Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hulu on Windows Media Center

As I have mentioned before, one of the things that I have been working on is to get access to Hulu content on my Windows Media Center computer.  Now with Hulu Desktop being released, there are several potential solutions for getting this to work.

A few weeks ago, there was a special price for the PlayOn media server software.  I had tried this before and decided to jump on this special price.  I installed it and the vmcPlayIt Media Center plugin.  Once I installed the PlayOn software, I was able to play Hulu content on my Xbox perfectly.

I still haven't been able to get the vmcPlayIt plugin to work.  I am able to see the categories, but I am not able to see the thumbnails or play videos from any of the providers.

Then I tried the Hulu Desktop application.  Once I installed it, and manually launched the application, I was able to play Hulu content.  (The video quality through Hulu Desktop is a lot better than through the PlayOn server.)  But, this was not an ideally solution.  I wanted to be able to launch Hulu Desktop from within the Media Center UI.

HuluDesktopWMC is a plugin that is supposed to do just this.  Once I installed the plugin, I was able to launch Hulu Desktop from within the Media Center UI.  The integration is not a good as I really want.  For example, I can launch Hulu Desktop from the UI, but if I hit the Media Center button on the remote, it will bring up Media Center, but doesn't stop the Hulu playback in the background.  Also, some times when launching Hulu Desktop the right application is not brought to the front, so the remote doesn't actually control what you are looking at.

I am thinking that the PlayOn solution will work better for me, (as long as Hulu doesn't figure out how to block it.)  With the PlayOn solution, there isn't an different application that is launched, so focus is not an issue.  Also, since it uses the same media pipeline, there is no problem with two different streams playing simultaneously.