After 6 months of a promising my wife i'd get that old PC hooked up as a media center I finally did it. I've toyed around with some free software, even one using ubuntu, which was a completely new OS to me. Then come to find out verizon fios requires just way too much of a workaround to use their software so I scrapped it in hopes of something windows based. Just looking for something to keep the media a little organized, just photo and video. I'll just install spotify if we want to listen to music.
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Hmm for photo and video organization in particular?If you're thinking of it as a media pc for akin to an HTPC, XBMC is absolutely outstanding.It has a super nice intuitive user interface, remote control support, catalogging and organizing by genre, title etc. you can add movie covers, it even has support for emulators when you're in the mood for some nostalgic gaming.I'm pretty sure it can do the same with music and photos although I've never used it for the latter and for the former I've been a huge fan of MediaMonkey for audio since it can sync with almost any device, has on the fly conversion for lossless audio codecs to MP3 and a couple others for when you need to cram more music into a limited storage device.
I mainly just wanted it for video, but I noticed a lot of applications allow you to organize both. So figured I'd see what's out there. You have any experience with setting up media monkey? I've seen it but haven't tried it yet.
Mediamonkey for video?Mmm I'm not sure, I've never really used it for that other than the times I accidentally set it as my default player for all forms of media (video included) and opening up files opened them up through that but I'm pretty sure it's just install and run for video in most formats.The audio experience is pretty simple, you just sort of have to explore a little and you can find anything you're looking to do with syncing and converting music files.They also have a pretty strong forum and community online that helps tweak and troubleshoot media monkey particularly. I bought the software, but the free version works well two and it's not expensive either.For video though, XBMC all the way. Lifehacker has a couple tutorials on setting it up and it highlights its features and pro's and cons (the second one includes a video)http://lifehacker.com/5536963/the-ultimate-start-to-finish-guide-to-your-xbmc-media-center
So I finally sat down long enough to take a look at mediamonkey. It looks rather solid assuming that it works the way I want it to. In the beginning I just wanted something to just make things look good. Now I'm starting to want something that allows me to connect over VPN, so I can access the files while I'm travelling. I could always set up a remote session with my home desktop, but there's a good chance my daughter is going to walk over and press the power button. She's only a little over 1 years old, but that girl loves to turn computers on and off over and over...
Hahaha oh gosh thats a bit of a problem no matter what your situation.Maybe change the desktops location to somewhere above where she can reach?If you're goal is streaming, I'm pretty sure you're best option would be to use cloud based storage for your songs, maybe something like Amazon's service or dropbox, I know it's been done with drop box before but I've never done it myself.You could always consider a spotify premium account which allows you sort of "unlimited access" to music, so sync song files to devices and have access to their streaming download service on the go
Another vote for XBMC. Me personally, I have several hard drives with ripped DVD and Blu-ray, (my personal collection, no downloaded stuff here), and you can add the folders to the program and it will alphabetize all of it into a collection for you. If you have a modern video card (2012+) and an A/V receiver, you can bitstream the HD audio codecs out to your receiver.
A bit of advice, name all of your movies the exact title for them to be displayed under the 'movies' section within the program. If not, it will lump them into the 'video' section. I had to figure that out through trial and error but at least I know now.
I love using Boxee. You can playback CD's, DVD's, stream video and audio, and there's support for streaming HULU, Netflix, BBC, MLB, and the NBA. It's available on Mac and PC too. It keeps all my files nice and organized and they have remote apps for smartphones and tablets which comes in handy when navigating through the application. Speaking of, the look and feel of Boxee is very nice and easy on the eyes. I recommend you check it out, I'm sure you'll like it. It too, is available on Linux.
I've heard nothing but good things about XBMC and I plan on using that once I get my HTPC up and running. All of my friends swear by it.
I just want something that can sort by genre or other variables, so I might be easily won over.
Well for playback i prefer VLC it's amazing at what it does. One thing to consider is to get a codec pack, especially if you are playing lots of different formats, i have had times were audio or video did not work but installing a pack fixed it for me my preference is CCCP + VLC and i have had no playback issues. Organizing is not really a thing in VLC though, but I've had good experience on that page with Winamp but I don't know that playback capability of it.
OpenElec is a great way to make an XBMC appliance. Plex is still my favorite, though. I've moved away from an HTPC in the living room and instead have a Plex server that can deliver content to all my devices regardless of where I am. I can then keep the machine out of sight in the basement - with UPS and over 20TB in external arrays it's a bit ungainly. And as a bonus I use the GPU to mine BitCoins.
If you are starting with a Windows PC and plan to keep Windows try MediaPortal.