It’s been forever but I finally got to build a Windows Media Center DVR box. Back in February, I got my HDHomerun connected to an antenna and used a home baked script to view live television over my network using either VLC or mplayer. I even set up some cron jobs on my home server to ‘record’ some shows like a dvr. It worked, but not really well.
Modern DVRs have guides and software that help you not miss future episodes and help you not record garbage when the program you wanted isn’t on. So I was frequently checking the listings on line to make sure I didn’t miss anything. What a hassle.
Then I got my hands on an old HP laptop that sports a HDMI output and is running Windows 7. After a fresh install of the OS, I put it on my network and started up Windows Media Center (WMC). Set up Live TV to use my HDHomerun and waited for the guide to slowly download. I can’t stress it enough. Having a guide, an accurate and current guide is the only way to go.
Now, I see in the WMC menus, that I can attach my home server’s share and then stream Photos, Music, and Movies. It works ok. I did have to install extra codecs to allow the stock media player to decode all the various files I have.
While reading on line how to amp up WMC, I found that you could add plug-ins for Hulu Desktop and Boxee. Hulu Desktop is great to have. I do not have a Hulu Plus account, but it’s still fine all the same. I installed Boxee and with it’s great interface, codec support and imdb.com information, I don’t have to hunt for .nfo files and cover art any more. It’s so good that I removed the Movies Library from WMC.
Boxee is my preferred interface for enjoying my movies, music and photos. It has all the streaming apps I need. It’s only draw back would be it’s Netflix app. It frequently doesn’t completely load correctly. I have found that the Netflix interface in WMC is far better.
I am very happy with my current DVR/Media Streamer setup. I am considering removing the WDTV Live that I love from my home theater configuration. It just doesn’t get used. I have Live and Recorded TV, Netflix, and Hulu. I can stream all my media files from my server with out any extra work. And with the a browser handy, I even have flash. espn3.com and other sites like it are now available.
So with all of this great content, I have dumped using Cable TV. My family still has it, but in our main viewing area, there is no cable content. I haven’t missed a bit of it.