Linksys announces new wireless MCE extender


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IRVINE, CA – October 12, 2004 – Linksys®, a division of Cisco Systems, Inc., the leading provider of broadband, wireless and networking hardware for the consumer, Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) and small business markets, today announced the new Wireless A/G Media Center Extender (WMCE54AG). The media extender enables users to wirelessly stream digital entertainment content such as music, videos or photos stored on a Microsoft Windows Media Center PC to their home entertainment center.

Using a Wireless-A, Wireless-G, or wired Ethernet connection, the Media Center Extender streams homemade or downloaded premium movies and digital photos stored on a Windows Media Center PC to TVs around the home for the whole family to enjoy. A digital music collection or Internet radio station can play in full glory through a stereo system, freed from those little computer speakers. Users can also watch and pause live TV shows or record them digitally for viewing later.

Read the entire press release
There are quite a few devices around that will do this now. Companies like DLink, Netgear, Linksys, Hauppauge, and GoVideo have them in one form or another. Add in Squeezebox, Soundbridge, and others that are music only (at least for now). Quite a few of them are discussed on avsforum.

Most of these require a server program to be running on a PC (except for a few like the Audiotrons).

Some of them work with upnp servers. This is where it starts to get interesting. Microsoft has just released Windows Media Connect - a upnp server that a number of these devices should be able to connect to. You can download this from MS and you don't need MCE in order to use it (you do need SP2, apparently). This server can share video, music, and photos with a upnp player. There are incompatibilities between some upnp devices that will need to be worked out on a device by device case, probably.

My understanding (I haven't played with it yet) is that it passes video to the player without transcoding. Most of the servers transcode on the pc (e.g., from divx to mpeg2) and then send the mpeg2 to the player. Apparently, the MS server (Media Connect) does not transcode. For me, this isn't a problem since I keep everything as mpeg2 files. Transcoding can take a lot of server CPU cycles.

As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to try playing with Media Connect and my GoVideo D2730 (networked DVD player). Not that I'm a huge MS fan, but it's possible that their server will have better support.

In my system, I use one PC to record video and another for storage of video and music files (I don't share pictures). I use networked players like the D2730 and Hauppauge MediaMVP for playback of video and the server PC for playback of music.

Edit follows:

By the way, the Linksys box has component video and digital (optical) audio out. Both of these are nice features that not every other device has.

It also has USB and IR-OUT ports which are "not used at this time." This could be promising - indicating future capabilities - but it's probably not. They may be of more interest to hackers than end-users - depending on what functionality/hardware/OS the thing provides.