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I know there is growing interest in dedicated "home theater PCs", which function as combination PVRs, DVD players, MP3 players, and CD players.


That's nice, but I want more.


I want to be able to use my dedicated productivity/internet/gaming computer to do everything. Is this possible?


What I'm envisioning is a high-end computer, with a top-of-the-line video card and TV tuner (either an integrated card, which means some sacrifices in the gaming area or, ideally, two separate cards), and the following devices connected:


- VGA/DVI connection to a conventional monitor/panel

- Video-out to a good television

- S/PDIF or TOS-link digital audio-out to an A/V receiver

- Analog audio-out to a 2.1 speaker set for computer gaming

- System remote control


When I'm browsing the net, or writing a document in Word, or playing a game, I'll be using the monitor and 2.1 speakers. When watching time-shifted television or a DVD, or playing MP3/CD music while doing something else, control should be available via the remote with visuals on the TV and audio through the A/V receiver. For convenience this would mean that the computer is always on - I hope Suspend to RAM works well, and that a computer in that state can be awakened via the remote.


Is anyone doing all of this right now? I assume that the Radeon 8500 AIW + RF remote is the best hardware option, but I'd really like to use a dedicated tuner+remote card and give myself some freedom in the 3D video department.


At the moment I have a single PC connected to my TV and receiver which I use for all normal computer activities plus MP3 audio (to receiver) and DVD movies (TV+receiver). But in order to add PVR features and transition to using a computer-based tuner for normal TV viewing, I need more hardware and a plan!
 

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Had your setup running for about 6 months (used HiPix card for HD PVR/timeshifting). Was pretty happy with it & it worked well. Family computer contention got in the way of PVR recording functions so I moved my Media Server activities to another machine just last week. What you want to do is realistic & should be no problem. Enjoy!
 

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What you seek is an ideal solution, but in reality is not attainable because applications are seldom well-behaved. You require the latest driver to make your video card fast, but it causes side effects in your dvd player. You install a state-of-the-art sound card, but it conflicts with the video capture card. Software development is such that one developer rarely knows what effect his product will have on someone else who uses common components. Between drivers, Direct X, and shared dlls, the risk of a bad mix is high. Microsoft XP goes a long way toward isolating programs, but it isn't perfect. You would like your home theater to be as stable as a dedicated piece of hardware, but you can't do that if you continually install new software. A lot of people here use Norton Ghost for that reason, to restore a failed upgrade to a known working state.


Al
 

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The most stable way to achieve your goal is to have a dual-boot system. As the previous poster mentioned, there can be side effects from having multiple applications installed. In addition the tweaks needed for an HTPC environment might not be optimal for an office PC.


Dual booting allows the best of both worlds. Setup one partition for HTPC and the other for your Office PC. This way you install only HTPC related stuff on one partition with all the other software on the second partition.


The HTPC partition can be set as default if you want so that it is always ready for use. When you need to do office work, simply reboot into the other partition.


This separation gives you a stable HTPC while at the same time allowing you to get other uses from your hardware investment.



Cheers

Lester
 

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I use a different harddrive on the same PC with a totally different setup: 1 drive for HTPC with normal audiodrivers etc, 1 for normal use, 1 for video editing, 1 for audio recording/production. That works just fine. Just isntall the applications and drivers you need and your system is perfectl stable. I appreciate this over multpartitiondrives, because a: I need the drive space anyway. It is more secure when a harddrive crashes or you get a virus or something.
 

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I still say it makes more sense to get a separate pc for htpc, for the following reasons:

-You can use the HTPC function(s) 24/7, and use your pc at the same time (maybe you want to play a game, while the mrs wants to watch HDTV or a DVD?)

-Much more stable. You can install ONLY the programs you need to the HTPC, for instance:

*WinXP operating system

*Powerstrip (for custom resolutions)

*ATI dvd player

*Hipix HDTV drivers/app

*Capture card drivers/app

-You don't need to worry about ruining your settings whenever you install new hardware or software...

-Easier to hook up to tv? Get a desktop case, and put your set top boxes on top of it, rather than running long cables from your tower computer, all around the living room (that my fiance HATES).

-Better quality. With shorter cables, you can afford to spend more on them as well.
 

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Boonseeker-


I have a setup for exactly what you describe. My computer has two keyboards and two mice (high-quality on the desktop, wireless in the adjacent living room), and a VGA amplifier to feed video to both a 19" monitor and the 61" RPTV. An IEEE1394 DVD drive is located on top of the living room TV. A removable hard drive case lets me swap drives full of HDTV recordings, and my Pronto remote control works the entertainment-related computer functions as well as operating the regular A/V equipment. I am not a game player, but it plays movies, music, HDTV, and big-screen Web surfing very well, and I have the same bookmarks and other settings ready when I do desktop computing. With PowerStrip, I can easily toggle between wide-screen, full-screen TV, and desktop monitor resolutions. Using Windows XP Pro, I have had very few compatibility problems.
 
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