Windows Media Center – The End is Nigh

Dear fellow Media Center users,

I was hoping this day would not come – but since Microsoft ended support for WMC we have all been living on borrowed time. I’ve tried to delay this as much as possible for myself – because of the large investment I have in WMC technology – and for the community by offering new streaming options and other features for WMC. But – the reality is the technology I am clinging to is showing its age… and I can’t fix entropy.

I’m not going to tell you what to do – you guys will know when and what. I’ve reached a decision regarding my home media center experience that I thought I would share. I’ve begun the process of converting my massive library and systems over to Plex and a combination of Apple TV and Fire TV. Why? Right now Plex is the leading media platform (in my opinion). With the launch of their Live TV and DVR services it now has the last piece I needed to replace. As I am heavy into the Apple ecosystem – a couple of Apple TVs on my primary TVs make sense. I am also using the awesome Channels app for Live TV from my HDHomeRunPrime and Netflix. With Amazon about to release an Apple TV compatible Prime Video App – All of my media sources will be represented. On my other TVs I think I will be using a combination of Fire TV and Fire Sticks – mostly because of cost and amount of viewing time on those devices.

Couple of other recent events affected my decision and timing to begin the cutover – including the recent Rovi guide issues.

For those that are interested – here is what I am going with for the new setup:

Plex Media Server

  • HP 8300 USFF Desktop; Core I7-3770s @ 3.1GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • Samsung EVO 240GB SSD
  • Running Windows 7 X64 Pro (Why? Personal choice)

Storage

  • Synology DS414 with 12TB of storage

Tuners

  • HDHomeRun Prime (2)

Media Streamer Devices

  • Two Apple TV (4th Generation) devices
  • Fire TV or Fire Stick (3)

Apps

  • Plex (with Plex Pass)
  • Channels for IOS and TVOS
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • MCEBuddy (for file naming and conversions)
  • AnyDVDHD (For ripping)

This brings us to the Add-ins: Amazon Video for Windows Media Center and Netflix for Windows Media Center. At the moment everything is the same as it was yesterday; the apps are still available and I will be supporting them with updates and fixes as needed. I am mulling over my long term plans though. One option would be to just release them on GitHub and let the community update and manage the solutions. The other would be finding a motivated WMC developer that would like to take ownership of these projects – like I did for the Amazon plugin – and continue to develop them for the community. If you are such an individual – please contact me.

I would like to thank my many followers here and on The Green Button for their suggestions, donations and comments over the past 3 years. It has been a pleasure to contribute to the WMC community. WMC’s reign was good. The king is dead! Long live The King!

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Amazon Instant Video for Windows Media Center

UPDATE: The AmazonMCEAddin has been released! Click here for details.

Hi Everyone. Going off topic for this post to talk about another piece of Microsoft technology that is near and dear to my heart: Windows Media Center. I’ve been running MCE for nearly 3 years now – it runs all of my in-house media and TVs. I absolutely love it. What I don’t love is the fact that Microsoft has all but abandoned the product which has stymied the development of new features – like streaming of content. Yes it has Netflix – which I do use – but other providers don’t seem willing to invest the time. Independent developers like me have mostly picked up the slack with adding new features to Media Center – but most of the time the integration is subpar or because they are integrating 3rd party content it often breaks when the vendor changes something.

I was looking for new Add-ins for Media Center for streaming content and came across this blog: http://garethbarr.com/amazonmceaddin/. Gareth wrote a really fantastic addin that brought Amazon Instant Video streaming to Media Center. The screenshots and the reviews looked great so I downloaded it – only to be disappointed when it didn’t work. Further reading revealed that Amazon changed something and broke the functionality (not surprising) but the developer was having trouble finding the time to debug it. He posted the source to Bitbucket and some work was done – but the project has been stalled for about 6 months. I really wanted to see this work so I downloaded the source and began debugging it. It took a few days but I got it working and updated Gareth on my progress. To my surprise, he asked me if I would like to take over ownership of the project as he is otherwise engaged. As I am very interested in all things MCE I gladly accepted.

So that brings us to today. I will be releasing an updated version of the Amazon Instant Video Addin for Windows Media Center in the next few days on the blog. This version fixes the login/sessionstate issues and restores the Flash playback functionality. It also has branding and minor fit/finish improvements. I’ll setup a page (http://sharepointsnapple.com/amazonmceaddin/) where interested folks can follow and post about their experiences with the addin. I have a few initial goals: Complete the UI and features as they existed in the Gareth’s 1.0.x.x version; Improve the UI fit and finish; Cleanup and reorganize the source; and add the Silverlight player.

The 1.x version of the addin will remain free. The source will not be immediately available as I need to thoroughly understand and debug /reorganize the solution. Donations to this effort would be appreciated if you find the solution useful.

Some screenshots of version 1.1:


Above: The icon in the MCE Start Menu


Above: The Movies Top Menu


Above: The Popular Movies grid


Above: The Movie details and the lobby


Above: The movie playing