HTPC

Posted by: Listener

HTPC - 09/27/10 02:27 PM

So I have been thinking of building the HT PC for quite some time, but recently I stumbled upon this:
http://www.asrock.com/nettop/overview.asp?Model=Vision 3D 137B

It looks like a really nice option. I have ripped many of my blu-rays to MKV files. Does anyone have expereince playing those back on their hi end systems? I have so far only watched them on my pc and while they look great it is difficult to judge the audio performance. The MKV files retain the original size of the blu-ray about 30Gigs or so. I assume they keep lossless audio. These systems are also capable of bit streaming True HD audio. Can anyone comment on the performance of their HTPC when it comes to MKV playback?
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 02:42 PM

That looks pretty freakin' cool. cough cough Mac Mini cough cough

Can't help you with the MKV stuff, sorry.
Posted by: gkornato

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 02:44 PM

I would suggest you have a look at http://www.xbmc.org

In their forums you will find a lot of hardware recommendations, most that will be far cheaper than the asrock above.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 03:36 PM

Originally Posted By: gkornato
I would suggest you have a look at http://www.xbmc.org

In their forums you will find a lot of hardware recommendations, most that will be far cheaper than the asrock above.

Thanks. I will have a look. I do know that I can build something for less $$ but it is also about size and having the htpc be quiet. I also really like the slot loading blu-ray drive. Much less likely to get broken by the kiddies.
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 03:42 PM

Meh. I think the HTPC thing has its place, but also its limitations.

I use a PC to store my pics and music and, for a time, considered converting all my DVDs onto it to act as a server (made especially easy with Windows 7 and a home network). But, alas, the time to rip all those movies and the space to store them on became too much to overcome. In addition, then I would be in a position where I could not lend out the movies to friends or take them with me on vacation.

Consider this: To rip 250 DVDs it was going to take up somewhere north of 1TB at compressed (4/9) rates. Since I didn't have a couple of TBs laying around (I would insist on backing this data up, hence the need for 2TB for each 1TB ripped), I thought about selling my DVDs off once I ripped them. By my modest calculation, I would probably get somewhere in the ballpark of $300 - $500 for the collection depending on how they were sold off (as a lot, or individual titles), with all the hassle that comes with it. I might come out marginally ahead, with a slick movie server to show off to my friends. But what for? I would lose, of course, the ability, to share movies with friends or take them with me in the car to entertain the kids on long trips. Nevermind that each movie would take about 30mins to rip (total elapsed time = 125 hours or just under a full week of ripping, if you took no breaks). No thanks.

In any event, I didn't find there to be any audio or video advantages to playing them on my PC. If anything, the video was slightly degraded. (Toss in the problems with playing uncompressed High Def sound with the PC and the whole thing was dead in the water).

As a music and pictures server, the computer is great. For everything else (including recorded TV - who doesn't have/need a cable box these days anyway?), I find the source to simply be superior in every way.

If you think the PC will be a one stop shop for all your media, unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. It's a nice compliment to a cable box and DVD/Blu Ray player, but it doesn't take the place of either.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 03:54 PM

I don't have a cable box, but I do have 4 TB of storage.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 04:16 PM

Storage is getting cheap. I just bought 2tb for about $100. I am planning on getting an external 4 bay case to house 4 x 2tb HDs. This will be enough to hold 200+ Blu-ray movies.
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 05:00 PM

ClubNelson - What kind of HD can you get OTA? Is it just the basic channels (ABC, NBC, FOX, etc.) or is there more than that? My wife and I like Bravo, Science Channel, FoodNetwork, etc.

Yeah - storage isn't that expensive anymore. But there are few means of ripping all that content that, at the end of the day, it makes it worthwhile.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 05:07 PM

I let the people of the Internet pull in the shows from OTA, or what ever source, edit out the commercials, encode them into H.264, and pack them into MKV files. I just fill up my HDs with the shows (and eventually buy them on BD when available).

I find most every show I want to see, but I've not looked for anything from those three example channels you gave.
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 05:09 PM

eztv?
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 05:43 PM

I am completely with capn_pickard on this topic. My BD player and D*TV DVR are superior in every way to the PC versions.
Posted by: Worfzara

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 05:48 PM

I have an Asus Oplay media player (actually have two of them). They sell for around $100.

It supports 1080p and the new HD audio formats via HDMI, plays just about every media file known to man, and has a USB port for thumb drives and SD cards plus much more. There is also a wireless version for a few more bucks.

The interface isn't the best, but it works and it is much cheaper than buying / or building a new computer.

I use this thing every day and works great but I do recommend using the wired for 1080p media.

http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1350/1/
Posted by: Worfzara

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 05:57 PM

Originally Posted By: ClubNeon
I let the people of the Internet pull in the shows from OTA, or what ever source, edit out the commercials, encode them into H.264, and pack them into MKV files. I just fill up my HDs with the shows (and eventually buy them on BD when available).

I find most every show I want to see, but I've not looked for anything from those three example channels you gave.


I use

www.Thepiratebay.org

or

www.torrentday.com

and usually find everything I am looking for. I tend to like torrent day better.

I find the quality is just as good as the original HD broadcast without the commercials.

I actually don't have a need for a PVR.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 06:01 PM

Originally Posted By: Capn_Pickard
Meh. I think the HTPC thing has its place, but also its limitations.

I use a PC to store my pics and music and, for a time, considered converting all my DVDs onto it to act as a server (made especially easy with Windows 7 and a home network). But, alas, the time to rip all those movies and the space to store them on became too much to overcome. In addition, then I would be in a position where I could not lend out the movies to friends or take them with me on vacation.

Consider this: To rip 250 DVDs it was going to take up somewhere north of 1TB at compressed (4/9) rates. Since I didn't have a couple of TBs laying around (I would insist on backing this data up, hence the need for 2TB for each 1TB ripped), I thought about selling my DVDs off once I ripped them. By my modest calculation, I would probably get somewhere in the ballpark of $300 - $500 for the collection depending on how they were sold off (as a lot, or individual titles), with all the hassle that comes with it. I might come out marginally ahead, with a slick movie server to show off to my friends. But what for? I would lose, of course, the ability, to share movies with friends or take them with me in the car to entertain the kids on long trips. Nevermind that each movie would take about 30mins to rip (total elapsed time = 125 hours or just under a full week of ripping, if you took no breaks). No thanks.

In any event, I didn't find there to be any audio or video advantages to playing them on my PC. If anything, the video was slightly degraded. (Toss in the problems with playing uncompressed High Def sound with the PC and the whole thing was dead in the water).

As a music and pictures server, the computer is great. For everything else (including recorded TV - who doesn't have/need a cable box these days anyway?), I find the source to simply be superior in every way.

If you think the PC will be a one stop shop for all your media, unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. It's a nice compliment to a cable box and DVD/Blu Ray player, but it doesn't take the place of either.


Can you tell me how it's superior to HTPC? It seems that some of the new ones are supposed to do pass through for audio through HDMI in DTS and True HD. THe blu-ray play back is also said to be as good as the real thing, but I'm not really sure if that is true. Having all my movies and shows available without having to fumble around with blu-rays is a really attractive option for me. But I do not want performance to suffer. I built my HT for a reason after all.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 06:53 PM

Originally Posted By: pmbuko
eztv?

I've been using newsgroups lately. Funny how things come around. I used to be a NNTP fiend back in 1992.
Posted by: Da_Gimp_Pimp

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 07:09 PM

What about WDTV ? I have one and it's sweet.
Posted by: fredk

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 07:24 PM

NOTV works for me...
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 08:24 PM

Originally Posted By: wheelz999
What about WDTV ? I have one and it's sweet.


How does it handle audio?
Posted by: Da_Gimp_Pimp

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 10:34 PM

Sorry, are you asking how the audio sounds? If so, it's comparable to my CD player. Honestly, it's an amazing media player. I actually had someone in for an audition a while back and he was surprised that I was playing mp3's.

I have music, DVDs and Blu-rays on it. Because of my disability, it's turned into my chief player, using it more than my Oppo BDP-83.

Umm, does that answer your query smile ?
Posted by: nickbuol

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 10:47 PM

I too almost went HTPC MANY times. The first was back when a 250 GB hard drive was $100 on a super special black Friday type sale. Ripping was slow too. Meh, I thought to myself, not worth the cost or time.

Fast forward to today. I still haven't done it, although I have made spreadsheets with all of the parts, prices, where to order, etc a couple of times.

And here I sit, on my 4 your old PC (my 1 year old PC sits back home... yeah, still haven't moved yet) whose hard drive failed a couple of months ago. I grabbed a 1 TB drive for it for around $80 and have tons of space. I've been ripping various movies from my collection so that I don't have to have a ton of them sitting in this tiny apartment. It takes me between 8 - 10 minutes to rip just the movie, and about 12 minutes if I grab the menus and everything too. Far from 30 minutes, and this is on old hardware.

Also, if I did make a HTPC today, even with how cheap storage is, I wouldn't rip every movie anyway. I mean really. Doesn't everyone have quite a few movies that are in their collection that they will probably never watch again anyway? Why rip those. And you are right, it isn't worth selling the ones that you want to rip. Sell off the ones that you will really never watch again (I thinned out my SD DVD collection about a year ago. Made about $4 per disc in lots of about 8 movies.), and put the rest on a drive array.
Posted by: grunt

Re: HTPC - 09/27/10 11:26 PM

Originally Posted By: ClubNeon
I let the people of the Internet pull in the shows from OTA, or what ever source, edit out the commercials, encode them into H.264, and pack them into MKV files. I just fill up my HDs with the shows (and eventually buy them on BD when available).

I find most every show I want to see, but I've not looked for anything from those three example channels you gave.


Iíve found that Chrisí way is the most efficient and cost effective because it allows you to try before you buy.

I made an HTPC with the intent of eventually ripping everything CD and DVD but found the process is just to labourious for the convenience and wow factor it gives. Most things BD and SACD I enjoy are things that I spend time with so the convenience of switching them quickly is pointless for me. The stuff I do find convenient to have quickly switch able are audio files I want to listen to casually where the most important feature to me becomes the media manager I use. Itís also convenient to quickly switch between music videos but for everything else the time I would have wasted ripping would never have been recouped in watching.

As far as H.264 MKV they look and sound fine but Iíve never A/B compared the audio to something playing in my BDP83. I have compared PQ and as long as the PC video signal is HDMI I think it looks almost as good as a regular BD. Just a guess but I imagine the audio isnít as good since the sound card is usually the weakest link in most HTPCs.

However, I still use the HTPC more than all the rest of my equipment combined since I capture tens of thousands of songs from streaming radio each year and use it to watch various online content from the likes of Hulu, Netflix and others.

The biggest advantage isnít the HTPC itself but rather the NAS I store stuff on. Having over 6TB of storage space is cool though it runs out very quickly. wink The other advantage is being able to access it remotely over the internet is great when on long trips overseas since most of my music and over 4 TB of compressed video is a few mouse clicks away almost anywhere in the world. Now if I can just figure out how to login to is from my new phone Iíll have it made.

Also an HTPC can double as a good gaming machine.
Posted by: CV

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 12:11 AM

I think the main advantage for me in ripping DVDs would be TV shows, but it would only really be handy with a bunch of metadata for each episode, so I could quickly locate an episode I just remembered. So yeah, they need the entire script of every episode to be part of the searchable data. I'm surprised TV show downloads don't have a lot more of this kind of convenience. That's one thing they could do to make downloads more appealing. Ideally, I'd be able to buy a disc, then be able to download more feature-rich versions for playback on my computer or over my network to a media streamer.

I'd really like a good place to buy high-def versions of music videos of my favorite artists. Those would be great for a jukebox-type application.
Posted by: grunt

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 12:24 AM

Iíve found some HD both video and audio of artists I like on Youtube. Most are Japanese but that could be just because most of my favorite artists now are. Iíve found sever HD versions of Perfume concerts videos that are very good. Not quite BD quality but surprisingly good for something off Youtube.

Good luck on all that metadata since someone has to generate it.
Posted by: CV

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 12:28 AM

Originally Posted By: grunt
Good luck on all that metadata since someone has to generate it.


Ha ha, yeah. You'd think they could at least make the subtitles searchable, though.

I do download music video stuff off of YouTube and other sources, but it's definitely more compressed than I'd like. I'd be willing to pay for high-quality versions.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 08:50 AM

Originally Posted By: wheelz999
Sorry, are you asking how the audio sounds? If so, it's comparable to my CD player. Honestly, it's an amazing media player. I actually had someone in for an audition a while back and he was surprised that I was playing mp3's.

I have music, DVDs and Blu-rays on it. Because of my disability, it's turned into my chief player, using it more than my Oppo BDP-83.

Umm, does that answer your query smile ?


Not really. I would like to know if it can pass bitstream audio through hdmi in Trye HD and or DTS
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 09:25 AM

I'm pretty sure it doesn't.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 09:50 AM

Originally Posted By: ClubNeon
I'm pretty sure it doesn't.


I did not think so. With a real HTPC I should be able to do this. This should then produce sound as good as my PS3 from blu-rays. Am I correct in thinking this or am I missing something?

Thanks.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 10:01 AM

It depends on the HDMI interface built into the HTPC, but more and more do support bitstreaming. You'll also need player software which knows how to put the bitstream out there. Most current versions of BD software can do this when playing actual BDs, but getting lossless audio out of repacked (MKV) files isn't all that well supported.
Posted by: Da_Gimp_Pimp

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 10:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Listener
Originally Posted By: wheelz999
Sorry, are you asking how the audio sounds? If so, it's comparable to my CD player. Honestly, it's an amazing media player. I actually had someone in for an audition a while back and he was surprised that I was playing mp3's.

I have music, DVDs and Blu-rays on it. Because of my disability, it's turned into my chief player, using it more than my Oppo BDP-83.

Umm, does that answer your query smile ?


Not really. I would like to know if it can pass bitstream audio through hdmi in Trye HD and or DTS


I found these results from forums via a quick search-

-"WD TV does output AAC via HDMI, but when the same sound is outputed via optical connection make sure that the reciever that you are connecting to has AAC decoding functionality.
For instance I have the movie Spy Game that is in 6-channel AAC audio. WD TV is able to decode and output the same via HDMI. So far so good. BUt when I got a 5.1 Logitech Z-5500 audio system and connected the WDTV via its optical out, I had no sound. The reason being the Z-5500 wasn't able to decode the AAC. And remember, when connected via optical out of the WD TV, the WD TV does a simple pass through of any and all digital audio formats, which is called Bitstream audio.
That's not the case with other media players, like say the Popcorn Hour or the Dabhoda, wherein they decode the relevant audio format internally and then pass it through their optical out, which is called PCM audio."

-"It understands the codecs, but does not support them. It will not pass or bitstream them through to your receiver (but it DOES pass Dolby TrueHD, fyi).

The WDTV Live currently downmixes DTS-HD MA to DTS Core 5.1ch or Stereo 2.0 ch, depending on the options you've chosen in the WDTV Live settings."

I don't know how factual these statements are, I just posted them in an effort to help you out smile .

Cheers
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 10:31 AM

Thanks guys. I plan on using WMC 7 with the Shark 007 codec packs. From the little research I've done so far it sounds like I should be able to configure the machine to pass through bitstream audio as long as the hardware supports it.

The ASRock website states that their new system supports this functionality.
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 12:24 PM

Listener - to add a couple of points:

According to a website that eludes my right now, while it is technically possible to buy a video card that will pass High Def vid and a bitstream audio (TrueHD or DTS-MA) over HDMI, the sad truth is that the HDCP protections get in the way of making this a viable option without some code cracking. In any event, I haven't yet found solution that is less expensive than a stand-alone blu ray player to get both hi-def sound and video from a blu ray disc.

With regard to quality - this might be due to the fact that my video card is not super strength - I find the image quality to be on par AT BEST with the source played from a stand alone player. Note that, in my set up, both the stand alone player and the PC are hooked up with HDMI cables (for audio on the PC, I use a digital audio out). Perhaps if you got an awesome gaming video card there might be a difference. But for my money, I would rather just buy a standalone player for the money I could spend on the new video card, without the hassle of configuring the video setting and negotiating the audio side of things.

With regard to convenience - sure, if you want to rip just a couple of titles, have at it. But to me, the WHOLE POINT of Blu Ray and DVD on HTPC was so that your WHOLE COLLECTION was on there, meaning no more fumbling with disks. Just scroll through your movies, pick what you want to watch and go.

In truth, though, I think the HTPC thing is more about showing off than actual functionality. Consider this: Even if it only took 8 - 10 minutes to load and rip a DVD, including menus (and not my slower 30 minute time). Consider how many times you will actually watch any single movie, and then consider how long it actually takes to get up and put a disk in the player - probably less than 30 seconds ... let's call it a minute. You'll have to watch each movie 8 times before you start to see actual convenience benefits. And while it's awesome to have a slick interface to show off to your friends when they come over, is it really worth all that work for a 10 minute demo? If they're actually coming over to watch a movie, they'll be more impressed by watching the awesome screen you've got and the great sound system you installed over some (likely glitchy) PC setup. The fact is that my friends come over far too infrequently to make this investment. My wife isn't impressed by this kind of stuff, and the amount of work required to get set up far outstrips any benefit reaped in the future.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 04:22 PM

All good points. The truth is that I am a bit of a tinkerer and that is most likely a part of the appeal. I also like to watch netflix, hulu+ as well as other downloaded content and want to bring those to my TV. I can do some of that with the ps3 right now, but I would prefer a streamlined interface as well as access to many of my ripped blu-rays. The goal for me is to eventually get rid of cable and use the combination of the above mentioned services as well as amazon video on demand etc... to get all of my shows/movies. As far as the time it takes to rip movies... it's not like i'll sit there waiting for it to happen. I will most likely just rip new movies I buy while I'm doing other stuff. You are right though.... It is an expensive and unnecessary toy.
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 04:43 PM

As they say - your mileage may vary. And certainly, if I burned movies as I got them, rather than all at once, the process would become a whole lot more palatable.

The trick to making the HTPC a functional part of your is to either go ALL IN or not go at all, I think.

If you invest wisely, you can build a nice HTPC that will function well for years, will have TV reception and recording capability and, of course, will give you access to internet based media. If the system is a one stop shop for all of those things, then there is certainly a lot of appeal to it, in theory.

I won't tell you not to do it, I can only share my experience. Again, my experience was that the PC part of my setup is great for surfing the web on the TV, listening to music and looking at pictures (all cool features with friends at parties or playing slide shows for folks rather than having to cluster around a 15 inch laptop monitor). The PC was not good for much else, though and was not a good replacement for DVD/BluRay player or Cable box.
Posted by: fredk

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 06:54 PM

Quote:
According to a website that eludes my right now, while it is technically possible to buy a video card that will pass High Def vid and a bitstream audio (TrueHD or DTS-MA) over HDMI, the sad truth is that the HDCP protections get in the way of making this a viable option without some code cracking.

And that is the heart of the matter. HDCP requires both a protected video and audio path. They must be separate. That makes the hardware doubly complicated and adds expense. I don't think that the hardware vendors are going to try too hard to deliver low cost hardware given the luke warm reception the htpc has had thus far.

I honestly think that Sony would be most happy if the whole HTPC thing died an ugly death.

The theoretical advantage to the HTPC was entertainment 'vitrualization'. The ability to use one piece of hardware for multiple entertainment functions. The reality seems to be far from that.
Posted by: Zarak

Re: HTPC - 09/28/10 08:00 PM

One of the reasons I've considered it is the DVR like functionality. I don't like monthly recurring costs, and have lived without a DVR up to this point, but I'm starting to see more of a need with a 9 month old that makes it a bit more difficult to sit and watch shows than it used to be.

I don't watch that much TV to being with. I have an hour of shows on Thursday evenings and that is it other than sports.

Now that the Ceton quad tuner card is out I've considered getting one. It would be hooked up to the PC in the office, so I would need ethernet from there to the TV, as even 802.11n isn't going to cut it for good quality HD I think (unless someone has experience otherwise).

I also don't have a media center extender by the TV, although I do have a PS3, which seems to have some interaction with media center, so I'm not sure how that would work and what the differene is vs. a true extender.
Posted by: Wuchak

Re: HTPC - 09/29/10 01:24 PM

An HD DVR is $10 a month or $120 a year. If it breaks they come replace it. In a year from now if a new model is out they swap it out for you. How many years of that service will you be able to cover for the price of building an HTPC? Now add in time to maintain it,upgrade costs, replacement costs, etc. and you'll see that $10 a month is a sweet deal. Even if you add a second box or a third for different TV's it's still far cheaper in the long run and a lot less hassel.

For $139 you can get a Sony 3D Blu-Ray ready player that connects to the internet to view NetFlix, Pandora, YouTubu, Hulu, etc. It also has a USB input on the back to play anything you want to plug into it.
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 09/29/10 01:39 PM

My wife and kids easily navigate the UI on the D*TV DVR. I don't see any way I could make a HTPC DVR version as user-friendly.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 09:25 AM

I suppose that I can no longer rationalize the HTPC after all these comments. Good thing I don't have to =). WAAHHHH I WANT ONE. WAAHHHHH. As I said .... It is a bit of a hobby. The building of the PC and tinkering with either WMC7 or another media center is a part of the fun for me I guess.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 09:40 AM

Why doesn't everyone drive an automatic transmission?

Why isn't every camera a point-and-shoot?

Some people who have interests in things like a little more control.
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 10:29 AM

I drive an automatic, but shoot with an SLR. I also enjoyed building the PC.

Listener - you can build a decent PC that will serve admirably as a music/picture server for very cheap, especially if you're not worried about aesthetics and can harvest an old PC case with an adequate power supply. Then, all that is left to buy is the MOBO, processor, RAM, disc drives and a hard drive complement. This can be done with less than $300. A good TV tuner will cost about $80 from Hauppauge (optional). With that set up and a copy of Windows 7, you'll have a pretty slick system that is fun to turn on at parties (there is a neat feature on WMC7 that locks the computer and only allows the media center to be played, meaning you can have your PC on at parties, with your guests able to change music, add songs to the queue, etc., without worrying that someone will mistakenly shut down the system or delete all your stuff by mistake.

Don't let me dissuade you from building a PC and having fun with it. Just realize that it is not the one-box panacea that it is advertised. But it can complement a Blu Ray/Cable box nicely.
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 11:53 AM

I've been consistently nodding my head at Adrien's posts in this thread. Or nodding off. I forget. smile

We have a PC co-located with the TV. Once upon a time, I had visions of it replacing my CD changer, DVD player and satellite box.

I did laboriously rip all my CD's, so I got 1 out of 3, which actually makes me pretty happy.

The user interface and connectivity issues for the other two uses ultimately made me decide that stand-alone devices remain "better" for me and our family.

But I am VERY happy to have the PC there, because then I can stream web content to the TV ad-hoc, and also surf the web while I am watching TV (I do have a separate monitor besides the TV display).
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 02:15 PM

Yeah. I have a tendency to be long winded. I get paid by the word and not by the post, like some other folks ...
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 02:36 PM

Not at all!

Wait, you're getting paid?!?!
Posted by: prototype3a

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 03:46 PM

Years ago, I built a mATX desktop which has now essentially become my HTPC.

It has:
Gigabyte geforce 6300igp mobo?
Athlon 64 x2 running at 2.9ghz and ~60w TDP
2 raptor 74gb hard drives in RAID 0
1TB media drive
8800GTS 320MB video card
Plextor short depth dvd burner (hardly ever use)
Antec 550w PSU

I have it connected to my tv with a RGB cable and with 3.5mm to rca cables for audio to my AVR.

As it is, it can play most anything up to 720P and the audio quality is "ok" However, I've been looking to upgrade it some so that it will be able to play 1080P and HD audio codecs without dropping frames all over. During this research I learned that most all the Radeon 5 series cards can do 1080P video and (IIRC) pass HD audio codecs over the hdmi connection. The nVidia 4 series I believe can do the same thing but I prefer the Radeons for this generation. I may be wrong about the HD audio part but I know they can somehow pass audio over HDMI.

I'm looking for a Radeon 5750 to go on sale as it is a bit faster than my 8800gts (5670 is about on par for 3D) for the light gaming I do and it uses ~1/4 the power of my current card.
Posted by: Da_Gimp_Pimp

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 05:43 PM

Originally Posted By: ClubNeon
Why doesn't everyone drive an automatic transmission?

Why isn't every camera a point-and-shoot?

Some people who have interests in things like a little more control.


Pedantic wink smile
Posted by: fredk

Re: HTPC - 09/30/10 07:48 PM

Quote:
.... It is a bit of a hobby. The building of the PC and tinkering with either WMC7 or another media center is a part of the fun for me I guess.

Then build away and ignore us. I get to play with computers all day long at work. That satisfies my itch.
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 10/01/10 06:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Listener
All good points. The truth is that I am a bit of a tinkerer and that is most likely a part of the appeal. I also like to watch netflix, hulu+ as well as other downloaded content and want to bring those to my TV. I can do some of that with the ps3 right now, but I would prefer a streamlined interface as well as access to many of my ripped blu-rays. The goal for me is to eventually get rid of cable and use the combination of the above mentioned services as well as amazon video on demand etc... to get all of my shows/movies. As far as the time it takes to rip movies... it's not like i'll sit there waiting for it to happen. I will most likely just rip new movies I buy while I'm doing other stuff. You are right though.... It is an expensive and unnecessary toy.


My 2

The intel Core i3s & i5s will pass the HD audio codecs w/bitstreaming and 1080P natively with onboard sound and video.. If your thurs 1 hour shown and Sports are all on the networks get an HDHomerun dual tuner (OTA or QAM), if protected cable the Ceton.

With the above, W7 MCE and a software Bluray player (TMT3 for me), your good to go. Also Hulu and Netflix streaming, commercial skipping, DVR, music, photos and the rest.

The other piece of the puzzle is ripped Blurays, Need software, one is AnyDVD HD and lots of drive space. avg 40GB per movie.

For a great setup I recommend the above with a SSD for the OS(Guides and menus snap alot quicker, startup quicker) another drive for recorded TV, 4-8gb RAM and a server for the Bluray rips. I'm up to 16.6TB on my BR W7 Movie server(BR & DVD), and 6TB on my WHS for Recorded TV, Data, photos, music and Squeezebox music server.

All my gear including Servers, HTPCs, Extenders, Receiver, Whole House AUdio Server and Amps, eTc are in a rack across the house from my viewing area. That helps with alot with all the cases and gear.

Avoid a lot of third party software and hacks on HTPC for reliability.

My cable boxes are gone. All HTPCs and extenders 100% of the time.

I love my HTPC.
Jeff
Posted by: prototype3a

Re: HTPC - 10/01/10 07:45 PM

23TB of storage?! WOW! How big a SSD do you need for the OS and such? Some day I'd like to swap the raptors in mine for a SSD and add another 2TB or so media drive. My little case only has room for 3 3.5" hard drives so I have to prioritize a bit more.

During my research I found that the core i3 was the best platform at the moment if you wanted to build one from scratch. However, the i5 seemed to be a better compromise if you needed to transcode video as well.
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 10/01/10 07:54 PM

Originally Posted By: prototype3a
23TB of storage?! WOW! How big a SSD do you need for the OS and such? Some day I'd like to swap the raptors in mine for a SSD and add another 2TB or so media drive. My little case only has room for 3 3.5" hard drives so I have to prioritize a bit more.

During my research I found that the core i3 was the best platform at the moment if you wanted to build one from scratch. However, the i5 seemed to be a better compromise if you needed to transcode video as well.


I've got an intel 40GB for my OS, seen 32/40s for $69/$79 last couple weeks. I do commercial Skip processing and well for the extra couple dollars and they had just come out, and wanted studder free Bluray ray for sure, there were not reviews to read at that time. I went with the "5" 650.

Also to not take a drive space, I used double sided tape and mounted my SSD OS drive on top of my PS.

With all my storage in the rack, I got Norco hot swap cases so I wouldn't have to pull a case out of the rack to add or change a hard drive. At $110 / 2TB, I just add as needed. Actually I think I have about 3.5 TB free right now on the movie server and 3 TB on the WHS. I just buy them when they are on sale.

Waiting for 3 TB drives cheap, should be soon!

For everyone that has Windows: 2005, Vista, W7, Media Center is built in. Buy a $25 tuner for a test and check out the TV interface as a DVR ! I know we are all different with different likes and wants, but I would never go back to the Cable DVR and with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, DVD, Bluray, Music, Photos ...well (I know, I'm sortof a fanboy)
Posted by: Zarak

Re: HTPC - 10/04/10 12:54 PM

I already have a PC that can handle doubling as a HTPC, so my only cost is really for the Ceton card, and to run ethernet if wireless isn't going to cut it.

So I'm looking at $400-500 instead of $10/mo.

This is one of the same reasons I'm considering OOMA. $200 to get free phone service vs. ~$25 a month Vonage is up to now.
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 10/04/10 01:43 PM

Jeff,

It does sound like you're a fanboy. Nothing wrong with that. The biggest thing that would deter me from going this route is if the quality of the blu-ray rips is not as good as watching the actual blu-ray. Have you compared the two? Can you notice any difference in video or audio? On my test machine which is not hooked up to my HT I've been playing around with WMC7. I used a lot of third party tools descrived here: http://www.windows7htpc.com/

It all works really well, but this is on a pc hooked up to a 24: LCD and a pair of klipsh speakers. My current pc does not have HDMI out so I can't see what it would all sound like on my HT.
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 10/04/10 07:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Listener
Jeff,

It does sound like you're a fanboy. Nothing wrong with that. The biggest thing that would deter me from going this route is if the quality of the blu-ray rips is not as good as watching the actual blu-ray. Have you compared the two? Can you notice any difference in video or audio? On my test machine which is not hooked up to my HT I've been playing around with WMC7. I used a lot of third party tools descrived here: http://www.windows7htpc.com/

It all works really well, but this is on a pc hooked up to a 24: LCD and a pair of klipsh speakers. My current pc does not have HDMI out so I can't see what it would all sound like on my HT.



Well I could be wrong but "bits is Bits" for audio bitstreaming to my Onkyo for HD Audio. to me "incredible". I got a Samsung B4600? Bluray player, after a week or two, took it back I can't see a difference in Video quality from my HTPC, once again, "bits is bits". My display is 1080P 120hz Samsung. And I think since I moved to 64 bit/8gb ram/SSD Drive, the HTPC loads quicker than the BD Player when loading a movie

I think the answer is .. get enough power and quality in your parts and don't try to save $20 bucks on a processor or less memory, etc.

But I haven't seriously compared a lot, but I'm VERY HAPPY, and think you would be also.

My friends with components, truely are blown away by my system.. On all fronts... Audio, Video, interface and convenience. But you have to take into consideration the Axioms and display quality compared to some of theirs theirs, etc.

I've got a lot of speaker output in a small space and a 52" screen seating 6.5' away
Posted by: Listener

Re: HTPC - 10/05/10 10:14 AM

[quote=wordgasmWell I could be wrong but "bits is Bits" for audio bitstreaming [/quote]

That's what I was thinking I just wanted to make sure. Thank you Jeff.
Posted by: Capn_Pickard

Re: HTPC - 10/05/10 12:08 PM

In reply to Wordgasm:

HTPC is a viable solution if you invest in a GREAT video card, processor, blu ray drive, high def TV tuner, MOBO configuration that allows for high def content to be streamed. Then, if you can afford the multiple terabytes it takes to rip your movie catalogue, you can be set.

But all of that would (I bet) come at greater cost than a stand alone blu ray deck. There'd be savings over time on a cable subscription, but you'd better REALLY love the 13 high def channels you can pull off the air... And be ready to watch HULU, etc. for most other content.
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 10/05/10 07:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Capn_Pickard
In reply to Wordgasm:

HTPC is a viable solution if you invest in a GREAT video card, processor, blu ray drive, high def TV tuner, MOBO configuration that allows for high def content to be streamed. Then, if you can afford the multiple terabytes it takes to rip your movie catalogue, you can be set.

But all of that would (I bet) come at greater cost than a stand alone blu ray deck. There'd be savings over time on a cable subscription, but you'd better REALLY love the 13 high def channels you can pull off the air... And be ready to watch HULU, etc. for most other content.



These days bit for bit HD from a HTPC (MB/CPU) is cheap and easy, no video card required.

Now tons of TBs of HD space for ripping bluray, and the cases for them and rack/cables/rf remotes so your viewing area isn't a light show and at 90 degrees in december, sure that costs a bit. So do my $3,500 plus of Axioms... it's a hobby ....

The Ceton Cable TV tuner (4 tuners, 1 card) $400 for all Cable content you subscribe to. Yes pricy, but I lose $30 a month in HD DVR rentals for main tv and other TVs using extenders and all my Music/Video is from one interface/source ...

Is all of this for everyone?, I don't think so, Most? I don't think so, those interested? ..... YEP!

Is it satisfying?.. for me yes ... is it worth it? It's a hobby!

Jeff
Posted by: prototype3a

Re: HTPC - 11/17/10 07:40 PM

Welp, I just wanted to say that I finally got that Radeon 5770 and after fighting with it for about an hour, I'm very happy to announce that it's working. The sound over HDMI is amazing and the picture is sooo crisp and the colors are just wonderful.
Posted by: prototype3a

Re: HTPC - 12/08/10 06:48 PM

I want to stab someone in the face at Yamaha right now...

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=14164779#post14164779

This is why my new 5770 won't play nice with my tv.

Anyone have suggestions for an affordable replacement? I'd love to find a good deal on a Denon 890 but that might be tricky at this point in the game.
Posted by: jakewash

Re: HTPC - 12/09/10 12:40 PM

What about a refurb of the 890 or Onkyo?

http://www.ecost.com/category.aspx?categoryid=155438257&p=1&manufacturer=Denon

http://www.shoponkyo.com/products_refurb.cfm?specials=1&group_id=1
Posted by: prototype3a

Re: HTPC - 12/11/10 01:48 AM

I won't touch an Onkyo. I did some looking around and I think I would want either a 1911ci or 2311ci. I decided a while back that I wanted my next unit to have a HD Radio tuner.


HOWEVER! I found a workaround. I used Moninfo to capture the correct EDID data and created an inf file to force the compatibility when using my 663. So far it is working amazingly well. I've also started using MPC-HC.

Next up on the list is to get DTS/DD/DTS-HD... to bitstream.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 12/11/10 02:08 PM

Moninfo is good stuff. I had a ViewSonic TV that advertised its native resolution over the VGA port, but over HDMI its default res was 1280x720, while 1280x720 was also in the VESA mode list.

So I captured the EDID from the VGA and HDMI, then I modified the HDMI discrete timing info for the default mode to match that of the VGA, leaving the 1280x720 only in the mode list. Since ViewSonic often leaves the EDID writable, I was able to re-flash the modified info into the TV. Hooked up my HTPC and got dot-by-dot over the DVI to HDMI cable.
Posted by: prototype3a

Re: HTPC - 12/14/10 12:03 AM

Yup, I'm pretty impressed at how easy it was to do. I figured there had to be a program to do it when I figured out what the problem was but it took me a while to find Moninfo.

I'm not sure, but I think the DD TrueHD entries are missing from my AVR's EDID but I haven't yet been able to get my computer to bitstream anything so I'm not sure it matters at this point.

I'm just really happy to finally have it working right and not have a total mess of cables connecting everything together. It has also been fun playing some now older games with the settings maxed out and barely stressing the system.

It is really pretty amazing how much better everything sounds using hdmi audio instead of the analog outs. The biggest difference is in the subwoofer channel and the overall signal to noise ratio.
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 04/20/11 07:35 PM

Help me, mister wizards -

I've googled the sh!t out of this already, so I AM trying to help myself.

Running Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) on a Zotac Zbox HD-11 nettop. Trying to make this the living room music streaming appliance.

I fiddled endlessly trying to get HDMI audio to work and finally gave up. I think you CAN get it to work through XBMC, but that's not "enough", because I need both a digital source (for the primary listening area) and an analog source (so that the Onkyo TX-SR805 can feed zone2 with the music signal whether we are listening to it in the main area or not).

I have it hooked up via SPDIF and also analog.

I can hear system sounds and browser-based streaming in both zones just fine.

I'm trying to use Rhythmbox as a music player, and no matter what I do, I can't get any sound in Zone2. Same thing for XBMC. Primary zone is fine, but don't seem to have the analog output. But I know it is working at a system level.

Any ideas?
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 04/20/11 07:47 PM

I have a new Onkyo (3008) and no digital music (from HDMI output, per the manual)to zone 2 analog preouts, and I think that applies to zone 2 amplified also.

I have this need also. I'm thinking (for my situ). HDMI from intel core Audio out, then installing the realtek mb soundcard drivers and running analog connects to another input on the rcvr for zone 2, like CD input. (but havent had a chance to go there yet).

Lets keep each other up to date on this "issue"!

Jeff
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 04/20/11 08:11 PM

Righto, Jeff.

The receiver part isn't "new" - I was previously using a similar setup with a PC, so I know you need to have both the digital and analog cables connected to accommodate both the optimal quality and the extra zone.

I am using the preouts for zone 2, not the amplified ones.

Good luck with the HDMI. I think it might be more do-able in Windoze. Like I said, I spent a painful number of hours on that part in Ubuntu before giving up.

I have checked sound preferences and alsamixer and everything seems okay.

With that fancy-schmancy 3008, why would you need to connect the PC? Can't you just use the network streaming feature?
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 04/20/11 08:18 PM

Originally Posted By: tomtuttle
Righto, Jeff.

With that fancy-schmancy 3008, why would you need to connect the PC? Can't you just use the network streaming feature?


Well I "could", but I just recently became aware of "Radio Paradise HD" so with HTPC a running streaming music with pretty pictures thru HDMI on HTPC (or the music section of the HTPC w/photo gallery), then I need the analog Zone 2 pre outs for the same audio on whole house audio .............................................................. I want it all ! smile

I think the analogs to a different input for zone 2 might work (hopefully no delay) have you tried that?

And I know nutin about this Ubuntu..... wont even try to go there too lazy to learn another one right now. Have to learn Server 2008, SQLServer and 5 other new programs for work right now and Im not an IT guy!
Posted by: jakewash

Re: HTPC - 04/22/11 12:12 AM

I am surprised Chris hasn't responded, I know he uses Ubuntu. I played around with it for awhile then realized I could hack my DNS-323 to run Twonky and stopped messing with Ubuntu.
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 04/22/11 03:19 AM

I haven't responded, because I don't have any good advice. I use Ubuntu all day long for work, but when it comes to media playback I use Windows or a dedicated player (like the PS3); most of the time the player. Even if Windows is better at audio over HDMI it even leaves a lot to be desired (like changing channel count when playing stereo audio vs. surround--it always uses all the channels you have configured).

If I were using Ubuntu for any sort of media playback, I'd limit it to being a DLNA server placed in a back room for a small client (WD TV, PS3, etc.) connected over the network. (As it is now, I just sneakernet everything out to the living room and copy it locally to the 500 GB HD I've installed in my PS3.)
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 04/22/11 11:33 AM

Despair.

I get analog audio from a browser and from Audacity, but NOT from either Rhythmbox or Banshee.

Baffling.

So, if I CAN'T get this to work at the system level, is there a way to add an external appliance (a DAC? a ubuntu capable external sound card?) to which I could feed either a USB or SPDIF and would passthrough the SPDIF and also output analog? I suppose I wouldn't need the passthrough if the DAC was of the same quality as that in the Onkyo.

But, you know, looking for cheap, not some stupidly expensive DAC.
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 04/22/11 01:22 PM

Originally Posted By: tomtuttle
Help me, mister wizards -

I've googled the sh!t out of this already, so I AM trying to help myself.

Running Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) on a Zotac Zbox HD-11 nettop. Trying to make this the living room music streaming appliance.

I fiddled endlessly trying to get HDMI audio to work and finally gave up. I think you CAN get it to work through XBMC, but that's not "enough", because I need both a digital source (for the primary listening area) and an analog source (so that the Onkyo TX-SR805 can feed zone2 with the music signal whether we are listening to it in the main area or not).

I have it hooked up via SPDIF and also analog.

I can hear system sounds and browser-based streaming in both zones just fine.

I'm trying to use Rhythmbox as a music player, and no matter what I do, I can't get any sound in Zone2. Same thing for XBMC. Primary zone is fine, but don't seem to have the analog output. But I know it is working at a system level.

Any ideas?


SOLVED (for me)

Zotac zBox HD-ID11
Ubuntu 10.10, 64bit fully updated
(with Partners, Independent and Medibuntu repositories enabled, not that i think it made any difference)

the following instructions are taken from this blog:
http://ossnotebook.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2010-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&updated-max=2011-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=14

Quoted (with minor modification):
on alsamixer press F6 to select the nvidia card, enable all s/PDIF devices

# list the devices
aplay -l
# my sound gets enabled when I play on device speaker-test -D plughw:1,7 -r 44100, after that the sounds starts to work. It's important to use the -r 44100 since the drivers are not setting up the correct frequency.
speaker-test -D plughw:1,3 -r 44100
speaker-test -D plughw:1,7 -r 44100
speaker-test -D plughw:1,8 -r 44100
speaker-test -D plughw:1,9 -r 44100



In case you want to make a permanent change for the hdmi sound as the deafult card you can update /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf and change these lines:

defaults.ctl.card 0
defaults.pcm.card 0
defaults.pcm.device 0

to this:

defaults.ctl.card NVidia
defaults.pcm.card Nvidia
defaults.pcm.device 7

ENDQUOTE
(note that in the original blog they used device 9. i found that i had to use device 7 and i have changed the instructions to reflect that. presumably this will be the case for other HD-ID11 users.)

this is all i had to do. i now have sound through HDMI to my tv system-wide

good luck

http://www.google.com/search?q=Zotac+Zbox+HD-11+&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-ContextMenu&ie=&oe=&rlz=1I7ADFA_en

http://www.zotacusa.com/forum/topic/2924-zbox-hd-id11-linux-no-hdmi-audio/
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 04/22/11 03:56 PM

Thanks, Jeff. I will take a look when I get home. I suspect my problem IS somewhere in alsa or pulse audio.

That thread seems to reference both alsa and oss, which is a little confusing to me.

For a variety of reasons (mostly related to cabling) I'm not using the HDMI for audio, only for video.

Did I mention that - some days - learning is painful?

Really appreciate your help, Jeff.
Posted by: Glitchy

Re: HTPC - 04/23/11 07:41 AM

saw this usb s-card on onkyo thread

http://www.audiophileproducts.com/fireye2
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 07/17/11 08:12 PM

Old thread resuscitation.

Somehow, I did manage to get my analog audio problem solved and am using Banshee. It's fine. Honestly, I don't listen to as much music on this system as I used to. It's been a while since I poked at this, so I don't know exactly what magic sudo thing I did to fix it.

New problem/question:

Having become disillusioned with Netflix after the price increase, I was looking for other vendors. I somehow hit upon Zediva and tried to stream a movie on the subject box (Zotac HD-ID11, Ion 2, dual-core 1.66GHz Atom, Ubuntu). I have Comcast 20Mbps internet service.

The video quality was just awful.

I looked at their FAQ, and they DO seem to recommend a 2.0GHz dual-core, but that just seems unreasonable to me for video streaming. I mean, Netflix is just lovely through either this machine, or the Wii or the XBox. So, I just don't "believe" that you really need that much CPU horsepower to stream video.

What say you?
Posted by: ClubNeon

Re: HTPC - 07/17/11 08:51 PM

If you look around at the reviews for Zediva most people comment that the quality is not very good. I don't think it's the CPU, as the decoding should be done by the video card, and that Ion 2 chipset can do full screen, H.264, 1080p without a problem.
Posted by: tomtuttle

Re: HTPC - 07/17/11 11:40 PM

Thanks, Chris. That's what I thought.

I've been chasing my tail on the NVidia hardware drivers for about a week thinking that something was amiss. I get "This driver is activated but not currently in use" message. Everything *seems* to "work" (except the Zediva video quality), but that message really bothers me. I can't seem to get it fixed, despite hours of analysis and efforts. It *might* be just a Jockey display problem rather than an actual driver problem.

Anyway, it does seem to be a problem with the ZBox, as we just watched "True Grit" via the Macbook Pro with much improved and entirely acceptable video quality.

Harumph.
Posted by: INANE

Re: HTPC - 07/18/11 12:45 AM

I don't watch a ton of Netflix via streaming but I thought their newer "HD" encodes were acceptable... considering they were being streamed on the internet. I still don't watch many movies on it because of audio limitations. Wish they'd get more TV shows but I know the content wars are in full effect right now.

This is all on my i3-2100T.