Sound card and Blu-ray drive arrived today and I whipped off the back of the Media Centre PC and quickly installed both. Windows 7 recognised the sound card straight away but had it outputting two channel stereo until I downloaded and installed a Windows 7 Creative driver, whereupon it all worked beautifully.

The supplied Cyberlink PowerDVD software for playing Blu-rays baulked at my having mapped the Windows video folder to my network attached storage device, but this was worked-around by using a new Windows user with administrative powers but no mapped folders which I created for the purpose. Media Centre recognised old-fashioned DVDs placed in the new drive with no problem at all, but trying to play new-fangled Blu-rays rudely dumped me out of the Media Centre environment and into the Cyberlink software. This to be fair was what I expected, but I hadn’t expected that the Cyberlink software would then insist on downloading an update which took the best part of an hour to laboriously suck down at the feeble rate of 35Kb/s. God knows what was happening with Cyberlink’s servers.

When this was finally done, and installed, and after just a touch more screwing around, the system sprang into life and the Blu-ray copy of Inglourious Basterds which I mistakenly put on my Amazon wish list and got given for Christmas was happily playing, and looking very sharp and clear even on my 26” TV. Win! The copy of Speed which I picked up on Blu-ray also looked and sounded great with lots of atmospheric sound effects during the elevator sequence reverberating around the room as all six of my little speakers worked their socks off to provide me with sonic enjoyment.

Next question – will upgrading to Cyberlink PowerDVD v10 provide better integration with Media Centre? This meant downloading the trial version (which probably meant overwriting the free version 8 I’d finally got working, but anyway…) and again this meant making use of my new user account. 15 minutes later… Big win! Integration with Windows 7 Media Centre is pretty much seamless. This is going to cost me another fifty quid but it’s going to be worth it. *opens wallet*. At least there’s 20% off at the moment because of Labor Day or something.

Tomorrow it’s Sky+HD day, when we shall face the interesting challenge of how to connect up a digibox which favours HDMI to a TV with no HDMI sockets, and only one DVI socket which is already in use. I fear we shall be falling back on to SCART. How 1997! Then we shall also see if sound from the said digibox can be made to travel into the SPDIF in on my new sound card and then out to my 5.1 speakers, thus effectively using the PC as an amp when watching TV and harmonising (hah!) all of my audio needs.

Evolution of a Media System. Chapter 0: I wouldn’t start from here
Evolution of a Media System. Chapter 2: Sky+ HD