Well it's been a great break - free from work, but plenty of time to play. Talking of playing, I took ownership of my first Media Center 2005 PC (they really should have chosen a better spelling for the UK market though), and to be honest, it's the first time I'd ever played with one.
The first problem was getting it joined to a domain. Afterall, MCE is based on Windows XP Professional. And yes, I do have a domain running at home - one of those must haves for someone who plays with technology as much as me. The official line as I understand it, is that MCE2005 can only join a domain if it is an upgrade from MCE 2004 which is already in a domain, or if the network is recognised and a DC contactable during original installation.
The next problem was getting the TV channels lined up - yes, this was a pain for me, and I'm sure it's not easy for others of you out there. The postcode I entered was giving incorrect channel listings, but once I found which transmitter I was on, a quick internet search for a postcode next door to it and bingo. Sorting the channels involves hundreds of mouse clicks, so this could certainly be an area for improvement. Sadly though, I can only get terrestrial where I am, no reliable digital yet....
The next part was getting the "My Music" feature setup. At home, I've long since ripped all my CDs into either MP3s or WMAs and stuffed them on a network server which can be picked up where-ever I have a laptop or other machine around the house. I've never really used album art before, but it becomes a must once you start using the great interface in Media Center 2005. Some 4000+ files took an eternity to sort out (in fact, I'm only half way there so far), as I was quite lazy tagging them originally - I had previously created subdirectories by artist and then albums, but without the correct tags, "My Music" had hundreds of songs incorrectly classified, and albums which it did recognise were incorrect or had blank images.
All is not lost - although I had a few problems with it, was a program I found by STR8DOG which uses an amazon web-service to get the images. Excellent idea, and although mileage will vary, it filled in many holes in my media collection.
As you're probably already aware, MCE uses the Album Art which is actually originally brought into the system from the Windows Media Player. It places the files in the folder for the album as Folder.jpg and AlbumArtSmall.jpg. Normally this is done by using the Find Album Info for the particular album in WMP's Library. Of course if you've got your own way of doing all your meta data especially if it's MP3 ID3 then a third party app for the album art comes in handy like STR8DOG.
Too bad that WMP in skin mode does not have album art available as a visualization.
This makes no sense. Whats worse is that there is no downloadable visualization that just shows album art. "Energy Bliss 2" does not work because:
1. It does not use folder.jpg
2. It is a CPU hog
3. It leaks memory
4. I dont want fluffy clouds, I just want album art
Is it too much to ask to have album art visible in skin mode? Until WMP fixes this, I'm officially looking for another media player.