Newbie guide to HTPC? - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-02-07, 02:00 PM Thread Starter
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Newbie guide to HTPC?

I am researching ways to maintain/improve our tv choices, while reducing ongoing costs.

My goal is to say goodbye to monthly fees for Rogers cable, replacing it with

1) OTA antenna for the major Canada/US networks, including PBS & TVO (I live in the GTA so that part should be easy),

2. supplemented by some sort of streaming service (Apple TV, Netflix or similar) for movies etc.

3. plus HTPC?

Number 3 is where I quickly get lost. The idea sounds intriguing, but the threads in this forum are too abstruse for me. Almost all the posts are from hobbyists who seem to be deep into the subject already, e.g., debating the merits of brand x vs y tuner cards.

Can anyone point me to a good "HTPC for Dummies" source of info, either on Digitalhome or elsewhere on the web? I am looking for answers to really basic questions like...
Would HTPC give me anything beyond options 1 and 2 above? If so, what?
What kind of equipment will I need, and how to set it up?
Approximate price range (yes I know there is probably no upper bound, but what is the starting point)?

Any guidance is appreciated.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-02-07, 03:09 PM
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If someone is new to the HTPC world, I generally would recommend getting something like a Zotac (reviewed here) and buy a NAS of some sort to store recorded TV.

For recording TV, you will want a wired (Ethernet) network connection to the HTPC, and then you want to connect some HDHomerun tuners and a NAS somewhere else in the house to store the recorded TV files. You're relocating the hard drives in the NAS to reduce noise.

HTPC software is a area where you'll find lots of opinions, so I'm not going to dig into that too much here, but for a quick reference, I know there are fans of NextPVR in this forum.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-02-07, 04:39 PM
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I would also consider a low end Gigabyte Brix system. The specs depend on how it's being used. A low profile mATX HTPC (desktop) case with mATX motherboard remains a good low cost option.

HTPC Basics:
1. An HTPC is essentially a low power, low cost PC. It's hardware and software are typically configured to watch video on a big screen TV and listen to music and movie sound on an A/V surround system. (Depending on the user's requirements, it can be configured to do less or more but then starts to deviate from a pure HTPC.) The form factor, software and the addition of a wireless (RF or IR) remote, compact RF keyboard, RF mouse and optional tuner card are what differentiates an HTPC from an ordinary PC.

HTPC Attributes:
1. Easy to use interface usually consisting of dedicated media player software.
2. Low power requirements, low noise, low cost, nice aesthetics (HTPC case.)

HTPC advantages:
1. More flexibility. It will do just about anything a dedicated media player will do without the artificial constraints imposed by media players. It will perform additional tasks like recording TV. That's a big advantage for OTA TV.
2. Upgradeable with new software and hardware. New software will extend the life far beyond dedicated media players.

HTPC Disadvantages:
1. Higher initial cost. However, because it's so versatile it can take the place of several proprietary media boxes, potentially lowering long term cost.
2. Takes more work to set up and configure.

HTPC Options:
1. NUC, mITX or mATX architecture in a compact, low profile case.
2. Low end CPU with integrated GPU (APU.) This can be a standard desktop APU or an integrated APU such as an Intel Atom or a mobile APU mounted directly onto the motherboard. Mobile chip solutions are especially suited to HTPC use since they are typically very low power and often silent (fanless.)

Once the requirements are determined, the solution becomes clearer. Those include things like the need for recording OTA, desired streaming services, type of content, network configuration, software to be used, additional activities (like gaming,) etc. An HTPC will do almost everything a proprietary media player (like Apple TV) will do and a lot more. It just takes some extra effort.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-02-07, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbw7223 View Post
1) OTA antenna for the major Canada/US networks, including PBS & TVO (I live in the GTA so that part should be easy)
Everything you will ever need to know about OTA begins here:

*** WELCOME TO NEW MEMBERS: Read these OTA Forum instructions before posting ***

There are several GTA-area threads packed with info, and you will find that there are also several threads here in the HTPC Forum that deal directly with using HTPCs for OTA once you've done your OTA Forum research.



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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-30, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j0dest3r
ExDilbert
Do you have a setup guide or walk through for Next PVR? I tried it once but struggled. I really need to try this. I saw there is a Roku App. Have you tried the Roku App by any chance?
ThanksJ0dest3r
I don't have any setup guide for NextPVR. Here are some basics. To get started, right click on the main page and select settings. Then go down the options. Questions about specifics can be posted here.

Channel scanning is fairly easy. The tricky part is the guide. For that you must right click on the channel and set the channel options. A guide source is also required. The ATSC guide broadcast by the channel can be used but it's not always available. I use Schedules Direct. It's fairly easy to use but requires a subscription. (A trial is available.) Version 3.4.8 of NextPVR or later is required for Schedules Direct.

Setting up CODECs for viewing video is another sticking point. CODECs are not included. I installed ACFilter, FFDshow and MatroskaSplitter. They can be downloaded from VideoHelp.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-30, 07:36 PM
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Alright Thanks. I am going to give it a go. I should be able to install it along side WMC? My WMC does not talk to the Silicon Dust tuner on the network it has a Hauppauge card so the only contention I can think of is possibly storage.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-30, 10:44 PM
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There are a major amount of options here! LOL!

-I deleted all the Hauppage devices used by WMC and left the silicon dust for NextPVR.

Oh wait, there is a nice Getting Started on the About page. I will try going through that!

I will tackle the guide later. I think I have some notes on that somewhere. I don't know what to do with the Decoders. There are 3 sections

Renderers
The default here is EVR for video audio and music are set to default. The other options other than EVR is VMR9 probably a WMP render of some sort I'm assuming. So would I use EVR unless there is problems

Video Decoders
MPEG 2 and EVC are disabled. H.264 is set to Microsoft DTV I assume that goes away once Media Center is removed.

Audio Decoders
MPEG1 again Microsoft DTV
AC3 is the AC3 filter.

Suggestions?

Checking this http://nextpvr.com/nwiki/pmwiki.php?...ation.Decoders

Damn their forums and a few other pages aren't working! ExDilbert where are you lol!

Last edited by j0dest3r; 2015-07-31 at 12:12 AM.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-31, 12:52 AM
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Quote:
I should be able to install it along side WMC?
Yes. The main constraint will be tuners. Just don't set recordings on both programs for the same device and times if it will exceed the number of available tuners.

Decoders - That becomes easier with the right CODECs installed. The ones I suggested (install only those for now, not any others) should provide some fairly obvious new options. I just tested and ended up with Microsoft DTV/DVD for MPEG2 Video and AC3Filter for AC3 audio. Those are the only required decoders for ATSC. Others may be required for media files. I find some experimentation is often required with decoders.

Renderers - I usually use the defaults.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-31, 01:01 AM
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I don't need anything for other video files. This build is strictly for recording tv and playing back on Roku and Xbox. It does support DLNA out of the box or will I need to set something else up for that? Sadly their forums are down so my help is limited to you right now! LOL!
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-31, 01:31 AM
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I don't think NextPVR has a DNLA server. That will be an issue. For Xbox, Windows Media Center is the best option for a TV server. Not sure about Roku but the articles I found said it won't work with WMC recordings. I suspect the same will be true of NPVR recordings.

The issue with lightweight boxes like Roku is that they are usually optimized for MPEG4. ATSC is MPEG2. Playback of MPEG2 files is hit and miss with lightweight media players. There are a couple of options. One is to use a HDHomeRun EXTEND that has a DLNA server (for live TV) and converts MPEG2 to MPEG4. Haven't played with one of these so don't know how they would work with XBOX and Roku.

Other options are to convert the files using something like Handbrake or to do on the fly transcoding with DLNA media server software such as PLEX. Using Plex on the PC is probably the best option. It's free so it won't hurt to try it. That's where my expertise ends. I have used PLEX but not extensively. Others here have more experience with it.
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-31, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ExDilbert View Post
I don't think NextPVR has a DNLA server. That will be an issue. For Xbox, Windows Media Center is the best option for a TV server. Not sure about Roku but the articles I found said it won't work with WMC recordings. I suspect the same will be true of NPVR recordings.
Yes, for Xbox360 WMC is best, but its now dead! There also is no extender for XboxOne. Xbox(both) has a built-in media player that should work just fine!
NEXTPRV has a Roku App! Part of the reason why i'm choosing it. The other part is its compatible with my ancient Silicon Dust tuner.

Quote:
Other options are to convert the files using something like Handbrake or to do on the fly transcoding with DLNA media server software such as PLEX. Using Plex on the PC is probably the best option. It's free so it won't hurt to try it. That's where my expertise ends. I have used PLEX but not extensively. Others here have more experience with it.
I am not doing any file converting. That is not an option for a roll your own whole home DVR solution.
DLNA should not be an issue. I use Plex on a different box didn't really want to use it for my DVR solution but if I end up having to I will. WMP also will do DLNA so I may just start with that.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-07-31, 11:59 AM
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Once the other issue are worked out, I think you will be happy with NextPVR. I've been using it for several years and it is very reliable. The only thing resembling a bug that I've found is that it's too easy to schedule duplicate recordings for the same show. It would be nice if it had DLNA server but the developer has ruled that out. NextPVR can act a a client or a server or both on the same PC. This is very handy for watching or for maintaining scheduled recordings on other PCs.
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-08-01, 11:42 AM
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I am going to do a test recording shortly with no guide data to see if it works. Gotta get this all done soon and then upgrade that box to W10.

So it records in .TS. The Xbox Media App nor the Roku can do anything with those. Ok so I am going to have to convert these somehow. Apparently there is a script associated with the Roku Channel.
Here it is. http://forums.roku.com/viewtopic.php...5014350b42a5db

Last edited by j0dest3r; 2015-08-01 at 03:32 PM.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-08-03, 11:33 AM
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TS is simply a container (wrapper around an MPEG2 file.) It's fairly easy to convert that to something compatible. A media server like PLEX can do it "on the fly" with minimal CPU load. The big work load comes into play with devices that don't handle MPEG2 (like the Chromecast.) Then the MPEG2 file must be converted to MPEG4, a very computationally intense process process that's best done by dedicated hardware.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 2015-08-04, 01:04 PM
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Can an i5 3.3 with 16GB of RAM handle the transcoding on the fly? I have this to test with but don't really want it as the final solution. I also found out today that DVR is coming to XboxOne so perhaps all this is moot since I already own an Xbox One.
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