MCE 2005

smee said:
I think there are plenty of reasons for a dedicated box for media use. Whether that box is running MCE or something else is another question.

The fact that MCE 2005 is so close in price to XP Pro, it certainly looks like it makes sense to buy it (if you are setting up a new machine) even if you end up using a different program.

Out of curiosity,
Does MCE play divx (and similar) files if the codecs are installed? Or do you need to launch something else?
Does MCE play ripped DVDs as VOB files (with the "DVD" codecs installed) or do you need to convert them to mpeg2?
Can you burn ms-dvr files to dvd (to play in a standalone dvd player) without third-party software?

I keep all my personally recorded stuff as mpeg2 for compatability (except for divx files for PPC use).
MCE will play any video file if the codec is installed, including DivX, AC3 etc, the only problem I have ran into was quicktime, as it couldn't integrate with MCE.

MCE supposedly plays vob files, I have tried it once, I believe it worked, but never bothered again. Best option is to just rip the ISO and have them automatically mounted through a nice DVD cover selection interface.

ms-dvr files can not be burnt to CD without 3rd party software, there is a tool out there (free) which can convert them to mpeg2, then you can do whatever you want with them.
I prefer VOBs to ISOs - all I want is the movie, anyway. Different strokes...

Any idea how long it takes to convert ms-dvr files to mpeg2? I'm not really planning to use it, just curious. Converting from one format to another always takes too long :). I record and playback mpeg2 without conversion (just removing extra stuff if I want to keep it) to avoid that step. Even creating a playable DVD from mpeg2 doesn't take too long (and my machine isn't particularly fast).
Honest, I looked in the Glossary first!

What are ISO and VOB, in layman's terms please. People want to know (well me anyway). Trying to understand this stuff! :)
I'm with you on this question and I have even ripped a couple of DVD's but didn't have a clue what I was doing. I saw the ISO and vobs but didn't know what they were.
sorry, VOB's are the original movie files as they appear on your DVD disc (put it in your computer and you will see them), an ISO file is basically a snapshot/image of a CD/DVD, so you can burn it later to another disc, and it's guaranteed to be exactly the same as the original disc. The FireDaemon software can mount .iso files as a virtual drive, so you could store images of all your CD/DVD's on your HD, and whenever you need something from CD, just mount the disc instead of finding the disc and putting it in your drive. This allows you to turn your HTPC in a 'DVD changer', as the ISO file would also keep the menu's and DVD extra's.

Smee, I don't care for the menu/extra's either, I just prefer ISO's as it's only one file per movie and easier to work with.

I assume that all of this is copyrighted.

ISO: Besides the standards organization, this in the CD world is a CD image format somewhat similar to a BIN/CUE image fileset, but the one single .ISO file contains both: the data and the CD layout information. These types of images can be burned with several CD burning programs.

An ISO file is a single-file version of the entire contents of a DVD or CD. It contains all the organization and data. It's basically an exact copy of the disc.

All DVD movies are stored in on a DVD video disc in so-called VOB files. VOB files usually contain multiplexed Dolby Digital audio and MPEG-2 video. VOB files on a DVD are numbered as follows: vts_XX_y.vob where XX represents the title and Y the part of the title. There can be 99 titles and 10 parts, although vts_XX_0.vob does not contain any video, usually just menu or navigational information. You can find them on a DVD video disc in a subdirectory labelled VIDEO_TS (all upper case).

All VOB files are essentially MPEG2 Program streams with audio, video, sub-picture and navigation data multiplexed. A VOB file is organized as a set of cells; a cell is a basic unit of play data. Each cell consists of a sequence of units called VOBUs. Each VOBU is a sequence of
packs. The first pack in a VOBU is a navigation pack and contains Program Control Information (PCI) packet and Data Search Information (DSI) packet. The remaining packs contain audio,
video and sub-picture data multiplexed together. Each pack has a fixed size of 2048 bytes. A pack typically contains only one data packet and may be stuffed with dummy bytes or a packet
called ‘padding’ bytes/packet to make it a fixed size.
DVD allows easy navigation in its audio and video data. Information for navigation across different VTS is contained in the VMGM. Within a title, the play order of different cells (from one
or more VOBs in the title) is described in a Program Chain (PGC). A PGC is a logical unit to present a part of or the entire Title or Menu. A PGC is further divided into programs. Each program contains integral number of cells. A Title may have one or more PGCs. However, a Title
that has parental guidance levels, will have more than one PGC. Depending on the parental level selected by the DVD disk viewer, the PGCs are selected for being played. PGC contains PGCI
which gives the order of presentation of cells within that PGC.
The information for presentation of a cell, such as the angle information for seamless and nonseamless play and highlight information is contained in the Navigation packs occurring within the
When playing non-seamlessly, the cells within a logical block are placed contiguously. Therefore, during cell presentation, intermittent blocks may have to be skipped depending on the angle information selected by the DVD disk viewer.
An angle block is a logical block containing cells for different angle presentations. During presentation, not all the cells within the block are played. The different angle cells are of almost
the same play time and since they are placed adjacent to each other, the DVD disk viewer can seamlessly change from one angle to another.
When playing a parental level seamlessly, cells from different VOBs may be interleaved in a logical block. Such a block is called an interleaved block. Each unit of VOB that lies in an interleaved block is called an ILVU of that VOB. This means that the cells in a VOB may not be placed contiguously over the physical address space and may be interleaved with ILVUs from other VOBs.

If you have the right codecs, you can play VOB files as if they were mpeg2s. Most (but not all) DVD player programs will allow you to play all the VOBs for a movie as if they were on the DVD.
electron said:
I don't care for the menu/extra's either, I just prefer ISO's as it's only one file per movie and easier to work with.
There are ways to combine VOBs into a single file. I've never done it.

You need to be careful with large video files - depending on what you want to do with them. If you have a 4G file on your hard drive, it's no problem to play it. If you want to burn it to a data DVD you will have problems - the normal standard only allows for 2G files. Writing larger ones may cause problems. Most DVD authoring software (e.g., Sonic MyDVD) will automatically break files up into multiple VOBs (usually 1G each).

Software like DVDShrink allows you to control the size. If you use DVDShrink to rip a DVD to the hardrive, you can select just the parts you want and write them to a single file.

You don't have to worry about any of this if you use ISOs. But, they will take more room on the drive and will require the above mentioned daemon or similar to play.

It's not unusual for people to do the same thing with games - copy the ISO to the hard drive and use a daemon - so that they don't need to put the CD in the drive every time they want to play the game. Newer games are being written to check and see if this is the case and not run if it is. I don't know if someone will find a way to prevent DVD ISOs from playing - it's probably something MS could build into the OS if given a reason.
electron said:
you are right, I just don't do much DVD ripping, so I don't worry too much about it.
I don't either. It's too easy to put the disc in the DVD player and I don't feel any great need to fill hard drives just for the sake of filling them.

I usually only do it when I want to convert them to divx to play on my ppc.

If I had kids, I'd probably put their movies on the hard drive in an instant. I'd much rather have them played through a MediaMVP (or similar) that only requires touching a remote control.

Of course, every so often I'm tempted by the idea of having every episode of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" instantly available.
Thanks smee and electron. I appreciate the info. Hmmm, what else do I (and Rupp?) need to know...

I'm sure we will come up with more questions...

Other then Windows Media Center, is there any other user friendly software for PVR (Tivo - Replay type functions) to pause live TV ?

(I did do some Googling, was over whelmed and didn't understand even half of what I found on HT type stuff) (about the same over on AVS forums)

You guys that use it are, in my opinion, and for me, a much better and more reliable resource.

The two major commercial programs for PVR are:

There are others,: numerous shareware, free, once-free programs. But in terms of getting a reasonably solid and well supported commercial product, I think those two are about it. There may be something else I'm missing. It becomes difficult to keep track of all the options and if you want to do it right will really require a lot of research and downloading of trial versions.

I've used both of the two above. Currently, I'm running BeyondTV on a Hauppauge PVR250-equipped machine. I only use it for recording - not to view live TV. This is not because it can't do it, but rather because I don't want to overwhelm the underpowered computer I'm running it on (and the composite TV out on that computer leaves a little to be desired). It works beautifully to record video, however.

I've also used trial versions of SageTV. I have a licensed copy now, but I haven't installed it yet.

The arguments for and against BeyondTV and SageTV usually come down to personal preferences. They both have similar capabilities these days. It's only when you want to get fancier (multiple tuners, servers, etc.) that you really start to see differences.

I'm not planning to move to MCE any time soon. I primarily want to use the PC to record TV. I have other ways to play music, movies, etc. Both BeyondTV and SageTV handle this well.

PS - I'm glad to see you mentioned Replay. If you look back at some of my posts, you'll see that I tend to complain when people mention TiVo without mentioning Replay. :)
The unfortunate thing about BeyondTV is that it will cost you if you want more than 3 tuners, they will charge you a 'tuner license'. Sage TV was about the same in functionality, but 2.0 is really nice, and the new beta version is really incredible, I am close to buying a license for this myself.
What do you mean more than one turner? Can a PC record more than one program at a time if it has mulitple tuner cards installed? Are most PC's powerful enough to do this?
As long as you stick with the PVR type tuners, most systems won't have a problem as long as the HD can keep up. MCE 2004 supports 1 tuner only, MCE 2005 supports 2 regular tuners + 1 HDTV tuner. Both SaveTV and BeyondTV can handle multiple tuners too, and MythTV isn't even picky about the hardware, you can use the cheap TV cards , but you will need a fast cpu if you don't use tv tuners with onboard mpeg2 encoders.