After my 6600 card went up in flames just before Thanksgiving, I found this thread. It has taken me this long just to read and absorb it all. Lots of great information. It is amazing how far you all have gotten with experimentation and seat of the pants try out. As a former IC design engineer, I tend to want to analyze and verify by the numbers before trying.
With the upcoming drop of analog broadcast, has anyone tried to get more digital tuners in their box? I would like to remain at the ability to record three shows at once.
My history: 4+ years ago I took my stock z555 system and made a few changes:
c) Video use
Removed the existing memory (2x256 MB cards) and replaced it with 2GB (2x1GB cards). I new this would exceed the power rating on the power supply but hoped for the best as most specs are worse case. And, as it is, it is the number of memory chips you put in more than the amount of memory that determines the total power. So for those adding memory, try and keep it to two cards instead of bumping it up to four.
The stock system had stutter problems that were well documented. Basically, the issue is bus contention more often than CPU utilization. Every time you add a new source (additional disk, additional card) you are creating a new on ramp to an existing highway OR possibly a new road into an already crowded intersection. There is only so much volume of traffic the internal highways and intersections can handle. The stutter is often when you are exceeding this and some pathways are delayed or become bursty. When trying to record HD OTA and one more analog shows AND watch a recorded HD program from the disk; well I got stutter.
To alleviate the problem in my machine, I added a stock 500 GB IDE drive and forced all TV recording to go there. I did this by replacing the single-termination IDE cable to the DVD with a dual-drive cable more commonly found in computers. The cage for the Personal Media Drive has a USB and standard IDE power plug going to it. You can simply remove the USB and, with the right cable, feed the IDE in through the hole. I found a gaming cable that is round instead of the flat ribbon variety to keep the airflow around the memory as unrestricted as possible. There are screw holes in the top of the cage that line-up with disk mounting holes. Two standard disk mounting screws did the trick to hold the disk in place. Note that it is mounted upside down (card upwards with disk casing below).
c) Video use
My big screen is from 2002 and just before DVI and HDMI came out. So I had to use Component. But, as is well documented, using component turns off the HD capabilities -- something I did not want. So I got an Audio Authority VGA to component converter and then used entech powerstrip to tune the output for what my big screen could handle. (note: this is pre-LCD and Plasma panels with fixed, native resolution
My machine has been a workhorse; often recording three shows simultaneously at night. We never watch live and my family will go back and watch a whole recorded series over the summer. Saves us buying DVD boxed sets or having to watch on the broadcast air date. We rarely watch DVD's through the z555 as I have a nice Sony upconverting player and 5.1 sound system for our big screen display. It even switches the component video and audio for us. But I am intrigued about upconverting the box to a blueray/HD player; likely I need to upgrade my screen as well though
I have since had to replace the GeForce6600 fan once and even the 500GB disk that died from getting overheated. I replaced the disk with a 750GB, lower power one that was available (still IDE). But now the 6600 card finally went up in smoke.
I should note the symptoms of the system as the card died so others can avoid my issues:
a) When overheating, the 6600 pixelates the screen and causes the machine to freeze occassionaly. In the beginning, I would blame these on OS upgrades as often they seem to break the MCE system.
b) As the power-components on the board were dying, I got more CPU freezes that would even disrupt recording with the display not active. It got to the point that I could not record a whole 1 hour show it seemed.
c) Shortly after, when attempting to power on from "amber" status, the machine clicked off. No pushing of the power button would get a response except for maybe a 1/4 second flash of blue under the power button.
I thought at first the power supply had gone. With great effort, I found a new power supply but that did not fix the issue. So then I feared the CPU had finally overheated. So I got the upgrade CPU as described here but no difference. Thirdly, I thought maybe something on the mother board had gone. I could see no visible component that had burned but possibly the bridge chips or similar had gone. With difficulty, found the replacement motherboard but still no change. Then it dawned on me that the power supply has a current-limiting shut-off. If something shorted instead of burning out .... so I removed the video card. Sure enough it powered right up. I put the video card back in and when trying to power up this time, I got a puff of smoke as well as no inaction. The power circuitry on the 6600 card flamed out and was visibly burned this time. So now I have ordered the video card based on your thread hear to get the system back operational. I have also ordered the upgrade LG BlueRay player and SATA to IDE converter adapter described so I can keep the traffic segregated. I may keep the spares ordered or simply return them all. Let's see how that all works.
Oh, and for those looking for the "pinout" of the special cable from the power supply to the daughter card. Knowing the pinout will not help I believe. That card has the front panel power button and IR and keyboard controller circuitry there. So not only is it being fed power but it is controlling the power supply itself. I have not opened the power supply nor tried to trace that board. But the likelihood of using a different power supply and still being able to power up your machine from the remote and/or front panel button are pretty small.