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Does the Windows XP operating system offer any new bells and whistles to futher support HTPC -- in a way that previous operating systems did not?



Michael
 

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Michael:


First, my configuration:


ASUS CUSL2, PIII 733Mhz

256MB Mushkin 2/2/2 Memory

30GB Maxtor

Pioneer 115 DVD

HP 9350i CD-RW

ASUS AGP-V7700 GeForce2 GTS Video

Soundblaster Live! w/Hoontech II

Pinnacle PCTV PCI (dScaler TV card)

Lava DSerial PCI (extra serial ports)

3Com 3C905B-TX


My observations, after running it for a couple of days:


1. It is the most stable version of Windows that I have used.


I had trouble with Win ME. I know that others have had good success with ME, but it frequently locked on me and had to be rebooted (daily!). I also had problems with it not being able to shutdown. Those are now just bad memories. XP just runs, and then stops when you tell it to!


2. Power management - whether it be Standby or Hibernate - works flawlessly.


3. Drivers are still a bit of a challenge:


- Creative has yet to deliver on a fully functional set of drivers for the SB Live! (deferred to end November). But the basics work!

- Pinnacle is, IMHO, in a mess. The board works fine for dScaler, and I still like the hardware. Unfortunately, the software and drivers have yet to catch up. This is a drag if you need/want to use their software for video capture and editting - and I do! :(

- Roxio just released their update for Easy CD Creator (5.1) which supports XP.


4. Scheduling and process priority management is superior.


This is a key benefit for those who want to multi-task on their HTPC. For me, my HTPC is also a home PC. I am frequently multi-tasking, checking e-mail and surfing AVS Forum, while pumping music or a movie through to the home theater.


With WinME, I would get sound break up or video stuttering, because of process scheduling competition. With WinXP that is now gone. Presumably, I could have obtained the same benefit by moving to Win2k, but I have skipped that step.


5. AC3 / DTS Passthrough works.


Although we have now figured out how to get this to work with Win2k, it is not an issue with WinXP. For me, even though the Creative drivers aren't where they should be yet, I am still able to successfully passthrough Dolby Digital and DTS sound, when running PowerDVD, to the home theater.


6. Detonator XP drivers.


As noted, I am using a GeForce2 board. The DetonatorXP 21.83 drivers tested out FAST in the 3DMark benchmarking. These are the fastest drivers that I have been able to use. Under WinME, for some reason, I was not able to move past 6.53. For some reason, on my machine, I was not able to resume from monitor standby. Not an issue with XP, and I get the speed bump of the XP drivers.


7. Clear Type fonts are nice.


Great for surfing! I get less eye strain reading through AVS Forum! Of course, this assumes that your HTPC is also your internet portal. In my case, it is!


8. My Music folder options.


You can now edit ID3 tags, using Windows Explorer. If you keep your music files on your HTPC, you can use the Explorer in XP to maintain artist name, title, genre, bitrate, etc ... all the ID3 tags. These are the names that appear in WMP when you import a file. Often, depending on your source of MP3s, the tags are not properly set and must be editted. Previously, I had to use a 3rd party package to do this. I have now been able to throw that package away.


Also, you can present files grouped by any of the ID3 attributes. In my case, I group by artist, and then under each artist, present the song title, genre, bitrate, and length. Nice, professional, integrated presentation of files!



I'm sure there is a lot more that I could say, but I have tried to keep my comments relative to HTPC. In considering an upgrade, if you are NOT already on Win2k, then it is definitely worth considering an upgrade to WinXP. If you ARE already on Win2k, then you will gain some useful cosmetics, but you will already be enjoying stability and process scheduling benefits.


Now if only M-Audio would release their Delta Theater card! Then I could throw out my SB Live! and I would care less what Creative does!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by BGane
In considering an upgrade, if you are NOT already on Win2k, then it is definitely worth considering an upgrade to WinXP. If you ARE already on Win2k, then you will gain some useful cosmetics, but you will already be enjoying stability and process scheduling benefits.
BGane brings up an interesting point and one which I wish someone like xcel would comment on.


I run Win2K with a zillion non-HTPC peripherals, HTPC specific items like Hipix,Powerstrip,sw DVD players. It is stable (on 24/7) and everything works like a champ.


My SBLIVE works just fine with SPDIF passthrough using SP2 also.


Is there any compelling reason to switch from Windows 2000 to XP?


BTW, what's the deal with no Java included?


Wayne - are you reading this thread? Care to comment please?


Thanks,

Joe
 

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not sure what the deal is with the non-inclusion of java, but I did note that once visiting a site with java it did download and install the machine quickly and all was well...


I can also comment on the AC3 passthrough - it didn't work for me. I'm using an Aureal SQ1500, which supposedly MS got all the rights to when they went under and all drivers are native to the OS... but still my SPDIF wasn't working for a damn and WinDVD didn't know it was there. Any thoughts? This is still the only reason I haven't gone 100% to XP yet.
 

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Speaking of XP...Slightly OT, but I thought I'd ask.


I have a Win2K laptop.


I understand that XP allows you to use the VGA output to do "multi monitor" stuff native within the OS, wherea Win2K did not.


Can anyone confirm or deny multi-monitor support simply using the VGA out on a laptop on Win XP? For me, THAT would be a compelling reason to upgrade right there.
 

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Milori:


Only certain chipsets. I want to say only some IBM laptops but I don't know why. I think you can find out more on their (MS) site.
 

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Milori-


Are you talking about multi-mon sending the same output to 2 monitors at the same time, or expanding the desktop between 2 monitors? If you'd like, email me at home ([email protected]) and I will confirm for you if you send hardware details. I'm on the XP developement team in the mobile department so I can verify 100% if it will work for you.


-PGPfan
 

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Thanks PGPFan,


You sound like a guy with some answers!


Yes, I mean a dual-monitor wide virtual desktop, not the same output to both. My laptop sits right next to my CRT monitor on my (physical) desktop.


I would love to have them both enabled with a wide virtual desktop without trying to replace any laptop hardware. If the price to do it is a license for XP, I'm there. I just want to verify this feature. First time I have heard of it.


Anyway, you have mail...
 

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Quote:
I understand that XP allows you to use the VGA output to do "multi monitor" stuff native within the OS, wherea Win2K did not.
W2k and XP have the same multimon support. I believe the current limit is up to 9 monitors.
 

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Thanks Stacy,


Maybe I'm reading this incorrectly, then, but it would appear that Win2K limits this feature.


See Multi-monitor laptops for where I found this information. Here is the quote that gets me:

Quote:
"Note that this doesn't work with Windows 2000, because there is no support for running multiple monitors from a single chipset."
Anyway, that page was encouraging, but I haven't played much in the multi-monitor world, and it would appear that XP makes this easier.
 

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Hi All:


___Win XP has some great things going for it and multi-monitor support is one of them. Unfortunately, a virtual DT is sort of a misnomer. You do not have the Start/QuickLaunch/System tray control functions/toolbars under the non-primary monitor but you do have the ability to move an app or overlay from the primary to the secondary across each which is the reason I use it. It is a bit buggy in my experience w/ a PCI based Radeon and an AGP based GeForce due to driver features disappearing unless both are active and you move over an app to the unused DT. You will see this as a generic driver capability on the secondary display until you switch it to primary. Afterwards, you will get back your advanced driver features and the new secondary will revert back to a generic feature setup. The Driver version is still in force on either but the features accessible from the driver panels are gone when ever that card is setup as a secondary. This is a minor issue IMO.


___Mark: You may be interested in non-HTPC (2D) apps being displayed across a single DT which XP will do. As an example, Word 2000/XP can be displayed w/ ½ the document on one monitor and the other ½ on the secondary monitor but you cannot launch an app via a shortcut from the secondary and display in the secondary every time. It will depend on where it was launched from previously. This again is a minor nuisance IMO since you can drag the app to wherever you need it at will. If you try and display an overlay across both DT’s, the secondary will not display it. The window will appear but the DVD will only play on the window from the primary display … I know a lot of people including Alan were looking for this so they could comparatively view a DVD at the same time using multiple HW/SW and or driver revisions side by side. It doesn’t work this way just yet but you can move the primary from card to card as you see fit to display the overlay. It just cannot be done in real time that I can see unfortunately.


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]
 

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Quote:
It will depend on where it was launched from previously.
This is partly dependent on the app. When you write an app, you tell it the default window size and start cooridnates. Some apps hardcode this information while others let the system decide. We don't even want to get into negative screen coord issues. :)


I have been running multimon (using multiple video cards) on NT since 97. (back when we called W2K NT5.) I run tripple mon these days.

Quote:
The window will appear but the DVD will only play on the window from the primary display
This will go away in the future once we get drivers that fully support DXVA. Current DXVA is only the beginning, there is so much more to come.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by milori
Thanks PGPFan,


You sound like a guy with some answers!

Sounds like a Microsoft employee - great to have you here!


PGPFan,

Is the kernel in XP basically the same as the kernel in Windows 2000?


Stability is #1 with me which is why I exclusively use WIN2k on my machines and not 98/ME.


Thanks,

Joe
 

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Hi Sspears:


___Under NT or 2000, I could not get an overlay to move to the secondary display without a reboot and reconfiguration of the cards in the BIOS for primary/secondary. Under XP, the overlay can be swapped dynamically with a few clicks of the mouse w/out reboot. Did I miss something under Windows 2000? This is the primary reason we can use XP for HTPC uses. Those of us w/ PCI based Radeon’s and a GeForce for gaming anyway ;)


___Secondly, I still think NT was slightly more stable than Windows 2000 for general 2D DT and Server apps. My preference of course ;) When you used any 3D or overlay type apps, NT was screwed (SP3 – SP6 helped w/ some DirectX support but stability was never really there under those conditions IMO). Under Windows 2000, continuous up times even with 3D/overlay apps was improved but when it broke, a format or Image restore was sometimes the best policy that I have had to use. Under XP, a roll back or System Restore works great so far as I have used it but most of the players and drivers are skipping iDCT or HWMC features w/ the Radeon in particular. If DXVA is enabled properly under XP using the latest Radeon XP drivers and or PowerDVD 4.0 XP, I would be surprised given the problems seen under the Ravisent decoders to date.


___Finally, there are problems with the WDM drivers under Windows 2000/XP for DTS CD-Audio. You can look over Cliff’s recent postings of a workaround for the SCR problems using PowerDVD XP directly. He has come up with a workaround while using the new Delta Theater card but it does not sound like a great way for the average user given its not exactly plug and play. This has everything to do with MS themselves. Why it has not been fixed with release of XP is anyone’s guess since 24/96 type audio has been around since at least the release of Windows 2000 I am sure. This last one is the one reason why I had to drop Windows 2000 HTPC’s (Radeon overlay artifact problems as well) and the one reason why I am still hesitant to offer Windows XP HTPC’s to anyone currently. My own HTPC uses Win XP in a dual boot config but I do not use DTS or 2496 audio CD’s in any form either …


___Stacy: If you have an inside line on DXVA capabilities, we can certainly use your expertise. I believe this will change the way an HTPC is used in the very near future. Having a split screen overlay through 2 projectors will make the “Which SW player or filter for DSCaler is best†problem go away as many here with multiple monitors/projectors will be able to freeze a scene and look at the side by sides without any subjectivity entering into the picture … This would be the ultimate testing setup IMO.


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]
 

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Quote:
Secondly, I still think NT was slightly more stable than Windows 2000
To be clear, W2K is NT 5.0 and XP is NT 5.1. The code between NT 4 and 5 grew 3x. So much changed, most for the better.


Even though XP is NT 5.1, don't expect all drivers that work on W2K to work on XP. Drivers are pretty much written by the hardware makers.


The only thing I can say about DxVA is what is currently public knowledge. There is a lot of potential and at least one friend of mine behind it is big into PCs and video. Actually there are a couple of key people who will make good things happen and they are the reason DxVA is here today.


For DTS CDs, is this decoding DTS in Windows or just passing the data stream out the SPDIF to a SSP? The reason I ask is the datastream on a DTS CD should cause no problems if passed out the SPDIF. My solution is not to listen to DTS! :)

Quote:
Having a split screen overlay through 2 projectors will make the “Which SW player or filter for DSCaler is best†problem go away as many here with multiple monitors/projectors will be able to freeze a scene and look at the side by sides without any subjectivity entering into the picture …
You will need one serious machine if you want to do a side-by-side. Perhaps a P12 5GHz. w/ 2GB of RAM :)


A lot of strange behavior comes down to the specific driver. You really got to keep pushing on companies like ATI and the software player people. They don't always listen to Redmond.
 

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â€___Finally, there are problems with the WDM drivers under Windows 2000/XP for DTS CD-Audio. You can look over Cliff’s recent postings of a workaround for the SCR problems using PowerDVD XP directly. He has come up with a workaround while using the new Delta Theater card but it does not sound like a great way for the average user given its not exactly plug and play.â€


Wayne,


You are misunderstanding my recent post concerning WinXP and the pre-release Delta Theater soundcard. While it is true that compressed DTS CD audio can not be passed through the S/PDIF to be decoder by an external pre/pro, the Delta Theater multi-channel card and PowerDVD XP Deluxe have absolutely no problem reading the embedded DTS bit-stream from a CD and sending the decoded 5.1 channels out the DACs with no user intervention.


The “workaround†you refer to is a way of using the S/PDIF out from the soundcard in conjunction with the multi-channel analog output.


The only way we will get DTS CD pass-thru is when someone figures out a way to circumvent the KMixer/SRC.
 

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A lot off topic, but it fits the thread title.


For a new home built HTPC:

XP home full=$199


XP home upgrade + OEM 98SE CD=$150


Is this a better bet? (I've never installed an OS on a clean sytem before.) Or is there some sore of satisfaction in owning a full version. (This second option would work right?)
 

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Frys is selling the OEM version of XP with purchase of any hardware items at $99 for the full home version and $199

for the full professional version.


John
 

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How does the 2 displays work in XP? I assume you need a card like the Radeon VE to work? Or can you put two video cards in?


If yes on two video cards can they both display the same output from the PC at the same time?


THanks,


-Jym-
 

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W2K and Xp will support up to 9 cards I believe. I have not tested with more than 4.


You need one video card per display. You use display.cpl to set the resolution of each monitor and where it is located.


For example, if you have 2 monitors, you want to make sure the one on the left is really on the left. This way when you move the mouse to the left and side of the screen and through, it goes to the left monitor and not the right. (hope that makes sense.)


Each monitor is really an extension of the desktop. They can run at independent resolutions. However, they will all display the same background wallpaper.
 
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