One of the best features of Windows 7 is Media Centre (ok, Media Center if you prefer, but I don't). Connect a TV tuner card to your PC, either as a plug-in card or on a USB stick, and your computer becomes the ultimate Personal Video Recorder. Not only can you easily watch and record TV and radio programmes, but you can also access those recordings from elsewhere on your home network.
However, one area where Media Centre is lacking, is in its ability to access its admin functionality remotely. Sure, you can watch a recorded program over your LAN, but you can't schedule a new recording or consult the TV guide. Wouldn't it be great if Media Centre had a built-in web server that allowed you to do just that, from your LAN or indeed from any PC in the world?
Take a bow, a great utility called Remote Potato (http://ww2.fatattitude.com/software/software-item.aspx?appid=12). Install it on your Media Centre PC, and your media centre is now also a web server. Surf to it from any computer on your LAN and you can schedule recordings, consult the TV guide, and even stream recordings from your media centre to wherever you happen to be. I've been using it for a few days now and it's extremely useful. It's also free.
A couple of points to note. Firstly, if you want to access your media centre from a PC away from home, you'll need to tweak the firewall (and possibly NAT) settings on your router to ensure that port 9080 (that's the default, but you can change it) gets forwarded correctly. Also, the default setting on Remote Potato is for no password protection, so anyone who knows the URL can access your media centre. Make sure you change this by enabling security in the configuration.
Of course, if you're lucky enough to be running Media Centre on Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, then you may find that you don't need Remote Potato. You could just use Windows Remote Desktop instead. But if your PC is stuck on Windows Home Premium, it won't accept RDC connections. And anyway, if you're going to open up your PC to the world, surely it makes sense to use a program that only allows access to the media centre rather than the entire machine.
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