Exploring the idea of an HTPC...need some input - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 11-06-2013, 01:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

I was looking into building a HTPC a few years ago but got side tracked so it never happened.

I am once again starting to look into it a bit further but I have a few questions.

The way I see it I can go a couple different routes:

I have a Caselabs M8 case that I originally bought to do a really high quality water cooling setup in but now I am thinking about actually using that case as a server since it can hold 24 hard drives....but I am still not sure about that. But one advantage to this would be that I could install three drives to rip 3 movies at a time possibly...not too sure how well you can rip multiple movies at a time works...anyone have experience with this?

I currently do not have too much interest in ripping bluray movies as I dont own enough of them to really worry about it. However, if I build something with an i3 Haswell chip into a Streacom case, will it play blurays at a good enough quality to warrant that rather than streaming my server to something like an Oppo?

It doesnt have to be reference quality but I want the best picture I can get.

Can the Streacom cases handle cable cards without issue? I have read that they can be a bit finiky of a case.

I am currently a DirecTV customer so another option is going to be having to get a PVR to capture video from my satelite box...is this more trouble than it is worth or is it pretty straight forward? Can I set things to record from the HTPC or would I still have to control the satelite box seperately?

If I decide to build with an i3 in a Streacom case, will it be able to Handle Dirac if I decide to give it a try? I dont know how much CPU usage such a program needs...

Finally, I am a PC gamer and build a lot of gaming computers, so one thing that I am also considering is building a a HTPC sized gaming PC to take advantage of the Steam Controller that will be coming out. Does anyone have an opinion about building two seperate systems or would it be just fine to build it all into one?

I ask this cause I am not sure how hard it is to change from something like XBMC to running Steam....there is also going to be the issue of XBMC on SteamOS when it comes out as I will most likely give that system a try as I have already been toying with "Big Picture" mode.

Thanks

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post #2 of 19 Old 11-06-2013, 01:18 PM - Thread Starter
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I forgot a question...other than being able to rip less movies at a time, would there be any other big difference from ripping on the HTPC and then moving it to the server rather than doing it all server side?

I would say no but I am not very familiar with the HTPC yet.

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post #3 of 19 Old 11-06-2013, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I have a Caselabs M8 case that I originally bought to do a really high quality water cooling setup in but now I am thinking about actually using that case as a server since it can hold 24 hard drives....but I am still not sure about that. But one advantage to this would be that I could install three drives to rip 3 movies at a time possibly...not too sure how well you can rip multiple movies at a time works...anyone have experience with this?

I have both a bluray/dvd and hd-dvd/dvd drive on my computer. I've done two at a time before trying to get through a tv series. I use MakeMKV and it allows multiple sessions open.
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Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I currently do not have too much interest in ripping bluray movies as I dont own enough of them to really worry about it. However, if I build something with an i3 Haswell chip into a Streacom case, will it play blurays at a good enough quality to warrant that rather than streaming my server to something like an Oppo?

It doesnt have to be reference quality but I want the best picture I can get.

I think you can. Colors should be at reference levels for sure. Bluray color is sent at 4:2:2. I set my video card to send out 4:4:4 which I personally think pops more. It might be placebo and it might be a bad idea, but I really seem to like it and I have good definition through the entire color ramp.

Depending on the software you use you can get rid of worrying about Cinavia.

The debate you will find is about exactly how well 24p will work and what method you use to get it. When you talk about blurays are you talking about iso files/folder rips or the main movie extracted and remuxed into a single file?
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Can the Streacom cases handle cable cards without issue? I have read that they can be a bit finiky of a case.

Forum user Zygmunt could probably give you the best low down on that. There are so many usb and ethernet model cablecard tuners that you could always consider those too.
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I am currently a DirecTV customer so another option is going to be having to get a PVR to capture video from my satelite box...is this more trouble than it is worth or is it pretty straight forward? Can I set things to record from the HTPC or would I still have to control the satelite box seperately?

If I decide to build with an i3 in a Streacom case, will it be able to Handle Dirac if I decide to give it a try? I dont know how much CPU usage such a program needs...

You will most likely want to send component video and toslink from your Directv box to a capture device (such as Hauppauge HD-PVR). You will connect IR blasters from your computer to the front of your box. Those blasters will be used by your DVR software to tell the box to change the channel.

It is not a perfect system since IR blasting isn't perfect. You will point an htpc remote at your htpc and control it. Then it will control the box. You will watch your box THRU your htpc's hdmi connection, not any connection on the box.

You will be limited to only recording/watching one program at time. You would need another box and another capture device to do more.

The huge benefit is that you have DRM free recordings that you can cut commercials out of, stream to your phone, burn to DVD, compress for archiving, etc. It will also give you a great choice of DVR software to use. CPU usage really won't be much since the lifting to convert the signal is done in the capture devices hardware, not thru the CPU.
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Finally, I am a PC gamer and build a lot of gaming computers, so one thing that I am also considering is building a a HTPC sized gaming PC to take advantage of the Steam Controller that will be coming out. Does anyone have an opinion about building two seperate systems or would it be just fine to build it all into one?

I ask this cause I am not sure how hard it is to change from something like XBMC to running Steam....there is also going to be the issue of XBMC on SteamOS when it comes out as I will most likely give that system a try as I have already been toying with "Big Picture" mode.

I've never done Steam but I have mounted games inside my system. Mostly I do emulators but if you know how to use software like Alcohol you can achieve something like this. Game Browser is a plug in for Media Browser (which is a plugin for Windows Media Center) and its what I use to create this. Im fairly certain I've read on their forum that you can use Steam and I'd be shocked if XBMC can't do it as well. There are also ways in most front end software to minimize the software and launch something else. I use that inside WMC to launch and control my VCR's input.




I wouldn't build two computers but thats just me. Lots of people on the forum would tell you why they think its a good idea.
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I forgot a question...other than being able to rip less movies at a time, would there be any other big difference from ripping on the HTPC and then moving it to the server rather than doing it all server side?

I would say no but I am not very familiar with the HTPC yet.

Lots of users don't like to leave their htpc front end and think all those duties - ripping, metadata management, web browsing - should be done elsewhere. I guess it just depends on what you're comfortable doing.

My HTPC front end set up
Integration for whole home ATSC, CableCARD, FM radio, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD, VHS control & capture, video games, and archived & streaming media playback
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post #4 of 19 Old 11-07-2013, 09:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey thanks for the detailed response.

I have been looking more at how you can integrate Steam into XBMC and it seems like it can be done pretty reasonably. The only issue is it sounds like it will still be exiting XBMC when the game starts if I understand it correctly.

If I build a HTPC for gaming but make it run on XBMC/OpenELEC I wonder if I can control a bluray drive on the server side and play it in real time? Ther server would certainly have to run on Windows Home Server to do this though for the bluray support.

The ability to take out commercials is one reason why I like the idea of a PVR but I am not sure how well it would work or if it would even be worth it. If I go this route I will be looking to cut the cord in many ways and going with OTA tuner, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

But I dont know if I can go without some channels. I came across something called PlayOn yesterday when I was doing some more reading about HTPC setups and it sounds like it replaces alot of channels but when I looked into it further, many of the channels needed you to still have a cable subscription to fully utilize....anyone use this service?

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post #5 of 19 Old 11-07-2013, 09:21 AM
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But I dont know if I can go without some channels. I came across something called PlayOn yesterday when I was doing some more reading about HTPC setups and it sounds like it replaces alot of channels but when I looked into it further, many of the channels needed you to still have a cable subscription to fully utilize....anyone use this service?

PlayOn's main use is to take websites that your computer can log into and send the video to another device (that can't open the given website). So you'd need access to whatever site you wanted to watch. Most networks have lots of their TV shows on their own websites, but they authenticate that you have a tv subscription that includes that channel.

And when you play a game (at least in my experience) lanching it minimizes your front end and launches your game. When you exit your game the front end reappears in full screen.

Many people install Media Player Classic Home Cinema (MPC-HC) as an external video player that works in much the same way. It launches full screen when you select a film and goes right back into your front end when you're done watching.

My HTPC front end set up
Integration for whole home ATSC, CableCARD, FM radio, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD, VHS control & capture, video games, and archived & streaming media playback
Mironto's Panasonic plasma black level restoration guide
Restore the initial MLL on a 2009 Panasonic plasma
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post #6 of 19 Old 11-07-2013, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Ah so PlayOn is a waste then for HTPC then correct?

Can I control a bluray drive in a server box that is running Windows Home Server from a Linux HTPC and watch it as if it was played locally?

I like the idea of linux because of the lack of virus problems but there just is not enough bluray support in it...

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post #7 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok, so talking with my wife I may actually take this to a bigger extreme and drop satelite/cable all together, boost out internet speed(which is rediculously slow at the moment), and go to Netflix with OTA tv and recording.

So I was looking at this:

http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_hvr2250.html

Does anyone have experience with these? from what I understand I can use it to record 2 OTA channels at a time plus watch a different show? Also, I am a little confused about clear QAM is that cable without a cable card?

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post #8 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
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... Does anyone have experience with these? from what I understand I can use it to record 2 OTA channels at a time plus watch a different show? Also, I am a little confused about clear QAM is that cable without a cable card?

I don't have any experience with those cards. In general, which should apply to those cards, however many turners your TV card has is how many channels you can record or watch live simultaneously. Since the card you linked is a dual tuner, it means records two channels, watch two channels, or either watch one live and record one.
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post #9 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 09:26 AM
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Recent FCC ruling effectively killed clear QAM. So I wouldn't waste any money on that if I were you.

I also wouldn't bother with an HTPC for satellite, if that's still on the table.
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post #10 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Interesting, well, that card also works with an OTA antenna from what I understand. However, is there something else that I should look at compared to that?

Trying to enjoy the simple things in life.

 

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post #11 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

Ok, so talking with my wife I may actually take this to a bigger extreme and drop satelite/cable all together, boost out internet speed(which is rediculously slow at the moment), and go to Netflix with OTA tv and recording.

So I was looking at this:

http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_hvr2250.html

Does anyone have experience with these? from what I understand I can use it to record 2 OTA channels at a time plus watch a different show? Also, I am a little confused about clear QAM is that cable without a cable card?

I had that card for a while. Software is crap. Newest drivers pulled from hauppague's site stabilized the card somewhat, but I could get maybe 3 or 4 channels at the most.. and those were always blocky and pixelated. I never got a completely clean recording out of it. Best I could ever get was an almost pixel-free recording of a Dave Matthews concert. I recorded it on a perfectly clear, cloudless day. No wind. No weather issues whatsoever. Here in central New York, that happens once every four thousand years! the 2250 also has an FM tuner that supposedly can pull local FM radio stations over the air. That never worked either.

I ripped it out and gave it to my 7-year-old nephew who likes to break things with hammers.
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post #12 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 12:31 PM
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Quote:
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Interesting, well, that card also works with an OTA antenna from what I understand. However, is there something else that I should look at compared to that?
There's also the Avermedia A188. It's also a dual tuner card and only $50.

Do you have an antenna in place already?
Have you checked your reception?
Do you know how many channels you're going to get?
What software are you going to use to watch tv?
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post #13 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
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doing a google search for "Over the Air channels" for my home town I come back with a TV guide and number of channels I will get. It is about 40 total. I do not have an antenna already as I am just now looking into this. We are just sick of having rediculous bills and want to save money anyway we can.

I will be using XBMC or Media Browser.

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post #14 of 19 Old 11-11-2013, 09:16 PM
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you could go with something like the Silcondust HDHomerun network attached tuners. The newer ones HDHR3 or HDHR3CC (this one doesn't work with ATSC/OTA) work well and not as sensitive to signal jitter as the previous models. I have use the HDH3CC and works well for me. I have the recording machine attached by wire. I also use it to watch live TV on another machine that is connected wirelessly and works fine (as long as the microwave is not running).

The big thing you need to decide is if you're going to go OTA or some limited basic service. As someone mentioned, ClearQAM will still exist, but just won't be used by any of the cable companies, so you'll need a cablecard. I had to do the later because we don't have the antenna setup for whole house use. It's still all of load of crap, but it is what it is.
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post #15 of 19 Old 11-12-2013, 06:39 AM
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When I built my first HTPC I used the Hauppauge 2250 and I had no problems with it. I had cable and used WMC for my PVR application. I recorded NTSC cable and Clear QAM. The 2250 is a dual tuner so you can record two shows at a time or record one show and watch live TV on the other. I am no longer using the 2250 and it's been replaced by two HDHomeRun Primes.

If you are going OTA then I see no reason why the 2250 would not work but I'd go with the HDHomeRun. It is just more flexible and it gets the tuner out of the PC.
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post #16 of 19 Old 11-12-2013, 06:40 AM
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Another possibility here might be to get what they call "basic cable" service from your cable operator. I believe that the FCC requires cable companies to allow a very basic package of channels (mostly the low channels.. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc..). They (the cable companies) won't tell you that they offer it, and they certainly won't advertize it, but you can get it. There won't be any full-time HD channels (but you will receive occasional HD content such as a football game once in a while).

Tier 1 from Time Warner here in Central NY runs about $30. I've been on FIOS for a while now, so I don't know if that pricing is still good. If nothing else, it'll save you from having to go through the antenna hassle (but you'll still have to have a tuner card to receive the signal). I would doubt that an antenna would offer you a whole lot more channels than what you'd get on a basic cable lineup.
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post #17 of 19 Old 11-12-2013, 07:53 PM
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You should make sure everything is working properly before you cut the cord. Get an antenna and make sure you have good reception. You can remove the dish and put the antenna in it's place for optimal reception. This is the one I installed in my roof. I get all the channels in the Los Angeles area. Even though i'm only 16 miles from the towers I had horrible reception using a variety of indoor antennas. And this is the one I installed (put next to a window biggrin.gif ) for my Mom. It's an outdoor antenna but it's very compact and is perfect as an indoor antenna. She struggled with rabbit ears for years. Now she's also able to get great reception.

Are you planning to use XBMC for PVR duties running WMC as the backend?
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post #18 of 19 Old 11-13-2013, 12:12 AM
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Quote:
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Another possibility here might be to get what they call "basic cable" service from your cable operator. I believe that the FCC requires cable companies to allow a very basic package of channels (mostly the low channels.. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc..). They (the cable companies) won't tell you that they offer it, and they certainly won't advertize it, but you can get it. There won't be any full-time HD channels (but you will receive occasional HD content such as a football game once in a while). ...

This is true. The problem with it now is because of the newer FCC ruling, those channels are not encrypted, or will be very soon. So you'll need either TV turner card that can use a CableCard or cable company's cablebox. And depending on the company, you may then need to pay for HD versions of the basic channels.
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post #19 of 19 Old 11-13-2013, 12:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, I'll have to look into the signal strength some more. I know that I wont be getting as many channels as some of you as I am in....Bakersfield, CA...hurray!.....not really...I am trying to move actually but the lack of jobs out there makes it hard.

But I do have some local channels that come in through in HD OTA which I only know because I know a few people who use OTA only.

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