HTPC For Shaw use
I am looking at turning an old PC into a HD HTPC or at least want to ha. Since the Shaw PVR's do not allow you to pull the recorded content off of them. What I am looking for is if the machine will be good enough to record the content off a Shaw DC-6200 (and links on how to do it would be nice), and then play HD-DVD/Blu-Ray/DVD's. Below is what the current machine is:
2x Intel Pentium III 1Ghz CPU
2GB of PC133 SDRAM
ATi 8500 All-In-Wonder (AGP)
Asus CUV4X-D motherboard
Antec 550W Power Supply
Then I am looking at getting the following:
Moneual 932B case which has the 7" Touch Screen LCD
LG Super Multi Blu DVD/BD/HD combo drive.
Windows MCE2005 (Will take suggestions, most of my music is in *.wma)
Questions, comments? Will this work or am I going to be best off building a new machine to do this? Other things in the area are an XBOX360, and a Vista Ultimate based PC. Any and all feedback is welcome thanks!
I thought Shaw PVRs have the FireWire connector active and you could capture the recordings.
Has this changed recently (last year or so)? Or does it depend on the market?
RE: PC specs.
It will do DVD. Some low bitrate MPEG-2 hidef maybe. It won't do HD/BD. The AGP slot is only 4X.
Leave this computer for a server/storage system and build an HTPC from scratch. It will cost not more than your case.
This would be a nice article to read if you haven't done much in this field before
For the capture I was refering to their PVR's (I have the SD PVR which I can't get content off of). I am hoping the firewire port is active on the DC-6200's that are in Alberta or else this whole experience will be a moot point.
That is what I thought about the PC, too bad lol. Thanks for the link I will give it a read and see what else I need for hardware. I do have an old AMD X2 4400+ I could use also, will see what Ars has to say in their guide.
Ok so I read the Ars article and some other reviews on HD content and have come to this for a setup thoughts and comments are welcome. And also any links on if there is anything special to get the DC-6200 hooked up with the system.
Silverstone Crown CW03B-MT case
Asus P5E-VM HDMI motherboard
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (3.0Ghz)
4GB PC2-6400 RAM
Seagate 1TB ES HDD
Asus Xonar D2X sound card
Windows Vista Ultimate x64
If you have to have an Intel solution, I'd wait 'til the G45 is out. It will be much better in the hidef optical playback department.
If you can't wait and need it now - I'd go with a AMD solution, the one Ars is talking about or Anand here
By fall the competition in IGP options should heat up with G45, NV8200 and probably a 780G update.
Is there a reason you want a LCD screen on your case? From my experience it is useless and doubles the price...
I believe HTPC is 90% software and 10% hardware.
For the software to run smoothly, it needs reliable drivers. Vista 64-bit is the worst OS in this respect. I'd go with WinXP or Vista x86.
Cut the RAM in half.
I'd drop the audio card and use the mobo's digital out for everything but HD/BD playback.
The later would use the HDMI transport for decoded multichannel PCM (now) or bitstream hires DD/DTS (later).
The reason for an intel solutions is so I have a bit of an upgrade path in the future. I can wait if need be. As to the LCD in the case, just so I am able to rip movies and music without having to have the TV on, it is one of the options I am still debating on as there are a few nice cases without them also.
Vista x64 bad for drivers in which respect? I use it for my desktop and have not run in to any issues with driver problems. As to cutting the RAM in half its actually a dual channel kit that comes as 4GB which works out cheaper in price than a dual channel 2GB kit.
Dropping the audio card has no issues on my part, just wasn't sure if it would be a hic-up when ripping movies, audio and trying to play something back at the same time.
I built my HTPC in a Silverstone Crown CW03B-MT case. Really nice LCD. I never, ever use it. I thought I would use it when I played music but it's much easier to just turn on the TV. It was a complete waste of cash. A pita to get working too, really minimal documentation. Save your cash, I wish I had.
I also started my HTPC using Vista 64. I had reasonable experience with it on my gaming machine so I figured it would be fine for a HTPC. Wrong. TV stuttered all the time for no reason. It was a really powerful CPU/Video combination, really low CPU usage but the computer acted like it was overwhelmed. I switched to XP and every issue went away immediately. I'd skip Vista if I was you. Expecially the 64 bit version.
RE: Intel vs. AMD
Unless you are into gaiming, a decent HTPC today probably won't need upgrades,
you can make it play HD/BD with under 50% CPU utilization and that's the hardest task for an HTPC today.
Also the 780G from Gigabyte has the 889A sound chip that does DTS encoding - I like it very much.
On a general note, I believe upgrades are overrated. I have used only mATX boards for over 3 years now,
and don't regret it a bit. Again, if you're a gamer (what I'm not) - it could be different.
RE: Vista 64
You can try it, it might work for you. I had nothing but trouble with it.
From drivers to codecs, filters, splitters, etc. But it's getting better.
RE: 4GB RAM
If you don't use a 64-bit OS, you won't see all the RAM. And for an HTPC 2GB is enough.
There is this issue of primary-secondary display and clone-extended setup.
Clone mode can only be used when the LCD and TV are the same resolution.
In extended mode, if you use overlay, video will be shown only on the primary display.
You have to use either the TV as primary (PITA) or VMR9 as video renderer (doesn't always work the way you want it).
There are no hard rules in building an HTPC: everybody has different ideas, different task assigned, etc.
Trying different configurations is part of the fun...
Thanks for the info on the LCD, that helps a lot on case choice.
The machine itself will not be for gaming, so I am open to any and all options for CPU maker choice. The goal is to get HD/BD playback with no suttering, I am checking out the AMD solutions right now.
Re: Vista x64
This choice was more in part due to the Asus motherboard i was going to use with the intel setup needed Vista and from what other sites are saying it is needed for HD/BD playback because it is compliant with the copyprotection methods used for those formats. Using Vista x86 wouldn't bother me either, like i say its trying to get a setup that will do what i am looking for.
After hearing with DaveWC had to say about them and the problems you mention, I am most likely going to get a case without having one. The price cost is not overly a concern but the compatibilty is the biggest one.
FireSTB is the program that you need to ATTEMPT to get HD from the cable box. I was never able to get it to work. Honestly though, you are only able to get content from the Firewire port when the content isn't protected (this protection flag is called 5C and is enabled when it is set to 1).
Basically it involves connecting the box using an analog connection (s-video or composite) while simultaneously connecting it with Firewire. You then configure FireSTB and then Media Center to use your box as a cable source. Live TV does not work but when you record a program you are left with the analog version as well as a HD version.
I was never able to get it to work. The FireSTB program never resulted in recorded HD programs. The program was developed before Vista went RTM (was still in beta) and the fellow who developed it has left the scene.
Realistically, being in Canada (and specifically in Alberta) there is no way to get HDTV into a media center PC. Major centers in the east as well as the greater Vancouver area get OTA HD which only requires an ATSC (OTA) tuner card and an antenna. You only receive local HD broadcasts but those are few and far between if they are available at all, which they aren't in Alberta.
Well after reading about the AMD 780G chipset, it does seem to be the best chipset for a HTPC. So I have looked around and came to this for a machine:
AMD Athlon X2 5000+ (2.6GHz)
LG Super Multi Blu Drive
Seagate 1TB HDD
I think I will try Vista x64 first and if it doesn't workout using that I will just pickup MCE 2005, since the AMD built is actually cheaper than the Intel one I was looking at.
IIRC, this case doesn't come with a power supply.
Make sure you don't skimp on it...
I have a brand new Fortran 450W PSU at home that hasn't been used yet, if that turns out too loud/not enough I will get a PC Power & Cooling Silent one of some sort lol.
Now one question on hooking up the DC-6200, just go firewire to firewire and will MCE get all the guide info, and change channels and do recording this way?
I've never done this myself, but have seen this done by others.
It requires some fiddling, from what I recall. Some claim Vista makes it much easier.
Fiddling makes it fun :), thanks for all the help granduncle!
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