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Don Watkins

My Movies. The Perfect Computer Entertainment Application

By Don Watkins



From the first time I ever used a computer my dream was to be able to type in a question and get an answer. I guess I can check that one off.

Then graphics came along, and I mean crummy 16 color graphics, and I saw my first GIF and I thought of the day that I would be able to access a huge video library and watch anything I wanted, any time I wanted.

It's been a long wait; seems like a million different graphic hardware devices; I have a big old box of discarded graphics cards that I can't stand to look at, the investment in them is probably more than the GDP of some small country somewhere, but there it is.

Starting with Windows 98 it was getting close. With a bunch of add on kludges it was doable, but it wasn't cool and it wasn't easy. XP-MCE (Media Center Edition) got us a step closer and then the media center with Vista (and Windows 7) crossed the line. I had arrived.

Or so I thought. Yeah, I could do the things I wanted but it didn't lend itself to a big library and it sure wasn't cool.

Then I found nirvana in the form of a Media Center add-in by the name of My Movies.

My Movies is software that you can run on a Windows media center capable computer and then hang clients on any of your media center box(es) or you can add the server/client software on a single computer and it will do just fine (but in either case you'll naturally be limited by the amount of storage you have on the box acting as the "server" for any movies you want to have online). Once you have your "server" set up you can set up other client computers to access both the movie database and the content.

This may sound scary but you'll find all the details on how to install (as well as video instructions); my description isn't going to to justice to the simplicity of setting it up.

You'll need a version of Vista or Windows 7 that includes Media Center. That's the Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista and Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. There's a legacy version of My Movies for Windows XP MCE but it's no longer supported, only available and if you want to run Media Center I'd recommend Vista at a minimum and 7 if you have that option.

Once installed and with SQL (free) installed on the "server" adding content is easy; if you want your movies online simply rip your DVDs, add them to the server and use the My Movies Collection management program to add them to the database. Or if you don't care to rip the movies and put them online My Movies works equally well as a viewable catalog of your physical DVD discs. It also works with more exotic hardware like disc changers and bar code readers.

Here's a shot of the content management screen.

Most times adding movies is entirely automatic as when you insert a DVD in any computer running My Movies and it's automatically recognized. If it's not already present My Movies will ask if you want to add it to the catalog but in some cases you may be required to type in the name and select the movie from the search results in the My Movie database. Once the DVD is identified data is pulled from the My Movies database and you don't have to type in all the detailed information such as the actors, description or scan a front and back cover.

Once your database is created you access My Movies from the Media Center application gives you the option of selecting from a number of different formats. Here's one example:

Mousing over a title in the My Movies Media Center application can cause different views depending on the options you have selected. Clicking on a title can bring up different views as well, one of which is shown above. Once you click on a title for details you can, of course, elect to play it from the copy on the server if you've gone the online storage direction. No more spending all that time looking for the physical disk, it's there when you want to watch it.

Outside of eliminating the hassle of putting your hands on the physical disk My Movies also assists with the age old question of "what do we watch?". With everything in a database My Movies provides a slick interface to expanded search capabilities; search by title, by actor or by director. Pull up the bio of an actor or a director and with a click display all their movies in your collection. Or simply pull up your most recent additions to your library.

The basic software is free but there are additional features available depending on how many points you earn. Points are available both from cash donations as well as donations in the form of updates and additions to the My Movies central database.

Every facility in the program is "unlocked" by obtaining 2,500 "points" and you get 25 points for every $1 you donate.

The program continues to evolve and in an impressive fashion; I didn't think it possible to improve it but the latest release proved me wrong.

Highly recommended. I've given you just a taste, spend some time at the My Movies site and get the full flavor of this killer app for your HTPC.

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