Win Xp Media Cntr Ed 2004 Pc For Dummies

Overview

  • The fun and easy way to get up and running quickly with Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, the new operating system version specially outfitted for TV, DVD, video, music, and digital photo applications
  • Media Center PCs are the first PCs to feature an easy-to-use interface and all preconfigured hardware and preloaded software needed to create a complete integrated ...
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Overview

  • The fun and easy way to get up and running quickly with Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, the new operating system version specially outfitted for TV, DVD, video, music, and digital photo applications
  • Media Center PCs are the first PCs to feature an easy-to-use interface and all preconfigured hardware and preloaded software needed to create a complete integrated home entertainment system
  • Explains how to integrate a home computer network with a home theater system, control connected TVs with the Remote Control Interface, record TV programs using a TiVo-like recorder, acquire and play back music files, organize digital videos and photos, play DVD movies, and much more
  • Written by the authors of Home Theater For Dummies (0-7645-1801-1)and Wireless Home Networking For Dummies (0-7645-3910-8), who worked closely with Media Center Edition product management at Microsoft to complete the book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764543579
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/7/2003
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 7.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Danny Briere founded TeleChoice, Inc., a telecommunications consulting company, in 1985 and now serves as CEO of the company. Widely known throughout the telecommunications and networking industry, Danny has written more than one thousand articles about telecommunications topics and has authored or edited nine books, including Internet Telephony For Dummies, Smart Homes For Dummies (now in its second edition), Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, and Home Theater For Dummies. He is frequently quoted by leading publications on telecommunications and technology topics and can often be seen on major TV networks providing analysis on the latest communications news and breakthroughs. Danny lives in Mansfield Center, Connecticut, with his wife and four children.

Pat Hurley is a consultant with TeleChoice, Inc., who specializes in emerging telecommunications technologies, particularly all the latest access and home technologies, including wireless LANs, DSL, cable modems, satellite services, and home-networking services. Pat frequently co nsults with the leading telecommunications carriers, equipment vendors, consumer goods manufacturers, and other players in the telecommunications and consumer electronics industries. Pat is the coauthor of Internet Telephony For Dummies, Smart Homes For Dummies, Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, and Home Theater For Dummies. He lives in San Diego, California, with his wife and two smelly dogs.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Ch. 1 All about Windows XP Media Center Edition 9
Ch. 2 A Look Inside a Media Center PC 25
Ch. 3 Evaluating and Buying a Media Center PC 35
Ch. 4 Cables, Connectors, and Components 51
Ch. 5 Hooking Up Your Media Center PC 67
Ch. 6 Connecting to the Internet 81
Ch. 7 Starting MCE for the First Time 97
Ch. 8 Customizing Your MCE Experience 113
Ch. 9 Watching TV 137
Ch. 10 Listening to Music 165
Ch. 11 Working with Photos 185
Ch. 12 Playing DVDs 203
Ch. 13 Working with Home Videos 211
Ch. 14 Working with Third-Party Applications 227
Ch. 15 Building a Home Network 241
Ch. 16 Using a Wireless Home-Networking System 251
Ch. 17 Ten Cool Accessories for Your Media Center PC 265
Ch. 18 Ten Future Features of Media Center PCs 279
Ch. 19 Ten Great Places to Visit with Your Media Center PC 289
App Connecting Your MCE PC to Your Home-Entertainment System 297
Index 313
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First Chapter

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 PC For Dummies


By Danny Briere Pat Hurley

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-4357-1


Chapter One

All about Windows XP Media Center Edition

In This Chapter

* Comparing MCE with regular XP

* Taking a tour of the Media Center interface

* Connecting to a big-screen TV and audio system

* Buying a Media Center PC

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004. It's a long name, so we're going to call it just MCE most of the time. But it's also a descriptive name. Let's break it down into its constituent parts, shall we?

  •   Windows: Yep, it's a Microsoft Operating System (OS), so it works on PCs using Intel or similar AMD chips and motherboards, the main components of a PC. But (and this is an important but), not all standard Windows PCs can run MCE. You need a special PC that meets the rigorous requirements of MCE - you can't just install MCE on your existing PC.
  •   XP: This is the latest version of Windows (released in 2002), with an improved user interface (it's a lot more colorful), greater performance (it goes faster), and increased reliability.
  •   Media Center Edition: Not only can MCE computers do all the normal computing stuff that any version of Windows XP can do - Web surfing, e-mail, report writing, and so on - but Microsoft has added enhanced functionality for managing, editing, and playing back various forms of electronic media such asTV, movies, music, home video, and digital photographs.
  •   2004: This is the most recent edition of the Windows XP MCE platform, and this book contains all the latest and greatest info about what you need to know. We're part of the beta team for the MCE platform, so you're getting the straight scoop here!

Media management and display are at the heart of MCE. Its full-screen interface and handheld remote control enable you to sit across the room and use the MCE PC like a piece of gear from your home theater. MCE takes the PC to a whole new realm - and may very well take the PC to a whole new room - in your house.

Everything about Windows XP Media Center Edition is special, advanced, enhanced, entranced, romanced ... geez we can get carried away! It's that neat.

What's Special about XP Media Center Edition?

An MCE PC is a high-end machine, with more features and faster processors than regular Windows PCs, as well as some specialized parts for media functionality. The only big differences you might notice, however, are the screen (which is usually larger), the larger and more powerful speakers, and perhaps the general speediness of the machine. (MCE PCs have the fastest Pentium processors and the biggest, baddest graphics chips in existence - we talk about these in Chapter 2.)

You can't add MCE software (the MCE OS, in other words) to just any old PC. In fact, you can't add it to any PC you own, even if the PC meets all the equipment and performance criteria we're about to discuss. Microsoft doesn't sell MCE this way. Primarily for reasons of reliability and performance, Microsoft has decided that MCE will be available only preinstalled on PCs that meet its minimum specifications. This requirement creates a known environment in which Microsoft can do its operating system magic, without trying to make MCE compatible with the millions of equipment permutations that more general versions of Windows must deal with.

The first time you fire up an MCE PC, it will probably look like any other Windows XP PC. You'll see the standard XP desktop interface, with the big green Start menu at the bottom left.

You can ignore the MCE features and use your MCE PC as a high-powered PC. You can surf the Web using Internet Explorer or your Web browser of choice. You can check e-mail with Outlook Express. If you have Microsoft Office installed, you can work on that spreadsheet of widgets or write that overdue paper (or, in our case, book).

But if you look on the desktop or between the sofa cushions, you'll see a shiny new remote control, as shown in Figure 1-1. If you've already installed your MCE PC, go ahead and press the start button. (It's the green button in the middle of the remote.) The start button launches the Media Center interface, which is designed to let you sit away from your computer and use it as an entertainment device, not a data terminal.

We can't guarantee that your remote will look exactly like the one in Figure 1-1. But somewhere on your remote you will find the arrow buttons, the OK button, and the Start button.

The first time you open Media Center on your MCE PC, it prompts you to go through a 10- to 15-minute process of setting preferences. If you want to do this now, skip ahead to Chapter 7, where we describe this process.

You might be tempted to cancel out of this process and go straight into the Media Center Start menu with the factory default settings in place. We do not recommend skipping the Media Center Set-up Wizard. Your TV programming guide will not be installed, your remote control may not work to change channels on your set-top box, and other features may simply not function. Complete the wizard. (Patience, patience.)

The Media Center Interface

The Media Center interface, shown in Figure 1-2, is the key to using MCE - it's what differentiates MCE from plain Windows XP. The Media Center interface is designed for "lean back" computer use. The text on the screen is big and can be read easily while you sit in your comfy chair across the room.

The Media Center interface does away with many of the normal Windows interface systems that require a mouse. For example, you won't find the pull-down menus that normal Windows XP (and XP applications) use in its menu bar. In fact, you won't find a menu bar (or a Start button) at all. Everything is laid out in a linear and hierarchical manner for ease of use with a remote control (though you can use your mouse as well, if you want).

Pretty much everything you'll ever want to do with MCE can be accomplished with the four arrow, or directional, buttons on the remote (up, down, left, and right) and the OK button. The MCE was designed for the remote control, not the keyboard. In fact, some things are downright hard to do without the remote control, such as access the More Info data about a movie.

To select a menu item, use the arrow buttons to reach the menu item (it becomes highlighted in green), and then press the OK button.

If a menu item has choices below it, they appear when you select the main menu item. To select one of the subitems, simply use the arrow buttons to reach it, and press the OK button.

Want to look at that neat TV image in the little window to the side? No problem. Use the arrow buttons to reach the image (it becomes highlighted in green) and press OK. Now you're watching TV. Cool.

The Media Center interface is a lot like the interface you might see when digging around in the setup menus on a TV or a home-theater receiver attached to a TV, except that MCE is a lot more user friendly. We will now boldly predict that it will take you all of two minutes of messing around with the arrow buttons and the OK button to get the hang of making choices in MCE.

If you ever get lost in the Media Center interface, start pressing the Back button on the remote. You'll eventually return to the top of the menu hierarchy - the interface shown in Figure 1-2.

In the remainder of this section, we talk in general terms about what each choice - we call them modules - on the main MCE page is all about. In Part III, we describe each one in detail, telling you how it works and how you can get the most out of it.

My TV module

One of the coolest things that every MCE PC can do is help you watch television. And we're not just talking about watching TV the old-fashioned way - sitting in front of that glowing box, waiting like a sheep for a show to come on. Nope, MCE lets you move into the future and take control of your TV habit. (Admit it, you have a TV habit - everyone does!) All you have to do is select the My TV module in MCE.

With MCE, you can do the following TV stuff:

  •   Watch live TV (the old-fashioned way) on your computer monitor or on a TV hooked up to your MCE PC
  •   Keep track of what's on, and what will be on, with an on-screen program guide
  •   Record and play back broadcast TV programs at your convenience

This last feature is perhaps the most compelling. After all, you can watch TV on any old $199 box from the warehouse store. And if you have a satellite dish or digital cable, you probably have an on-screen program guide. But MCE includes a full-featured PVR (personal video recorder) with just about all the functions of the TiVo or ReplayTV device that a small number of TV-crazy folks have in their homes.

Like those other PVRs, MCE dispenses with the bulky and inconvenient tapes that VCRs use and instead records TV digitally on a computer hard drive. The advantages over a regular VCR are immense. In addition to storing a ton of TV shows, you can use the PVR function of MCE to pause, rewind, and fast forward live TV while you're watching it.

No longer do you have to rely on broadcasters for timing your snack and bathroom breaks. Press a button and walk away - when you come back, catch up where you left off. Or watch that last-second three-pointer again, right now, without waiting for Dickie V. and the boys in the ESPN truck to cue up the replay.

Figure 1-3 shows the main My TV interface. We talk about how to use it in much more detail in Chapter 9.

Radio module

Newer MCE PCs have begun to ship with an FM radio tuner that does for radio what My TV does for TV: gives you control over what you listen to and when. With the MCE Radio module, shown in Figure 1-4, you can use the MCE interface and the remote control to tune in to your favorite stations, and pause and record live radio broadcasts.

You can run to the kitchen for some more mineral water (or whatever your beverage preference) while your favorite talk show drones on. On your return, you can pick up listening where you left off. The Radio module can record up to 30 minutes of live radio. Like any digital radio, the Radio module lets you scan for stations or directly enter the frequency of the station you want to tune to. You can also set up presets, so you can quickly find and tune to your favorite stations.

My Music module

Because you're interested in buying an MCE PC or have already bought one, we bet you're already into the PC music world. If you're not, are you in for a treat. People have been recording their favorite music on their PCs for years now - and online music download systems such as Napster (now dead and gone) and Kazaa (kazaa.com) have received tons of press (and lawsuits) as people share music online (illegally). Now legal downloading options such as a new version of Napster and the Rhapsody Music Service (listen.com) are taking off as well.

In other words, computer-based music is an official BIG DEAL. And the MCE My Music module makes handling music easy, no matter how many albums and songs you have on your computer. Figure 1-5 shows My Music's main menu.

My Music lets you do several things:

  •   Organize your music: You can navigate your music collection by sorting your MP3 files, Windows Media files, and CDs by song title, album title, and artist. You can categorize your music by genre (such as rock, punk, and blues) and create playlists of favorite songs.
  •   Search for music: If you have a ton of music on your MCE PC (we do!), you can easily search for a song, an artist, or an album name using the remote control or the keyboard.
  •   Copy CDs to the MCE PC hard drive: Adding your favorite CDs to your music collection is dead simple with your MCE PC - just a few presses on the remote, and your CD's audio tracks are downloaded to your MCE hard drive. In addition, the song titles, album title, and even the CD cover art are downloaded automatically from databases on the Internet. Not bad.
  •   Buy music online: Pressing a button on your remote automatically sends you to a Web page (outside the MCE interface) that lets you buy more music from a particular artist.

And, of course, you can use My Music to play back music through the speakers attached to your MCE PC or through your stereo or home-theater system, if you have one attached to your MCE PC.

Windows XP Media Center Edition makes use of Microsoft's powerful Media Player 9 functionality - Microsoft's standalone music software. Windows Media Player 9 is one of the few examples of something you can't access from the Media Center interface. Sorry, but you'll have to grab your wireless keyboard and mouse and tap away in the normal Windows XP interface to load your music onto your MCE PC. Then you can jump back into Media Center to organize and play your music. We tell you more about Media Player 9 and how to hook up your stereo to your MCE PC in Chapter 5 and how to take advantage of your My Music module in Chapter 10.

My Pictures module

Digital cameras have revolutionized the world of picture taking. No longer do you have to wait for your pictures - not even the One Hour Photo shop is fast enough compared to digital photography. Snap a picture, plug your camera into your MCE PC, and instant gratification. Can't beat that, huh?

Although you can download digital pictures to just about any PC, MCE's My Pictures module makes it even easier to deal with your photographic art (or poorly composed snapshots). With My Pictures, you can

  •   View any pictures you've downloaded from your camera to your MCE PC's My Pictures folder (the default folder for downloaded pictures). Pictures can be viewed in full-screen mode, zoomed, and panned (meaning you can zoom in on certain segments of the picture and then move your view around to other zoomed parts of the picture).
  •   View pictures stored on removable media such as Compact Flash or SmartMedia cards, the "digital film" used by many digital cameras. Many MCE PCs have built-in readers for this type of media; you can also add media readers through your USB port.
  •   Watch slide shows of your favorite pictures on the MCE PC monitor or your TV. You can even add your favorite background music from My Music.
  •   Correct pictures, so that those poorly composed and lit snapshots look like something your megabuck wedding photographer took. My Pictures can automatically analyze and optimize your photos.

    Continues...

Excerpted from Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 PC For Dummies by Danny Briere Pat Hurley Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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