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From the author of A Media Center Extender

Showtime

With setup complete, you are now ready to experience Windows Media Center on your TV. If you haven't worked with Windows Media Center, please understand this: you are really missing out. Media Center does a phenomenal job of not only categorizing your media, but the presentation for playback is stunning.

One of the strongest draws to Media Center is the ability to record and display HD TV. Many find that this is quite an upgrade to their standard DVR. Of course, you have the normal play, pause and rewind features, and there are plenty of choices for configuring your recording options. As for your sharing capabilities, you can share HD programming from various sources, such as a TV tuner or cable. You can also pull in Internet video services, such as Netflix, Showtime and Fox Sports. And with a few software plug-ins, you can watch YouTube videos, view online photo albums such as Picassa, and even stream radio stations. Some extenders, such as the Linksys DMA2200, integrate the latest in 1080i upscaling DVD players with Media Center. With HD video resolutions of up to 1080, you can enjoy life-like picture quality on your 1080p-capable HDTV. And, of course, there are a variety of WMV and MPEG resolutions supported as well.

The menu interface has evolved into quite a work of its own. The menus have been streamlined and some subtle touches create a dramatic impact. Here's one you might like: After turning on a TV show, as you move back to the menu, the background becomes semi-transparent like an active background to your menu. Another welcome addition is the turbo scroll. No more laboring through endless titles to get to your track. Simply holding down the scroll on your remote will make all your titles start to zoom by. And here's a bonus feature for you: With a little tweaking, you can configure all your home automation devices. Imagine controlling your lights, home security system, and more through the integrated controls of Windows 7 Media Center. Of course, there's always the requisite automatic updates from Microsoft to keep you running stable. And since we're talking about updates, you'll want to make sure the firmware for your routers and extenders are always up to date.

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