Windows Media Center. I’m hooked.

The new version of Microsoft’s Media Center is included in all versions of Windows 7 Home Premium, and Ultimate editions. I have been using Windows Media Center since 2004, with Windows XP, but the newer versions get better and better. I hooked a PC to my LCD TV and it allows my family to view pictures, home movies, connects to Comcast and acts as a DVR, plays DVD movies, CDs, mp3s, stream radio stations from all over the world, play netflix streamed movies, youtube, and other online TV services. And it is all controlled by a simple small remote that even my kids can use. We love it. I’ve looked at the Apple TV, Slingbox, and other competition and I haven’t seen anything come close to this.

With the older version on Windows XP and Vista, the setup was cumbersome and involved installing special software off of the internet and registry hacks to get it to work well. Luckily I am a PC guru and it was my toy to get this working. Now things work pretty much out of the box with much less special configuration needed. Any Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate PC can be used as a Media Center. If you want to use it as a DVR, you’ll need a Ceton tuner card in your computer to connect the computer to your cable company( http://cetoncorp.com/ ). This card needs a cable card from the cable company and is capable of recording 4 simultaneous shows in HD and even records premium channels. But it doesn’t work with pay per view if that is something that you use a lot.

If you are somewhat technically inclined, you could install one of these cards in a PC and have your own DVR. If you’re not technically inclined, there are companies out there that make custom PCs with this hardware in it, although they are more expensive than your average PC. Companies like www.cannonpc.com.

Hopefully it catches on more and doesn’t fade away as some features for Microsoft seem to do. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to market it much. It is a relatively unknown feature that many people have built directly into their computers and don’t even know it.

I’m hooked. Hopefully more people will be too and they expand the feature set more.