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Suggestions wanted for a simple media center with streaming videos eg: hulu, netflix

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Last Modified: 2013-11-17
My parents are looking for a home media center (they don't call it that, obviously!) - they have two televisions (upstairs and down) and they want to use hulu and instant netflix as well as watch live TV.  They have cable TV, but are not serial watchers - a DVR is not required as they only watch live sports.  They would also like to share their photos, and have iTunes accessible through the TV monitors

They have a couple of computers, but are not massive computer users.  They have (for our purposes) no real budget limitations - but the solution has to be robust and easy to use.

I'm thinking a dedicated computer attached to each TV, andI was thinking of maybe a Playstation 3 with bluetooth keyboard would allow browsing and streaming of video - but on further reading this seems not completely hassle-free - I've read about PlayOn - it would rather negate the purpose to have to have another computer serving the content.  I've also looked into the HP MediaServer - but read somewhere that it doesn't handle streaming videos.

Any ideas?
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Top Expert 2012
Commented:
I like the PC attached to the TV idea - now you need a nice GUI to go with it, and someone mentioned XBMC: http://xbmc.org/

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Commented:
Managed to do this without connecting a PC to each TV.  Here is the solution that I ended up with:

Main TV setup
Bose v20 (surroundsound receiver)
Playstation 3, exposing PlayOn (for streaming TV & Netflix) and Windows Media Player 11 (for access to photos and music playlists (exposed as media servers in the PS3).  Playstation keyboard attachment
Wireless Repeater Bridge (see network below)
Cable box

Second TV setup
DSM-750 Media Extender, exposing PlayOn (for streaming TV & Netflix) and Windows Media Player 11 (for access to photos and music playlists, and Windows Media Extender (for when MSFT get their act together and make this product usable!!! - for now its redundant)

Computer:
Upgraded to Vista from XP - probably a mistake, but I had heard that Media Center 11 was worthwhile (it wasn't).  Also upgraded 1 gig RAM to 4 Gig
PlayOn Server installed, with Hulu, Netflix, YouTube account info
MS Windows Media Player 11.  Photo, Video and MP3 playlists can be created here, and they are exposed to both TV's. WMP auto-detects newly ripped files
MS Windows Media Center 11 (not used, but could be used to easily convert PC into a 'whole house DVR with the addition of a TV tuner PCI card)
iTunes - used to rip CD's.  Used to sync iPhones etc.

Network:
Gigabyte switch (DELL)
D-Link DIR-855 Draft n wireless router used (for streaming wireless media to the DSM-750)
Converted LInksys WRT54G wireless router to a repeater bridge by installing DD-WRT firmware


Issues/Lessons Learned:
Vista upgrade was a bit of a problem - I wouldn't recommend it unless you need Media Center 11 - Media Player works great if all you want is your playlists and folders.
TVersity was tested, but Media Player was better for what we were trying to do (access mp3 and jpg's)
Some configuration issues with PlayOn (mainly related to Flash on the upgraded PC), but PlayOn tech support was fantastic

Author

Commented:
Thanks for the info on XMBC - in the end we went for a Playstation.
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