Originally Posted by slateef
Thanks to all!
I appreciate you taking the time to flesh that out, lockdown. It helped.
@Polemides: No, I'm not interested in recording TV at all.
Again, what I'd like to do is to keep all of my media on one HTPC and then distribute it from there to not only my HT, but to my living room TV and living room/patio speakers (for music). I'd like a program to be able to do that can be controlled via iPad.
On that note, we haven't gotten started on our home yet, so I still have time to plan out how I'm going to distribute the media to all of my locations. Obviously, I'll have HDMI running out of this HTPC to my projector in the HT, but how should I go about getting media to the living room TV and music to the living room and patio speakers? Run another long HDMI run downstairs to the TV? How about the music? I'll of course have a receiver in the HT along with the HTPC, so should I have speaker wire running from there downstairs to the speakers?
Oh, brother...I need help!
XBMC works great for music because you can use AirPlay with your iPad. It turns each device into a music streaming device into whichever room you have it in. On your iPad, all you have to do when you hit play is tap on the little rectangle with a triangle icon next to the volume slider and it will bring up a list of devices you can play it from. MediaBrowser does this as well, so it works either way. With iTunes (Mac or PC), you can output your library to any individual device on Airplay, or all of them at the same time.
It sounds like you want a setup similar to mine.
I have a regular Windows 7 PC with plenty of storage space and flexraid that I use as a Media Server. FlexRaid is a program that takes 2 or more hard drives and pools them together to make 1 hard drive. They call it storage pooling. The best part is it takes all of your files in each hard drive and combines them into the one pooled drive. There is no data loss, and your files are always left as is in case the storage pool disconnects. I have the one pooled drive shared across the entire network. I was using Windows Home Server(WHS), but I stopped because it was a big headache.
I have MediaBrowser3 running as my metadata fetcher, and it has a web interface that lets me watch Movies, TV Shows, Home Videos, listen to Music, or play games in any room or any device. I can only play games on the htpcs, as they require specific software to work correctly as well as controllers. I can play Atari, Nintendo, Sega, etc...
I have a wireless AC router, and two dedicated htpcs (Livingroom and Familyroom). They both are running Windows 7 with XBMC. In the house, there are laptops, iPhones, iPads, and a Kindle. I can use any device to control the other with MediaBrowser, and XBMC has a nice remote app for free in the App store.
The best advice I can give you is not to settle on just one. Try them all out and see which you like best, especially with family input. They are all free for basic functionality except FlexRaid ($30), but you can always donate or upgrade for an affordable amount to get the best features and customization. You don't have to spend a fortune to get the setup you want, and you can always upgrade later.
Don't bother with running speaker wire. Sure it's nice, but you can accomplish similar results with wireless speakers now. Just find some budget friendly wireless speakers you can use with Airplay over wifi. They range anywhere from $50+. Also make sure your wireless router will reach that far. In case it doesn't just get a repeater or range extender. These are pretty cheap now as well.
As for media streaming in various rooms. For the Theater, I would have an HTPC like you stated, but the other rooms you could use an Apple TV, or roku. There are a dozen more that work just as well. If you haven't heard, Google just released a $35 hdmi stick that streams media called the Chromecast. It just plugs into the hdmi port and you're good to go. Development is just beginning for this so it might be worth to wait until most apps and programs are supported. But that should give you an idea of the cost range.
Hope this helps.