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Noob HTPC Questions

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February 9, 2007 2:46:49 PM

I build my own Desktop systems, and I'd like to build an HTPC.

Guides often show extreme setups, able to burn Blue-Ray discs, play 3d games, and output to HDTVs.

My needs are much simpler!

My goal is to build a system which meets only my needs.
My requirements:
* Be able to timeshift and record TV (including old home made VHS tapes)
* Be able to watch one channel and record another.
* Be able to author DVD movies

My questions are as follows:

1. What processor do I want?
I want a cool and quiet system which is not overkill for my needs. Are the newest processors overkill? Do I want mobile core, single core, or an under-clocked standard chip? Which processors are cool and quiet and serve my needs?

2. What video card do I need?
I don't need to play games. I don't need to output to an HDTV. What outputs must the video card have? My old TV only has "red-white" audio plus "yellow" video. (I'm not sure what this is called) What type of converter will I need (if any)?

3. What type of TV tuner do I need?
I don't need one that outputs HDTV. Do I want a tuner with its own microprocessor to take the load off of the CPU? I need two tuner inputs to watch and record at the same time. The debate is one card with two tuners, or two cards.
According to this article: "Finally, having two of the same tuner prevents some undesirable behaviors for an HTPC. With the ATI and Hauppage cards, the signal reception, picture quality, and audio volume levels varied way too much between the two cards, and despite making an effort, I couldn't get them tweaked up to match."
It looks like one card with two tuners is the better choice. If you disagree please tell me why.

4. What case do I want?
In another article, a motherboard's CPU did not align with the case air vents. As a result, the CPU ran too hot! Switching to a different motherboard caused the case to be much cooler. How can I ensure my motherboard, CPU, and CPU cooler will all fit inside the case, ventilating properly?

5. What software do I want?
I know Windows Media Center will serve most needs, but what about DVD authoring software to make nice looking family DVDs? Will Media Center do this, or should I purchase other software for this purpose? Can the other software operate on a remote plus TV display (not HD?) If not, should I move a computer monitor into the living room whenever I want to author a DVD?

6. Home-made or pre-built?
This system is for my parents, who are not computer savvy. I won't be around to troubleshoot for them. Would a pre-built system with a warranty better serve their needs? Would a pre-built system be more stable and run cooler? Can anybody suggest a place to buy a pre-built?

7. Are my needs so simple I should buy a used HTPC to save on cost?

8. Make a build suggestion!
Other guides online have been a great starting point. But reading them has not answered these questions. Components are chosen with little justification other than "This is the best new part on the market today".

I realize this is a laundry list of requests, but I've noticed people on these forums are very generous and I thank you in advance for all your responses. EDIT: for clarity.

More about : noob htpc questions

February 9, 2007 11:37:31 PM

What is your budget? Do you have a monitor or does your budget include a monitor? Because you'll be doing video you'' need a lot of storage and should get a dual core and 2GB if at all possible while the video card is less important.
February 9, 2007 11:48:44 PM

Thanks for the response.
The functionality I want in an HTPC has been around for years. Older HTPCs didn't have dual core processors. Why do I need a dual core now? If I do get a dual core, should I get a mobile dual core to reduce heat and noise?
My budget will go as high as it needs to go. The smaller the cost the better. Let me know what the trade offs are and what I'm losing if I'm not willing to pay so that I can better answer the questions.
I'm willing to buy a monitor, but I want the TV to perform all of the operations if possible. If good DVD authoring is not possible on a TV, then I will be happy to shell out extra for a monitor.
By "doing video" do you mean time-shifting, DVD authoring, recording, or all of the above?
Related resources
February 10, 2007 12:14:53 AM

As for the video I mean all of the above. The most resource intensive thing I do is video although I'm not running my machine to the TV. Also for video editing, you'll want a monitor. If money were no object but remaining within some reason, I'd get the following. I didn't include the TV tuner because I don't use won but Hauptage has a good reputation. Googel reviews of TV tuner cards. You'll want dual core because video is very resource intensive and takes a long time to render video. If this is more than you want to spend, give me a more precise budget. I'm guessing the tuner will run around $100 or less.

Case http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681... $100
Mobo http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
$151
Video Card http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681... $143
Intel Core Duo 6000 http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...
$315
RAM http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682... $274
Floppy http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682... $7
OS hdd http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682... $45
Storage hdd http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682... $95
Optical Drive http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1682... $30
Total $1161.

You could take 100s off this and still have a good machine. But that's why knowing your budget is important, if this is too much, and it's a lot, where we cut depends on how much we need to cut.
February 10, 2007 1:18:40 AM

Agree with the previous poster on the motherboard and budget request. However, when it comes to video playback, ATI is a better choice. I would go with one of the X1650pro cards if you're trying to save money, like this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

or, if as you say, "price is no object", bump up to the X1950pro card. You need one that has a converter for your composite video on the TV, which the card linked above has. The other benefit of this listed card is it is very quiet and vents to the outside of the case, reducing the ambient internal temperature, and helping airflow, thus preventing other fans (case, cpu) from kicking-in unnecessarily. I personally don't agree with passively cooled gpu's for that reason in an HTPC.

Since you're running all this to an analog TV, the best picture quality and performance is going to come from the Saber2020 tuner card. It has 2 tuners, an FM tuner, and video capture, (for converting all your old tapes and video). Plus, it runs from the pci-e slot on the MB recommended by the other poster, which allows for the use of a higher bandwidth, and less chance for a bottleneck in your system. The company link is here:

http://www.vistaview.tv/index.php?option=com_content&ta...

and you can buy them here:

http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=4134106

You don't need a CD2 6600, either -- that's overkill for your needs. A 6300, or 6400 at the most, will serve you just fine. The benefit to these CPU's is that they are very low power consumers, with high processing capabilities. This will benefit you if the PC stays on 24/7, which for time-phase recording, it ususally does. I wouldn't bother with the Merom, mobile chips, they're no longer cost-effective with the intro of C2D. You're going to want a very quiet CPU fan, so consider the Tuniq Tower, again, very quiet and efficient:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...

My personal preference on memory for that board is the Corsair XMS2 C4, DDR2800. This stick works flawlessly on that board, and is on the company's QVL. I recommend 2gb:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

With the hard drive, I'd go with at least a 500gb, because video recording sucks up a lot of space, and they're not that much more $$ wise. I agree with the previous poster, in running your OS from a separate drive, that way you don't compromise the virtual memory space for your OS, in case you max out on storage. I'd get a Western Digital, just because they run very quietly.

As far as cases go, that is a very personal preference, depending on how you will install it in your system. Do you want a tower, or something low-profile?
February 10, 2007 2:01:03 AM

For what you're looking for, no, you don't need dual core. In fact, you won't even need a fast cpu, because you'll be using a hardware capture card. You'll need a hardware capture card because you'll want to use windows XP MCE 2005, and MCE 2005 will only work with select hardware capture cards, such as Hauppauge's PVR-250, which is the hardware capture card you'll want, having 2 capture inputs, allowing you to watch TV on one channel, and record on another.

As for ram, no more than 512MB is necessary. Cheapest is best here.

Hard drives: PATA or Sata, doesn't matter. you'll want AT LEAST a 200GB hdd, as one hour of recording consumes 2.66GB. You don't really need two drives, just a partition on one. About 8GB partition for OS, and the rest for video capture.

Video card: nothing fancy needed here, just make sure it has composite video output. To be MCE 2005 compatible, it must be at least a Radeon 9500/9550 or Nvidia Geforce4 MX-420/440/460/4000. Geforce4 Ti series cards and older will not work. All Nvidia FX series and newer work fine. Anything ATI 9500-9800, Xxxx and X1xxx series also work. Any PCI express card using ATI or Nvidia chips will work with MCE 2005.

I would suggest an oem system to save you from tearing your hair out. If you can find a used HP home theater PC at a decent price, it may be worth it. If you can't buy a used OEM HTPC, the next best thing is to find a new OEM that still comes with Windows XP MCE 2005. If you can find one, you can add whatever you need to finish off the build. Why an OEM? Because every top tier OEM (Dell, Gateway, HP, eMachines, Compaq, etc) is guaranteed to have a functional S3 standby (suspend to ram). Trust me, you'll want this. In addition, most oems are fairly quiet, another important factor.
February 10, 2007 2:32:43 AM

The fact that you state that this is for your parents your best bet is to just get a tivo. If you have cable TV, most companies will rent a PVR for $3-10 a month. They will make your life a lot simpler.

If you want to spend more money then that the sky is the limit. I wouldn't go with any pre-built systems. The warranty is worthless. They will still call you first everytime something goes wrong. At least if you built it you might have a clue of what is wrong or how to fix it.
Software/OS you have the basic choice of windows or linux.
Hardware
Video card don't need one, if MB has tv out (otherwise go old school)
TV tuner I would recomend Hauppauge. They are supported by everything I have seen. If you want two tuners a dual tuner card will save a pci slot and cost about the same as two single cards.
CPU If you plan to transcode video to mpeg4 to save space go high end, other wise you could look at stuff as old as athalon XP.
RAM In general you wont need to much for this look for a good deal on some value ram and shoot for 512-1gb.
Sound Card It is subjective. Onboard sound sould be enough.
HDD You can never have too much space for a HTPC. I like prices in the 4-5 GB per $1 range.

The whole thing can be had for around $500 on the cheap, but expect to pay a lot more. Though at $10 a month that would require over 4 years of renting a pvr from the cable company.
February 10, 2007 2:39:14 AM

I second the Tivo option. it really is the best for non-technical people.
February 10, 2007 3:38:32 AM

Quote:
I second the Tivo option. it really is the best for non-technical people.

You Tivo supporters didn't read the OP's first sentence: He said he wanted to build an HTPC

Quote:
I build my own Desktop systems, and I'd like to build an HTPC.


and if he's going to run Vista or Windows MCE, 512mb RAM isn't going to cut it.

Quote:
As for ram, no more than 512MB is necessary. Cheapest is best here.
February 10, 2007 4:01:50 AM

Thanks for all the feedback! Just to clarify:

1) Tivo won't cut it for a couple of reasons. I want this new piece of technology to be able to record our home movies. I would have no way to get the Tivo movies onto a computer (for DVD authoring).

2) I want the TV, DVR, and DVD player to all have one easy to use remote.

3) If I record my home movies to a hard drive with Windows Media Center, can I transfer those movies to another PC, edit them and author them to a fancy DVD? I'm still eager to hear about good authoring software.

4) Sounds like Windows Media Center 2005 (based on XP not Vista) would suit my needs. If this version requires less than Vista, or an unreleased Vista Media Center, I'm okay with that.

5) My current desktop case is a Sonata II and I love it, but I want something "conventional" for my parents' den. If you suggest a case, please do suggest a motherboard which will line up the CPU with the cases air ducts. madmurph: Will that huge CPU cooler fit in an HTPC case?

6) Two hard drives, or one partitioned? Two hard drives make more noise and more heat, so I'm leaning towards one.

7) Does anybody know an OEM which makes HTPCs?

8) madmurph: I was planning on using the TV coaxial cable input to capture my VHS movies, much as I would for capturing TV and recording programs. I wasn't aware I needed a TV tuner with "Video Capture", as I thought all TV Tuners were video capture cards. Can you help clarify this?
February 10, 2007 8:18:14 AM

Well if you were looking for the ultimate HTPC, that looks very nice, and have no budget, check this out.
February 10, 2007 8:23:29 AM

I do have a budget. It's not a hard limit, but rather I'm willing to spend for exactly what my needs are, and not more.
I'm looking forward to discussion on my questions.
February 10, 2007 11:05:30 AM

Quote:
Agree with the previous poster on the motherboard and budget request. However, when it comes to video playback, ATI is a better choice. I would go with one of the X1650pro cards if you're trying to save money, like this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

or, if as you say, "price is no object", bump up to the X1950pro card. You need one that has a converter for your composite video on the TV, which the card linked above has. The other benefit of this listed card is it is very quiet and vents to the outside of the case, reducing the ambient internal temperature, and helping airflow, thus preventing other fans (case, cpu) from kicking-in unnecessarily. I personally don't agree with passively cooled gpu's for that reason in an HTPC.

Since you're running all this to an analog TV, the best picture quality and performance is going to come from the Saber2020 tuner card. It has 2 tuners, an FM tuner, and video capture, (for converting all your old tapes and video). Plus, it runs from the pci-e slot on the MB recommended by the other poster, which allows for the use of a higher bandwidth, and less chance for a bottleneck in your system. The company link is here:

http://www.vistaview.tv/index.php?option=com_content&ta...

and you can buy them here:

http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=4134106

You don't need a CD2 6600, either -- that's overkill for your needs. A 6300, or 6400 at the most, will serve you just fine. The benefit to these CPU's is that they are very low power consumers, with high processing capabilities. This will benefit you if the PC stays on 24/7, which for time-phase recording, it ususally does. I wouldn't bother with the Merom, mobile chips, they're no longer cost-effective with the intro of C2D. You're going to want a very quiet CPU fan, so consider the Tuniq Tower, again, very quiet and efficient:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...

My personal preference on memory for that board is the Corsair XMS2 C4, DDR2800. This stick works flawlessly on that board, and is on the company's QVL. I recommend 2gb:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

With the hard drive, I'd go with at least a 500gb, because video recording sucks up a lot of space, and they're not that much more $$ wise. I agree with the previous poster, in running your OS from a separate drive, that way you don't compromise the virtual memory space for your OS, in case you max out on storage. I'd get a Western Digital, just because they run very quietly.

As far as cases go, that is a very personal preference, depending on how you will install it in your system. Do you want a tower, or something low-profile?


I would agree pretty much with Madmurph, as I said, the 6600 was a cost is no real object. If you are planning on doing anything else, especially when rendering, you should get dual core. Check out the most recent CPU comparison chart on tomshardware especially for doing the things you want to do. The more RAM the better up to 2GB. Also still think 2 hdd are better. If you're planning on storing all your recorded video on a computer, I think you're better off with a hdd around 350GB because over time you'll need to buy multiple hdd for storage.

If you are capturing from an analogue camcorder, you will need a way of capturing to convert it to digital and many options but don't go too cheap or you're going to run into audio/video sync issues. If you're capturing from a digital camcorder, you only need firewire.

You can transfer video files from one computer to another, but it will take a long time given the size of video files and the longer it takes, the more likely something will screw u[. You're way better off capturing to the machine you'll use for editing and burning.

This is a good place to start researching video editing software. If you are just starting out, I would recommend that ease of use should rank very high in your consideration. By the time you know what you're doing and how involved you want to get, you'll likely want new software anyway.

http://video-editing-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

Personally, I don't think we're at the point where using a computer as a primary source for TV really makes sense. For just recording a TV show to watch later you're much better off with something like TIVO. Again for me, running a computer to the TV is more of a hobby, i.e., something to play around with. Video capturing, editing, and burning is different.
February 10, 2007 1:47:46 PM

Quote:
I wasn't aware I needed a TV tuner with "Video Capture", as I thought all TV Tuners were video capture cards. Can you help clarify this?
True, most TV tuners do have capture, but some of the cheaper ones do not. I would use the composite or S-video input for captureing from your VCR, unless it doesn't have one.

I use the Saber just like Tivo, and the picture quality is comparable. When you interface it with MCE, MCE logs into your local cable company and downloads their program guide so you can time-phase record. Then when you playback you can fast-forward through commercials. I use a piece of software that interfaces with my TV recording that automatically edits out commercials. Compared to Tivo, you don't have to watch their ads on playback, and you don't pay a subscription fee. Hauppauge tuner products are very popular, (though not my choice, as you've read), and here is their product comparison chart, that also shows which come with remotes:

http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/compare/compare_pvr.html

g-paw and I are apparently on the same wavelength. You want to manage your vid files on the same computer and get as much HD space as possible, because anything video is a hog. I've digitized all my DVD's onto the HD, and all my home movies, so it's one click and play. Converted straight across, a DVD takes up about 8gb. I compress them without much loss of quality, down to about 4.5gb. You want your OS on a different disc so you don't run into memory management problems caused by a recording using up all your disc space.

As you can see by the comparison chart, many tuners come with a remote. Same is true of many of the better HTPC cases. Most use some form of iMon remote that interfaces nicely with MCE. The Silverstone cases, like the LC16:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

are very popular among HTPC'ers, but they can have issues with video card clearance, both with the height -- hitting the top of the case, and length -- hitting the optical drive. I chose between the Zalman HD160:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

and the Lian-Li C30I:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

(which is what I chose, and paid about $70 more than this price!) to avoid those issues. Plus, mine sits right under the TV, so it's not obtrusive to look at, and, being standard din, fits in the component rack no prob. With either of these cases, clearance for the HSF shouldn't be a problem, though I didn't use the Tuniq Tower. I used the Zalman CNPS9500. I also used the Zalman 460w PSU because it is highly efficient and dead quiet.
February 10, 2007 2:17:11 PM

Quote:
Thanks for all the feedback! Just to clarify:

1) Tivo won't cut it for a couple of reasons. I want this new piece of technology to be able to record our home movies. I would have no way to get the Tivo movies onto a computer (for DVD authoring).

2) I want the TV, DVR, and DVD player to all have one easy to use remote.

3) If I record my home movies to a hard drive with Windows Media Center, can I transfer those movies to another PC, edit them and author them to a fancy DVD? I'm still eager to hear about good authoring software.

4) Sounds like Windows Media Center 2005 (based on XP not Vista) would suit my needs. If this version requires less than Vista, or an unreleased Vista Media Center, I'm okay with that.

5) My current desktop case is a Sonata II and I love it, but I want something "conventional" for my parents' den. If you suggest a case, please do suggest a motherboard which will line up the CPU with the cases air ducts. madmurph: Will that huge CPU cooler fit in an HTPC case?

6) Two hard drives, or one partitioned? Two hard drives make more noise and more heat, so I'm leaning towards one.

7) Does anybody know an OEM which makes HTPCs?

8) madmurph: I was planning on using the TV coaxial cable input to capture my VHS movies, much as I would for capturing TV and recording programs. I wasn't aware I needed a TV tuner with "Video Capture", as I thought all TV Tuners were video capture cards. Can you help clarify this?


1) Your were right several years ago, but now with TiVoToGo you can move video between the computer and tivo. The tivo can also act similar to a meida center extender, playing mp3s and photos. There are also tivo like devices that include a DVD burner.

2) Come on, the issue of using one remote to handle all of your equipment was solved a long time ago.

3) Good authoring software is very subjective. Depending on what level of editing options you want the prices vary from free to thousands for pro-level.

4) WMC is a good choice for now if you want a windows system. There are several other MC programs that run on windows if you decide you don't like WMC.

5) Your best bet is not to use a case that has air ducts. Most cases have enough air flow without them.

6) Doesn't realy matter. If you go with one big drive it is only a matter of time before you will want to add more storage.

7) I don't know of any that don't.

By home video if you mean all of the old VHS tapes you have bought over the years. They don't always copy due to Macromedia encryption. If these are tapes you made sending them to the computer should be easy with just about any video in device. And, better yet if they are on a camcorder that has either a USB or 1394 port there is even less effort needed.

You should realy take a more serious look at a stand alone pvr for ease of use and price it is hard to beat. The full size pc in the tv room still isn't a very good option for anyone but the true computer geeks. And, the geeks will quickly move to seprate frontend by the tv and a backend in the closet or office.
February 10, 2007 2:28:22 PM

Dudes! You should read the previous posts. He is a geek (like the rest of us) and he wants to BUILD his own HTPC.
February 10, 2007 3:07:41 PM

Quote:
Dudes! You should read the previous posts. He is a geek (like the rest of us) and he wants to BUILD his own HTPC.

QFT. However, this is for my parents.

I've been rolling it around in my head, and there are a couple of other options:

1) Convert my current PC to an HTPC.
Current Specs:
- ASUS A8N5X Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4 ATX AMD Motherboard
- AMD Athlon 64 3200+
- Antec LifeStyle SONATA II Case (w/ 450W PSU)
- GeForce 7900GT 256MB
- NEC 16X DVD±R DVD
- 400 GB HD
- ZALMAN CNPS7700-ALCU on CPU
- ZALMAN VF700-CU on GPU
This is an attractive option because I can try the HTPC for a minimal cost. Buy a TV Tuner / some software / a remote and I'm ready to go. Is my current system good enough for the tasks I've listed above?

2) Buy TivoToGo / Others
Regardless of the HTPC I provide, TivoToGo will probably be less noisy, run cooler, and have fewer glitches. If anybody has experience with TivoToGo or another server, I would value your input.

3) Build a new HTPC
Can somebody point out the benefits to me of building a new one versus option 1?
February 10, 2007 4:00:55 PM

Option one is a an okay start. You should pick up the tv card. If you get a retail version, many come with a remote and software for windows. For $60 you can start to play. There are several other free programs you can try, but the ones you pay for tend to be a little better.

Try myth tv.

The size and noise of do everything systems tend not to be a good living room choice. And they need to be on at all times.

Then find a friend that has a TiVo or other stand alone DVR. You will quickly see why these are best for low tec parents.

If you find PVR software that your parents like, or you like a lot. I would look at building a simpler frontend. The VIA ITX platform is a good choice. Then you add in a slow 2.5" HDD, a slime line DVD drive, and mpeg2 TV card. You can build this into just about any case (I used an old philps DVD player). Any video editing is going to suck on the tv so just use your real computer.

If you happen to like WMC there are several media extenders, including the xbox, that can inexpencively work as a frontend. I'm not sure if any of the other PVR programs work with media extenders.

I personaly use mythTV, but it isn't for the light of heart and is best if you have a little unix/linux experience to start with. I like it, but if my parents wanted one I would still by them a TiVo to avoid the phone calls.
February 10, 2007 4:37:47 PM

Quote:
I second the Tivo option. it really is the best for non-technical people.

You Tivo supporters didn't read the OP's first sentence: He said he wanted to build an HTPC

Quote:
I build my own Desktop systems, and I'd like to build an HTPC.


and if he's going to run Vista or Windows MCE, 512mb RAM isn't going to cut it.

Quote:
As for ram, no more than 512MB is necessary. Cheapest is best here.


Vista, no. MCE 2005, yes. 512MB is all you need for MCE 2005. Anything more is a complete waste.

That being said, a TiVo would still be best for HIS PARENTS. Sounds like the OP wants a PVR for himself. In that case, he should build the HTPC, because he'll be able to take advantage of the additional flexibilty. Still, his non-technical parents aren't going to be able to navigate more than MCE 2005, and even that still isn't as straight foward or elegant of a solution as a stand alone DVR, such as a TiVo.
February 10, 2007 5:06:31 PM

Quote:
Vista, no. MCE 2005, yes. 512MB is all you need for MCE 2005. Anything more is a complete waste. That being said, a TiVo would still be best for HIS PARENTS. Sounds like the OP wants a PVR for himself.
The double-edged sword. Agree with the Vista "no," at least until SP-1, but I'd still go for at least a gig of memory, otherwise when you do decide to upgrade, you'll just be throwing that 512mb stick away. It's the waste of a slot. Go with Joe -- buy your parents the TIVO and do your option #1 to have some fun playing with HTPC. And Joe, IMHO I think my HTPC is quite an elegant solution to my multimedia center, but then, it's just my opionion.
February 10, 2007 6:35:38 PM

The extra bonus to option one is one get a new system.
If all they want to is watch TV shows, TiVo is ok. It will not allow you to edit, record your own tapes or movies. It costs a monthly fee.
The way you should look at is the tv tuner card. I went to Slipstream.com and got the Haugphage card and Beyond TV. Thay have many choices and more information.
I would avoid myth TV. Even some Linux experts are stumped by the installation.
Yes get MCE is you can.
February 10, 2007 7:14:01 PM

Quote:
Come on, the issue of using one remote to handle all of your equipment was solved a long time ago.


Please share the solution with me. Let me share with you the remote troubles I've had.

We've owned (and returned) a couple of DVRs. This led to three remotes: a DVR remote, cable box remote and TV remote. Let me further explain why a universal remote would not help our situation.

The first DVR didn't have a hard drive, and we wanted to do basic editing of our home movies before committing them to DVD (delete boring parts of movies). Our second DVR had a hard drive to allow for the editing (which was crappy editing IMO), and had a crap TV tuner that only tuned channels 1-100. We decided to use the cable box as a tuner, and the DVR for time-shifting/recording. This was a big mistake.

To make a long story short, my dad would want to change the channel or increase the volume, but didn't understand why it wasn't working. Two minutes after trying to surf channels and change the volume, the DVR would "catch up" to his actions. The channel would start changing and the volume would go way up. He tried to lower the volume and change the channel back, but he was doing this two minutes "into the future", so it didn't work.

I told him to change the volume with the TV remote, channel with the cable box remote, and time shift with the DVR remote. This was too complex so he gave up. A universal remote would still not let him surf channels unless he remembered to fast-forward to the "present" on the DVR every time he wanted to change channels.

I believe the best solution lies to my problemin a solution similar to TiVO where the cable box and DVR are one box, so that actions show up immediately.

My primary goal is to be able to back up out VHS movies easily and be able to do some basic editing on them. If TiVO doesn't let me get movies from the TiVO to my computer for DVD authoring and editing, I'd be better off with an HTPC that CAN do this. Any information on this subject, especially someone who has recorded to a TiVO then transferred to a computer for DVD authoring, would be much appreciated
February 10, 2007 7:20:58 PM

It really just depends on what your budget is. You probably want a smaller profile case if it is going to be HTPC.


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PCgaminguide
February 10, 2007 7:21:23 PM

I am sorry, so bad, I can only claim lack of sleep. The company is snapstream herebeyond TV store LOts of choices. You will find one that works for your dad.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
February 10, 2007 7:45:33 PM

MY 2 cents: If you are not in a hurry, option 1 is a good bet. Get a tuner card, for minimum$ and try things out. You should then be able to assess what cpu power you need, and what memory size and hard disk capacity you need. I know nothing about video editing software, but it seems to me that this will be the key item for you.
A HTPC needs to run quiet, you don't want it to be heard over the video playback. A bigger case with slow moving 120mm fans is good here, if the space will allow. I like the antec solo or p150 cases which have quiet laminated sides and indirect cooling vents. The c2d processors run cooler so they don't need noisy heat sinks. Also, with the c2d, more memory is better than faster memory.
I have been using Vista rc1 for a while, and it has run well. It does not "need" much more memory, it uses all the available memory better. Two gb should be plenty. Boot and program launch is noticeably faster. I think it would be a minor risk to use vista home premium which has the MCE function.
I have been thinking about a HTPC for some time also. I would not be doing video encoding, but I would like to get high definition into the picture, either OTA or cable. My particular stumbling block is the user interface. My wife needs a very few buttons to push, and probably not a keyboard. I know there are some macro remotes out there(logitech harmony 880), but I am not sure I want to spend that kind of money and not have it do the job. If there are some good solutions out there, I would like to hear about them.
February 10, 2007 8:32:55 PM

droberts, there's a couple of things you need to consider and look at before you start purchasing things..

1. Broadcast recording- Most DVRs only last 1-2 years because the HDDs wear out. At 2.66 GB per hour of non-HD programming, you can count that your HDD is going to get a work-out, much more than the normal PC. I would HIGHLY recommend getting 2 HDDs, and setting them up to record alternately, and thus halving the wear on both. 2x 200GB can actually cheaper than 1 400GB HDD (in most cases).

2.VHS to DVD- VHS actually is LOWER quality in most cases than broadcast. This is especially true in older tapes and longer (over 2 hour) movies. Most VHS systems, in SP (Standard Play) mode, only record 30 frames per second (60 interlaced halves=30 full frames). In LP and SLP/ELP, it's often 20-15 fps. Also, the signal is analog, so you tend to degradation/signal-loss at slower tape speed.

Often, it's cheaper (and a lot less time-consuming/frustrating) to just buy new DVDs to replace VHS movies. If you have specific home-movies that can't be replaced, than by all means, switch them over. But most DVD movies are selling for so cheap, that it's worth the investment. You get higher quality material (often re-mastered for DVD, for better picture and sound), Bonus features (not available on most VHS tapes), and more picture and sound options. I personally own over 300 movies that I've bought over the last 5 years, and I didn't spend over $20 for a single one. Heck, if you spent $60-80 a month carefully (looking for sales, resellers,pre-owned,etc.) , you can easily get 70-100 DVDs a year.

Plus, you can always burn to DVD any "digital content" that is broadcast on open (network) stations :wink: . At 50 cents a copy, you can also build up quite a collection in no time at all. My mother has a DVR (dual tuner) with a stand-alone DVD burner/player, and she's burned over 400 movies/shows in just a couple of years.

Just my 2 cents..
February 10, 2007 9:56:25 PM

Quote:
droberts, there's a couple of things you need to consider and look at before you start purchasing things..

1. Broadcast recording- Most DVRs only last 1-2 years because the HDDs wear out. At 2.66 GB per hour of non-HD programming, you can count that your HDD is going to get a work-out, much more than the normal PC. I would HIGHLY recommend getting 2 HDDs, and setting them up to record alternately, and thus halving the wear on both. 2x 200GB can actually cheaper than 1 400GB HDD (in most cases).

2.VHS to DVD- VHS actually is LOWER quality in most cases than broadcast. This is especially true in older tapes and longer (over 2 hour) movies. Most VHS systems, in SP (Standard Play) mode, only record 30 frames per second (60 interlaced halves=30 full frames). In LP and SLP/ELP, it's often 20-15 fps. Also, the signal is analog, so you tend to degradation/signal-loss at slower tape speed.

Often, it's cheaper (and a lot less time-consuming/frustrating) to just buy new DVDs to replace VHS movies. If you have specific home-movies that can't be replaced, than by all means, switch them over. But most DVD movies are selling for so cheap, that it's worth the investment. You get higher quality material (often re-mastered for DVD, for better picture and sound), Bonus features (not available on most VHS tapes), and more picture and sound options. I personally own over 300 movies that I've bought over the last 5 years, and I didn't spend over $20 for a single one. Heck, if you spent $60-80 a month carefully (looking for sales, resellers,pre-owned,etc.) , you can easily get 70-100 DVDs a year.

Plus, you can always burn to DVD any "digital content" that is broadcast on open (network) stations :wink: . At 50 cents a copy, you can also build up quite a collection in no time at all. My mother has a DVR (dual tuner) with a stand-alone DVD burner/player, and she's burned over 400 movies/shows in just a couple of years.

Just my 2 cents..


Some very good points. I've been capturing, editing, and burning DVDs for 6 years or so. A few things I've learned over the years for what they're worth. Dealing with analogue video is a pain. You have to be around during the capture because the computer will continue to record to the end of the tape. With a digital camcorder the capturing software will stop when the recording ends. Most video editing software will not edit the file itself, i.e., if you capture a half hour of nothing you can edit out for burning but you still have the original file. There's software that can actually cut the original file but again it will cost you time and money. Also, while a S Video connection works well, at least I've had problems with the cable coming loose and I have to screw around to get it connected so it's recognized by the computer, I'm using a DataVideo capture box, when I started using cheaper alternatives generally meant capture problems especially audio/video sync, but it sounds this isn't the problem it was in the past so it's less expense for the hardware today. It doesn't take long before this gets old. I also tried running the video from my computer but again it's been a couple years and I'm sure it works better. Now I have a TV facing my computer in my basement with a stereo systme, which is g-paw's playroom. I may. try to hook up the computer to the TV again to see how it works when I get the time. My solution to all this is:
I'm finishing up capturing, editing, and burning to DVD all of my old analogue tapes from the old camcorder, the sooner the better. My wife has a lot of VCR tapes she wants record to DVD, old movies and TV shows so for Christmas I bought her a VHS/DVD recorder. Stick the tape in and record it to DVD, there are some editing cabilities but I haven't tried them. We are renting a recorder from the cable company for around $10 a month, will likely look at buying something when we move in a year or so. I'm currently using an AMD 939 dual core 4200 on the machine I use for video stuff and it works fine. In the past I've used an AMD 3200 CPU but the dual core is definitely better. I burn DVDs over night, it just too long. You can put a machine for capturing, ediitng, and burning with decent monitor starting around $650 give or take, this would be with onboard video, which I've used in the past. If you can afford around $900 including the monitor, you c. I will eventually put an HTPC setup together but it will a hobby project. My wife can be technologically brain dead when she wants and has little patience when it comes to tech, she wants to turn something on and have it work. I'm guessing I'm your parents age and probably older and they likely want things to work the way they want when they want. If either are geeks or want to capture and edit home videos then they need a computer to do it. When you're editing video your not likely watching TV other than maybe having a game on in the background. If I'm just editing video, I usually listen to music, I'm running my sound card through a receiver and have my music collection is on my computer. With few exceptions, I edit and burn then delete the captured video file. While I don't know your parents I would guess that most of the time they just want to watch or record something, turn it on and go. If either are into to computers, video editing, etc, then like I said they would likely prefer to do it on a computer and with a monitor. If they want an HTPC, I'd recommend setting it up as a second system. At least this is the opinion of what my grandkids call an old geek.
February 10, 2007 10:03:36 PM

Quote:
I think it would be a minor risk to use vista home premium which has the MCE function.
A lot of vendors, such as NewEgg, are selling MCE with a Vista upgrade coupon. Best of both worlds.
February 11, 2007 12:19:07 AM

Well I have to say those were some bad experiences with the remotes. Part of the problem may have been a bad setup, but bad use of the remotes was also a problem. If you don't know how to set up your A/V equipment and remotes you will still have problems with your setup. At minimum you will still have HTPC and TV remotes. Add in a stereo, DVD player, VCR, cable box or any other devices and things get a lot more complex. A high end remote makes things simple again.

It sounds like you have cable. So, you should look at how much a pvr from them cost. Most companies rent them for under $15 and some as low as $3. That would sove the problem of cable box and PVR. They also come with at least a simple programable remote. Read the instrutions and you will be able to set it up to control the rest of your equipment.

For dealing with the VHS movies you will still want to use the computer. From my experience it is a pain (more time consuming then difficult) to move tapes to your computer.

By all means build the HTPC. If nothing esle it is a new toy. If you are like most it will give you more problems, cost more, and still fall short of what you expect. Once you bring your parents in it will likly be just as bad as your last experience. Sometimes the best way to deal with old people is to tell them things like "HDTV isn't that good, you should stick with your old tv."
February 11, 2007 11:40:22 AM

Quote:
Sometimes the best way to deal with old people is to tell them things like "HDTV isn't that good, you should stick with your old tv."


You young wipper snappers better think twice about what you're saying or you could find yourself flooded with over 60 porno site spam and believe me, it ain't pretty. :twisted:
February 11, 2007 5:11:54 PM

Thanks for all the advice guys.

Nobody's getting younger. I'm in my 20s, so you can guess how old my parents may be.

Since I will not be around to help, an HTPC may be too much trouble for my parents.

Our cable company offers a TiVo-like service on the cable box, so I will strongly suggest this to my parents.

However, that service will not back up our home VHS tapes (they're home movies, not commercial)

After all this discussion (which has been very helpful), I'm leaning towards giving them my PC, installing a video capture card, and hooking up the VCR to that video capture card. Now they will be able to make back up DVDs, and author them using friendly PC software.

Given this setup, can anybody recommend a video capture card. One that preferably is not a TV tuner card (and may be cheaper as a result)
February 11, 2007 8:11:52 PM

Quote:
Nobody's getting younger. I'm in my 20s, so you can guess how old my parents may be.
knock off the "age" quips, sonny, I know exactly how old your parents are. I've got a kid your age, too. Why do you think my avatar is an old Dino?

Try this device, inexpensive and looks like it would meet that need:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Still think you should take some of this info and build yourself an HTPC. Good fun! Good luck.
February 11, 2007 8:19:12 PM

Before you buy anything you should make sure your GPU doesn't have a video in. All ATIs for the last sevaral years have it and may of nVidia boards also have it.

Otherwise, just about any caputure card should work for that. If you plan on using the coax you will have to get a card with a tv tuner. The cards can be had for as little as $20, but many of these require you to plug into the PCs sound card. For a little more (40-50) you can get one that has mpeg2 encoder chip. Then, you can reuse the card for a real HTPC.

Paw: Sorry to all the "old people." I should have addressed it in respect to the much broader catagory of the tec-inept.
February 11, 2007 9:36:39 PM

Quote:
Before you buy anything you should make sure your GPU doesn't have a video in. All ATIs for the last sevaral years have it and may of nVidia boards also have it.

For a little more (40-50) you can get one that has mpeg2 encoder chip. Then, you can reuse the card for a real HTPC.

Paw: Sorry to all the "old people." I should have addressed it in respect to the much broader catagory of the tec-inept.
Not quite accurate. Your ATI card has to have VIVO, which is hardware capture. AVIVO is ATI's software decoding, and does not nessecarily mean the card has capture capabilities. KTev makes a good point on the add-in capture card, though. You could get a cheap TV card like the Hauppauge 150, which as Ktev pointed out, would be about $30 more than the device I listed, previously.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

The grey panthers accept your somewhat jaded apology, for the time being.
February 11, 2007 9:51:39 PM

Ktev, you're off the over 60 porno spam list, again for the time being. :D 

droberts, I think you're making the right decision. I'd suggest they try a couple of these video editing software programs.

http://video-editing-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

I'm using power director in large part because of it's ease of use. But they should also try a couple others especially the Ulead and Premier Elements. I'd stay away from Pinnacle, there seems to be a lot of problems with it and Easy Media Creator, which is a nice program for ripping and burning CDs, backing up programs, and the Photo editing is OK but really weak video editing. If neither of them get into video editing and burning, the DVD/VHS copying deck is really easy to use to just copy VHS tapes to DVD.
February 12, 2007 12:14:31 AM

I could be wrong, but I thought that I read some where that all of the ATI X1xxx cards had video in.

Hauppauge PVR 150 $50 this was just a quick froogle search. I wouldn't pay more then $55 with shipping and tax. The dual tuner PVR 500 goes for more around $120.

For software if you only want basic editing the capture cards and cd/dvd burners come with easy to program suits like nero.
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