OT Media Center PC

I made the home made antenna to receive digital TV for free, it works well even though I have it inside the house, I'm getting around a dozen channels
or so, some duplicates. Small tower and outdoor antenna is planned for future project.
I've been thinking about setting up a media center PC so I can have a digital video recorder, digitize old video tapes, and play movies.
So far my plan is to get a cheap PC that's good enough to play video, install my Hauppauge WinTV card, get a video card that will play on the TV, connect to my home network. My WinTV board was for Windows Media Center edition, I don't have on my desktop PC, so the IR receiver, remote, and IR transmitter doesn't work with Windows XP Pro.
Anyone here done similar with windows or Linux? Any recommendations? Do video cards with TV out work like a 2 monitor setup with windows desktop on one monitor and TV on the other monitor, or does it just work as using the TV instead of a monitor? I thought maybe I could use UltraVNC from my laptop to select movies to play on the TV.
RogerN
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RogerN wrote:

Can't help ya with the MCE problem , but I do have a comp set up with a wireless keyboard and mouse . I'm running Vista Ultimate , with a vid card that outputs for a std monitor connection and s-video . They make adapters from s-vid to RCA plug if your teevee doesn't have that input jack . I have another card , not using it right now , that puts out VGA , DVID (I think that's what it's called , for LCD flatscreen) , and RCA . Audio is plugged into the teevee , y'ed to my stereo too . I don't have a tuner card - yet . Probably will soon though , I'd like to drop the sat receivers and save that money every month .

My video card sets it up as a dual-monitor , but normal computer-type windows don't show up well on the teevee . BTW , I'm using a CRT unit that's at least 15 years old . My card uses ATI catalyst control center , I'm sure there are other driver programs that will perform the same function . As far as content , my DVR (directv) is hooked to my home network , and it's supposed to play content from computer storage - but doesn't work worth a crap . I D/L and save pretty much whatever content I want ; another option is HULU and similar sites that stream content . HTH !
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Thanks for the info. I'd like to output to the TV screen but have a second video port for a PC monitor. That way one screen can be used for computer functions, selecting what video file to play, etc, while the other screen is the TV displaying TV tuner or videos.
Part of this idea comes from my work, we have PC's running equipment running Siemens soft PLC's. We don't have any keyboard or monitor connected to the control pc PLCs. We have UltraVNC on the PC's and connect remotely, the remote computer becomes the monitor, keyboard, and mouse for the control pc plc.
I'd like to have my DVR and tuner functions run off the remote to the TV, and use remote access through the network to handle the computer functions of the media center PC.
I got rid of Dish Network so I'd like to spend a little to make my free antenna TV and movies convenient to record and play back.
RogerN
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RogerN wrote:

OK , maybe I wasn't very clear - that is how my setup works . The monitor shows all the icons just like a regular desktop , while the tv shows a movie or tv episode - if your processor/system can handle the load , you can surf the web on the monitor while the kids or wife watch tv . When I open media player I have to drag & drop that window over into the tv screen . Basically a dual-monitor setup . On my system that's a function of the video card and it's software .

I have most of my comps set up with XP Pro so I can remote them , just as you're describing .

Sounds like tuner/DVR stuff will be a function of whatever tuner card you use . I have no experience with a setup like that . Again , remoting that comp from another will be a function of the OS you choose . I prefer XP Pro , Vista sucks and I've never played with 7 .

I can relate . Right now , we've got a Directv DVR hooked to the living room tv . When I want to watch content from the comp I put the tv into "s-vhs" mode , and select/start/stop the content from the comp with a wireless keyboard/mouse . It would be easier with a handheld remote ... but yanno , I'm not sure that would let me access the stuff I have saved on the various comps in the house - I've got movies/series episodes saved on 3 different machines .
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I built a barely satisfactory one with XP and a decent one with Win7.
The tuner is a Hauppauge HVR-950, mostly because it was on sale for $50. AFAIK it doesn't tune channels that showed significant multipath on analog. The CD software was functional but unimpressive.
The XP machine is a 2.2 GHz Dell with a Radeon s9250 graphics card, because the mobo has only PCI slots. Process Explorer showed the CPU running at over 90% and it couldn't capture rapid motion at 1080i. The program hung up if a passing plane caused a dropout.
The 7 machine is a 3GHz single-core Dell with an Asus EAH4350 card in its AGP slot. 7 Media Center loaded the Hauppauge drivers from the CD and lived happily ever after, so far. ProcExp shows ~30% CPU load and ~0.5G of RAM in use.
I use a 22" HDTV for the monitor, placed close enough that I don't need or have a remote. It's connected with an HDMI cable, audio goes to the PC's speakers. Unless I'm recording I plug the cable into the HDTV, which draws <30W with the brightness at 0, compared to ~180W for the PC. Since 1/1/11 it's used $0.19 of electricity
My 1980's outdoor antenna was damaged in a storm so I made a new UHF dipole from two 6"x 1/2" aluminum rods stuck into plastic hose insulator, copying the dimensions of the broken original. I straightened and salvaged the director and reflector.
I back up C: occasionally with Acronis, so it's only a 40GB that's about 1/4 full and all recordings go to an added 1T internal drive, wth an external 2T as backup.
There are several ways to configure multiple monitors. I usually Extend My Desktop onto the second and third ones, and arrange them in Display Properties>Settings to match their physical positions so the mouse slides smoothly between them. Be careful to keep critical icons on the primary display, sometimes Windows doesn't realize that a display is off.
Good luck. Both computers needed substantial fussing to make them work.
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wrote:

I built a barely satisfactory one with XP and a decent one with Win7.
The tuner is a Hauppauge HVR-950, mostly because it was on sale for $50. AFAIK it doesn't tune channels that showed significant multipath on analog. The CD software was functional but unimpressive.
The XP machine is a 2.2 GHz Dell with a Radeon s9250 graphics card, because the mobo has only PCI slots. Process Explorer showed the CPU running at over 90% and it couldn't capture rapid motion at 1080i. The program hung up if a passing plane caused a dropout.
The 7 machine is a 3GHz single-core Dell with an Asus EAH4350 card in its AGP slot. 7 Media Center loaded the Hauppauge drivers from the CD and lived happily ever after, so far. ProcExp shows ~30% CPU load and ~0.5G of RAM in use.
I use a 22" HDTV for the monitor, placed close enough that I don't need or have a remote. It's connected with an HDMI cable, audio goes to the PC's speakers. Unless I'm recording I plug the cable into the HDTV, which draws <30W with the brightness at 0, compared to ~180W for the PC. Since 1/1/11 it's used $0.19 of electricity
My 1980's outdoor antenna was damaged in a storm so I made a new UHF dipole from two 6"x 1/2" aluminum rods stuck into plastic hose insulator, copying the dimensions of the broken original. I straightened and salvaged the director and reflector.
I back up C: occasionally with Acronis, so it's only a 40GB that's about 1/4 full and all recordings go to an added 1T internal drive, wth an external 2T as backup.
There are several ways to configure multiple monitors. I usually Extend My Desktop onto the second and third ones, and arrange them in Display Properties>Settings to match their physical positions so the mouse slides smoothly between them. Be careful to keep critical icons on the primary display, sometimes Windows doesn't realize that a display is off.
Good luck. Both computers needed substantial fussing to make them work.
*****
Thanks for the info Jim,
I'm wanting to get my hands on a suitable PC, without dismantling my desktop PC, and try windows 7 and MythBuntu linux DVR. I have saved money by no longer paying for satellite TV so I figure I can spend a little on a DVR and media center. The idea is to record what few interesting programs come in by antenna and watch them when nothing good is on. Also I would like to save my DVD movies to watch without changing disks every movie.
RogerN
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If you want HD, you're probably going to have to scare up a video card with an HDMI output, or at least DVI. These generally are PCIe, so a somewhat newer PC is needed. Some HD content won't work without the latest MS OS, either, DRM is the order of the day and native HDMI is called for, too. If you want OTA HD, the old WinTV isn't going to cut it, analog is dead and the thing is old enough it won't do digital. The Windows software Hauppauge supplies is rather finicky to set up. I've been using a old 150 card, on a 3 GHz box, WinTV 2000 sucks 50% of the processor just idling along. Some versions run 25-30%, but aren't stable or produce artifacts when recording. See www.shspvr.com for a bunch of software versions and forums on Hauppauge cards. I'm using S-video input from the satellite box, it's not HD but good enough on the monitor I have. The analog tuner on the 150 is just dead weight anymore. I have to program the box scheduler to coincide with the PVR card scheduler. It works, but it's not the handiest thing.
The 150 replaced an even older PVR PCI card, that used to run at most 5% of CPU, too bad it died.
Generally the TV-out video cards can be set up to either be an extension of your desktop or echoing what the current one does. It's done in the Desktop video setup. There might have to be an app running to convert PC video to TV video, just depends on the card and what hardware is on board. Some have hardware converters, cheaper cards depend on software. Don't underestimate CPU requirements. Same goes for power requirements, newer display cards take an amazing amount of 12v power, some up to 50 amps. You can't go by overall PS wattage anymore, you have to look at the supply's individual output current ratings for each voltage.
MythTV is Linux-based, you need a front end box and a backend for it to do its stuff. Networked, naturally. I've looked into it, best results seem to be with purpose-made boxes with components selected for compatibility. There are a few outfits that have dual-digital tuner cards for Linux, not outrageously priced for what they are, but not pocket-money either. I'm slowly accumulating parts, haven't invested in the tuner yet.
Stan
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On Jan 10, 8:02am, snipped-for-privacy@prolynx.com wrote:

Oops, the Asus EAH4350 is PCIe, not AGP, that card is in a different PC. I'd read warnings about the driver shipped with it and let Win7 load its own, which works well though without HDMI support, but it runs a VGA and a DVI monitor fine. I didn't load and haven't needed the Catalyst Control Center, which didn't do much good on the XP machine.
I like multiple monitors too, but didn't see much use for the second one in 7 MC. On an HDTV a window is still a large image and if I'm typing into another window I'm not staring at the TV picture. So I plugged the second 19" monitor into this laptop and use it for webpages while the laptop display shows connection status and open files and folders, like the temporary one where Youtube videos go and can be copied to *.flv files the VLC player will open.
This program saves and restores the locations of icons, which otherwise jump around when you switch between one and two monitors: http://www.midiox.com/index.htm?http://www.midiox.com/desktoprestore.htm
jsw
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wrote:

If you want HD, you're probably going to have to scare up a video card with an HDMI output, or at least DVI. These generally are PCIe, so a somewhat newer PC is needed. Some HD content won't work without the latest MS OS, either, DRM is the order of the day and native HDMI is called for, too. If you want OTA HD, the old WinTV isn't going to cut it, analog is dead and the thing is old enough it won't do digital. The Windows software Hauppauge supplies is rather finicky to set up. I've been using a old 150 card, on a 3 GHz box, WinTV 2000 sucks 50% of the processor just idling along. Some versions run 25-30%, but aren't stable or produce artifacts when recording. See www.shspvr.com for a bunch of software versions and forums on Hauppauge cards. I'm using S-video input from the satellite box, it's not HD but good enough on the monitor I have. The analog tuner on the 150 is just dead weight anymore. I have to program the box scheduler to coincide with the PVR card scheduler. It works, but it's not the handiest thing.
The 150 replaced an even older PVR PCI card, that used to run at most 5% of CPU, too bad it died.
Generally the TV-out video cards can be set up to either be an extension of your desktop or echoing what the current one does. It's done in the Desktop video setup. There might have to be an app running to convert PC video to TV video, just depends on the card and what hardware is on board. Some have hardware converters, cheaper cards depend on software. Don't underestimate CPU requirements. Same goes for power requirements, newer display cards take an amazing amount of 12v power, some up to 50 amps. You can't go by overall PS wattage anymore, you have to look at the supply's individual output current ratings for each voltage.
MythTV is Linux-based, you need a front end box and a backend for it to do its stuff. Networked, naturally. I've looked into it, best results seem to be with purpose-made boxes with components selected for compatibility. There are a few outfits that have dual-digital tuner cards for Linux, not outrageously priced for what they are, but not pocket-money either. I'm slowly accumulating parts, haven't invested in the tuner yet.
Stan
Thanks for the information!
I should have clarified, the WinTV card I have is the Hauppauge 1600, it has one analog tuner and 1 digital tuner. The digital tuner tunes in the local digital channels from the homemade antenna and is supposed to be able to record 1080i although I just have an old fashioned analog TV that doesn't display HDTV... for now. I'm saving a decent amount of money by not having a TV bill so I don't mind spending some to get a good enough media center.
RogerN
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For anyone with a good broadband connection, and doesn't want their entertainment media under the control of a computer's operating system, get a Roku box(es) and a Netflix account ($8/mo multiple users). The Roku box has a network connection, but also a wireless feature. HDMI and composite video outputs, component-video out on the top feature version.
Roku is a sit-there-and-watch unit, no features for recording unattended/setup in advance feature.
A friend gave me one, and although it's not the exact equivalent of cable TV, there is a lot of available content beyond Netflix, and Roku claims to be working on expanding the amount of content available.
Netflix has random old movies, and what appears to be a lot of new movies, plus foreign films and various other categories.. for little kids and big old kids. Not every title found at Netflix is available for streaming.
I almost never watch local/national TV news, and don't care that much for network TV shows that only fill the time between commercials. I also have a outdoor tower antenna, but haven't been looking at those channels since receiving the Roku. Example.. I can watch those 30-minute TV shows (Top Gear) in 20 without commercials. I can watch numerous seasons of MythBusters (or other seasonal shows) straight thru, or individual episodes, or stop anywhere, and resume at the same place at my leisure.
The one thing that's missing is closed captioning/subtitle selection. I've found one of the non-english foreign films that didn't even have subtitles, but others that did include subtitles.
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2011 15:07:58 -0500, Wild_Bill, wb snipped-for-privacy@XSPAMyahoo.com wrote:

The Wii also does Netflix. (Since all our computers are 'nix, they can't do the proprietary streaming format Netflix uses.) Wii is also wireless, but only has A/V out and since we only have a 1.4 mbps ADSL connection, so only get standard digital resoltion anyway.
Matter of fact, Netflix is available on a wide variety of devices... even some "netcast" TVs. http://www.netflix.com/NetflixReadyDevices

Lots of current and older TV shows as well, and 985 titles from Starzplay.

Anything we might want to see in HD, we have to get the snailmailed DVD anyway.

Torchwood and Dr. Who for instance. Lots of others.

I think that's true with any "internet tv" isn't it?
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I know squat about other internet viewing of TV/movie programming, other than what I've heard about, such as Hulu or other options that typically require installation of some particular software on a PC.
Like some others here in RCM, my TV viewing began with B/W TV (and often weak signals), so the clarity of newer digital broadcast (cable or over-air) TV on an LCD screen is HD to me (and maybe many others).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HD_vs_SD_resolutions.png
One thing to consider about these images, is that they're still-shots, regardless of what they were captured from. With moving images, the distinction is different, and clarity depends upon the electronics utilized, and that old addage.. but instead, clarity is in the eye of the beholder (and various other factors such as room lighting).
When I was doing consumer electronic servicing/repair, I could not believe some of the weird settings people chose to change the TV image from sharp, natural colors, to something else. The same is evident when visiting others' homes.
I don't know if I'd actually see much difference between the various HD standards available today. I'm apparently not an average consumer, or certainly not the target of marketing strategists, when it comes to new products. It's very unlikely that I'd spend several thousand for a latest-version TV.. I'd rather watch a standard LCD, or even a large CRT (which aren't generally available in new models).
Decent quality projectors are becoming commonly available as used (govt, corporate, etc) surplus at reasonable/cheap prices for setting up a home theater-type viewing experience for those interested in a huge picture. Yep, projection equipment/boxes have some issues.
--
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On Wed, 12 Jan 2011 22:08:09 -0500, "Wild_Bill"

Just installed a wide-throw HD compatible projector in the Media/training room at the office - on a 12 foot screen.
Impressive, but not nearly as sharp as a 60 inch 1080P plasma
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2011 22:08:09 -0500, Wild_Bill, wb snipped-for-privacy@XSPAMyahoo.com wrote:

Yeah, until you see the Blueray version on a 1080p screen @ 5' away. Sitting 15' away watching on a 32" screen does tend to blur the distinction though.

This one shows it better:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/HD_vs_SD_resolutions.png

Screen size and distance from it would be two major ones also.

I recently had a DVD and a Netflix download (@ ~1mbps) of the same movie, and showed my wife that she could read the street signs and taxi cab numbers, license plates, etc., when up close to the DVD version... stuff that was all blurry on the Netflix version. Back to the couch, and the difference was barely noticeable. Guess that only proves our eyes are getting to the point of needing a much larger screen than 32". ;-)

I don't even know what a "latest-version TV" is, especially one that costs several thousand! Are you referring to the trillions-of-colors available with RGBY, or is there something even newer and more expensive?
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In the past few years, I've noticed various flat, big screen TVs with many prices being in excess of $2k.
I haven't gone to the effort to go look up the actual specs of TVs in a very long time. I realize that there are essentially two different types.. LCD and plasma displays, but newer technologies are being added such as LED backlighting and full-color LEDs.
I do know that LCDs aren't generally capable of reproducing fast motion.. CRT phosphors were better for that. I don't know if true motion representation is a matter of the price of the LCD, or what the most recent advances are.
Since the early days of filming western-type movies, where the wagon wheels appeared to be rotating backwards, there have always been certain characteristics which the viewer needs to adapt to.
In a recent thread in another newsgroup, wrt good/better sound from a flat screen TV, I immediately thought of Bose.. and wouldn't ya know it, yep, they offer their own brand of TVs with Bose Sound.. for as much as $5k (46" LCD).
http://www.pcworld.com/article/206518/a_bose_tv_sounds_good_literally.html
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/09/28/pricey-bose-tv-promises-theater-sound-no-external-speakers /
--
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Prices have dropped a bunch since you've looked at flat panels, apparently. You can get a 42" LCD for what a 27" CRT used to sell for and it looks a hell of a lot better. LCDs have upped refresh rate and lowered response time so motion artifacts aren't noticible, 120Hz is quite affordable these days. Prices have dropped like a rock this last year or so. LED backlighting adds a couple of hundred to the cost, not worth the extra cost, IMO, right at this time. Maybe later this year. A lot of sets above the bargain level can be networked to a video server and can display a number of video and still photo formats, so more than just a TV set anymore. And the benefits have slopped over onto the computer monitor market, response times on those flat panels has dropped as well and they're CHEAP. I've run the b-in- l's LG TV from my laptop as a second display, so that's another bennie. Has a VGA connector built-in.
You can spend several thousand on a flat panel, but you have to work at it. One in that price range will probably be 5' or larger and have all the name-brand audio goodies, probably 3D as well.
Stan
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On Mon, 17 Jan 2011 07:08:48 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@prolynx.com wrote:
--snip--

My neighbor is looking to replace her 1960 television set and doesn't know what to look for with all the new tech. I haven't bought a set (tube) since I move here in '02 and I'm out of the loop. She's looking for cheapest possible, possibly with a DVD built into it. In an hour of research (I may need a new set some day, too) I've stumbled into the horrors of plasma (expensive to run), etc. Stan, can you (or anyone here) give me an update into the 21st century TV standards? I think it might be well received by many.
It looks like a 720p 32" will work for her, but I'm not sure about the 60hz figure. She watches tennis, so there's some need for quick pixel changes. Will these lower level sets work OK for her? She's 72 and refuses to get new glasses.

3-D? What a gimmick!
-- Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air... -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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On Mon, 17 Jan 2011 07:54:38 -0800, Larry Jaques

The new plasma sets are not nearly as bad as some would have you believe. Testing by the local TV shop before christmas showed with an "average" picture, a 42" Panasonic Plasma drew 90 watts, the same sized Panasonic LCD drew 80 watts, and a competitor's 42" LED drew 70 watts.
My 28" LCD draws 56 watts My 42" Panasonic Plasma draws an average of right around the 90 watts. With Plasma the current draw goes up with brighter screen - so watching skiing or hockey can draw about twice what watching a night scene in a movie will draw.
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On Mon, 17 Jan 2011 14:10:12 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

OK, what about LCD (or plasma) screen refresh rates? Is 60 so bad?
Oh, and while we're on the subject of respecting women, here:
Equality NOW! http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/3pkp
Heidi also makes her point: http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/3pgb
-- Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air... -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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On Mon, 17 Jan 2011 19:46:37 -0800, Larry Jaques

Plasma is inherently faster than LCD, regardless of the refresh rate. 60 "strobes" when you turn your head with a flourescent light on nearby.

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