Windows 7 Media Centre

We put Windows 7 on the Media PC today. I got hold of a 1 Terabyte hard disk, slapped it in a spare drive bay and left the machine to get on with it while we went out shopping. When we got back the system was pretty much sorted and except for some kerfuffle with the (now very old) TV tuner cards that needed some blast from the past drivers the install went very smoothly.

It works a treat. I was looking forward to some tweaks to the Media Centre and I wasn’t disappointed. It now supports digital Teletext, which is great, and it also has some really neat user interface touches. My favourite is that when you move through a recorded programme you get a little thumbnail of the image at that point in the show.

Windows 7 provides the speedup that I was expecting (which is nice) and the whole thing has given my two and a half year old media PC a new lease of life. I’m actually bringing machines out of retirement so that I can put Windows 7 on them and make them useful again. My old Toshiba Tablet loves Windows 7 and I’ve persuaded the boss to buy me a new battery for it so I can take it on the road again.

There was a tradition that new versions of Windows drove hardware sales, as people upgraded their machines to cope with the demands of the new operating system. Whilst it is always nice to have a new machine (I love shiny boxes) I think this time you won’t have to. In fact the upgrade will feel like a real upgrade (which I guess is how it is supposed to be).

The good news for students is that the Microsoft Academic Alliance version of Windows 7 being given away free is the Professional edition, which includes the Media Centre component.  Previously students were given the Business edition of Vista, which didn’t have media centre support. If you are lucky enough to go to an institution which, like the University of Hull, has joined the alliance then you will be able to get your own free copy of this rather nice operating system.