Setting up a Windows 7 Media Center

by Shijaz Abdulla on 06.12.2009 at 07:31

I’m setting up a Windows 7 Media Center at home and thought I’d share feedback on how I went about getting it done. Being a tech enthusiast, and NOT much of the movies/music person, I went for something very modest and inexpensive.

 

The PC: Acer Aspire Revo R3600

 

  • Very sleek, black, ultra small form factor, can be mounted on the back of a flat panel TV or mounted on its own footing. Both mounting kits are provided in the package.
  • Intel® Atom 230 processor @ 1.6GHz (intel’s smallest processor)
  • 2 GB RAM, expandable to 4 GB
  • NVIDIA ION chipset
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400 upto 896 MB
  • HDMI output, VGA output
  • 6 USB ports,
  • 4-in-1 card reader
  • eSATA port
  • Built-in wireless adapter, Ethernet port
  • HD Audio 7.1

The Display: Videocon Haute 32” Flat Panel LCD TV (VBL32HBG-FLA)

  • 32” LCD, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1366×768 resolution
  • 2 HDMI ports, VGA with audio jack
  • 3 RCA inputs
  • Proudly made in India :) 

videocon

Human Interface: Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000

  • Media Center keys
  • Spill resistant (living room/coffee table use)
  • 6 month battery life. (I recommend using rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries for keyboard and mouse)
  •  

    I would have preferred a keyboard with built-in trackball instead of a mouse for living room coffee table convenience, but I couldn’t get hold of one.

    desktop_1000

    Webcam: Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000

    LifeCam CinemaI used the LifeCam VX-6000 only because I had a spare one lying around. For those buying a new webcam, I would recommend the LifeCam Cinema, a great webcam that I had evaluated:

    • 720p HD widescreen @ up to 30fps!
    • Auto Focus
    • Digital microphone

    The LifeCam VX-6000 that I used is an older model, that has the following features:

    • 71 degree Wide Angle Lens (good for living room set up)LifeCam VX-6000
    • High Definition video
    • 3x digital zoom
    • Up to 30fps
    • Built-in microphone

    Why a webcam on my Media Center PC? OK, I like to use the living room computer for video conferencing with relatives, because this way the whole family can be on the couch *and* within frame 🙂

    TV Tuner:

    I am still looking for a good, locally available external TV Tuner/Capture card that is on the Windows Media Center Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). The ones that I found locally are from Lightwave – and that’s not listed on the HCL. I already have an STB with RCA composite output and RF out jack, and I’m looking for a capture card that will receive one of these and display it in Windows Media Center. I will post an update when I finally install a TV Tuner. 🙂

    Meanwhile, if any of you have got Lightwave TV tuner cards working with Windows Media Center, please post a comment and let me know of your experience.

    For now, the only thing I watch on my PC is Internet TV from IslamBox.TV.

    Other hardware:

    • Since the Acer Aspire Revo R3600 comes with no bluetooth, I have a USB bluetooth dongle plugged in.
    • The Revo comes with no DVD player/recorder and you might want to buy one. For me, I already have a DVD player hooked to my LCD TV, and I have other computers in my Windows 7 HomeGroup that have DVD recorders. Installation of Windows 7 on my Revo was done with a USB stick.
    • I had to buy an HDMI cable because neither the Revo nor the Videocon LCD TV came with one.

    Audio: HDMI output

    The audio from my TV is good enough for me. You can always connect a sophisticated audio system if your TV supports it. The Revo only has a headphone jack.

     

    Setup:

    • Unpack and set up the Revo as per the instructions enclosed, initially use the wired keyboard and mouse supplied with the Revo
    • Connect the HDMI cable between the PC and the LCD TV.
    • Power on both units, get connected to the internet, install updates, antivirus software, etc.
    • Install the wireless keyboard and mouse as per the instructions enclosed and unplug the Revo’s wired keyboard and mouse
    • Install the LifeCam as per instructions e
      nclosed. Plug the device in only when prompted by the installation software.
    • Uninstall any useless software that was pre-installed by Acer (some games, utilities and trial software)
    • Upgrade the Revo from Windows Vista to Windows 7 using a USB stick.
    • Connect your TV/STB to the TV tuner card and do the installation. Run through the Windows Media Center setup.
    • Set up a Windows 7 Homegroup to better share
    • Try not to mess around with the display resolution too much. I use 1024×768.

    Here are some pictures of my living room computer 🙂

    SNC00830 SNC00833

     

    What next?

    The next things on my list:

    Windows Vista price cut for Middle East

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 03.03.2008 at 16:52

    Microsoft has announced that the recent $100 price cut on boxed copies of Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate will extend to the Gulf region.
    The recommended retail price for Vista Home Basic is now AED 399 ($109, down from $204), with Home Premium at 550 AED ($150, down from $244) and Vista Ultimate at 1,199 AED ($326, down from $407). This means – in the case of Windows Vista Home, the price cut brings the cost of a boxed copy in line with the cost of upgrading an existing copy of Windows!

    The price of copies of the OS preloaded onto personal computers will not be affected.