Are you ready for the highly-technical, convoluted guide to streaming media around your home with Windows 7? OK then, here we go…
Connect your Xbox 360 to Windows Media Center, and then add the root of the relevant hard disk to Windows Media Center.
No file sharing, no workgroup networking, no format problems, in fact, no messing about with Windows at all. Even your mum could set it up. Every file is accessible, playable, easily findable, and pops-up like it’s got a pole up its ass. Windows will read your iTunes library and automatically prioritize files it finds in there within the audio portion of Windows Media Center (hereafter, referred to as WMC). Podcasts are segregated appropriately, and all album art and release notes are transposed correctly.
Unlike previous versions of WMC, the extender is dependent on what the PC can play natively, NOT what works with the Media Centre Extender on its own. I’ve tested compatibility exhaustively, and can find only a few predicable formats which don’t work. These are:
- .mov (good, I’m pleased it doesn’t work, if you encode in QuickTime, you don’t deserve a computer)
- .flv (not yet, although from what I’ve heard, Flash may be coming , so that might very soon change..)
- .rm (obviously, who uses Real anymore?)
This is from my own experience, but everything else is just fine and dandy.
So what’s wrong with it? Well, not much. Windows 7 uses an non-hierarchical (almost) ad-hoc domain based protocol called “Homegroup”, which is what the next version of Microsoft Home Server will use, and is the proper realization of “Quattro “, or as it’s should be known, “Domains for all of us!”.
When it tries to connect to a previous version of Windows such as Vista or for some sentimental reason, a Mac (might as well be Windows 3.11 , because OSX’s networking capabilities are about the same), it falls back to Workgroup protocol, with all the fun and games that come with it. For some reason, straight media streaming outside of WMC is still conducted in the old workgroup world, at least on the Xbox 360. I hope this is a “nuance” of the Win 7 BETA, because although there really is no reason not to use WMC anymore, a lot of people will choose not to do so and I don’t think they should be penalized for it.
When you first connect an Xbox 360 to Windows 7, it asks you if you want to upgrade the software on the Xbox. I’ll say from the get-go, you either do this sort of thing, or you don’t. There is no easy way of going back, Vista WMC will not work anymore, and there’s no straightforward way to rectify this. If you do install the upgrade on your brand new Xbox, don’t expect any sort of refund if anything goes wrong with the hardware, because by installing BETA software, you just invalidated the EULA. Fantastic, eh?
I suppose that all us WMC extender users will move to Windows 7 anyway eventually though, and as important as it is to mention that, the WMC upgrade is absolutely innocuous, and I will put my name and reputation to the fact that upgrading the WMC software on your Xbox 360 will, in and of itself, not brick it. As always, I encourage you to try.
The Windows 7 release of Windows Media Center is very important, because for the first time, we’re able to take the consumer-media offerings of Microsoft seriously. This isn’t just functional, and it gives me great pleasure to say with some authority, that if you want to extend content from your computer on to your TV, there is nothing simpler, more reliable, more compatible, or easier to set-up and use than Windows 7.
So if they aren’t as good at rich media, aren’t as easy to use and configure, and aren’t as compatible, I have to ask the question…Exactly what are Macs for? Well, they do run Windows.
The Average Windows Nerd