Apologies...had unexpected family matters come up this weekend.
Russ/Lyndon: Still can't say enough about HTPC's contributions to the Piano. But along with the positives, I experienced some video & audio stutter (pause, start, pause, start....) for which I was intending to seek your advice for. Rather, I searched in the HTPC threads and found some things to try. Interestingly, my search turned up a myrid of possible causes. If I'm understanding correctly, anything that could reduce data (bottle neck) throughput could produce stutter...from the physical DVD drive, DMA settings, HDD speed, swap file size, Mobo, ISA slot location, PCI slot location, CPU speed, IRQ sharing/conflicts, SW player, start up menu settings, drivers, registry settings...you name it, someone suggested it. Through all of this, I really didn't see any postings that definitively pin pointed a cause and a solution. My assessment is that any and/or all of these things could contribute to stutter. However, with respect to DVD playing, I concluded three things: (1) CPU doesn't matter much as there's someone running with a PII @600mhz, (2) RAM doesn't matter...folks are running with 64mb and (3) O/S doesn't matter...98/ME/XP/2000 all seem to work. In my case, I'm running a PIII, 466, 128mb with 98 and Power DVDxp 4.0...DMA on, DVD drive as master on secondary IDE, and 30gb HDD.
My symptoms: Stutter appears to occur only on some DVD's and I think at the point of layer change or after 1hr + of playing time. LOTR is 3 hrs and there's no stutter....OTOH, Jurassic Park and Matrix produces stutter at apparently the layer change point. If I advance past to the next chapter, the the rest of the movie plays fine. Another interesting symptom is that there's constant HDD activity...the busy LED is always flashing. At the point of stutter...both DVD and HDD LED's are solidly on. This would lead one to believe that the HDD's swap file is being overrun. Now, it is also interesting to note that several folks in the HTPC threads cured their stutter by installing a different brand DVD drive....this is after months and months of trying different drivers and tweaking registry settings. Maybe, just maybe, folks are looking too hard. I've decided to use the KISS approach. To that end, I have just installed a different DVD drive and noted that the HDD is not busy at all...the LED hardly flashes! I'm playing a couple of DVD's now that have experienced stutter and...we'll see.
Jim & All...sorry for all this rambling...but you did want to know :)
Piano Rocks (HTPC Noise): There's been a lot mentioned about "quietizing"...quiet HDD's, P/S fans, CPU fans, DVD drives, quieting material for the case, etc. Frankly and in my case, I've done nothing to quiet the thing...just wanted to see what an HTPC would accomplish. Until the question of noise was asked, I didn't even notice...my PC makes no more noise than the Piano. With the HT on at normal listening levels, I can't hear either.
Jim: If you have a spare PC, it may be that an HTPC can be built for even less than $350. I chose the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 sound card ($160)because it was proven...it supposedly has a better/more stable clock. All the sound card has to do is pass a SPDIF signal to your receiver or pre/pro to derive the 5.1....the M-Audio card has many more features that I'll never use. Your brother-in-law may be able to find/suggest something less costly.
BTW...I haven't gotten around to tweaking with the DVI input yet. You'll notice in your manual that for DVI, there's no adjustments for color, tint, and sharpness...makes sense when you think about it. I currently have gamma set for film and zoom filter at "0" and the resulting color, tint, and contrast are very acceptable...Lyndon may want to provide some of his experiences here. PowerDVD has optional selections for color as well.
Be glad to provide further updates or answers if you guys want to continue this topic in this thread.