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2012 Multi-room HTPC


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#21 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 07 2012 - 03:39 PM

Few comments :)


(1)   MediaBrowser will be your friend for all of that.. I'm working with the current betas, and it gets better and better as it goes. 
(2) Totally agree.   I don't transcode in any way imaginable.   Waste of time and effort.   Even now, disc space compared to replacing damaged discs is nothing.. I view it this way:  I haven't had to replace a damaged disc in 2 years.   That puts me WAY out ahead from past experience.

(3)  If you do Transcode, it's more like a 1:1 with a film (figure a 2 hour film, 2 hours, etc.)    Again, I've never found that worthwhile enough.. the only time I transcode is with rarely watch stuff.


OK, First, no, you don't need to setup RAID.   Within Win7, you can create a "Videos" folder in both, and then set them up in your "Video Library" .. Windows will offer all in Media Center.   Media Browser can also have multiple targets on whatever drives, and it unifies them into one presentation.


http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


If you notice, in the background, you can see a commercial from LiveTV in a 20% transparency.. one of the new features in the new version sof MediaBrowser.. to let you surf through your library, get the information, start and then go.. while keeping TV in the background of what you're after.  BTW, if you look above, you'll see some tagged as "DVD" (those are archived DVDs) Bluray (where I have the BD), and I leave H264 for saved TV recordings (like DVR recordings I've archived)





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#22 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 07 2012 - 04:09 PM

Cool.


Does that work with a media extender?


I'm thinking of having the main unit, this HTPC, in the bedroom, and using the Xbox 360 in the living as the main interface. All "Blu-rays" would be watched in the living room, via the extender. I would never want to play videogames in the bedroom, and using my 360 for an extender saves me the cost and bother of a new extender).


Basically, 75% of use would be via the 360 in my current plan.




#23 of 90 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 08 2012 - 04:05 AM

I've got a Harmony One, and will buy some appropriate IR receiver module. I might get a Microsoft MCE remote kit to help with setup to start (rather than the generic remote I linked above).

I had really good luck with this one: Hauppauge PCTV Remote Kit 23064 For under $30, it can't be beat. Even though it's a Hauppauge, it's worked great with all my various Media Center iterations. Once you're all set up with your Harmony remote, you can still use the IR receiver module. I've tried other basic MCE remotes, and they were real laggy on the response.

#24 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 08 2012 - 04:34 AM

Yes it does work on extender

Originally Posted by DaveF 

Cool.


Does that work with a media extender?


I'm thinking of having the main unit, this HTPC, in the bedroom, and using the Xbox 360 in the living as the main interface. All "Blu-rays" would be watched in the living room, via the extender. I would never want to play videogames in the bedroom, and using my 360 for an extender saves me the cost and bother of a new extender).


Basically, 75% of use would be via the 360 in my current plan.






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#25 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 08 2012 - 02:07 PM

Sweet. Good to hear.


Adam - That looks like a good option. I'm undecided between a external bay add-in, to make the IR receiver part of the box, like a normal HT piece; or to use something like you link with a long cable to snake a small IR receiver to a convenient location and then hide the main box.


I could totally hide the main box, except for the need to access the drive to rip discs.



#26 of 90 OFFLINE   Ralphie_B

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Posted January 09 2012 - 05:59 AM

Regarding MediaBrowser on an extender... any comments on whether the current betas are more responsive/quicker than the latest stable release?  I've found that after getting rid of poster view (opting instead for coverflow), MediaBrowser navigation is still a bit sluggish on the Xbox 360 (this is with everything hardwired)... It's acceptable to me, but it wouldn't pass WAF approval.  Always very snappy on the HTPC, though.  Curious if you know whether newer releases have any plans to address that (either by speeding up performance, or allowing different settings for main PC and extenders... e.g. coverart only/no backdrops on extenders)?



#27 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 09 2012 - 12:46 PM

Thoughts on BD setup speed:


Rip

12x read speed, assume 6x actual (or average) speed.

A 2 hour movie, with special features, is maybe 4 hrs of total content

2*120 / 6 = 40 minutes rip per disc.

All features, full quality, preserved

Tremendous storage required, maybe 30 GB on average per "movie"


Rip & Transcode

Assume 2 hr movie, 24 fps 1080p

120/6 = 20 min rip


xbit's reviews show i3 transcoding MPEG-2 to H.264 at about 17 fps

http://www.xbitlabs....i3_6.html#sect0


24/17*120min = 170 min transcode


190 min total per movie

Presumably 5x reduction in storage space, maybe 5 GB on average per movie

But all special features and commentaries are "lost" and some quality is lost (perhaps unnoticeable)


DVDs will be faster, of course.



Here's my first-cut estimation of my library. A pair of two 3 GB drives should do it with some room to grow. (I don't buy many discs). I could also go a bit bonkers and add a 32 GB SSD just for the OS and apps. That's more a frivolous luxury, but in a $2000 build, what's another $60? ;) I'll do a better disc count & estimate after the move and I've got access again to my library.




Discs

Compressed

(GB)

Total (GB)

Ripped (GB)

Total (GB)

DVD

200

1.5

300

9.7

1940

Blu-ray

75

5

375

30

2250

TV

100

6.6

660

6.6

660

Music

400


15


15

Windows



25


25

Total

775

13.1

1375

46.3

4890




#28 of 90 OFFLINE   Ralphie_B

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Posted January 10 2012 - 04:43 AM

I believe for Win7 you'll need more on the order of a 64GB SSD, versus a 32.  I'm still on the fence myself about whether to migrate my OS and apps to an SSD, or keep it on the hard disc.  My HTPC is going to be on essentially 24/7, sitting @ WMC (will sleep, but wakes from sleep very quickly) -- so boot/app launch/etc, which is where the biggest benefits of an SSD reportedly lie, shouldn't be much of a factor.  My limited testing so far has shown I don't experience any frustration due to HDD speed.  Your mileage may vary. :)


I'm also weighing keeping things at full quality versus rip+transcode.  For TV, there's no choice, since my cable company appears to have set all the HD stations as 'copy once' (so I can't comskip or re-encode).  For DVDs, I already ripped and transcoded to DivX AVI ages ago, but the quality is somewhat poor and the filesizes are ~2GB per movie -- so I will probably do something there.  HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is where it's a really tough call -- I'd like to get all my movies to fit within the two 2TB discs I have now (HDDs got EXPENSIVE recently due to flooding, as you're probably aware)... But I like the idea of saving the movies one time, in an 'archival' format that preserves full quality.  Re-ripping for my high-definition disc library wouldn't take TOO long.  But I do have transcoding concerns (your times above are helpful, but so few HD-DVDs and Blu-Rays are MPEG2 encoded... AVC or VC-1 is much more common, and I don't know how that would affect the times).




#29 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 10 2012 - 12:06 PM

I didn't know Blu-ray wasn't MPEG-2; the Wikipedia article indicated to me it was.


Those speeds ultimately come from the second-pass encode times at:

http://www.techarp.c...rtno=669&pgno=0


First-pass encode are much faster, over 80 fps for the i3. I assumed the pessimistic time applied. I've not read enough to know for sure, but I think that's in the right ballpark.



I'm not concerned about archiving or even protecting my discs. (I've not scratched DVD or CD in a decade.) I'm interested in simplicity and ease of use. If I have to spend every night for three months queuing up batch jobs to re-encode all my discs...that's no good. If I still have to use the disc to watch the special features that first viewing...why bother with a media center? Against these issues, another $250 to hold all my discs in "raw" format seems not unreasonable...or I bag the whole thing and stay with TivoHD.


So I'm leaning ever more towards a 6TB dual-drive system.


Though I've recently read that Xbox 360 is slow and its "streaming" quality is sub-par. That worries me, since it would be the primary interface for watching my Blu-rays off the system. I need to check some more on that and see if this is a "real" thing or merely the grumbling of some online Picky Pauls :)



#30 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 10 2012 - 03:10 PM

This might change my plans.

http://www.engadget....ender-hands-on/


I'll keep doing my research, but Ceton might upend the DVR business.



#31 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 11 2012 - 05:02 AM

Ceton is basically offering a pre-packaged unit running Windows7 Media Center Embedded.  It's a specialized version of Windows MCE, but they've equipped it out with all of the goodies - including Bluray, single point solution, shared media, interface and teaming with other media centers, etc.


For a lot of users, this will be a "one stop" item that replaces something like a TiVO.

All that having been said, because it's embedded, you won't be able to "alter" it to accomplish some tasks people are after (like archiving movies/films, building libraries, installing add ons) though they will provide their own ad-ons.


There is some discussion some of that may be possible using a seperate unit that runs a product like MyMovies, but there is no way to test it.


But for a straight DVR with extender capabilities, very popular.


On the other hand, the Echo is a next generation media center extender.   Designed to work directly with Windows7 Media Center (any build/type) it has more "oomph" then an XBOX, and thus more file type support, better picture quality, native content display, etc.   That unit will be VERY popular with those who want the extended features of a full media center but want something a little classier in the bedrooms/etc. as extenders


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#32 of 90 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 11 2012 - 07:15 AM

I didn't know Blu-ray wasn't MPEG-2; the Wikipedia article indicated to me it was.

Blu-Ray isn't actually any specific encoder. All the Blu-Ray standard mandates is that Blu-Ray players be able to decode three video codecs: MPEG-2, AVC(H.264) and VC-1. In the early days of Blu-Ray many discs actually were MPEG-2. Now the vast majority are AVC with a significant minority encoded with VC-1. They're simply way more efficient than MPEG-2. All OTA broadcasts are MPEG-2.

#33 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 11 2012 - 11:40 AM

Ok, cool. Thanks.


I'm reading mixed things about the 360 as an extender. Some love it. And the price is right, since I've already got it. But some report it as slow and lower quality. I"ll have to see for myself. But if the Echo is affordable, that will make a good alternate choice. It will likely have a faster boot time than the 360 and/or built for 24/7 use. Any indication of price?

Turns out I'll have cable cards in my new apartment -- Comcast is the provider, and we'll hook up the TivoHDs to start. This means I can build the HTPC before getting a house. But I'll definitely learn more these new DVR systems before making any purchases.


#34 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 12 2012 - 12:46 PM

I'm also reading very mixed and confusing things about streaming ripped Blu-ray content by an extender. There are threads at the other forum saying, flatly, it's not possible.

My best, optimistic, understanding from what I've read and what Matt has written here is that a plug-in is used to do real-time transcoding of ripped content to a format the 360 can play. And because the i3 is *so* fast, it can do that transcoding with modest CPU usage and not interrupting 4-tuner operation / playback. (But people using older systems, like Core 2 Duo and older, have trouble doing this real-time transcoding and/or have problems getting other re-encoded content to play without real-time transcoding.)


Now, that downside to that is real-time transcoding is going to reduce quality. And a point of doing straight rips is to preserve full content. I need to understand this better and determine whether to keep my plan of 360 as main interface (to save money) or to buy an additional extender and put the HTPC as the main interface. (Lower streamed quality on the bedroom is less of a concern.)


The details on the Ceton Echo are going to matter. (My wife will give me grief over buying a second Xbox 360 as an extender if needed for optimal setup.)



#35 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 13 2012 - 03:03 PM

I've watched this video and one other. This one shows a 360 as an extender, and the title says it's coming from an InfiniTV-based HTPC.


35 seconds to boot

10 seconds to bring up the first channel selected

5+ seconds to change channels


Another video showed the same startup time, but had much faster channel changing times.


I'll have to compare to my Tivo, but this seems pretty slow. I notice the 1.5 sec channel changing time when I'm watching cable at a hotel; a five-second channel change time could be tedious. I need to do more searching to see if this is typical, and check some more on leaving the 360 on full time.

This probably means my cost goes up:  put the main system in the living room, the Xbox as extender in the bedroom. See how it works and then decide whether to buy a new xbox for dedicated extender, buy the Echo, or build another dedicated PC as extender.






#36 of 90 OFFLINE   Ralphie_B

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Posted January 16 2012 - 07:03 AM

I can see that being a concern, depending on how you usually watch TV.  Almost from day one of having a digital cable box with on-screen guide, I migrated away from the channel +/- buttons and used the guide instead.  And WMC's guide is SO much more appealing than the one on my cable boxes.
Once I actually have the channel I want highlighted, the media center/360 takes probably an extra second or so to lock on compared to my boxes, but it hasn't bothered me at all.  I haven't timed it, but it feels like much less than 5 seconds.



#37 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 16 2012 - 07:24 AM

Yeah, I can't think of the last time I used +/- on my remote.   It rarely happens because in the digital, it's not organized so easy to make me want to do that..


For example, here it tends to go:



Fox Digital HD

Fox2 "Antenna TV"

Local Programming

Junk

Junk

ABC HD

ABC 2 HD: Weather (only weather)

etc

etc


With it this spaced out, I've never found the +/- convenient at all.   In no system.  Maybe just me.


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#38 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 16 2012 - 08:16 AM

Originally Posted by Ralphie_B 

I can see that being a concern, depending on how you usually watch TV.  Almost from day one of having a digital cable box with on-screen guide, I migrated away from the channel +/- buttons and used the guide instead.  And WMC's guide is SO much more appealing than the one on my cable boxes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mattCR 

Yeah, I can't think of the last time I used +/- on my remote.   It rarely happens because in the digital, it's not organized so easy to make me want to do that..

The video is showing lag in guide use, starting  about 1:19. Bring up guide, select new channel. It takes five seconds from selecting new guide entry to new channel appearing. I would assume that it's an effect of changing channels, regardless of method (channel button up/down or guide selection).


Another video shows the channel changing to be much faster. I've read mixed reports, suggesting this slowness through the 360 is not unique but not universal.


I need to search more on responsiveness on a main HTPC and other extender behaviors.



#39 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 16 2012 - 08:27 AM

Hmm.   Dave, I can do some videos tonight, the lag is not nearly so severe in my experience


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#40 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 16 2012 - 08:55 AM

It might be the lag depends on main HTPC and not the Xbox. On that video, I didn't see any notes on his system, except it has a Ceton tuner.






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