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Discussion Starter #1
I'm curious to find out what software members are using on their HTPC.

I'm in the process of building my HTPC and am nearing the installation of software phase. (My htpc will also act as my repository for my Music Collection)

Considering the following

  • Arcsoft's Total Media Theatre
  • Arcsoft Media Convertor
  • Boxee
  • iTunes
  • Media Player Classic
  • Slysoft AnyDVD
  • Sonos Desktop
  • XBMC
 

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I use XMBC for video and jukebox music. It's good for stuff on disk but does not support TV. It also supports DLNA but has a limited number of add-ons that work well. For Sirius, I use XM Player. For TV, I use MediaPortal but that's not used much right now. On the server I use MediaPortal TV server to provide the TV guide and record TV. It would be nice to have a true media server for the HTPCs but I haven't found anything that works well for everything. That's 2 dedicated HTPCs plus combined HTPC/media server, Hauppauge HD PVR, Sirius and separate file server. The file server runs CentOS so it's not a good candidate for a media server. Music was stored on each HTPC but that became unwieldy. I'm moving it to a central location on the server. Recorded TV goes on the media server, unless it is archived and all other media goes on the file server.
 

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I am somewhat minimalist in that I don't run any front end stuff to coordinate media libraries, etc.

Ours gets used for movie watching 99% of the time and most of the time it is playing back physical media.

So with that pre-amble, here's what I have:

- Girder: Used for mapping events from the remote control. I have a USB-UIRT receiver.
- TheaterTek: Used for DVD playback
- Arcsoft TMT3: Usef for BluRay and HD-DVD playback
- AnyDVD: Removes playback restrictions for DVD. I haven't bothered for the HD upgrade yet. It's about a gajillion times better than PowerDVD.
- iTunes: Used to populate the family iPods. The HTPC is also the server for all our songs.
- Picasa: Used for digital picture management/viewing. Our HTPC is the 21st century slide projector.
- VLC: Used for playback of MKV/torrents. Using this because ArcSoft doesn't handle MKVs as well as VLC on the audio side.
 

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not an htpc per say but for music i use itunes (until i can find something better) as it can be controlled by both android and iphone/ipad/ipods

for video and streams i use boxee (its not perfect for streams though) due to the interface. its so slick!

for hockey/sports im forced to use the good ol web browser as half the streams are just plugins for the browser
 

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I recently migrated from Windows 7 Media Center to SageTV because SageTV has PC client software (like Beyond TV did), whereas Microsoft never released their softsled client app, so XBOX 360s are your only option as an extender. This way SageTV behaves the same way on all 3 HTPCs, I can setup recordings and watch recorded TV (and other videos) the same way no matter which TV I'm at.

I'll list each software product and what I use it for

SageTV (controlled with a MCE remote)
- OTA TV
- Movie Collection
- Archived TV Shows


Google Chrome (set to ~200% default zoom level for web pages, controlled with The Loop) ... with the following sites bookmarked:
- Hulu
- Netflix
- CBC
- YouTube
- Revision 3
- Vevo
- Many, many more

On one HTPC I have AnyDVD HD for ripping Blu-ray discs, but I don't find myself doing that very often at all...

Thats it! Only two applications. Incredibly minimalist, but extremely effective.
 

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AnyDVD: Removes playback restrictions for DVD.
AnyDVD should not be necessary for DVD as most media players will play DVDs without any problems. Ripping is another issue. The HD version is required for BD though, unless you have a commercial (AKA expensive to buy and upgrade) software BD player. AnyDVD also does not require a separate license for each PC. Unfortunately, they dropped their free lifetime upgrade option this year.
 

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Media Center!

When I first build a system for tv and movies I have tried several programs but found out that there is always compatibility issues and do not want to spend all evening debugging the system instead of enjoying the movie.
Also everything is in the same application available from the remote; no switching between programs with the mouse and keyboard.

So Media Center with the addition of Media Browser and Shark007 for codecs package. For Netflix I have to use IE but I hope that MS will fix the bug for Canada in MC.
To convert to mp4 I use Handbrake for disc source and MCEBuddy for tv recorded source. For fetching I use Media Center Master.

Thats about it; no conflicts and no debugging time.
 

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  • Windows 7 Media Center
  • Peter Near's 7MC hack to enable ATSC in Canada
  • My Channel Logos for the 7MC Guide
  • AC3Filter for 5.1 decode and boost relatively low 7MC volume
  • Haali Media Splitter to play MKV inside 7MC
  • Media Browser for the cool fan art, but I seldom use it.
  • NASA TV plugin for 7MC
  • VLC player for DIVX/XVID and any other format you can think of
  • DVD Decrypter/Ripit4Me for basic nostalgic DVD ripping
  • DVDFab 8 for ripping Disney and other heavily encrypted DVDs
  • Windows Media Player 11 to manage my CD library
  • CDex for CD ripping
  • Picasa 3 for managing my photos
  • Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre 3 for Blu-ray playback
  • Audacity for converting my LPs
 

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Girder: Used for mapping events from the remote control. I have a USB-UIRT receiver
OMG .... that is as old as I am! You are still using that.:p:p

I use the following

Win 7 MC
Media Browser
ArcSoft TMN5
AnyDVDHD
VirtualDrive
VLC
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for the responses. I hope to have my HTPC running in the next week.
 

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Do you want to watch/record live TV?
Do you want to watch commercial Blu-ray disks through the HTPC?

If so, then WMC is probably the best or easiest.

If your HTPC will be used solely for playing online content or content saved/ripped on your PC/network, then you have many more options.

I have been playing with XBMC live on an old laptop before I commit to a new box. I get a 20 sec boot, likely less with new hardware. Doesn't do Netflix though. On another WMC box I have also been testing XBMC using the WMC integration that auto-swaps WMC and XBMC using your remote. This is promissing. The eye candy XBMC provides is kinda nice when showing others.

I will likely go WMC as I want Blu-ray disk playback. Plus it opens the door to a number of other options already listed here. But if your needs are basic and defined, XBMC seems to always impress each time I go in.
 

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Since codecs were mentioned... Win7 includes better codecs than XP but some extras may still be required. For general use, the best codec pack I have found is simply named Codec 8.4 or Codec 8.3q. Codecs can be installed or removed individually using the installer. It includes the following codecs:

- CoreAVC Video Codec 2.0 (very good x.264 decoder)
- DivX 6.8.5.15 Codec
- XviD 1.3.0 (05.06.2009)
- CoreAAC Audio Decoder 1.2.0.575 rev.3 (for x.264 audio)
- AC3Filter 1.63b (very good AC3 and DTS decoder)
- Haali Media Splitter (not really a codec but required by CoreAVC)

It has become difficult to find, probably because the author of CoreAVC now wants money. I mention it mainly because the included codecs are considered to be best in class by many people, myself included. Some software, such as XBMC, VLC and many commercial players include their own codecs.
 

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To those of you who are fans of XBMC, I ask the question of why you like it so much? Perhaps I've missed something with this software, but i haven't been overly impressed with it on my HTPC. I used to run it on the first generation Xbox and back then I was very impressed, but the interface hasn't been updated and I don't find it to be overly feature rich. So with many of you on this forum being apparent fans of the software I wonder if I'm missing something with XBMC.

What is it about the software that you like that has you using it over other options?
 

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My setup is:

BeyondTV for PVR duties (5 tuners)
ArcSoft TotalMedia Theater 3 for BluRay/HD-DVD playback
Windows XP MCE for music, and as a "master menu" to navigate between the above

BeyondTV has a very simple UI with a good WAF. It also has features you won't get on MCE, such as BeyondTV Link (extenders), and the fact that the files it records are in a standard format (not locked up in a proprietary wrapper). Unfortunately, SnapStream are completely ignoring the consumer market now, so there won't likely be new features, and there's a danger that it won't be updated to support new tuner cards (such as the Colossus HD-PVR)

If I were re-imaging the machine now, I'd probably go with Win7, TMT5 and SageTV. I didn't like Sage's interface as much back when I tried both of them, but at least it's under active development.
 

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I've recently added Arcsoft TotalMedia Theater 5 due to its excellent support for BD playback. (It was 40% off on April 1. That makes me a fool, I guess.;)) The interface is not the best for HTPC though.

To those of you who are fans of XBMC, I ask the question of why you like it so much?
  • It's free
  • It's easy to setup
  • It's very stable with no apparent bugs, crashes or lock-ups
  • It plays almost anything out of the box
  • Excellent interface for basic HTPC functions, especially on smaller screens
  • It's extensible using plug-ins
Shortcomings:
  • Awkward interface for plug-ins and external programs/players
  • Limited number of plug-ins
  • Limited configuration ability
  • Limited TV server support
  • Awkward interface for playing standard DVD and BD disk layouts.
  • No support for BD menus
I use a mix of programs for different tasks but XMBC is the first choice for what it does well.
 

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My projector is connected only to a HTPC for an all in one solution.

Vista Media Center + Shark Codec Pack + Media Browser
Media Player Classic HC

After extensive setup and tinkering, the HTPC can almost function keyboard free.

I have a Hauppauge HVR-1250+remote so I use that remote for VMC.

Media Center is a good all-in-one solution but I only use it for movies and OTA.
 
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