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Options for making Media Center (Win7-64) more flexible -- questions

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
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This new thread is inspired by two that are fairly current:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2398341

And this limp, sparse thread I'd posted earlier:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2398282

I haven't experimented with possibilities I pose in these questions yet. Some other veterans may have more insight.

FIRST. There are several alternatives to Media Center. There are purchased softwares like BeyondTV and SageTV (although I'm not sure people are using these much anymore). Then there is XMBC and Plex.

Is it possible to have these programs installed concurrent to Media Center and to run them (a) as an option, without MC running or (b) running concurrently -- without fouling up an existing Media Center configuration that works reliably?

SECOND. I posted a link to a Media Center plug-in called "Audio Renderer Updater." The purpose of this program (apparently of French origin with an English version) is to allow switching between different sound cards or audio output systems.

So: Are there any solutions which allow assignment of DIFFERENT speaker systems to different concurrently-running software programs? For instance, assign all system sounds and/or game programs to the onboard motherboard audio, while assigning media center exclusively to an HDMI-to-AVR/HDTV hookup?

I've got other questions, but maybe this will snag some information from others or initiate a discussion on these issues. Windows never gave a viable option for making more than one audio output system operable at the same time.
 

bradly1101

Diamond Member
May 5, 2013
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www.bradlygsmith.org
Is it possible to have these programs installed concurrent to Media Center and to run them (a) as an option, without MC running or (b) running concurrently -- without fouling up an existing Media Center configuration that works reliably?
It depends on your hardware. My old P4 couldn't handle many programs at one time, but newer processors can. I run an old i7 (920 - 2.66Ghz) now in my HTPC and it can stream XBMC (via a media center plugin, and uses all the same remote inputs) while recording three HD cable programs, and streaming out Media Center recordings at 1080 to a tablet via Media Browser. This scenario never plays out with the two of us, but I tested it and the CPU was running at 35% load.

Edit: I just tried streaming XBMC while playing an MC file and the audio stayed on MC, and XBMC locked up. Those are the only two I use.

SECOND. I posted a link to a Media Center plug-in called "Audio Renderer Updater." The purpose of this program (apparently of French origin with an English version) is to allow switching between different sound cards or audio output systems.

So: Are there any solutions which allow assignment of DIFFERENT speaker systems to different concurrently-running software programs? For instance, assign all system sounds and/or game programs to the onboard motherboard audio, while assigning media center exclusively to an HDMI-to-AVR/HDTV hookup?
I'm not sure on that one.
 
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BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
14,481
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Media Center had always been "finicky" once I had configured my AVR/HDTV for it, so my high-wattage AVR tentatively became my regular computer speaker system in addition to the HTPC function.

I had been looking for the Audio-Renderer-Updater solution for too, too long. It was always "out there" -- since 2010. Even so, there were crowds of folks frustrated with the "single-audio-device" quandary, some looking at VAC and other solutions for redirecting audio output. The general consensus always seemed to end with "Windows/M$ should have provided more flexibility, but didn't."

With my sig-rig at a level of perfection that I don't want to damage, I'm slow or careful to install software that might disturb a "finicky" configuration. But I installed this plug-in ("A-R-U") yesterday, and began playing with it.

It seems totally reliable. Depending on the menu selections, you can choose to leave the currently-selected audio device as "default" for next boot-up. Even if the current selection is "session specific," it doesn't foul anything up.

The worst of it so far: Once I switch to my alternative (onboard HD) device and switch off my AVR so that it's in Stand-By, I need to reboot the system after turning on the AVR to get it back.

That's a HELL-of-a-lot better than fishing around in Windows' "Playback Devices," attempting to reconfigure the default speaker system, finding somehow that you need to re-configure Media Center audio, and generally going through a pile of trouble to get things to work right after a changeover.

The best part of it is the AVR's "Standy-By" "Pass-Through" feature that allows the video part of HDMI-to-HDTV output to play, while the audio comes through the alternative device.

Since A-R-U is a Media Center plug-in, I don't need to think of it as a "layer of complexity" that reduces reliability.

I also suspect -- but haven't tried yet -- that A-R-U will show the 2-channel item representing my HDTV's speakers (or a 2.1 PC system used with it) as an option once the AVR is in Standby. If it does that, I have two 5.1 audio "devices" and a 2.1 device as an option -- which I'd sought all along.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
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I installed XBMC on my mostly Mediacenter/Mediabrowser box. As far as I can tell, its completely separate and only runs if I open it manually (mouse and keyboard). You can put a link to XBMC in the mediacenter main menu, but I have not. I think the idea behind that is it will open XBMC on top of MC and when you quit you fall back to MC. I have no idea how that kind of a setup works regarding audio/codecs. I basically have XBMC on my HTPC in case of emergency (for example, I totally muck up the mediabrowser server) and because I wanted to give the family a chance to experiment with it once in awhile.

As our HTPC is our main DVR/Netflix/everything box, I try not to experiment or change the interface so as not to confuse people, but I question how long Win7MC will be viable and want to start getting feedback on other setups.

I've done a similar setup on HTPCs down to the Core2Duo era stuff and it doesn't seem to have an issue with processing power.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
14,481
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. . . . . .As our HTPC is our main DVR/Netflix/everything box, I try not to experiment or change the interface so as not to confuse people, but I question how long Win7MC will be viable and want to start getting feedback on other setups. . . . . .

.
My sentiments exactly. The only thing uncertain about "movin' on up" to Win 8 or (later) 9 -- whether it will be better, whether it will address the kind of shortcomings observed and reported in forums like these.

If a person is not making money with his/her computers, he might organize "procurements" to cover all hardware continued in use. I don't want to swap out Win 7 until all the machines (or new machines) need Win 8, and my server box has to be consistent with that.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
755
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81
I'm not too concerned with procuring old hardware. The current sentiment is that Windows 7 is going to be the XP of this decade and then some (at least in the corporate environment). I suspect most hardware will be able to run Win7 without too much difficulty until we at least get near EOL for Win7.

Besides, since like you many of my HTPCs are hand-me-down core2duos, I imagine that I will be able to continue to pick up stray Intel 1155 and FM1/FM2 systems well into the future for free. I'd prefer to have updates, support, and new features, but if the only way I can keep MC and a cablecard setup is running 7 long into the future, its not the worst compromise.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
14,481
931
126
I'm not too concerned with procuring old hardware. The current sentiment is that Windows 7 is going to be the XP of this decade and then some (at least in the corporate environment). I suspect most hardware will be able to run Win7 without too much difficulty until we at least get near EOL for Win7.

Besides, since like you many of my HTPCs are hand-me-down core2duos, I imagine that I will be able to continue to pick up stray Intel 1155 and FM1/FM2 systems well into the future for free. I'd prefer to have updates, support, and new features, but if the only way I can keep MC and a cablecard setup is running 7 long into the future, its not the worst compromise.
Seems like the best OS version I'd ever had, and I watched people for a while here at the forums pulling their hair out before Win 8 moved toward maturity. Win 7 does all the stuff I want done, and then some . . .
 

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