Antivirus Applications and Media Center MPEG Streaming

March 10th 2007 Xbox 360 Antivirus Windows

One of the first tasks on my to-do list after buying a new computer with Vista Home Premium edition was setting up Media Center Extender for Xbox 360 along with Transcode 360 to make my Xbox 360 a true multimedia device.

Unfortunately the problems started immediately after setting up the Media Center Extender on my PC. (At this point I'd like to mention that the required 8-digit setup key can be acquired by starting Media Center on Xbox 360. I spent more time than I should, figuring this out.) Browsing pictures worked fine, also music and WMV streaming. On the other hand MPEG streaming resulted in errors.

I quickly dismissed a few probable causes for the problem:

  • After noticing that Windows Media Player couldn't properly play MPEG2 files (but strangely DVDs worked just fine) I installed FFDShow with MPEG2 playback option turned on. It fixed the playback in WMP 11 but the problem on the Xbox 360 side remained.
  • Just to be sure I temporarily disabled the firewall although the required ports have already been opened and WMV streaming worked just fine. No surprises there – MPEG streaming still didn't work.
  • The last desperate act was completely disabling my antivirus solution in case it would be causing problems. It didn't help either.

The weekend was coming to its end so I decided to try out the alternative media server solution TVersity. It worked out of the box without problems, even transcoding of unsupported formats to WMV. But during the following week I was growingly unsatisfied with it:

  • Fast forwarding and rewinding of transcoded videos didn't work until they were played back for the first time and cached.
  • To make the matters worse even pausing had its problems causing the playback to stop early for the amount of time it was paused in between. Once again the problem only appeared for directly transcoded videos not yet in the cache.
  • While music list was properly organized by albums and authors the video list was completely flat making it a real pain scrolling through a few hundred alphabetically sorted files.

All of that convinced me to revisit the Media Center problem. Not wanting to reinstall my machine being otherwise already quite nicely setup by that time I decided to uninstall PC-cillin Internet Security 2007 just to be sure after reading in a few forums that both McAfee and Norton can prevent streaming altogether even if they are disabled. It actually solved my MPEG streaming problem although I thought it highly unlikely since WMV streaming worked all the time. I still can't explain why only MPEG streaming was affected but since then I'm using NOD32 and still waiting for the first problem it would cause. Not to mention that it also uses far less system resources than PC-cillin.

The last of my problems was that the default Transcode 360 installation had problems with UAC therefore I had to manually remove it (uninstall didn't work) and reinstall it in the unsupported service mode.

Now that all problems are solved, my Xbox 360 really is the universal home entertainment system. Being properly connected to my HD LCD TV and surround sound system I am now using it for watching DVDs, streaming videos from my computer, listening to music and watching photos. Even the user interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Only my music collection still needs some reorganization for all the different views in the Media Center to work as intended.

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