Windows Media Center

Microsoft’s Windows Media Center (WMC) has been around for a while and has a small but loyal following.  When used with Windows 7 and later operating systems that have embraced the DLNA standard, it can make for a powerful streaming media server.  Once configured you will be able to consume media on devices, gadgets, and computers throughout your network whether that is inside the comfort of your house or across the Internet with remote connectivity.

Windows Media Center can be extended to non-PC devices through the use of extenders (MCE).  Currently, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is the most popular option since it also is a full game console.  Non-gamers or those who prefer a more compact device can chose the Ceton Echo, which is a palm sized device that allows you to extend your Media Center through Ethernet cable. readers will be happy to hear that the majority of electronic devices manufactured today fully support the open DLNA standard including HDTV’s, extenders, stereos, NAS, and DVR’s.

Windows 7 has greatly simplified the processes required to stream media from its predecessors.  Now users can use the HomeGroup feature which enables streaming by default.  Enhancements in the user interface also make it easier to configure remote access to your media.  It also provides shared libraries which makes all of your content from Windows Media Player 11 (WMP) and up discoverable.

A really cool new feature is called Play To.  This provides the ability to send you media content to any DLNA compatible device on your network.  You can play to another Windows 7 PC, Media Center extender, Xbox, or Windows phone.  It’s good to see such innovation in digital media.  The venture funding efforts continues to provide the fuel needed to keep the creative fires burning.

Remote media streaming is now a near seamless process according to the lab staff.  The only downside is that it requires a Live ID for authentication.  This is a small price to pay for most though for the ability to stream music to their phones from a home Media Center.  After a somewhat cumbersome process of linking your LiveID to your Windows account and configuring Windows 7 for remote connectivity, you will be ready to turn off Pandora and begin listening to commercial free music from your personal MP3 collection.