 16gb ram, decent graphics and Windows 7 Pro) for the lounge and as much as I loved the WD TV Live, I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner!

    Having tried XBMC and a few others I’ve ended up with my powerful desktop running Plex Server and Client on the same box and I’m really pleased with how it works. This is plugged in via HDMI to my big TV in the lounge. In addition I’ll use my Windows Laptop with the Plex client to get content to other rooms wirelessly, so either hooking up via HDMI to the bedroom tv or for watching stuff in the kitchen and if I’m feeling a little dangerous then in the bath too, with the laptop on a chair by the door! I can even remotely connect using my laptop or iPhone using MyPlex so stream my content over the web if I’m staying in a hotel etc. I love the skins available for Plex and the accuracy I get with the meta data for my movies and TV shows out of the box, it looks really slick and everyone I’ve had over to watch a film etc is always pretty impressed. The only thing I’m waiting for is a Plex Client / App for the WD TV Live so I can hook this up to the bedroom television full time.

    So that takes care of TV Shows, Movies and the occasional dip into YouTube, BBC iPlayer or 4oD (all available as plug-ins apps in Plex) but I don’t really like the way Plex handles music. So for audio I just stick with iTunes, I’ve not found anything that can match it yet. Even the iTunes plug-in for Plex falls short on functionality and usability. The best things about using iTunes directly is that it will hook up to my hi-fi via an AirPort express with no bother at all and then anyone with an iPhone hooked up to my wireless can use iTunes DJ to browse my library and choose songs to add to the playlist. For BBQ’s and dinner parties etc this is ideal, letting my guests choose the music without having to sit in front of the PC all night, which usually ends up with someone hogging the action all night or deleting other peoples choices!

    I’ve had a look at other solutions and even installed Twonkey on a friends PC as he wanted to share via DLNA to a Sony BluRay player and Windows 7 natively just wasn’t wanting to work. But in my experience Plex has just been so easy to use, the menus and navigation and well thought-out and the ability to hook up to Windows, Mac or iOS either on the local network or anywhere with a decent internet connection over MyPlex is an absolute winner. Plex was easy to set up, looks slick and I love it!

  48. SoupX

    Family Room TV: Mac Mini running Plex
    Living room TV: Mac Mini running Plex client
    Bedroom TV: Roku with Plex client
    Office: Laptop with Plex client
    Outside Tiki Bar: Ruku with Plex client

    All TV’s are running Ethernet over Coax, and using a 16TB Drobo Pro for storage.

  49. sneakily1

    XBMC for EVERYTHING! Loaded it down with Hyperspin for all of my gaming needs using the external program executor, now it’s the ultimate media center! Toss in my Android tablet (or phone) as a remote… winning!

  50. Andrew

    Windows 7 atm – the content from my Tivo’s get downloaded and taken care of with extreme ease in 7.
    Certainly looking to try out XMBC though

  51. Jeremy

    XBMC 11.0 on Windows 7 64bit pulling all my TV Shows and Movies from my fileserver which runs Ubuntu Server 11.4 with sabnzbplus, CouchPotato and SickBeard to keep up with everything. My bedroom TV is using a Boxee Box.

  52. AC

    I’m single with no kids, so I don’t need anything super-simple for users beyond myself. Manual everything works great for me.

    I have my PC connected to my 28″ monitor and 42″ LED TV. When I want to watch a movie, it’s typically on Netflix(Chrome) or Blu-ray(VLC playing ripped folder), so I use the Win+P to switch to the TV, and viola! This works great for games that are better played laid back with a controller, like Street Fighter or Assassin’s Creed. I stick with the monitor and KB/mouse for Mass Effect, Crysis, etc.

    I have a Logitech Z-2300 set at my desk. Haven’t made the upgrade to 7.1 just yet, and this thunderous 2.1 set is more than enough to compensate for the lack of multiple positional channels. I have to figure out the logistics first, my room isn’t incredibly manageable.

    Music is all on Spotify. Easy peasy. I pay for premium, so most everything is 320kbps. I use Spotimote on my HTC Thunderbolt if I’m too lazy to get out of bed to skip or change a song.

    For house parties, I just move my speakers to the kitchen and hook them up to my HP Touchpad running CM9 nightlies. Spotify playlists already ready to go when it’s all hooked up!

  53. LD

    I’ve been using Windows Media Center to record and playback HD tv, play ripped bluray and dvds, and various other things I download off the internet.

    I remember it taking quite a bit of fiddling to get it the way I liked it, but Its been running steady for 2ish years now with no issues. My wife even uses it.

  54. Gary

    Home server for various media shares is Windows Home Server (WHS) 2011. Not perfect but does the job. Currently running on used DELL PowerEdge 840, Xeon 3210, 2GB RAM, DELL CERC1.5/6ch SATA RAID controller, with mirrored 250GB 2.5in WD drives in StarTech 3.5in caddyless bay, 4 other hard disks in RAID 0 pairs for bulk of other storage. Added in eSATA controller with 2 StarTech external drive bays to allow Robocopy via Task Scheduler to back up important data to external drives. Soon to update RAM to 4-8GB & replace old, slow, CERC with DELL PERC6/i.

    Windows Media Center installed on my primary SOHO machine; DELL Precision 490. Have 2 Hauppauge USB analog TV adapters in there to allow recording multiple TV shows & have them automatically converted from .wtv to .dvr-ms & I either keep that format or use Handbrake to convert to .m4v.

    Have taken bulk of home movie collection (1000+ collection of DVD, VHS, CED, 8mm) & converted via Handbrake to .m4v on WHS server. That alone has taken months of my time since I retired last year. It was also the purpose for my purchasing the used Precision workstation, to get the dual Xeon dual-core system going & Handbraking almost 24×7.

    Apart from viewing media on my SOHO machines, have installed 3 WD TV Live HD units in house to allow reaching media (movies, pictures, music) from WHS. Works quite nicely with wired connection but so-so with powerline LAN or wireless (N). Eventually will wire house for best speed & most secure connections.

    NOT a Microsoft lover, but it’s working, more or less, so far…

  55. Freeneonia

    Mac mini i5 2011 attached to my Samsung TV (they haven’t yet sued each other) and Plex as server.
    Plex client in the rest of computers, Ipad and Iphone.

  56. Roshnal

    I only started a media center yesterday after reading your article about XBMC 11.0 Eden, so I’m completely new to the topic :)

    I have installed XBMC Eden on my Ubuntu NetBook and [have plans to] plug it in to my TV around night-time and on weekdays (to watch movies or music videos). I use my iPod and Android to stream music and videos to it (the NetBook) and also stream from my main PC. As the remote, I use my iPod.

    So far, its only that; But I have plans to expand my setup further in the future.

  57. Huseyin

    WMC on W7. So easy, fast and integrated. Extremely reliable.
    There is nothing else I can use to watch live TV.

  58. Phillip

    Back-end:
    Hardware: Intel Atom 330 dual core w/HT (At a blazing 1.6GHz)
    2 GB RAM, 2x SATA, 1x EIDE and Gigabit Ethernet
    Areca 12 port SATA RAID controller
    320 GB RAID 1 (O/S, Database, FTP, thumbnail sync, add-on data sync. Laptop drives for small power footprint)
    12 TB RAID 6 (File storage, hot-pluggable)
    1.5 TB (temp storage)
    Software:
    Windows 2008 Server O/S
    MySQL
    BitChe, T.E.D. and uTorrent (for, uh, “Acquisition”)
    WinX DVD Ripper (Ripping DVDs)
    Media Monkey (MP3 Management)
    TheRenamer (Auto rename and relocate video files)
    Bulk Rename Utility (Fix major file name issues in bulk. A must have!)
    Media Companion (Library metadata generation, scraping, general cataloging)
    -Drives sleep after 15 min of inactivity
    -Average power consumption is under 35 watts when O/S drives are running and storage is off.

    Connectivity:
    Primarily Gigabit. Media devices are all hard-wired to prevent WiFi congestion.

    Front-end (Primary media devices):
    3x Apple TV2 running XBMC Eden, NitoTV and Navi-X.
    Library on each ATV2 points to music and video DBs on MySQL server.
    Thumbnails, sources and add-on data synced to back-end server.
    -Still undecided between Confluence and PM3.HD Skins…

    Front-end (Secondary devices):
    Several original Xboxes running soft-mods and larger hard drives, XBMC4XBOX 3.0.1, and no libraries

    Retired Motorola Droid for non “line of sight” remote control.

    And, of course, one massive dork playing captain of this ship…

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