Best OS for media center PC

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crcook84

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Aug 12, 2010
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I have had a side project for some time (I may have asked for suggestions in some past posts). I have been working for some time to create a budgetable media center PC out of whatever hardware I can get my hands on. I've managed to create something stable when I came into possession of a DELL GX270. My brother-in-law was getting rid of it. So, I installed Windows XP, an old nvidia card and a sound blaster card I had lying around, and XBMC. I was able to get it to where it was playing 720p video and outputting 5.1 codecs to a decoder. So, success. Mind you, I have to keep the lid adjar due to the cards being too tall. But, that's minor.

Right now, I'm toying with the idea of using alternative OS or media center software. Here's what I've found so far:
1) Ubuntu, as part of Linux, still uses nvidia drivers, even for the older cards. (Admittedly, I considered this a mark against them due to their discontinuation of ATI. But, I won't complain about something that works.) However, it doesn't do 5.1 audio without creating additional code. If the system crashes on me, I'd like to be able to do a simple reinstall without having to alter some configuration file.
2) Windows appears to be the most useful insofar as media playback is concerned (at least as far as 720p and 5.1 is concerned). I can even get DTS and Dolby encoded signals going into my surround decoder via a digital coax cable.
3) Microsoft have provided media center software for Windows starting with XP media center. However, I feel like I'm wearing boxing gloves everytime I try to use it. Besides, it doesn't use the same kind of resources XBMC uses when scrapping information (and that's just some of the add-ons XBMC comes with).
4) I'd consider using a Mac if it weren't for the fact that Mac only works on Mac (I don't even want to discuss hackintosh and that's not even because of the forum's guidelines). Besides, other than the Macbook and AppleTV (of which I don't know how easy it is to install XBMC on that), I don't know of any Mac hardware that provides 720p and 5.1 in a small form factor.

Any suggestions are welcome.
 
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