Touch-screen + volume knob HTPC case for Linux - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-23-2008, 05:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone,

I am searching for a HTPC case, that would have features that I want and that would be fully compatible with Linux.

Is there a HTPC case, that has BOTH of the following two features:
  1. Either a large VFD display plus several buttons OR a touch-screen LCD.
  2. Volume knob.

I will use a projector for the video (I have no TV and I do not want to buy one), therefore either large VFD (i.e. 40 x 4 or so) or a small touchscreen LCD is needed, mostly to be able to select the source for music.

I plan to use a Echo Gina 3G low-profile PCI sound card (6 balanced outputs) and active studio monitors (active speakers). For this reason I want a volume knob on the case (no receiver will be used).

I am fine with a mATX case, but I prefer an ATX case if possible. The case can be low-profile (Gina 3G is low-profile, it should be fairly easy to find a low-profile video card). It should have a slot for a DVD/BR drive, either normal size (preferred) or slim (laptop type).

I found lovely cases, that I see no or very small chance to make it all work in Linux, i.e. the ones that use iMon (by Soundgraph) LCD displays and volume knobs. Examples of such cases are Zalman HD160XT, Thermaltake DH102 or Silverstone SST-GD02B Grandia. I like them, I would accept price up to USD1000 for a full featured case (= with large VFD or touch-screen LCD, remote and PSU), but I cannot find any that would work with Linux (or better say, I find a lot of info from people having serious troubles making it work under Linux).

I also found some VERY expensive cases, like cases made by company called A Tech (it is possible to configure these cases to have volume knobs, larger displays etc.), but the price is simply too high and, more important, I found no info reg. Linux compatibility...

A DIY solution/hint is also welcome, but the price should regret the effort. I found that the car touch-screen LCD's have a nice cradles that should help when mounting the display to a case, there are also many well supported VFD displays, a Griffin PowerMate could probably be attached to the case to act like a volume knob, there are many linux-compatible remotes etc. etc.
The only problem is that simple sum of these items plus a suitable case is probably again near USD1000...

Can you help?
Either by suggesting a case that has the features and will work under Linux.
Or any known DIY setup that would work as expected?

Thank you.
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-24-2008, 01:38 AM - Thread Starter
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To answer my own question: So far I found the only solution (the one I wanted the least) - building a DIY case the following way:
  • A MD11 case from Italian manufacturer Modu and ask them to add two additional holes for a touch-screen and volume knob - price is under $300.
  • A Griffin PowerMate volume knob (and attach is somehow) - $45.
  • A cheap touch-screen, i.e. Lilliput 7" touch-screens are available on ebay under $200. Then remove the front plastic frame and attach it to the front plate. Have seen this elsewhere, should be possible, but buttons that setup the screen (size, brightness etc.) are lost (unless more holes to the front plate and custom buttons in the style of the "DVD eject button extension" are made).
  • An IR receiver and MCE remote - $45.
  • A decent power supply - $60.

The sum incl. shipping should be under $700 (without too much DIY work), which would be cool, since (almost identical quality) A Tech cases cost the double (and requires expensive slim load laptop DVD drives), but there is a major problem: The Lilliput screen is too big - it doesn't fit next to the DVD drive.

I emailed people from Modu, but they didn't answer yet, and I am afraid that moving the DVD drive a little bit sideways is not possible (will post their answer).

Do you know any smaller touch-screen (i.e. 5.6"), so it would fit to the standard MD11 case (without the need of repositioning of the hole and bay for the DVD drive)?

The last (small) issue is attaching the PowerMate, but hopefully this should be easy (bending small metal plate and attaching it to the front plate).
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post #3 of 17 Old 09-25-2008, 01:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Manufacturer of MD11 does not allow to reposition of the DVD (it would mean making new holes to the case itself, which is something they do not want to do).

Moreover, the additional holes would cost €200, which makes it pointless

It looks like this is not the right direction.

So back to my original question - does anybody know about a case with touchscreen and volume knob that works under Linux (MythTV)?

C'mon, I feel lonely in this forum. I thought I am not the only person on the face of the earth that wants to use HTPC without turning on the projector...
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post #4 of 17 Old 09-25-2008, 03:51 AM
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I have a projector only too, but I prefer to keep music and movie playback separate, for music I use an Empeg player (aka Rio Car, meant as a car player but works great in the living room too), which has a great display and very good on-board music browsing and organising software (running on top of a Linux kernel).
This player is not made anymore but you can still get it often on ebay for 200-250 US$.
See here for more information about it:
http://www.riocar.org/modules.php?op...FAQ&file=index

My Linux news / reviews / tips+tricks / downloads web site: http://www.linuxtech.net/
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post #5 of 17 Old 09-25-2008, 03:52 AM
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I remember once reading about using a Palm Pilot as a remote control for a HTPC system. I don't have any real info on this, but you may want to look into this. It would eliminate the need for a case mounted touchscreen, and would also be portable.

Edit: OK, here's one link to using a PDA as a remote:
http://www.remotecentral.com/nevo/index.html
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post #6 of 17 Old 09-25-2008, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you guys.

To tux99: There are many nice separate audio players (I like Squeezebox most). Also I already own Studio Monitor speakers with balanced input, and I want to use a sound card with balanced output (Echo Gina 3G). There is an audiophile version of Squeezbox with balanced outputs, but that cost $2000, which is too much for an audio player (and for me).

To waterhead: This is definetly a very interesting idea I have thought about already, just I couldn't find any decent device to act as a remote. Thanks for pointing a nice device - I will look into this, as it looks very promising. I will also have to consult this with my wife to obtain WAF*

WAF = wife acceptance factor
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-25-2008, 08:23 AM - Thread Starter
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I found a nice page with well maintained list of HTPC cases that work with MythTV. There is currently no case with volume knob and touch-screen, but there are cases that have one of the two things.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-25-2008, 02:54 PM
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I have been eyeing the shuttle d10 for a few days.

http://us.shuttle.com/event/computex/mediakit/Press Kit/Solutions_D10.htm

The thing is tiny and looks pretty slick. I think these little shuttle cubes look so much better than the giant brushed metal cases. I am assuming the screen is just seen as another monitor. No telling if you could find touch drivers for linux. I guess you would have to slap the volume knob on top, no room on front.

And it is only ~$410, which includes the case, motherboard, power supply and cpu cooler.
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post #9 of 17 Old 09-28-2008, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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I have studied Waterhead's suggestion regarding remote touch-screen via a PDA and found-out nice and suitable devices.

So far I found out, that:
  1. Windows or Linux PDA devices are preferable, as it is possible to get free VNC clients for these operating systems. I didn't find any free Palm VNC client software (cheapest is $50, which is quite a lot). Palm PDAs are cheaper than the others, but the price for VNC client softeare makes it the most expensive solution.
  2. It is necessary that the device has either Wi-Fi or blue-tooth (when the device has Wi-Fi, it usually has also a blue-tooth connectivity).
  3. It should be ergonomic.
  4. It's batteries should last several days and it should have non-volatile memory, so in case you leave it under sofa, you don't have to reconfigure it all.
  5. The price should be comparable to the price difference between HTPC case with and without touch-screen.

Did I forget anything?

So far the best devices I found are Waterhead's suggestion Compaq iPAQ H3950 (vertically oriented screen) and Nokia 770 Internet tablet (horizontally oriented screen). Both can be purchased around $150-$200.

Are there any other better devices to consider?

Do you know about any "success story" about MythTV running second screen over VNC?
Or do you think it is better to use the web interface (will I be able to select music from disc and stored internet radios)?
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post #10 of 17 Old 10-07-2008, 07:45 AM
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Try this case Moneual 932p It has a knob and a touch screen built in. I have seen other cases as well like this ranging from $250 - $1500 for the case. You will need to have a video card that can run dual head, and you can set up X to control the two screens. There have been threads about setting that kind of configuration up on the MythTV forum.

If you wish to try another route.. The home automation distribution LinuxMCE can use some cell phones as remotes, or the Nokia N770. I have used my N810 as a remote (which they call an orbiter). Be warned though... That distribution is very picky about what hardware you use. If you do things exactly the way they want, things will work well quickly. The minute you try to customize too much though....
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post #11 of 17 Old 10-08-2008, 03:11 AM
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This isn't available in the U.S. though, at least not yet.

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post #12 of 17 Old 10-08-2008, 09:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pcdoctor View Post

This isn't available in the U.S. though, at least not yet.

It has been available in the US for at least a month.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16856101075
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post #13 of 17 Old 10-08-2008, 12:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for your suggestions. The Shuttle case has no volume knob, which is not what I want (or better say not what my wife wants).

Meanwhile I also re-discovered LinuxMCE myself (I had looked at it earlier this year and then forgot). There is a nice page containing info about all Orbiters that are known to work with LinuxMCE. (Orbiter is a kind of remote that is capable of displaying files on the hard-drive etc.). Exactly what I need to be able to play music without turning on the projector.

In my search for an ideal Orbiter-style remote I already picked-up a favourite: Squeezebox Controller, what a cool remote, exactly what I would love, if someone wrote a plugin that would allow controlling MythTV (including picking files to be played) using this remote

Since this is probably not possible in near future (or am I wrong?) I think I will go for an orbiter device that is well supported (probably some of the Nokia Internet tablets), and has a charging cradle.

I love cases like Moneual MonCaso 932, but I didn't find any "satisfactory way" of making such cases (= cases that use iMon LCD touch-screen + volume knob + remote) work under MythTV, i.e. read this article about Zalman HD160XT + MythTV.

So for me it looks like the best thing now is to go for an orbiter style remote. An orbiter + a case with a compatible volume knob is roughly the same price as a case with a touch-screen and volume knob with no LCD (there are compatible cases like this). The comfort is much higher with the orbiter.

Small hitch is that I prefer MythTV to LinuxMCE (basically only due to the localisation - I am Czech and only MythTV has been translated to Czech so far). So all I need to find out now is a success story with accessing MythTV using VNC server (different approach to LinuxMCE orbiters, but same result in case of my planned setup).

You have been very helpful so far, thank you very much. Can you please point me to a right direction again (working MythTV + VNC)?
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post #14 of 17 Old 10-08-2008, 01:59 PM
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I did a search the other day and I couldn't find this item at Newegg.
Someone on mp3car.com said this Shuttle case might make a good carpc by removing the monitor.
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post #15 of 17 Old 10-10-2008, 09:24 AM
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Hi ivO,

I'm afraid you didn't do your research very well. There is in fact a free vnc client for Palm and surprisingly enough it is called... Palm-VNC. I decided to give it a quick go on a Palm Tungsten T3 (so via bluetooth) and it worked perfectly fine. With some server-side scaling it should be even easier a bit more user friendly (no scrolling) but I haven't tried that yet.
I heard about that functionality of LinuxMCE as well but I don't know how well it works. It uses bluetooth and remembers the user profile associated with that phone (or whatever other bluetooth-enabled device). In other words, when moving from one station to another in your house, your profile and preferences follow you around. Again, in theory, haven't tested that myself.
Let me know how it goes.
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post #16 of 17 Old 10-11-2008, 01:33 PM
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Hello, I am one of the LinuxMCE developers.

I can answer any linuxmce specific questions for cases here.

Currently, we have one VFD driver written for the display on the MSI Media Live.

As for controls, I use the following in my house:

* Nokia N810 orbiter
* Nokia N70 running the mobile orbiter software
* Ipaq running orbiter software for testing PDA screens
* WebDT 375 mounted on the wall, running the CE orbiter software
* Cisco 7970 IP Phone running the orbiter software

not counting my Fiire chief remote on my coffee table.

(I have put all my legacy A/V remotes into the junk drawer, no longer need them.)

All of the controls have access to virtually all of my house's functions, and I am able to use any of them at a given time

-Thom
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post #17 of 17 Old 10-12-2008, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello tschak909!

Well I definitely have some questions:

* Is there a Czech localisation for LinuxMCE? If not, is it planned?
* Do I understand it correctly, that it is possible to use Orbiter as a remote control for a Media Director (or even several Media Directors in other rooms?), and that the Orbiter's screen will allow me to choose files (i.e. music, internet radios) to be played on the Media Director, without turning on the projector?
* Do you know about any fully supported PC case with volume knob? I like Antec Fusion, will it's VFD also work?

Cheers, Ivo.
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