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Unleashing Microsoft Windows Vista Media Center 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 002-9236736712
ISBN-10: 0789736713
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About the Author

Mark Edward Soper has taught computer troubleshooting and other technical subjects to thousands of students from Maine to Hawaii since 1992. Mark is the author of nine books, most recently Maximum PC Microsoft Windows Vista Exposed, and coauthor of nine books, most recently Upgrading and Repairing Networks, 5th Edition. He is a longtime contributor to Upgrading and Repairing PCs, working on the 11th through 18th editions. He has contributed chapters to Upgrading and Repairing Networks Second Edition, Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP (all editions) and Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Vista. Mark is currently writing Upgrading and Repairing PCs: A+ Certification Study Guide, 3rd Edition. He is a regular contributor to Maximum PC magazine and website and has contributed chapters to Maximum PC Guide to Building a Dream PC and Maximum PC Ultimate PC Performance Guide.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



In this Introduction

  • Maximizing the Potential of Windows Vista's Multimedia Control Center

  • How This Book Is Organized

One of the most significant, yet least used, features in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions, is, ironically, so massive that it once required its own version of Windows XP. That feature is, of course, Windows Media Center (WMC).

WMC enables your PC to be the hub of your digital entertainment experience, and thanks to Windows Vista, you need not sacrifice basic Windows capabilities to enjoy the convergence of TV, movies, music, photography, and video. And to make it even more enjoyable, WMC is just as much at home in a media room with a big-screen HDTV as it is on your desktop. WMC enables you to sit back, relax with your favorite snacks and beverages, and surf your home media resources the same way you surf TV channels.

Maximizing the Potential of Windows Vista's Multimedia Control Center

Despite its capabilities, though, WMC is often overlooked by users looking to get more enjoyment and more usefulness out of Windows Vista. This book's Job 1 is to make sure you, the reader, understand what WMC can do, how it makes your life easier and more fun, and, not least, how you can build upon WMC to customize your digital media experience.

As you'll discover by reading this book, you can use portions of WMC without adding any special hardware to a typical PC. But, if you want to maximize what it can do, you'll also discover how to customize your existing system's hardware, which software components to add, and how to use other parts of Windows Vista to make WMC even more powerful and enjoyable.

As you read this book, you're sure to discover, just as I have, that WMC's simple interface conceals a very powerful, yet user-friendly, media hub. Helping you unleash that power is what this book is all about.

How This Book Is Organized

This book contains 16 chapters and two appendixes, covering every aspect of WMC from "What is WMC?" in Chapter 1 to "How do I solve problems with WMC?" in Chapter 16. Let's take a closer look at what you'll find between the covers of this book.

Part I, "Getting Started with Windows Vista Media Center," includes the following chapters:

Chapter 1, "Introducing Windows Vista Media Center," helps you understand the role that WMC plays in the Windows Vista experience, its Windows XP ancestors, and the WMC interface. It's the perfect way to introduce yourself to WMC, or as we often refer to it in these pages, WMC.

Chapter 2, "Equipping Your PC for Media Center," shows you the hardware that different components of WMC need to use. Whether you're building a PC from the ground up, remodeling an existing PC for use with WMC, or preparing to buy a computer for use with WMC, it's a must-read chapter.

Chapter 3, "Setting Up Windows Media Center," gives you a front-row seat as we set up a typical PC for use with WMC. From adjusting your picture to setting up your TV tuner, you'll understand the process from start to finish.

Once WMC is configured, it's time to enjoy it. That's what Part II, "Enjoying Media with WMC," is all about:

Chapter 4, "Viewing and Recording Live TV," shows you how to watch broadcast, cable, and Internet TV, how to deal with standard, digital, and HDTV, and how to record TV shows and series so you can enjoy them on your own schedule.

Chapter 5, "Watching and Recording Movies," shows you how to find out when your favorite movies will be broadcast on TV and how to enjoy your favorite films whether they're on TV, on DVD, or on your hard disk.

Chapter 6, "Importing and Playing Audio," guides you through the process of ripping your CD library to disk, creating playlists, enjoying Internet radio, and synchronizing the contents of a portable media player so you can take your music with you when you leave WMC.

Chapter 7, "Importing and Viewing Photos," helps you grab your photos from your digital camera, organize them, view them, fix common problems, and create impromptu slide shows with music.

WMC isn't just for enjoying media. You can also use it to explore the worlds of sports, news, gaming, and even use it to create your own media, as you'll discover in Part III, "Beyond the Basics of WMC," which includes:

Chapter 8, "Enjoying Sports with Windows Media Center," shows you how to enjoy the riches of sports news, TV, games, and fantasy sports from the comfort of your easy chair and media room.

Chapter 9, "Playing Games and Enjoying Online Content," helps you play the same family-friendly games included with Windows Vista from the comfort of the WMC interface, shows you how to turn WMC into a hardcore gaming launcher, and introduces you to third-party features that enable you to enjoy even more digital music, video, news, and other media without leaving the WMC interface.

Chapter 10, "Creating CDs and DVDs," is your step-by-step guide to creating CDs and DVDs of your favorite music, video, and photos right from the WMC interface.

WMC is powerful all by itself, but your home network makes it even more powerful, as you learn in Part IV, "Adding Windows Vista Media Center to Your Home Network," which includes:

Chapter 11, "Adding and Using Media Center Extenders," introduces you to a hidden side of your Xbox 360: the ability to access your PC's WMC interface via your home network. You'll also learn about other types of Media Center Extenders and how to improve their performance.

Chapter 12, "Connecting with Windows Home Server and Other PCs," helps you use WMC to enjoy media resources on PCs everywhere on your home network, including Microsoft's new Windows Home Server. You'll also learn how to fine-tune your home network for better performance, discover the best choices for Internet service, and learn how to tell when your router is slowing down your network.

Part V, "Enhancing Windows Vista Media Center," helps you learn to make Windows Vista Media Center more powerful by using it in conjunction with other Windows Vista components and third-party applications, and it helps you manage the most common issues you might encounter.

Chapter 13, "Using Windows Media Player with Windows Media Center," shows you how Windows Media Player works with WMC, how to configure its audio-ripping feature so you get the music quality and format you prefer, how to easily create playlists and rate audio, how to edit track and album information, and how to add visualizations so you can enjoy the full capabilities of your digital music collection within WMC.

Chapter 14, "Creating Photo and Video Content for Media Center," helps you explore how to import video, use Windows Live Photo Gallery to make your picture library more WMC-friendly, how to use Windows Movie Maker to shrink the size of your TV recordings, create custom videos, and create DVD slide shows you can enjoy in WMC and elsewhere.

Chapter 15, "Extending Media Center with Third-Party Apps," shows you an exciting world of programs you can use to customize WMC, make its built-in features more powerful, and add new features and capabilities. We've tracked down the software, so you can choose from a wealth of options to make WMC the media center you've always dreamed of.

Chapter 16, "Troubleshooting Media Center," provides expert advice on dealing with the most common problems you might run into and helps you protect your digital media collection.

This book also includes two appendices designed to help readers with specific questions:

Appendix A, "Using Windows Anytime Upgrade to Get WMC Features and More," is a must-read if you have a version of Windows Vista that doesn't include WMC (such as Windows Vista Basic or Business), or if you want to move up from Windows Vista Home Premium to the ultimate (Windows Vista Ultimate). This appendix helps you understand the process of using Windows Anytime Upgrade to move up to a better version of Windows Vista.

Appendix B, "Moving from Windows XP Media Center Editions to Windows Vista Media Center," helps users running PCs with Windows XP Media Center Edition to make the move to Windows Vista.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Que Publishing; 1 edition (November 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789736713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789736710
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,695,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've always been interested in things that go fast, like airplanes and trains. However, it took me until my late 20's to discover that the world's fastest ' and most versatile ' devices didn't have wheels.
My background in English, history, and French makes me somewhat unusual in the technology writing field, but it gives me a big advantage when it comes to helping ordinary people understand how the Internet, PCs, servers, and digital cameras work. I stay up to date by reading technology blogs, newsletters and websites, and experimenting on 'FrankenPC' and my office network.
Although I've been contributing to books since 1999, I cut my technology writing teeth in the mid-1980's. Do you remember the Commodore 64 and its inscrutable 1541 floppy disk drive manual? My first piece of tech writing crunched down the essentials an ordinary user needed to know to get programs running to a single page. A few years later, exasperated with salespeople who kept selling PC clone configurations the techs in the back room could never get to work right, I wrote a compatibility handbook for my then-employer, a computer store. In the meantime, I spent a lot of time talking users through configuring startup files with DOS's ghastly Edlin line editor and discovering the brave new world of desktop publishing and scalable fonts.
I turned that expertise into a new part-time career as a magazine writer, first for WordPerfect Magazine (1989-1995), and later for Sandhills Publishing (1991-2001). In the meantime, I provided consulting and training services to area businesses, and, starting in 1992, spent most of the rest of the decade traveling the US and teaching classes on computer troubleshooting, workgroup networking, and other subjects. I also wrote three book-length training manuals in 1992-1993.
Before email was common, I often submitted magazine stories by bringing my laptop computer and portable printer to the nearest UPS or FedEx drop box, hand-feeding the printer and hoping that the pick-up time shown on the box was accurate!
Beginning in early 1999, I made the decision to become a full-time writer, cheering my wife and children (who area also big technology users) by getting off the road. I teamed up with Scott Mueller, dean of computer hardware books, to help get Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 11th Edition, wrapped up on schedule. I've contributed to every edition since, and have also co-authored many books with Scott.
I've also teamed up with TechTV to write two books on computer upgrades, paired up with radio and TV tech guru Leo Laporte for two books on computer troubleshooting, and written several other books on the Internet, home networking, Windows Vista, troubleshooting, and digital photography. Right now, I'm wrapping up work on a new A+ Certification guide and a new book on Windows 7.
I'm also a freelance author for MaximumPC magazine (since 2004) and a frequent blogger on the MaximumPC.com website, with some of my articles finding a second life in the books The Maximum PC Guide to Building a Dream PC and The MaximumPC Ultimate PC Performance Guide. To keep my finger on the pulse of PC users, I also teach classes on digital photography, digital imaging, and specialized training for the Evansville campus of IvyTech Community College of Indiana (www.ivytech.edu/evansville/). I attend Grace Church of the Nazarene (www.nazarene.org). If you have questions about my books or other projects, please drop me a line.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert Casanova on November 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Mr. Soper has done another outstanding job. Unleashing Vista Windows Media Center will have a place on my shelf of reference books next to his A+ and Digital Photography books. I am not a computer expert and finding information and making things work is very time consuming at the very least. I was interested in integrating my computer to the TV and video world - specifically High Definition/Blue Ray technology and Unleashing Vista appeared at the right time. Mr. Soper seems to understand our needs and how we think. He provides the insight,details, source information and valuable useable links needed to complete a project. He makes no assumptions and covers everything in detail and always seems to anticipate my next question. The only prerequisite is enthusiasm. Mr. Soper brings everything else to the table. Easy to read!
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Well done, and thorough. Quite out of Date (that's the reason for dropping it 1 Star> However, it is still very helpful up through Windows 7 anyway, and there is little else (I could find) that even addresses the WMC in any useful detail.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marshall Reynolds on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought this product was very informative and provided excellent avenues for Windows media creations.
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