I’ve been running a Windows Vista Media Center system for several years now. And it does a pretty good job. All of my DVDs, HD DVDs and Blu-rays are available with a click (thanks to Handbrake). A dual HDTV tuner card captures all our free to air shows to watch when we’re ready. The system supports full HD with 5.1 AC3 & DTS, from a large range of codecs (including MKV with subtitles). It works pretty darn well.
Most of the time.
The problem with using a PC is that it’s never perfect. And it doesn’t just keep running with out some maintenance. You get weird crashing. It has issues with some flavours of h264. Being a full ATX PC with a ton of drives, it uses a lot of juice and it’s noisy. You get tearing due to refresh rate issues. That among quite a lot of other things.
I’m close to making the jump to ATV. But i have quite a few things holding me back. Full HD. DVR & program guide. And while i’m complaining: I want to use iPhoto. But i can’t. I have several systems. It’s really difficult to sync the libraries completely. This crap drives me crazy!
Anyway, i know this is an indulgent post, but this is what i’d like – more-so for my own record.
Apple Media Central
AMC would be a media server application which should run on either Mac or PC, just as iTunes does. This is the central location for master iTunes & iPhoto libraries. Multiple libraries could be hosted simultaneously.
Client iPhoto, iTunes and ATV systems can either subscribe to, or synchronize with, one or more of these libraries. When a user makes changes to a synchronized library, these changes are replicated on the AMC and the on other clients. Clients can specify if this sync happens over either LAN and/or WAN.
AMC should also feature DVR extensibility. It should feature DVB/ATSC tuner support, and ability to stream/schedule recordings from ATV & iTunes clients. I’m sure a framework could be provided to allow third parties (ie Elegato) to build products to suit – which eases Apples task.
This functionality could/should also be embedded into the ATV. Whether the DVR functionality is within the AMC or the ATV, the program guide and recordings should be synchronized to all locations automatically.
The ability for iTunes to rip DVD’s and Blu-ray would be amazing, though i can still get by with doing this with Handbrake. Even better would be the ability to rip multiple movies & menus in one file, to allow full DVD / BD rips. Kind of like what was brought in with the .divx menu format. But good. I don’t like that i’ve moved away from all that bonus material, just because it’s a pain to organize on HDD.
Support for DTS in m4v files. My ears need to continue to sizzle.
Obviously would love MKV support but this will never happen. However DTS passthrough is important. To me.
It needs A DVB/ATSC tuner, either embedded, as an add on, or accessed remotely from AMC. Recordings can be synced back to iTunes / or AMC. In my opinion the ATV has such potential to be nearly as popular as the iPhone is now, however to be accepted by the mainstream it needs to allow people to still consume their free-to-air media (at least here in AU). My wife and my kids have their children’s programing, reality, cooking TV etc. I can get this stuff from online, but it’s not instant and it takes a bit of manual effort. I’m not so worried about cable/paid content. If you’re gonna pay for stuff, just get it from iTunes. Otherwise, buy it elsewhere, and import it yourself.
And i’ll mention the 1080p and app support, but that’s just obvious.