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My Experience [continued]

Speaking of built-in applications, one of the most impressive feats in Vista, I think, is the Media Center interface. I'd been running XP Media Center Edition for a year or two before switching to Vista, and that was actually the biggest thing my wife complained about when we made the transition: the interface had a newer look, and some of the menu options had been moved around. She's gotten used to it since then, and looking back I think that at least most of the changes were for the better. It gives us one interface for watching TV (live or recorded), DVDs, music (which we've got a massive library of, thanks to our CD collection), pictures, and FM radio. There is also a relatively new feature - Internet TV, which Microsoft appears to be beta-testing. Overall we have more functionality than any other home theater setup I've seen (granted, I haven't seen many) and all controllable from a single remote. We even have an infrared keyboard/pointing device that works with it, to make searching for things to watch and surfing the occasional website easier. Thank you, Microsoft!

With our portable computers the experience has also been great. My laptop, though not equipped with quite as good a video card as my bedroom gaming box, still powers through WoW just fine. My wife's isn't aimed at gaming, but thanks to a roughly 5 hour battery life she rarely has to tether it to the wall. In fact, I may have created a monster: she can now sit in front of our HTPC watching something and also play cards or surf MySpace on her laptop for hours on end - did I inadvertently make myself obsolete? I'm just joking, of course, but I'm really glad to see her enjoying herself. I even asked her this past weekend, just to be sure, and she said she didn't have anything bad to say about Vista. She also really likes all of the basic bundled games that Microsoft includes, and I have to say that they did a great job of making everything from Minesweeper to Spider Solitaire look very nicely polished (yay for eye candy!).

One thing I am disappointed about is that you have to get Vista Ultimate or Business edition in order to have the better backup and networking features Microsoft offers. I am able to operate my home network just fine with the connectivity options in Home Premium, but being able to remotely log in from work to my HTPC would be nice in case I needed to adjust the recording schedule. I would also like to have the full-system backup utility that comes in the higher versions of Vista, but I found an interesting way of doing what I need with Microsoft's free tool called SyncToy. I have it scheduled to synchronize the documents folder on my home theater PC with the one on the desktop in my bedroom every night - thereby ensuring that I have two copies of all our important documents in case either computer has a hard drive failure.

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Tags: Advice, Windows Vista

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