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How times have changed

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs' started by keith_au, May 8, 2019.

  1. keith_au

    keith_au Auditioning

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    Some years ago now I built the classic HPTC in a Silverstone case. Win7 and the normal media management applications, backed by NAS based media storage, remote controlled, more or less standard fare at the time. It served well all this time - happy days.

    Since then times have changed with the significant proliferation of available content via streaming services as opposed to canned content from a local server or content recorded from fta TV.

    Given the HTPC recently, expired rather than refurb the hardware in the existing case I've retired it in favour of a Zotac CI327 nano fanless micro PC with Win10. Accessed via a Logitech keyboard its a much friendlier way to go. All fta stations have a streaming option now so recording is no longer a requirement.

    This is by far the best solution I've had to date, unobtrusive, starts quickly, responsive and easily powerful enough to function as a HTPC/media PC. And inexpensive too.

    Image quality is quite acceptable, audio likewise.

    We live in amazing times.
     
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  2. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    We do indeed!

    There's never been a better time to be a fan of movies and TV shows than today. Between the high quality new content being produced, and access to older content on both physical media and digital platforms, it's amazing to me how much is available at the touch of a button now compared to when I was a kid in the 80s at the mercy of whatever my local video store had in stock.
     
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  3. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    Nowadays I wouldn't even bother making an HTPC anymore. Especially for anything in hd or uhd (or higher in the future) resolutions.

    If my entire cd/dvd/bluray collection was destroyed in a house fire, flood, landslide, etc ... type of natural disaster, I proably wouldn't even bother "rebuilding" my movie/tvshow/music collection. I would just go straight to streaming.

    Frankly in the same scenario, I wouldn't even bother "rebuilding" my library of paper books, comics, graphic novels, etc .... if they were all destroyed in a natural disaster.
     
  4. keith_au

    keith_au Auditioning

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    Yes, streaming has severely dented the HTPC media library lifestyle as we knew it a few short years ago. What to do with all those CD's and DVD's I have in big boxes in the back room??
     
  5. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    This is a great time for DVD and Blu-Ray oriented HTPC. It’s all stable, worked out, and performs well.

    My impression is that the HTPC-based DVR is doing pretty well too.

    Are these better than subscribing to streaming services or buying a TiVo? <shrug> Depends on your goals and interests.

    4K HTPC is in an ambivalent place; perhaps this is what it was like for the HTPC’ers looking at blu-ray a decade ago. 4K works, but not consistently. There’s no Dolby Vision. But for projector owners you can get HDR/SDR mapping that, I’m given to understand, beats everything integrated into projector and players. But at the cost of a GPU and fussing about with settings.

    It’s a great and terrible time for the HTPC enthusiast. It’s never been more capable. But there have never been so many viable alternatives finally solving the same core problems. :)
     
  6. John Dirk

    John Dirk Cinematographer
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    Interesting thread and this is a great time for Home Theater in so many ways.

    I've had my HTPC basically since I got into Home Theater and I doubt I will ever fully retire it. The CI327 nano does look interesting but would ultimately only provide a smaller footprint in exchange for reduced functionality. As you noted, "it's still a HTPC," only with limited upgrade options.


    When it comes to UHD discs I've already decided I don't even want to bother with the encumbrances of the HTPC ecosystem. I have an Oppo 203 which will do a much better job and all I have to do is switch over to it when I 'm in the mood. The majority of my viewing is not 4K content at this point.

    Personally, I shy away from this class of product as it gets dangerously close to the Apple model. That said, I can see how it would be attractive to folks who want something turnkey that they don't have to fuss with.
     
  7. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    If you would have asked me a year ago if I had any interest in building a HTPC, my answer would have been absolutely not.

    Today, it's still not a top priority. When I see the different UHD subsets with regular HDR, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and read about some displays only support one kind, others support another kind, some HTPCs can do some but none can do all, etc., it doesn't necessarily seem like something I want to start untangling and figuring out.

    However, as physical media seems to be winding down, there are plenty of things I own and enjoy that are probably going to be DVD-only and never make the transition to HD or even streaming. Probably the same for some Blu-rays that I own as well. I haven't done much research into HTPC, but I'm really not interested in transcoding everything to an even lossier format than what's already on the discs. But if it was technically feasible to do a 1:1 copy of those discs (maybe transcoding into a more efficient format than MPEG2, but not compressing further), and if it were possible to get all of the bonus features also included, I could see the appeal in that. Particularly for older TV shows and individual movies from places like Warner Archive, where the physical cases are a far larger footprint than I'd like for those titles.

    It's not a top priority, but it's something that could be a decent hobby in the future. My goal wouldn't be to build a system that would keep current with every new format, but just something to keep my legacy collection of DVD and BD content on as we move towards a UHD world.
     
  8. Message #8 of 20 May 31, 2019
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
    John Dirk

    John Dirk Cinematographer
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    It's easily possible for anything but UHD discs. I won't go into detail here as my comments might be misconstrued as encouraging illegal activity, however, as long as you own the disc, ripping to HDD is completely legal and can be done without any loss of quality or features.
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I don’t transcode. Everything is bit-perfect copy. That’s the easiest way to do HTPC.
     
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  10. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Just stick w/ the best original formats for whatever content whatever they are.

    Not worth the hassle me thinks... and I am a tech guy (w/ a background in comp sci and hardware... before settling on the IT thing for career)... who once upon a time loved that kind of stuff and even started out w/ that (for DVD in its early days)...

    There's more than enough other interesting and worthwhile hobbies, life experiences, general goodness, time spent outside, etc to get into than waste time, effort and energy on that aspect of the HT hobby to essentially reinvent the wheel me thinks...

    That's in large part why streaming is winning people over afterall... although some of us will always want better (and actual ownership and collection) if possible -- and that usually means physical media... at least for forseeable future... while the powers-that-be continue to provide/support such anyway... though I gotta think we've reached the point of diminishing returns w/ 4K UHD...

    Cheers!

    _Man_
     
  11. Message #11 of 20 Jul 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
    jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    Nowadays I use my HTPC largely to watch tv show dvd sets. (Not so much movies).

    So if I want to watch a particular season of CSI, I just rip all the dvd discs' isos of that season to the computer and watch the episodes using VLC. Depending on how lazy I am, I use dvddecrypter to rip all the episodes into each having their own *.vob file, as well as the extra special features stuff.

    If I'm extremely lazy, it is easier to just watch the ripped dvd *.iso on VLC. (Just drag and drop the ripped *.iso file into VLC). It will play identical to how a normal standalone dvd player would, with menus, selection, etc ...
     
  12. Message #12 of 20 Jul 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
    jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    Due to my ultra-picky criteria for buying scifi/fantasy/superhero tv shows on bluray, nowadays I hardly buy any tv shows on bluray. (Hardly any bluray movies anymore either, other than maybe Star Wars live action movies).

    So the few titles I do still buy nowadays, are mostly tv shows on dvd. (Primarily procedurals).

    Occasionally I pick up some horribly produced scifi movies dvds I find in local dump bins, for $2/$3 a pop as impulse buys. Such as really horrible stuff produced by The Asylum and other bottom feeder studios typically released by Cinedigm. This is the sort of horrible stuff which is never released on bluray either.
     
  13. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    When it comes to blurays, I don't even bother ripping them to the computer anymore. Too much effort for something that I'm going to only watch once or twice.

    For any blurays of interest to me, they typically take around 25 or 30+ minutes to rip the computer using a grey market decryption/ripping program (such as dvdfab or anydvd).

    In contrast, dvds which are filled to the brim (ie. 8.5 gigabytes) only take around 11 minutes to decrypt + rip the entire disc to the computer. So to rip a 6-disc dvd season set of CSI, it only takes a bit over an hour to extract all the isos from all six dvd discs.
     
  14. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    For example, my HTPC currently has the first five seasons of Criminal Minds and several seasons of NCIS, where each episode is in their own individual *.vob file. Very easy to do this episodic extraction with the old dvdDecrypter on tv dvd discs released by Paramount/CBS.

    (The only weird cases where such an episodic extraction is somewhat more complicated, were some tv show dvd sets released by Fox. Typically discs which have 5 episodes, and/or alternate versions of episodes).
     
  15. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    If I was 20+ years younger, I might have got into something like HTPC-based DVR with a lot of enthusiasm.

    Nowadays I'm too burned out and tired to care anymore.

    Extreme burnout is another reason why I have very little to no interest in 4Kbluray optical disc. Even with generic bluray, my interest was rather lukewarm for all this time.
     
  16. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    The only reason I even bother with HTPC nowadays with dvd discs, is that I'm semi-fluent in understanding the technical details of the protcols underlying dvd discs. I even wrote my own computer code to analyze the *.ifo files, largely to understand how extra basketcase drm functions. Easy to deal with problems which come up every now and then.

    If I still cared about dvds in general and if I was 20+ years younger, I might have even finished writing my own personal ripping program to deal with extra basketcase drm. (It is unfinished and I have no interest in doing any further writing).
     
  17. TJPC

    TJPC Producer

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    This so reminds me of the famous quote by Douglas Adams:

    I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
    1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
    2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
    3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
     
  18. RobertR

    RobertR Executive Producer

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    A LOT of people think according to number 3. Fortunately, I'm not one of them.
     
  19. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    My rule is: Stuff that doesn’t work is technology. Everything else is furniture. :)
     
  20. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    In this ^ subjective categorization, to me opitical discs would definitely be "technology" whether cds, laserdiscs, dvds, hd-dvds, blurays, 4Kblurays, etc .... Too many bad experiences with defective/rotting discs (both brand new and old), to be considered reliable (ie. not furniture at all).
     

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