Media Center / Ceton Thoughts

Sun, Feb 6, 2011

Gadgets, Home Automation

I got the Ceton Card installed a while back. It took longer than I expected, and I wound up having to perform a number of Google searches to locate my answer, which of course was ultimately found on the Green Button.

I must say, having the ability to record up to 4 channels at the same time is sweet. Throw in 3TB’s of storage and I have over 1000 hours of recording time available. Take that FiOS!

Other people have written about this card, and I have to agree. It’s great and just works.

My system consists of:

Windows 7 Media Center PC. I went a bit nuts with the setup and got a high end graphics card and a six (yes, six) core processor. Still, at the end of the day the PC cost me about $1200. A Ceton tuner card takes the signal from FiOS and records it on this PC. This is literally “out of the box”. Windows Media Center (“MCE”) will walk you through the setup of the tuner card. The PC shipped with a remote control, which is a pretty decent, intuitive remote that you can quickly get very comfortable with. Having a phone style number pad is great, as you can enter searches by typing the letter associated with the number on the keypad. The PC sits in my living room and is attached to a 42″ Panasonic plasma TV. The sound system isn’t all that amazing – just a Panasonic all-in-one CD/DVD surround sound system. I think I paid about $250 for it. I really don’t need the CD/DVD changer, since my entire movie collection has been ripped to the drives on my network. I did snake the speaker wires into the wall and up to the attic and then pulled it through small holes in the ceiling to the speaker mounts. Gives a very clean look and gets the speakers totally out of the way.

XBoxes. You need XBoxes. Everywhere. XBoxes are the equivalent of your old cable box. They connect to the Media Center PC and stream the content that has been (or is currently being) recorded. I have been able to find refurbished XBoxes at Best Buy for $130 each. They are bare bones XBoxes – no hard drives, Kinect, etc. Then again, you don’t need them for that (although I will say that I have been playing Call of Duty, Black Ops downstairs in the family room). Anything on your network can be shared. If you have a folder on one of your PC’s that you keep pictures in, you can also add this to MCE. Obviously, all music can be streamed to each XBox. The are also very simple to set up. You can connect wirelessly (which I don’t recommend) or wired, which I prefer. Once connected, the Xbox finds the PC fairly quickly. The softwares then walks you through the remainder of the setup, which generally consists of MCE authorizing the XBox to connect to it.

Once everything is connected, you are ready to go.

Each XBox has nearly the identical menu as the MCE (certain menu items may not exist that are resident solely on the PC). This gifts a nice consistent look throughout the house. What’s nice is that you can easily setup and begin recordings from the XBoxes (something my FiOS media extenders boxes couldn’t do).

Overall, the system is slick and works. I ran into a couple of bumps along the way with network issues, but in the end it appears it was a punch-down issue with some of the CAT5 network cable runs and not the XBox. Although I think I went a little overboard with the PC, from what I have read MCE will run fine on some very basic setups. MCE has a pretty good way of making sure that resources are always being allocated properly to ensure programs are recorded without a hitch. Who knows, you may already have a PC that could work?

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