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Discussion Starter #1
As the title says, I am in the planning stages of a new homebuilt HTPC/PVR.


I built my first HTPC/PVR with very little trouble (and starting with absolutely no prior HTPC knowledge or experience), using the invaluable information available on AVS Forums. This was back in 2006. As a point of reference, here are the basic specs of that build:


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CPU:

Intel Pentium 4 @3.4GHz processor (Northwood core)


Mobo:

Asus P4P800


Graphics:

NVidia 6600GT AGP card


OS:

Windows XP Professional SP3, 32-bit


Playback S/W:

TheaterTek (good only for MPEG2 sources)


ATSC Tuners (for OTA broadcast):

2 HDHR3 dual LAN units + 1 MyHD MDP-130 PCI card

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The PVR functionality is currently being done with the CW_EPG application that was developed by some amazing AVS veterans.


During the time that I was researching the options in 2006, it seemed the most popular S/W player choices for AVSer's were:


1. Zoom Player, for those who didn't mind the moderately complex setup, and who appreciated the advanced configuration options to tweak and tinker their way to AV perfection.


2. TheaterTek (TT) in conjunction with NVidia PureVideo/hardware acceleration, for those who wanted a nice software player that was easy to set up and had acceptable, if not quite decent, video quality.


I opted for the latter, as I am not a tweaker by nature. Simplicity and stability is what I strive for with my projects. So I did not mind shelling out a little extra cash for TT back in 2006.


And that was it. I have my PVR function that automatically schedules and records up to 5 shows at once for OTA broadcast, and I have my HD playback ability for all OTA recordings (but not much else), using either TT (via NVidia hardware acceleration) or MyHD (via its built-in HW MPEG decoder). Everything has worked great for the last 6 years.


But now I'm getting an upgrade itch, hence this post



As I turn the issues over in my head, I find that I still would rather have simplicity and stablility over ultra-flexable tweakability. This is where I would appreciate some guidance.


For the PVR portion of my new HTPC, I would like to continue using CW_EPG, because I am very satisfied and happy with it. The tuners I currently have (2 HDHomeruns + 1 MyHD MDP-130 PCI card) would be moved to the new HTPC.


But for the new build, I will be moving away from Windows XP and using Windows 7 (probably Home Premium) instead... and, alas, it's time to bid farewell to TheaterTek too.


So what to do for media playback?


From what I gather from my AVS research, those folks who want Windows AND simplicity should just use install Windows 7 and use its native Windows 7 Media Center (7MC) application. Easy, and no additional cost.


But, then, from what I've been reading in the HTPC forum, JRiver Media Center (JRMC) is also a simple media solution that seems very popular here, and is reasonably priced (appx. $50 USD), roughly the same I paid for TT six years ago.


And then there's XBMC, which seems slightly more complicated, especially when building your media library on a dedicated server (which I am also considering at the moment) and distributing the content over a network... but, hey, it's free and seems very well-documented and well-supported by its developers. Plus, it appears to be highly regarded by this esteemed community, which, for me, is worthy of note



So this is where I'm at.


Feedback and comments would be appreciated. In particular, I'd like to know if any of the media player solutions considered here (7MC, JRMC, XBMC) would pose any problems or issues with the CW_EPG application. I understand that 7MC and JRMC have their own built-in PVR functions, but I am assuming that they could be disabled or by-passed in favor of a 3rd-party PVR app. (like CW_EPG), right?


If you made it this far, thanks for reading. And thank you in advance for any further discussion. AVS rocks.
 

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There are two, IMO very important, things that I didn't see you touch on:

1) What you are unhappy with with your current setup.

2) What new functionality you would like in your new setup.


The way I read your post is that you're happy with what you've got, but you're bored. That IMO is a very bad reason to start a new build or to start changing things. You really need a plan and an end goal in mind or you're very likely to go down a rabbit hole chasing new/cool/popular things that you don't really care about and ending up with something that's half baked and not necessarily reliable.


Now, all that said, if I were looking to update my system, and simplicity and reliability were paramount.... Actually, I am, and that is all true for me, so rather than pontificate about what you should do this is what I am doing.


But first a wee bit of background. I run a system based around SageTV on a headless "server" in my utility room and with SageTV extenders at every display. Well SageTV is in stasis (at best) so I've been looking for something being developed/with support.


The best "hope" I see at the moment is Windows Media Center feeding Ceton Echo's, with the WMC role being fulfilled by either a WMC machine or a Ceton Q.


I've found taking the PC out of the playback chain is a very good step in making things simple and reliable.


Now, if you're really set on keeping CW_EPG and using the MyHD for playback, frankly I wouldn't do anything. Especially if you don't want to add Blu-ray or playing ripped movies.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the response. Your insight, particularly the suggestion to think with more precision about what I want/need, I found to be helpful. After thinking about it a bit, here's my take on it.
Quote:
1) What you are unhappy with with your current setup?

One thing is that it has limited storage. In 2006, I bought 2 dedicated hard disk drives for OTA recordings. Both are 300GB Seagate PATA drives, which was sufficient when I completed the build. At the rate I record today, however (I've added more tuners over the years), that storage gets consumed in appx. 2 weeks. So I have to take recordings off of those drives frequently. (I do not watch-and-delete, I am a digital packrat.) But the HTPC only has USB 2.0, which is pretty slow when moving multiple 8GB+ files of 720p/1080i HD. So with an upgrade, I can get bigger HDDs (and move from PATA/IDE to SATA/AHCI), plus I can get faster connections to external drives (to move recordings off of the local drives) with USB 3.0 and/or eSATA.

Quote:
2) What new functionality you would like in your new setup.

The ability to play MPEG4/AVC stuff without stutter, which requires a dual-core CPU.

Quote:
You really need a plan and an end goal in mind or you're very likely to go down a rabbit hole chasing new/cool/popular things that you don't really care about and ending up with something that's half baked and not necessarily reliable.

This is true. But I am curious about implementing a media player front end, particularly for organizing my growing collection of HD OTA recordings.



Thanks again for a good discussion
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vlad Theimpaler  /t/1415524/conceptualizing-a-new-htpc-pvr#post_22129952


Thanks for the response. Your insight, particularly the suggestion to think with more precision about what I want/need, I found to be helpful. After thinking about it a bit, here's my take on it.

One thing is that it has limited storage. In 2006, I bought 2 dedicated hard disk drives for OTA recordings. Both are 300GB Seagate PATA drives, which was sufficient when I completed the build. At the rate I record today, however (I've added more tuners over the years), that storage gets consumed in appx. 2 weeks. So I have to take recordings off of those drives frequently. (I do not watch-and-delete, I am a digital packrat.) But the HTPC only has USB 2.0, which is pretty slow when moving multiple 8GB+ files of 720p/1080i HD. So with an upgrade, I can get bigger HDDs (and move from PATA/IDE to SATA/AHCI), plus I can get faster connections to external drives (to move recordings off of the local drives) with USB 3.0 and/or eSATA.

You could always just add an SATA controller to your existing machine, or, you could also build a NAS, which if you want to not ever have to delete anything, is IMO, probably a better option long term. I guess the point here is more/faster storage doesn't really justify a whole new build...
Quote:
The ability to play MPEG4/AVC stuff without stutter, which requires a dual-core CPU.

That or a good video card, most current video cards (even cheap ones) can offload essentially all the decoding so you don't need a beefy CPU.
Quote:
This is true. But I am curious about implementing a media player front end, particularly for organizing my growing collection of HD OTA recordings.

Thanks again for a good discussion

IMO, if your primary use is for TV recordings (and I'm having a sense of deja-vu here maybe) and you want a better front end, you're just plain using the wrong tool, CW_EPG+MyHD. I don't mean to offend anyone here (and I could be totally wrong) but CW_EPG, as good as it may be, seems basically to be a bandaid for the MyHD's limitations when it comes to recording.


There are other solutions out there (WMC, MythTV, etc) that will give you even better DVR features, plus a nice frontend to access a slew of recordings. I gave up on my MyHD long, long ago because of it's software limitations, and moved on to a more robust DVR solution. In my case it was SageTV, but could easily have been WMC had it been available to "normal" people at the time.
 

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A new hardware project can be a bit of fun and it sounds like you got your money's worth from the current setup. You should think about building a new HTPC and re-purposing the existing box as a NAS. That way you could keep the former small and low powered. As far as the front end, WMC works great as a PVR and is very simple to setup and use. I combine it with MCEBuddy to monitor the save-directory and auto convert and remove commercials on the recordings.


For my media library I prefer XBMC as I've found it very easy to use and highly customisable if you care to spend the time, although the default configuration is quite good. A caveat though - I haven't messed around with WMC/Media Browser all that much so it could very well be a better all-in-one solution for you.
 
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