How "dedicated" should an HTPC be?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Rob Gardiner, Jan 23, 2003.

  1. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    I've got a desktop PC in my bedroom but my roommate and I are going to put together a dedicated HTPC in the living room. I want to know what I can "get away with" putting on there and still have a stable system. (We plan on a P4, Intel chipset, solid power supply, etc. In other words, good hardware!)

    I suppose the bare minimum would be the following:

    OS patched and updated
    current drivers for all hardware
    DVD player
    virus scan & firewall (since this will be on the network)

    I'm thinking about adding the following:

    MP3 playback -- doesn't seem like much of a strecth, Winamp 2 is a svelte program. Don't many of you use your HTPC as an MP3 jukebox?

    IE and outlook express -- there are occasionally online DVD-ROM features that I will want to look at. Besides, these are installed with the OS aren't they? Not sure how useful e-mail will be on the HTPC though

    Games -- nothing too demanding, just older games like Half Life. It would be a shame to set up this nice PC with great picture and sound and NOT be able to play an occasional round of Team Fortess Classic. Has anyone had success gaming on their HTPC? Am I pushing my luck? [​IMG]

    CD Burning -- I would assume it is impossible to burn CDs while watching a DVD but is there any harm in installing Nero to burn the occasional CD?

    Office applications -- I see no reason to have these on the HTPC at all especially as there is a desktop PC in the house

    EAC & LAME -- should I not use the HTPC for ripping & encoding MP3s for the jukebox?


    Or, if anyone uses their HTPC for things other than what I've mentioned above, I'd love to hear your stories.
     
  2. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    I use my HTPC for anything and everything. Here are the specs for reference:

    Ahanix D-Vine htpc case
    P4 2.4ghz 533mhz bus
    Asus P4PE/R/L/SATA Motherboard (digital audio outs and onboard LAN, firewire, sound)
    512mb pc2700 Crucial DDR
    GF4 Ti4200 w/S-video out
    WD 40gb, IBM 20gb 7200 ata/100
    Pioneer DVD, Lite-on 48/24/48
    Asus 880 TV Tuner/capture card
    Viewsonic 15" LCD
    400w Q-Tech Ultra-Quiet PSU
    WinXP Pro

    I use this machine to play PC games, internet browsing, PVR use, mp3 jukebox, office apps, DV editing, and most importantly EMU games (what pushed me to get an HTPC in the first place). The LCD sits on a side table which I use most of the time, the TV is for videogames and videos only. I spent lots of time tweaking the registry and system settings and love the results. It's totally stable without virus protection and has never skipped or dropped frames under intensive use.

    So to answer your question, if you have good quality hardware it doesn't have to be dedicated at all.
     
  3. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Thanks Scott for the quick reply. This is great news! [​IMG]

    What sites do you go to for information on registry tweaks? I know there is always tons of discussion on AVSforum.
     
  4. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    I searched around for guides and settled on the one from TweakTown.net. I also borrowed some tweaks from other guides on that site as well as tweak3d.net. Tweakxp.com is full of info but since it can be from average Joe you never know if they are necessary or not. A very funny one is here. [​IMG]

    I primarily tweaked XP for quick loading times, faster app response, and gaming performance. Turned off system restore, have nothing running in the taskbar, and a bare minimum of services load on boot among many other things. But I kept all the little graphics frills such as fade-in menus, shadows, etc... Plus I defrag every week or after a big file creation/swap which is always a good thing.
     
  5. Brian Ruth

    Brian Ruth Supporting Actor

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    Rob: If this thing is going in your living room, you might want to consider a wireless mouse and wireless keyboard.

    The mice (namely the MX 700) (SHILL ALERT! SHILL ALERT! [​IMG]) are becoming good enough now to where they are indistinguishable from their corded breatheren. If I end up getting a HTPC, its the first thing I'm getting to go along with it.

    Also, you might want to set up a wireless LAN if you don't have ethernet cables strung all around your house. Its great for file transfer, and it doesn't slow down gaming too much (I think the ping from my wireless card to my net gateway is something like 4 ms). WLAN cards make it IMMENSELY easier to transfer all those MP3s you have now onto a new computer.

    You probably can't write CDs while you're watching DVDs, but I wouldn't. For writing, I use MusicMatch Jukebox Plus, but I'm sure Lame works great.

    As an alternate to building it yourself, you can look at the Alienware Navigators.... they're quite expensive, but they manage to cram a lot of stuff inside something that can fit on your component shelf. Then again, being so small sorta limits the expandability. :p)

    I'd also recommend an All-In-Wonder card to go with it. The 8500 should be sufficient for your needs, and the remote that comes with them is usually worth the extra money you pay all by itself.

    I HAVE been having some problems with the software recently, though. I'm kinda frustrated with it right now, because I can't get it to save directly to MPEG-2 format (despite it being listed as available, and despite me being able to record directly to MPEG-2 before), and the program that converts the proprietary VCR files to MPEG-2 won't boot up. Quite frustrating. [​IMG]

    Anyhoo... good luck with it!
     
  6. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Brian,

    re: wireless mouse & keyboard: this is already part of our master plan. [​IMG] I am considerin the wireless trackball by logitech because it does not require any surface other than its own footprint. Maybe I could figure out a way to mount it to the arm of my chair!

    About the Radeon AIW: I understand that the TV-in on this card is not usable with Dscaler. Yesterday I ordered a Radeon 9500 for my desktop PC, I will see how that works for DVD playback. According to the folks at AVS forum, all the Radeon cards up to 9100 are based on the 7500 chip, but the 9500 and above use a new chip which gives superior DVD picture quality.
     
  7. Brian Ruth

    Brian Ruth Supporting Actor

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    Rob: You can actually use any surface for the optical mouse: it tracks fine on the table, on the floor, on the couch, or even on a pant leg. Not so sure about the trackball... that sorta prevents him from playing games, right?

    I'd still go with the mouse just because it's a bit less cumbersome and because you can use any surface. IMHO, a trackball wouldn't offer that precise head-shot-accuracy aim you'd want in something like UT 2003. [​IMG]
     

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