I built the machine, now what? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 06-08-2013, 02:53 PM - Thread Starter
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I just built my first HTPC (my 2nd PC build):

Silverstone ML03B
ASRock FM2A85X Extreme4-M
AMD A8-5600K
Kingston Hyper-X Blu Red 8GB RAM
COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 CPU cooler
Cooler Master GX450 80+ bronze PSU
Samsung 840 120GB SSD
Seagate 500GB HDD
Logitech K400 keyboard
Asus DVD burner/drive

I have many questions and have a stockpile of bookmarked forums, articles, and threads to read. I have read a decent amount already, but am a bit confused with all the options and jargon. I chose to post in this forum because I like the broad range of topics and advice available. While I read my HTPC online literature, I thought I would ask three questions to get things rolling and reduce the amount of reading I need to do:

1. Which OS should I install as a base for my HTPC? Mint, Ubuntu, Windows 7, or other? I am also a Linux newbie but have played some with Mint and Ubuntu (pre-Unity interface).

2. Which HTPC software to use? I am leaning toward XBMC with WMC as a close second if I choose Windows 7. I also am intrigued by Plex, MythTV, Couch Potato, Sick Beard, and seen mention of Geexbox.

3. What else should I be considering at this stage to get my home theater adventure off on the right foot?

I am a total newbie to the digital home theater world. I currently have cable, Roku, and a Netflix capable Bluray player. I have no digital movies, a modest DVD collection,10 or so Bluray discs, and currently use iTunes for my 7GB of music. I do have a modest home photo/video collection. I also have an Asus Transformer tablet, Android smartphone, Nook Color, a laptop, and a desktop both running Windows 7 and connected wirelessly to via home group.

My goal with this is to be able to cut cable and reduce the number of boxes/remotes in the living room. I have only 1 TV, but may add a bedroom TV this year and would put the Roku on that. I want to stream Hulu, Youtube, Netflix (not a must, but I currently have it), and Amazon Prime Instant (also not a must, but I am a Prime member). Eventually (within the next couple of years) I will set up a home server for not only streaming ripped discs but also file sharing in the household, remote access, and backups. Right now I am stuck with cable because I have to have the NFL but am considering OTA TV. This may be limited in my area because I am 40 and 70 miles from the nearest towers in very hilly terrain. Thanks
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post #2 of 10 Old 06-08-2013, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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I should also mention I have found the Assassin guides blog and have joined.
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post #3 of 10 Old 06-08-2013, 11:35 PM
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I built my HTPC about a year ago & use Windows 7 64 bit with WMC & it just plain works for me. Its primary use is an OTA DVR. I play DVD and Blu-ray discs on a stand alone Blu-ray player which also streams Netflix, Youtube, etc. So I've never had a need to use other software, codecs, filters, etc. The HTPC does have a DVD optical drive so it can play standard DVDs.

Some people want to rip their Blu-ray collection to an HTPC but it seems like this takes some playing around to get things right. Some people say you get the best quality using a stand alone Blu-ray player. It's a personal preference depending on your needs/wants.

Once in a while I do stream Hulu using the HTPC with the Hulu desktop software & it works quite well. I have a lot of photos on the main desktop & the HTPC can access them & display them on the big screen which is nice.

If you decide to go with Windows 7 you might as well try WMC since it's included.
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post #4 of 10 Old 06-09-2013, 07:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlutter View Post

I should also mention I have found the Assassin guides blog and have joined.
You've already found what might be considered the best answer to your questions. You need to decide how you want to use your HTPC and configure it accordingly. If you plan on using a cablecard tuner for recording encrypted channels from your provider then Windows 7 is your only choice for an OS. Otherwise, pick what floats your boat.
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post #5 of 10 Old 06-09-2013, 07:46 AM
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I recommend buying ($50) the JRiver Media Center software. I does all the playback setup for you (very nice if you don't know enough about codecs, renderers, splitters, etc. to get this all working right with the free software). It uses LAV and MadVR (said to be the best combination by many). Plus JRiver keeps the software (Lav/MadVR) updated and works directly with the authors of LAV and MadVR to make sure the package works properly. It has an amazing about of customization, has Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube built in, and has superb audio playback/setup tools. It also streams your movies/music to other devices like androids, tablets, networked computers/tvs, etc.
If you want to rip movies to your hard drive you will need to buy a copy of AnyDVD HD to remove the copy protection.
Good luck.
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post #6 of 10 Old 06-09-2013, 10:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. I will look into JRiver. I am thinking I will try Linux Mint 14 or 15 with XBMC to play around with until I can really decide what I want to do with my HTPC. I can always purchase Windows later on if I don't like how Linux is working out (even though it may be 8 or 9 or Blue or whatever). Thanks again.
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post #7 of 10 Old 06-10-2013, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlutter View Post

What else should I be considering at this stage to get my home theater adventure off on the right foot?

1) Keep your initial goals small and specific. HTPCs really shine when you forget it's a PC and just treat it like an appliance. If you start out with a long list of features, it will take a significant amount of time to get them all running, and you will forget what is working and what isn't when you just want to relax and use it.

2) Pick your software and frontend and let that drive your OS choice. Getting Netflix streaming on Linux through Wine is not a battle worth fighting with your first HTPC. DRM is support is better on Windows. Maintenance and remote accessibility is better on Linux. The turnkey options hide the OS from you entirely, but are the least customizable.

3) Try one of the turnkey solutions first (e.g. OpenELEC). These get you up and running in barely more than time it takes to download the iso. Put on your couch potato hat and play with it for few days from a user's perspective. This will give you a much better idea of what features matter to you and give you a point of comparison that will help when you are reading the forums.
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post #8 of 10 Old 06-10-2013, 02:10 PM
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I suggest MediaBrowser for local library playback and WMC for DVR purposes.

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post #9 of 10 Old 06-10-2013, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlutter View Post

I should also mention I have found the Assassin guides blog and have joined.
Quote:
Originally Posted by captain_video View Post

You've already found what might be considered the best answer to your questions. You need to decide how you want to use your HTPC and configure it accordingly. If you plan on using a cablecard tuner for recording encrypted channels from your provider then Windows 7 is your only choice for an OS. Otherwise, pick what floats your boat.

+1

I use and prefer a Windows machine as I am constantly (well, admittedly less constantly lately) tinkering with different software.

As this is your first HTPC this gives you the most flexibility as you can try out a lot of different options and decide what you like and don't like.

My wife uses our HTPC every single day and the way that I have it set up she can use without issue (i.e. more "Appliance-like"). She is my tester as she is VERY non-technical.


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post #10 of 10 Old 06-10-2013, 05:47 PM
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+2 for windows

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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