When I saw the awesome power of the Windows Media Center 2005 Edition on a computer that my dad had purchased, I knew that someday I wanted to get one for myself. So the last summer I did. I bought quite a few new parts and built me a machine from scratch. There were a lot of reasons for this, but all in all I am very choosy and picky about what components go into a computer. The setup was relatively simple and putting together was a snap.
However, there were quite a few gripes that I didn't anticipate. First of all, I decided to get an AMD dual core CPU. I planned on my Media Center PC to have to do quite a few things besides recording TV, so I went for the better CPU so that it could cope with all the things that it was going to do. After installing the Update Rollup 2 I ran into some problems. Apparently, after applying the update, Media Center had some trouble coping with having a multi-core CPU when watching TV. I had to download a program to manually set the affinity of the CPU, meaning that instead of the program being able to use both CPU cores, it is assigned to only one. This was annoying because it Should-Just-Work™, but having a challenge is ok too.
Once all the technical problems were eliminated, I found the interface for watching TV and DVDs to be very slick and easy to use. The user interface is very intuitive and attractive, so it looks cool in addition to working well.
The one gripe I do have has to do with listening to music. In order for the Media Center to play music through its interface, it has to import all your music into the library. This is a very long and tedious task that can involve rewriting your MP3 id tags. It takes FOREVER and if your tags aren't perfect it arranges your collection in a way that really makes navigating it a mess. Personally, I don't care much for tags since I identify what my music is by its location and file name. Since Media Center doesn't particularly care about where it is, Media Center and I butted heads quite a bit. These problems can be partially solved by using Windows Media Player instead of using Media Center, but it pretty much takes the experience away of not having to mess with a keyboard and mouse (which is the whole point of the Media Center experience).
I admit that I'm a WinAmp bigot, simply because its interface is quite extensible for making plugins that extend functionality and utility. One of my favorite plugins for WinAmp is a little tool called AjaxAmp. It takes the full controls of the media player and allows it to be controlled through a web browser. It makes things nice for playing music through my Media Center while I'm hacking away on my other computers.
But back to Media Center. Its TV recording features are quite compelling and once you have started time shifting your TV watching and start recording TV shows for later viewing, it's quite difficult to go back to regular TV watching. This happened this last weekend when my Media Center started wrapping its tentacles around some files that belonged to a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine. After I lost some photos, I decided that despite Media Center's compelling features, it wasn't so great because of its lack of music sophistication and its apparent inability to leave files alone that aren't even on a mounted hard drive partition.
It was nice seeing you Media Center, but you're not for me...