Media Center Extender With a Windows 7 VM

The XBOX 360 is proving more and more useful these days. First, there is the Verizon FiOS app (which I have not tried yet). But more importantly is the fact that it is a Media Center Extender (one of the best…and only, really). I had paired it to a desktop that I wasn’t really using and could leave powered on…

But the real power came when I upgraded the lab\infrastructure to VMware. I never had the hardware to do a RemoteFX VM, but VMware has a virtual 3D video card that works very well. So long story short, it is completely possible to use a virtual machine as the source for a media center extender…

…including live TV coming from a cable card thanks to the HDHomeRun Prime 3CC. This was simply not possible when the VM was running in Hyper-V – for whatever reason – slow disk (local storage) or if 3D hardware resources are required, then they certainly were not available in the old environment.

Once the HDHomeRun software is installed, MediaCenter will try to run the Digital Cable Advisor tool – but will fail on HDCP connection to a monitor (obviously) – performance of the VM is suitable for MCE\CableCard support – here’s the machine rating of the VM:

 

I ran a procmon trace on a system where DCA was successful and found the following executable was run after validation succeeded:

C:\Windows\assembly\GAC_MSIL\UpdateMachineForDigitalCable\1.0.0.0__31bf3856ad364e35\UpdateMachineForDigitalCable.exe

Once this was run on on the VM, the DCA noted it had previously “succeeded”, the CableCard support was installed successfully, and the tuners mapped as expected, downloaded guide data, etc. Once the XBOX was mapped as an extender, live TV worked perfectly, including HD channels!!

I have not tested extensively, but it looks like this will work well.

6 thoughts on “Media Center Extender With a Windows 7 VM”

  1. I ran across your blog in my search for a solution to a problem that I'm having. I am new to Windows Media Center, but want to try it as a DVR for over-the-air broadcast channels through a HDHomeRun Dual.

    I have created a Windows 7 VM on my iMac. During my first initial tests of recording a TV show. The recordings play back with the audio and video out of sync. Have you seen this issue before and do you have any suggestions that I could try to fix the problem? Thanks.

  2. Eric- I have note personally used Media Center in a VM on OSX…only a VM on VMware. That said, once I enabled DCT support (requires 3D support), recordings work just fine. I am not playing the recordings from the console in VMware, but by copying the .wtv files to a physical Win7 system. I have experienced A\V sync issues, but only on physical hardware, and I was actually able to resolve the issues using the driver software settings for the HDMI\Video card.

  3. My Virtual Machine runs through VMware and has MediaCenter setup to do recordings only. There is a registry key where the path for RecordedTV can be modified, so I have mine set to a physical drive on the host where another Physical MediaCenter is pointed to. So all the playback is done from a physical machine with real video cards and decent sound. (full surround)

    I have to say, it is amazing that VMware is able to play an HD recording. It used quite a bit of CPU but playback was farily decent. I just wanted to see if it was possible.

    However I still I prefer to do my viewing on a real machine and or Xbox setup as an extender.

    Its amazing what is possible these days. :O)

    As of late I've got an old Pentium 4 PC running 32 bit Windows 7 setup as a recorder. I found that being on the host playing games during prime time TV would affect the quality of the recordings, so now I have a dedicated older PC setup for this purpose. Gaming can take quite a bit of resources away from the HOST, and VMware has only what is available to work with. So in the end I did move away from the VM, but it wasn't because it did a poor job, it was just the multiplicity of use on the main host that was affecting it.

    VMware is a powerful thing, but it's limited to what the main host has to offer.

  4. FWIW, I have done this as well for a couple years. I run WMC (first win7 then win8pro) within a VM on a ESXi server. I did have to use the hack to bypass hdcp complicate only for reasons of getting playready working. After various hicups in the setup phase, I got my working and a single VM records up to 6 shows using a ceton ethernet cablecard tunder (only 1 cablecard required to boot).

    I do have a beefy home lab with some major overkill, but i regularly do a lot of other things with my servers and have rarely if ever caused skipped frames or other failures unless I did something that was directly in-line to process. I also use a QNAP nas with iscsi for all of the base OS images, and to boot I have all the recordings saved back to the same nas (over a different interface) to an SMB share (had to manually remove/add the recordedtv paths in the registry).

    While setting this up required less hardware, I was able to live migrate the VM onto my beefier production network (10gig, 32-64gb/ram, 8-core, etc), and I can now do most of my other tinkering while using a number of xbox 360s as extenders.

    Some hicups that caused issues were:
    1. NIC teaming was reliable until one nic negotiated wrong and either scaled back to 100mbit or had some issues with duplex operations. Ensuring good connections and not changing NIC speeds solved it.
    2. I spent many days early on with no working guide. The process was daunting, frustrating, and almost made me give up as there wasn’t even a reliable way to identify channels much less shows. In the long run I spent far too much time trying to fix it when in fact Microsoft had made changes that hadn’t propagated completely. The issue more or less solved itself during one of my many attempts to do the same steps over and over. In short, if I had just known it might not be me but Microsoft, i would have just left it alone and retried the guide setup at intervals unit it worked.
    3. I have auto-updates turned off, but alas, Microsoft is nosy and makes updates that simply must be done to continue using wmc. it’s a little frustrating that Microsoft can pull the plug on WMC on even existing version whenever they want. I fully expect there will be a day when they just loose interest and have a different product that will do DVR, streaming, et al and in an attempt to move users they’ll start letting these servers fail.

    • Hi Jonathan,
      Thanks for the note about the comment field – there was a setting for only allowing 60 seconds to enter the value…needless to say that has been changed. As for WMC, I have been losing hope in it ever since they dropped the live sports stuff. And to be honest, Kodi is a far better solution (even though live TV is the killer app WMC had done perfectly) – it’s nice to see so much support for Kodi with add-ons and community support – my notes here: http://blogs.serioustek.net/post/2015/08/17/windows-10-media-center-replacement

      Granted, this hinges on having the HDHomeRun Prime – as there is an add-on for it as well as DVR functionality.

  5. Hi Jonathan, Not sure if you would be readig this after such a long time. But if you do, did you face any ussues when setting up XBox extenders with a hist pc with NIC teaming enabled. I have a host PC on which i wanted to setup the WMC and extenders, but i cannot get 2 sessions open one on host and other on extender when NIC Teaming is set. Without teaming it just works perfectly. I had 2 extender with live tv and host with live tv working beautifully. I do need NIC Teaming on the host pc for ither reasons. Finally am giving up and plannin to setup a VM for the WMC Host and have the extenders connect to it. Let me know if you jave any tips on how to get WMX Extenders working with hist pc with NIC Teaming set.

Leave a Reply