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  Media Center FAQ (frequently asked questions and answers)

Media center: Questions and answers concerning new digital multimedia solutions.

Television, Internet, music, photography, computer games – there have never been as many amusement opportunities as today. The latest developments in the entertainment market are heading towards integration of the digital means of transmission into a user-friendly compact system. All functions can be easily controlled through a media center.

- What exactly does this term stand for?

Great progress has been made since the introduction of hi-fi systems and colour TV sets. In addition to the manifold range and technical advancements of the entertainment industry particularly the Internet development has aroused demand for new compact solutions. Thus, the consumers are becoming more and more aware of the home PC. The so-called media centers promise an all-round concept equal to current requirements.

- What are the consumers' needs today?

In the past, TV and radio channels were analogue. The stereo would play music and television programmes could be videotaped. Now there are many new terms of an extremely grown market. Today’s consumers wish to enjoy digital high-definition TV (HD-TV) with multiplex sound and preferably lossless storage on hard disc drive or DVD. Programmes and films are being downloaded from the Internet, digital audio files replace previous music data carriers and chunky players. Homemade photos and videos are supposed to be easily displayed and shown friends while at the same time shopping in the Internet. And all that, preferably with only one or few compact devices. Being just visions for the future years ago, today these demands are met by all-rounders, called media centers, finding their way into people’s living rooms.

- What are the advantages of a media center?

Media centers offer efficient and compact management and control of digital entertainment. Consumer-friendly operability is more important than technical tricks. Digital media allow various formats – e.g. film, music, and picture data – to be played back by only one appliance. Memory cards and chips facilitate quick exchange of these files. Thus, all multimedia functions can be controlled through a sole remote control.

- How do media centers look?

There are various approaches to realise media centers and the respective device definitions often have merging limits. Since different file formats have to be managed and played back a computer is an essential part of the total solution. It can be either the core of the product or complement a player with relevant functions. Basically, all multimedia functions should be covered and accessed as comfortably as possible, preferably with only a single remote control.

- Could a home PC serve as a multimedia centre (home theatre PC, HTPC)?

In recent years, experienced domestic users could to benefit from the manifold developments in the computer and entertainment market. Initially PCs served just as typewriters and calculators but the range of their functions has been constantly extended by entertainment elements. Today’s home computers are used not only for more and more complex computer games but also for any multimedia application. Through video on demand systems films can be downloaded as well as songs offered by music companies, and using a TV tuner card public and private TV channels can be received. The Internet provides totally new liberty of action within the cyberspace. Whereas up to now rather more experienced users with corresponding know-how and information about latest developments were able to benefit from these technical possibilities, with the aid of media centers they are easily and comfortably available also to unskilled end users. An all-round solution is for example Microsoft’s Windows XP media center. Alternatively, control programmes can be deployed enhancing an existing system with media-center functionality. These programmes are both free of cost and purchasable. You can connect your PC with a TV set and/or stereo if you like in order to profit from already existing high-quality elements.

Other approaches to an all-in-one solution in the market are the so-called mini PCs. Their only function is multimedia control, i.e. they are standalone media centers. Their comparatively low price and compact design make them attractive. Such devices are provided by the established manufacturers, e.g. Apple. Just like desktop PCs also laptops can be converted to media centers.

Many manufacturers provide a suitable remote control. Alternatively, the PC can be equipped with an infrared interface and a remote control can be synchronised.

ybr /> - Can a TV set be deployed as a media center?

Also in this field great progress has been made. The principle is similar to the PC, being the centre of the media center, but in this case the TV set plays the significant role. Its advantages are obviously the screen, audio, and connections, which are designed for entertainment in the first place.

One possibility of converting a TV set into a media center is to combine it with a PC. But there are also other possibilities generally including an additional receiver which is connected to the TV set. It forms the link between the TV set and a digital means of transmission – e.g. cable network. With the aid of so-called set-top boxes or digital receivers multimedia contents can be decrypted and used. Modern devices additionally offer a hard-disk-drive recording option so that the TV set can be turned into an adequate media center.

In current developments the Internet and TV set are interlinked. The German Telekom for example offers with its T-Home range an opportunity to experience television, Internet, and multimedia contents on a TV set with the aid of a set-top box. Here, also pay-TV channels can be received and the TV set becomes the centre of media experience. For this purpose a broad band Internet connection is required, which is being constantly enhanced. At present this offer is mainly available in urban areas.

- Can game consoles be used as media centers?

Another consumer electronic device is on its way to assert itself as a stand-alone media center on the growing market: the game console. It is mostly dependent on a playback device for graphical display, which is usually the TV screen. Already in the past clever garage inventors modified their game consoles by means of so-called modchips – that are electrotechnically and software-sided modified (“modded”) control chips – in such a way that they were capable to play back also music and films. The latest market development is continuously heading towards such a commercial deployment. Internet connection is another feature a game console needs in order to be a full-fledged media center.

- Conclusion

This overview of the basic media center issues is documenting the current development of this young entertainment sector. It is not clear yet which systems will prevail. The progress in this field is certainly far from being completed.

  FAQs about Microsoft ® Windows XP Media Center Edition

Excerpt from:

What is Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005?

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, available preinstalled on Media Center PCs, allows you to pause and rewind live TV or radio, digitally record an entire TV series or program category, watch DVDs and videos, organize and play your music collection, and showcase digital photos. Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 makes it easier to access digital entertainment wherever you are.

What equipment will I need to install Media Center?

• Media Center PC.

• Monitor or TV.

• Keyboard.

• Mouse.

• Remote control and remote control receiver.

• Internet connection.

• TV signal connection from an antenna, cable, or satellite.

• Cables to connect the various components. For a complete list, consult the documentation that came with your Media Center PC.

Do I need to purchase a TV tuner when I buy a Media Center PC?

Many Media Center PCs come equipped with a single TV tuner that captures your TV signal from a cable, satellite, or antenna source. Media Center PCs can also be equipped to handle multiple tuners. For example, if your Media Center PC comes with more than one TV tuner, you can record two shows while you watch a third recorded show.

If your Media Center PC is not equipped with a TV tuner, it is possible to upgrade.

Will Windows XP Media Center PCs support surround sound and work with my existing A/V system?

Many Media Center PCs support multi-channel output for speakers and connected A/V devices (using digital interconnect outputs such as SPDIF or Toslink). Media Center PCs also deliver Dolby Digital, DTS, or PCM surround decoding.

What kind of displays can I connect to a Windows XP Media Center PC?

The Windows XP Media Center PC can connect to a variety of displays:


• Media Center PC and desktop monitor. With computing and entertainment functionality in one place, this setup is ideal for locations where space is at a premium.

• Media Center PC, desktop monitor, and TV.

Use the desktop display for computing and the TV for entertainment.

• Media Center PC and high-resolution display. A high-resolution display, such as a plasma or projection TV, provides sufficient resolution for desktop tasks, like reading e-mail or surfing the Internet, and offers a home theater style experience for TV, home movies, and DVDs. When your Media Center PC is connected to a widescreen display, 16:9 support lets you toggle between normal, zoom, and stretch video modes.

Can I record multiple programs at once, or watch one show while recording another? Can I watch a recorded show while Media Center is recording another show?

Some Media Center PCs are equipped to handle multiple tuners. For example, if your Media Center PC comes with two TV tuners, you can record two shows while watching a third recorded show. Check with the manufacturer to find out how many TV tuners are included in your Media Center PC.

What are the new TV features?

With multiple TV tuners, you can record up to the same number of shows as you have tuners, while watching a recorded TV show. It’s your decision whether to record a single show or an entire series. Here are some more new features:


• Use Movie Finder to browse top-rated movies, new releases, and movies playing right now or showing in the next hour.

• Get rid of recording conflicts to ensure that Media Center records the shows that you want.

• Use the My TV page to display recent recordings and upcoming recordings.

• Press the MORE INFO button on your remote to record the show, launch Messenger, or get help.




» Media center functions

The following functions should be included in a media center:
  • Easy connecting of all components
  • Several functions in parallel
  • No longer slow booting and shut down
  • New contents via the Internet
  • Central storage location for all data
  • PC utilisation
  • Data storage
  • Rights management for protected contents

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