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Home Theatre PC Guide

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the so-many-projects-so-little-time dept.

Television 303

Greg Ridder writes "For those of you who are interested in possibly putting together a Home Theatre or Media PC, I stumbled upon an excellent guide. It discusses basic hardware requirements, four software choices (BeyondTV, SageTV, MCE2005 and MythTV), controlling your cable or satellite set-top box and much more. Based on the research that I've done in the past, this is the most comprehensive guide that I've seen to date."

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Klerck is alive! (0, Flamebait)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168086)

It's true! His suicide was a fake. LOL

Re:Klerck is alive! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168158)

Yak Yak Yak

NO He Fucking Isn't! (1)

Troll McClure (571760) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168554)

He isn't! See below, Extract from script to
"Klerck - The widest troll yet travelled"

KLERCK sits in front to his VDU, Illuminated only by its pale glow.

KLERCK "Hey Taco, Let see you filter this baby out"

We see a set of random characters, and the mouse clicking on the submit button

KLERCK "WTF! What the fuck is this fucking pink screen! What!"

we see KLERCK Begin to type

KLERCK "HEY TACO! WTF are you doing! you cant ban me what is this fucking pink screen for? are you some HOMO? you fucker"

KLERCK Hits send, and then angrily storms out of the basement. ...

Caption -1 year later-

EXT, Evening
we see KLERCK in a black shabby raincoat, on the corner of a street in a shady area of town

TACO walks past (note that KLERCK doesn't recognise him)
KLERCK "Are you looking for a trolling time baby?"
TACO "Sure, how much?"
KLERCK "what do you want, I can do anything?"
TACO " page widening?"
KLERCK "Sure, thats a lot though."
TACO "I've got money" ...

INT DAY Sunlight streams into TACOS flat.
KLERCK is hunched over a computer
KLERCK "There, its done, taco will never figure this one out"
TACO "yes he will"
KLERCK "What?"
At this point, KLERCK Starts to make a break for the dooe, but taco is in the way, and trips him, knocking him unconcious
TACO (shouting) "Guys! I Got Me a WIDENER!"
about three or four other guys enter.
they are cowboyneal, JK, etc
JonkatZ sits on KLERCKS head, whilst he is raped.
KLERK then moans, is kicked in the head by all repeatedly and screams


He then collapses, dead.

Doctor Zaius! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168095)

I love legitimate theatre.

melrose place? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168102)

You're late to go out for the evening and just as you're about to run out the door you remember that Melrose Place is going to be on that night and you just can't miss it.

Did anybody else read this waiting for the punchline???

Re:melrose place? (1)

TheViffer (128272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168227)

If you're a Linux geek and you refuse to use anything created by evil Microsoft, then the decision is an easy one.

No, but after reading this I have different ideas of what I want to punch.

Next up on Punch-line...Idle Worship. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168248)

Plenty of the eyes.

Seriously here's another article on how to build a throne room to the content gods.

Re:melrose place? (4, Funny)

trailerparkcassanova (469342) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168303)

Give the guy a break. He is, after all, Canadian.

Re:melrose place? (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168466)

[putting down beer and doughnut]

Now that's just plain rude. As soon as I find my touque you're gonna get yours.

Re:melrose place? (2, Informative)

gabecubbage (711618) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168630)

What makes this comment funny is not that it's funny, but that it was modded "insightful".

Re:melrose place? (2, Informative)

immortalpob (847008) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168406)

You do realize she was talking about the shortcomings of a VCR had when she used that example. She used a dated example for dated tech.

Re:melrose place? (2, Insightful)

Bobman1235 (191138) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168588)

I think that IS the punchline.

Re:melrose place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168636)

"Melrose Place"? I guess his home theater plans require emasculation.

Klerck is DEaD! (0, Offtopic)

Troll McClure (571760) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168108)

I should know, I'm playing him in an Upcoming Tv-Movie

Re:Klerck is DEaD! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168391)

I'm Troll McClure. You may remember me from such films as "Klerck, the Page-Widening Pimp."

Melrose Place (-1, Redundant)

SIGALRM (784769) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168112)

a scenario that has probably happened to everyone at some point in their lives: You're late to go out for the evening and just as you're about to run out the door you remember that Melrose Place is going to be on that night and you just can't miss it
Really? Everyone watches Melrose Place? Gosh I didn't know it was still on. This guy is really plugged-in to current media trends, I think I'll RTFA now...

Full mirror (3, Informative)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168132)

Here. []

Re:Full mirror (1)

Mr Smidge (668120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168489)

Not quite what I'd call 'full'.. It doesn't appear to mirror anything beyond page 9 of the article.

Re:Full mirror (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168707)

OK. Looks like it's a bug. Thanks for pointing it out and apologies.

Bah! (3, Informative)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168550)

I recently built a new computer-based home theater system, and in researching my options I found that a hacked X-Box or a Mac mini both present superior solutions to anything officially in the "HTPC" market. (IMHO, YMMV, yeah yeah yeah.)

I chose to go with the Mac mini solution, and will be submitting a review of the pros and cons of going the route I went (warts and all) in the near future over at

Re:Bah! (2)

enrico_suave (179651) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168640)

I like the added functionality of my hacked x-box... but I'd like to hear how you got a TV tuner/encoder into yours =P

They do make pretty good playback clients, but not sure i'd consider a hacked xbox a full soup to nuts HTPC solution. *shrug*


Re:Full mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168615)

link is not a full mirror, cuts out at page 8

What about... (3, Funny)

sinfree (859988) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168135)

... popcorn recommendations?

Re:What about... (2, Informative)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168216)

Get a Whirley Pop [] . They rock.

Re:What about... (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168623)

I don't have a Whirley Pop, mine's a different brand name, but the same thing. By far the best popcorn maker I've ever had. A little oil and the seends makes great popcorn. You can also add a variety of spices to the oil and flavour the popcorn as it cooks.

I was in Mexico (Huatulco) and at one bar we frequented, they served popcorn made in oil. The thing was, they fried up peanuts and peppers (that they also served) and then cooked the popcorn in this oil. Gave the popcorn a slightly spicy, but very tasty flavour. I really have to try this myself sometime

Re:What about... (2, Funny)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168218)

i'll bet they could cook popcorn on their server right now...

Howto build Media PC (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168142)

1. Buy Mac mini
2. Install CenterStage
2. There is no step three!

Re:Howto build Media PC (1, Funny)

er_head66 (224488) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168203)

3. ????
4. Profit

Re:Howto build Media PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168257)

How do you record shows? Does the Mac Mini come with a video-in port? Otherwise I might as well just buy a DVD player.

Re:Howto build Media PC (3, Insightful)

crypto55 (864220) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168294)

That's ridiculous. You need an analog capture device compatible with NTSC video sources, generally via Coaxial. The mini lacks this component. In addition, it also lacks sufficient hard drive capacity, which is extremely necessary for video recording. I built my own PVR with SageTV, a hauppauge PVR-USB2 box and a 200 GB HDD, and it barely suffices.

Re:Howto build Media PC (1)

rylin (688457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168386)

I don't live in the states, you Insensitive Clod!

Re:Howto build Media PC (2, Funny)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168524)

Listen PAL, these jokes are getting old.

Re:Howto build Media PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168413)

This article could be about Pixar looking for a new platform to use as a render farm and I bet someone would yell "Mac Mini!"

Re:Howto build Media PC (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168514)

NTSC? Why waste your time? Better to get a ATSC tuner, preferably one that ignores the broadcast flag.

Re:Howto build Media PC (0, Offtopic)

digThisXL (252109) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168345)

1. Buy Shuttle Mini PC
2. Buy/install Windows XP Media Center
3. Show no bias against Wintel!

Re:Howto build Media PC (4, Interesting)

Fortunato_NC (736786) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168365)

I'm a Mac fanboy, and I'll say there is a step three.

3. Wait for a stable release.

While CenterStage looks promising, it's a new project that hasn't even reached its second alpha yet. Let's give the developers some time before we start giving people unrealistic expectations.

(I've got a lot of hope for this project - the fact that ATI has already contacted the developers to add support for their Remote Wonder products is awesome!)

Re:Howto build Media PC (1)

Stagemonkey (860427) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168487)

"I've got a lot of hope for this project - the fact that ATI has already contacted the developers to add support for their Remote Wonder products is awesome!"
As a person who is currently using an ATI HDTV Wonder for his HTPC setup, I'd have to say that they're probably just giving the CenterStage folks enough lead time so that it only takes a month of fiddling with the ATI drivers to get it working when CenterStage is completed.

Re:Howto build Media PC (4, Informative)

MacGoldstein (619138) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168496)

I'm working on CenterStage, and I think the parent is not as "Interesting" as the mods would have us believe. His media center itself would be "interesting", because we haven't implemented anything but the most basic of functions in CenterStage yet, and it's currently still in alpha 0.1. So unless you'd like to just be able to watch movies full-screen, which it can do, you might want to wait a while.

Re:Howto build Media PC (1)

Beatbyte (163694) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168584)

then you spend $400 on components to send video out, audio out and have a remote to control it.

so for $1k you can have a Mac Mini PVR

Re:Howto build Media PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168662)

Well the MAC Mini already has audio-out, and it shouldnt cost $400 for a video-out and a remote. Besides its will be much higher qaulity then an PC media center and more quite.

Re:Howto build Media PC (1)

bubba451 (779167) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168643)

1. Buy Mac mini
2. Install CenterStage
2. There is no step three!

You know, I'm as interested in the Mac mini as the next guy, but that's not at all realistic. Others will point out that the Mac mini is underpowered, but it's also worth noting that CenterStage is at 0.1 alpha. They've just gotten started.

All of the options the article considers are working products. Some have more finish than others (MCE, I have to say, is pretty slick), but they all work and are all shipping.

Am I the only one? (4, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168150)

On the subject of MythTV (or equivalent). I like putting together computers and tweaking linux as much as the next guy, but I was thinking the other day that I might be willing to buy a fully functional MythTV box.

I really want a MythTV, but I don't have the time right now to really play with it and search for the best hardware. I was thinking that I'd be willing to buy a computer, with linux and MythTV all installed and configured properly (to work with my local cable box even?). Having someone else take care of all the hardware and software installation details would be great.

In the end, I may just build it myself, but there are lots of people I know that don't have the time, patience, and/or knowledge to build one from scratch, but are smart enough to take advantage of such a system (and maintain it). Does anyone know of a company offering such a service? Does anyone think that this has merit as a business idea?

Re:Am I the only one? (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168208)

Does anyone think that this has merit as a business idea?

Yes! I'll race you to the patent office :)

Re:Am I the only one? (4, Informative)

Krypto420 (652140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168713)

Actually I've seen pre-built mythtv boxes around for a while now...

Here are some examples... []

The pre-built ones that I've seen are a little too expensive for my taste. You can get a Tivo and a lifetime subscription as well as have a bunch of money left over for the price of some of the pre-built mythtv boxes. I built my own mythtv for the following reasons:

a) I wanted a PVR

b) I wanted to learn more about the inner workings of the linux Os.

c) For the sheer pleasure of saying that I built it myself.

Granted, it took me months before I had a stable box with all of the features that I wanted, but I learned A LOT. If you are only looking for reason a, then save yourself a bunch of time/headaches and buy a Tivo.

Re:Am I the only one? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168223)

For someone who tweaks Linux on an occasional basis, building a MythTV box is a weekend project at worst, unless you pick up some funky piece of hardware with poor driver support. Unless you're going high-def, that's really the only major concern (imo) when selecting hardware.

Re:Am I the only one? (1)

ExKoopaTroopa (671002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168522)

actually being someone who tweaks Linux on an occasional basis, building a MythTV box is a hairpulling month project at best! Veni Vidi Vici I did not with KnopMyth, so I ended with a sweet w2k + GB-PVR setup in about a day. Although since then it's been a geek's wet dream of progressivly tweaking it to perfection (full remote control, playback of all media types , automated recordings, remote admin, mame, comskip , ... ) I did go overboard on the storage, 370 GB didn't seem that much but it's as unfillable as a gmail account. And I do enjoy a smug face showing it off to all visitors (the HTPC scene isn't exactly thriving in Belgium).

Re:Am I the only one? (2, Informative)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168252)

I'd build one for you for a cost plus arrangement. Email me and let me know what you would be interested in. littlejohn86 (at) gmail no spam dot com

Re:Am I the only one? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168281)

If you have a Windows license sitting around somewhere, you should try Media Portal. It's terrifically plug and play, and although it's slightly (and only slightly) less well featured than MythTV, the ease of setup more than compensates for it.

Re:Am I the only one? (4, Informative)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168530)

A friend and I priced it out once.

It is VERY difficult to make a PC for less than $500. We were, of course, using Shuttles or Shuttle clones (Aopen XC Cubes, actually). Anything bigger does not fit in an entertainment center.

Case/mobo = $200
CPU = $100
RAM = $50
CD/DVD = $50
120gb hard drive = $100

Add another $150 for a PVR card and you've broken most budgets. Consumers won't pay $800 for a VCR.

We did offer to turn old PCs into VCRs for some friends. Basicly, they were upgrading and we took the old shit and dropped in a PVR and Linux. These went OK, but still took a LOT of tweaking.

On top of all that, MythTV is a bear ro set up. We are on an unlisted cable network unwilling to provide listings in XML format. It was impossible to make MythTV just record evert Thursday at 9pm. That's basic functionality in my book. Sorely lacking.

I've been assured that Myth works flawless on listed networks.

In any event, you're looking at $800~$1000 per MythTV box. No way to make a good model around that.

Re:Am I the only one? (4, Interesting)

karnal (22275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168650)

Holy heck.

I just priced one the other day. it was about 500$ for all components included.

50$ mobo
50$ case+PS (don't need a high capacity PS for this one)
50$ CPU (don't need a real fast one, see below)
50$ RAM (512MB, generic Mushkin or similar)
60$ DVD-Burner (can go cheaper here; figured may as well have the latest burner tho)
30$ Cheapo video card with reasonable SVID out
60$ Cheapo HDD (have storage space on the net.)
100$ PVR-150 (Comp-USA price, lower elsewhere)

This will get you a basic PVR for under 500$. The only thing I would do is beef up the HDD and you're up to 500 then (if you don't have a central server; I do already!).

I'm actually thinking about throwing a PVR-150 in the server to do the timed recordings there; then I can use a generic tuner that I already have in my MythTV box. Additionally, I already have a 30GB HDD and a Geforce4 to throw in the box, so that cuts my costs down even a little more.

You could even scrape older parts (P3 or Athlon ~1ghz) together if you're using a PVR-150, since it does all the encoding by itself. Decoding is fairly easy; encoding is kind of rough (even MPEG2 - My 2800+ sits at about 50-60% encoding one stream realtime of MPEG2 640x480 + Mpeg Layer3 audio)

Re:Am I the only one? (1)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168690)

Well, Dell, HP, and Gateway all have HTPCs, and there are probably hundreds of small business such as myself that build and sell HTPCs along with traditional offerings. Not to be sarcastic, but, yeah, I think it has merit as a business idea since business are already doing it.

s l o w (2, Funny)

jargoone (166102) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168166)

Looks like could use another 2 CPUs...

Buy of the shelf (2, Interesting)

Virtual Karma (862416) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168187)

I would rather go to walmart/ best buy and buy off the shelf home theater system. If there aren't any as described in the article, I will wait for Sony to make one. Its too much of hassle to build your own. Especially when you are dealing with different components from different manufacturers. Look at Windows Media Center OS. Any high schooler can put together a super entertainment center. Utility? Not much. Hassle? a lot.

Re:Buy of the shelf (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168390)

It's true that off the shelf is the ultimate experience. But sometimes people don't have the money or want different features than what is offered. (e.g. Having MAME built in is a nice feature found in MythTV but not TIVO.) In those cases, a home grown solution can offer the penultimate solution to your problem. :-)

Speaking of features... (only OSS ppl read!) (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168706)

How about an RSS aggregator that watches hundreds of feeds and shows me the posts I'd like based on a voting system?

Or even better make the RSS display a screensaver feature. Why? Because I've been looking for a RSS screensaver for about a year now. I'd like to have my own on screen news crawl (huge feature) or even a slick screensaver that did something fancy with showing the feed contents.

like, don't use this stuff in a commercial product...

Re:Buy of the shelf (4, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168401)

There is nothing hard about building your own PC. Like a brilliant person once wrote, it only takes two tools to build a computer. The ability to RTFM and a phillips screwdriver.

I've got four home built PVRs in my house. I like the freedom of not being tied to a corporation. E.g., not being screwed by Tivo's recent pop-up ads.

I like the ability to have the PVR do what I want, and not what some corporation wants. E.g., Microsoft's Media Center's inability to record shows to DVD.

But most of all I like the price. A PVR built by Sony would cost a couple thousand more than what you could build one yourself for. The ones I have at my house are merely built from left-over parts from my own system. But even if you built one completely from scratch, you could probably do it for less than $800.

Re:Buy of the shelf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168564)

Like a brilliant person once wrote, it only takes two tools to build a computer. The ability to RTFM and a phillips screwdriver.
Well Mr. Brilliant obviously hasn't been introduced to the wonderful world of static electricity, otherwise he might have said 3 tools, a grounding wrist strap. ;P

Re:Buy of the shelf (1)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168626)

I put together a HTPC that took under $500 and about 20 hours of my time to put together. It's a DVR, game emulator, DVD player (quality better than any hardware DVD player for under $400), movie server (all my movies on-demand), and more. My wife is comfortable using it already and it's got the potential to do a lot more. I'm using Meedio, which is VERY customizable, but simple enough to get working in a very short amount of time. The problem with the off-the-shelf stuff is that you'll hit a point that you want it to do something that it can't. If mine reaches that point, I just install an extra card or a small software program.

no mention of... (2, Informative)

luke911 (546086) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168193)

our favorite windows based yet open source HTPC app, []

2cpu (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168225)

I get why they call it 2cpu...

you need a second one just to render all the flash ads on the site.

thank god for bookmarklets.

Hard drive setup (1, Troll)

PxM (855264) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168231)

The article says "Hard Drive(s): This is an easy one. Buy the biggest 7200 rpm IDE drive that you can afford." which is a bad choice. While it is good to have a fast main hard drive, it might be better to invest in a nice tower case and cram it with multiple slower hard drives in a RAID 5 configuration. Since a terrabyte (5x250GB in RAID 5) is only around $500, it might be worth it to have a central media server. This lets you rip your DVDs and CDs for easy access. These hard drives don't have to be fast since you won't normally be writing a live stream to them but just using them as a slow storage. The 7200 HD would contain the OS and enough temp space to capture and play live video without a problem.

Want a free Nintendo DS, GC, PS2, Xbox. [] (you only need 4 referrals)
Wired article as proof []

Re:Hard drive setup (3, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168597)

Since speed isn't an issue for recording 20Mbps video (ATSC max), you don't even need the speed afforded by a 4200 RPM drive to record it.

My HTPC has a surprisingly quiet 15k RPM drive for booting. I don't use it for PVR yet though, but I do have a separate, slower drive for storing audio and video.

I think an argument can be made for keeping the hard drive storage system in a closet somewhere and a super quiet system with only one drive in the living room, as a RAID system uses a lot of drives that do generate noise.

Re:Hard drive setup (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168612)

"These hard drives don't have to be fast since you won't normally be writing a live stream to them but just using them as a slow storage"

Since the article is about building an HTPC, then you will indeed be writing a live stream to them all the time. That's how you can pause and rewind live TV.

But your idea has merit. Perhaps it would be a good idea (since drives are so cheap) to have a dedicated drive for the software/OS, one for live recordings, and a RAID5 for archives.

True, there are 5400 RPM drives... (2, Informative)

evolutionaryLawyer (838264) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168633)

Made specially for DVRs. Maxtor makes them. This site sells them. []

Re:Hard drive setup (1)

foxtrot (14140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168710)

This lets you rip your DVDs and CDs for easy access.

Think a bit before you rip the CDs and DVDs-- CDs are fine, they don't soak a whole lot of storage. But DVDs, those burn through a hard disk in a hurry.

Say, ferinstance, you're a science fiction geek, and you bought Babylon 5 on DVD. That's 5 boxed sets of 6 DVDs each, at around 8 GB per DVD, or on the order of 250 GB of data right there (a little less with those numbers, but those five boxed sets don't include the box o' movies or Crusade...)

Now, you can do some crunching to save some space, but I've not run into any software yet that will let you keep your DVD menus and special features intact when you crunch the video using xvid or similar). So we'd prefer not to do that, but it takes a whole 250 GB hard disk to keep just Babylon 5 online. I'd guess most relatively small DVD collections are notably larger than the disk space one is willing to throw at the problem, unless they're willing to give up DVD special features.


Re:Hard drive setup (1)

Ace26_805 (585583) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168731)

Show me where you can get 5x250GB HDs AND a Raid 5 controller for "around $500". That price is more than a little low. Current Pricewatch prices list a 250G at $105 + shipping, and the cheapest raid "5" controller I see is around $100. So your looking at closer to $650 if you dont have to pay tax, or $700 with tax. Also, try finding a 5400RPM 250GB HD. I can't.

Other HTPC resources (5, Informative)

navarredr (873345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168232)

Build Your Own PVR [] and DVBn [] are also good resources if you are looking to build an HTPC

ATI All in Wonder (3, Informative)

0kComputer (872064) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168243)

This seems awfully complicated to hook your PC into your computer. I have an ATI All in wonder video card that took about 5 mins to install, cost maybe 100 dollars more and has most of the functionality that this guy's setup has.

Re:ATI All in Wonder (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168699)

I have an ATI All in wonder video card that took about 5 mins to install, cost maybe 100 dollars more and has most of the functionality that this guy's setup has.

The whole point of the article is to review all the options, positives, and drawbacks of building different HTPC versions. If a truck magazine put out a review of different models of trucks for construction usage with options, would you send a comment about why doesn't everybody just buy a Chevy F250 with a crew cab?

After you have a home theatre (-1, Flamebait)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168246)

Where do you find decent movies or interesting TV content?

There's very little out there IMO to justify the cost.

Re:After you have a home theatre (2)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168569)

Decent movies:

Decent TV content:
This is obviously subjective, but there's a number of shows out right now that have some potential. Lost, Deadwood, The 4400, Battlestar Galactica, Good Eats, Simpsons, Smallville, The Office (this show is excellent) have all either proven themselves worthy to be recorded or are showing progress. The Office is probably my favorite show in years. Good Eats is a must see for any nerd that likes cooking. Smallville has had some poor episodes and some good ones, so it's hard to say if it will get better or worse. Lost is intriguing enough that I'm completely hooked, but it has the potential to get cheesy if they don't stick with what's worked so far. Finally, The 4400 seems interesting after the first 5 episodes, so hopefully it will continue to be good once they start back up again.

Re:After you have a home theatre (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168666)

After you've seen every Simpsons and Seinfeld episode umpteen times you REALLY get sick of TV.

Good Eats gets annoying fast. It is too cutesy-poo, just like the "Myth Busters" show.

Re:After you have a home theatre (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168639)

Me myself,

I just have Myth on my linux box. pvr250 and dxr3. I just use myth to schedule and record everything. Since I rarely watch television when it's actually on... it's the only way I catch the shows I like.

It's not something everybody is going to want to dump money into and for the investment cost was minimal.

The set top unit I'm going to eventually build will replace all of this. It will come in at around 500 for all the parts I have to purchase. Most everything else is taken from my various dead laptops.

My strategy has been to wait for deals on things and slowly gather pieces and occassionally I get some decent hardware free from my friends. ie, this is dead, you can have it ;)

most frustrating project ever (3, Funny)

Fox_1 (128616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168251)

Thanks for reading today. I know it was quite a commitment to make it through these 21 pages, but I hope it was of some value to you.

It's either actually doing this myself on a budget - and it was painful - I never seem to buy stable powersupplies, or supported hardware, and blood is surprisingly conductive.

or making it through the reading of the article

Too bad they forgot commercial skip on the server (5, Funny)

jmcwork (564008) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168290)

I went to the site and up came an 'read this ad/you will be redirected' page appeared. I have no real problem with this so I waited for the next page to load, and: the ad again. Well, the article finally appeared and I read the first page, clicked 'next page' and: same ad (Vonage, I think). That was enough for me. (This never happened with archie, gopher, and ftp!)

HDTV solution (4, Insightful)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168297)

The article is well written and conversational for the layman. Great. But he doesn't really go into the one great unknown area oput there - HDTV.

What are the best HDTV capture cards, for Over the Air or for backside-of-the-cable/satelite-box? The article only touches on this, but it will be of greater concern for the home enthusiast/hacker in the next two years.

And by the way, what packages support this? MythTV, Freevo, etc.

Re:HDTV solution (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168412)

You have one choice (under Linux, anyway). The PCTV card.

Everything else available in North America will be post-broadcast flag, and so will be crippled.

Re:HDTV solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168555)

From what I'm aware of, HDTV support unless its OTA is pretty much nonexistent and likely to remain that way. What would be interesting to see is a manufacturer making a component/spdif based recorder. Figuring out scan rates shouldn't be a problem since TV's do it. Maybe even go one step further and make the setup a pass through since cable boxes don't have multiple outputs.

Don't forget the Linux HTPC Howto (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168351)

There is a guide much like this already, and that has been around for some time and is still updated regularly that is Linux oriented (The Linux HTPC Howto). The information regarding how DD/DTS work and what soundcard to pick and how to get HDTV working quickly was very useful to me.

ahref= x-htpc/ [] ux-htpc/>

Fixed link (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168426)

here []

Re:Don't forget the Linux HTPC Howto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168617)

The Linux HTPC howto has 25 times the amount of information that the article posted does. It may not cover specifics about which software is better but it does enough that you know what to pick. I would think hardware is more important that software, since you can't download new hardware.

The Linux Howto goes over everything much better than "Get the largest 7200 RPM drive you can afford" It goes over Raid, LVM, and filesystems and gives you tests that help you decide what would work best for you. (There's even a deals page where they list where you can get drives for under $.35 a GB!)

Home Theater Recommendation? Heard of Prof. Audio? (1, Offtopic)

Evil W1zard (832703) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168353)

I am getting a new house built and I have the option of having a subcontractor install a in-ceiling or in-wall surround sound system. They of course are trying to sell their product so they say their stuff is the greatest of course, but I can't seem to find jack about the type of speakers they use. I can either get a 7.1 or a 5.1 surround package using Proficient Audio speakers, but there aren't any reviews that I can find of that kind of speaker. I am also indecisive about getting 5.1 or 7.1 (I have been told not to go with 7.1 because it hasn't really taken off yet, but I am not an audio guy so I really can't rebut anything they say) Anyone had any experience with Proficient Audio (good or bad)... I plan on buying a PRISMIQ media hub from good ol' Thinkgeek and running MP3s and other things through my TV and hence through my surround sound set-up, but I don't want to wind up buying crappy speakers that are prone to blowing up! What say ye?

Re:Home Theater Recommendation? Heard of Prof. Aud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168495)

What do I say?
I say "Do your own damn research [] ".
That's what I say.

Re:Home Theater Recommendation? Heard of Prof. Aud (1)

Evil W1zard (832703) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168548)

Well of course I have done that and if you open up all of those links they are simply the standard sales pitch from companies selling those speakers and not actual reviews, which is what I am looking for...

Have them wire it, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168606)

Don't have them install the speakers. That's the best way to go about it.

Or if you can manage to get away with it, wire it yourself while they're building it.

Re:Home Theater Recommendation? Heard of Prof. Aud (1)

Mr Smidge (668120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168625)

.. install a in-ceiling or in-wall surround sound system

You mean building speakers into the walls/ceilings? I would have thought that might be a bit of overkill. Remember that you don't have to have monstrously-sized speakers to have a good sound, so you could quite easily have a perfectly good not-built-in speaker set that doesn't take up much space.

I would, however, recommend taking this opportunity to have speaker cable wired into the walls/ceiling, leading to where you think you'll want to place your speakers, with banana plug sockets at the end, all ending up at where you want to have your amplifier. After this, just pick out your own better value 5.1 or 7.1 system and connect it up. If you have wires for a 7.1 setup, you can buy a flexible 5.1 speaker package initially, and upgrade later if you feel the need (your connections are already there!).

Unless you really trust your contractor, I'd recommend you pick out your own speakers.

Hope that helps.

Re:Home Theater Recommendation? Heard of Prof. Aud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168672)

1: mp3s aren't surround sound. Nor is most music, really.
2: it's pointless to have the main speakers built into the wall, though a subwoofer would be pretty cool if you don't have any neighbours and your family doesn't play much Jenga. Ask them if they'll just do that and let you sort the other speakers out.
3: I can't tell the difference between 4.1 and 5.1, so I suspect 7.1 would be pointless for me - you should probably try it yourself, get 7.1 PC speakers and a mid-range soundcard and see if you think it's worth it.

Is it simple enought? (2)

elh_inny (557966) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168369)

I haven't even thought of building HTPC simply because I don't watch TV, but I was wondering if average Joe Sixpack is willing to embrace this complexity, I mean MCE is as simple as it can be, but in many cases still a bit too complicated don't you think?
Otoh average people tend to use stuff like MSN Messenger etc, I think it's a decent way of making a living: I just put together a SFF such as shuttle, MCE or linux on it and the price can be premium compared to what you get for your casual PC, the question is are 'normal' people willing to spend that extra cash for that?

Missing the Point (4, Interesting)

jamacdon (445487) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168388)

I think some people don't see the bigger picture behind a PC based home theater. It is not like just plugging a tuner card into your PC and using the software that comes with the card to watch it.

With PC Theatre software, the program manages your recordings, schedule of records and ties into other medias such as videos, mp3 and CD collections and even digital cameras.

Also, when you have a PC based home theatre you usually have the output running through a highend sound system and large screen TV or project, not your 17" monitor and $12 speakers.

Beleive me, once you start using a properly configured PC based TV system, your methods of watching TV completely change.

Re:Missing the Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12168646)

I agree. My TV watching habbits have changed a lot since I built a media center.

And if you have a Windows MCE2005 set up with an Extender box, it's even better.

High(er) quality capture (1)

Mr Smidge (668120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168411)

I am curious to know why there don't seem to be many video capture cards that can handle higher quality video signals. Composite and s-video capture is easy to do with cards like the PVR-250 and so on, but I've connected my home cinema up with connections like RGB scart and component video. Is the circuitry prohibitively expensive?

I can see why the media cartels would want to limit the capture of high quality streams (if you can record the hi-def version for free, why buy the DVD?), but surely somebody's got a PC solution for capturing higher quality video?

But if copy prevention has been forced on us, in the form of HDCP etc., then surely we can now make compliant devices that can capture unencrypted DVI/HDMI video signals? That's what copy prevention is for, right? Don't allow copying of restricted media, but allow it for unrestricted media?

I'd really like to put a homebrew PC in my setup to act as a PVR, but have it record at component video quality. Are there any solutions? If so, are they any that have open source drivers?

All comments appreciated.

closed captioning for the google-impaired (5, Funny)

mapmaker (140036) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168438)


For those of you who are interested in possibly putting together a Home Theatre or Media PC but don't know how to use a search engine, I stumbled upon an excellent guide.


MythTV vs BeyondTV (5, Informative)

Yo Grark (465041) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168440)

Here is my personal final thoughts on MythTV vs BeyondTV.

MythTV != Novice.
I could never get a season pass to work, never did record "quite right", never got the thing to run smooth, never got the parsing of the xml guides fully automated, Hardware problems with ATI AIW cards. Fix was available, but messy.

BeyondTV = Simply Works.
It worked out of the box, I could access it anywhere in the world via web and record at home, had "season pass", no messing with xml converters, scripts etc. It just works on my hardware (ATI9700 AIW)smooth and simple. I can stream out the shows all over my network and have never regretted purchasing it.

So? In the end I paid the $50.00 to get a TIVO like service on my PC via Snapstream's BeyondTV. It's not as flexible or customizable as MythTV, but for it's specific purpose it wins hands down.

Don't get me wrong, while the 4 weeks spent aggrivated with MythTV was worth it just for the fun, I'm just not enough of a Nerd to keep at it and I paid to have something that was reasonable priced, and worked.

Yo Grark

I just set one of these up... (5, Informative)

raam (206445) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168509)

I also did a comparison, and since I am too goddam busy reviewing copy machines at the moment, I will just weigh in:

Best computer for the job: an intel with a cool-running CPU and fan. Dell 400SC's, if you can find them, are whisper quiet and perfect for the job.

Best card for the job: ATI or Nvidia, yada, yada. The TV card is what you care about. Hauppauge is the rage, and they just came out with a dual-tuner card (ostensibly only for MCE, but if you believe that I've got a Mac to sell you)

Best remote for the job: Snapstream's Firefly. Yeah, $50 is pricy, but, let's admit it: we're trying to make somethings as good as Tivo and this remote is the only one that does it. Remember that awesome Tivo IR blaster? Firefly is RF, baby, and you can edit XML to set up functions.

Best software for the job: BeyondTV. I tried Sage, Myth, even GB-PVR (don't get me's good and free, but man is that shit finicky - release the SOURCE!!!). Anyway, BeyondTV is incredible, bullet-proof, supports two tuners out of the box, integrates with Firefly, and I got it for $50. Almost Tivo.

Best keyboard for the job: Definitely, definitely, the BTC 9019URF. It has a built-in joystick, handles, etc., and killer range.

There you have it!

Media Portal (1)

AIX-Hood (682681) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168512)

Another great and free project is Media Portal. Fully skinable, all the features of Media Center Edition, and has plugin support: []

Capture card recommendation (UK) (2, Informative)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168560)

While I must admit that I'm new to the whole built-it-yourself PVR box scene, I started off by buying myself a stand alone TV card, just to see what kind of quality I'd get, and also because I couldn't find a standalone box that was open enough.

I chose the Nebula DigiTV [] card, and I have to say, I cannot recommend it enough. 110UKP gets you a PCI card, remote and a bundle of good software that covers pretty much everything - including letting your PC become a TV server on a network. The best bit about the card though... It's got a built in Freeview decoder.

Yup, the quality of the recordings is absolutely amazing - read cable quality - and the PVR software easy to use and if you don't have any special requirements it could be the only software you need.

All in all, incredibly chuffed - especially after some lacklustre forays into more mainstream TV cards a few years ago. Now all I have to do is build another PC to put it all in.

free as in speech, cheap as in beer (3, Funny)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168567)

Not to be a downer, but replay and tivo services are actually not that expensive. I have the grandfathered-in $9.95/mo service from replay and that is my lowest monthly expense. Honestly, I spend more on cola.

What I want is a $300 PC that will replace my mortgage, property taxes, and/or car insurance.

I hate sites that do this.... (0, Flamebait)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168651)

I hate sites that feel they need to paginate their content. Give me the whole fscking article, so that I don't have to stop reading when the server get b0rked by Slashdot!

You'll want a faster CPU (2, Interesting)

bogie (31020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12168728)

500MHz is not what you would want to build a a HTPC with. Its possbile, people do it, but since your going to be spending good money on a hardware TV Tuner then please at least buy something like a AMD 1600 >. I use a 1GHz which gets the job done but then I also like to do emulation etc. I need a faster cpu. 500MHz unless your dirt poor and have no money isn't the best cpu to start with.

And second I'll point this part out. "This will depend on whether or not you're an "audiophile". If you don't have a surround sound speaker package setup, than almost anything will do."

At a minimum buy something like the cheap chaintech Via Envy which will give you very good audio quality and more importantly SPDIF out. Are you really going to go through all of the trouble of buying hardware and setting it up only to use some shitty realtek card that causes hiss when you playback music or TV shows? That applies even if right now your not doing surround sound.

I'm not being snobby here either. These are basic things any decent HTPC guide will tell you.
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