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Media Center and dual-output

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    This is why I hate "simplification" and "user-friendliness" because it dumbs down complicated stuff to its detriment.

    Example: My Sony Vaio MCE laptop with nVidia GeForce Go 7400 GPU with tri-output: 1) Built-in display, 2) S-Video-out, 3) VGA-out

    In the adverts, I see the MCE computer hooked up to some sort of oversized TV with some crystal clear image of MCE displayed.

    So I hooked up the laptop to my TV (a more humble 28" affair) via the S-Video output (connected via SCART-In, and all brits know SCART IS TEH GREASY POOP!). The nVidia software (not Windows) then has control over what happens next, I've got 3 options:

    a) Disable secondary/tertiary output
    b) Clone primary output to secondary
    c) Let Windows control them has two separate monitors

    Since the primary display is 1280x800 (weird, I know) I can't choose "Clone" because my TV doesn't support that high a resolution, so I chose "Let Windows..."

    I cranked the resolution down to the lowest setting, 640x480 and dragged Notepad over.

    It looks horrible!

    • Colors are all incorrect
    • No concept of discrete pixels (fine details are all a mess)
    • The 640x480 "screen" extends beyond the visible tube of the TV
    ...I've had this experience before when I tried the S-Video output from my main computer and channeled the cable through the wall, image quality (clarity and colors) were improved when I used Composite Video with my main computer, but my Vaio doesn't support that, so nevermind that.

    So remember kids! If you ever see those adverts/propaganda with MCE's main-menu showing up on a TV, they're lying! (Or they've got a very expensive TV or one that doesn't suck... or something)

    I decided not to bother hooking up the MCE laptop with the TV and instead have it wired to the projector instead (A cheap Epson model, with an LCD resolution of 800x600 but it won't let you align the picture properly, so ironically 1024x768 looks better than 800x600)

    Now it works better, I can actually read notepad when it's dragged over (Again, I can't opt for the "dual-view" option in the nVidia CP because my projector doesn't support the aspect ratio the primary display uses)

    The only way I can get MCE to be seen on the projector now is if I restore it, drag it over to the secondary display, then maximise it. Now it works pretty much "as intended"... except I don't get it on the primary display (not that big a deal, but I would like my setup to be like it is in the adverts)

    ...oh, and when I'm watching video/TV (via an MCE-compatible TV tuner plugged in the USB port) I don't get the nice transparency-effect around the info bars... and the EPG doesn't work either, even though it said it downloaded it all.

    So my questions:

    • Why does my TV suck at displaying S-Video (but not Composite)?
    • How do they set MCE up (like in the adverts) so that it shows the same on both displays, even accomodating differences in resolution and aspect ratio (for instance in one shot the computer monitor is 4:3 and the TV is 16:9, but MCE is resized differently (and looks decent) on both displays
    • Why doesn't it all "just work"?
    BTW: Yes I've gone through the "TV Setup" panel in Media Center.

    Of course, I'm a "power user" so I was able to mitigate the dozens of minor issues I had before I got to this stage, including the somewhat conflicting "Sony Media Server/Client" software (Sony's version of Media Center that uses a Client/Server architecture, that only comes supplied with Vaio computers, naturally a cynical ploy to make less-informed consumers ensure all their PCs are Vaios)

    So I challenge Microsoft, to make Media Center Vista so that it doesn't suck in British living rooms, what with our stupid connectors, formats, and TV sets.

  • User profile image

    You should know by now that advertisements (especially ones that involve screen images) don't represent reality and aren't to be trusted.  Most of the time, screen images in ads are photoshopped.

    (Standard definition) TVs are great at displaying moving images, but are horrible at displaying still/high res. images.  You can't expect much unless you're using a VGA or DVI connection to the TV (hooked my laptop up to a projector the other night for a while via S-Video until something broke, then had to go VGA and it was like night and day).

  • User profile image

    This may be a little off topic, but also may have some value for people that wish to setup a cheap, easy and extensible media extender solution.

    I have been playing with different types of media extender solutions for a little over 3 years now, and my conclusions / opinions may be a little shocking to some.

    First of all, just about every 'dedicated' extender solution I have tried has been over-priced and lacking in features and quality.

    My advice for anyone wishing to stream media from their PC to their TV/home Entertainment system is cost effective and works wondrously well, in fact better than any other solution I have tried, although my solution does NOT support any features for watching TV on your PC. The only feature supported is PC to TV / Home Theatre streaming.

    The cost should be < $150 USD to fully implement my solution.

    What is my secret you ask? The ms XBOX (not xbox 360, the media extender features built into the 360 are crappy IMHO)

    I can stream music and movie files (all types except DRM'ed) to my home theatre receiver, and the quality of the sound/ display is amazing.

    The original xbox does not come with any native support for streaming media from your PC. Enter the Xecuter  chip and Team Executer bios.

    Things you will need.

    Original Xbox
    Xecuter Chip
    Xbox Wireless Kit (or just wire your xbox to your router / hub with cat 5)

    My setup goes like this:

    Xbox1 is hardwired to my router.
    Xbox1 - Component video Into My Home Theatre receiver
    xbox1 -  IR audio into Home theatre receiver.

    xbox2 - wireless
    xbox2 -  standard audio(yellow/white cables) into bedroom TV
    xbox2 - svideo into Bedroom TV

    Note: You don't need multiple xboxes unless you want to stream to multiple sources (IE multiple TV's / receivers).

    I won't go into the details of installing the chip, there are tons of tutorials that cover it already.

    Once you have the xecuter chip installed all you need to do is install XBMC and configure it on each of your XBOXes.

    Used xboxes are around $50 USD.

    Using the XBMC program, you can stream files from any PC (including multiple PC's) or play files directly from the XBox HDD.

    The features and quality of XBMC is truly wonderful, and it is very easy to use.


    Sorry that doesn't directly help you W3bbo, I just thought it may help others looking for a cheap and efficient media extender solution.

    * The opinions expressed within this post are entirely my own. I take no responsibility for any actions resulting from following any of the statements contained within this post.

  • User profile image

    I've seen MCE running on a TV screen, I think it was a pretty good TV though. Maybe if you had a nice HD-TV you might be able to get it to work. I've used a TV as a monitor before, and it wasn't all that bad although reading any text was pretty hard.

    Angus Higgins

  • User profile image

    I run MCE on my reg 27" NTSC TV often... and it looks great... always has..... always will (i hope).... if you are having resolution issues give Riva Tuner a shot...

    Tho there was a NV tweak util that should be in the newest detonator drivers.....

    For even more control powerstrip is the way to (with a link inside)

    not too sure how it does with PAL but i would guess that there should be no problems...

    as has been mentioned Older tube tv's just can't give you the rich display you are after.... if you are wanting that you'll really need to look at component or HDMI or DVI/VGA etc as an input source.....

    and to answer the question of "how do they get the screens to look so good on two displays....." --- Photoshop

    hope that helps a little.....

  • User profile image

    Ang3lFir3 wrote:
    as has been mentioned Older tube tv's just can't give you the rich display you are after.... if you are wanting that you'll really need to look at component or HDMI or DVI/VGA etc as an input source.....

    Well nevermind it all now, since I've declared the main TV too poo for anything other than "normal" TV, something is certainly wrong with its S-Video hardware.

    Using the MCE laptop with the projector (instead of the TV) has met wide-approval from all the other members of the household (er... 2 people) and I think I'll keep the status-quo.

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