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post #1 of 20 Old 01-31-2010, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi, I'm planning on building my first HTPC and I was wondering if the Linux HTPC community here could critique my choices for my build and maybe answer some questions that I have. First, my intent: I've decided that I want to cancel my cable TV subscription w/ DVR eventually and instead view shows via Flash sites on the internet, other internet sources, DVDs and possibly OTA HD broadcasts. If I decide to watch OTA HD, I want to have DVR capabilities (probably via MythTV). I have a Logitech Harmony IR remote, so I'd like to be able to use that with the HTPC. I'd like to be able to play Blu-Ray discs as well, but it's not essential. So, given this, here is the build that I'm planning to do:
  • Antec NSK2480 case w/ included 380W power supply
  • Intel BOXDG45ID motherboard (Micro ATX, LGA 775, Intel GMA X4500HD graphics)
  • Intel E7600 (Core 2 Duo, 3.06 Ghz)
  • Seagate Barracuda LP 1TB 5900RPM hard drive
  • 2 GB of RAM (should be way more than enough)
  • Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 2250 (maybe, if I decide that I want to watch OTA broadcasts)
I'm just assuming that the Intel graphics chipset is the way to go; it has high-quality open source drivers and seems to run relatively cool. I'm not too sure about the processor selection; the current selection seems overpowered but it looks like all of the LGA 775 Core 2 Duos dissipate ~65W of heat (I'm guessing this figure is for full load) and motherboards that accept the lower-powered mobile chips seem nearly non-existent.

Here are the questions that I have:
  • IR control: how do you do it so that it's a) internal to the case b) compatible w/ my Logitech Harmony remote?
  • Graphics hardware: does the Intel GMA X4500HD work with XBMC and MythTV? Are all modes of hardware-accelerated decoding supported? What about deinterlacing?
  • Related to graphics: Would a board w/ a GMA X4500 graphics chipset, e.g., the Intel BOXDG45ID, pass Dolby Surround (AC3) audio through HDMI? If not, what would?
  • Keyboard and mouse: Is Bluetooth the way to go for wireless? If so, are there add-on cards that do this? None of the motherboards that I've looked at come with Bluetooth onboard.
  • Is Blu-Ray playback possible on Linux?
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post #2 of 20 Old 01-31-2010, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indubitable View Post

I'm just assuming that the Intel graphics chipset is the way to go; it has high-quality open source drivers and seems to run relatively cool.
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  • IR control: how do you do it so that it's a) internal to the case b) compatible w/ my Logitech Harmony remote?
  • Graphics hardware: does the Intel GMA X4500HD work with XBMC and MythTV? Are all modes of hardware-accelerated decoding supported? What about deinterlacing?
  • Related to graphics: Would a board w/ a GMA X4500 graphics chipset, e.g., the Intel BOXDG45ID, pass Dolby Surround (AC3) audio through HDMI? If not, what would?
  • Keyboard and mouse: Is Bluetooth the way to go for wireless? If so, are there add-on cards that do this? None of the motherboards that I've looked at come with Bluetooth onboard.
  • Is Blu-Ray playback possible on Linux?

I've not heard anyone here ever praise Intel graphics under linux... I'mnot saying that can't and won't change, but conventional wisdom so far as I can tell is Nvidia and VDPAU.

For bluetooth.. I used to go that route, I now prefer RF... more buying choices too.

Scan the topics of this forum and you'll see several on BluRay. Short answer is maybe-at-best for playback. Rip-and-play appears to be a yes.
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post #3 of 20 Old 01-31-2010, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
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zim2dive, thanks for your reply! I read your post and got the feeling that I had not done as much of my homework as I should have .

Quote:
Originally Posted by zim2dive View Post

I've not heard anyone here ever praise Intel graphics under linux... I'mnot saying that can't and won't change, but conventional wisdom so far as I can tell is Nvidia and VDPAU.

I was going by the wikipedia page on Intel integrated graphics, which just couldn't praise them enough for their great open source drivers, etc. Now that I've done a search of the forum, I found this (thread 1057866, sorry, can't post links yet)

Yikes! More than a year after release and it looks like they still aren't working right. I think I will opt for MSI's fanless GeForce 210 instead.
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post #4 of 20 Old 01-31-2010, 09:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indubitable View Post

Hi, I'm planning on building my first HTPC and I was wondering if the Linux HTPC community here could critique my choices for my build and maybe answer some questions that I have. First, my intent: I've decided that I want to cancel my cable TV subscription w/ DVR eventually and instead view shows via Flash sites on the internet, other internet sources, DVDs and possibly OTA HD broadcasts. If I decide to watch OTA HD, I want to have DVR capabilities (probably via MythTV). I have a Logitech Harmony IR remote, so I'd like to be able to use that with the HTPC. I'd like to be able to play Blu-Ray discs as well, but it's not essential. So, given this, here is the build that I'm planning to do:
  • Antec NSK2480 case w/ included 380W power supply
  • Intel BOXDG45ID motherboard (Micro ATX, LGA 775, Intel GMA X4500HD graphics)
  • Intel E7600 (Core 2 Duo, 3.06 Ghz)
  • Seagate Barracuda LP 1TB 5900RPM hard drive
  • 2 GB of RAM (should be way more than enough)
  • Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 2250 (maybe, if I decide that I want to watch OTA broadcasts)
I'm just assuming that the Intel graphics chipset is the way to go; it has high-quality open source drivers and seems to run relatively cool. I'm not too sure about the processor selection; the current selection seems overpowered but it looks like all of the LGA 775 Core 2 Duos dissipate ~65W of heat (I'm guessing this figure is for full load) and motherboards that accept the lower-powered mobile chips seem nearly non-existent.

Here are the questions that I have:
  • IR control: how do you do it so that it's a) internal to the case b) compatible w/ my Logitech Harmony remote?
  • Graphics hardware: does the Intel GMA X4500HD work with XBMC and MythTV? Are all modes of hardware-accelerated decoding supported? What about deinterlacing?
  • Related to graphics: Would a board w/ a GMA X4500 graphics chipset, e.g., the Intel BOXDG45ID, pass Dolby Surround (AC3) audio through HDMI? If not, what would?
  • Keyboard and mouse: Is Bluetooth the way to go for wireless? If so, are there add-on cards that do this? None of the motherboards that I've looked at come with Bluetooth onboard.
  • Is Blu-Ray playback possible on Linux?

Intel graphics are not the best choice specially with respect to Linux based HTPC's. You will lack any kind of hardware video codec acceleration among other issues when used in a Linux HTPC.

I highly recommend that you add an Nvidia based video card, 8600gt-9500gt-gt210-gt220, to take advantage of hardware codec acceleration & much more functional drivers than Intel or even ATI.

If it was a 100% Windows based HTPC I would probably go ATI 5xxx series.

GOD Is Good
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post #5 of 20 Old 02-01-2010, 01:14 AM
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Let me save you some money and frustration.
Case that accepts full ATX board.
http://www.provantage.com/cooler-mas...1~4COOL071.htm
Full size ATX MB. Got 2 of these now.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813135085

Onboard video works fine with HDMI out to 1080P TV. Take your pick of CPU's. Athlon II X2 240's are more than enough. I usually wait til frys has what i want on sale and then sale the cheap MB that comes with them. Picked up an Athlon II X3 425/MB combo the other day for $59. You'll probably want to replace the PSU that comes with the case, although I bought mine without PSU, so it may be ok. You also might want to replace the AMD cooler if you want a really quiet one. I'd suggest a TR2-R1 and a 92mm low rpm PWM fan, although the fan that comes with it only runs about 1500rpm full speed and is very quiet. Well, that's my 2 cents worth. Oh yeah, I've got 3 Dvico Fusion HDTV7 Dual Express PCIe cards in my mb. I got these for about $90 each off ebay over a month or so. They work good.
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post #6 of 20 Old 02-01-2010, 03:33 AM
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Despite wnewell's good experience with ECS boards so far, I'd stay away from them, ECS is well known as a low quality brand which AFAIK has a higher than average failure rate and is not known for being the most stable.

Have you had a look at this article already (linked from the related sticky thread)?
I know some of the suggested boards are not available anymore, but the Asus AMD board (M3N78-EM) should still be available and it should suit your needs well.

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post #7 of 20 Old 02-01-2010, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tux99 View Post

Have you had a look at this article already (linked from the related sticky thread)?
I know some of the suggested boards are not available anymore, but the Asus AMD board (M3N78-EM) should still be available and it should suit your needs well.

The M3N78 is OOS at newegg and $103 (plus shipping) at amazon. Can spend less (with a little careful shopping) and buy separate mobo and a G210/GT220 to get the latest generation VDPAU capabilities (class C for G2xx vs. Class B1 for 8300)

LOL, the B(1) footnote/errata is amusing.. looks like nvidia had a math overflow/logic error in the chip core for some h.264 configs.
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post #8 of 20 Old 02-01-2010, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by tux99 View Post

Despite wnewell's good experience with ECS boards so far, I'd stay away from them, ECS is well known as a low quality brand which AFAIK has a higher than average failure rate and is not known for being the most stable.

ECS is/was known for consumer boards early when at one time they made more boards than all the other manufacturers combined. Their failure rate is no more than any other manufacturer. And I've had lots of experience with all of them over the past 30 years. The GF8200A is a black edition board, meaning it's a feature rich board with lot's of extras. The very first ECS board i used was a K7S5A back around 2000 and it's still running today where I worked before I retired. In fact, I don't recall a single failure of any of the ones I've used. I can't say that for Abit, Asus, and the rest of the alphabet through Zotac which I just had to rma a 7 month old MB. I'd rate the GF8200A as one of the best I've used. And with the current rebate, it's probably the cheapest too.
Quote:


Have you had a look at this article already (linked from the related sticky thread)?
I know some of the suggested boards are not available anymore, but the Asus AMD board (M3N78-EM) should still be available and it should suit your needs well.

There are many boards out there. I don't agree with your assessment of the best, but any of them may work for him, but I wouldn't use most of them. I gave my last Asus board away as the com port didn't function properly and the PS2 ports didn't work with my wireless KB/mouse. Just for the record, they do with the GF8200A ECS board.
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post #9 of 20 Old 02-01-2010, 04:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for all of your replies so far. Since you've presented some boards with integrated 8xxx/9xxx graphics chipsets, I'm curious: what practical difference would VDPAU level C support make vs. level B? Given that the system is going to have a desktop chip in it (as opposed to, say, an Atom), won't it have enough processing capacity to play back HD video either way? Is there much of a difference in deinterlacing modes supported?
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post #10 of 20 Old 02-01-2010, 05:24 PM
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VDPAU feature set C adds MPEG-4 Part 2 decoding, which means DivX and XviD

See also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VDPAU
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG-4_Part_2

An Athlon X2 240-250 shoud be capable of software decoding any DivX/XviD HD files without problems, as they are usually not that high bitrate anyway. If a large percentage of your media files is high bit-rate DivX/XviD, then a feature set C card might make sense.

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post #11 of 20 Old 02-02-2010, 12:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indubitable View Post

Thank you for all of your replies so far. Since you've presented some boards with integrated 8xxx/9xxx graphics chipsets, I'm curious: what practical difference would VDPAU level C support make vs. level B? Given that the system is going to have a desktop chip in it (as opposed to, say, an Atom), won't it have enough processing capacity to play back HD video either way? Is there much of a difference in deinterlacing modes supported?

Yes, Even though all my boards or 8200, I still use the CPu to do the decoding. It's just not a real big deal with any modern CPU. In fact you can run HD PIP easily with even the slowest X2 CPU. So on a standard system it's not a big deal.
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post #12 of 20 Old 02-02-2010, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by wnewell View Post

Yes, Even though all my boards or 8200, I still use the CPu to do the decoding. It's just not a real big deal with any modern CPU. In fact you can run HD PIP easily with even the slowest X2 CPU. So on a standard system it's not a big deal.

Partly depends on what else you want the box to do... if there are any background processes (web, mail, downloads, etc), you may want to offload the CPU.

What I'd like to see is a "top" for the GPUs... does such a thing exist? ie. I can offload playing a video that would take up 40/60/80% of CPU.. but once it hits the GPU (and the CPU is now at 8%), I have no idea how much the GPU is loaded... and how much bandwidth it has left.

Hopefully none of us vegetate in front the the TV enough to see a power cost difference, but similar curiosity would be to which approach uses more power, generates more heat, for the same task.

And don't worry kids.. 10 years from now, the sexy tech will be to offload stuff back to the CPU
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post #13 of 20 Old 02-02-2010, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by tux99 View Post

VDPAU feature set C adds MPEG-4 Part 2 decoding, which means DivX and XviD

Is there driver/software support for this yet? I have a GeForce GT 240 card at home, and would like to try this out since I have an extensive collection of TV shows encoded (by me) in XviD.
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post #14 of 20 Old 02-02-2010, 10:00 AM
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Is there driver/software support for this yet? I have a GeForce GT 240 card at home, and would like to try this out since I have an extensive collection of TV shows encoded (by me) in XviD.

How is your GT240 working under linux? (reports at the nvidia linux forums suggest the GT240 drivers are in not-so-good shape)
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post #15 of 20 Old 02-04-2010, 07:40 AM
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I haven't had much of a chance to test this card in Linux yet. The latest drives did acknowledge the card, even though there are no official drivers supporting it yet in Linux. I mainly got this card because my GeForce 9400 chipset does not like my monitor connected by DVI and my TV connected by HDMI at the same time, even if I only want to use one or the other at a time. It's serving my needs well at this time in Windows world, but I was just curious if it was possible to accelerate XviD with this card yet (in Linux or Windows).
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post #16 of 20 Old 02-04-2010, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Turtleggjp View Post

I haven't had much of a chance to test this card in Linux yet. The latest drives did acknowledge the card, even though there are no official drivers supporting it yet in Linux. I mainly got this card because my GeForce 9400 chipset does not like my monitor connected by DVI and my TV connected by HDMI at the same time, even if I only want to use one or the other at a time. It's serving my needs well at this time in Windows world, but I was just curious if it was possible to accelerate XviD with this card yet (in Linux or Windows).

My GT240 should be here tomorrow. I was going to purchase a GT220 but got it from someone who was unloading a ton of parts & got it for the price a good GT220 would cost.

My HTPC is Linux based so this weekend I'll see how things shape up.

GOD Is Good
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post #17 of 20 Old 02-05-2010, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Kingnubian View Post

My GT240 should be here tomorrow. I was going to purchase a GT220 but got it from someone who was unloading a ton of parts & got it for the price a good GT220 would cost.

My HTPC is Linux based so this weekend I'll see how things shape up.

Reports on the new beta 195.36.03 suggest the 240 will still refuse to crank into high performance mode: http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/show...7&postcount=51

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Originally Posted by zim2dive View Post

Reports on the new beta 195.36.03 suggest the 240 will still refuse to crank into high performance mode: http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/show...7&postcount=51


It seems foolish on Nvidia's part that such an important feature, enabled under Windows for some time, cannot be easily enabled under Linux.

Time for a "Working" beta Nvidia!

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post #19 of 20 Old 02-22-2010, 05:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I finally have it built, and here's what I ended up getting:
  • Antec NSK2480 case w/ included 380W power supply
  • Asus M3N78-VM motherboard (nVidia 8200 IGP)
  • AMD Athlon II X2 240
  • Western Digital WD15EARS Caviar Green 1.5 TB HD
  • 2GB Kingston RAM (dual-channel configuration)
Right now, I have Ubuntu 9.10 installed and I've managed to get audio to output via HDMI, so hooray for small victories. Still searching the forums and working on tweaking video display so videos don't tear in XBMC. I'm fairly confident that Ubuntu 9.10 is using a partitioning tool smart enough to align to 1MB sectors (as opposed to 512K, which is problematic on the newest Caviar Green drives), but I don't know how I might figure out if it did the right thing when creating partitions. Just read about the depressing state of non-support for the SPDIF out port under Linux, but hopefully HDMI audio should be sufficient for my situation.

Thanks to tux99 for pointing out that some of the boards reviewed in his article were still available for purchase. I picked up the board for $79 from some outfit called Compuvest and it's definitely more common (better supported) on this forum than the Intel board I was looking at initially.
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post #20 of 20 Old 02-22-2010, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indubitable View Post

Well, I finally have it built, and here's what I ended up getting:
  • Antec NSK2480 case w/ included 380W power supply
  • Asus M3N78-VM motherboard (nVidia 8200 IGP)
  • AMD Athlon II X2 240
  • Western Digital WD15EARS Caviar Green 1.5 TB HD
  • 2GB Kingston RAM (dual-channel configuration)
Right now, I have Ubuntu 9.10 installed and I've managed to get audio to output via HDMI, so hooray for small victories. Still searching the forums and working on tweaking video display so videos don't tear in XBMC. I'm fairly confident that Ubuntu 9.10 is using a partitioning tool smart enough to align to 1MB sectors (as opposed to 512K, which is problematic on the newest Caviar Green drives), but I don't know how I might figure out if it did the right thing when creating partitions. Just read about the depressing state of non-support for the SPDIF out port under Linux, but hopefully HDMI audio should be sufficient for my situation.

Thanks to tux99 for pointing out that some of the boards reviewed in his article were still available for purchase. I picked up the board for $79 from some outfit called Compuvest and it's definitely more common (better supported) on this forum than the Intel board I was looking at initially.

HDMI and SPDIF both work pretty well on my DFI GF9400 board. It required a bit of configuration to get the channels mapped to the correct speakers, but that was about it. I haven't tried bitstreaming HD audio codecs yet, though.
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