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post #1 of 15 Old 03-25-2013, 04:30 PM - Thread Starter
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I would say about six months ago or so I decided to move away from Tivo and move to a true HTPC only solution. This was mostly driven by the fact that I finally built out my gigabit network and WHS 2011 computer. I wanted all my movies, recently recorded TV and other misc TV programming in one place, but also as important or if not more important it needed to be reliable and easy enough to receive the very hard to achieve seal of approval from the wife. Through trial and error I think I have finally found a setup that I really like and therefore thought I would share the details in case someone was struggling with something I was or if someone has a recommendation on how to improve upon what I have I would love to hear it.

Hardware – I won’t go into too many of the specifics here, but wanted to point out that I am a huge fan of the Harmony remotes and thus have one controlling everything and then also have a HTPC Keyboard/mouse that hopefully is used as little as possible. Input from the Harmony remote to the HTPC is via a IR USB receiver via Harmony 900 RF. I have your basic HTPC rig hooked up to a 65” TV via HDMI with DTS-HD and True-HD (where available) running through the receiver to a 7.1 setup. I also have a HDHR3-CC that provides 3 tuners to the whole network.

Mapping of Harmony buttons – This is all done via EventGhost http://www.eventghost.org/ This is a great piece of software and has a lot of power built into it. It did take a little bit of time to learn how to get it to do what I wanted, but now I can get it do most anything pretty easily.

Powering on
– This is done through a Harmony 900. I like the 900 because the only thing the harmony does via IR is turning the TV on and off. The rest is done via RF and thus gives me a much better success ratio. Besides turning on the TV and receiver the harmony is programmed to start LiveTV via MCE. I would also note that I am using the MCE Standby Tool http://slicksolutions.eu/ which seems to work well in waking up and putting the HTPC to sleep.

Live TV – This is pretty straight forward. I use the LiveTV of MCE. It seems to work well, is stable and best of all is included in the price of admission with Windows 7. Also there is no cost for guide data and the data provided seems to be pretty good. To add a little pizazz to the guide I have installed My Channel Logos http://www.mychannellogos.com which will automatically ad channel logos and almost as important or if not more important allows you to tweak the number of channels you see in the guide. On a 65 inch TV you are able to see a lot of channels at the same time which saves you from paging up and down a lot.

RecordedTV
– This has been the most recent change I have made. I started using Recorded TV HD http://www.recordedtvhd.com/ not too long ago and really like it. I like the fanart that it automatically downloads. It groups my recordings much better than the stock MCE RecordedTV and best of all I can integrate both my recently recorded TV (stored on the HTPC) and the TV programming I keep on my WHS 2011 which mostly consists of complete season DVD’s that I have ripped to hard drive. This feature the wife especially seems to like since all her TV programming is in one place.

And naturally I use DVRMSToolBox, DTBadd-in and ShowAnalyzer to skip commercials. A good walk through can be found at http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/22/how-to-automatically-skip-commercials-in-windows-7-media-center/

Movies – This is where Media Portal starts to enter the picture. I really like the look and feel of the latest version. On the Harmony remote I have created two soft buttons. One that automatically closes MCE and opens Media Portal and the other does the opposite. With the help of Event Ghost this seems to work really well and seems to be very stable. In addition to Media Portal I use Moving Pictures plug in for the movies. http://www.team-mediaportal.com/extensions/movies-videos/moving-pictures With this setup I just rip my movies at my main desktop computer and then move the files to my WHS and Moving Picture automatically adds it along with the corresponding fan art. I might also add that I use Shark Codecs http://shark007.net/ to ensure proper bit streaming.

Back in the day I use to be a loyal fan of My Movies, but have since moved away from that program due to the fact that it costs money to get a lot of features now and for whatever reason back when I was still using the software it seemed to be very slow to load. Also some of the bells and whistles did not seem to work as well as needed to pass the wife test. Moving Pictures has a clean interface that seems to work well.

Pictures – Again this is done through the Media Portal interface. Nothing overly special here. If anyone knows of good plugins for this I would love to hear it, but again while I love all the bells and whistles those can not come at the expense of stability. Nothing worse than sitting down with family and friends to look at some photos and it not being a clean and easy experience.

Music – Again this is done through Media Portal. Same as pictures. Easy access to the music collection is key. Although I have been using Spotify for a while now and I am still looking for a way to integrate that into the work flow.

Misc – I have used a couple of programs (sorry no links) to remove/hide the unused menu items on both MCE and Media Portal which provides a cleaner look. As mentioned above I have also installed the Shark Codecs http://shark007.net/ to ensure proper bit streaming.

Summary – In summary the above allows me and the wife to watch LiveTV, Recorded TV, Ripped TV, Ripped Movies, look at the photo albums and listen to music all in one clean package that is all easily navigable via a harmony remote. The only time the Keyboard is broken out is usually when searching to record a new TV series or doing something outside of the previously mentioned activities.

Things I would like to either improve or add…
Series record – MCE seems to do a horrible job of series recordings. Any suggestions here would be appreciated. Tivo did a really good job of this and I miss this feature of Tivo.
Music – Like I mentioned I am currently using Spotify for my listening and would love someone to create a Spotify plugin. I have been meaning to give this a try https://www.assembla.com/spaces/rockstar/wiki

PS - A special thanks to this forum. Most of the features listed above were found through this forum and therefore would not be possible without it. How did we get our information in the days prior to the internet.

*********************************

3/26/2013

Atomic Clock Sync - Forgot to mention this program. I noticed that if your clock is just a little bit off it can really affect your recording start and stop times. This especially true when your HTPC is a collection of misc computer parts and use an older motherboard which results in your computer clock having a tendency of losing time. This program runs as a service and automatically updates your clock. http://www.worldtimeserver.com/atomic-clock/
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post #2 of 15 Old 03-25-2013, 11:44 PM
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Nice setup! It is very similar to mine except I use xbmc instead of media portal. What made you use event ghost rather than something like autohotkey? Are there more features? With my setup I have a script assigned to a soft button on my harmony remote and it will launch various programs like xbmc and Hulu desktop and then simultaneously kill all other programs.

Also, what is your success rate with the DVR Toolbox for removing commercials? Does it detect them well? Does it work on copy once videos?

Finally, my biggest challenge right now is trying to figure out how to get some Internet video content on my htpc. I know there are ways to get things like amazon vod and crunchy roll through xbmc but its not very pretty and kind of brings you out of the experience of xbmc. What's your solution for Internet video streams?
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post #3 of 15 Old 03-26-2013, 01:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Have not used autohotkey because I never heard of that one before. Did a quick check and it looks like it is very similar to Event Ghost.

So far DVR Toolbox has been working great. The feature I like is that if by chance it does not do its job right you can just manually control the skip. The program merely identifies where the commercials are and skips that portion of the program. It does not actually remove the video. I have yet to come across any issues with copy once videos. I have Comcast and from what I understand they don’t flag much.

For the most part I stay away from internet video. I have yet to find anything that works all that well and have certainly not found anything that looks pretty. Also for the most part internet video is very compressed and therefore does not look good on a 65” screen. The feature I did like on My Movies is it has a function to play a trailer from the internet although this function did not work all that great. I would love to find something that would play trailers from the internet for the movies I own, but until someone comes up with something that works good and looks good I will stay away from internet videos.

I think with the latest version of Media Portal there is very little difference between it and XBMC. Both are great products. From my limited experience XBMC seems to be a little more tweakable and therefore takes a little more elbow grease to get setup. Meida Portal gave me pretty much everything I wanted including HD audio pretty much right out of the box.
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post #4 of 15 Old 03-26-2013, 01:59 PM
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What problem, specifically, have you had with Series recordings?
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post #5 of 15 Old 03-26-2013, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by GrantMeThePower View Post

What problem, specifically, have you had with Series recordings?

The current example is either Daily Show or Tosh.0. I specify record new shows only and even choose the general time option and it seems to record lots of reruns and duplicates even though right in the description it says re-run. I would think the program should be smart enough to at least be able to identify it is a rerun when it says that right in the description.
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post #6 of 15 Old 03-26-2013, 02:37 PM
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I tried DVR toolbox awhile ago and it didnt work too well, but it sounds like the show analyzer has gotten better. I will give it a try.

As for movie trailers, I know in XBMC it is possible and I currently have it setup to stream trailers from apple trailers. I feel it works very well with the look and feel of XBMC. All you have to do is scroll to the movie press up and it starts in a mini window. There is probably something similar for media portal.

For the series recordings, you just need to set up the general guidelines of the series then, you can customize each show. For example, I have my defaults set to record only new episodes and in HD. However, if i need to change it for some reason for a particular show, I can manually go in and change the settings. I feel like the MCE recording is more robust than TiVo. The only issues I have had are some shows not recording because the program data does not flag the specific show as new episodes. However this can be fixed by saying what time it should record the show. What specific issue are you having?

For the MCE standby tool does it work well with Win7? How does it do when recording a series? Will it wake up the PC before the recording?
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post #7 of 15 Old 03-26-2013, 02:57 PM - Thread Starter
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I tried DVR toolbox awhile ago and it didnt work too well, but it sounds like the show analyzer has gotten better. I will give it a try.

Yes you should give Show Analyzer a try again. The newest version sets the default profile to work with DVR Toolbox. Again the part I like is that if it does not work for whatever reason you just do it manually. Also if you use Recorded TV HD it will actually show you were the commercials are in the status bar. More of a cosmetic feature, but I have grown to like the feature.

Quote:
For the series recordings, you just need to set up the general guidelines of the series then, you can customize each show. For example, I have my defaults set to record only new episodes and in HD. However, if i need to change it for some reason for a particular show, I can manually go in and change the settings. I feel like the MCE recording is more robust than TiVo. The only issues I have had are some shows not recording because the program data does not flag the specific show as new episodes. However this can be fixed by saying what time it should record the show. What specific issue are you having?

Sounds like we are approaching it in the same manner. Yes for the most part it does OK especially if you go in and tweak it specifically, but I just miss the ease in which Tivo use to handle this task. I have the same issue with it recording reruns even though I set it to run just first runs.
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For the MCE standby tool does it work well with Win7? How does it do when recording a series? Will it wake up the PC before the recording?

This is one of those things where I don't ask questions. It just works and seems to work well. I have had no problem with it waking up and recording. When I installed it I was a little nervous because there does not seem to be a way to really test it without just going away, letting it do its thing and then coming back. I followed the suggested settings in the link above and it seemed to work. Until I used this I had the hardest time trying to get my computer not so much to go to sleep, but to wake up and this program seems to do just that.
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post #8 of 15 Old 01-28-2014, 08:28 PM
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Well Merikle, since you linked this thread in my thread, I now must ask: Why do you need MCE Standby tool at all? I simply set my pc to sleep after 30 mins, and it wakes itself up a couple of mins b4 a scheduled recording.Same thing if I put it to sleep from within WMC.
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post #9 of 15 Old 01-28-2014, 09:21 PM - Thread Starter
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To be honest not sure how exactly it works but does a better job putting computer to sleep and restarts computer once a day. I have two htpcs and only use it on one. If you are happy without it great but if you are having trouble getting your computer to sleep correctly this seems to help a lot of people
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post #10 of 15 Old 01-28-2014, 11:27 PM
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Interesting. We have three pc's here, two Win 7 and one Win 8.1. The two 7's have no problem sleeping, but the 8.1 will only sleep if it's triggered manually (though it seems to wake up for scheduled recordings ok).

Sent from my Nexus 7
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post #11 of 15 Old 01-29-2014, 02:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmerikle View Post

For the most part I stay away from internet video. I have yet to find anything that works all that well and have certainly not found anything that looks pretty. Also for the most part internet video is very compressed and therefore does not look good on a 65” screen. The feature I did like on My Movies is it has a function to play a trailer from the internet although this function did not work all that great. I would love to find something that would play trailers from the internet for the movies I own, but until someone comes up with something that works good and looks good I will stay away from internet videos.

I think with the latest version of Media Portal there is very little difference between it and XBMC. Both are great products. From my limited experience XBMC seems to be a little more tweakable and therefore takes a little more elbow grease to get setup. Meida Portal gave me pretty much everything I wanted including HD audio pretty much right out of the box.

Mediaportal and Moving pictures enable trailers to be watched for movies if you include the trailers plugin.
What skin are you using?

Also, I assume you are using MCE to record copy-protected content from cable-card?
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post #12 of 15 Old 01-29-2014, 08:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Mediaportal and Moving pictures enable trailers to be watched for movies if you include the trailers plugin.
What skin are you using?

Also, I assume you are using MCE to record copy-protected content from cable-card?

Yea I just came back to this thread the other day and was thinking I should update it some. I am using Streamed MP skin with Moving Pictures and have the trailer plugin. It works great now. You click on the movie you want to bring up the screen with the movie info and then just hit the right direction button on the remote and it pulls up the little extra menu from there you pick trailer and it pulls up the trailer. Even nicer is it pulls up the higher definition trailer when available. Really helps when you have friends or wife that want to see trailers to help decide on which movie.

As for the copy-protected content. I don't want to jinx myself, but I have never encountered an issue with that. And would guess lots of what I work with would have some type of copy protection. I have actually been thinking about upgrading my AVR since that is getting old and thinking about going 3D, but have been holding off just to make sure I don't introduce any problems. In regards to MCE recordings I record everything on the living room TV and it is stored on the living room HTPC and then the computer in the bedroom pulls from the living room HTPC and have not had any issues. As for ripped movies I use AnyDVD and therefore I should have no issues there. BTW buying that lifetime subscription to AnyDVD has probably been my best software purchase ever.
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post #13 of 15 Old 01-29-2014, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by rmerikle View Post

Yea I just came back to this thread the other day and was thinking I should update it some. I am using Streamed MP skin with Moving Pictures and have the trailer plugin. It works great now. You click on the movie you want to bring up the screen with the movie info and then just hit the right direction button on the remote and it pulls up the little extra menu from there you pick trailer and it pulls up the trailer. Even nicer is it pulls up the higher definition trailer when available. Really helps when you have friends or wife that want to see trailers to help decide on which movie.

As for the copy-protected content. I don't want to jinx myself, but I have never encountered an issue with that. And would guess lots of what I work with would have some type of copy protection. I have actually been thinking about upgrading my AVR since that is getting old and thinking about going 3D, but have been holding off just to make sure I don't introduce any problems. In regards to MCE recordings I record everything on the living room TV and it is stored on the living room HTPC and then the computer in the bedroom pulls from the living room HTPC and have not had any issues. As for ripped movies I use AnyDVD and therefore I should have no issues there. BTW buying that lifetime subscription to AnyDVD has probably been my best software purchase ever.

Sorry, I meant that I assume you are using MCE instead of the mediaportal TV server because it is the only TV server to offer playback of copy-protected content (i.e. Copy once).

Streamed MP is great, saves from having to upgrade all the components seperately and is a really nice interface (as least I think so).
Also, if you use android or iPhone (or tablets) and would like content streamed to them you should look at MPExtended (combined with either ampDroid, iPimp or WebMediaportal).
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post #14 of 15 Old 01-29-2014, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Sorry, I meant that I assume you are using MCE instead of the mediaportal TV server because it is the only TV server to offer playback of copy-protected content (i.e. Copy once).

Streamed MP is great, saves from having to upgrade all the components seperately and is a really nice interface (as least I think so).
Also, if you use android or iPhone (or tablets) and would like content streamed to them you should look at MPExtended (combined with either ampDroid, iPimp or WebMediaportal).

Yep you are correct. Actually I now have it setup so that the only thing I use Mediaportal for is movies. It is setup so that with a click of a button it goes straight into Moving Pictures and unless you back out of it you would not know MediaPortal is even there. The music playback on MCE is no that great, but I have a directory of my current favorites that I link MCE to and then link my ipad and iphone to. Every since I discovered Spotify I use that if I am really looking to play music. Have yet to find a plugin that works well for that especially since I don't have a premium subscription. And yes Streamed MP is a nice package. Until I started using RecordedTV HD I would have all my TV episodes played back on that, but having both current recorded TV and series in one place is nice not only for me, but the wife likes it which is an important thing.

Considering all the time and money I have invested in my entertainment system I really don't spend a lot of time viewing content. When I do (especially for movies) I like sitting on my couch with full cinema experience. Maybe I am old, but just don't like streaming to tablets or other devices. Rather spend that time reading on them rather than viewing material.
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post #15 of 15 Old 01-29-2014, 03:07 PM
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Yep you are correct. Actually I now have it setup so that the only thing I use Mediaportal for is movies. It is setup so that with a click of a button it goes straight into Moving Pictures and unless you back out of it you would not know MediaPortal is even there. The music playback on MCE is no that great, but I have a directory of my current favorites that I link MCE to and then link my ipad and iphone to. Every since I discovered Spotify I use that if I am really looking to play music. Have yet to find a plugin that works well for that especially since I don't have a premium subscription. And yes Streamed MP is a nice package. Until I started using RecordedTV HD I would have all my TV episodes played back on that, but having both current recorded TV and series in one place is nice not only for me, but the wife likes it which is an important thing.

Considering all the time and money I have invested in my entertainment system I really don't spend a lot of time viewing content. When I do (especially for movies) I like sitting on my couch with full cinema experience. Maybe I am old, but just don't like streaming to tablets or other devices. Rather spend that time reading on them rather than viewing material.

I completely understand about having all the tv series and recordings in the same location. People have done this in MePo using TVseries but I think currently it is still a bit of a hack (although someone may prove me wrong).

I like the ability to watch TV from my own HTPC when I'm on the road, airport etc using a smartphone. That way it doesn't feel like wasted time (sitting round). Books are another great option for the road ;-)
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