So I was originally was going to entitle this post “Why using MCE to make DVDs Sucks” but then I realized that in my usual fashion I was getting all wound up and that the more gentler way to discuss the DVD issue with MCE was to call it an ensy weensy little problem. Like Mama always said, “if you can’t say something nice…”
Bill Gates has stressed in the past that Microsoft wants to make technology simpler to use — and nowhere is simpler technology super important (in Gatespeak) than in the living room.
At the same time there have been those out there that have doomed the Media Center PC for the simple reason that computers are too complicated and most people are scared to death of them and certainly do not want one having anything to do with their television.
I’m writing this post while sitting on hold with an HP tech. We’ve been on the phone for 54 minutes now and still no resolution to my problem.
After abandoning the television functionality of my Media Center PC last year for the new HDTV TiVo, I recently decided to rehook my Media Center PC back up to play with the tv functionality. My HDTV TiVo is still my primary “tv” machine but it does have limitations. One of the reasons why I hooked this second MCE tv line in was so that I could make DVDs for the kids to play in the car.
So after hooking up a new DirecTV receiver to my trusty dusty old Media Center, I recorded a few shows for the kids, mostly PBSKids stuff, and decided to make my first DVD today. Now I did make a DVD on my MCE machine a few years back and quite frankly it was such a disaster of a process after making my one and only DVD I gave up.
The Play by Play (if you want to skip all of the boring details, just jump straight to the last six paragraphs)
One thing I did remember was that the first confusing step was the type of DVD itself. Originally I had purchased a 5 pack of DVD R- blank discs only to find out upon returning them home that I needed DVD R+. Very user friendly. So I returned and bought the R+ and found myself once again today down at Long’s buying another 15 pack of DVD R+.
So I got the discs home and started poking around in MCE. Sure enough there I found that right in the MCE software I could make a DVD. Wonderful! Wrong. After making my DVD I found out that it was just a data DVD — I knew it was too good to be true and I should have known better.
So the next step I took was to poke around with the application Sonic MyDVD. I seem to recall that this was the application that I used to make my DVD the last time. I launched the app and tried to use the “Get Movies” button in order to load MCE television shows into the app. No go. It seems that MCE files are not recognized. Then I further searched the internet and on hp’s site found a page that directed me how to make DVDs with Sonic MyDVD. Excellent. Now we are getting somewhere.
The problem though was that the method described for making a DVD didn’t work with my copy of MyDVD. And then I found this little gem: “NOTE: If your HP Media Center is a 863n, 873n, or 883n, update MyDVD to version 3.5.2 build 66280 or later by using the HP Software Download Web page . Upgrade MyDVD before attempting the steps in this section and to use recorded television programs.”
Ok excellent. I went to the HP page, downloaded the patch and tried to install. Once I downloaded the patch I got the following error when trying to install it.
“The Emuzed driver on this system needs to be updated to revision 2.58 (or greater) before you can proceed. You can obtain this update from Windows Update or the hp support site where you acquired this update.”
Great. So I download the emuzed driver from HP and try to install it. It tells me that the current driver I have is newer or a later version. Of course with no version of the emuzed driver will this patch allow me to apply it — not my current newer driver, nor the other driver from hp’s site, and Windows Update doesn’t recognize that the driver needs updating.
The Emuzed driver on this system needs to be updated to revision 2.58 (or greater) before you can proceed. You can obtain this update from Windows Update or the hp support site where you acquired this update.
Whew. One hour, 23 minutes and 54 seconds now on the phone with HP and on hold again. The rep has spoken with everyone there and no one else has any ideas. The closest suggestion I get is to try and go out and buy (I later find out from the advanced tech that it’s free) “Movie Mill” but then he adds that it won’t work with MCE television files though.
I’m now speaking to an advanced tech support. One hour and 37 minutes later and I’m told that Sonic MyDVD absolutely does not work with MCE 2005 (it’s nice that HP trains their reps so well. I could have saved over an hour if the last guy knew this). This same individual is telling me that I can actually record DVDs within MCE but only if I only record to “better” quality instead of “best.” HUH? Okie dokie.
I just did a test and no dice. The senior tech though swears it works and has seen it with his own eyes. I keep insisting to him though that he is wrong and that this “create DVD” function within MCE only makes you a data DVD. It doesn’t create something that you can play in a regular old DVD player. He again swears otherwise. He has, afterall, seen it with his own eyes, well and yes he is an advanced level support tech.
The rep offers to make a new test DVD himself on an 873N machine and call me back tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. just to reconfirm what he already knows. He offers a fairly draconian alternative (uninstalling MCE 2005, woah there). Agreed. It will be interesting to see this saga continue tomorrow night. I’m sure he’s right of course, afterall I did pay $99 directly to HP to purchase this nifty support package. At least he will call me after 7:15 when my kids are usually down for bed.
So there you have it. Not that I like to bitch — well that’s not true, sometimes I do like to bitch — but I went through all the effort to rehook up a satellite receiver, bought a 15 pack of new blank DVD R+ blanks, spent about four hours working on the project and never was able to get things fixed.
Although I recognize that my problem most likely is due to the fact that I’m working with an upgraded MCE machine and not a brand new one this is not a responsible excuse in my opinion. HP should support the machine and the upgrade path. Too often the upgrade experience is much like the old sales joke where the customer says, “but you promised…” and the salesman comes back with “yes I did promise… but that was back when you were a prospect… now you are a customer.”
A simple thing like recording to DVD which hp advertises should not be this difficult. And this ultimately is the type of thing that scares people away. This is a stumbling block, and a very legitimate one, for why people don’t want a computer in their living room.
Well at least the nice thing about the tech support call (final time 1:58:34) was that we kept it under two hours.
Emuzed, MyDVD, patch, driver, movie mill, version 3.5.2 build 66280 — these are all words that don’t belong in a livingroom PC. Until these types of words are buried deep behind a user friendly TiVo like interface, this is going to continue to be a problem and a valid objection for why your average Joe would not want to put a PC in their living room.
Of course the biggest frustration was the actual precious Sunday time that was stolen from my kids (by me of course). So my wife tucked them into bed tonight instead of me (I was on hold with HP) and that is something I can NEVER get back.
And now I’m feeling really guilty about having my priorities all whacked. This really hits home today after learning that a good friend of mine in his mid 30s drowned yesterday. And this comes after just two weeks ago when I learned that my mentor who hired me out of college and was one of my dearest friends died at a young age of 57. Both my friend and mentor had young kids. And here I am skipping time with my kids and getting worked up about something as trivial as technology and as ultimately insignificant as burning DVDs.