What You Said: What’s Powering Your Media Center

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By Jason Fitzpatrick on March 30th, 2012

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Earlier this week we asked you to share your media center setups, tips, and tricks. Now we’re back to share of the great comments you left.

The range of techniques you all use for getting access to your media is impressive. Some readers had setups as simple as tamasksz’s setup:

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

Others started with simple setups, like a WDTV Live, and worked their way up, like 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!

Other readers have to go to great lengths (literally) to get their media fix. Doug explains:

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.

The entire comment thread is a showcase of the clever ways How-To Geek readers have configured their home setups. Hit up the comment thread here to see how people are streaming, cabling, configuring, and otherwise arranging their setups.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/30/12
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