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All the trailers and announcements from the Nintendo Direct E3 2019 briefing.
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How to Build a High Definition HTPC for $500
Post by Nathan @ 01:46pm 10/11/09 | Comments
AusGamers shows you how to build a HD-ready Home Theatre PC for $500!

The Home Theatre PC (or “media box”) has been a popular system for enthusiasts for some years now, but it has generally not been cheap. The first system to change that trend was - somewhat unexpectedly - the original Xbox. With the appropriate know-how, the game console could be loaded up with a piece of software called Xbox Media Center. The low cost and superb functionality led to Xbox Media Center being almost ubiquitous in some circles.

However, that was years ago and since then, things have changed. When the Xbox was king, HD was rare – this was before free-to-air went digital or Blu-ray was released. HD is now common place both in terms of screens and media, but with the increase in resolution came an unwanted increase in required processing power. In this new HD world, the Xbox was out of its depth. Enthusiasts were forced back into purchasing expensive computers with high-end CPUs containing enough grunt to push 1080p worth of pixels.

Enter the ION age

Nvidia have changed all that with the introduction of VDPAU and their low-cost ION platform. VDPAU – which stands for Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix – allows Linux applications to offload video decoding to an Nvidia GPU. The ION platform is a small-form-factor motherboard/chipset combination that provides an Atom CPU, DDR2 memory, and a GeForce 9400M-class GPU.
One of the first released systems containing the ION platform is the Asrock Ion330. The system is a barebones “nettop”, to which you add your own DDR2 memory and Hard Disk Drive.

Why would I use Linux?

While some readers may be averse to using Linux, there are a number of compelling reasons to use Linux on a Home Theatre PC:
  • A HTPC should be an appliance – you want to set it up and leave it alone. Linux is well regarded for its stability without requiring reboots. It is also rather good at NOT letting dialogs and balloon alerts appearing over the top of the video you are watching.
  • Believe it or not, if you pick the right hardware (such as by following this article) its actually easier to get your HTPC system set up with Linux. This is possible because Linux makes use of software archives called “repositories”, which provide the ability to obtain and update almost any Linux-compatible software through a single UI.
  • A default Linux install with no software running needs very little memory. We can use this to our advantage to keep costs down when buying the hardware.
  • Lastly, operating system price is a factor. A Windows 7 Home Premium OEM license will set you back well over $100, which for our small system will increase total cost by over 20%
Finally, Xbox Media Center has officially renamed to XBMC and is now available for Windows, Linux, and OSX. Importantly, XBMC contains support for VDPAU allowing the ION platform to shine.

What can I do with this HTPC?

XBMC provides a number of functions:
  • Play high-definition video files (often with extensions like .mkv and .mp4 )
  • Play music files (.mp3 and the like)
  • Provide the option to automatically associate meta-data (both text and images) with your video files from sites like IMDB and tv.com
  • Check the weather
  • Plugins to provide additional functionality
The one obvious omission from XBMC is the ability to record and playback digital Free-To-Air transmissions. This will be the subject of a future article.

The ION platform has native HDMI output (including surround sound), so its ready to integrate into your HD entertainment setup. It does NOT have WiFi – however with 1080p playback, wireless is not a good idea anyway.

OK, I'm interested. Tell me what hardware to buy!

To build your own HTPC system on the cheap, you will need an Asrock Ion330, a 2.5” SATA hard drive, and some DDR2 memory. Since this is a HTPC, you will want a remote to control the system with.

I assume you already have a television with HDMI input to plug the Asrock into (or an integrated amp). You will need a HDMI cable and ethernet cable as the Asrock do not include these.

You will need a USB keyboard and mouse that can be utilised while setting up the operating system. This can just be loaner from your desktop PC, its not needed after initial installation.

Lastly, you will need to be comfortable with assembling a PC, though for this system the process is very simple.

After shopping around a bit online, I bought the hardware for this article from EYO. The costs were competitive, and I was familiar with them from their sponsorship of SGL years ago. My hardware was delivered 3 business days after purchase which is quite reasonable. This is what I bought:Paying with BPAY (to avoid the 2% credit card surcharge) and including delivery, the four items above cost me $510.26 . I skipped purchasing the HDMI and ethernet cables as I already had spares - expect to pay another $20 if you need them.



We are also happy to recommend AusPCMarket. They do charge a little more than their competitors (although the difference is less than you think, as AusPCMarket include delivery in their listed prices), but Term and myself order stuff from there regularly - if your purchase is listed as “in stock” you will get next day delivery. If you are impatient, this is a good option.

Be careful if you choose a different IR remote: there is no standard protocol for how remote controls interact with a PC, so it unfortunately is easy to get stuck fiddling with a remote that is difficult to get working . Many remotes require different drivers and may or may not work with various programs.

The remote we have recommended here has broad support across Linux and Windows and should remain that way. As a bonus, if you use a Logitech Harmony to control your setup, you will find that the listed remote is compatible with the Harmony's definition of a “Media Center PC” - meaning you can use the Harmony immediately without having to record each individual IR code.

What about storage?

In the hardware list I have included a 160GB drive, as that was the cheapest drive available. In general, a HTPC is best treated as a player for content stored on your home network somewhere – whether that be a dedicated NAS device, or just your desktop PC.

Large amounts of storage at home is great, but having a bunch of loud hard drives directly under your television is a bad idea. Keep your content somewhere else and treat your HTPC as a player - you will be happier for it.

My hardware has arrived. Now what?

First, you need to assemble the hardware. This is pretty easy – undo the two screws holding the top of the Asrock case on, and slide it off. The motherboard is covered by a cage containing the supplied DVD drive, and underneath, where you will install the HDD. Undo the two screws holding the drive cage down, and remove it.

I found unplugging the DVD drive connection a bit tricky in the confined space, so I pulled the cage out and then unplugged the drive. Insert the memory stick into either of the memory slots (line up the notches and push down firmly – the latches will snap into place on their own) and then screw the HDD into the drive cage. You'll need to get the drive orientation right (its upside down once installed in the case) – just check this by plugging in the power+SATA cable before screwing it down. The Asrock comes with a bunch of different screw types – just use 4 of the smallish flat-headed variety.

Re-insert the drive cage into the case after plugging the DVD power+SATA back in, and screw it down – its the smaller set of screws removed earlier. Slide the case back on and redo the remaining 2 screws.

Now head over to your TV. On the back of the Asrock plug in its power adapter, the HDMI cable, the ethernet cable, the USB remote receiver, and your loaner USB keyboard and mouse. Power up the Asrock and you will see the BIOS followed by the DOS “Invalid boot device” message. This is to be expected, since you don't have an Operating System installed yet.

On to Page 2 - Getting Started with Linux



Latest Comments
darkjedi
Posted 04:14pm 11/11/09
Nice writeup there Trog!
tequila
Posted 04:15pm 11/11/09
nice, have you tried playing a bluray on it yet?

even if you rip the bluray to the drive and play it as a .mkv ?

Carson
Posted 04:20pm 11/11/09
I've been considering getting a HTPC for a while now. Think it might be time. Thanks :D
Opec
Posted 04:21pm 11/11/09
Good article
TiT
Posted 04:28pm 11/11/09
Good article would recommend buying the parts seperate as its cheaper.. the Ion do play Blu ray and mkv not a problem but you need to make sure the codecs installed are using hardware accelation as i installed xbmc on the weekend and my big mkv files 1gb movies lagged on it... but on windows media centre ran perfectly!

Plus for $250 dollars you can get Atom dual 1.6 with wifi N and pci-express mini

BTW i belive Linux doesnt support Blu ray as yet.. things have changed and i could be wrong

last edited by TiT at 16:28:39 11/Nov/09
Jim
Posted 04:32pm 11/11/09
Which parts are you talking about tit? On the australian market they don't typically come with hdd or ram, and the article mentions this.

And as the article makes abundantly clear, the linux version of xbmc does support hardware rendering and plays 1080p just fine
trog
Posted 04:33pm 11/11/09
Nice writeup there Trog!
All credit to Nathan for this one; I casually mentioned on IRC that I thought it'd be an interesting research exercise for an article and then a few days later, Nats is like "hey this article is done", wtf@!#

I will poke him in here to answer all questions, so write 'em down
TicMan
Posted 04:35pm 11/11/09
TiT is still right AFAIK, Linux does not support BluRay (playing from BD) playback.
TiT
Posted 04:42pm 11/11/09
And as the article makes abundantly clear, the linux version of xbmc does support hardware rendering and plays 1080p just fine


yes i understand this i was trying to say that you need to make sure in the setting that its actually using hadware accelation or you will notice problems...

On the australian market they don't typically come with hdd or ram, and the article mentions this.


Just saying instead of getting an all-in-one ready built, buy the parts seperate as its cheaper
Twisted
Posted 04:41pm 11/11/09
Sweet. I've been thinking of setting up a HTPC to replace my noisy 360.
Jim
Posted 04:44pm 11/11/09
what case and power supply would you recommend as a direct comparison to the asrock unit tit?
Pinky
Posted 04:44pm 11/11/09
HTPC is a must have IMO. I just knocked one up out of parts to see how it went, now it's completely changed the way we interact with TV/internet. When people come over they are all like, "Holy s***! Gotta get me one."
Mitch
Posted 04:53pm 11/11/09
Joined the HTPC bandwagon myself recently. Went the Media Center + Media Browser path myself and haven't looked back. Absolutely loving it. All i need now is the HTPC case and I'm all set
E.T.
Posted 05:04pm 11/11/09
Great article. Well done Nathan.
I would be all over this if I didn't already have something in place.

One question though (I might have missed this) is a Blueray player included in his hardware spec?
TiT
Posted 05:07pm 11/11/09
Jim, the one i bought it comes with external power supply with the motherboard.
http://www.pricepoint.com.au/shop/product_info.php?products_id=24944

the case i bought was SD100 because it was a good size and it was Umart and wanted it that day.
http://www.umart.com.au/pro/products_listnew.phtml?id=10&id2=139&bid=2&sid=38801


But would recommend any of these cases
http://www.aywun.com/products.asp

A Slimline Blu-Ray player cost me around $180 inc shipping

My next project is Media Server using this case
http://www.chenbro.com/corporatesite/products_detail.php?sku=79

last edited by TiT at 17:07:51 11/Nov/09
Jim
Posted 05:09pm 11/11/09
nope this system comes with a cd/dvd player, a bd player adds about another $150 or so to the cost

I rip my discs to mkv cos who wants to be dealing with discs day to day? and you wouldn't use an atom for ripping video, it'd take years.
Mantorok
Posted 05:13pm 11/11/09
Tit - (259+180+125)* > 510.

* You don't even have RAM and a HDD yet, either.
TiT
Posted 05:20pm 11/11/09
that case was more expensive but you can get a $60 cause... and i belive Nathan machine doesnt come with blu ray

last edited by TiT at 17:20:33 11/Nov/09
Plasma
Posted 05:19pm 11/11/09
Awesome article.

Does the suggested asrock (http://www.eyo.com.au/prod_S-ION330-BK_proddesc_ASRock_ION330_Mini_Barebone_Intel_Atom_330_Nvidia_ION_DVD-RW_GBL_VGA_HDMI_Black.html) come with a wireless card or is that hard wired?

Is using wireless OK to stream/play these movies?

Cheers
TicMan
Posted 05:20pm 11/11/09
Is using wireless OK to stream/play these movies?


In my experience.. hell no, wireless is not appropriate for streaming (particularly when you enter into HD content)
TiT
Posted 05:21pm 11/11/09
Wireless is not good.. however it would be nice if there was some decent software out there that handles buffering better... like the Tivo does... it wont let you watch a movie until it has enough of the movie downloaded...
Jim
Posted 05:24pm 11/11/09
I've got a 4 or more year old belkin wireless ap and my asrock plays 1080p nicely over it without any stuttering - but if you fast foward or rewind, you have to wait 5 seconds or so for it to rebuffer. so the answer is no really
Mitch
Posted 05:30pm 11/11/09
My wireless has done me pretty well so far but it has it moments. Doesn't help with the amount of the walls it needs to go through.
Jim
Posted 05:39pm 11/11/09
tit that case is huge compared to the asrock
318 x 268 x 70 mm
vs
195mm 186 x 70 mm

reason I asked, is cos I bought my asrock ion a few months ago from a canadian supplier off ebay (couldn't get them in aus at the time). and at the time, I was sussing out whether to just buy a mobo and case and build it myself instead of buying from o/s. but there were simply no cases around that were as small, neat and reputedly as well made as the asrock one.

I see that aywun site has a few that look like they miiight qualify
Obes
Posted 05:56pm 11/11/09
The one obvious omission from XBMC is the ability to record and playback digital Free-To-Air transmissions. This will be the subject of a future article.

Unless it is recording and playing HD fta tv it's not really a HTPC, its really just a media tank or media player.
See. Popcorn Hour and WD TV Live etc etc etc etc

WD TV Live prices
And at $170 a WD TV Live is better value and less hassle imo.
Jim
Posted 06:04pm 11/11/09
yeh those do seem decent, I've been meaning to grab one and suss out whether it really can play 1080p mkvs properly
the interface would have to be damn good tho, to beat xbmc + skins and whatever else is out there
niklaos
Posted 06:06pm 11/11/09
trog/nathan

you mention the next article will include a HTPC with tv recording capability.

if I bought the same setup you just had in the article, will it support the TV recording in the future? I couldnt see on the EYO site if the motherboard had a PCI port to plug a digital tuner into. Or did you mean building a whole other one from scratch that can support a digital tuner

tequila
Posted 06:07pm 11/11/09
you'll need a faster processor and a capture card at the very minimum
as well as extra drive space if intending to record hdtv

I beg you guys to review a mac mini running plex, straight of the box
its the bomb shiznit.
HeardY
Posted 06:08pm 11/11/09
I have one of those WD TV numbers and it fkn rocks! The live adds network support and that's it from what I can tell?

TicMan
Posted 06:15pm 11/11/09
You could run a USB TV tuner instead of PCI.
jmr
Posted 06:22pm 11/11/09
teq ive installed plex on my mbp and the f***** wont open

just bounces once, then goes back to sitting its lazy ass in the dock
Nathan
Posted 06:29pm 11/11/09
Thanks for the feedback. To address some of the mentioned points (although I think most have been answered in some form)

"have you tried playing a bluray on it yet? " - Blu-Ray (as in the physical discs) - there's no player available on Linux, so I didnt even look at it. Expect to pay another $150ish I think for a Blu-ray player, $100+ for windows, and then some more again for Blu-Ray compatible software. It can play 1080p MKV files with surround sound at 100% framerate, no problems whatsoever.

"you need to make sure in the setting that its actually using hadware accelation or you will notice problems" - My article covers setting up XBMC on Linux for 1080p with the ION's special sauce. Its actually just one setting, but I can see how you might miss it.

"Just saying instead of getting an all-in-one ready built, buy the parts seperate as its cheaper " - I'd definitely be keen on seeing suggestions for a parts list thats cheaper. One thing I do like about the Asrock is its neat and tidy case. Its also relatively popular in the HTPC arena - you will find plenty of articles and forum posts with people discussing it.

"Is using wireless OK to stream/play these movies?" - It does not include wireless; its possible to play 1080p but as soon as you need to skip forwards/backwards, it falls apart. So generally I'd say dont do it. If you cant install ethernet because you are renting, investigate using Ethernet over Power.

"Unless it is recording and playing HD fta tv it's not really a HTPC". I will look at that in a future article, but I dont really agree - there are many people who have no interest in recording FTA whatsoever (though I am not one of them)

"will it support the TV recording in the future?" - With the addition of a USB tuner, yes. Despite what you may think (and I had my own doubts), USB HD tuners do work perfectly well - I've got two of them and I can record two HD channels simultaneously. You need decently fast storage, but CPU is not an issue because you are just storing the raw data that is sent over the air.

I haven't figured out exactly which USB tuner I will recommend yet, but it will cost under $100 to expand the system to support FTA recording.

last edited by Nathan at 18:29:48 11/Nov/09
thermite
Posted 06:45pm 11/11/09
Good job nats, very useful, I'm not often impressed with ausgamers articles, this is why you're agn #1.
Nathan
Posted 06:55pm 11/11/09
I beg you guys to review a mac mini running plex, straight of the box
its the bomb shiznit.


Isn't Plex just a fork of XBMC ?
koopz
Posted 09:06pm 11/11/09
nice article... I hope you guys stay on top of this in the future.


it's one thing to have a HTPC, but another that games-on in ways that a console cannot.

last edited by koopz at 21:06:52 11/Nov/09
whoop
Posted 09:20pm 11/11/09
There's also this thing which looks like it might be a quick & easy solution for light usage.

I beg you guys to review a mac mini running plex, straight of the box
its the bomb shiznit.

I can't figure out plex, is mine broken? I hit the "help" button thing and I end up in the "applications" section. How the hell do I use it to watch a DVD? As far as I can tell all you do is click on the dvd option in it and it starts my default dvd player software, hell I can do that without the help of plex.

last edited by whoop at 21:20:07 11/Nov/09
reload!
Posted 09:20pm 11/11/09
really great article.
AG needs a lot more of this sort of thing!
tequila
Posted 10:50pm 11/11/09
Isn't Plex just a fork of XBMC ?


yeah, it is - but I've used them both but I rate plex+
whilst xbmc is capable, plex is much more refined

plus the apple remote that comes with most apple computers/products is just flawless with plex
the fact that you can navigate the entire menu system with it is amazing - it only really has 1 button apart from the circle

we ripped a 30gb bluray to the hard drive and played it through plex on a 63" plasma @ 1080p with absolutely no problems what so ever (mini dvi -> dvi -> hdmi) and it also comes with optical audio out as standard

separate channels for audio and video is epic win if you're integrating it into an existing setup


I can't figure out plex, is mine broken?


are you running intel / leopard or snow leopard?
if so, thats pretty unusual - I've had 0 problems with it on either of the two versions

especially unusual since we've probably got 90% the same components (i've run it on macbooks, macs and minis etc)

last edited by tequila at 22:50:45 11/Nov/09
Obes
Posted 11:14pm 11/11/09
Well ok ... don't agree. *whatever* but for under half the price of this setup you can get a device that can do what this can with no setup at all.

Once you add 2 tv cards and some decently fast storage it'll be well over the 500 mark. I'd also look at getting a wireless keyboard for when you need to fiddle (because you will need to fiddle at some point, which is one of the cons against these).

And from what I have seen of windows7, you'll be wanting Windows 7 as well : / (no stuffing around with XML services to get a TV guide!)
tequila
Posted 11:32pm 11/11/09
mac mini -> $799 (you want the higher spec core2 of the current series)

* 100% no doubt plays anything you can throw at it in full 1080p
* usb and firewire if you want to add tv tuners
* slot load dvd drive
* built in IR
* hdmi out capable
* second video out
* optical out standard
* low power
* 500gb drive
* gig ethernet
* 802.11n
* small form factor
* iphone apps for everything mac


http://www.apple.com/macmini/design.html
Syco
Posted 11:34pm 11/11/09
Teq, can you get a blueray player in it? Will it work with Plex?
jadz0r
Posted 11:41pm 11/11/09
I'd also look at getting a wireless keyboard for when you need to fiddle (because you will need to fiddle at some point, which is one of the cons against these).

VNC + Laptop =p

And from what I have seen of windows7, you'll be wanting Windows 7 as well : / (no stuffing around with XML services to get a TV guide!)

Orly, how does it scrape the TV data? Last time I looked into Windows Media Centre there wasn't any easy way to get an Australian TV guide going.

As somebody that loves to tinker around with this kind of thing, I'd definitely try it out.

mac mini -> $799 (you want the higher spec core2 of the current series)

...but for $500 you can get basically the same thing =]
Agamemnon
Posted 11:46pm 11/11/09
Wifey and I have been thinking about getting the whole box and dice recently (i.e. upgrading from our 1999 spec tv :P) and getting a new large screen plasma or lcd or led tv, along with appropriate boxs to do things that i arent entirely sure about...

But i will be honest and admit i dont know what the hell i need to get with the damm thing and this article has just added to my confusion :P

I just want to be able to watch a huge screen, play all kinds of movies that i have acquired through what ever means necessary, play my music mp3s, videos, or what ever and shake the walls... and hopefully record stuff from the tv so i can watch it later rather than trying to wake up at 3.30am to watch the All Blacks beat Wales.. etc - and all this talk of set top boxes, hdmi, 1080, htdc, media centres, etc is quite confronting.

What does this box actually do that all the other component boxes etc dont do? (if that question isnt too simple?)

While i am here, could one of you gurus recommend a set up for a full home theater / music playing / tv watching etc system?
tequila
Posted 11:57pm 11/11/09
funny you should mention that syco

http://amexdigital.com/Press_Release-E_BD-UG1%20Mac%20mini%20Blu-ray%20Drive%20Upgrade%20Kit.htm

(Dated 11-11-2009)

source: http://www.product-reviews.net/2009/11/11/mac-mini-blu-ray-drive-kit-os-x-doesnt-support-native-playback/



I just want to be able to watch a huge screen, play all kinds of movies that i have acquired through what ever means necessary, play my music mp3s, videos, or what ever and shake the walls... and hopefully record stuff from the tv so i can watch it later rather ...

What does this box actually do that all the other component boxes etc dont do? (if that question isnt too simple?)


I've had a htpc for about 5 years now, started out as an xbox 1 with an xecuter 2 modchip, running xbmc
I used and abused it solid for at least the first 3 years before I got serious (read: had money to spend on a better solution)

it was 480p capable, played "That 70s show" .avi rips on an almost endless loop for probably 12 months - looked like old school normal tv output

then I got a meldion pc (from aldi, hai dave), has hdmi out, tuner etc
but ran windows vista, used some s***** remote, didn't have anywhere near decent enough software to call it a 'media center'

crippled by microsoft before it had a chance with media player refusing to play certain files

then i got rid of that and bought an apple tv and ran xbmc on that, it was good for a time - then more and more of the things I was watching were growing in size and quality, the apple tv couldn't cope

i've also got a bog standard tivo, its alright as far as point and click goes - you run something on your pc to do the transcoding and its pretty much flawless, but the UI sucks a big fat one and I cant be bothered hacking it

hence, the mac mini solution

whats your budget for your setup?
how big is the room its going in?
what features are you most interested in?

last edited by tequila at 23:57:15 11/Nov/09
whoop
Posted 11:49pm 11/11/09
are you running intel / leopard or snow leopard?
if so, thats pretty unusual - I've had 0 problems with it on either of the two versions

10.6.1 so snow leopard I guess on a 2.8ghz core2duo macbook pro w/4gb of ram.

Help worked once but then every time I clicked it I ended up in the applications section staring at a list of media playing programs I have installed.

Either way I deleted it.
tspec
Posted 11:52pm 11/11/09
I considered that Asrock case in the OP but decided against it simply because of no front USB ports, went with this case instead and I haven't regreted that decision.
Yapa
Posted 01:24am 12/11/09
Nice article! I was quite interested to see how Linux is setup for HTPC.

I've had a HTPC for a number of years and its now quite an advanced setup.

I have to say that Linux/Unbuntu is quite a hassle to setup, and has some problems which you have described in the article.

For $110 I would simply purchase a OEM copy of 32bit Win7 Home and enjoy hassle and headache free WMC usage, most things will work out of the box.

It also runs very well on low end hardware, even with 1GB of memory.

One thing I dont agree with is the storage method. I dont think its convinient to store the data elsewhere because :

1) Have to run cable from your living room, hassle
2) Have to run another machine 24/7, or buy an expensive NAS device and have it running 24/7
3) Relying on your network for all communication

The downside you say to storing data in your HTPC is noise from HDD's, well I guess some are more sensitive than others. I currently have 1x80GB, 1x1TB, 1x500GB in my HTPC and I honestly cant hear them from 2meters away, even when the movie has a "silent" moment :)

I think its more convenient to have the storage IN the HTPC, it also improves performance... and you do need it when recording 2x HD TV shows, watching another HD movie and running the torrents :)

Another point you did not mention is torrents, many legal shows and docos are available, and the HTPC is a perfect 24/7 torrent box as it 1) has lots of storage, 2) is silent, 3) is on 24/7, 4) has direct access to the content for playback.

Good article and I would be tempted to try out an ION platform for a future HTPC build, currently using E6300 (old desktop cpu) and its fast enough, but probably not as energy efficient. (using HD3450 for HD1080p playback (bluray/mkv)

Yapa
Jim
Posted 02:04am 12/11/09
heh funny you should say that - I normally run linux + xbmc on my asrock, although using a slightly different setup/config to this article. tonight though, I took out my sdd from the asrock and stuck in the original hdd to test windows 7 wmc - wow what a piece of junk! nice interface and easily controllable with the remote, but it completely failed at storing network logins and simply said 'no movies were found' - and even after manually logging the storage share, it failed to find anything other than ripped dvd dirs and .avi files

complete fail

I installed a codec for mkv and then it finally decided to find all my media for me - but no cover art, just dopey coloured rectangles. and then when I tried to play them, it just said it couldn't find the file. what a waste of a night.

linux+xbmc just scrapes from imdb or wherever you tell it if you don't like the default scrapers, doesn't require any codec installs and just plays the files. awesome cover and fan art, snazzy skins and excellent presentation of the media.


1) Have to run cable from your living room, hassle
2) Have to run another machine 24/7, or buy an expensive NAS device and have it running 24/7
3) Relying on your network for all communication


1) fair point, although cat5 wired through your house or even a couple of rooms sorts that out. it's 2009 after all =]
otherwise ethernet over power might be a decent option

2) this is the best way to store terabytes of media. you build or buy a device dedicated to the task and can therefore choose one that can cater to ongoing space requirements, data redundancy and power saving

3) this is great, because it makes it easy to provide the media to any number of devices rather than having to either duplicate your data or have it restricted to one device at a time. fair point about the cost though, it's generally not cheap although if I could've found a decent case comparable to the thecus N7700 that I ended up buying, I'd have just built my own nas.

network performance even at only 100mbit is not an issue. I just press the power button on the remote, the asrock blinks out of suspend and instantly starts playing the media it was playing when I pressed the power button previously.
Term
Posted 06:11am 12/11/09
My nas in my study is connected to my HTPC in my living room at 1gbit with large frame support, running tests when I set it up, I get a faster read speed from the nas than I can on drives locally on my pc

My nas is hands down the best thing I have bought in years without question. My wife uses it to store all her work stuff on, do her backups on, keep pictures of the kids and back up all that 1080 video she keeps taking. I use it to store my games and connect to them via iSCSI, for my tv shows, and it holds personal copies of every dvd I own so I dont have to look for a dvd. Its connected to my tv room and my bedroom, so all that content can be used anywhere, when my kids get bigger it'll be there for them too I'm sure.
Nathan
Posted 06:58am 12/11/09
For $110 I would simply purchase a OEM copy of 32bit Win7 Home and enjoy hassle and headache free WMC usage


I think you are glossing over way too many details to describe WMC as hassle and headache free - if you are anything like other people, you are happy to put up with all the stupid stuff Windows makes you do, because you already know how to do it.

I have to say that Linux/Unbuntu is quite a hassle to setup


The whole article can be summarised as: Install mixer and enable HDMI, install remote control driver, install graphics driver and enable 1080p, install XBMC.

These steps take about 20 minutes to perform, a fair portion of which will just be waiting on downloads. I personally think the hassle is simply that many people are new to Linux and would not know where to look to accomplish these things.


I guess storage is somewhat of a personal choice. If you want a small case (like the Asrock) then you aren't going to get much storage. I have 4x1TB drives in a PC located in another room, and it definitely is a noisy PC compared to the Asrock.

Ethernet, I already have my 360 wired so it made no real difference to me. I see your point now though - in combination, local storage can alleviate the need for ethernet since you dont need to stream it in realtime.

tspec, I found the lack of front ports inconvenient while writing the review because I needed to plug the keyboard+mouse in, but in general usage it makes no difference to me. What are you plugging in the front? It is kind of a weird oversight when there's 6 ports in the back.

but for under half the price of this setup you can get a device that can do what this can with no setup at all.


That's a fair call (if the device works as advertised). I haven't seen the WD TV Live before, but there's been similar dedicated media players on the market for a long time.

As a PC enthusiast I've never really considered getting one of those devices, I'm a sucker for following the development of XBMC, MediaPortal, and MythTV, checking out the new features and so on. I think the primary point of my article was to point out that its now cheaper than ever to do so.
Tollaz0r!
Posted 08:48am 12/11/09
I use a xbox 360, with a wireless router with dd-wrt firmware and using my PC + Tversity it plays all my media.

When I upgrade one of my PC eventually, the old parts will become a media center, yay!


Agamegamon, a hint. Dont spend any less then $1000 on a sound system. Your sound system should be at a similar price to your TV.
That is if you want sound thumping as you say without distortion and yuckness.

Alt_F4
Posted 09:24am 12/11/09
I use a xbox 360, with a wireless router with dd-wrt firmware and using my PC + Tversity it plays all my media.

When I upgrade one of my PC eventually, the old parts will become a media center, yay!


Sounds like what I do, but i have a PS3 instead (therefore a blu-ray player). I really want to make a HTPC, but can't really justify it for a marginal improvement in usability over the PS3
TicMan
Posted 09:26am 12/11/09
Jim did you install Media Browser plugin? Like XBMC there's a bit of tweaking and installing extra plugins to get things just right and Win7 MCE is no different.

Agamemnon - if you're getting a new TV then go down the HTPC road. Like teq I started off with an Xbox1 + XBMC years ago which led to MythTV then XBMCMythFrontend and then GBPVR and then MediaPortal and I've finally settled on Win7 MCE. The reason I use Win7 MCE is I just can't be arsed spending time playing with computers any more so it was the fastest way to go from bare bones box to running HTPC.

The wifey happiness factor is off the charts, at first I thought she would find it hard to use but the reality is it's as easy as clicking the Picutres icon or Music icon or Movies icon or TV icon (UI is virtually the same across most HTPC software). In addition anyone that comes over leaves a damp wet spot on the lounge after they've used the HTPC because of all the cool things it can do.

I had some friends stay over last weekend who brought a bunch of holiday & wedding photos on an external drive. I plugged it into the file server I have, copied the images to the pictures directory and browsed to it from the HTPC and we all set looking at their pics on a big LCD.
Term
Posted 09:41am 12/11/09
Worth a mention, and I can give this one the thumbs up cuz I have it at home, if you want something really cheap that does the same thing, look no further than the E-Great Media Tank. It ticks all the boxes except GUI and you can pick them up for about 150 to 200 bucks

http://www.avforums.com/forums/streamers-network-media-players/745688-egreat-eg-m31a-network-media-tank.html

http://www.egreatusa.com/egreat-egm34a-networked-media-tank-n34.html
Jim
Posted 10:19am 12/11/09
nope I didn't install media browser plugin - I thought the point of media centre was to provide a library-style interface to my media. next time I'll ignore all the claims that even my aunt's grandmother could set it up, and just rtfm like I would anything else

you don't need to install any plugins to xbmc to get it to find/play mkvs incidentally
Denny
Posted 10:35am 12/11/09
I've hand built a system using the Zotac IONITX which uses the Atom 330 and has a laptop brick (rather than an ATX PSU). I've found it to be great and more than powerful enough to handle any HD media I've thrown at it (once you setup the DXVA - VPDAU for Win). In fact I've load tested by recording to 2hd streams (TV) and playing 1080p Dark Knight.

From the WMC perspective I'm more than happy enough with it's usability particularly once integrated with a decent EPG like IceTV. I can highly recommend the DigitalNow TinyTwin (dual USB) tuner. I tried a cheapo aldi brand one and had nothing but issues. The TinyTwin is well worth the money, and apparently is well supported in linux. I'll do a rebuild once I purchase Win7 (currently on eval copy) and will play around with Media Browser and some of the auto-ad-removal apps that are out there.

I'm also using the machine as my torrent box and will probably throw a Blu-ray drive in there eventually.

I briefly considered using linux for something like this but in my experience it's always been more trouble than it's worth :(, i think this is particularly an issue once you start playing with tv recording as media playing is much more straightforward as you've shown. As my machine gets used 50% of the time for TV recording and watching it was important to me that it just work.

last edited by Denny at 10:35:58 12/Nov/09
TicMan
Posted 10:32am 12/11/09
My aunt's grandmother couldn't even turn a computer on let alone setup a HTPC on XBMC or Win7 (mainly because she'd be dead).
Nathan
Posted 10:45am 12/11/09
, i think this is particularly an issue once you start playing with tv recording as media playing is much more straightforward as you've shown


I guess we'll find out in my next article :)
Agamemnon
Posted 11:44am 12/11/09
Hi

Well budget, not more than 10grand i reckon

I had my eye on the following:

Yamaha Speakers System

TV type etc i just dont know - plasma seems cheap and i saw a nice fat one for $2200 (52"?) the other day at one of the Clives that seemed pretty good - but then i hear about burn in and power consumption etc. Wifey has been muttering about LED but they seem expensive and not sure if the so called power save to a plasma is worth the extra $

As to eveyr thing else that goes with tv/speakers - i just dont know. And reading the replies since my original question have only helped to extend my knowledge of my own ignorance hehe
Obes
Posted 11:59am 12/11/09
VNC + Laptop =p

So you do to your office to fiddle with your tv ... good plan ...
Remember when I say this I have a HTPC ... and several computing devices. I even have VNC on my iphone. And the most useful thing I bought for my HTPC was a Logitech dinovo mini keyboard.

Orly, how does it scrape the TV data? Last time I looked into Windows Media Centre there wasn't any easy way to get an Australian TV guide going.

Windows 7 supports "Now and Next" or more properly EIT (as did the secret OEM Vista MCE release) ie. the programme is transmitted along with the sound and images
Pinky
Posted 12:01pm 12/11/09
And the most useful thing I bought for my HTPC was a Logitech dinovo mini keyboard.

Anyone who wants one, PM me. I have one for sale, good as new with everything bar the box.
Jim
Posted 12:06pm 12/11/09
you're not very good at htpc's obes
Opec
Posted 12:24pm 12/11/09

TV type etc i just dont know - plasma seems cheap and i saw a nice fat one for $2200 (52"?) the other day at one of the Clives that seemed pretty good - but then i hear about burn in and power consumption etc. Wifey has been muttering about LED but they seem expensive and not sure if the so called power save to a plasma is worth the extra $


LOL yeah power saving features I love how people throw that around. I mean seriously you've gotta watch a lot of TV before it makes that much of a difference and not to mention the fact that LED/LCD TV initial cost of investment is larger than Plasma of the same size and spec (debatable, I personally think Plasma PQ is far superior), your return on investment from "Power saving" feature is negligible.

Burn-ins are not an issue any more and FYI new plasmas have better power consumption so really, you're splitting hairs. As for "thinness" I mean do you really care about how thin the TV is cause I certainly don't look at the sides of the TV when I watch my TV :)

Like I said, bang for buck Plasma s**** on all other LED/LCD screens. This was discussed in detailed recently here, here's the actual article. Don't believe the marketing hype of LED, research and decide for yourself. I know I'd personally buy a Plasma screen again if I had to do it all over, except that I'd get a bigger size LOL :)




last edited by Opec at 12:24:43 12/Nov/09
RockitMan
Posted 12:24pm 12/11/09
How many blu ray or normal dvd's will 160gb hdd hold?
Agamemnon
Posted 12:30pm 12/11/09
Sorry Opec, i shouldve spelled it "Phat"

I meant it looked pretty good to me etc, not a comment on its actual size :)

And yes i agree, LED to plasma as a power save makes no sense unless you live in front of the TV
Hashy
Posted 12:31pm 12/11/09
Burn in is definitely still an issue, just a smaller one if you buy a high quality one new (pixel shifting and other preventatives). Don't believe plasma progaganda.

You basically can't watch letterboxed (cinema) or pillarboxed (4:3 foxtel and FTA) content without both short and long term effects.
Mass
Posted 12:38pm 12/11/09
Good article, anything that encourages HTPC use is a good thing. I do agree with obes though, without a tv tuner its not a HTPC.

For a lot less hassle you could go a buy one of these:

Viewsonic VOT132

Comes with windows, and everything already in the box for $540. Add your favourite dual HD USB tuner and you've got a HTPC ready to go. They also offer a very cool add on blu-ray drive ($150) that is magnetically clipped to the side. They also have twice the HDD capacity of the unit Nats built.

ICE TV also has a deal on them at the moment, they come with a dual usb tuner, ice subscription and HDMI cable for $899.

last edited by Mass at 12:38:25 12/Nov/09
Nathan
Posted 12:38pm 12/11/09
Burn in is definitely still an issue, just a smaller one


I've had 3 different Panasonic Plasma TV's in the last 4 years, I regularly play video games and run my HTPC on it. I've left it stuck with the same images on the screen for hours, and I've never experienced burn in.

You basically can't watch letterboxed (cinema) or pillarboxed (4:3 foxtel and FTA) content without both short and long term effects.


Completely false in my experience.

My experience is the only propoganda is that from LCD fanboys who like to throw up burn-in as a scary issue when the reality is, its not an issue at all*

* My experience is only with Panasonic, but if you are going to buy Plasma you should think very hard before buying anything else.
Opec
Posted 12:40pm 12/11/09
heh Hashy and I'm sure LED/LCD doesn't have their own progagandas? :)


Sorry Opec, i shouldve spelled it "Phat"

I meant it looked pretty good to me etc, not a comment on its actual size :)

And yes i agree, LED to plasma as a power save makes no sense unless you live in front of the TV


Agamemnon, yeah I know what you're saying :) Also if your other half reaaaaaaalllly want a thin TV, newer Panasonic have brought out really thin Plasma Tv as well. Though it's over price IMO.
Mass
Posted 12:42pm 12/11/09
Plasma burn-in is a myth on current TVs.
Nathan
Posted 12:52pm 12/11/09
For a lot less hassle you could go a buy one of these


What exactly makes it a lot less hassle? Installing RAM and HDD takes 5 minutes.

Price wise you've forgotten the remote I think, so you're up to almost $600

You can get a 320gb drive instead of 160gb for about another $20 on top of what's in my article. I picked the absolute cheapest drive there was for the article, since its my belief that storing media on the HTPC is not a great idea. From what's been seen in the comments so far, not everyone agrees. Hell, I would have written about booting off a 16GB Compact Flash card if it was cheaper.


Its definitely a good alternative though, given other than the case its almost exactly the same hardware. The case itself based on the manufacturer's photos certainly looks a bit nicer. Where would you suggest buying one from?
kappa
Posted 12:52pm 12/11/09
That Viewsonic has no DVD/CD Drive. Its an extra accessory. The new ASRock Ion 330 HT will also come with wireless and a remote out of the box.
skythra
Posted 01:06pm 12/11/09
I use a xbox 360, with a wireless router with dd-wrt firmware and using my PC + Tversity it plays all my media.

Excatly what I do.

Also as for plasma vs LCD here's the deal:

about 18 months ago i bought a LCD 42" TV for some price. My brother brought his PS3 around and played some games for the night.

2 days later he bought himself a 50" Plasma for slightly less.

We now live together and when we have people around and we choose which TV to watch things on when people come over (which to show off) we choose the plasma every time. Why? Its bigger.
casa
Posted 01:13pm 12/11/09
Ive had one of these systems for about a month now, one thing that does not work is xbmc on windows 7 64-bit, im not sure if is just windows 7, or if its 64 bit or what, but she blows.

For $581 I got the barebones, 500gb 7200rpm (I like storing as much media as possible on it, and 4gb corsair ram.

last edited by casa at 13:13:12 12/Nov/09
Hashy
Posted 01:12pm 12/11/09
I don't own a television at all, so as the only neutral party here not trying to justify a previous investment, 200hz LED or bust.
Jim
Posted 01:23pm 12/11/09
I've got a plasma and an LCD, but I subscribe to your 200hz LED or bust newsletter
Opec
Posted 01:25pm 12/11/09
200Hz purrrleeeassse everyone knows that all you need is 24fps
Nathan
Posted 01:48pm 12/11/09
200Hz purrrleeeassse everyone knows that all you need is 24fps


Or at least a multiple thereof. 200hz = FAIL
Hashy
Posted 01:51pm 12/11/09
1:1 pulldown is overrated. It's still closer to 1:1 than most other PAL-region tvs.
Pinky
Posted 01:51pm 12/11/09
1kHz ftw

Yeah, 100Hz for stereo is my current target.
skythra
Posted 01:58pm 12/11/09
I don't own a television at all, so as the only uninformed party
fixed :)
TicMan
Posted 01:58pm 12/11/09
Anyone remember the name of that Win7 filter that 'sped up' PAL video?
boba
Posted 02:05pm 12/11/09
i recently installed win7 on my mediapc to try out this mediabrowser plugin people were raving about and found it to be s***. I then tried meedios and that too was s***. gone back to the trusty old media portal ftw
HerbalLizard
Posted 02:11pm 12/11/09
Been runing a htpc since 2002 not really ground breaking stuff, tell you one thing though go to someone else's house who doesn't run one and its like someone died
Nathan
Posted 03:00pm 12/11/09
1:1 pulldown is overrated. It's still closer to 1:1 than most other PAL-region tvs.


200hz is more overrated
Spook
Posted 04:17pm 12/11/09
now, i will only ever watch plasmas when i sit at 45 degrees to my viewing source
Opec
Posted 04:25pm 12/11/09

now, i will only ever watch plasmas when i sit at 45 degrees to my viewing source


At least you have the option if you so choose Spook. Can't say the same for LCD/LED however.
Spook
Posted 04:32pm 12/11/09
if im slumming it in front of my lcd, i just sit straight on;

yer, its inconvenient, but i made my bed, i have to lie in it
Jim
Posted 04:44pm 12/11/09
your doing it wrong
sitting to one side is for wife/kids/visitors/dogs
Hogfather
Posted 04:47pm 12/11/09
sitting to one side is for wife/kids/visitors/dogs
TicMan
Posted 04:51pm 12/11/09
I'm in the same bed as you spook.. it's dreamy.
Opec
Posted 05:35pm 12/11/09

I'm in the same bed as you spook.. it's dreamy.


Surely not exactly the same bed, cause that'd make you his wife. Or is Spook's yours?
Spook
Posted 05:37pm 12/11/09
we've got an open relationship
JaYMan
Posted 08:28pm 12/11/09
What's the main benifit of one of these over a WD TV Live that plays everything for only $180? Just curious.
Jim
Posted 10:09pm 12/11/09
I just picked up a wdtv live tonight from umart

summary:

- great for beginner/light users
- pretty s*** for anyone who watches tv/movies a lot or has a large collection of media



bit longer:

great budget unit for light/newbie users. easy to setup (it set itself up and instantly found the media smb share on my nas) and let me enter a user/pass with an option to save it or forget it, and was able to browse and play 1080p dts or ac3 right away, and very smoothly.
however there's no way you could use this for regular tv/movie watching cos the interface is incredibly basic and ultra-painful when you have a medium or large media collection. no cover art of course, you just have to painfully scroll through hundreds of files/dirs trying to read their jittery scrolling filenames, as well as browse to the share and through it's dir structure each time - couldn't see a way to add a 'root' path and favourite it for one or two click navigation
weedy
Posted 11:33pm 12/11/09
Nice write up but i prefer to go bulky (ATX case) cause you can do things a lot cheaper and put many more hdd's in it and frankly thats the one problem i find with HTPC's - lack of storage.

I built a X2 7750 AMD - awesome CPU for price $79 i think i paid. 2GB of spare DDR2 i had lying around but worth $70 now?. Mobo has onboard graphics which was perfectly fine for bluray playback but had a 8800GTS lying around so its got that in it, got a HD tuner for recording to HDD which routes power thru it so can turn my pc on via the remote and for the rest i use a wireless mouse.

I spent a bit more on case cause u dont want a crap PSU otherwise your asking for trouble.

Im stoked cause now if tv is crap i can watch blurays, dvds or stream live media over the net to my plasma. Also it doubles as a nice 2nd gaming machine when the missus is using main box for browsing.

Was using hte PS3 but got sick of demuxing MKV rips to stream em to my PS3 and flash is well er crap on the PS3 so no ABC iview.

I did have an old single core CPU but it sucked so bad for HD and it only had AGP slot on mobo so i thought bought time i got a new one and im so glad i did. Its the most used PC in the house by far.
Syco
Posted 11:39pm 12/11/09
Nice write up but i prefer to go bulky (ATX case) cause you can do things a lot cheaper and put many more hdd's in it and frankly thats the one problem i find with HTPC's - lack of storage.


Bulky ugly 10 year old case with 10 HDD's = for the spare room.

Sexy tiny case connected to it via etherenet = near TV.

That's how I run it anyway. I've got an old beat up cheapo case sitting in the spare room that has a heap of space for HDD's with about 2TB of HDD's in it full of legally obtained video, music and other media.

I'm pretty deaf for normal noises but I can hear background noises clear as day, I can't stand having hdd's clunking and fans blowing while I'm watching a movie.
Mantorok
Posted 11:54pm 12/11/09
weedy - lack of local storage isn't an issue if you put everything on a NAS.
Yapa
Posted 12:50am 13/11/09
Nathan + Jim, you have some good points there and I agree that something like a NAS is ofcourse the best storage solution if your after serious storage and have the budget.

I guess something like the HTPC in this article would be a budget low end HTPC, something like mine with 1.5TB of storage and many extra's would be an average HTPC setup, while a HTPC with external NAS storage and wired network would be high end, really depends on the budget and desire.

As for Linux vs Win7 MCE, for a newb user the Win7 MCE would be a better option, but as all software it has its drawbacks. The most surprising thing I found with the XMBC setup was the lack of 5.1 sound if menu sounds are enabled, this could be quite a tricky thing to find out if you havent read such an article for example.

Regarding HTPC video cards, what is the most powerful passive ATI card?

I currently have a HD3450 512MB Passive and its brilliant as a HTPC card, 1080p no sweat and even 1080i with Vector adaptive deinterlacing..... however I want to put the odd game on my HTPC which would suit a large TV (such as NFS:SHIFT, STAR WARS SITH edition) etc... and the current GPU is just not enough.

Would need to be passive or very very silent, thanks in advance.

Yapa
Term
Posted 01:40am 13/11/09
I went from a plasma to a 55 inch LED 200hz (samsung series 8) It is the bomb, even my wife loves it in terms of picture quality, she keeps making me show her friends heh

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2932410&l=798d7e5c91&id=689103672

Should be able to see that.
JaYMan
Posted 04:15am 13/11/09
Thanks for the info Jim, thats what I wanted to know.

Semi interested if i go the HTPC route to go the mac mini option also.

Few questions for Teq if he's still around (i'm a mac noob, but i'd like one to mess around with).

* Base line model not good enough? They're already starting at $849 so price is getting up there.
* I don't see anything about HDMI output anywhere at http://www.apple.com/au/macmini/specs.html do i need to get some other gizmo for that at extra expence?
* What remote?
* Still using XBMC? Does it work fine on Snow Leopard?
HerbalLizard
Posted 07:42am 13/11/09
I can't seem to find if zotac have a s-vid out on their ion boards
weedy
Posted 08:26am 13/11/09
Nah i've got a NAS they are pretty annoying... so slow at copying files and heaven forbid you copy a rar file over and try to decompress it... i only use it for my MP3's cause thats something i want available on all my pc's at all times and the files are relatively small.

I might be convinced by SAN but who has the money for that ;)

Besides i dont want to run two devices when i only need one. I want to come home and turn on my media box (just like the article suggests) and use it, not mess around with NAS/or turning on a second pc for streaming.

I dont hear any fans or HDD spinning - i got a decent case which easily buffers the sound out.

Also since my ATX case is the same size as my woofer its not out of place at all they are a perfect side by side.

I've been streaming stuff to my old media box and PS3 and after a while it becomes a pain in the bum having to turn on a second pc or NAS just so you can view your media - and how are you gonna record HD content if you dont have a lot of space?

I want a total solution not a half ass one ;)
Jim
Posted 09:10am 13/11/09
Nah i've got a NAS they are pretty annoying... so slow at copying files and heaven forbid you copy a rar file over and try to decompress it
sounds like a netgear or worldbook! :)

my nas is faster than any single hdd/sdd available on the consumer market (1gbit ethernet becomes the bottleneck, not disk speed) offers various file sharing protocols including iscsi, various raid levels and online hotspares and is the opposite of half-assed. to me, trying to cram hard drives into your small media pc giving you limited redundancy and very limited space, is doing it half-assed. my movies and tv occupy just under 4TB already (I rip all my dvd/blueray to disk, who wants to deal with swapping cd/dvd's in and out, when you can just flick through a pretty menu and pick what to watch?)

it's quiet and just stays turned on, sitting under the corner of the desk in my office - why would you need to turn on a nas to watch movies? just don't turn it off. I've used the western digital green drives (7 x 1tb) which run between 5400 and 7200 rpm depending on load, and shut down when not in use.

the asrock in the bedroom can play the files straight off it, so can the wdtv live in another room. or another asrock or similar, soon enough :) so can my pc in my office, or whatever else I put on the network. my backups go on it, and I can give my pc more disk space via iscsi if I want it

if you're after a total solution, you can't go past it in my opinion

Nathan
Posted 09:58am 13/11/09
The most surprising thing I found with the XMBC setup was the lack of 5.1 sound if menu sounds are enabled, this could be quite a tricky thing to find out if you havent read such an article for example.


Good luck getting Windows7 MCE to even play MKV if you haven't read an article. The only difference is many users have already had to learn all the bulls*** around windows' codecs on their desktop PC.

In any case my article wasnt written for "noobs", its for PC enthusiasts. Casual users should stay away from HTPC entirely and use dedicated PVR's, WDTV Live, etc.


As far as I can tell the navigation sounds thing is a bug in XBMC - XBMC's internal UI should release the sound device so that the 5.1 sound can be played, but for whatever reason, it doesnt. EDIT: They have an entry in their bug tracker about it here http://xbmc.org/trac/ticket/7417
HerbalLizard
Posted 10:40am 13/11/09
I've had next to no issues playing mkv on w7 mce, or anything else for that matter

my movies and tv occupy just under 4TB already (I rip all my dvd/blueray to disk, who wants to deal with swapping cd/dvd's in and out, when you can just flick through a pretty menu and pick what to watch?)
Never a truer word said especially if you have kids/flatmates to f*** up the media, additionally I ended up buying a few 3 packs of the oem ms remotes because at that time I was worried about drunken flatmates toasting them. Ms had discontiuned them which is a shame cause they seem to be more hardy than the hauppauge ones

If I could offer the following advice, get hold of as many remotes as you can get your hands on. Given they cost less and slab and bit, they are cheap enough. On the xbmc and sound issue with the menu's can you add a different sound device to handle the sounds as i.e. twin asla devices

last edited by HerbalLizard at 10:39:55 13/Nov/09

last edited by HerbalLizard at 10:40:25 13/Nov/09
Opec
Posted 11:12am 13/11/09

* I don't see anything about HDMI output anywhere at http://www.apple.com/au/macmini/specs.html do i need to get some other gizmo for that at extra expence?


Correct, you'll need DVI -> HDMI adaptor. This is one of the reason when I looked at teq's suggestion about using mac mini + plex and went sounds good exxxcept no HDMI + Bluray would be a pain in the arse to hack around.
Mass
Posted 11:33am 13/11/09
Win 7 is very easy codec setup, install ffdshow tryouts and haali and you're done. Can playback everything.

The one thing that Linux has in spades over Windows 7 in the HTPC space is Shepherd. There is no finer EPG available (its even better than ICE which you pay for). I run a ubuntu VM just for Shepherd. I run the data into windows 7 using BigScreen EPG.

If you're prepared to spend a little time and do some research on a Windows HTPC the results can be excellent. The default settings and install and a little bland but they do the job. The beauty of Windows Media Center is the ammount of development thats done for it.

I have a custom theme on my Media Center, use media browser for all my TV and Movies (which works really well - despite what boba says), have customised my main menu to remove items that I don't use, customised the EPG to expand the viewable lines from 7 to 10 and added logos to the channels, has integrated Blu-Ray playback (via Total Media Theatre), strips adds from recorded TV, easily access network shares. I realise that you can probably do all this on Linux (cept blu-ray) but I wouldn't say one is easier than the other, it will more come down to what OS you are familiar with cause research will be required for either.
boba
Posted 11:49am 13/11/09
media borwser sucks balls. you have to use an external program to scrap metadata for movies and tv shows. but the program they suggest on their website blows goats for it. and if you have a nas that you set to sleep the hds after no usage, it takes mediabrowser a few loads for it to load all the data for the movies/tvshows on that nas. also it runs like balls when you have 300+ movies in the database

my mediapc isn't some s***** ion thing either. 3ghz c2d, 4gb ram, 30gb ssd, gigabit network
Jim
Posted 11:50am 13/11/09
when you add in a new movie or tv show for example, what happens? does mce scrape all the info and cover art for you seamlessly and just add the movie/tv ep to the library for browsing via coverflow or wallflow or whatever you use?

I haven't gotten that far yet, I can't even get the damn thing to play an mkv. yet I can double click one in windows explorer and it just plays in vlc fine
gonna hit it up on the weekend and at least give it a fair shot
Hogfather
Posted 11:55am 13/11/09
Haha yeh its faster for me to send files to and from the Thecus along the GBit connection than between separate SATA drives in the HTPC itself ... Spun me out when I realised!

Oh and:

get hold of as many remotes as you can get your hands on

I just use XBMC Remote for my iPhone, its a f***en rippa!

last edited by Hogfather at 11:55:17 13/Nov/09
Mantorok
Posted 11:57am 13/11/09
I can't seem to find if zotac have a s-vid out on their ion boards
S-Video? Sounds like it's time for a new TV.
HerbalLizard
Posted 12:01pm 13/11/09
S-Video? Sounds like it's time for a new TV
Staving donkey syndrome, nah I am going to wait till either led drops in price or oled becomes the norm in any case its moreso for for portability of that particular htpc being that its itx based. And I happen to have more than three htpc's already
Opec
Posted 12:04pm 13/11/09
Wouldn't hold my breath on OLED dude, a few years off it being large enough and more importantly cheap enough for mortals :)
TicMan
Posted 12:05pm 13/11/09
when you add in a new movie or tv show for example, what happens? does mce scrape all the info and cover art for you seamlessly and just add the movie/tv ep to the library for browsing via coverflow or wallflow or whatever you use?


The first second or two when you browse the folder that has new content, the item will be blank while it goes out to the interwebs to get the necessary info. So I just put a new movie onto the movie share on my file server, browse to it in MCE and it will have all the other movie cover flow except the new one will be blank.

A second (or sometimes less) later it will have the movie cover displayed and all the info like actor, synopsis, etc downloaded. My movies folder is structured as "Name (Year)", ie: "Star Trek (2009)" and the filename is whatever it wants to be and it works well. TV shows are structured "Show Name\Season X", ie: "One Tree Hill\Season 7" (hi rev). Filenames for TV shows are generally sXXeYY and the Media Browser plugin will go and get the info for that episode.

I haven't gotten that far yet, I can't even get the damn thing to play an mkv. yet I can double click one in windows explorer and it just plays in vlc fine
gonna hit it up on the weekend and at least give it a fair shot


Install Shark007 codec pack and that will fix up those problems. If it doesn't there is an MKV reg hack available here (although it's from Jan 09 and my last rebuild I just installed Shark007).
tequila
Posted 12:14pm 13/11/09
* Base line model not good enough? They're already starting at $849 so price is getting up there.
* I don't see anything about HDMI output anywhere at http://www.apple.com/au/macmini/specs.html do i need to get some other gizmo for that at extra expence?
* What remote?
* Still using XBMC? Does it work fine on Snow Leopard?



I can't say definitivly if the base line model is fine or not, we used the highest spec possible because all this one does is play 30gb mkv files
the HDMI output is via a converter cable, about 30 bucks (DVI <-> HDMI)
the remote comes with the mac mini I believe, its a tiny white thing the size of a bic lighter

it uses plex, which is an osx fork of xbmc (its better too, imo)

theres a pretty good chance the base model will work and play just fine, what we found the be the biggest issue was streaming massive files
at first we were going via a windows share it would lose a frame every now and then, that was fixed by using iscsi instead of CIFS
so I think the problem there was more to do with the network buffering code inside xbmc/plex than the mac mini not being up to the task

edit: with the aussie dollar so good right now, you're better off buying the US one from ebay or whatever
I think it also gets a larger drive too

last edited by tequila at 12:14:09 13/Nov/09
Nathan
Posted 12:16pm 13/11/09
Win 7 is very easy codec setup, install ffdshow tryouts and haali and you're done. Can playback everything.


This is just an example of "everything is easy when you know how to do it". Jim is no noob and he hasn't stumbled across the correct magic combination yet.

I'm sure it is simple to execute when you know the exact right thing google for and download.

The statement made earlier was that Win7 MCE is easier for noobs given the same task (of playing HD videos), when clearly it isnt - it still needs special sauce knowledge.
Jim
Posted 12:19pm 13/11/09
I followed this one first:
http://www.hack7mc.com/2009/02/mkvs-for-minimalists-on-windows-7.html

it didn't work, and I happened to mention it to boba this morning, he then dug up that same link you just gave me tic, will give it a go tonight
Jim
Posted 12:21pm 13/11/09
HerbalLizard
Posted 12:26pm 13/11/09
Also w7 black mce theme is nice but honesty has nothing on some of the xbmx skins and themes for mythtv
TicMan
Posted 12:27pm 13/11/09
One thing to remember about Win7 MCE & googling is alot of the posts/articles/tips were made pre-RTM. Many changes have been made between RC1 & RTM and additionally the third party plugins are a lot better now at playing MKV or EPG or cover art, etc.

.. can't believe I'm defending MS against *nix :(
Jim
Posted 12:36pm 13/11/09
heh it's pretty much only cos I can see you rating it, that I am even bothering with it at all :)

we're extremely happy with the asrock+linux+xbmc+nas combo, it's so f***** sweeeeeet - but I like tinkering and am interested in other solutions and comparing them. I've often said if windows xbmc supported the ion I might be running windows instead, or at least trying it. and I'll probably be buying another media box soon, either another asrock or one of the other slightly prettier slimeline offerings from samsung/acer etc - I guess I'll wanna be running the same solution on both systems for the sake of consistency, but at least with the asrock all I have to do is swap in the original hard disk and I can fiddle around with alternates, without messing up my existing setup
Obes
Posted 02:00pm 13/11/09
The statement made earlier was that Win7 MCE is easier for noobs given the same task (of playing HD videos), when clearly it isnt - it still needs special sauce knowledge.

Sorry but unless you are pirating none of this is needed. And pirating needs special sauce knowledge.
Jim
Posted 02:13pm 13/11/09
playing mkv files is not pirating
and even if you're talking about pirated mkv files, copying them from someone's usb drive is hardly special sauce knowledge
Hogfather
Posted 02:14pm 13/11/09
Stop talking about special sauce you c**** some of us are on the challege!

F***en big macs...
TicMan
Posted 02:18pm 13/11/09
McHappy day tomorrow!
Hogfather
Posted 02:21pm 13/11/09
ZOMG I HATE YOU
Obes
Posted 02:42pm 13/11/09
Jim's decided ... end of thread.
Jim
Posted 03:22pm 13/11/09
accept it
Term
Posted 03:33pm 13/11/09
or if obes is obes, cry about it - obes style
mongie
Posted 03:59pm 13/11/09
Who sells the Thecus? I bet thats an expensive box.

Edit: 7700Ultimate - $1500 at umart, yeah... no.

I have 11ty PC's I could load up with HDD's that would do just as good a job thx.

last edited by mongie at 15:59:25 13/Nov/09
Hogfather
Posted 04:12pm 13/11/09
The 7700 is the shiny as s*** bells and whistles new Thecus. You can still get 5200 PROs in Brissy for under a grand (no drives).

It's obviously not a budget option, but c'mon its hard to compare the price of ANY option to a few drives slapped into leftover parts. But for stupidly easy, lickety-split quick soho RAID storage you can't go past 'em I reckon.
Jim
Posted 04:15pm 13/11/09

I have 11ty PC's I could load up with HDD's that would do just as good a job thx.


I doubt it
you're too s*** to do anything decent
tequila
Posted 04:23pm 13/11/09
if you buy a thecus you care about your storage requirements, put simply
mongie
Posted 04:38pm 13/11/09
you're too s*** to do anything decent


lol

angry jim
Term
Posted 05:04pm 13/11/09
the funny thing is we pay so much money trying to make our pc's go faster and this is actually one of the best speed jumps we can get as gamers.

Removing all those drives and data on disk and replacing your disk with a small SSD can really give you a bump up in speed as your pc isnt grinding up every day maintaining indexes for all that data, and your disk speed is so much faster.
HeardY
Posted 05:08pm 13/11/09
do mammoth own shares in thecus or something :p
trog
Posted 05:24pm 13/11/09
you're too s*** to do anything decent
lol

angry jim
dig up some slashdot threads on the subject of enterprise HDDs; they're all always full of hata's saying "wtf I could build a home box with 123092103gb of storage and it wouldn't cost me as much as [subject of article]", and then there's about a million people pointing out all the ways in which such a system is utterly inferior to a proper custom-made system designed from the ground up to spit out data
Jim
Posted 05:27pm 13/11/09
hey I don't need financial incentive to go into a FROTHING E-RAGE heardy :D
Jim
Posted 06:15pm 13/11/09
yeh what trog said

I too have spare pc's, plenty of hdd's or some cash to buy new ones and the know-how to make my own storage - but I didn't. I still can't really be assed typing out a detailed post as to why but to summarise:

- I wanted a compact case, specifically designed to house 6+ 3.5" drives
- I wanted it to be well-designed for airflow (drive longevity) and be made of decent materials, and be quiet as possible
- I spent a few hours over the course of a few days searching online - chenbro came pretty close to fitting the bill, but only with 4 bays
- I wanted it asap as I'd just gotten the asrock and built/configured it up all ready to play media and
- term already had one and rated it
- I went f***it and just forked out for the thecus cos umart had one in stock as well as 7 of the 1tb wd green drives which meant I could have it in half an hour and start ripping all my discs, instead of gnaffing around any more looking to make my own

Hogfather
Posted 06:24pm 13/11/09
- I went f***it and just forked out for the thecus cos umart had one in stock as well as 7 of the 1tb wd green drives which meant I could have it in half an hour and start ripping all my discs, instead of gnaffing around any more looking to make my own
This is the big thing for me, the opportunity cost. I would much rather have my f*****g around with computers be on client's time.
Term
Posted 06:50pm 13/11/09
herdy, naa as people who are trend setters living out there on the edge its beholdent to us to provide feedback as to whats a good / bad move so the sheep can follow...

:)

In all seriousness, QNAP make a really nice one that rates high on newegg, was a tossup between them, I got the 7700 cuz boba said the 5200 was good, and it really did have great reviews (but so did the QNAP) - and I wanted the extra bays

I have it running into a little UPS and its great. I would like a nice backup system that I can put above it and forget about, but for now just it being Raid5 will have to do.
HerbalLizard
Posted 07:15pm 13/11/09
Qnap or thecus once you get passed 6 bays then you can nearly say that the performance is getting up there anyway, and sure there is always going to be something that you could build for cheaper but as most techs get on and on they give a s*** less and simply buy at the high end of the smb space. Doubt that there is anyone here with sas/fibre san's at home, s*** my own servers at home don't even have sas. Sure SSD for an individual workstations and gaming rigs or htpc but fully blown enterprise gear at home, doubtful unless its eol and purchased before the recyclers or leasers/refitters get it.

Anyone pairing a htpc alongside their main rig should really supplement it with a nas, its truly a simple easy solution.

Currently if my wife can not be bothered switching on the nas during the day then she can watch replicated data from the smb shares via my cc box. File-shares via the nas run on nfs/smb/afp and at the end of the day, its easier running a nas for multi protocol support and accessibility via the raft of platforms I run while I head for cloud / semi seamless integration of all media and the way in which you interact with it at my place.

Currently its boxee on osx, 3 htpc's 1 mce2005, 1 w7 pro 64, another ubuntu running myth tv
HeardY
Posted 07:15pm 13/11/09
I want to get a NAS setup in the new year and will probably look at the thecus range, 7 bays is what I'd be looking at as well.

The only trouble I have is deciding the drive size, apparently 1.5tb drives don't do raid all that well. 2tb drives are a little expensive at the moment.

I'd prefer to 'future proof' it as much as possible and go larger then 1tb drives, if I am going to drop 2k on a storage system.
Jim
Posted 07:47pm 13/11/09
is there anything around that documents why they don't do raid well? I've seen it mentioned here and there by randoms in tech article comments but never seen anything to substantiate it
HerbalLizard
Posted 07:49pm 13/11/09
Jim is that about wd green's in raid by any chance cause I have read that a few places too
Jim
Posted 07:54pm 13/11/09
I've seen people say 'green' drives in general are no good for raid, as well as people mentioning 1.5tb specifically (green or not, I spose)

all 7 of mine are green - 6 in raid5 + 1 spare and I haven't had any problems. there's a 2-3 second pause when you first come to the pc in the morning and go to log the nas's samba share due to the drives going to sleep, but that's the only time I ever notice anything at all. it's absolutely not an issue for me, and I've never seen the asrock/xbmc so much as stutter or complain at all about it
HerbalLizard
Posted 08:01pm 13/11/09
I can't find anything definitive about the wd greens or the 1.5tb's for that matter, nothing that is concrete anyway
Term
Posted 08:30pm 13/11/09
I'm using the greens too, no fuss here

http://term.smugmug.com/Other/SmugShots/IMG2778/549724470_oj7Ff-XL.jpg is my setup for my nas think you can see that.
HeardY
Posted 08:32pm 13/11/09
hmm it was one of my mates who knows a lot more then I about these things (so do most people!@#@)

I'll check with him and see if it's documented or if it's more a case of hearsay
Plasma
Posted 11:48pm 13/11/09
Just ordered everything :D
Jim
Posted 12:17am 14/11/09
hehe sweet
stinky
Posted 05:00am 14/11/09
how does it go with fullscreen flash ( hulu etc ) ? I've heard that anything that can't use the nivdia card's processor ( non h.264 ) has issues playing because the cpu isn't great.
Jim
Posted 09:23am 14/11/09
no idea dude, I don't use it for web browsing
mine boots straight into xbmc as the x server

sounds absolutely right though, anything that doesn't use the ion wouldn't be great at all. I tested 1080p using the cpu instead of the ion and it played in slow motion. the whole point of atom+ion though is that it is a low-powered nettop with a grunty gpu - you buy it for that reason
`ViPER`
Posted 09:46am 14/11/09
The only time I would bother with building your own NAS is if you are working with rackmount servers.

Im doing it at the moment, needed some storage for backups, had a spare server that was decommisioned, chucked openfiler on it and setup iSCSI.

If the server wasnt essentially free as they already owned it, it would have been more expensive than a proper NAS.

If you realy want to build your own NAS, use openfiler and install it on a usb key.
Mass
Posted 02:20pm 16/11/09
Here is an easier way to build a Linux media center.......pre built and configured

Crunch Gear

The interface looks very sweet.
Jim
Posted 02:43pm 16/11/09
that looks pretty good at a glance
linux+xbmc they've definitely made the right choices there!
HerbalLizard
Posted 07:00am 17/11/09
win7 is pissing me off that the moment, unless I can fix the albumart music playback issues I have at the moment I think I might migrate it over to xbmc since I haven't tried a Linux based htpc since I built up my mythtv box in one of the other rooms
Plasma
Posted 10:25am 17/11/09
Did someone mention setting up VNC so that you can remotely admin the HTPC box in the future if necessary?

Sounds like a good idea to me so you won't need to bring your keyboard/mouse to the HTPC in the future.
Jim
Posted 10:45am 17/11/09
might be yeh
think I saw someone mention it earlier in the thread

I did mine a little differently - did a minimal install using their mini.iso and installed via the network with no x windows. then installed xbmc and the helper utils and made it boot up using xbmc as the windows manager. auto upodates are turned off, and I never touch it, other than to ssh in and look at settings when people have questions. basically just treat it like a set top box or any other appliance you buy - imo it's more reliable/stable like this, although less newbie-friendly to set up. cos there's no mouse clicking and stuff
and if you set up your remote properly you can access all the xbmc functions with it anyway, even if it is a little fiddly entering text with it. but I only had to do that once, when I first fired it up and logged into my nas.
Plasma
Posted 11:18am 17/11/09
Yeah that's exactly what I want to do, 'set and forget' about it.

I'm a linux newbie, so I think something like VNC to access the HTPC if necessary is gonna be handy in case I need to.
Pinky
Posted 11:30am 17/11/09
I think something like VNC to access the HTPC if necessary is gonna be handy in case I need to.

Check out logmein - may not suit you but I use it flat-out at work and home now. Added all my PCs and a few computer-illiterate friend's PCs as well to help em out when they accidentally install malware.
HerbalLizard
Posted 11:35am 17/11/09
Logmein is not so hot for local lan though, for rd support outside your network it okay, mind you it tunnels like a mother-f***** at a mother-f***** convention which can be rad ++for noob friendly
TicMan
Posted 11:40am 17/11/09
Anyone have recommendations for remote controls? At the moment I'm using a DSE/Sunwave all in one job but also using the remote that came with my TV tuner which in reality is a pretty s*** one. I can use the universal remote for the HTPC but some functions are missing that I like.
Jim
Posted 11:43am 17/11/09
I haven't tried many, I just went and bought a logitech harmony when I did mine. So far so good
The configuration util it uses is pretty annoying (online web util) but once you've got it set up right you forget about that part of it.
HerbalLizard
Posted 12:07pm 17/11/09
What ever remote you get make sure you have a reviver as well, seen enough people get f***ed over from the fleabay with a remote and no usb reviver

MS OEM Microsoft A9O-00007 (If you get em get heaps of them) they are a nice remote and don't feel like a plastic turd
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E16880100851

I have a backup one of these

Hauppauge MCE Remote Control Kit
http://www.ascent.co.nz/productspecification.aspx?ItemID=378244

As jim has suggested a logitech as well which is f*****g awesome but not so hot if you have a party or something and it gets beerified or have kids

Ideally buy a couple of remote packs as you will have remotes for other systems as well. If you go the craparge or the ms remote then reprogramming volume is really useful, unforntuinly my denon amp's remote does like ir6 commands =( but the work around that I have working on with a ms-oem remote is

To program buttons on your MCE remote control.

1. Place the MCE remote control head to head (2 to 3 inches apart) with the remote control from which it is learning.
2. On the MCE remote control press and hold the DVD MENU and OK buttons at the same time until the remote control lights turn off (2 seconds). The remote is now in learning mode.
3. On the MCE remote control press and release the TV, VOL +, VOL - button, depending on which command you want it to learn. The MCE remote control lights blink once to confirm the selection.
4. On the remote control that is teaching the command, press and hold the button that you want the coressponding button on the MCE remote control. The MCE remote control lights blink twice to confrim the selection. If the remote does not learn the command, the lights blink quickly four times. To try again repeat steps 1 through 4.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the other buttons that can learn commands.

To restore:

1. Press and hold the DVD MENU button and LEFT navigation button at the same time until the MCE remote control lights turn off
2. Press the OK button. The lights will blink twice to confirm that the buttons have been reset. If not it will blink four times.




Triamks
Posted 11:43am 18/11/09
I have a question. I've discovered that my laptop is getting too hot when to play videos smoothly (they slow down and the sound starts shuddering), so I need to buy a new computer. I haven't bought a computer in several years, having had laptops, so I'm a bit out of touch.

My conundrum is that I don't know exactly what I want. My budget would probably be max $1500. The uses for the TV will be media storage, TV watching/recording and internet Browsing. I want it to do all of those things at the same time. No games. It will be located in a bedroom.

Possible options I've found on Whirlpool are:

Media Server HTPC designed for XBMC with linux/VDPAU playback
CPU: Intel Pentium Dual Core E6300 $99
Motherboard: ECS P43T-A2 $77 ICH10 6xSATA ports
RAM: 2 x 1G DDR2-800MHz $40
HDD: Western Digital GreenPower 1.5G $154
Case: Silverstone LC17 $135 WxHxD 425x170x425mm; 6 x 3.5" Drive Bays
GPU: Gainward Nvidia GeForce GT210 $55 passive cooling; MSI is also passive
Optical Drive: IDE Any Brand $50 keep the 6 SATA slots for hard drives
TV Tuner: Dvico Dual Digital 4 $135 linux support; remote control
PSU: Corsair VX-450 $86 6xSATA plugs; very quiet, 80+ certified
Total: $841

^ That's designed for storage obviously, so that might be the better option if in the future I want to dedicate it to the task of being a media server.

Silent Bluray HTPC for those quiet movie scenes
CPU: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5300 $83
CPU Cooler Scythe Ninja Mini $69 to be installed without the fan
Motherboard: Asus P5KPL-AM/PS* $53 G31 only one fan header, no firewire
RAM: 1 x 2G DDR2-800MHz $33
HDD: Samsung EcoGreen F2 5200RPM 1TB (HD103SI) $90
Case: Antec Fusion Remote $225 WxHxD 445x140x414mm; LCD panel; remote control
Case Fan Scythe Kama PWM 120mm $26 Tricools on low are quiet, but not silent. Use them in your gaming rig. Connect the Kama to the CPU fan header; Block the second fan grill with the plastic cover supplied with the case
GPU: Gigabyte HD4550 $51 fanless
Optical Drive: LG GGC-H20L $169
TV Tuner: Hauppauge HVR2200 $189 Delivered from DigitalNow
PSU: Silverstone ST40NF $166 fanless!
Total: $1154

Out of all the blueray options in Whirlpool's HTPC wiki I thought this one would be best since it'll be in the room with me.


Or would I be better off with a Multi-purpose PC and adding a TV Tuner?

$1,475 ($1,800) Intel i5 (LGA1156) "Multi-Purpose Config"

CPU: Intel Core i5 750 $239
Mobo: Gigabyte P55A-UD3P $199
RAM: Kingston 4GB DDR3-1333 $109
HDD1: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB $99
HDD2: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB $99
GPU: HIS 1GB ATI Radeon HD5850 $370
Case: Lian Li Lancool PC-K60 $115
PSU: Seasonic M12 500W $119
ODD: Sony-NEC Optiarc AD-7240S $43
CPU HSF: Noctua NH-U12P SE2 $89
+ Peripherals:

Total: $1,481

Since Teq is always going on about Mac Minis so I've had a look at them. They start at $849 but I don't think will suit my needs given storage will be limited.
TicMan
Posted 12:05pm 18/11/09
Check out the Gigabyte GA-EG41MF-US2H motherboard (mATX). It has SPDIF out and HDMI onboard and the GPU is more than capable of doing 1080p playback. I bought mine for $99 from Umart. The case I used is an Antec NSK2480 for $130 which included a PSU and the thing is silent, can only hear a small fan noise when it's midnight and everything in the house is turned off.

The biggest noise you will have is the HDDs, since it'll all be in the one room it's probably unavoidable but for future plans you could look at using OpenFiler to create a large file server and then keep the quiet & expensive parts for the HTPC sitting in the lounge room.

FWIW my HTPC setup is;

- Antec NSK2480 Case
- Gigabyte GA-EG41MF-US2H m/board
- Dual core E6400 CPU
- Winfast DTV1000S TV Tuner (I'd recommend another model, this one isn't the best)
- Pioneer DVD (make sure to get latest firmware, helps with spin up and read noise)
- 1 x 160Gb WD HDD

My file server is 3 x 1Tb RAID5 + 160Gb SATA HDD (OS) running CentOS and another Antec case with extra cooling for the HDDs.
tequila
Posted 12:12pm 18/11/09
Since Teq is always going on about Mac Minis so I've had a look at them. They start at $849 but I don't think will suit my needs given storage will be limited.


you know, a mac mini + a 2TB external firewire/usb drive is still half the size of any mini-atx based system
Jim
Posted 12:24pm 18/11/09
can you get hdmi out on them?
trog
Posted 12:36pm 18/11/09
can you get hdmi out on them?
nope http://images.apple.com/macmini/images/features_portdiagram_20091020.jpg

edit: lame, that doesn't include labels: http://trog.qgl.org/up/macmini.jpg
TicMan
Posted 12:34pm 18/11/09
(min) Display port to HDMI cable ?
Triamks
Posted 12:43pm 18/11/09
Thanks for the help so far all. I'll check out those things you mentioned TicMan.

Q - Will a Dual Core be sufficient for MCE, internet + torrents/usenet? Or should I go with the Core i5? The price difference is significant.
Jim
Posted 12:46pm 18/11/09
wikipedia reckons you can get adaptors for minidisplay port to hdmi + 5.1 which sounds ok
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Display_Port

might look into these when I build a second htpc soon
tequila
Posted 01:22pm 18/11/09
can you get hdmi out on them?

nope


http://www.ezyhd.com.au/mini-dvi-hdmi-cable.html
and they already have optical audio via the 3.5mm jack




last edited by tequila at 13:22:22 18/Nov/09
Jim
Posted 02:11pm 18/11/09
yeh I want audio down hdmi tho
Spook
Posted 02:12pm 18/11/09
Q - Will a Dual Core be sufficient for MCE, internet + torrents/usenet? Or should I go with the Core i5? The price difference is significant.

dual core is more than enough
Triamks
Posted 02:21pm 18/11/09
Thanks Spook.
tequila
Posted 02:29pm 18/11/09
they make something like that jim, tiny little box that takes audio from usb or the 3.5 jack and injects it into the hdmi cable
Jim
Posted 03:02pm 18/11/09
yeh that wikipedia article says a couple of mobs make cables that do it too
Nathan
Posted 03:17pm 18/11/09
basically just treat it like a set top box or any other appliance you buy - imo it's more reliable/stable like this


Its hard to tell what "like this" is referring to, but if you mean without X windows I don't agree. I've been running MythTV and XBMC for years through X windows
Jim
Posted 03:25pm 18/11/09
like this as in like a STB, or foxtel IQ, tivo, dvd-r or other appliance people buy for media
you don't typically log onto those ^^^ and screw around with stuff, or update them aside from very occasional and controlled vendor-push firmware - and they usually just work

I'm saying that if you get your initial setup and fine tuning done, then treat it like you would one of the above devices, it'll be more reliable and not need touching, imo
Nathan
Posted 03:30pm 18/11/09
Oh right, agreed. I touched on that in the article I think
Imperial
Posted 04:04pm 18/11/09
I didnt read through all the pages to see if it has been mentioned, but simply use my ps3 with a 500gb drive and run ps3media server on my pc. It has played everything i've thrown at it so far.
tequila
Posted 04:21pm 18/11/09
you couldn't read all two pages?
Plasma
Posted 04:52pm 26/11/09
My gear arrived and I set it up, but hit a few problems.

1) The TV I want to use the HTPC with is not recognising the asrock when connected via HDMI.

I have connected the asrock to another TV via HDMI and it works.
I have connected an XBox360 via HDMI to the 'broken' TV and it works.

So something is causing the asrock to not work with a particular TV.

I've tried changing resolutions in Ubuntu and had no luck. The screen remains black and says 'HDMI' at the top right corner of the TV screen.

If I unplug the HDMI cable, the TV says 'No Signal' instead.

Is there anything anyone can suggest to get this working? Is there options in Ubuntu or something that I can play with? I have tried switching through multiple resolutions etc, no luck.

It seems strange that the asrock wont talk to the TV, yet the Xbox360 can.

The TV's model number is a Conia CPDP4209, pretty sure its a cheap piece of s*** :)

2) The fan on the Asrock gets a bit loud at times, perhaps its too hot/the weather? The noise sucks.

--

I also hit a problem during the article (I think this came up for someone else too):

I needed to ensure Ubuntu was up to date via update manager first before I was prompted about the nVidia driver update. I think I also had to explicitly go to System>Preferences>Hardware Drivers (?) for it to appear as well, I didn't receive a notification. Got it sorted though!

Any help appreciated.
TiT
Posted 05:02pm 26/11/09
My HTPC setup

Thermaltake SD100 - Mini ITX Case
Inno3D IN93I-330-VD M/B- MCP7A ION, Built in Atom 330 Dual-Core (1.6 Ghz), FSB 533, DDR2 800, HDMI/DVI/VGA, SATAII, RAID, GB LAN, Mini-ITX, WIFI N.
Western Digital 1.5TB SATAII HDD 32M Cache Green Power
Kingston DDR2 4(2x2G)PC6400 800Mhz - KVR800D2N5K2/4G
Logitech diNovo Cordless Mini Keyboard
Slimline Silverstone Blu ray

Everything runs amazing!!! Blu ray ftw

its connected too
Sharp 52" LCD TV
Onkyo TX-803 (only wish it did HDMI 1.3, it only does 1.1)
Speakers:
Front AAD C-880 or 660 cant remember
Centre AAD C-305
Surround C-150
Surr Back C-44
Sub AAD C-10
boohbah
Posted 12:28am 29/12/09
I saw this and I built this. Thanks Nathan. Then I thought. Would this little unit be a little bit leaner and healthier if it were running the stripped down Xubuntu instead of the full flavour release? I also started fiddling with the DVB-T part of this (the next article) already using tvheadend and a Digital Now tinytwin usb receiver. Still testing...........
Tollaz0r!
Posted 07:57am 29/12/09
I'm not really up to date on HDMI, but could using/not using a 1.3 cable have anything to do with the above problem?
trog
Posted 02:19pm 29/12/09
I saw this and I built this. Thanks Nathan. Then I thought. Would this little unit be a little bit leaner and healthier if it were running the stripped down Xubuntu instead of the full flavour release? I also started fiddling with the DVB-T part of this (the next article) already using tvheadend and a Digital Now tinytwin usb receiver. Still testing...........
I would have thought/guessed that there wouldn't be a lot of difference running ubuntu or xubuntu given the specs of the machine, but interested to hear if you find any material differences for sure
-=guitar*man=-
Posted 04:37pm 05/1/10
any word on how this setup works with the new build of XBMC (camelot)?
Nathan
Posted 04:49pm 05/1/10
I saw this and I built this. Thanks Nathan. Then I thought. Would this little unit be a little bit leaner and healthier if it were running the stripped down Xubuntu instead of the full flavour release?


Certainly. However since the main target group for this article was Windows users, I didnt want to scare people off getting into discussions about window managers.

My 2c, I have found it unnecessary - 1GB is fine for XBMC and Gnome to run happily together.

I also started fiddling with the DVB-T part of this (the next article) already using tvheadend and a Digital Now tinytwin usb receiver. Still testing...........


Funny coincidence. I am writing the article about TVHeadend and had bought a TinyTwin to test out. I found that my TinyTwin doesnt work at all (see the notes I left on http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/DigitalNow_Tiny_Twin_Dual_Tuner )

After that I've gone for 2x AverTV Volar X , which is working well. I hope to get my article written up in the next week.

any word on how this setup works with the new build of XBMC (camelot)?


When I was writing the article, XBMC 9.11 (camelot) was in beta. A PPA was available at https://launchpad.net/~team-xbmc-svn/+archive/ppa containing the beta, which is what the article originally specified.

Since then, 9.11 final was released and is available at https://launchpad.net/~team-xbmc/+archive/ppa

I updated the article sometime over the holidays to include the correct PPA URL - other than the URL change, all the steps in the article are still correct.
boohbah
Posted 08:35pm 07/1/10
"Funny coincidence. I am writing the article about TVHeadend and had bought a TinyTwin to test out. I found that my TinyTwin doesnt work at all (see the notes I left on http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/DigitalNow_Tiny_Twin_Dual_Tuner ) "

Took me days to figure out. It does work though. There is compiling involved. It may have worked out of the box on Karmic betas - but certainly not in the release version. The process to get it going is probably way too heavy for many people. If there's an interest though - I can write something up....
Nathan
Posted 12:53pm 08/1/10
I dont consider 'hack some C source files and compile module' as working :)
darkjedi
Posted 04:26pm 08/1/10
While we're digging this thread up, any suggestions on what sort of receiver I can get to use with one of the XBox 360 media remotes? I had a MCE receiver lined up to use with it, but my mate couldn't find it..
Hogfather
Posted 04:41pm 08/1/10
Since this thread is back, XBMC has been updated with some nice new features and a f*****g awesome new skin Rapier which has finally replaced my beloved Aeon!
stinky
Posted 02:04am 09/1/10
woah! something beats aeon ????
DecayingCorpse
Posted 09:11pm 09/2/10
sorry to revive, how do i go about mounting windows shares to stream over network?
and can ubuntu see or access windows administrative shares?

attempting to get my head around the linux part with vmware before buying the hardware.
trog
Posted 09:15pm 09/2/10
sorry to revive, how do i go about mounting windows shares to stream over network?
pretty sure you can just explore the network like you do normally in Windows, but failing that you can always drop to a command prompt and mount it explicitly using the command line tools. it's pretty easy.
and can ubuntu see or access windows administrative shares?
I am not 100% sure but I thiiinkkkkk so
DecayingCorpse
Posted 10:11pm 09/2/10
ta, any other hints?

linux makes my brain hurt...

edit: omg it worked!@^%&!^@%&

last edited by DecayingCorpse at 22:11:26 09/Feb/10
Jim
Posted 11:07pm 09/2/10
xbmc supports various network share protocols without even needing to touch linux, right in it's own interface
my entire library runs right off a samba share from my thecus
koopz
Posted 12:46am 10/2/10
linux makes my brain hurt...


freenas.org - Zed it up dude

my entire library runs right off a samba share from my thecus


well there you go.. get an old why the f*** did I originally say 486? pc and load her up.

the OS installs in less than 30 seconds, and makes the Thecus look like a machine for slack c****

good luck restoring that Thecus array when that POS fails guys.. I'm glad I'm not paid to do it anymore. F*** me - why do people buy this s***?


last edited by koopz at 00:46:07 10/Feb/10
Jim
Posted 01:12am 10/2/10
why would I want an old pc? it's big, noisy, power hungry, has comparably poorer i/o and consumes my time building/maintaining it

and why will I need luck restoring the array? it's a simple linux software raid with lvm over the top

I'm kind of glad you're not paid to do it anymore too
mongie
Posted 09:49am 10/2/10
hahaha jim.
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