Got an Xbox 360 and a Media Center PC?

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    As I'm sure there's a fair few Xbox 360 gamers out there, I thought I might make a suggestion as to what else you can use the 360 for, when it's not being used for Modern Warfare 2 etc.


    Before I start, I'd like to state that I do not work for Microsoft but do practice what I preach; we have a networked PC, running Windows 7, with 4 HD TV tuners, connected to 4 media center extenders, which serves all our media needs. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, read on...


    If either you or your kids play online and have a PC or laptop with Windows 7 on it, you can do a lot more with your 360 than you might realise. The Media Center component was greatly improved in Vista but has been further fine-tuned in Windows 7, to the point where it makes a very capable and, more importantly, easy-to-use home media hub. Combine this with a networked Xbox 360 and you have the ability to watch both live and recorded TV, schedule single and series recordings and even pause live TV. Your music and photos can also have centre stage, allowing you to view photos via slideshows and even as a backdrop to music playlists.


    The Xbox 360 has an inbuilt component called "Media Center Extender". The extender feature allows you to effectively view Windows Media Center almost exactly as it would be viewed on a desktop or laptop computer which means pretty much everything you can view on the PC can be viewed on your TV, via your Xbox 360, with a few exceptions. The component that's probably the most overlooked is the ability to watch and pause live TV and to watch and schedule TV recordings. You can even start watching a recording on the PC and continue it from where you left off from any connected Xbox 360.


    Using the Recorded TV feature does require your PC to have a TV tuner (all are SD/HD these days) but it's not as expensive as you might think, with a dual TV tuner card (for a desktop PC) costing as little as $72, if you shop around; Windows 7 natively allows 4 tuners, i.e. 2 dual tuners, 4 single tuners or a mixture of single and dual tuners. Once you have both SD and HD free-to-air broadcasts streaming to your PC, Media Center really comes into its own and that beige box (or black if you have Elite), sitting under your TV, becomes all the more appealing for you, as well as your kids.


    I'm not saying that this kind or setup can be configured with a single press of a button, however; it does take a bit of time to set up but, once done, you can watch and listen to what you want, when you want.

    The actual setup might take up too much space to post on PIA but I can probably put together a simple tutorial for the more tech-savvy amongst you - the microsoft website should also contain some "how to" articles.


    If you are interested, but would prefer me to either provide onsite advice or even complete the setup for you, I'm not too expensive :-)



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