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Building The Ultimate Home Theater PC

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the yes-please-give-that-please-yes dept.

Toys 252

planetjay writes "Tom's Hardware takes a closer look at Building The Ultimate Home Theater PC." The article considers noise, aesthetics, and remote control. See also recent Ask SlashDot on MythTV extras and my favorite DIY PVR Resource"

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so wait, which method is correct? (-1, Offtopic)

chalkoutline (854917) | about 9 years ago | (#13733450)

SlashDot? Slashdot? Slash Dot?

Re:so wait, which method is correct? (-1, Offtopic)

greenegg77 (718749) | about 9 years ago | (#13733627)

Just go with /. Or would that be \.? Curse you Bill and your silly backslashes!

Why are women so batshit crazy?!?!?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733454)

just wondering...

Pointless (4, Interesting)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13733455)

You can get a great digital projector, receiver, speakers, and DVD player off of eBay, all reliable Japanese products, for about $1,000.

Why enforce unreasonable requirements upon the system such as "it must be a PC."?

Re:Pointless (3, Insightful)

barcodez (580516) | about 9 years ago | (#13733525)

I have to agree; maybe I'm getting old, or get paid too much (ha ha, I wish), but I'm inclined just to buy something that just works.

Re:Pointless (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733671)

Insightful, yet depressing.

Re:Pointless (0, Flamebait)

eno2001 (527078) | about 9 years ago | (#13733703)

You're not getting old. The conditioning to be a consumer instead of a producer is working on you is all. ;P Whenever I hear someone say "it just works" I usually head the other direction because any system that "just works" is likely to suck away IQ.

Re:Pointless (1)

Moofie (22272) | about 9 years ago | (#13733872)

How long does it take you to start your car in the morning?

Re:Pointless (4, Insightful)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#13733895)

You're not getting old. The conditioning to be a consumer instead of a producer is working on you is all.

More accurately, he is producing enough in his specialization that he doesn't need to do everything for himself. I'm sure he doesn't always bake his own bread from scratch, or get milk from a cow every morning, or perhaps doesn't even change his own oil.

It's what happens when you reach a certain age: Your time becomes worth more than the money you would save by giving it up on such tasks.

My HDTV home theater build was not as simple as his, but still much simpler than the linked article:

Step 1: Set up a Mac with EyeTV 500 and the Keyspan Remote Control sensor
Step 2: Hook it up to a projection system via DVI-HDMI connector
Step 3: There's no step three

Did I spend more than a '1337 hax0r spent on a comparable Linux-based system? Yeah, probably.

Do I give a shit? No, not really.

Re:Pointless (4, Interesting)

norton_I (64015) | about 9 years ago | (#13733973)

It isn't always about the money. Some people just love to do this kind of thing, and don't really understand that others would rather not. Also, some of us are so good at this that it is just as easy to do it yourself and get something you are happier with. That is costs less is just a bonus.

Re:Pointless (1)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#13734038)

Some people just love to do this kind of thing, and don't really understand that others would rather not.

The original poster obviously does not love that kind of thing, and doesn't really understand why others would.

Isn't there room in this crazy, mixed-up world for both kinds of folks?

Re:Pointless (0, Troll)

eno2001 (527078) | about 9 years ago | (#13733994)

I don't trust anything that I don't control. This is why...

1. I bake my own bread
2. I make home made soy milk
3. I did all the wiring in my house myself
4. I build my own computer systems and compile everything from source code

If it's something outside of my scope of expertise, then I will go to someone else. But not until I've done an extensive background check to make sure that they hold the right ideologies. You were saying...

Re:Pointless (1)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#13734015)

We're happy for you.

While you are making your soy milk and dreaming about your elaborate HTPC plans, I'll be enjoying my store-bought dairy while watching TV on my already-built entertainment system.

Re:Pointless (1)

eno2001 (527078) | about 9 years ago | (#13734128)

Funny about that dude... I've been doing the same thing with my home made PVR for nrealy a year now. And the soy milk is quite tasty thank you very much. There is something to be said for doing it yourself. Nothing commercial ever compares unless you're less of a tech and more of a gadget guy. In that case, enjoy yourself. Whenever I have to buy something already built, I feel a great sense of disappointment because the quality can't compare to home made/custom built. Ever.

Re:Pointless (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about 9 years ago | (#13734189)

"If it's something outside of my scope of expertise, then I will go to someone else."

Yet as soon as somebody goes to someone else for something out of their expertise (which you happen to be able to do yourself), you make a judgment call on that person. That is simple hypocrisy.

Re:Pointless (2, Insightful)

Oliver Defacszio (550941) | about 9 years ago | (#13734153)

Oh, that's so stupid. There is absolutely no necessary correlation between a desire for something that does not require endless screwing around and mental dullness. In fact, now that I think about it, I tend to view people with a desire for simplicity in a better default light than those who can't have enough complexity swirling about their head and neck, because the simplicity-seekers tend to be the ones who think about their needs instead of immediately grabbing the newest shiniest whatever.

It sounds to me like YOU've been conditioned by Linux's "everything endlessly complicated must be better" mentality.

Re:Pointless (4, Interesting)

StarvingSE (875139) | about 9 years ago | (#13733527)

Because none of those can provide DVR-like capabilities, which is the point of connecting a PC to your home theater.

Re:Pointless (1)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#13733991)

So throw in a $200 TiVo and he's there.

There's more than one way to skin a cat.

For many people the best choice is to either hire somebody else to skin it for you, or just buy one that has already been skinned.

Oh, sure... you can get fresher cat meat doing it yourself, and probably at a much lower cost too, if you don't mind tracking stays through back-alleys... but not everybody who wants to eat cats has that kind of time on their hands.

Metaphor, consider yourself stretched!!!

Re:Pointless (1)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | about 9 years ago | (#13733529)

not to troll , but how reliable is eBay ?

it's the reliability of the people on eBay (1)

fideli (861469) | about 9 years ago | (#13733599)

For the service it provides, eBay is reliable. I have not seen many glitches, despite the minor one that came up on Slashdot a while back. It's all about the people that are on eBay, selling stuff. It's no different than asking how reliable the Auto Trader is.

As for Paypal, well, we'll leave that for another post..

Re:Pointless (3, Interesting)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 9 years ago | (#13733536)

Until the receiver can stream video over the network or allow custom web-enabled apps to run on my TV the HTPC still has relevance.

Re:Pointless (1)

rainman_bc (735332) | about 9 years ago | (#13733637)

AFAIK, D-Link and netgear and others make a wireless media box for $300 that'll stream video (divx et al), and mp3's across your wireless network. 54mbit is plenty of bandwidth for mpeg4 video.

Re:Pointless (1)

queequeg1 (180099) | about 9 years ago | (#13733841)

Except, to the best of my knowledge, none of those media centoer boxes will stream VOB files. This means that if you want to watch DVD movies from a central server, you will have to convert them all to mpeg2 files.

Why PC? (4, Interesting)

Mr Guy (547690) | about 9 years ago | (#13733542)

It depends on what your goal is really. The PC requirement is there for content delivery. The PC is a media repository. With a proper network connection and a good client server architecture, the PC adds an amazing degree of flexibility.

Re:Why PC? Also see Mac Mini PVR (2, Informative)

enrico_suave (179651) | about 9 years ago | (#13733668)

FWIW before the PC haterz form voltron...Mac Mini PVR []

There's also a mythTV client/frontend for OSX, somebody has compiled the mythtv backend on to Tiger, but i believe now the issue is drivers for tuner cards *shrug* (or that's the last I heard)


Re:Why PC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733700)

Plus the PC provides a great outlet for games and porno... I mean, why not? 80"+ screen, dark room, surround sound, LFE...

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733551)

Because I can set what I digitally record from work over the webpage that my machine hosts. Because I can burn that digital recording to a DVD and take it on the road. Because I can get constant weather updates which are better than the weather channel.

Re:Pointless (1)

max born (739948) | about 9 years ago | (#13733616)

Probably because you can do a lot more with a PC like transfer files across the net, organize you data, upgrade, add new features, connect to P2P, etc.. DVD players tend to be locked-down devices. Having used my (linux) laptop for movies and music for the past few years I find conventional CD/DVD players irritatingly dumb.

Re:Pointless (1)

birge (866103) | about 9 years ago | (#13733649)

You can get a latte at Starbucks for, shit, like $4.50. Why enforce unreasonable requirements upon the system such as "it must play music?"

With a PC you can do different stuff. You can serve your music to other nodes on your home LAN, you can reprogram it at will if you use Myth TV, you can do a bunch of stuff that is tied to the fact that underlying everything is a PC, as opposed to some inscrutible and closed embedded system used by an OEM. Unless the Japanese start selling recievers running linux...

However, if your only concern is sound quality and aren't looking to do anything geeky, then you're right... If getting scored +5 Interesting for pointing out the trivially obvious can be considered being right. Wait, I must be new here...

Re:Pointless (1)

sootman (158191) | about 9 years ago | (#13733698)

You can get a great digital projector, receiver, speakers, and DVD player...

Which of those products will record and store shows? My definition of "home theater" includes a whole lot more than "watching shit I got at Blockbuster."

Re:Pointless (3, Informative)

w3weasel (656289) | about 9 years ago | (#13733734)

i built mine, on the cheap... it looks like maybe you havent discovered the value of a PVR. In an entertainment system with a $700 dollar projector (DLP), and a $300.00 'home theatre in a box' (DVD+surround sound unit), you could add DVR functionality for around another $300 if your requirements are low.

Having said that, once you get a taste of watching your favorite Friday Night Sci-Fi epic on the day and time of your choosing... and commercial free ... now how much would you pay.

I'd sooner watch my PVR on a 13inch tube than suffer through 20 minutes of commercials, and countless household interruptions of my favorite 40 minute program viewed on your big-projector.

Not that I'd have to do that, mind you, since i did get a cheap DLP and already had a good stereo. Trust me, live with a PVR for a week, you'll never go back.

if you want just a cheap player (3, Informative)

grub (11606) | about 9 years ago | (#13733467)

If you want just a cheap player without recording or TV the Philips DVP-642 DVD player can play regular DVDs, MP3, MPEG4, divx and xvid. Dirt cheap at places like Best Buy. Or get an Xbox with mod chip and Xbox Media Center.

stupid mods... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733533)

Holy fuck how is that a troll? Damn they must be giving out mod points to the special schools today...oh well I better post this as AC so I don't wind up like you...poor bastard.

Re:stupid mods... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733807)

The "Troll" mods probably work for Microsoft and didn't like my suggestion of modding an xbox :)

Re:if you want just a cheap player (2, Informative)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | about 9 years ago | (#13733579)

CyberHome CH-DVD 300 [] has played anything and everything I have thrown at it.

All region DVDs, NTSC, PAL , all combinations of home burnt CD/DVD +/- R/RW , all types of picture CDs, mp3 cds, VCD, SVCD, everything, even corrupt DVDs which a 300 $ DVD player wouldn't play.

Only thing missing are DivX , Xvid etc and lack of DVI output. but for 20$ I am not complaining.

Re:if you want just a cheap player (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | about 9 years ago | (#13733635)

I got one off of Amazon cheap and they can be found even some stores like Target. They can play just about anything you throw at it. I've been using it to watch a lot of shows that I record in MPEG-2 on my PC. No need for buying computer hardware and the licenses that come with it (on Windows at least) when you can plug in this DVD player for under seventy dollars and play it all. There are limitations, like no GMC or QPEL, but if you already have a fast PC then you can convert them with out those features with freely available software for just about any platform.

Recording with a cheap card like the TV Wonder to MPEG-2 and putting it on DVD-RW is easy enough but I just built a PC to plug into the receiver and TV with a few eBay parts (video card and a 500MCE) and an abandoned 900 MHZ Celeron. It plays back shows while recording just fine. No HDTV, but then again I can't afford the monthly bill of cable so I have to put that off for a while anyways. For an investment of about 200 bucks and a three or four year old PC will due. Just go the hardware encoding and decoding route.

Re:if you want just a cheap player (1)

Sheetrock (152993) | about 9 years ago | (#13733761)

Actually, this is exactly what I did. I was thinking about throwing together a MythTV setup for a room that needed something to play music and watch DVDs but I thought I'd give this a try first.

The divx/xvid thing is cute, but I've noticed that unfortunately content that is too large for the TV resolution is clipped rather than scaled -- not to mention that certain audio codecs won't be played back, so if you've got an xvid/ogg movie you hear nothing. So care must be taken in encoding/reencoding content to fit the set.

It is the best player I've owned, however. Unexpectedly, the CD/MP3 playback has been the best feature of the unit for me, letting me see the track number and time without requiring the TV set be on.

So, at least as far as my experiences go, it's been a valid alternative to building a media PC. Sure, I wouldn't mind playing games or recording TV on the thing, but this was like 1/5th of the cost and did all I needed. TV is awful enough that I'll come out ahead simply buying the DVD sets of what I want to watch.


planetjay (630434) | about 9 years ago | (#13733473)

Tom's Hardware takes a closer look at Building The Ultimate Home Theater PC [] . "Hype aside, is it really possible to build a PC that is quiet and does everything that a high-end remote-controlled set-top box can do? And don't forget it's got to look good in your living room, too." I say YES! [] It was kind of refreshing to see them mangle some hardware forcing it into a small/slim form factor HTPC case, although it was less than refreshing to see them choose Windows MCE 2005 as their OS/PVR software. See also recent Ask SlashDot on MythTV extras [] and my favorite DIY PVR Resource []

They did you a favor buddy (3, Insightful)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13733511)

There's no need for you to complain.

Rob simply took out the link to your personal site instead of Slashdotting it into obliteration which probably would give you an extra $50 or $100 to pay your webhost this month assuming you don't have unlimited bandwidth.

Re:They did you a favor buddy (1)

planetjay (630434) | about 9 years ago | (#13733552)

No. They didn't.

They still linked to your site (1)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13733576)

If anyone clicks your username it goes right to your domain.

Stop complaining. You still got a free advertisement for your crappy site and will get thousands of hits.

Re:They still linked to your site (1)

planetjay (630434) | about 9 years ago | (#13733610)

When did I complain? Sorry you don't like the site. And I wanted a link straight to my project.

Re:They did you a favor buddy (1)

soulsteal (104635) | about 9 years ago | (#13733682)

Don't worry friend, he shall pay for his hubris.

Re:They did you a favor buddy (1)

lolocaust (871165) | about 9 years ago | (#13733896)

He put his link there. He obviously felt that he could handle a little slashdotting. Or he wanted the pagehits to generate ad revenue. (without giving ./ a cut)


WraithRealm (915444) | about 9 years ago | (#13733559)

Sorry, buddy... If it's any indication from previous /.'ing, your homepage will probably be bombarded, your bandwidth sucked up, and you'll probably be whipped by your bandwidth provider for traffic overflow.

See, the editor did you a favor. Not to mention removing a little self-advertising for your blog.

Good luck!


chrisnewbie (708349) | about 9 years ago | (#13733593)

just buy a used ibm or compaq thinclient. They are quite nice looking and very small. Cannot be upgraded easily since everything is so compaq but you can get a p4 1.8 ghz with 40 HD for under 300 $ with 2000 on it. Whatever you want to put as an o.s is your business after that.

Cheap? (2, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | about 9 years ago | (#13733509)

So has anyone figured out how to build a TiVo equivelent for $200, untill then I'm sticking with my TiVo.

I'd be wary if I were a TiVo subscriber (3, Informative)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13733545)

They are getting MUCH more restrictive with how and what you can record.

Also, considering that there's free and open source software out there ( [] ) that turns any PC into a PVR, TiVo's backs are against the wall and recently they have been breaking things and limited what you can do with the shows you record.

They also recently added more commercials/advertisements that show up when you FF/RW.

Just a heads up. I know my one friend is wary he paid so much for a lifetime subscription, and other friends are sick of paying $13+ a month for a crippled PVR.

Re:Cheap? (1)

AndyG314 (760442) | about 9 years ago | (#13733548)

Using a pIII I already owned I make one for 239.99 which is pritty close

Re:Cheap? (1)

bombadillo (706765) | about 9 years ago | (#13733567)

Exactly, I had a friend the other day ask about that. I told them to get a TIVO. You would have to spend over 1K before you could get the same performance as a tivo. DirectTv tivos cost 99 dollars. Tivo's are much cheaper and easier to use/maintain than a DIY solution.

Re:Cheap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733605)

don't forget to factor in monthly fees (which may just be included in your cable/satellite bill). you may pay less up front but after a few years you're probably more than doubling the ammount you sink into that tivo. not to mention i don't trust tivo not to push an update to your device that would restrict how long you could keep recordings or how you use them (limit transferring them to other computers).

Re:Cheap? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 9 years ago | (#13733692)

Luckily Directv tivos are only 5 bucks a month for the service and so far they havn't even put the during FF banners in much less the restrictive recordings. But who knows.

Re:Cheap? (1)

Bohiti (315707) | about 9 years ago | (#13733970)

You would have to spend over 1K before you could get the same performance as a tivo.

That's pretty ignorant. I'm no zealot, but after analyzing all my options, including TiVo and ReplayTV, I went the DIY route, but not exactly HTPC. It is not complicated at all, the only caveat is that you get a device in your living room networked with your normal PC, wherever that may be.

I've got full what I believe is full TiVo functionality (pause/rewind live tv, robust recording options) and then some (auto-skip commercials, watch other videos, play mp3's). Two devices needed:

Hauppauge Media MVP [] $86
Hauppauge PVR250 tuner card [] $137
(I think you can spend less on a different tuner card; You'll want hardware encoding however.)

Didn't need a new hard drive. I just want to keep current on shows, I'm not doing long-time archiving here. I never use more than 20-30gb.

I use GB-PVR [] software for windows. This guy is really good. Very active developer and community, though the base project is not open source.

My main PC in the basement runs GBPVR on Windows XP. I also use it for gaming, surfing, etc. In the background, it records shows. Media MVP is RCA-plugged into my 27" TV in my living room, streams content from my PC over my home network.

Very easy if I want to take a video with me, there's just .mpg's on my PC's hard drive. Burn it to DVD, or copy it to my laptop for a car ride.

I like my setup.

Re:Cheap? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733581)

OK - But can you use your Tivo to run your word processor or spreadsheet program?

Re:Cheap? (3, Informative)

ploss (860589) | about 9 years ago | (#13733583)

So has anyone figured out how to build a TiVo equivelent for $200, untill then I'm sticking with my TiVo.

Remind me in a few years, when the cost of your Tivo + subscription is more than you would pay for a linux + myth box. Also, I'd rather not be at the whim of some company who can reintroduce (their own!) commercials into the programming with the flick of a switch, and will also likely have intense pressure to support things like the broadcast flag.

Anyways, don't just blow off the other solutions because yours has better short term gain.

(P.S. I added Myth to my Gentoo box, and all it took was a few hours and a $70 tuner card, but YMMV...)

Re:Cheap? (1)

popa (590190) | about 9 years ago | (#13733598)

Yep. Recycling. Most people that are interested in making a PVR would be able to find a 40G+ HD(100+ are like what, $50+ish now?), and a ~500Mhz+ cpu somewhere in their house or at least the local used place. Then for under 100 you can get a cheap basic tuner card. That's how I built my first.

Re:Cheap? (1)

AndyG314 (760442) | about 9 years ago | (#13733624)

if you play your cards right, you can get a 160GB drive for like 30 bucks at a compUSA (with several mail in rebates of course). You just have to be willing to buy it when the promotion is going on.

TiVo isn't a TiVo equivalent for $200 (3, Informative)

Mr Guy (547690) | about 9 years ago | (#13733688)

Unless I missed something, which is possible, you don't get free listings with TiVo. The last time I looked, the lifetime package was about another $200.

TiVo does have an advantage in ease of use, and it can win on cost, especially if your content provider includes it with your service,.

It loses on DRM, expandability, and configurability.

You can build a solid HTPC for around the same cost though, with some homework. If you have a computer to scavange, so much the better.

$120 gets you a PVR500 with two tuners, that does encoding on board.
~$100 Large Hard Drive - Hard drive size, like in TiVo, is directly related to how much you want to record and how you want the quality. Unlike with TiVo, on a PC you can use network shares to distribute this as much as you want, and add more if you want conveniently.

The rest is just a mini computer to run the software and do the display. $50 mobo with onboard S/PDIF out, $50 AMD CPU, $50 bucks of RAM, case and PSU depends on whether you want to go with cheap or pretty and quiet, call it another $100, remote control about $20. DVD burner $30.

Average HTPC that holds more, higher quality video than TiVo, about $500, and you end up with complete control of your content (at least, for now).

Re:Cheap? (1)

maskedavenger (674027) | about 9 years ago | (#13734042)

a great way to build something like a Tivo for cheap is to salvage parts. I got my hands on (for free) a 300mhz celeron and 200 gigs of SCSI drives (5x40). All I had to buy was the tuner card. which was $60 I think. I built my server this way too. If you ever have a friend say they're going to throw away their old machine, gank it and strip it!

Could this be considered a dupe? (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | about 9 years ago | (#13733569)

Can I call this a dupe since it seems to be a reoccurring topic? Oh well, It's useful information, and I've always been a fan of Linux PVRs, so I guess it's ok....

get sth more (3, Informative)

in-tech (912144) | about 9 years ago | (#13733571)

what about doing it yourself? build your own system, mini-ITX [] , use your own custom enclosures [] , what else, ... for silence [] , plus the harware from ebay [] will do fine.

Toms Hardware uses Microsoft Media Edition (1, Flamebait)

pesc (147035) | about 9 years ago | (#13733603)

It would be a great timesaver if the slashdot story could mention up front that the Toms Hardware article ends up building a Microsoft Media (whatever its called) box.

Re:Toms Hardware uses Microsoft Media Edition (1)

planetjay (630434) | about 9 years ago | (#13733819)

Sorry, but it was edited. The original story did.

Re:Toms Hardware uses Microsoft Media Edition (1)

catch23 (97972) | about 9 years ago | (#13733825)

Don't worry, most of the commenters (like myself) won't bother to read the article anyway before posting! You must be new here.

How is it the "ultimate" when it only has 1 tuner? (4, Insightful)

VitrosChemistryAnaly (616952) | about 9 years ago | (#13733609)

Okay, I fail to see the big deal. This thing doesn't offer much more than my TiVo. To be the ultimate it needs to be able to record more than one show at once.

Put that in a "component" case and I'll be happy.

Re:How is it the "ultimate" when it only has 1 tun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733695)

Dual Tuner PVR? HD? []

Its not perfect, and there are some hiccups... but its easy to use. And you can record 2 shows while watching a previously recorded 3rd...

The HD thing is what kills mythtv for me. There aren't any cable/satellite capable HD=capture cards that I'm aware of. There's just the one OTA (over-the-air) card that may (will?) die when the FCC gets its broadcast flag. ... if anyone knows differently I'm all ears...

Re:How is it the "ultimate" when it only has 1 tun (2, Informative)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | about 9 years ago | (#13733800)

The HD thing is what kills mythtv for me. There aren't any cable/satellite capable HD=capture cards that I'm aware of. There's just the one OTA (over-the-air) card that may (will?) die when the FCC gets its broadcast flag. ... if anyone knows differently I'm all ears...

There are couple of cable (QAM256) capable cards with recent support in Linux and Myth.
Here's a thread on the topic. []

Re:How is it the "ultimate" when it only has 1 tun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733866)

Er, sorry, actually QAM is here. [] Poke around the forum for a few more short threads on the topic.

Cases? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733614)

I've been looking for a decent case for a HTPC; looking to run Myth on a modified Redhat or Debian install. Anyone seen these Any comments?

At EPCOT in Disney World (1)

ScrewTivo (458228) | about 9 years ago | (#13733634)

they have a way kewl home theater. You can get all the specs from them. The Disney Imagineers do nothing second class. I sat through the presentation and all I can say is I WANT ONE! They also have a "home of the future" that has awesome tech including a whirlpool with a TV, stereo that uses the wall as a speaker, and best of all a self cleaning toilet bowl (eeewww).

mod Up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733645)

Mod this guy troll (1)

rdoger6424 (879843) | about 9 years ago | (#13733771)

Stop trying to do stuff like that. We know what site it links to. Look:
with 7he :work, or []
stupidity is not an excuse

Not the PC, but (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 9 years ago | (#13733650)

nothing is ultimate but this one is a pretty good [] theatre for the ultimate home theatre PC.

Re:Not the PC, but (1)

dfghjk (711126) | about 9 years ago | (#13733805)

That's nasty. You certainly don't want colorful distracting decorations in the immediate vacinity of the screen and all the decorations can't do much for sound quality either. It's horrible looking and can't be all that good a theatre either.

If it isn't made for critical listening and viewing then it's just amusing.

The IDEAL HTPC is .... (5, Informative)

HerculesMO (693085) | about 9 years ago | (#13733651)

The one that's IDEAL for YOU.

I know the arguements about MythTV and MCE and blah blah blah. The simple fact of the matter is that you have to use what you are comfortable with. If you are comfortable paying $13 a month (or whatever Tivo charges now) in addition to $100-$200 for the set top box with no control over what happens to its software, then that's the option you take.

If you are comfortable using Linux and feel confident in setting up MythTV to work properly, then you get yourself a cheap system and build a MythTV HTPC.

And if you are comfortable with Windows (as I am), want something simple to use for your family and friends, then you go with Media Center Edition.

I'll even voice my praise for Media Center because while it may not be the most powerful, most bug free, fastest, or even prettiest (compared to some skins from Meedio), it works pretty simply and has a nice remote.

I know the arguements about them all, and I've tried them all. MythTV, SageTV, BeyondTV, Meedio, and finally MCE (it took a long time to get to this point). Before that, I used ReplayTV and then Tivo (both of which I modded with hard drives and sold for a profit on eBay). MCE for me, is the best solution there is. It gets the TV times, changes the channels on my cable box, records easily, and has a GREAT remote. And in the end the fact I can surf the web on my TV or some other stuff on my television (in my bedroom) makes MCE a winner.

If you want a SILENT solution, it's pretty simple. Get yourself a Shuttle box, get a nice mobile processor (Sempron should do just fine), replace the bearing fan in the Shuttle with a Silen-X fan, and your PC is deadly silent. Then just learn how to use the STANDBY feature of your PC, and it's completely silent. A good hard drive is also key, as the crappier ones will make more noise. Then buy a $15 sound card with an optical out so you can pass sound to a proper reciever. Get a passively cooled video card with TV out (unless you are doing hardcore gaming, in which case you aren't really building an HTPC), and a copy of Windows MCE (or MythTV or whatever you want).

The total cost for my box, with the OS was around $350 -- and it runs perfectly though with Windows on it, I have it set on a schedule to reboot once a week. I know the Tivo users will always say how cheap it is in comparison to have their box and just make it easy for themselves but in the end.. I can browse the web, check my email, play some games, check the weather, set an alarm, AND watch and record television for my $350 budget. You paid say, $300 with the lifetime subscription for for $50 more, I have oodles more features and STILL have a snazzy remote.

So go enjoy Tivo... I'm happy with my solution.

Re:The IDEAL HTPC is .... (1)

enrico_suave (179651) | about 9 years ago | (#13733707)

you're my new hero! kudos!

While we're on the subject . . . (2, Informative)

alhaz (11039) | about 9 years ago | (#13733666)

Does anybody know if current CVS of MythTV is usable, and if so, does it still thoroughly suck for ATSC?

I spent days getting 0.18.1 working with my PCHDTV card only to find that the mpeg demuxer is right next door to non-functional and it had a tendency to crash if it accidentally caught wind of an encrypted stream, which are ubiquitous on my local airwaves.

It was a total PITA to use and i was actually more comfortable tuning manually and using mplayer. At least mplayer's demuxer isn't all choppy on an Athlon64-3500.

So i asked around on the irc channel and found out, yeah that's basically the state of things.

WindowsXP solution (1)

technopinion (469686) | about 9 years ago | (#13733669)

For those of us who aren't Linux fanboys, BeyondTV is working out very well for me. I have a HTPC set up in my basement, on the other side of the wall from the media room, so that the cables can come through the wall and plug into my A/V receiver and projector. A satellite receiver feeds S-Video into a Hauppauge MPEG-2 encoder in the HTPC box, and it's all controlled by a Harmony universal remote. Video quality from the satellite on about a 100" screen ranges from awesome to so-so (mostly depending on how compressed any given channel is), but Divx/xvid movies look awesome, almost as good as DVD. The other two TVs in the house each have their own cheapo/old computer, nothing particularly powerful, running copies of BeyondTV Link which is a client version of the software, and each has one of SnapStream's Firefly remotes. In all, the system works pretty darn well, it even passes the wife test. Now if only Snapstream had a half-decent music playback solution (their Beyond Media software is, to put it kindly, not a great music player) I'd be super-happy.

"Ultimate" Home Theater PC (2)

hal2814 (725639) | about 9 years ago | (#13733678)

So I guess the PIII 450 with a Radeon TV out card that I plugged into the RF Modulator so I can watch torrents of movies and shows on my 29" Sanyo TV doesn't count? Did I mention it's hooked up to a fancy-schmancy 10-year-old-$200 surround sound system?

Re:"Ultimate" Home Theater PC (1)

Steve525 (236741) | about 9 years ago | (#13734018)

I'm not sure I believe you. I'd be surprised if your PIII 450 can handle decoding most of the torrents available for download. I know my Celeron 466 couldn't handle MP4's (or similar) with greater than 320x240 resolution.

I actually did use my Celeron as a PVR and it almost worked. Encoding was fine (with a hardware encoder), but decoding was a little iffy.

Re:"Ultimate" Home Theater PC (1)

Broiler (804077) | about 9 years ago | (#13734094)

I have the same setup, only it is a 13" TV and no surround sound. OK so it's not "the same", but it is cheap.

If the link is slow ... (1)

Luscious868 (679143) | about 9 years ago | (#13733702)

If the link is slow use the Coral Cache [] link.

Silverstone Cases Rock! (2, Informative)

shepmaster (319234) | about 9 years ago | (#13733717)

I have a good MythTV setup now, utilizing an old 900 MHz Athlon, a PVR-250MCE, a NVidia GeForce 4MX. It works just fine (requisite note about time versus money here... I have more time than money). The thing I'd really like is to get rid of the tower case. I spraypainted my ugly beige case a nice black, but what I really want is one of these: [] (Scroll to Lascala Series).

These look sooooo nice! Unfortunately, nice == $$ in this case (no pun!). I'd really prefer the LC-11M, as it has the display with the IR receiver built in. A little bit of checking shows that these displays and IR components have LIRC and LCDProc support, so Linux should 'just' work.

Anyone care to buy me one... for testing?

Re:Silverstone Cases Rock! (1)

repetty (260322) | about 9 years ago | (#13733769)

>> The thing I'd really like is to get rid of the tower case.

Don't be hard your yourself. IMHO their case selection in the project was their big -- really big -- mistake.


More Than Just DVR (5, Informative)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | about 9 years ago | (#13733719)

For everyone that's posting the 'Whats the big deal?' posts, a HTPC is far more than just a DVR. I have mine running XP with Meedio [] . Once there's a linux alternative that is as flexible as Meedio I'll look into switching.

The DVR capabilities of a HTPC are great, but you get a lot more features without any added cost:
  • The ability to download shows and run them from the HTPC, similar to the DVR but without requiring a capture card. Also provides a nice interface to give show/season/episode info.
  • The ability to load all my movies onto the server (I encode as xvid to save storage). Browse movies by genre, title, etc and have the cover image on screen. No need to load a disk.
  • Weather info
  • Emulators. Mine has NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64, but there's many more. I have 2 wireless controllers and can play any game I want, at any time, without having to hunt down the actual cartridge.
  • Home Automation. You know, controlling lights, thermostat, cameras, etc.
  • RSS feeds for news, sports scores, etc.
  • Streaming Shoutcast stations for a wide variety of audio.
  • Neat tricks like having callerID info pop up onscreen so you don't have to look at the phone itself.
  • Email. You can read/send via POP/SMTP or Exchange.
  • Lots more [] .

I'm helping a friend build his right now, and it'll run about $1100 with 600GB of hard drive space. With that he gets a HDTV DVR and everything above. Compare that to the cost of a DVD player and a DVR and it's comparable, but you get far more functionality and flexibility from a HTPC.

Re:More Than Just DVR (1)

Corporal Dan (103359) | about 9 years ago | (#13734068)

So what are the advantages of Meedio vs. Windows MCE?

There are better sources for HTPC info... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733722)

I've seen tom's being used for HTPC articles on /. before. But fact is there are better more in depth sources of HTPC information online. These sites and software are dedicated to HTPC and all the of the options associated.

Check these out: []

In particular their forums: []

Some great software: [] []

In response to the question asking if you can build this for under $200? I have a friend that used a 733mhz P2 with a lower end capture card, the two pieces of software above, a firefily remote ( [] ) and a bit of reading on those forums.

In short he has an HTPC up and running that cost less than $200 CDN and has more tweakability (is that a word?) than most tivos.


Pure Digital Path (3, Interesting)

bloosqr (33593) | about 9 years ago | (#13733736)

I've been looking into going this route actually not for the sake of having a PC as a TVset-top box but because I think it offers more options than standard receivers, besides the obvious (Universal DVD-ROM drive can play all and new codecs unlike standard dvd players, simple instant digital access to any music libraries, cheap route to HDTV, cheap upgrade to new technologies as they come out).

The main issue I have been having is that currently all receivers except for the really high end ones (meridian, tata) offer only analogue out for the surround channels. That is the dvd is decoded either in the player or in the receiver and you get analogue out from their DAC. If you want to do anything to this signal you end up having to do another A->D->A swap. An obvious example of this is using pro-audio equipment for home theatre use to equalize out room anomalies. People spend tons of money on speakers and , but one of the largest factors in sound is simply the dynamics of the room which can cause peaks and dips depending on what and how your room is arranged. You can purchase an 8 channel 1/3 octave 31 band digital equalizers for pretty cheap (in the grand scheme of things for home theatre) from alesis which would be brilliant to fix these anomalies. Furthermore, you are no longer dependent on the DAC that you happen to get w/ your receiver, but you use whatever DAC you want (and these things aren't really that expensive but pro-audio dacs that are cheap are actually the same DACS that only come in >$3k receivers for instance). I haven't done this yet, but the idea is to use something like VLS (or maybe a hardware decoder solution but that would take a bit of coding) and output it to an ADAT card (basically a digital format that looks like toslink but w/ 8 channels) which then goes into a cheap Alesis equalizer which then goes into the amps. All in all a swanky upgradable preamp glued into a DVD player w/ HD upscaling and pure digital outs and room equalization on a level that simply doesn't exist in any level (even those $10k TATA preamps) all for hopefully about $800 or so. And you get for free everything else you expect for having a PC as your main home theatre box aka universal codec player, upgradable, music center, networkable etc etc.

I haven't actually done this yet I admit but its something I've been toying recently.

Why all the work? (1)

oosid (627873) | about 9 years ago | (#13733753)

I just set up a media room that supports remote everything via bluetooth kb and mouse, or elgato remote, two game consoles, Karaoke, Projection or small monitor, 5.1 surround, Wi-Fi, CPU is totally silent, exports converted movies to my PSP, manages all of my music, and photos, manages video collection, edits video, supports all digital AV file types, makes custom cd/DVD's, looks, sweet, my 5 year old can use it, and I can plug in all of my legacy AV components. I did all of it for about $2000 dollars, and didn't have to build a thing. What's the problem? Mac Mini + DVD burner Ceiling mount projector Elgato EyeTV 500 (free over the air HD + unencrypted digital cable) PVR Yamaha AV reciever 17inch flat screen monitor 2 fat firewire drives Monitor switch maudio usb sound card for surround PSP Ware

*REAL* Home Theater for Rich Kids :) (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13733775)

Buy the local 20-plex and live in the manager's office.

Don't tell me you weren't thinking it :)

You just know some /.'er is reading this from a theater manager's office.

Never considers videophiles (2, Interesting)

cexshun (770970) | about 9 years ago | (#13733780)

I see these all the time and the hype is amazing. Yet, the more I try to consider building one, the less reasonable it is for myself. Frankly, I have not found a video card capable of producing high enough quality video for videophiles or a/v heads. And 6 channel on board sound? Hardly tolerable.

The big and bad units are expensive for a reason. A DIY PVR just will not compare to a decent mid-range unit.

I can't remember the link, but there was a site that had screenshot comparisons of all the main tuner cards with pros-cons. Frankly, they all looked like crap. I would never put the output stream through my HD projector.

So, to answer the question quite bluntly:
Hype aside, is it really possible to build a PC that is quiet and does everything that a high-end remote-controlled set-top box can do?
No, not even close. While the software for it is there, PC hardware is hardly capable of producing anything remotely comparable to high end . Comparable to a budget model or upper end of the low quality units? Sure! The joy of DIY? Yep! High end? Hardly...

digital or analog? (1)

raygundan (16760) | about 9 years ago | (#13733919)

I assume you were looking at a review of analog capture for standard-definition television, which in a lot of cases is not so hot in the PC world. Digital capture, however, is better. If you use an HDTV capture card and a DVI or HDMI output to your set, the video will be as perfect as the transmission, and on par with anything else you can buy. Onboard sound is fine, as long as it has a digital out. (You may have to scrounge for a soundstorm mobo, though)

This is the one area where HTPCs had an edge-- I had a PVR capable of recording HDTV for about $450 in parts (old PC + capture card) quite a while back. When it was built, there were no available HD PVRs, and when the HD Tivo eventually arrived, it was $1000.

That price advantage is definitely gone, though. Most cablecos now offer a HD PVR for a small monthly rental fee.

Re:digital or analog? (1)

cexshun (770970) | about 9 years ago | (#13734043)

Quite correct. I have stopped my research so perhaps the digital units have improved. However, being a HTPC, watching/timeshifting television is not it's only function. I don't care what card you're using, a DVD will look nowhere near as good as a decent unit.

A HTPC will give DVD quality roughly equal to that of a PS2 even with digital HD outs. For most people, this is good enough. But when you're someone who complains that a projector has 'poor blacks', then this will not cut it.

I'm not saying a DIY HTPC is crap. I'm saying it's not high-end and the article implies it is.

Re:digital or analog? (1)

raygundan (16760) | about 9 years ago | (#13734187)

Agreed, and I hadn't thought much about using the thing as a DVD player. I'd be surprised if there isn't a way to go pure-digital on that, though-- straight from the DVD's bitstream to the TV via a digital input. I'm not sure how a digital source can deliver "poor blacks" to your set, unless it was defective.

It would still be much easier to just use a standalone DVD player. For me, it was solely about being able to record HDTV shows, with bigscreen PC gaming thrown in as a secondary benefit.

Re:Never considers videophiles (3, Insightful)

Moofie (22272) | about 9 years ago | (#13733948)

Every night, I go to sleep thanking my lucky stars that I am neither an audiophile nor a videophile.

Good enough is good enough for me. You go ahead with your $2000/foot virgin silver de-oxy-ozonated hand rolled +2 vs. lousy sound speaker cables.

I'll use some nice heavy gauge lamp cord and be just fine.

But can it do Component Video Capture? (1)

jchernia (590097) | about 9 years ago | (#13733826)

Until they come out with a video card that can capture Analog HD Video, it's not interesting. Yes there are $3,000 cards that can do it, but why doesn't the AVIVO technology from ATI? They've got the H.264 in hardware and 16x PCIe, so the bandwidth should be manageable. can do it (5, Informative)

RedR (880377) | about 9 years ago | (#13733849)

Heya, I was a bit let down with this and the hardware and software selection that Tom's went after on this. I've had much better results avoiding Windows MCE by using SageTV, or GB-PVR or BeyondTV, or for those real diehards, MythTV. Some of the complaints that Tom's had are very easily solved by going with hardware that's slightly larger and more standard than the micro or mini ATX stuff. Anyway check out, they've got some really great how to's on building your own HTPC on the cheap or all out. Enjoy, RedR

1 GB for a HTPC? (1)

MerlinTheWizard (824941) | about 9 years ago | (#13734010)

Doesn't really go with the "hype aside" comment they make. You don't need no frecking 1 GB for such a project. Come on, 1 GB is overkill even for most desktop users, except for the "heavy-users". Half of that is perfectly good enough. You can use a bigger hard drive, though. So for the money saved with 512 MB less, I'd put in a 400 GB HD instead, or something like that. Even the suggested processor is largely overkill. A Pentium M 2.13 GHz? It's practically like the most expensive processor you can find, except for the server-oriented ones. Holy crap. They must be kididing us, really. My own HTPC for the moment has a P3/800 with 512 MB and it fits the bill royally.

An iBook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13734103)

Why couldnt I just buy an iBook w/ a big hdd and dvd-r and then install appropriate software?

I dont really get these things.

Nexus-S card is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13734152)

The best systems that I have seen, that run on a computer, are those that run with the Nexus-S DVB satellite card. Too bad that most of them only work for free - as in, there is no way to get it work with a real account, therefore forcing you to have free pay-per-view and all the channels for free.

RitzDVB is a good software package
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