What I've Been Up To
We feel the same way about the quality of some Internet TV playback methods!
I know I said after my look at Boxee that we'd be checking out Windows Media Center this time. But in the past week or so, Ms. SmallNetBuilder and I have been watching a bit of Internet TV.
Because I haven't settled on a platform choice, I've been doing most of the driving when we switch off the DirecTV DVR and try our luck at Internet-based content. But it turns out that there is one alternative that the lovely Ms. SNB is already comfortable with, which I'll reveal shortly.
Since the last installment, the Acer Revo 3610 has come in to replace the bargain-priced Acer Revo 1600. The 3610 runs 64 bit Win 7 Home Premium, so comes with Windows Media Center that includes some Internet TV selections. It also has an app for the near-ubiquitous Netflix, which should also be announcing a version for your microwave oven any time now.
There has been a long-running flame war over on the Boxee forums as to whether the Acer 3610 has enough horsepower to handle full-screen HD playback. So, to give the 3610 the best shot possible at showing its stuff, I copied Paul Roberts' setup.
His configuration includes uninstalling the factory Flash version and loading Flash Beta 10.1.1p and matching Nvidia Ion driver, among other things. I didn't do any Bios tweaks or play with video memory allocation, nor did I increase RAM over the 2 GB that came installed. But I did remove all of the crapware that Acer had loaded.
I've also brought a Logitech Harmony One remote into the mix, to ease the pain of switching between entertainment choices. I was sucked in by the lure of its fancy programmable LCD touch screen. But after some time living with the One, I've found that I should have opted for the less expensive Harmony 700.
I find the One's touch screen too sensitive to finger angle-of-attack and often end up triggering the wrong function when I try to hit an icon using only one hand. The 700 still has a customizable LCD screen, but uses real buttons that should be more forgiving of a finger coming in at an angle other than 90 degrees to the screen surface.
I haven't yet added IR capability to the 3610, instead opting for an assortment of iPhone / iPod Touch apps to handle remote duties via Wi-Fi. The Boxee app and collect3's XBMC app handle duties for those players and I'm making do with studio WildCat's RemoteX app to run Windows Media Center.
I haven't yet dragged out the Logitech diNovo Mini to bring a compact Bluetooth-based keyboard and touchpad into the fray. But I might soon, since the RemoteX app isn't the best thing when it comes to cursor control and button clicks. I don't really want to get used to having to rely on a keyboard and mouse, though, since I don't think it will help the long-term WAF.
Logitech diNovo Mini
The other thing I've done is sprung for a copy of MediaMall Technologies' PlayOn media server. I downloaded the 14 day trial, mainly to add more online TV options to XBMC and Windows Media Center and for general experimentation with dedicated media players. I decided to take advantage of the $10 off special that Mediamall sent out when my trial license expired, so ended up paying only $30.