HTPC v3 build begins.

I’ve started on my third Home Media PC  build today.

The first one I built was a very basic affair using available spare parts I cannibalised from various older PC’s and my ever growing spare parts box. It was a standard beige box PC containing a P4 2.0ghz, x1 80gb HDD, x1 40gb HDD, 512mb ram and little else. Sound and GFX were provided by the onboard components and networking was achived by using a USB Wifi dongle. This served as a basic PC to watch the VOB files I’d taken from our DVD collection but that was about it.

I was using a standard def TV at the time therefore web pages were barely readable (this was also prior to Firefox’s handy CTRL ‘+/-‘ zoom function). I was also using a wired keyboard and mouse so it wasn’t the most comfortable to use  on the sofa.

Fast forward to Christmas last year and our TV died so we decided to replace it with a new flat panel HD TV. As picture quality was increased I thought I’d build V2, making it more fun to use , aesthetically pleasing and quieter.

V2 was a much beefier P4 2.8, 1gb ram, x1 80gb HDD (o/s) and x1 500gb HDD (media). It was a very slim form factor PC which fitted very nicely amongst the DVD Player, Surround Sound Decoder and Cable TV box. Added to the PC was PCI wireless card and TV card for recording shows.

I selected Windows Xp Media Centre 2005 for the o/s because at the time, MS Vista was pre SP1 and had experienced how slow Vista was at copying files over the network using my work laptop. In addition, with only 1gb ram, Windows XP zipped along, Vista didn’t. I was still using onboard GFX therefore Aero sleekness was out of the question too.

To accompany V2, I purchased a Win MCE remote and a wireless keyboard. If you’re thinking about building a Media PC I highly recommend this keyboard from Trust. It features a built in trackball, integrated scroll wheel, is shaped to sit easily on you lap and at £19.00 is a steel compared many others I looked at. I can tell you that our gets some pretty heavy use and the batteries (x4 AA)  have only been changed once in 12 months.

keyboard

I don’t have a picture on file but here’s one via Google. Mine is almost identical to apart from the one pictured appears to have a Blue trim, mine is silver. The trackball has a handy on/ off button and the ball surround  lights up when in use i.e A good visual aid in case you’ve left it switched on when not using it.

We’ve been using V2 for just over a year now and although It’s not perfect, it’s certainly the most used PC in the house. The MCE 2005 default frontend skin is a bit garish so I’d modded mine to look something a little more pleasing. I think the theme I adapted was based on Apple’s ‘Frontrow’.

Whilst testing a beta copy of  MS Windows 7 and noticing the overhaul to Media Centre, I’ve decided to upgrade the equipment again. I’ve been collecting the various parts every since and today was time to put it all together.

V3 starts off with a new HTPC case. It’s an Antec Fusion HTPC case with LCD front panel.

fusion_antec

Here are the hardware specs

  • Athlon 64 3800 dual core processor
  • 2Gb ram
  • 120gb HDD (for MS Windows and Software
  • 1 Terabyte HDD for media storage.
  • TV card from v2
  • Wireless card from v2
  • Nvidia Geforce 8400gs – fanless to keep everything whisper quiet and HDMI output (really looking forward to this because I’ve been using VGA in v1 & v2)

At present I have the hardware configured, the O/S installed (no problems with any drivers….that’s a first!) and have started to copy over a few media files from V2. I’ve setup access to my network shares and also to my home NAS server.

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, but will do once everything is complete, up and running.

Software list-

  • Windows & Beta Build 7057
  • Firefox 3 (with NASA black theme, IE tab and Ad-block addons).
  • Juice (for auto downloading IPTV shows – See Revision3 link on my blog)
  • Yahoo Weather and Gorgy Clock desktop widgets
  • VLC media player (just in case I have a file that WMP doesn’t like)
  • ImgBurn
  • Foxit .pdf reader
  • AVG Antivirus
  • BBC iPlayer
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3 responses to “HTPC v3 build begins.

  1. Looking good there Steve – we do similar things at our house – it’s stupid how many old pcs we have dotted around the place that are in various states of being!

    Have you tried Linux yet?

    I’m going to try a version that runs over the top of Windows to see what it’s like – but it’s meant to be a very secure OS. Mind you – there are different versions of Linux that do different things, so best to look around.

    😀

  2. Hey there, yep PC’s bits are growing quicker than my veg !! I am a big linux fan and generally use Kubuntu for everyday computing. I also use the Freebsb based FreeNas for my home NAS server and Puppy Linux on my pen drive.

    I haven’t had much success with Linux based Media Centre because, although MythTV is very good, I’ve been unsuccesful getting it to work with the MCE remote and other HIP remotes.

    Can I suggest WUBI, it allows you to dual boot a windows PC and Ubuntu without the hassle of changing partition tables and boot loaders. Even comes with a handy uninstall feature. http://wubi-installer.org/

  3. Cheers fella!

    Yes I have been keeping an eye on Linux – but it’s like most things – you just have to take a leap of faith sometimes, don’t you.

    😀

    I shall see what happens with WUBI – thank you Steve.

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