We missed an episode of Torchwood last week, so I decided to give the BBC's iPlayer a go. I installed the software from the website easily enough and it told me to restart Firefox before it would work. Fair enough, thinks I, so I restart the browser and navigate to the iPlayer download page and select Torchwood. I select the download option and it then bizarrely launches an instance of Internet Explorer to do the job.
Now why on Earth would it do this? I've seem a few websites that are totally IE dependent (anything hosted on Sharepoint for example), but the iPlayer installer specifically mentioned restarting Firefox so it makes no sense in this case.
Despite this WTF, it downloaded the program fairly quickly. I play the first few seconds of it in Windows Media Player to check it's OK, but really what I wanted to do was to watch the program on our 32" HD screen in the living room, sat on the comfy sofa, etc, rather than watching on a 20" PC monitor on a hard chair in a small office. Well, I have an Xbox 360 which can play back media so I thought it should be a doddle to get the two machines talking over our wireless network. How wrong I was...
Firstly, I booted up the 360 and went to its Media Center (Note to Microsoft, it's spelt "Centre" in the UK). It provided me with an eight digit number to type into Windows Media Center on my PC. I have Vista Home Premium 64 on my PC, which includes Windows Media Center. I launch this program and follow the instructions to add a "Media Extender" which apparently the 360 is from the point of view of the PC. I enter the number and wait...
By this point, the 360 says it's downloading something, but after a minute or two it claims the connection was broken. The PC says the same thing. I try again with the same result.
After a bit of thought, I recall seeing a Media Sharing option in the Vista Control panel, so I switch this on (it's able to see the 360 on the network with no problems), but the 360 isn't able to see my PC.
I go through the whole Media Extender setup again and this time it seems to succeed. The PC did complain that my wireless network wasn't going to be fast enough to stream video (surely 54Mbps is quick enough, even if shared across two devices). The 360 now has a Media Center UI on screen, identical to the one in Vista.
However, all is not well. Navigating this screen results in a huge lag of a few seconds for each button press (though the background is animating smoothly). The PC is able to navigate without any problems, even when connected to the 360. I eventually get into the videos section and see that the Torchwood episode is indeed there. I click play and it says it doesn't know how to play it despite it being a Windows Media format file.
At this point, we just give up and watch the episode in the office on my PC. The image quality of iPlayer content isn't bad at all. It's a bit fuzzier than broadcast digital TV, but my PC seems to do a much better job of smoothing out DCT macroblocks than my TV does (perhaps the difference between MPEG2 and WMV). Also, it was a good episode!
So... Why was this process so difficult? Why did it fail when I tried to play the video on the 360? Why was there so much lag navigating the Media Center UI on the 360? Would it not have been a lot simpler for the 360 to present a shared drive to the network that I can copy videos/music/etc onto and then simply play them locally?
Answers on a postcard (or preferably in the comments box).