Jargon Buster: Media PC's

Jargon Buster: Media PC's

Dan Chiappini delves into multimedia jargon in our monthly tech term glossary.

A technology being jointly developed by Intel, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi, DTCP-IP (Digital Transmission Content Protection over Internet Protocol) is a content delivery system for secure DRM transmission via media extenders. DTCP-IP also has applications for 'on-demand' video content delivery such as movies via a subscription service.

Digital Rights Management is a loose term for any form of content encryption that restricts its use. This type of content lock is most frequently found on copyrighted materials such as audio recordings and movies. An example of DRM is the CSS protection found on DVDs, which consists of a 40-bit encryption algorithm protecting users from copying the DVD. MCE makes use of DRM by allowing you to burn DVDs from within the interface but stopping you from being able to play them back on standalone home players.

EPG (Electronic Programming Guide)
An electronic program guide is central, usually remote, location that stores a TV broadcast guide. When integrated with a PVR like MCE, it let's you simply select a show by name and it will grab the times and dates for recording. Currently, Australia has no official EPG for MCE.

TV Tuner
TV tuners allow your PC to receive a TV signal from a standard aerial. You'll typically find them in one of three forms: an external breakout box; integrated into a graphics card; or available as a separate card. They're available in either analog or digital flavours.

 Having multiple TV capture cards means simultaneous recording.

Hard disk
While MCE's have a wide range of customisable parts, usually they will include some form of hardware MPEG-2 encoder/decoder for creating and playing back recorded video. To do this the machine requires plenty of hard disk space, with around 3GB of raw space needed for every one hour of video recording. For this reason most machines have well over 100GBs of drive space.

Microsoft Windows Media Centre 2004
The first iteration of Microsoft's Media Centre was released to overseas markets such as the United States in late September 2003 and was targeted at users looking to take their PC out of the bedroom and put it in the loungeroom. MCE 2004 was based on Windows XP Professional and featured TV recording, simple file browsing, and an integrated remote control. When connected to a television or other display source it allowed users to time-shift and pause live television by writing the lapsed time to a built-in hard disk drive. Currently, the software is only available with a MCE certified machine.

Microsoft Windows Media Centre 2005
The 2005 variant of MCE is Australia's first version. It contains several upgraded features from its original release, catering for more remote controls, and multiple tuner support. It also adds improved integrated CD and DVD burning software and an updated interface. One of the biggest changes to the 2005 version is the addition of Media Centre Extenders, allowing you to stream content to other receivers around your home. Unfortunately the battle over an Australian EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is still ongoing and is not present in the 2005 version of MCE.

 MCE's uncluttered layout and animated transitions makes it simple to use and easy on the eye.


PVR or Personal Video Recording is a generic term for applied to devices that record live television. The captured signal can be stored on a dedicated hard drive or optical media. Most PVR software also lets you pause a live TV feed for a certain period (MCE allows you to pause up to half an hour), which you can rewind and fast forward later. Another added benefit of some PVRs is the automatic cutting of commercials.

Having two tuners allows you to record two different channels at once as well as play back previously recorded television. Third party Open-Source projects such as mythTV (www.mythtv.org) are available and provide a free alternative to Microsoft.

Remote controller
Microsoft has certified several flavours of remote control, the first being a standard AV sized remote which works in conjunction with a USB powered IR receiver. There is also a smaller version with slightly less features for the mobile market such as notebooks. The third is the newest type and allows you to control multiple tuners with just a single remote.
This feature appeared in the March, 2005 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

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