2009/01/12 18:57:57

media, and the centering thereof

While reading a paid advertisement about XBMC on overclockers.com recently, it occurred to me that these media center widgets had finally become useful enough, and that I would rather like to have one. I'd like 1080p support, ability to play all my crap, and most difficultly, Netflix streaming support. What are my options? Well, let's see...
  • The Roku Netflix Player. ($99) Damn cheap, but it only plays Netflix streams, where are currently SD-only. No media features, no HDTV, two strikes, you're out.
  • Various Netflix-compatible devices, blu-ray players and HDTVs. ($349-$lots) The blu-ray players will, of course, play blu-ray discs, but I'm probably never going to buy a blu-ray movie, so they're just expensive Roku boxes. Some of the HDTVs do media stuff, but they're ultra-expensive. No thanks on either.
  • Vudu. ($100) Like Netflix+Roku, only they don't ship movies to you, the selection is worse, and constantly rotated, and they charge you to be a bitorrent peer in their internal network. Ha ha, no.
  • XBMC. ($however much a used xbox costs-$however much you want to spend on a media computer) A big, fancy media player that you connect to your television. It'll play whatever you throw at it, but it doesn't do Netflix streaming or DVR stuff. The unattributed ads on sites I read doesn't exactly endear me to them.
  • MythTV. (See XMBC) Does everything XMBC does, but with DVR support, and a correspondingly beefier backend architecture. Unfortunately, being linux based, it still doesn't do Netflix streaming.
  • Windows Media Center ($200-$400) Does everything MythTV does, but worse. However, if you use a Xbox 360 as a WMC Extender, then you can stream Netflix, as well as provide a convent excuse for buying a 360. Being a Microsoft product, it'll have mysterious bugs and other crap, and might refuse to play unencrypted HD video, but the backend runs on a Vista computer, which I happen to already have. Terrifyingly, this looks like the best choice.
And while learning that Microsoft have actually produced a useful, non-shitty product was a horrible surprise, a more pleasant surprise was learning that you can buy a USB HDTV tuner for $99. A hundred bucks! Holy crap, we're living in the damn future!

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