Hi guys, first post in the HTPC subforum.
I just managed to get my first HTPC and I'm having a number of relatively small issues, so I wanted your opinion. I hesitated a bit about creating my own thread as I could have made multiple posts in other threads, but since the setup is a bit unorthodox, I think it will be easier to have everything under one roof, so to speak.
Sorry for the long first post by the way. But I guess I better describe everything in details if I want useful feedback.Background
So i had this PC, almost unused, that acted principally as a multimedia server as it was located in the basement. It streamed music, videos and pictures to either a PS3 or a WDTV Live, or more recently to a cheap laptop. I liked the laptop a lot -- using XBMC on it was a breeze and it allowed light gaming, while playing everything I threw at it. The server's motherboard died last winter and I upgraded the mobo + cpu + ram out of necessity. I threw in a new video card and SSD recently, making it quite decent overall. I decided to move it in a work room just under the living room, and used a long HDMI cable to connect it directly to my home theater setup upstairs.Goal
The idea is to provide quick access to a decent PC. Since it's still a server, it's always on, and very responsive. So one button on the remote gives me access to a full desktop, ready to go; no plugging in the laptop and waking it, etc. The uses for it are mainly: listening to playlists, watching (recursive) slideshows, watching home made videos, and gaming. Another interesting aspect is that I want to watch the various demo discs found in AVS, bitstreaming the HD audio to my receiver. All of this (gaming excepted) can be done within XBMC. The HTPC is controlled via wireless keyboard and mouse, and also a Harmony remote. Now another peculiarity is that I'm mostly a Linux user; however I decided to dual-boot into Windows in order to most effectively access the gaming capability of the computer. I also want to be able to use the HT setup or the desktop system itself interchangeably.Gear
The PC itself has an Antec Sonata III case with a 500W Antec power supply. The new motheboard is an MSI Z77A-GD65; the cpu is a Core i5-3570k, with 8 GB of RAM. The video card is a GeForce GTX 660: one DVI output is connected to a cheap Asus 1080p monitor, and the HDMI output is connected to the HT setup upstairs. There is plenty of storage on various disks: each OS has its own SSD, and pictures, videos and backups are on bigger conventional disk drives. The wireless keyboard and mouse combo is a bluetooth Logitech MX5500 Revolution, but there is also USB keyboards and mouse connected to the desktop. Since I lost the bluetooth dongle from the combo, I use an iogear GBU521 bluetooth dongle. I also acquired a cheap MCE remote for its USB IR dongle. There is an old Creative 5.1 speakers set connected to the integrated sound card using analog connections. On the HT side, the HTPC is connected to an Onkyo TX-NR818 receiver driving a full 5.1 setup. I have yet to try to pair a PS3 controller to the PC.Issues
The whole setup worked relatively well on the first try, on both sides (HT setup or desktop), and on the two OSes. Yet I have nagging issues that need resolved for the setup to be really seamless.
- On Linux, I set the desktop to be mirrored on the two displays, and there was no problem. On Win 7, it looks like upon booting, the desktop monitor is always blank, as if the mirrored setting is always forgotten, even if the receiver is turned off. I have to Win-P a few times to get video on the desktop screen and proceed from there. It's a pretty minor annoyance but I haven't found a way to make the "desktop mirror" setting stick.
- The wireless mouse works well across OSes. But the keyboard needs pairing each time I switch OS since it uses a passkey, and it's not the same across OSes. I think the solution may involve finding the actual crypto key on one OS and copying it to the other.
- The wireless keyboard doesn't seem to work in GRUB, so I can't remotely boot into Windows. I don't think there's a solution for that one... but in fact there might be, considering the following issue:
- The MCE remote / dongle I acquired in fact presents itself to both OSes as a USB mouse/keyboard combo. I haven't checked if it works inside GRUB yet, but it might. However it complicates things a bit as I wanted to use, say, LIRC to bind a key to specific actions such as launching XBMC. It might still be doable but I'm not sure how to proceed.
- The power key on the remote, to my surprise, immediately shuts down the PC, on Linux and on Windows, no question asked. It doesn't wake them up though. I'm still looking at ways to prevent this behavior, or at least modify it so that it puts the PC to sleep instead.
- On XBMC, video playback is *perfect*. However, music playback stutters, on both the HT setup and the desktop (so it's not dependent upon the output used, HDMI or analog audio). I'm really at a loss as to why it would be so. Using another player doesn't cause this problem. I might post that question in the XBMC thread, too.
- And finally, this is the weirdest issue of all. The nVidia video card, audio-wise, presents itself as 4 different devices, numbered HDMI 0 to HDMI 3. In XBMC, when setting the pass-through device for bitstreaming to the receiver, I have to select one of these. Selecting the one marked "TX-NR818" is not necessarily the good one, bizarrely. Once I find the right device, it works amazingly well. But if I start another video, it doesn't anymore: the correct output device actually changes each time I start a new stream. This is maddening. I have not checked if this is the same in Windows -- I only tested this in Linux. I'll also post this in the XBMC thread later I guess.
Thanks for any tip on those issues.