Here you'll find some recommendations around computing. Stuff that I've learned replacing Windows Media Center, maybe some Sketchup tutorials etc.
- Written by Owen
I recently purchased a pair of Bose Soundsport Bluetooth in-ear headphones. They're great and there's not a lot I'd change about them, but obviously they are limited in only being able to connect to devices that have a bluetooth radio. As I use my headphones at work, connecting to work desktop PCs was going to be a problem.
The headphones come with a little pouch which allows you to store the headphones with their charge cable and alternative ear buds, so I bought a tiny TP Link bluetooth dongle so I can use my headphones on any computer. I bought the TP Link UB400, being a general fan of TP Link's high value products.
The dongle is not much bigger than the metal part of any usb plug, so it's ideal for this purpose.
A slight downside is that Windows 7 and earlier don't have native support for the chipset used in this dongle, so to get full functionality it is recommended to install the correct drivers.
After doing that, I came across a problem that many other people also seem to have come across - poor quality audio. To be specific, the headset was using an audio profile that was limited to 8kHz (8000Hz) and mono audio. The quality is noticeably poor and no good for listening to music.
On searching for the solution, I found that the problem is down to Windows allocating the Hands Free profile to my headphones. Sure enough, going in through right clicking on the volume control and clicking Playback Devices, my headphones were listed, but only under the Hands Free profile.
Lots of the solutions from here then tell you to go to "Devices and Printers", locating your bluetooth device, right clicking, opening properties and then going to the Services tab to disable the Hands Free profile. This answer is so prevalent that I'm sure it must work for the majority of users, however, the property window on the desktops I was using just didn't have a Services tab.
More searching brought up another user complaining about the same thing and his solution was to buy a new dongle from a different manufacturer.
While the dongle's aren't expensive, this solution is unnecessary, if not entirely wasteful!
The answer to this problem is actually in TP Link's FAQs for the dongle, so I may be unnecessarily duplicating information, but I felt it was worth sharing anyway.
If you cannot see the Services tab in your bluetooth device's properties, try this instead:
Open your system tray (click on the up arrow to the left of the clock in the task bar.
This will show you a number of icons, one of which should be the Bluetooth Logo.
In the case of the CSR software (as supplied via the TP Link driver download), right click on the bluetooth icon and select "Show bluetooth devices".
This should open the "My Computer > Bluetooth Devices" window and from here you definitely can access the Services page. Unlike the solution for going via "Devices and Printers", this solution doesn't use the properties window for your headphones, instead, double click the headphone icon and you will be taken to the Services window.
In this window, you'll probaby see more services than you thought would be required for listening to music, but critically, you should see one titled A2DP (in my case A2DP (Sink)) and another titled Handsfree Profile.
Right click on the Handsfree profile and click "Disconnect". This should result in the A2DP profile staying connected.
Now, return to the Playback Devices window (right click volume control > Playback Devices) and there should now be another device listed titled something like "Bluetooth Audio Renderer - Bluetooth Stereo Audio". Set this as default and you should get 16bit, 44.1kHz audio playing back.
The next time I connected my headphones, they did default back to the Handsfree connection, but this time the Stereo renderer was at least available in the Playback Devices list. Since you'll probably need to go into that window to switch your audio from the PC Speakers, it's not so hard to set the Stereo renderer to being the default device.
The links in this article are affiliate links and as an associate with Amazon, I will receive a small portion of profits made from qualifying sales made after following the link.
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- Written by Owen
I installed Plex a little while ago when I wanted to access my music using DLNA on my AV Receiver and Windows Media Player's implementation was just too slow and not up to the job.
I got Plex installed, libraries discovered and I was up and running with a fast and reliable server pretty much straight away.
Since then, I've moved my TV recording onto NextPVR, with MCE Buddy archiving recordings to MP4 as mentioned in previous articles and Plex just handles this without any major complications.
On top of simple set up and configuration, it ticks all of my boxes for Media Server requirements - it looks good, I have remote access and more recently (and pretty critically), there's an Alexa skill that allows me to play music directly to my Echo devices.
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- Written by Owen
After a few searches and a friend's recommendation, I've settled on NextPVR as my PVR solution.
NextPVR is a good replacement for Media Center in it's entirety. It is able to handle all of the media categories previously handled by Media Center - Photos, Music, Videos, Recorded TV and DVD. It has a good web interface built in and it seems pretty reliable and well supported so far. As with any PVR/freeware solutions, there are some weak points and a few bugs, but nothing insurmountable.
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- Written by Owen
As mentioned in the PVR article, I find the list view of NextPVR harder to use than the grid view that Media Center offered. I also wanted to move a lot of the children's programming and movies out of the recorded TV view so we limited it down to the current recorded programmes or anything within the last two weeks.
Added to this, I had already installed a media server and it would be an advantage for portability if I could convert my TV shows to MP4.
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- Written by Owen
So I was one of the smart ones who saw the potential in Windows Media Center back in the days of Windows XP. At that point, it met all of my requirements straight out of the box - I could record TV, search the EPG, manage music, video and photos. It was also a little bit portable - I could at least access it all via my Xbox360.
I upgraded to Windows 7 and carried on with the slightly improved Media Center and even paid for the Windows 8 Media Center add on.
And then it all went wrong.
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I was a heavy user of Windows Media Center, but with support for that coming to an end, I've managed to put together a system that meets and goes beyond the capabilities of Media Center.
My replacement uses 4 applications to meet my exact requirements and they can be seen in this simple flowchart:
The articles in this section take you through all of the above in varying amounts of detail!