My Home Theatre PC Doesn’t Know Me

When I finally purchased a big-screen TV for our house, I was thrilled to hook it up to our media center, to have large-screen access to all of our movies, music, photos, and streaming content such as Netflix. I use Windows Media Center because it’s the easiest to setup and manage, especially since every other computer in our house is also running Windows 7. Lately, I also found these two awesome plugins to allow me to access Boxee and Hulu Desktop straight from Windows Media Center with my remote.

Unfortunately, the addition of these two plugins also proved how impersonal my Home Theatre PC (HTPC) really is. You see, Boxee, Hulu, and even Netflix all create a custom profile for each of their users. This profile is built by tracking the content that you watch, and you can get recommendations based on your past viewing history as well as share your viewing habits with your friends to have a better experience.

In our house, there are only two of us – Mrs. Guru and me. As you might expect, we both have vastly different tastes in movie, tv shows, and music. There are also situations when we agree on things, and we often watch movies together. Unfortunately, our HTPC doesn’t know that – as far as it is concerned, there is only one extremely eccentric user in the house, and that’s where the experience fails.

I would like to be able to setup profiles for each user – it’d be a bit of a hassle to begin with, but no more than the rest of the initial setup process. After that, it should be pretty seamless. When choosing something to watch, I would ideally get a quick pop-up, asking who I am, or who’s in the room. I could then – using the Media Center remote – simply choose my own profile, and then the content would begin playing. There could even be a group option, for those movies that Mrs. Guru and I enjoy together.

With this setup, our own viewing habits would be channeled to our own profiles, easily, with no muss or fuss. More importantly, it’s something that Mrs. Guru could do on her own, too. Of course, this is only a software solution, and would be the easiest to implement to existing setups. In the future, things could get even cooler, with facial recognition (though admittedly, that’s a bit creepy) or perhaps shortcut buttons on the remote itself.

I know that both Boxee and Hulu Desktop let you have multiple user accounts setup, but there’s not really an easy way to switch between them, that I’ve discovered. It needs to be easy enough for my wife to do it, but ‘in your face’ enough that we don’t forget to do it, too. Do you have multiple people using the same HTPC? What’s your solution?

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