One of the limitations of using Windows Media Center as my DVR is that there's no easy way to watch recorded TV shows and movies on my mobile devices. Specifically, Microsoft's WTV files (the format used for said recordings) aren't compatible with my iPhone, iPod, or iPad. And anyway, they consume too much space to be practical for mobile viewing.
So how can I watch my recorded shows on the go? By streaming them with Remote Potato, which combines a desktop utility with apps for iPhone and iPad. I spent some time testing the software with the latter, and came away impressed--but at the same time vexed by complicated setup and buggy operation.
Indeed, let me stop you right here: If you're a novice user, you'll probably want to steer clear of Remote Potato. The server program that runs in Windows (and makes remote connections possible) requires you to set up port-forwarding in your router and manually enter IP addresses in your Web browser and/or iOS app. The entire setup is not what I would call user-friendly.
That said, once you have everything up and running, you're sure to like what Remote Potato can do. Even without Windows Media Center, it can stream music, photos, and videos from your PC to just about any device with a Web browser. With WMC, you can access your electronic program guide (EPG), schedule recordings, and view recorded shows. In other words, it effectively turns your media center into a Slingbox--but without the box (and without the support for live TV).
The Remote Potato server software is free, and the iOS apps are reasonably priced at $6.99. I must note, however, that on my iPad, the app frequently crashed or became unresponsive for several seconds. When it works, it's a thing of beauty, but I'd like to see the developer do a little more work on stability. Right now, I can give it only a half-hearted recommendation.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at [email protected], or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.