Maeglin (maeglin73) wrote,

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Gutting the HTPC

Last night, I started rebuilding my HTPC, almost from the ground up. One reason is to get some actual GPU acceleration involved, but another is to add DVR functionality to it.

The latter is prompted by my last couple of cable bills... I haven't cut the cable for a few reasons, but I can cut a little out of the bill by eliminating an "additional outlet" fee, which I still think is crazy. While my Tivo Series 3 requires 2 CableCards, they're both in the same box, so treating it as another box seems to be the result of greed on Comcast's part. I was debating getting one of the newer Tivo boxes, but after hearing reviews of a certain combination of hardware including a certain tuner card, I'm squarely in the DIY camp. Also, cutting out the Tivo service fee would help even more.

The tuner card in question is the Ceton InfiniTV 4. It takes 1 multi-stream CableCard, and gives the ability to tune up to 4(!) digital cable channels at once. That's one headache I've had occasionally with Tivo... only 2 tuners to go around, and sometimes that just wasn't enough, requiring a shuffling of priority in my series recordings. I'm in a waiting list at the moment for that part, as it's in such high demand right now, but I can continue with other parts of the project until it arrives.

At the machine's core now sits a Zotac IONITX-F-E motherboard. GPU acceleration? Check! It also has the PCI Express slot that the tuner card needs.

For an operating system, I'm using Windows 7. It was a bit of a pain to have to buy a copy of Home Premium for this box, but Windows 7 Media Center is currently the ONLY thing that is supported by the (apparently) ONLY multi-tuner digital cable tuner card available outside of paid system builders. Certainly the best card of its type that I've seen. WMC's Netflix support also gives me one more reason to get rid of the Roku Netflix box.

I'm still using Boxee, currently as an option in WMC's menu. It better handles the way that I keep up with podcasts these days, and I prefer its method of handling TV series episodes (on my media server and via internet streaming) to WMC's.

To control everything, I've written a proxy to translate network commands to keyboard input, something similar to what I did when the machine was running Boxee on Linux. A bit of scripting on my Pronto remote sends those commands to it. It's a work in progress, but I'll likely be releasing it after I'm satisfied with it.

I'd like to get Amazon's video download service working with it, but for some reason WMC can't read their video files. A couple things I've read suggest that a Microsoft update is what broke things, but unfortunately I haven't been able to uninstall it (likely part of a cumulative update, which might break more than it would fix in its removal). At this point, I still have Amazon's software installed, in the hopes that one side or the other will find a fix for it.

[Update @ 01/01/11 1... er, 4:39pm]
Thanks to a little info from Microsoft, the Amazon VOD problem is apparently fixed. Now, to use the $5 credit I have lying around for that.
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