Over the last few months I have been using a HP MediaSmart Connect x280n on our plasma in the living room with limited success. The extender works as designed but there are a few limits to it that are just driving me nuts. The first limit is the lack of a keyboard and mouse. Now I know that the remote does a good job of manoeuvring around, but when certain programs like MCE and Radio 365 kick you over to a web browser I get stuck and start yelling at the plasma. Why do we always yell at the monitor? It is the actual unit we should be yelling at. The second limit is not being about to run movies from my dvd library. The extender, by design, does not run VOB files and, although there is a published hack to get them to play, it requires too much work for my system and library size.
Since I want to play DVDs, and now Blu-ray, I figured that I could spend about the same for a PC instead of piecing together separate parts. I am moving the x280 to another room and just got a refurbished Dell Hybrid with Blu-ray for $449 to hook up to the plasma. Some of the great features of the Hybrid are the HDMI out, optical audio, Vista Ultimate, Blu-ray/DVD and a sleek look.
HP MediaSmart Connect x280n was $170, Sony Blu-ray from Best Buy would be $299, for a total $469 so it would be about the same price.
So, if you want an extender then go get one but I would argue that a PC running Windows Media Center (WMC) would do better overall. If a new PC is not an option you might look for a Blu-ray drive upgrade on one of your existing PCs.
Windows Home Server with Power Pack Two with Windows Media Center support
PC with Windows Media Center
1 Beer (optional)
Windows Media Center
I am not going to go into detail about WMC in this article but if you have not used WMC you are missing out. It took me a while to “like” it but now that I have figured it out I really enjoy it. If you only have one PC then the advantages are few but if you have a multi-PC network with WHS and some flat screens then this is the product for you!
You can find additional information on WMC at:
or see blog articles at:
For those of you that have not added your DVDs to your WHS you can see how to add them at:
Mental Note: Find out how to change the background in WMC. The MS website has a cool underwater background on their WMC!
My PC is new to my network so this is the first time I am running WMC. I have already installed the WHS connector and connected to my WHS.
When I first open the WMC it asks to update the Windows Home Server connector with the new WMC software.
Follow the prompts as shown below:
Enter your WHS password.
Let the process complete and it will then ask to restart.
If you want to see how Power Pack Two controls access to your WMC open up the WHS Console, click on Settings and click on Windows Media Center.
Once the computer has restarted you are ready to access WMC. By default you will notice that your DVD Library is not listed.
Mental Note: When WMC is in full screen the screen shots are black! Crap. See how I had to use an actual camera to show you the screen above? Well I discovered that if you take WMC out of full screen that the screen shots work! Just make sure you use ALT-Print Screen to just get the window you are actively using.
Configuration and Setup
You can walk through the process with me or view the directions at Microsoft. The directions (and an auto fix) to add the DVD Library view are listed here:
“On a computer that is running Windows Vista, Windows Media Center displays DVD content that is stored on your computer in the DVD Library. However, the DVD Library is not automatically enabled. If it is not enabled, you cannot see your DVD content. This article helps you enable or disable the DVD Library feature in Windows Media Center on a Windows Vista-based computer.”
If Windows Media Center is running, close it.
In the Start Search box type regedit.
In the Programs list, click regedit.
If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type your password, or click Continue.
Locate and then click the following registry subkey:
In the details pane, right-click ShowGallery, and then click Modify.
Delete the contents that appear in the Value data box.
In the Value data box, type “Gallery”, and then click OK.
Close Registry Editor (leave it expanded for now) and restart your computer.
Once you have restarted your PC open up WMC. If Media Center now displays “DVD Library” instead of “Play DVD” you are finished! If it does not you may have changed the wrong registry setting. Go back and check what you changed or use the auto fix from Microsoft.
Click on dvd library. You will probably notice a couple of sample movie clips already in the WMC. You can ignore them or delete them.
We need to add the WHS location and tell WMC where to go.
You have to right-click Add folders to see content.
Click on Add folder to watch and then Next
Click on Add shared folders from another computer and then Next
You should now see your server folders as choices. Check the folder(s) where you store your videos. I keep all of mine only in the Videos folder.
WMC will now add the folder. Click on Finish.
Once you have finished this process your DVDs will now be available in WMC. You might need to give it a minute depending on the speed of your connection and the amount of movies you have on your WHS. WMC will give you a count on the lower right corner. As you can see I have added about 25 of my 150 plus DVDs. Each DVD takes about 20 minutes to add so I add three or four each weekend. My Blu-ray titles are too large to upload so I play those directly from the Dell Hybrid.
The Windows Media Center is a great application for viewing DVDs, pictures and playing music. It takes a while to get used to the interface but once you do you will see the advantages.
I hope you found this article interesting and useful. If anyone has questions I will respond to the posts.
See you next Friday night.