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Windows Media Center Edition 2005

Written on September 29, 2006 by William George

My Music

For music playback and management, Media Center makes use of Windows Media Player. MCE simply creates a nice, easy-to-use interface for controlling Media Player from a distance, but allows all of its features - like playlists, song ratings, and visualizations - to function. Both use the same database ("library") to store information about each song, including title, album, artist, genre, etc.

Because of all the extra data stored about each song, there are a number of ways to access files with this interface. You can view all albums (with art, if you're connected to the internet), or you can sort by song name, artist, or genre. You can also perform searches by typing in an artist name or a song title with the remote control's keypad or your keyboard.

While a given set of music is being played, you can control things like whether it goes in order or is shuffled randomly. You can also have it repeat continuously or just go until each song has been played once. You can even burn a CD directly from the interface, making it easy to create compilations of your favorite music to use elsewhere.

If you are just going to sit back and listen to music, having a visualization run on the screen at the same time can be an extra treat. A visualization is simply a graphical representation of the music you are hearing, and Windows includes several for your viewing pleasure. You can also download others off the internet; just make sure they are compatible with Windows Media Player (so that they will also work with Media Center). There are a variety of websites that host both free and share-ware visualizations, such as microsoft.com and wmplugins.com.

Tip: For ease of use, I recommend copying all of the music from your favorite CDs to your computer. This process is called "ripping", and can be done from Windows Media Player. When your music is copied in this manner, it is added to your computer's library and can be easily accessed from within Media Center without requiring you to swap CDs in and out constantly. You can also change the quality of copied music, and control whether or not it is copy protected (to deter illegal use).

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