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HTPC - what do you have?


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6 replies to this topic

#1 of 7 OFFLINE   peterac

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Posted September 18 2006 - 02:04 AM

I have decide to build an HTPC and I would like to get some feedback:

First of all the reasons I am deciding to build are:
1. I can pick and choose the best of every component
2. Slight cost savings
3. It's fun

Okay, can anyone with a HTPC please descirbe your rig and give me feedback on things that are great about it, not so great, things you did to optimize it and make it scream.

I know most people who build like to discuss their systems.

Also, if you have a pre-built please post on them as well.

Thanks in advance for all your input.

-Pete R.

#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Stephen Orr

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Posted September 18 2006 - 03:49 AM

My HTPC is a 4 year old laptop that I use to stream prerecorded show from my upstairs computers to my downstairs HDTV (that I don't actually use to watch HDTV....) The laptop is plugged into my HDTV via the s-video jack and a split RCA audio connection, the second connection going into my receiver. I currently stream over a wireless network using Beyond TV Link, but am trying to come up with a better networking solution, because my video stutters and pauses everytime my wife uses the microwave oven. I only have basic cable, so I really don't have that much to record, and I have no music collection to speak of.

At some point, I may convert my older Dell desktop into a proper HTPC, but for right now, I have what I have.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Tekara

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Posted September 18 2006 - 04:24 AM

I'm actually pretty similar to Stephan, I have a 360 set up as a media exentender that I pull video / music off of my media center laptop which is my main computer.
"Computers are a lot like air conditioners - they both work great until you open windows." -Anonymous
"The danger from computers is not that they will eventually get as smart as men, but that we will agree to meet them halfway." -Bernard Avishai

#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Vivek_IVB

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Posted September 18 2006 - 07:36 AM

For me, it was ease of use, flexibility, and extensibility. I built an HTPC b/c I was sick of learning how to use all the dang devices in my house, each through a different program or interface. Furthermore, I decided that the existing systems had awful UI's, or were too limited in what they did.

For example, I put up a touchscreen 10" tablet PC (cheap, only $160) so I could check the weather and kick off any audio I wanted. But, why stop there? Why can't I control the HVAC, irrigation, or anything else through that? Why limit it to just A/V? Seems like a colossal waste of $$ and resources.

Check out the screenshots in the personal site in my sig. I started with HTPC, then as long as I had all the infrastructure, I may as well expand to HomeAutomation PC.

As of now, I have the following doable via an integrated set of screens on either my PC, touchscreens that I wallmounted, or the cellphone PDA (ie, over the Cingular network):
- Whole House Audio (CD & XM distro)
- Whole House DVD via both ripped & megachanger (ok, just 2 rooms)
- Security System Integration (can arm/disarm/monitor/get paged, also control & monitor via cellphone)
- HVAC (also can adjust heat/fan/etc via cellphone, when i'm on my way home, etc)
- Irrigation System Control
- Closed Circuit TV viewing ( i can also pull up a live shot of the cameras on my cellphone, very very cool)
- Very basic CallerID tracking
- Doorbell & Telephone ring detection, so I can take action as desired. (ie pause video/audio, or just lower the volume)
- "Cross-discipline" integration - i.e., if the security system detects something and the system is armed, turn on the sprinklers and announce over the PA that your picture has just been taken and emailed to the cops, so you get out ASAP.

Working on:
- Whole house TV distro (ie, via SageTV)
- Lighting
- Drape Control (already got remote controlled curtains mounted, haven't taken that last step of training the IR codes into the PC)
- Recipe Management/Display
- Expanded Call History Log, integration with MS-Outlook

I'm sure there's much much more that I'm doing that I forgot, but those are the highlights.

#5 of 7 OFFLINE   BruceD

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Posted September 18 2006 - 07:48 AM

I'm assembling a backend/server (AMD Athlon 64 3000+754, ECS nForce3-A ATX mb, $99 at outpost.com) and a frontend/client (AMD Athlon 3200+939, MSI k8NGM2-FID mATX mb) over ethernet cabling running linux OS (Fedora Core 5) with MythTV as the media application.

This setup is designed to accomodate multiple backend servers and multiple frontend clients. I will start out with one of each.

My plan is to have a diskless frontend/client connected to the monitor (component) and HT prepro (S/PDIF).
S-video or component out from the frontend PC's onboard 6150 nvidia-based TV output will be good enough for my 36" 4x3 SD tv. The 6150 is said to be good enough for 720p output to HD tvs (especially on the mb's DVI output port). The mb also has a S/PDIF digital audio output included.


The backend will have (2) 300Gb SATA drives (for music, DVD movies and recorded TV) plus TV capture cards (currently a Haupagge 150 MCE) probably need to add a 500 for viewing and recording at the same time. I don't have an HD tv yet, so no HD capture cards yet.

This setup will do:
1) music from lossless audio file playback (will add a usbDAC for this output)
2) DVD file and disk playback
3) plus PVR functionality, live and recorded
4) weather and web browsing?


Here is a great htpc website focused on all the aspects of htpc building and use.

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Greg_R

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Posted September 18 2006 - 12:06 PM

I run Theatertek for video and Girder for remote control. Girder will take any input (IR, keyboard, etc.) and map it to a command. This is great for programming your remote to control all aspects of the HTPC. Dvdprofiler is great for tracking my movies. The most important piece of SW is a system backup utility. Once you get your system stable, back it up!. I have 1 disc for data (DVDs, backups, etc.) and 1 disc for the system. If my system fails I can restore everything in about 15 minutes (from backup).

hardware:

- underclocked 3 Ghz Intel chip (you don't need tons of processing power for HD or DVDs). Underclocking allows you to use a passive cooling system or a very slow fan system.
- 800Mhz FSB motherboard (this is required for 1080p WMV-HD clips)
- 1 gig ram
- 2 Seagate HDDs (very quiet)
- Antec silent PSU
- Antec HTPC case
- DVD drive with speed control (low noise)
- 2 60mm low noise fans for the case
- ATI graphics card with MP-1 mod for high quality RGBHV output and passive heatsink (this almost cost as much as the rest of the computer)
- MAudio Revo sound card

Go to silentpcreview.com and read everything about building a silent PC. Silent computing is worth the extra $100 or so IMO.

#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted September 18 2006 - 12:38 PM

I was pretty big into the HTPC hobby since '01 up until the beginning of this year when I just got too busy to keep up with all the latest news. Bought a Faroudja DCDi-based DVD player + Comcast HD-DVR and haven't turned it on since, even though it still sits in my equipment rack. ;

Not trying to thread fart, I still think they are amazing devices when you get one setup properly. I still love trying to get PCs whisper quiet, a very weird fetish that started with my first HTPC.