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WAF or “How My Wife Stopped Fearing and Learned to Love the HTPC”

woman_karate_transparentHome Theater PCs (HTPC) offer a world of endless possibilities if you are willing to invest the time to get the settings the way you like them. Most people who are reading this now are the “tweakers.”.

We add logos to our guides, we change the colors of the backgrounds, we configure options and add-ons to make our experience more enjoyable.

That is unless you have the typical spouse who wants it to work, and when it does wonders why you had to “fix something that just wasn’t broken”.

I will go on the record and say my wife is the rare specimen that appreciates when I add another hard drive for more archived shows and movies. She loves it when she can load a movie for our daughter without having to juggle both the disc and a squirming child.

She is the exception to the rule however and I feel the pain of many of you out there. My wife wasn’t always so forgiving of this “box” in the living room that sucks out her husband’s soul.

Lets turn back the clock a few years when Vista was but a twinkle in the beta tester’s eye…

I was blissfully running Media Center 2005 Rollup 2 (MC2k5). It was the golden age of technology. I had 2 tuners recording DirecTV. The quality I saw was great and the world was a bright and shiny place.

My life had changed and I was oblivious to where I was headed.

It took me all of a month to decide that I really wish I could do X or I wonder if I could change Y. I found like minded people at The Green Button where I could spend my days debating why eHome (the group that develops Media Center at Microsoft) had left out X or the genius of Y.

One day my wife had taken all she had and put her foot down. She was using a DVR from DirecTIVO because she was tired of shows not being recorded for whatever “excuse” I gave her. She appreciated what I was doing but had felt the software and hardware just weren’t ready yet.

Fast Forward to Vista and not much had changed in my household. I began testing add-ons for developers and the never ending task of installing the latest builds of DVRMSToolbox and Showanalyzer.

My wife was still not completely comfortable with trusting her favorite shows to the “box in the living room” However she was using it more and more and generally she was content to use it daily. My HTPC was still the butt of jokes amongst her friends and when she missed a show she still let me (and everyone else) know about it.

With a few more presses of the skip button we have reached the promise land that is Windows 7 Media Center (7MC.)

Promise… as in “honey I promise this time it will be different, and this time I promise not to play as much.”

Then it happened. People started making more add-ons that I couldn’t live without. GuideTool came along to ease the pains of combining QAM and ATSC. My Channel Logos made the guide attractive and more in line with higher-end DVRs. Cable Card tuners gave us HD and we even had blu-ray inside the PC…

But at what cost? Had my wife left me and moved to Borneo? Had she taken up residence in a shack in the Appalachian Mountains?

No. She had learned to love my goal of making our viewing experience easy and full. She knew that there were issues, but they were fewer and further apart. The quality of add-ons has continually improved. 7MC itself had even grown to be a program that on its own was head and shoulders above what the local cable company offered.

So where are we now? How did I bring my wife around to allow me to do such crazy things as tinker under the TV at 1AM because I was helping someone with a update to their software or telling my wife I would be to bed “in a bit” as a I just had to install one more update?

Simple… I didn’t do anything. You did.

You or people like you in the community who make things better for us all. My wife has grown to see the value that is our HTPC. She knows the time she saves each night by skipping commercials. She loves being able to convert a show and dump it to her iPhone to watch at lunch.

This article wouldn’t be complete without asking the wife what it takes to keep the Wife Approval Factor (WAF) high.

Simple Steps for a Happy HTPC Household

  1. Never do anything to the TV when your wife is recording something.
  2. Always confirm what you are doing with the wife. Never assume she will accept a change just because you do.
  3. Major changes should happen after everyone has gone to bed as to not disturb the household.
  4. If something you did doesn’t work, then undo it and find out why. Don’t make your family suffer for your stubbornness. Yes you will probably fix it in a few days/weeks/months, but why should the family have to wait on your (or someone else’s) solution?
  5. It’s ok to fix it if it isn’t broken. Just don’t break it in the process of fixing it.

I know I am a lucky man to have a wife who tolerates my hobby/passion/obsession. She is as tolerant of my HTPC as she is of me…