Very simple HTPC

Discussion in 'Smartphones, Computers, Gaming and Networking' started by Chris Slade, May 20, 2007.

  1. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Active Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    If I play my cards right with the wife I can have a HTPC, home network, and a new laptop. Currently I just have a single PC. So I need some help.

    I want to move the PC (specs below) to the basement and somehow send audio and video to my television. MP3 files photos and video files. This gets the PC and desk and crap all moved to the basement, where we never go. So we need a laptop to use around the rest of the house. Score for me.

    So I don't have a router, I don't have the laptop (will buy), I know nothing of the software need to make things happen.

    What I do have is a Panasonic 50" 600U plasma, mounted on the wall in the living room (PC to go below this in the basement).

    The PC is the following

    500g (2x 250) WD sata drive
    AMD 4000+ Athlon 64
    Sound blaster Audigy 2
    XFX Geforce 6800gs (256 DDR3)
    Antec 450watt power supply
    1 gig ram

    What do I need to make it all happen,

    router, some type of remote for the PC, new video card? The laptop (yeah), some cables. Any help would be great. I'm not looking for a High Def machine here, I'll upgrade later as required. I want to use as much existing stuff as possible to keep the wife inside.
  2. cjd

    cjd New Member

    That PC is a very solid front end for standard DVD playback (even upscaled, all that really fun stuff). It will do HDTV fine, but not high-def video (BD or HD-DVD) so well. Video is overkill (I run an Athlon Sempron 3000+, ATI 9600XT video, and do DVD scaling + OTA HDTV - a little short on processor power for all the FFDShow stuff I'd like to do but you should be fine with yours).

    So, you'll need a little bit of software. You streaming to a Roku or Squeezebox? Or do you want to play straight from the PC? Software is the biggest headache, but it can make a HUGE difference in how your system works. Also, how do you control the media. Do you have to sit down at the TV to control iTunes on the computer? There are SO many possibilities. Figuring out how you'll get cabling to your TV/receiver is really the trick. Probably digital output from the computer to receiver. DVI cables will run a good distance. But you probably need it wired direct.

    If you want to archive DVD's etc. to disc, you may need more space. Drives can be added, however. One huge advantage of doing a non-raid setup for your data is you can upgrade everything around the data drives and have zero concerns about whether you can bring the array up, so I recommend that. I like Icy Dock's 5 in 3 solution for this kind of thing. (I use one of their external cases that take the same drive cage as the 5 in 3 - they also do a 3 in 2, a 4 in 3...) add controller and you're set.

    You may want to spend some time going crazy over at AVSForum's HTPC section. TONS of good info, among a lot of clutter. :)

  3. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Active Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    I would prefer to go right to the television, I don't want any hardware in the room other than the TV. The cable run will be short (under 15 feet). Cabling won't be an issue, I'll just get my messy properly repaired. No need for anything HD at this point. When I get bored with this and want to upgrade, then I'll think about it. I want to control the system via remote sitting at the sofa. On screen menu type thing. The only thing I'd also like is to use the system as a DVR it I can. If required I'll buy the software to do it right.

    AVS HTPC forum seems a fair bit over my head, and many systems they talk about a much more complicated than what I'm looking for.

    Having said all that if and appleTV or something that could easily be hidden behind my plasma (mounted to the current mount) I'd consider that option too.
  4. cjd

    cjd New Member

    You can get remote extenders for that part. I know nothing about what can be done with a remote since I use a keyboard. But I think you will get your music and your video without the need of a squeezebox or similar with such a short cable run.

    I would have suggested peeking at Meedio but it looks like Yahoo has sent them into the abyss with their purchase of said company. Windows Media Center might cut it (that'd be a new OS though, and... I'm not sure.) There are a couple other options if I remember right.

    That should be enough to get you started.

    Oh. DVR use, you'll have to figure out how you get your signal, and probably dig in at AVS to see if you CAN use your PC as a DVR, what cards you can use, etc. For OTA it's a breeze, but cable service can be iffy. I don't care about TV so I know very little on that end. :) But it will take some kind of expansion card (or cards, depends how far you want to go).

  5. Couple of thoughts...

    There are some hardware cards with software which can make using the PC easier as a DVR and may even include your ability to program that DVR remotely via the internet.. however, I wouldn't feel comfortable having a PC connected to the internet that I used as a DVD or music server. You could also use freeware/shareware programs like DVDShrink to copy your unprotected SD movies to your server with very good resolution at about 4-4.5Gb per movie.
  6. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Active Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    Is there a piece of hardware that would do the following.

    I put the PC in the basement, leave it pretty much as is, a regular functional WinXP PC. I also put this other peice of hardware in the basement. It attaches to the PC and sees all the video files store in the PC. It connects to the TV and is menu driven to allow me to choose what files to watch with a remote?

    So I'd switch the TV to the correct input and see the front end of the new piece of hardware, and bingo away to the races.
  7. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Active Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    Apple TV seems to support almost no video file formats, what gives!!
  8. Chris,

    If you want something which will support all file formats you are best looking to something manufactured, and possibly sold, in China.
  9. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Active Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    It just I can play pretty much any format with my PC. But if I add another piece of hardware I get all kinds of limitations on what I can play. Seems strange why would anyone want a box that limits them?

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