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Advice requested and appreciated!


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#1 of 4 Restless

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Posted December 22 2009 - 03:09 AM

My husband built us our own home theater and we absolutely love it.  Now he's on this kick where he wants to install a home theater pc to run all of our dvd library.  He tells me that he wants to hook up a touchscreen type remote to use from the seating area to choose what movie to play.  This all sounds space aged and awesomely interesting to me, but my question to him was....how do you do that?  His response?  He doesnt know yet.  hahaha. 

So this is my request to all you great people in the home theater world.... Can you give him some clear and precise direction, maybe some good suggestions?  Where does he start?  Is there a place that he can go online and read up on this procedure?  Can we just buy a pc that we can just install?  Please point the way, from what I understand, hes already lost...

Thank you all!

#2 of 4 Restless

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Posted January 08 2010 - 05:03 AM

I guess no one can clear this up?  Reading all your individual posts seems to throw us into the center of the issue, what I need is something to see for the beginning.  What exactly is a HTPC?  How does it perform?  Anyone have some pics or video for us to watch?  Maybe this isnt something we want to spend the money on??  How do we know if no one will give us some direction?  Thanks anyway...

#3 of 4 Kimmo Jaskari

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Posted January 15 2010 - 04:35 AM

A HTPC is basically no different from any other PC, with the exception that it may have a great deal of hard drive space and be built to be especially quiet and unobtrusive in the home theater. Usually it has a user interface that can be navigated with a normal remote (and has to have support for a remote of some kind, as well.) 

There are many ways to do a HTPC, there is no hard and fast rule - you could have a normal PC and use Windows Media Center for instance. That can be a bit limiting since Microsoft has built in all kinds of anti-consumer features due to copyright and other issues, so there are other solutions that are more focused on providing the most usability and the minimum amount of limits.

To get an idea of what a HTPC might look like in use you could check out one nice open-source HTPC solution, XBMC - at http://xbmc.org but there are several others. 

The ever-trusty Wikipedia is also a good info source to start at - see http://en.wikipedia....Home_theater_PC

Once you have your HTPC there are other decisions to make - like do you take your DVD's and then spend a fair amount of time and effort on copying the data off them onto some huge hard drives and just shelve the DVD's, or do you get a multi or mega-DVD-changer and hook that one up to your home theater, and so on. It's a big field with lots of options on how you proceed. 

"If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do?"
"Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area." -- "BlackAdder 4"

#4 of 4 Mike Veroukis

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Posted January 15 2010 - 06:25 AM

Like kimmo said, there are lots of options!

It's a problem that's both simple and complex. Once you know what you want, it's fairly straightforward to setup. However, before you start you'll want to think it all through. For example, do you want the media to be stored on the HTPC or do you want the media to be stored on a dedicated media server tucked away somewhere else? There are pros and cons to all approaches. Personally, I prefer using a dedicated media server, but the cost is obviously higher as you'll need a second PC somewhere. You'll also need improved networking with a good quality router (or switch) and I'd recommend wiring your house with cat6 for gigabit lan. Once that's done, you can build a PC that will sit next to your TV and stream the media from your server. Btw, if you already have a PS3 or XBox360 you could use a DLNA server to stream most video and audio files to your TV from a dedicated media server. A HTPC offers greater flexibility but again at higher cost.

Building a HTPC also has it's issues. For one, you want it to be quiet. This means you'll need to carefully choose your components so that they use little power (thus generate less heat) so that you don't need too many fans to keep it cool. Of course you still want performance so you can't just use old, slower components. luckily the latest chipsets are all faster, use less power, generate less heat and cost less - except of course for the top of the line stuff, but you don't need that. Also, when dealing with video/audio components, you'll really need to investigate things like DHCP, which is used to encrypt copyright material. It could such if you spent loads of cash on a killer system only to find out that it doesn't support DHCP and your blurays are being down converted. Luckily, modern hardware is getting better at that, but I'm also the wrong person to ask as I haven't really kept up on the latest there.

One new piece of technology that's well suited to HTPC design is solid state drives, or SSD's. These act as a hard disk but don't use spinning discs. They are totally silent, use very little power and are blindingly fast - all very important qualities for a HTPC because you want it to be quiet, reduced power and heat dissipation and have an almost instant-on capability. The down side is that they're rather expensive and have a much lower capacity then spinning disks (but that's ok if you're storing your media on a dedicated server elsewhere). It's not necessary though but thought you should be made aware of it.

Of course there is the issue of software as well. Like previously mentioned, Microsoft's Windows Media Center is one possibility, but there are many more options. You could give Boxee a try. There are lots of DLNA servers out there as well, including Windows Media Player in Vista & Windows 7. I use TVersity, but I can't say it's the best - I'm still exploring other options.

Anyway, that's a very brief explanation. There's a lot of little details to consider but this should get you started. Good luck.

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all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief! - The Fly, U2