Mythbuntu (8.04) versus Windows Media Center (Vista & XP)

As some you may have read in one of my previous posts, I really was tired of using Windows Media Center. At that moment I decided that I was going to take a look to other Media Center software. After looking around for a while and find some great projects, like Elisa and Media Portal I decided to use Mythbuntu. As you can guess a combination of Ubuntu and MythTV.

I’ve been running a dedicated HTPC for about 5 years, first with Windows XP Media Center after that I used Vista Media Center for about a year and since three weeks I’m running Mythbuntu. So I think I can give a fair opinion between Windows Media Center and Mythbuntu. It is still an opinion, so you don’t have to agree with me.

Installation Let’s take a look at the beginning the installation. Both products have an easy to follow installation and I think everyone with a bit knowledge about computers can install both products even if you don’t have any knowledge about Linux. In my opnion both products scores equally at this point. If I really had to pick one it is going to be Mythbuntu, cause the driver installation was very very easy with the restricted driver setup.

Configuration After the easy installation it was time for configuration of both products and I really have to say, even that I’m a bit of a Linux fan, the Windows configuration was much easier then the Mythbuntu configuration.

At first the electronic program guide(EPG) was much easier to configure in Windows, I typed in my zip-code and that was it. Because I live in the Netherlands I had to use a so called grabber to grab my guide information from the Internet and with some reading it wasn’t really hard to configure but it sure takes a lot more time than the configuration of the EPG in Windows.

Another point that was not really hard, but took me a little time to figure out was that you can use different sound systems for each plug-in, so for MythTV you can use another device than for playing music. So when I thought I had running my system I could watch TV and change the sound volume, but when I was listening to some music, I couldn’t. This was easy to solve, but I it is a bit annoying if you run a dedicated system and thought you were done with the configuration.

VGA-RGB scart, I have an old television, such thing with a really big tube at the back, so not an LCD or plasma. So to gain the best picture quality I used a VGA-RGB scart cable, but since the TV cannot display standard computer resolutions, I need to configure so called custem resolutions. F or Windows there is a tool called Powerstrip to accomplishes this, but in Linux I need to configure xorg.conf and after trying this for more than 15hours I gave up, this is so much easier to do with a graphical tool like powerstrip which let you see the effect of the changes immediately. I know, not really a fault of Mythbuntu, but I struggle more with it, then I did with Windows and Powerstrip.

Further there were some small things that could have done better, like browsing to the right media folders instead of typing the complete path.

If you read this, I guess you may think Windows will easy win this point, but that is not completely true. Mythbuntu and then especially MythTV is much harder to configure then Windows, but I think this is a side effect of all the extra possibilities that MythTV has. I think if Mythbuntu / MythTV will gain more standard users, that this is a point really need some work, for example a basic set-up and an advanced setup.

Working Both products are stable and that is really important for a dedicated mediacenter, there is nothing such annoying as a reboot during that great film.

So here Windows forgets one big thing I don’t want to reboot my system while I’m watching a film or listening to some great music. When Windows got some automatic updates it gives me a question if I want to reboot or not. So I choose not, but after an hour or so, Windows is still going to reboot, this time without a question!

Also is the speed of Windows compared to Mythbuntu slow, I’ve a lot of albums and movies and if I want to browse through them in Windows Media Center, it is real slow especially compared to mythbuntu.

Both products have an easy to follow menu, but the interface of Vista Media Center is more smoother and dynamic than that of Mythbuntu. I think this has something to do with the themes that are available within Mythbuntu.

I also did the girlfriend and mother proof and for some reason they feel more comfortable with controlling the Vista Media Center than Mythbuntu, I guess this is caused by the smoothness of Vista.

Conclusion After all this it is still hard for me to say which one wins and I think it has also something to do with your needs and capabilities.

Windows Media Center has some advantages if it comes to simplicity and looks. It is easy to configure and it wins the girlfriend, mother proof test. The biggest disadvantage for me were the reboots even if I said that it may not reboot also the speed and the incapability I had after replacing the motherboard is still on my mind (see my previous post), I want control about my system. Another thing I miss is the central-server (back-end) with multiple front-ends set-ups.

Windows Media Center gives you all the basic needs for a Media Center, but if you want more you still need to look for third-party plugins.

Mythbuntu on the other hand is easy to install, but can be a bit tricky to configure, the interface is a bit simple compared to Windows, but it offers a lot more features, especially the Picture in Picture function, the MythWeb plugin and the back-end/multiple front-end setup are very cool features. It also response much quicker than Windows Media Center especially when using a folder that contains a lot of music or films.

I should say if you really want control over your system and looking for some real cool features you should definatly choose Mythbuntu. If you want a simple and easy to configure system pick Windows.

For my the choice is easy I like to have control over my system and I really like the features of Mythbuntu so that’s going to be my choice even if it takes a lot more time to configure.

A small sidenode, Mythbuntu is free and so you can give it a try if you are not sure which one to choose.

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9 thoughts on “Mythbuntu (8.04) versus Windows Media Center (Vista & XP)

  1. I’ve used both and I must say you are right about interface but is only down to the theme. You haven’t mentioned the hardware requirements. Vista needs an ultra spec to play DVD,s and HD content. Mythbuntu is more efficient. Another important aspect for which I love Mythbuntu is that you can fast forward any video in any format. Vista has huge problems with fast forwarding Divx,Xvid stuff. Lastly with Mythbuntu you can rip DVD and at the same time watch video or listen to music. Not sure if you can do that with Vista.
    Anyway, good article. Greetz

  2. Why would you use Windows? That infested OS with millions of malware programs just waiting to work themselves deep within your personal data. Use Linux it’s free and secure not to mention free. Didn’t I already say that? Microsoft needs to go away and let Linux take over!

  3. If you’re using a nvidia graphics card, try the program nvtv, a graphical tool for configuring the size of your tv-out screen…

  4. I am using mce 2005 and like the look of vista but want to get away from Microsoft
    I have 2 media center extenders that I use in other rooms
    is there any way to re use these with mythbuntu?
    If so , I am sold!

    thanks for any info you can give me

  5. Hi Marc,

    Mythbuntu has a server / cliënt interface, so technically spoken it would be no problem. The only problem is to get the software on the extenders and I’m afraid I’ve no experience with that, but if you get things working, I really like to hear it. Another open source project which is maybe interesting for you is media portal, it runs on MS Windows, so you don’t get off MS completely.

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