Rants Review Technology Work

The "Fun" That is Windows Media Center and Xbox 360

Recently I went through a setup related exercise for work where I needed to get a Windows Media Center PC to talk to a Media Center Extender. An extender in Microsoft’s view is a device that attaches to a TV and enables interacting with a Media Center UI without the PC actually having to be in the same room as the TV. There have been a few of these devices shipping for a couple of years so I thought this would be a cakewalk. Boy was I wrong, really wrong.

I spend nearly two hours hooking up the Media Center PCs to my home network, getting them to see each other, display on the TV, then share content amongst themselves. Once that got done I added the Xbox 360 as my “extender” and had it talk to both Media Centers, as well as my home server PC. And next thing I knew another three hours was gone. I had very little to show for this time warp, other than a lot of cabling, noisy boxes, and a rather sore backside (me with the hardwood floors and all). In the end, I did get music, photos, and video up and running on the Xbox 360, but only from one Media Center PC at a time.

It seems that the Xbox 360 can only talk to one version of Media Center at a time. Trying to get two of them to cooperate, both an XP and the Vista version, met with utter failure or a host of “go to this web site, download some stuff, then come back and try again” messages. It was painful and I think I know why no one tries this at home. If I had to buy this stuff on my own I certainly would have taken it back for a refund by now.

It all works now, and I’m on my way to understanding how the different boxes work (or don’t) together. But my quick lessons are: one Media Center is all you need, sharing is tough, and PC’s don’t always love TV displays. Oh, and that the Xbox 360 is the noisiest thing I’ve ever heard in the living room.

Xbox 360