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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The reason I'm asking is that we write software in this area.


It seems the primary function of an HTPC is playing DVD movies.


After that, maybe way after that, is TV.


And in third place, playing audio files or playing CD's.


Is using a PC card as the TV tuner common? Are CD's more important to you than MP3 files? Is your case compatible in color? Do you often spill a beer in the dark? Does she wear perfume?
 

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You've got the order right, anyway! :) All three are important to me. Many people want smooth integration of these three functions with an easy-to-navigate interface.


Using the tuner on a video card is pretty rare, I'd say. The quality just isn't there. Believe me, I tried. Also, you can only receive standard cable channels - none of the new digital ones, or premium channels. Most people here take output from a satellite or cable box into a capture card via s-video. DScaler is the unrivaled king of this function. People DO use the tuners on video cards to record NTSC/PAL TV, however.


Personally, high-quality MP3s (or lossless monkeys) are more important than CDs. My case is compatible in colour with a black hole. I never spill beer in any lighting situation. No, she wears no perfume.
 

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I think it can be slightly different in Europe where we can receive digital TV via DVB cards. A main advantage of using a pc is loss-less recording of the digital TV streams :D . Additionaly people may use MPEG4 video's as well.


Personally I've installed following apps

Digital TV

Digital Radio

Audio jukebox

DVD player

Divx player

Photo album


Note: this is not in the order of using it (just started to use it last Sunday), but so far I'm using digital radio more then the jukebox after I was able to control it without the TV :p .


The user interface is completely build around Girder (so with remote control) and also acts automaticaly if a CD/DVD is inserted. I'm really happy with it.


Wykat
 

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I believe that the generally accepted definition of an HTPC in this forum (i.e. a high quality DVD player and scaler) is much too narrow. If this narrow definition were indeed true then perhaps what we should be calling this device is a DVDPC. DVD playback and scaling are only two of the many functions that an HTPC can provide.


The very name HTPC implies a much broader definition. The ultimate HTPC, in my mind, usurps all of the functions in a home theater setting that are traditionally performed by separate components. Notwithstanding this broader definition no one can argue that in some areas the PC still does not excel against traditional components (eg. some would say that PC TV tuners are worse than high quality TVs). However the fact that the HTPC does not beat traditional components in some areas does not justify a narrowing of the definition, it simply means that we have more work to do.


I may be in the minority here but I use my HTPC as my only Home Theatre component aside from my receiver, speakers and large screen computer monitor (32"). All my HTPC functionality can be controlled by means of a simple universal remote controller via Girder/IRMan/Talisman. I find that even those functions where the HTPC does not have a quality advantage over set top components, it definitely has a functionality and flexibility advantage. In addition, consolidating all functions into one box reduces "component clutter" considerably. My living room is once again a living room and not a storage area for electronic components.


I use my HTPC as a:

TV - better than a regular TV since I get timeshifting and Electronic Program Guide capabilities (can't get Tivo and ReplayTV in Canada). I don't use satellite or the digital channels so capabilites there are not important for me.

VCR - No more messing around with tapes. Set it and forget it.

Music Jukebox - I'll give up a bit of sonic quality any day to be able effectively manage a 400CD collection using an MP3 jukebox. Slink-E and CD changers take up way too much space and are simply not as elegant a solution. MP3s give an almost infinite ability to slice and dice a CD collection for customising playback. Can a CD changer play back more than one track at the same time? I think not. With mp3s I can run multiple MP3 jukebox programs on multiple computers against the the same set of files. Can a CD Changer catergorize CDs into unlimited user definable genres and maintain other custom information such as tempo and mood on a per track (not per CD) basis. No way!

DVD player - this needs no explanation or justiifcation I think :)

Photo Album - Seeing vacation pictures on the big screen is a lot easier than passing photo albums from person to person. Also management and organisation of large numbers of photos is much easier.

Web browser - Nothing like the Internet from a couch!

Games - can play high quality PC games on big screen.


So in one swoop I've replaced WebTV, multiple CD changers, Tivo or a VCR, Xbox or Nintendo and a DVD player with one component using one remote. Pretty slick I'd say.



My $0.02


Cheers

Lester
 

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Like many, I use a HTPC to drive a XGA resolution digital projector.


For me, the reason for HTPC is the high quality scaler built into the PC video board. This enables a stunning level of performance from an inexpensive data-grade projector, by driving it at the "sweet spot".


The bigscreen front projector is what makes a Home Theater out of my front room. Like Lester, my Home Theater setup is just a HTPC, a surround receiver, and speakers. (We'll ignore the FIVE infrared remote pickups.)


My three applications are DVD playback, television by DScaler, and PC gaming. I tried time-shifting analog TV to hard disk with three different configurations, but I gave up in each case because I continued to get noticeably better results via the JVC S-VHS VCR attached to the WEGA in the family room. It makes no sense whatsoever to use HTPC for something a standalone box does better.


Gary
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Gary McCoy
...It makes no sense whatsoever to use HTPC for something a standalone box does better...

Gary
Gary,


It all depends on your parameters. As they say "One man's meat is another man's poison". You may not find that the TV functionality suits your purposes but it is a bit of a stretch to assume that your experiences apply to everyone else. You may define "better" to be that a standalone box offers better video quality then a PC tuner. I don't believe anyone will argue that this is the case. However I might define better as "providing more ease of use, reducing component clutter or providing more features such as timeshifting". In this case the HTPC gives better functionality in one area while suffering quality degradation in another. So I consider the HTPC "better" using these parameters.


I think it is safe to say that both you and I enjoy our setups and are happy with them. There will be some that agree with you and some that agree with me but let's not try to make global sweeping statements on matters that are somewhat subjective.


For the record I have had very good results with timeshifting using my ATI Radeon All In Wonder. Since ATI MMC 7.1 and higher timeshifting has worked flawlessly (especially in MMC 7.5 where the timeshifted video is now saved between invocations of the TV program). MMC has a few outstanding problems, granted, but timeshifting is not one of them. Recently I added a Creative Digital VCR card into the mix. This card also timeshifts really well. However I don't use it for that but for it's VCR features which also work very well. Of course your mileage might vary. Contrary to what others have experienced I've managed to get a very nice picture out of both of these tuners (better than any of my friend's "real" TVs which is what counts :) )


Cheers

Lester
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks to everyone for taking time to provide some detail. It looks like this to me.


DVD -- everyone agrees this is the main use.


TV -- yes, it is important, but whether a TV card is useful is debatable. I suspect TV card improvements may change this.


Music -- some use -- CD's are less common than files


Images -- several mentions of this one which I had forgotten.


Other (minor?) uses include:

Games

Browser


It also looks like reducing clutter of components and remotes is an important goal.


Jim
 

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Quote:
It also looks like reducing clutter of components and remotes is an important goal
I think it's ease of use :D


Wykat


ps. TV/radio reception is my main application.
 

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Jim:


For me, it's about even between using it as a scaler (for DVD playback, and scaling of DirecTV NTSC), and MP3 playback. For me, once I had the PC connected to my sound system for movie viewing, the natural next step was to rip my CD collection onto it. I listen to music a lot, and I very, very rarely break out the CD's any more - it's all MP3.


Using the PC to automate control of my projector and pre/pro is also way up there.


- Dave
 

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For me It was more important to have a HTPC as a standalone scaler - I just purchased two more PC's to use as a server and family pc - the home theater PC will be on the local LAN but only to serve as a dumping ground for Video files (because of it's 2 large 100GB drives)...


Audio playback are best served up by the High end audio gear - (sans computer)


MP3 playback is avalible on the other two computers and is input into the upstairs home theater receiver for multi-zone playback in the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom (the wife likes a little Enya with her candles and bubbles)


cheers
 

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Jim,


I'm in the same boat as Gary. My setup & usage match his - but I add streaming MP3 to the mix.


I don't know what you are writing, but boy, there is a need here.


I just started looking into integration/automation options for HTPC. Ugh. Talisman, Girder, plugins, IRMAN, and more - no integrated solution at all.


Even though I am PC software developer, I don't want to write my own - I don't code to relax, I code to get money to relax with... I don't want to download plugins of unknown quality from all over net, don't want to threaten the stability of my system with 'hobby' code - mine or others.


I do want to get rid of all the remotes on the table next to me, do want to control WinAmp with a remote (the PJ is not always on), do want to see some data on a serial display. Quick setup of control screens is paramount, scripted, pretty ones less so - after all, the movie covers up the UI most of the time.


Oh, yeah - I also may want to use a Pocket PC as the 'remote' to my HTPC.
 

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Wasting time :D :D :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wasting time is almost a lost art, perhaps a form of meditation. But try to convince your wife that is as noble as, say, yoga.


Thanks again for all the feedback.
 

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Jriver,


Just one more thing that we HTPC owners wish for.....



24 Bit 96K Audio CD playback.



WinDVD can't do this....neither could PowerDVD.....



Perhaps we would need a new hardware sound card to support this, I don't know....But someone got to get this started....



Developers, are you guys listening?



(Audio)
 

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I can't believe nobody has mentioned HDTV on this topic. I suppose you could argue that it is included under TV, but consider that the HDTV PC tuner cards are the only commercially available way to record HDTV besides that JVC D-VHS piece of crap. My two initial reasons for building an HTPC were DVD playback and HDTV viewing and recording.
 

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Please excuse this post if it's so far out in left field it's laughable...


I want my PC to be a PC.

I want it to be a TV.

I want it to be a remote control (use the keyboard or mouse).

I want it to play my CDs.

I want it to play DVDs.

I want it to serve as a nexus for TV, data, movies/videos, radio, CDs, LPs, VCR, C-Band satellite signals, etc...

I want it to be a jumping off point if I decide I really like Home Theater, and add a much bigger 'screen', but the monitor will do (won't it?) for now.

I want it to be my 'stereo' (Dolby AC3, for now or whatever it is when I put it in place).

I want it to be an audio/video recorder, someday.

I want it to be an HDTV some day.

I want it to be a digital audio/video receiver, as we transition to digital broadcast signal delivery.


In short I want it to be the center of my office work, and my leisure time activities.

I want it to be as 'all in one' as possible, with as little wiring and component clutter as I can arrange (yeah, right).

And I want it to be as much of all that as possible early on, yet allow me to augment and/or upgrade over time as desired.


Oh, and I want it to be quiet.


How far out in left field am I?


danz
 

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Danz, Not too far out at all I would say... However you are plainly forgetting that it also may incorporate X10 to pull your drapes / mix your drinks / answer your doorbell / turn on and off your lights / much much more.... :D
 

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Phreddy, thanks for your reply. It's reassuring. I've been unable to locate discussions, on many of the different things I mentioned, here on the Forum.


That's one reason I felt I was out in left field. Any suggestions how to find topics such as using a monitor for HTPC display, or other issues I might have mentioned? TIA...


danz
 
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