Cutting the Cord Part 5 - Media Center Add-Ons, Options and Wrap Up
Windows Media Center Add-ons and Plugins – Page 1
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options
Now that we have our Windows Media Center up and running, we can investigate a few additional add-ons and plugins that can further improve upon the experience you can get from your Media Center. In addition to discussing some great add-ons, I’m going to discuss how well our HTPC build has done with our power efficiency goals, so without further ado let’s jump right into it!
My Experience: The add-ons and plug-ins that I’m going to walk through are by no means all that’s out there. There are tons of add-ons that will add anything from Local Weather to full overlays for your movie collection. One thing to keep in mind is that any add-on or plugin can completely bork up your Media Center. Always test the add-on on another box first, or even better, do a full image/backup of your Media Center before you try any new add-on or plugin. You do have a full image of your brand new Media Center build on another machine that you can re-image yourHTPC with right? (Check out Clonezilla or Acronis True Image if not…)
Windows Media Center Add-ons and Plugins
Windows Media Center is excellent right out of the box, but there are a few add-ons and plugins I like to add to our Media Center to give us some additional functionality and increased usability. By a wide margin, the one we use the most is Netflix.
Back when Netflix was a scrappy newcomer, trying to get subscribers, they were putting their client on every device and platform that would talk to them. They worked out a deal with Microsoft to have the Netflix client pre-installed right into Windows Media Center menu.
My Experience: The built in application was apparently a joint project between Microsoft and Netflix, which may seem great, but has actually turned out to be a quagmire of finger pointing. Since it was originally released, the application has not been updated since and both companies have washed their hands of it and point to the other as being responsible for the application. The UI badly needs a facelift, in particular with the way you navigate through titles that have multiple seasons. While all seasons of the title will show up as a single entry in your Instant Queue, there is no way to easily jump from season to season and the only way to navigate episodes is to pull up episode lists that starts at Season 1, Episode 1, every time you open up the episode list. While this may not seem like a big deal, if you watch a show with a lot of episodes (like Cheers with 11 Seasons and 275 episodes) you have to scroll past every single prior episode to get to the next one you want to watch. Clicking the down arrow on your remote over 200 times to get to the next episode you want to watch not only gets old real fast, but eats batteries like mad.
Episode list problems aside, we still use Netflix on a daily basis and it’s relatively easy to setup. First, scroll up to the “Movies” line and select the Netflix tile.
You’ll be greeted with a full Netflix splash screen. Put a check in the “I have read and understand the Terms of Service and Privacy Statement” checkbox which will then activate the “Install” button. Click on Install and off we go.
Netflix will install required components like Silverlight and the core components for Netflix itself. Once installed, you will be asked for your Netflix account email address and password, or given the option for a 30 day trial if you don’t have one. Enter your membership information, make sure there’s a check in the “Remember me on this computer” box and hit the Continue button.
That’s all there is to it. The Netflix UI lets you navigate and watch titles in your Instant Queue as well as search for other shows and movies by title or popular categories.