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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm getting close to pulling the trigger on a HTPC, building from scratch. I have been doing my best to read up on the forums and educate myself on the issues here. Unfortunately I think my lack of knowledge is making me more confused than I may have been before I started. I also keep running into threads that are 2 years old or so when I am searching. So I am throwing myself out here for help.


I did see and read the guide that renethx put together on different set ups. Very useful! I can pick and choose hardware based on that I believe. Where I get confused though is all the talk I see about bitstreams, HD audio, S/PDIF and the like. So I thought I would try this: I'll list what I want to be able to do and maybe some kind folks here can confirm that if I get the basic HTPC (or a more advanced one if that what I need), I will in fact be able to do what I want.


Purpose of my HTPC:


1: Watch, pause, rewind and record HD programming (as well as standard def stuf) that is coming from my cable provider (Comcast).


2: Play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs and give me at least 5.1 (7.1 would be better) surround sound in all the fancy formats (TrueHD etc). I just picked up an Onkyo 607 AVR so this shouldn't be an issue right? Or is all this bitstreaming issue stuff enough of a problem that I should just buy a separate blu-ray player? (which would give me a good excuse to get a PS3, or just hold off on Blu-Ray for a bit)?


3: Allow me to surf the internet and stream videos from stuff like Netflix, youtube, hulu or whatever place I visit.


4: Store all my music (and obviously allow me to play it back) as well as play streaming on-line music (Pandora, iTunes radio, etc) on the nice new speakers I got via the AVR.


5: Be able to connect to my AVR (and thus the TV) via HDMI. I will just need to get the right motherboard (and CPU) that has an HDMI out right? Just one cable will be all that is needed?


That's really about it. I don't need to access a server, or stream to multiple TVs, rip and burn DVDs and BD or anything like that. The only thing I may do at some point would be play games, but I have a separate PC that is a gaming rig that I use right now. I don't see a need to build a second gaming rig, and I like the idea of having my gaming PC separate from the HT so the girlfriend can watch her silly girly shows while I play my dorky computer games.


Is there anything else I am missing, or things I should think about before I make a purchase? Is this all simple stuff that a basic HTPC can handle?
 

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1) No idea, don't mess with cable.


2) Pretty sure the newer ATI HD5000 series cards bit stream HD audio via HDMI


3) Internet browser of choice


4) Windows/Linux/Mac


5) See 2
 

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A standard Win 7 with media center will work fine. Just get an ATI HD5450 or better video card and you'll be able to use HDMI with 7.1 truHD and everything else. for #1 you can use a clear QAM tuner and be able to pickup all channels you'll get from the actual cable line. The easiest way to see what channels you'll get is plug the cable directly into your HDTV then have it scan all the channels. The Tuner card will pickup all of those but you will lose some channels that you're getting with the box. If you want all the channels you'll have to look into a cablecard tuner. Ceton has the new Quad tuner that comes out at the end of the month but it's $400.
 

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Centon's CableCARD tuner should be out at the end of March and as long as your running Windows 7 MCE, it'll work!


edit... didn't refresh page and didn't see justinm0424's reply
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wanchope /forum/post/18251223


I'm getting close to pulling the trigger on a HTPC, building from scratch. I have been doing my best to read up on the forums and educate myself on the issues here. Unfortunately I think my lack of knowledge is making me more confused than I may have been before I started. I also keep running into threads that are 2 years old or so when I am searching. So I am throwing myself out here for help.


I did see and read the guide that renethx put together on different set ups. Very useful! I can pick and choose hardware based on that I believe. Where I get confused though is all the talk I see about bitstreams, HD audio, S/PDIF and the like. So I thought I would try this: I'll list what I want to be able to do and maybe some kind folks here can confirm that if I get the basic HTPC (or a more advanced one if that what I need), I will in fact be able to do what I want.


Purpose of my HTPC:


1: Watch, pause, rewind and record HD programming (as well as standard def stuf) that is coming from my cable provider (Comcast).

This is the biggest problem right now. With Digital TV, OTA is a snap now and easier than ever. On the other hand, cable is incredibly hard. You used to be able to use any tuner card that supported analog cable. Comcast has pretty much encoded everything except some of the most basic channels anymore on the HD bands. So you need a special card which will run you a fortune, and even then you might have issues. Possible, but a PITA (pain in the ...)

Quote:
2: Play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs and give me at least 5.1 (7.1 would be better) surround sound in all the fancy formats (TrueHD etc). I just picked up an Onkyo 607 AVR so this shouldn't be an issue right? Or is all this bitstreaming issue stuff enough of a problem that I should just buy a separate blu-ray player? (which would give me a good excuse to get a PS3, or just hold off on Blu-Ray for a bit)?

Shouldn't a problem. I personally just settled on analog out. With a good audio out, you can pretty much rival what you get with bitstreaming.

Quote:
3: Allow me to surf the internet and stream videos from stuff like Netflix, youtube, hulu or whatever place I visit.


4: Store all my music (and obviously allow me to play it back) as well as play streaming on-line music (Pandora, iTunes radio, etc) on the nice new speakers I got via the AVR.


5: Be able to connect to my AVR (and thus the TV) via HDMI. I will just need to get the right motherboard (and CPU) that has an HDMI out right? Just one cable will be all that is needed?


That's really about it. I don't need to access a server, or stream to multiple TVs, rip and burn DVDs and BD or anything like that. The only thing I may do at some point would be play games, but I have a separate PC that is a gaming rig that I use right now. I don't see a need to build a second gaming rig, and I like the idea of having my gaming PC separate from the HT so the girlfriend can watch her silly girly shows while I play my dorky computer games.


Is there anything else I am missing, or things I should think about before I make a purchase? Is this all simple stuff that a basic HTPC can handle?

I have to warn you that these can turn into neverending projects that will upset your wallet if you are a tinker. My wallet and my HTPC have never gotten along well.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ckellyusa /forum/post/18252620


Centon's CableCARD tuner should be out at the end of March and as long as your running Windows 7 MCE, it'll work!


edit... didn't refresh page and didn't see justinm0424's reply

I saw this at CES. That would be at the top of my list if I was going to use cable tv as my input. It has four turners, so can record four shows at once. No set top box needed.


To the OP, an HTPC will do all of the mentioned items, and it integrates them very well. I built one, and am very happy with it, although it does take some tinkering at first to get everything running 100%. Mine is Windows 7 Ultimate.


Michael
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wanchope /forum/post/18251223



1: Watch, pause, rewind and record HD programming (as well as standard def stuf) that is coming from my cable provider (Comcast).


2: Play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs and give me at least 5.1 (7.1 would be better) surround sound in all the fancy formats (TrueHD etc). I just picked up an Onkyo 607 AVR so this shouldn't be an issue right? Or is all this bitstreaming issue stuff enough of a problem that I should just buy a separate blu-ray player? (which would give me a good excuse to get a PS3, or just hold off on Blu-Ray for a bit)?


3: Allow me to surf the internet and stream videos from stuff like Netflix, youtube, hulu or whatever place I visit.


4: Store all my music (and obviously allow me to play it back) as well as play streaming on-line music (Pandora, iTunes radio, etc) on the nice new speakers I got via the AVR.


5: Be able to connect to my AVR (and thus the TV) via HDMI. I will just need to get the right motherboard (and CPU) that has an HDMI out right? Just one cable will be all that is needed?

1. you need a cable card tuner, then will will wonder how you lived without the htpc as your dvr...


2, 3 and 4. windows 7 integrates all this, there is some seutp involved but there is a menu manager that will allow to create launch points for hulu, and your internet browser so you never have to leave the MCE interface, as long as you can navigate from your seat with a keyboard /mouse/ touchpad, you can do whatever you want.


there are some nice plugins for MCE for internet radio, and windows has its own official netflix plug in that works great.


5. you dont even need a board with hdmi out, just a get a capable graphics card with dhmi out and you can use that for video and sound.


but keep in mind if you go with an integrated graphics solution you will most likely use less power and have less fan noise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
First and foremost thanks for all the replies!


I wish I could say that I am all set now and that I understand everything. But that's not really the case.


From the looks of things, everything I listed can be done, although some are tougher than others. I am happy to see the Blu-Ray thing appears to be a non-issue. Frankly, most everything seems to be OK. Get Windows 7, an ATI HD5000 series graphics card and I am pretty much all set as far as 2-5 goes.


The big sticking point seems to be #1: Watch, pause, rewind and record HD programming (as well as standard def stuf) that is coming from my cable provider (Comcast). Problem is, this is the thing I want the most.


One person says just get a ATI Digital Cable Receiver. But I think I also need to get a "Cable Card Tuner"? I can see that I can get an ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner for $239.00 (tuner vs receiver... is there a difference? And are there cheaper options?). But as far as I can tell a "Cable Card tuner" doesn't exist yet (will be released this month by Ceton?) and is going to cost me $399. Is that on top of the $239? And it also sounds like I need to get a card from Comcast? Is that something they would install when I sign up for their service? And can I avoid all these problems if I just get a "cable box"?


Folks have also mentioned that Comcast is encrypting all but the most basic HD channels. I'm not sure what exactly the most basic channels include, but all I really want in HD is ESPN, ESNP2 and other normal sports channels as well as the major networks. I don't need Basket Weaving HD, or STARS13-Movies You've Never Heard of in HD. Are the channels I am looking for part of "the most basic" group? Is there a way to tell (I tried looking at Comcast's website and got nowhere fast).


I don't mind playing with software packages a bit and tweaking things here and there as needed. But this is starting to sound like an awful lot of money to do something that a basic TiVo could do. I would really prefer a HTPC, but not if its going to cost me 8x as much as an alternative.


Thanks in advance for helping this confused newb....
 

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ATI Digital Cable Receiver is a cable card tuner. It's only 1 tuner so you can only watch or record 1 channel. the $400 Ceton cable card tuner is 4 tuners in one. So you can watch 1 channel and record 3 others at the same time.


Comcast will give you a cablecard for like $2 a month. It looks like a thick credit card and you plug it into your cablecard tuner. The cablecard tuner will allow you to watch all the channels.


Most cable providers will allow you to use a QAM tuner which is a lot cheaper (Under $100 dual tuner under $150) that you can just plug in the cable into the tuner and pickup localHD and some others. Usually it's around 80 channels, not sure of ESPNHD though. Usually the basic channels like nick, USA, comedy central, espn.


The easiest way to test what QAM channels you'll get is to plugin the cable from the wall directly into your HDTV and scan for channels. This will show how many channels you'll get directly from the cable.
 

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ATI's CableCARD hardware... is hard to find if I remember correctly and only allows 1 channel (I might be wrong)


Ceton's CableCARD hardware should be out at the end of March and will take ONE cable card from your cable provider and provide 4 channels at the same time. The Ceton card should cost around $400 and then you need the $3 or so rental fee for the card each month from your cable provider. You will not get all of the feature (VOD, etc) that you get with your cable box, but you'll get the channels which is the important feature for most. Programs (depending on your cable provider) are DRM controlled and therefore can only be played back on the Windows 7 MCE computer that recorded them or any XBOX hooked up as an extender.


I hope that helps!



edit... justin keeps beating me... :lol
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ckellyusa /forum/post/18256080


... Programs (depending on your cable provider) are DRM controlled and therefore can only be played back on the Windows 7 MCE computer that recorded them or any XBOX hooked up as an extender...

Can anybody expand on this? I realize that not many cable channels include DRM at this time, but that is likely going to change. The "whole home" system I am considering setting up does not include any "extenders" in the true sense. It seems to me that systems like the Zotac Mag make XBOX or XBMC systems largely obsolete, as they come with all the functionality of a Windows 7 system, if you choose to install that OS.


How I read the above post is that (DRMed) TV recorded to a central location such as a main Media Center system, NAS or media server would not be playable by another Media Center system on the local network. Is this true? If so, I suppose one could just run XBMC for Windows and still retain all the functionality, it just seems more complicated.
 

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the drm, i believe is put in place by windows, so you will need a windows extender to view the content outside of the pc it was recorded on.


This may change in the future.


You can also convert the video to rip out the drm.
 

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I'm assuming as soon as DRM starts coming out they'll be a program that auto removes the DRM once it records. It seems like microsoft's on our side when it comes with encryption but are trying to get more users to dump cable for HTPC's and are compromising with cable companies by creating DRM to make them happy
 

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Just a quick question about recording digital content. Does anyone know what all Dish allows you to copy? Would I need to get one of those Centon cards to record Dish network content as well?

Thanks

Mike
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmikester1 /forum/post/18256928


Just a quick question about recording digital content. Does anyone know what all Dish allows you to copy? Would I need to get one of those Centon cards to record Dish network content as well?

Thanks

Mike

you wont be able to use the ceton cards with dish, im pretty sure its cable only
 
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