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Confessions of a Serial HTPC Builder - Part 3

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May 16, 2006 11:00:13 PM

Michael Baggaley applies hard lessons learned during his past attempts to build the ultimate home theater PC. The issue, he says, is to find the right balance between noise, power and style and how much money you are willing to spend.
May 17, 2006 2:12:46 AM

I built almost an exactly identical system 5 months ago. It has 4 320gb hd's and no tv tuners, asus a8n-e, and a single 1 gig stick of ram. The case is awsome but won't fit full length cards like my x1800xt, but that's why it has an x800 in it :) 

Microsoft is stupid not letting you upgrade your hd, mb, etc. I never pay attention to their oem install policies, they are way to restrictive. Course that's why I have legal enterprise licenses for all their os', you don't need to put up with their stupid ideas on oem stuff. MCE isn't needed with the siverstone case mentioned as it has imon which is far better anyway, just throw on xp pro.
May 17, 2006 3:54:49 AM

OEM policies are not restrictive, you get what you pay for.
Related resources
May 17, 2006 4:28:52 AM

You pay for an operating system, you should get to use it as you see fit as long as it's on only one machine at a time. When you buy a dvd player are you only allowed to use it on the first tv you hook it up to, no, same thing. Microsoft isn't really helping their cause against Linux with that attitude. And if you pay retail for ANYTHING microsoft, you just don't know any better and deserve to get ripped off.
May 17, 2006 11:54:37 AM

Quote:
OEM policies are not restrictive, you get what you pay for.

Users won't be happy with this. Undeniably. Hey, did they really pay for deficient OS? Did they at least realized it?

IMHO, this should make OEMs to start shipping HW with Linux/BSD/whatever-else-not-windoze preinstalled. This will send a clean message to customers that they get what they pay for.

BTW, the SST-LC16B-M is not dissimilar to 19" rackmountable cases. Bulky 3 or 4U monster :) 
May 17, 2006 1:03:23 PM

I thought the restriction only applied to motherboards?
May 17, 2006 1:29:27 PM

Do you have any thoughts on addressing the mutually exclusive requirements of quiet&cool with powerful? I have an old TV and it may be time to bite the bullet and put in a LCD display etc. Since I don't want a huge display (I was thinking 24") rather than have a dedicated home theater set up and another PC for games, storing files etc...why not a single box.

My thought is to have a powerful box (high end GPU, good sound card, lots of SATA II drives...) and have it directly downstairs from entertainment center. Upstairs I would have an external DVD drive, 24" screen, High Def Tuner such as Divco Fusion HDTV 5 Gold USB, 5.1 or 7.1 theater speakers and a wireless Keyboard/Mouse with the receiver upstairs. USB hub for game controllers. Between upstairs and down would be some USB/firewire cables, speaker and digital video cable.

What do folks that have set up a system think of this sort of split (with the understanding that USB and DVI have length constraints)?
May 17, 2006 2:47:36 PM

What power calc did he use? i found one but it was quite outdated and didnt have the latest CPU's and GPU's.
May 17, 2006 3:01:52 PM

Have you looked into a media center extender? If you are going to run Windows MCE than you can use an xbox or dedicated extender to connect to the tv. I know that they are not exactly cheep, but with the extras your setup will need the cost may come close. They only downside I can think of is you will not be able to play games on the upstairs tv (unless you use an xbox as your extender).
May 17, 2006 3:07:06 PM

Actually it is a 4u case, this one doesn't have the mounting holes for ears, but they do sell another model specifically designed for it with an almost identical case, has a 7" lcd built in too.
May 17, 2006 3:26:40 PM

I don't know but, there is a pwer calculator on epiacenter.com.

I love the silverstone cases! I actually was thinking about going that direction with my idea.

Michael, you ought to put one of these in the bed room (http://www.logicsupply.com/product_info.php/cPath/49/pr...),
and use RDP (remote desktop protocol built into 2k, XP, 2k3) to pipe your dvr's or MP3's into your bedroom tv. Use another RF remote for the control.

I agree with you on the silence issue but, the only reason I'd think a fanless HTPC would be beneficial is because it would attract less dust and prolong its life.
May 17, 2006 4:00:25 PM

Posting this from a reader:

Really enjoyed your part 3, though went and read your part 1 and part 2s 1st though.

Something you may wish to cover in an article, would be support for
HD-DVD/BLU-RAY support in Windows Media Centre play back.

Basically that will be the next frontier for Media Centre. What are the
requirements for Hi Def play back. The kind of things that people should be
looking for. Like graphic cards supporting HDCP, like the Sapphire 1600 Pro
HDMI etc etc. HD-DVD PC Drives.

At the moment I am in the process of trying to understand if I can build a
Media Centre for 2005 with support for HD-DVD, for playback onto my HD TV.
May 17, 2006 4:21:37 PM

Quote:
Microsoft is stupid not letting you upgrade your hd, mb, etc.

Quote:
OEM policies are not restrictive, you get what you pay for.


The real kicker is that Microsoft only offers Media Center Edition as an OEM. I would have been happy to pay for a full licence, but it is not even available. Technically you can’t even legally buy MCE anymore unless also buy it with of the “main components of a system” i.e.:Under the official new OEM rules, you can’t use the OEM audio cable loophole anymore. (buy an OEM OS and qualify for it by purchasing a "computer component" like a 30 cent audio cord)

Don’t even get me started on what they are rumored to be doing with DRM on Vista’s version of Media Center! Say goodbye to freedom if you want to upgrade your OS next year. Groan. :roll:

Quote:
I thought the restriction only applied to motherboards?


I actually sat down and read the OEM license rules once. It was painful and I don’t ever want to do it again. :lol:  I’m pretty sure that when you change a “main component” (HD, mobo, CPU, etc) you lose your license. Supposedly since MCE is unique in that you can’t buy the full non-OEM version; Microsoft has been a bit more lenient on system changes, but I haven’t tackled that one yet.

Quote:
What power calc did he use?
http://www.extreme.outervision.com/psucalculator.jsp

Quote:
Have you looked into a media center extender?


I definitely would have considered buying a Media Center Extender (Which have dropped significantly in price lately) but I have 2 TVs in my house and both have dedicated HTPCs on them.) If I hadn’t already built an HTPC for my bedroom I might have considered an extender. The drawback is that I would not be able to access all of my DivX and Xvid content from it.

Quote:
has a 7" lcd built in too.


I like that one, but the pricetag… Whoo!

Quote:
Michael, you ought to put one of these in the bed room (http://www.logicsupply.com/product_info.php/cPath/49/pr...),


I have developed this need to build an ITX computer. I just want to do it and I don’t even care if I have a reason to build one. It’s become a necessity. :)  That being said- I am still trying to talk myself out of building an MCE in the dash of my mustang. It’s brand new and I am nearly certain that I will ruin something in the process, but I can’t get it out of my head.

Quote:
the only reason I'd think a fanless HTPC would be beneficial is because it would attract less dust and prolong its life.


Definitely. Anyone who builds a fanless HTPC has my respect. It really is the ideal if you can keep it powerful enough to do the job. I’ve had enough experience with dusty rigs to last me a lifetime. I don’t even want to think about what I breathed in. 8O
May 17, 2006 6:14:57 PM

Great article, but I'm curious - how did you get Media Center to recognize both your OTA HDTV antennea and your dual-tuner card at the same time?

I thought it only accepted 2 tuners, or several of exactly the same tuner with some registry editing. Thanks!
May 17, 2006 6:29:13 PM

Quote:
I thought it only accepted 2 tuners, or several of exactly the same tuner with some registry editing. Thanks!


The tuner restrictions were broadened with an update to MCE called "rollup 2" Now you can officially have 2 SD tuners and 2 HD tuners without any registry modifications. Rollup 2 also expanded the DVD burning options and fixed a few things.

See here for the official information from Microsoft
May 17, 2006 8:26:58 PM

Quote:
I thought the restriction only applied to motherboards?


So against my better judgement I waded back into Microsoft's cesspool of OEM information (I'll be washing off it's sticky residue for weeks)
It goes to show you that you can't believe everything that you read 8 months ago. :roll: I can't find where I originally read about changing hard drives. I did my research in October of last year, so either they have ammended the rules, I am blind now, or I read it wrong to begin with. If anybody has any insight I'd appreciate it.

Here are some of the things that I found out in passing though-

A motherboard replacement voids an OEM licence for sure and you have to buy a full system - mobo, CPU, Hard Drive, power supply and case in order to qualify for OEM software.

Here are a couple of Microsoft quotes that I found in forums here and there-

Quote:
"4.1 We grant you a nonexclusive right to distribute an individual software license only with a fully assembled computer system. A "fully assembled computer system" means a computer system consisting of at least a central processing unit, a motherboard, a hard drive, a power supply, and a case."

You will notice the loophole that people have been exploiting (the former language which stated that an OEM desktop Operating System license could be sold with "non-peripheral hardware,") is no longer in place. It is now very simple and straightforward: an OEM license must be sold "only with a fully assembled computer system." Loophole closed.

“An upgrade of the motherboard is considered to result in a “new personal computer” to which Microsoft® OEM operating system software cannot be transferred from another computer. If the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect, then a new computer has been created and the license of new operating system software is required.”

“Microsoft needed to have one base component “left standing” that would still define that original PC. Since the motherboard contains the CPU and is the “heart and soul” of the PC, when the motherboard is replaced (for reasons other than defect) a new PC is essentially created.”


I also found this information Here
Quote:
Generally, you may upgrade or replace all of the hardware components on your computer and maintain the license for the original Microsoft OEM operating system software, with the exception of an upgrade or replacement of the motherboard. An upgrade of the motherboard is considered to result in a "new personal computer." Microsoft OEM operating system software cannot be transferred from one computer to another. Therefore, if the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect then a new computer has been created, the original license expires, and a new full operating system license (not upgrade) is required. This is true even if the computer is covered under Software Assurance or other Volume License programs.

If I upgrade some of my PC components, do I have to purchase a new operating system?
ANSWER. The answer depends on the components that are upgraded or changed in the PC. The operating system licenses must remain with the device that retains the motherboard, chipsets, and chassis that include the serial number of the device. The operating system may be installed on a new/replacement hard drive as long as the operating system is first removed from the old hard drive.


The main thing that I got out of this little adventure was a resurgence of a disturbingly familiar bad taste in my mouth for OEM software. I hope someone else has something more helpful to contribute.
May 17, 2006 9:00:39 PM

My interpretation is basically that I can keep the OS on my PC if I replace the motherboard because it died. In my opinion, a lot of their restrictions are just plain silly. They're no longer providing support for the product anyway, so why not just let people do as they please with the product on ONE computer, and let it be.
May 18, 2006 7:01:06 PM

I have a question for you about the Silverstone SST-LC16B-M case you used for this article. Humorously, my friend and I are planning to build a HTPC and we spent about 3 hours looking at HTPC cases before deciding on the SST-LC16B-M. About 10 minutes after deciding on that case, I remembered reading it in your article earlier that day :) 

At any rate, I am curious as to why you do not use the remote which is bundled in with the SST-LC16B-M. As far as I could tell, you did not even mention it. Is the remote not compatible with MCE 2005?

As far as I could tell on Silverstone's website, if you buy the SST-LC16B-M you get the VFD and the remote, but if you buy any non *-M case you get neither the VFD or the remote--this at a large price difference.

I am curious as to the actual usefulness of the bundled remote with MCE 2005 and if I should steer away from using/buying it. Thanks!
May 18, 2006 8:15:13 PM

Quote:
I am curious as to why you do not use the remote which is bundled in with the SST-LC16B-M


Good question. Actually, The first thing that I bought for this build was my copy of Windows MCE. It came as a bundle deal with a Microsoft remote included. I had read some horror stories about incompatible remotes with MCE so I wanted to avoid the frustration of dealing with a rigged up remote.

Since I already had a remote, I wasn't sure if I wanted to pay extra for the imon. I definitely wanted the VFD display though so I ended up buying the -M version of the SST-LC16B anyway. To my surprise the remote was really cool. It doesn't have the best button configuration and the grip is not as natural as some of the others, but it's functional, customizable, and compatible with MCE. It has a good range and can also be used as a thumb mouse. The imon remote and VFD display are worth the extra money without a doubt.

That being said, my personal preference is still the Microsoft remote for controlling MCE. The MS remote is simpler and it can be mapped to the control power and volume on your TV. I do use the imon as a backup though and it works great.

A word of warning- The imon's buttons are really sensitive. I have to be careful not to leave it upside down or under anything because the buttons will be pressed and the battery runs down.

-Mike
May 18, 2006 10:31:56 PM

I bought the ThermalTake Bach case with the Imon vfd and remote. The vfd is great, but the letters are a little small from 10 feet away. I ended up buying a MCE remote and receiver also because the imon one just plain out sucks. I had to point the remote within 5 degrees of the receiver (may have been due to the way the vfd mounts in the case) and every time I picked up the remote to use it the first 2 pushes on the keypad did nothing. The lettering on the remote is on a full length sticker, not silk screened on the plastic, and the sticker kept peeling up. It is fully compatable out of the box with media center, but it is no where as good as the Microsoft one (my god did I just say that???). I sepnt a lot of time deciding which case to get and everything came out perfect, execpt the remote. The price for the vfd and remote is worth it for just the vfd. if you can find a case with vfd without remote that would be the best, then just add a Microsoft remote. My remote and receiver cost $35 off of e-bay and is the best computer remote I have ever used.
May 18, 2006 10:35:44 PM

Yeah there are times Im glad I use GBPVR windows MCE always has weird restrictions. If you guys are willing a a hauppauge Media MVP (equivalent to a windows media streamer but cheaper) with GBPVR can stream divx. On the downside though it cant stream dvds.
May 24, 2006 10:55:53 PM

Hi folks, I just received an email from a reader named Mark who had a different perspective to offer. Have a look-

Quote:
I am compelled to write to you because I believe that the pentium M is
the ideal processor for HTPC and your information is wrong. Under
load it can generate a little heat but not more that 27 watts. When
Over Clocked it can get to 29 watts. This is much cooler than Core or
AMD.

I use a 715 chip in my HTPC and before you balk at performance it runs
at 167mhz FSB, it blazes beyond what you are looking to build and it
generates much less heat. Your tests spoke to the inefficiency of the
Aopen heatsink. If you Lapp this heatsink, it will perform much
better than it currently does out-of-the-box. The MOBO I use is the
AOPEN i915gmm-hfs with a minor overvolt near 1.4. I use this as a
video editing station and I also use the silent X1600XT from Asus.
The X1600XT accelerates video-editing.
Now look at some of the costs:

used 715 - ebay $70.00
mobo - $280.00
Silent X1600XT - $160.00
OCZ 667 DDR2 2x 512MB - $190.00
Aspire case - 69.00
DVD Sony 820A - 70.00
WD 250 GB - 90.00

I suspect my build will trump yours in real HTPC function, cost and
will generate much less heat and consume less energy than yours. Stop
screwing around an build it right.
May 24, 2006 11:46:39 PM

Thanks for your response about the included remote on the Silverstone case. I went ahead and purchased the parts for my HTPC build. I got all of them off Newegg, with the exception to the TV tuner:

Case: Silverstone SST-LC16B-M $269.99
Motherboard: DFI RS842 Infinity ATI Xpress 200 for Socket 939 $93.99
Processor: AMD Athlon64 3500+ Venice $185.99
Memory: Cosair ValueSelect 1GB (2x 512MB) $79.99
PSU: Enermax Liberty 400W $78.99
HDD: Seagate 300GB HDD $99.99
Optical: BenQ DVD+-R, etc. $39.99
Tuner: NVidia MCE DualTV $169.99 (NVidia Store)
OS: MCE 2005 $109.99

At first I was interested in building an HTPC with a Pentium-M chip, but I was worried about the performance of the included heatsink. I was primarily looking ath AOpen boards, like the i915GMm-HFS and the 945 version for the Core Duo/Solo. I had read some really good reviews about the board/heatsink's performance as well as some equally poor ones. In the end, I chose for a regular Athlon64 and stock cooler. I have a 4000+ in another computer and the stock fan isn't that loud--and if it does get on my nerves, I can investigate aftermarket coolers.

Hopefully the parts will arrive tomorrow or the day after. I'll post again with the results of the build.
May 25, 2006 4:55:28 PM

Quote:
Thanks for your response about the included remote on the Silverstone case...
Hopefully the parts will arrive tomorrow or the day after. I'll post again with the results of the build.


You're welcome daBliggah. Nice rig! Great choice on the motherboard. Not only is it passively cooled, but it's integrated X300 should be more than sufficient for a media center. I like the integrated video idea because it eliminates the additional hotspot that a standard add-on graphics card creates

I look forward to hearing about the build when your parts arrive!

-Mike
May 31, 2006 6:27:43 AM

I am looking at the OrigenAE X15e case.
http://www.origenae.com/product_x15e.htm
But at almost 600 dollars I am thinking that it may be a little overkill. The question I have is, why did you choose the Silverstone over any other similar shaped cases? I am still piecing, on paper my HTPC. Right now I am at about the $2,400 level with the Origen case. This is a little high for what I want to spend.

Thanks for the great article!

Now when is version IV coming out expanding into TVs and Speaker selections? That would be a very helpful guide for a beginner like me. Keep writing the great articles, I will keep reading.

T
May 31, 2006 9:17:40 PM

Quote:
at almost 600 dollars I am thinking that it may be a little overkill.


I know where you're coming from. I spent an unhealthy amount of time drooling over that exact case myself not long ago. My internal voice-of-reason got pretty loud about the $600 before I reluctantly gave up an started looking for a more conservatively priced case. :D  I mostly couldn’t figure out how the 7” screen would enhance my media center experience. (Other than looking beautiful that is)

I chose the Silverstone because I liked the shape and the overall look of the case. I had a long debate with myself over Silverstone’s cases, The Ahanix D.Vine series, and some cheaper ones like the Antec Overture II and the NmediaPC cases. The Ahanix D.Vine cases were real contenders, but most of them looked off balance to me in the way that they chose to organize the front bezels. The cheaper cases were nice, but I eliminated them early because they don’t look like they have quite broken out of the mold yet. (They still had that distinct PC desktop computer look about them and I wanted something that was unmistakably part of my home theater.) I chose the Silverstone because I liked the spacious design, the freedom to expand and contract the cooling system to meet my needs, and the expandability potential (7 hard drive bays)

Good luck on your HTPC! Post some pics when you get done!
June 3, 2006 4:00:23 AM

Looks like Silverstone countered OrigenAE's attempt at the touch screen. I ran across this while looking for an alternate case to OrigenAE's that has a touch screen. Unfortunately this case is also $600!

SilverStone Lascala SST-LC18 w/Touchscreen

Google it, www.pcalchemy.com has it on sale at their store. But again I think that it is going to be the same as the OrigenAE.

Thoughts anyone?
June 27, 2006 8:39:20 AM

If you built a HTPC now would you use one of the new AMD AM2 chips with an ADD prefix? These chips are quoted to run at the same speeds as their ADA brothers but use a good deal less power.
July 6, 2006 3:00:51 AM

I am in the process of building a very similiar system and I am having issues with the following video card (SAPPHIRE 100180L Radeon X550 HyperMemory 256MB Hyper Memory(128M VRAM on board) DDR PCI Express x16 Low Profile Video Card). I have installed the most recent drivers and still have the issue where ICONS on the desktop and coloring in Windows windows is "checkered". I replaced my monitor cable, reseated the card, reverted to old drivers...can't get rid of it. It is like a light blue checker pattern over everything. My background picture looks perfect but the ICONS on the desktop look like crap and windows. The scree resolution doesn't matter either. My system is essentally the same as the build done in the artice.

Anyone ever seen this issue?

I can send a screen shot to anyone that is interested!
July 6, 2006 7:07:24 AM

Quote:
I built almost an exactly identical system 5 months ago. It has 4 320gb hd's and no tv tuners, asus a8n-e, and a single 1 gig stick of ram. The case is awsome but won't fit full length cards like my x1800xt, but that's why it has an x800 in it :) 

Microsoft is stupid not letting you upgrade your hd, mb, etc. I never pay attention to their oem install policies, they are way to restrictive. Course that's why I have legal enterprise licenses for all their os', you don't need to put up with their stupid ideas on oem stuff. MCE isn't needed with the siverstone case mentioned as it has imon which is far better anyway, just throw on xp pro.


So did I, and very similar to yours! 4x400 GB WD HDs (the RAID-compatible version), Hauppauge 500 MCE dual-tuner, ATI HDTV Wonder tuner, Intel X955XBK, Intel 830 D, dual 1 GB PC5400 RAM, ATI X1800 XL. You can just fit an X1800 XL single-width card if you get creative with the power connector. Not U/L certified, but it works! Not sure about a double-width, however, and you can only do it with the shortest-available DVD players, such as Lite-On or HP.

I don't have an MCE remote, so I use the iMon remote exclusively. I ran into a few problems with the software for it (mostly security-related, as I don't run MCE under Administrator, and this makes the software fail to update config files and registry settings), and agree with another post that it is a bit oversensitive (lay it upside down and it will drain its batteries with button presses in a matter of hours), but it gets the job done. The VFD is nice too, and integrates decently with MCE.

I agree with another post above about reporting on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray readers and viewing. I just discovered that while the X1800 GPU is "HDCP ready", the card itself is not. *grumble*. So it looks like I need to find a new solution for that too.

One other thing. The Adesso (Adessa?) wireless keyboard with touchpad is fantastic for a living room keyboard. Very small, decent range, decent lifespan because of its ability to turn off when dormant.
July 13, 2006 12:29:56 PM

Chris said:
Quote:
Your HTPC article helped a lot and I thought you might want to update it with an extra piece I came across today. Thermaltake makes a totally fanless PSU which is rated at 350W. It uses heat pipes and reviews are favorable. I'm sure lots of people would benefit if you kept the article in a constantly evolving state instead of updated annually.
August 3, 2006 11:45:23 PM

(I'm posting this for a reader)

Quote:
I loved your HTPC building articles on Tom's Networking. They were very informative and have allowed me to cut through all the crap out there and makes sense of building a reliable HTPC that is quiet and kick-A$$. One question I did have was regarding the sound card. In your third and most excellent build you didn't delve too much into what you were hooking the PC up to audio wise. Are you using a Dolby/DTS 5.1 receiver? The Audigy 2 ZS seams to be a nice card, I have a Audigy 1 and it's dope. For the life of me, how is that used with COAX or Optical output to my 5.1 receiver? I saw an adapter on Creative's site for Optical and Coax input/output but the Audigy 2 ZS wasn't listed as being compatible. I'm just curious how you're hooking it up to your home theater sound system.


Thanks Patrick, I'm glad the series was helpful to you in your build. I confess that I have had my hands tied a bit when it comes to sound. I have a Pioneer VSX-516 A/V Receiver (there's a pic of it here in another article that I wrote recently.) It's a Dolby Digital EX Pro Logic IIx receiver that puts out 700 watts total system power, which is sufficient for a small to medium sized home theater. If you set it up in a 5.1 configuration you get a few more watts to play with too! ...That is, unless you live in a close community. I live in an apartment which hinders my options to take full advantage of it. (Darn neighbors just don't understand my art.) :D 

Part of the problem with a lower to mid end sound card is the lack of a true optical connector. (Optical being the best solution for sound.) I, use several adapters that convert my Audigy 2's outputs to component (RCA) connectors which run to the Pioneer receiver. The adapters are fairly universal and merely change the connection type from a 3.5 jack to the standard component connectors.

Hope that helps!

-Mike
August 23, 2006 11:37:36 PM

The Ahanix MCE701 Media Center Case with 7" Touch Screen is cheaper now.

Without the remote, $329.00. With the remote, $499 (i'd buy the MCE remote). I wonder if there isn't a front end in the market for the touch screen, as the guys who put the pc on the car use.

Sometimes it is silly to use the mouse pointer to choose a video, or a song. It is faster just pressing the buttons with your hand, right?


Ahanix MCE701 Media Center Case with 7" Touch Screen
August 24, 2006 3:39:54 PM

Thanks for the update SphereTL1000S! I'm sure that more people will jump on the MCE701 now that it has dropped in price.
August 24, 2006 4:03:08 PM

Michael, do you have any thoughts on the Ahanix 7" screen in a dark room? The screen seems too bright for it to be placed close to the tv, specially a projector tc/screen. Would it have a dim setting that one could be use? The button at centre also seems to have a too bright led around it. I wonder if there is a setting like the in-car audio, where you can dim the whole thing (buttons, leds, screens) for tv-viewing.

Edit: nevermind, I just found out that there is a button underneath the front panel to dim the round button light on the front.
August 31, 2006 11:33:16 PM

Quote:
Thanks for the update SphereTL1000S! I'm sure that more people will jump on the MCE701 now that it has dropped in price.


I'm planning to buy that very case. I had planned to use XP/MC as my OS, but after reading articles here and there, I'm thinking of just installing XP, then using a 3rd party PVR software. All of the DRM stuff in XP/MC has me pretty bummed out.

By the way, do you have any extra details about getting the HDTV Wonder installed? I have read numerous horror stories about getting it to run and have also heard from others that loved the card and had no problems.
September 1, 2006 4:55:57 PM

Quote:
I had planned to use XP/MC as my OS, but after reading articles here and there, I'm thinking of just installing XP, then using a 3rd party PVR software. All of the DRM stuff in XP/MC has me pretty bummed out.

By the way, do you have any extra details about getting the HDTV Wonder installed? I have read numerous horror stories about getting it to run and have also heard from others that loved the card and had no problems.


I can't fault you for deciding against Windows MCE. The DVRMS file format is pretty restrictive when it comes to easy file format changes. MCE is still my favorite front end so far though. If you're shooting for a decent non-MS PVR program Beyond TV is phenomenal. They just released a new version. (4.4) I'd highly recommend it.

The HTPC Wonder wasn't difficult at all to set up. I've used it in several setups and it's been as easy as a simple plug and play to get it to work under XP. I remember that they were some issues when it was first released, but from what I understand, those problems have been resolved.
That being said, If you're spending the money now, there are some other decent HD cards that can handle QAM decoding. (QAM is the encryption that is put on all cable HD programming. QAM allows you to pull some of the non-protected stations without the need to rely on an over-the-air signal) I've tested some of the Fusion cards with QAM and they offer great quality.

Good luck with your build!

-Mike
September 2, 2006 4:10:40 PM

The ATI HDTV Wonder is pretty easy to use OOTB, unless you're using MCE. Check the ATI website, look for drivers for MCE for this card, and if you browse around a bit you should find where it talks about the special MCE driver for this card. If you install the normal drivers, MCE won't recognize the HDTV tuner or the analog tuner. If you install the MCE driver and use it under MCE, you won't be able to use the analog tuner. There's a hack driver that can be installed so that MCE will recognize both tuners. Or, if you're using a different multimedia interface (the ATI card comes with one, BTW), then you may be able to use the standard drivers and see both tuners.

The process for installing the special MCE driver is a bit challenging, especially if you want to install the driver for the remote control that comes with the card. Do things in the wrong order, and the HDTV tuner won't work.
September 2, 2006 5:22:25 PM

Quote:
I had planned to use XP/MC as my OS, but after reading articles here and there, I'm thinking of just installing XP, then using a 3rd party PVR software. All of the DRM stuff in XP/MC has me pretty bummed out.

By the way, do you have any extra details about getting the HDTV Wonder installed? I have read numerous horror stories about getting it to run and have also heard from others that loved the card and had no problems.


I can't fault you for deciding against Windows MCE. The DVRMS file format is pretty restrictive when it comes to easy file format changes. MCE is still my favorite front end so far though. If you're shooting for a decent non-MS PVR program Beyond TV is phenomenal. They just released a new version. (4.4) I'd highly recommend it.

That's the program I have been considering. What do you think of as the key features I'll miss by not having XP-MCE?

Quote:
[The HTPC Wonder wasn't difficult at all to set up. I've used it in several setups and it's been as easy as a simple plug and play to get it to work under XP. I remember that they were some issues when it was first released, but from what I understand, those problems have been resolved.
That being said, If you're spending the money now, there are some other decent HD cards that can handle QAM decoding. (QAM is the encryption that is put on all cable HD programming. QAM allows you to pull some of the non-protected stations without the need to rely on an over-the-air signal) I've tested some of the Fusion cards with QAM and they offer great quality.


Thanks for the advice. I've only started to research QAM cards, so I'll turn up the heat.
September 2, 2006 5:24:03 PM

Quote:
The ATI HDTV Wonder is pretty easy to use OOTB, unless you're using MCE. Check the ATI website, look for drivers for MCE for this card, and if you browse around a bit you should find where it talks about the special MCE driver for this card. If you install the normal drivers, MCE won't recognize the HDTV tuner or the analog tuner. If you install the MCE driver and use it under MCE, you won't be able to use the analog tuner. There's a hack driver that can be installed so that MCE will recognize both tuners. Or, if you're using a different multimedia interface (the ATI card comes with one, BTW), then you may be able to use the standard drivers and see both tuners.

The process for installing the special MCE driver is a bit challenging, especially if you want to install the driver for the remote control that comes with the card. Do things in the wrong order, and the HDTV tuner won't work.


Thanks for the info!
March 23, 2007 3:32:23 PM

First off - Great article.

Can you recommend a HDMI video card for this system?

What I'd like is to replace my DirecTV HD-DVR w/a HTPC that offers the same options (HDMI out, Optical out).

I want to pull in my OTA content from my locals and ditch Directv. I also thought about picking up an Apple TV to get shows not offered via my locals out of DC.

Or perhaps I could just pick up a HD receiver / recorder and pull shows from my imac via Apple TV.

On other thing - I have a couple old HD 10-250 DVRs lying around that have HDMI cards - I wonder if I could salvage those?

Thanks for the tips.
April 14, 2007 10:09:03 PM

Quote:
Now when is version IV coming out expanding into TVs and Speaker selections? That would be a very helpful guide for a beginner like me. Keep writing the great articles, I will keep reading.
T


Yes, I was wondering what speaker setup was used?
5.1, 7.1? Make and model?
Anonymous
March 31, 2013 3:30:03 PM

My apologies if this is covered and I just didn't dig enough, but what chasis can you recommend starting with for a new HTPC build where you want to install you're own touch screen. Can you also recommend a screen (Win 8 compatible)?
!