Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Sep 2009 22:31 UTC
Multimedia, AV While we at OSNews often talk about desktops, laptops, and netbooks, there is another "form factor" which is making inroads into various households: the home theatre PC, or HTPC. There are a lot of software packages out there that will aid in turning a computer into an HTPC, and since I've been testing three of them extensively over the past months, I figured we'd talk about what you use.
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Plex looks nice indeed
by sonic2000gr on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:00 UTC
Member since:

I've used Windows Media Center a few times on my (now sold) laptop. I don't use media center software in Linux or FreeBSD (just plain mplayer).
I've tried FrontRow on my iMac, but it does seem somewhat limited. Even with all possible codecs installed there are videos it won't play well (or at all). I will surely try out Plex. Thanks!

Reply Score: 2

Dell XPS 420 with Windows Media Center
by tomcat on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:04 UTC
Member since:

Great solution. Works phenomenally well with Windows 7.

Reply Score: 1

by ivaniclixx on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:19 UTC
Member since:
Video Disk Recorder
by kragil on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:24 UTC
Member since:
OK, it is seems daunting and very german at first glance, but german C't magazin a great distro since 2003(Docs in german though ;) )

VDR ran on Pentium1 133Mhz, I think it is by far the oldest living room software.
With plugins it can do everything all those newbie progs do ( )

I really don't know why it only seems to be popular in Germany .. I always wondered why people build living room PCs for MythTV, Freevo or XBMC. On the Xbox OK, but a PC can do so much more. No need to miss out on all the great features.

Reply Score: 3

by poundsmack on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:28 UTC
Member since:

MythTV is good, the upcomming .22 release is shaping up.

Reply Score: 3

RE: MythTV
by tomcat on Sat 12th Sep 2009 02:08 UTC in reply to "MythTV"
tomcat Member since:

MythTV is good, the upcomming .22 release is shaping up.

I use dual ATI Digital Cable Tuners with CableCards. Which allows me to decrypt HD/premium content without a set-top box from my cable company. I'm not aware of any open source solution (MythTV, etc) which supports CableCard; consequently, I can't use MythTV. I realize that many OSS proponents don't want to support DRM but, frankly, that's a dysfunctional argument, as far as I'm concerned. Windows Media Center is one of the few solutions that supports CableCard.

Reply Score: 3

v RE[2]: MythTV
by clei on Sat 12th Sep 2009 09:11 UTC in reply to "RE: MythTV"
RE[3]: MythTV
by NicePics13 on Sat 12th Sep 2009 10:04 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: MythTV"
NicePics13 Member since:

Why the hell should OSS proponents support DRM?

I say free software should circumvent DRM, same results - you get to watch your content in HD.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: MythTV
by clei on Sat 12th Sep 2009 20:18 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: MythTV"
clei Member since:

"Why the hell should OSS proponents support DRM?

I say free software should circumvent DRM, same results - you get to watch your content in HD.

Name one thing currently or has aired in the past of years that was actually worth watching in HD....That includes lame sporting events.

Reply Score: 0

RE[3]: MythTV - choice
by jabbotts on Sat 12th Sep 2009 14:39 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: MythTV"
jabbotts Member since:

For you, FOSS is about limiting end user choice and that's fine for your needs. Wouldn't adding end user choice be more in holding with the benefits of FOSS? As of kernel 2.6.33 the ATI DRM will be available to include.

Digital restrictions sucks but it doesn't justify synthetic restrictions like choosing to stick one's head in the sand and pretend it's not an issue for other users.

As a FOSS proponent, I'd prefer more end user choice if that's ok with you.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: MythTV - choice
by NicePics13 on Sat 12th Sep 2009 15:12 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: MythTV - choice"
NicePics13 Member since:

We're talking about the evils of Digital Restrictions Management not Direct Rendering Manager - same acronym.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: MythTV - thankyou
by jabbotts on Sat 12th Sep 2009 22:30 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: MythTV - choice"
jabbotts Member since:

I did have the two mixed up. I read the ATI article quickly a few days back and thought it was some DRM support required for the newer ATI boards to manage HD content.

Sadly, digital restriction management is becoming a necessary evil for content. HD tends to require the crap end to end. DVD content use, though legally licensed, requires DRM addon codecs where the FOSS developed solutions are not legal. The risk is that the platform will be left behind as more DRM becomes included and expecting average consumers to understand let alone denounce such restrictions has not helped so far.

The worse threat is hardware companies that impose synthetic limitations by providing support to Windows based solutions only as seems to be the case with the TV card. A limitation imposed by developers can be addressed by other developers but a limitation imposed by a hardware vendor becomes a real problem.

While I don't agree with DRM for content management, the problem is that it becomes another "but Linux can't do this" flag that drives new users away, puffs up fanboys for other platforms and keeps me having to boot between my primary platform and Windows depending on what I choose to do with my hardware. I'd much rather see DRM supported but users denouncing it enough to have other content providers follow Apple's stance (regarding music at least); that's an ideal world though.

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: MythTV - thankyou
by NicePics13 on Sun 13th Sep 2009 11:46 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: MythTV - thankyou"
NicePics13 Member since:

DVD content use, though legally licensed, requires DRM addon codecs where the FOSS developed solutions are not legal. The risk is that the platform will be left behind as more DRM becomes included and expecting average consumers to understand let alone denounce such restrictions has not helped so far.

In the EU libdvdcss is not illegal for DVD playback on non-Windows/Mac platforms. I reckon it's the same deal with blu-ray though for now you have to rip/dump the bloody thing to watch it.

A limitation imposed by developers can be addressed by other developers but a limitation imposed by a hardware vendor becomes a real problem.

That's why we have illegal hardware hacks. Like the HDCP strippers you get from China.

Reply Score: 1

RE[7]: MythTV - thankyou
by AdamW on Sun 13th Sep 2009 14:49 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: MythTV - thankyou"
AdamW Member since:

"In the EU libdvdcss is not illegal for DVD playback on non-Windows/Mac platforms."

It hasn't been tested in court, but under most nations' implementations of the EUCD (which outlaws the circumvention of copy protection mechanisms, just like the DMCA) it almost certainly is.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: MythTV - "illegal" is the problem
by jabbotts on Sun 13th Sep 2009 14:57 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: MythTV - thankyou"
jabbotts Member since:

Some users are limited by backwards laws that make libdvd illegal and are all users are not willing to install the illegal strippers from China. There are such software solutions to get around hardware imposed problems but this just moves the limitation from the software to the local legal system. While this allows home users to make the personal choice it blocks the possibility of fully functional name brand distributions which negates use by average users and business.

I mean, your preaching to the choir here. Few things bother me more than synthetic limitations imposed by a third party. It does no good for the platform or the end user to remove choice if the hardware vendors are willing to support it. If a vendor is willing to provide specs for DRM support, that should be considered; if not by the kernel then by the distribution level through kernel mods. (this does dirty what should be an upstream addition but distributions have that choice)

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: MythTV
by ba1l on Sat 12th Sep 2009 12:02 UTC in reply to "RE: MythTV"
ba1l Member since:

I realize that many OSS proponents don't want to support DRM but, frankly, that's a dysfunctional argument, as far as I'm concerned. Windows Media Center is one of the few solutions that supports CableCard.

You have that completely backwards.

The company that makes the CableCard hardware goes out of their way to make sure it doesn't work with anything other than Windows. In fact, even on Windows, it only works if you have all of the DRM crap turned on, and until recently, only if it was installed by an OEM.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: MythTV
by segedunum on Sat 12th Sep 2009 17:39 UTC in reply to "RE: MythTV"
segedunum Member since:

Windows Media Center is one of the few solutions that supports CableCard.

How long that will continue is anyone's guess as the cable companies shape more and more up to getting you locked into their own set top boxes.

Supporting DRM is a mug's game because it never ceases to come back and bite you and your users.

Reply Score: 2

RE: MythTV
by thenewstandard on Wed 16th Sep 2009 09:46 UTC in reply to "MythTV"
thenewstandard Member since:

I tried MythTV for 4 months and after constant battles switched to SageTV and haven't looked back since. MythTV was great while it was running well but it would just randomly loose things I had setup. Once my remote just stopped working and the lirc.conf had disappeared. Another time I was in the middle of watching a show when it froze, I had to do a hard reboot. I went back to the vid to keep watching - and then it happened again, at the same spot - this was not too uncommon for me.

SageTV is not only the most reliable and best featured HTPC I've ever tried, it is also the most cross platform - Linux, Mac and Windows versions. (No OpenSolaris(Which is a shame because the idea of a zfs media and homeserver all in once is sweet.))

Reply Score: 1

Windows Media Center
by sukru on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:31 UTC
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It really depends on one's needs and tastes, but I could not find a better (free) DVR than WMC. Given the quality of over-the-air (ATSC) HTDV programs, it allowed me to cancel cable subscription long ago.

I use my 360 as an extender. This also allows using integrated Netflix streaming. And occasional Amazon Unbox and XBL VOD titles are available as well.

Yet I cannot use it for Blu-Ray or Hulu. I don't think it has DivX subtitle support either. Thus a PS3 is still in the setup.

Reply Score: 2

Windows Media Center
by Cody Evans on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:34 UTC
Cody Evans
Member since:

Windows Media Center in Windows 7 works great for me. It is easy enough for my non-techie parents to use, and was easy to expand to a second television using a media extender. The recorded TV being shared over network through Homegroup is a great plus too.

Reply Score: 1

by shiny on Fri 11th Sep 2009 23:42 UTC
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Another vote for freevo+linux.

Reply Score: 5

by drcoldfoot on Sat 12th Sep 2009 00:10 UTC
Member since:

I had a great experience with CentOS/Mythtv.
Very feature rich, ie: mythgames, Storing DVD Library, etc.

Reply Score: 2

Vanilla Ubuntu
by Wrawrat on Sat 12th Sep 2009 00:13 UTC
Member since:

Not ideal, but works wayyyy better than the HTPC solution I have tried (MythTV). Freevo looks quite interesting though.

Reply Score: 2

by joekiser on Sat 12th Sep 2009 00:19 UTC
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We set up an old T41 with XBMC attached to the livingroom TV. In the background, uTorrent would download weekly episodes of House, King of the Hill, Generation Kill, Fringe, etc. XBMC was nice, but we found ourselves exiting to use Hulu and Youtube just as often as we watched what was downloaded, so in the end we ended up just went to using pure Windows. Much faster to just load VLC than to wait for the monstrosity that is XBMC to change scenes. We also picked up a $50 RadioShack indoor antenna, which gives us about 15 local HD channels without having to wait for the show to buffer. That has been the best investment so far, since the new Hulu is garbage and won't run on the T41 without stuttering.

Reply Score: 2

by NathanHill on Sat 12th Sep 2009 00:38 UTC
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I got one of the WD TV devices refurbed from the Western Digital website, and I have been surprised.

The bonus is that there is a nice community of folks who have added on to the base Linux setup, so you can add a usb wireless dongle, usb hubs, torrent, webserver, and more.

It's fast and small. Plus, you can just repurpose some old usb hard drives for your media. So far, so good. Worth $75 or whatever I paid for it.

Reply Score: 1

by Dr.Mabuse on Sun 13th Sep 2009 03:11 UTC in reply to "WD TV"
Dr.Mabuse Member since:

I got one of the WD TV devices refurbed from the Western Digital website, and I have been surprised.

I can vouch for the WD TV too. Great unit, doesn't take up much room, runs silently and performs very well.

They (Western Digital) seem to provide good support and firmware updates for the unit as well (for new video formats, etc.)

Worth considering as an alternative to a complete PC-based system for home...

Reply Score: 1

by Devilotx on Sat 12th Sep 2009 00:49 UTC
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I've got a couple older dell P4's running Mediaportal for my HTPC, I love it, great interface, great skinning and can be deployed on XP HOME just fine, no need for MCE.

Reply Score: 1

Apple TV
by haus on Sat 12th Sep 2009 01:13 UTC
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I know it doesn't get as much love in the press and certainly none here but I really have come to enjoy Apple TV.

It's fantastic if you acquire your music, videos and podcasts from iTunes.

Edited 2009-09-12 01:19 UTC

Reply Score: 0

zotac ion
by dizzey on Sat 12th Sep 2009 01:29 UTC
Member since:

zotac dualcore atom 1.6ghz ubuntu + xbmc.
it's kind of the perfect setup cheap small quiet and can play 1080p with the help of vdapu.

Mostly trying to find the perfect controller.
using the ps3 bd remote for now but it's not perfect under linux yet, so i will get a xbox 1 wireless remote or maybe just a good bluetooth keyboard and im hoping that a good web browser will get integrated into xbmc soon

Edited 2009-09-12 01:30 UTC

Reply Score: 1

My setup.
by hollovoid on Sat 12th Sep 2009 02:40 UTC
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I keep my computer in my office, and it is run through a router to my ps3, computer is c2duo e8400, 4gb ram. Using ps3mediaserver (java, cross platform, works with xbox if ya fancy), and its flawless, 1080p transcoding with dts/dolby digital, through Denon receiver into sony hdtv, its years beyond running my computer straight into home theater with optical patched into hdmi, always smooth playback unless network is stressed (rarely).

Reply Score: 2

RE: My setup.
by Lion on Sat 12th Sep 2009 09:18 UTC in reply to "My setup."
Lion Member since:

Seconding the ps3 media centre setup ;)
Initially me and my housemate used this because it was quick and easy, but it turned out to be good enough that the PC that was previously used got stripped for parts

Edited 2009-09-12 09:19 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Comment by soulnothing
by soulnothing on Sat 12th Sep 2009 03:00 UTC
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I used myth tv for several years (0.18 -> 0.21), before the schedule it, zap2it issue. I know 20$ a year is barely anything but I barely watched TV, towards the end.

Myth is/was a bit trouble some to set up. Granted my first take was with gentoo. Then I switched to myth centric distros. I tried the big ones mythdora(myth+fedora drawing blank on exact name), mythbuntu, and knoppmyth. I ended up going with knoppmyth in the end it just worked. Granted I never got it to be a full HTPC center, but that wasnt my real intent. Instead of remotes (I never had any luck with lirc), I used two rumble pads (joysticks) to control the interface. It worked great sense I rarely needed to fast forward, commercial cut or whatever that is called thank you. Myth is a very powerful system, I had mine with a full set of media, roms, from mame, to N64, TV shows, DVD/Video Library, and a photo library. Once I set it up it just worked. Granted this took some time to do. So if you dont have time, or you just want it to work myth may not be the best option. But ive been out of myth for ~1 year i think.

The specs of the machine I had were pretty much same, just motherboard varied, Athlon XP 2400+, nvidia 5200-6200, 512MB of RAM. My backend had 2 hauppage 160, and another no name tuner. So I could record three shows at once. My parents really didnt get myth I think a big factor was the lack of a true remote. Although my dad did like being able to play all the old mame classics in one easy interface.

I tried XBMC it looked really good. However video playback always stuttered for me (no matter how i told the video to render, especially when playing from network shares, and I never used any locally stored media.

Media Portal would be my next choice after myth, if I was running a windows media server. It had similar feature parity to myth, but seemed easier to configure. I never really used it due to my waning interest in media centers at the time.

My parents now use vista media center. Its not as feature rich as myth/media portal. But its got a really good base feature set. Install a proper codec pack and your good to go. There are some issues but not to many. Every now and again vista freezes, media center crashes or something else. But its not consistent. The only portion my family really hasnt used is TV recording. We've done some light tv recording and it worked fine. Missed some features from other systems (web scheduling, and commercial cutting primarily). I haven't used windows 7 media center. I'm the only one with 7 in my house.

Right now I just use separate applications, mplayer, and various emulators. Hulu and other web stuff for TV.

Im looking into media centers again myself. The TV is a low priority for me. There are ~3 shows im interested in that I would record. My main interest is a centralized ROM/Emulator station again, easy video share access, and streaming of web broadcasts.

It really boils down to what you want to do. If you want to record TV. I'd go with myth. If you dont like its interface, just use a different front end, and share the TV recordings as video files. If you want something to watch streaming flash videos (hulu, etc.) boxee is really good, or integrate hulu desktop into some other system. I havent messed with any others. But if flash streaming is a big interst, you should go with windows. If you just want to show a catalog, of your video files. Something like media center or media portal (there was one that I heard about from mandriva drawing a blank it was really easy to use and just played media). If you want something that just works, Media Center/Boxee/Front Row(?).

But after testing so many of these out I would easily go back to myth. It may take some work to get it just right, but once its set It's an excellent system. I prefer to put in a bit of work, to get things the way i want it.

Reply Score: 2

by -pekr- on Sat 12th Sep 2009 03:08 UTC
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I was about to set-up some ION based HTPC, but my old time friend stopped me and pointed to PopcornHour as his absolutly best experience with the player stuff.

Reply Score: 2

RE: PopcornHour?
by at0m1e3 on Sat 12th Sep 2009 15:03 UTC in reply to "PopcornHour?"
at0m1e3 Member since:

At the moment I'm using a desktop with XBMC right now. It's passable, but DVD playback is broken for me right now (libcdio thing I think) so I have to run mplayer alot. It also can't do retail BluRay.

So I ordered a Popcorn Hour C200. First batch is going out Monday I believe. It's low power and has a torrent client so it can replace my desktop and I save on electric. Guesstimating it should pay for itself in 2 years. Also it should have no problems with DVDs and I can drop in a BluRay drive and play retail BluRays. Outside that it should handle all my video files that XBMC did, including ASS subtitles with positioning.

Reply Score: 1

Mini Mac
by ghostdawg on Sat 12th Sep 2009 05:43 UTC
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I just use my PPC Mini Mac (Tiger) hooked up to my hdtv with a wireless mouse & keyboard.

Now I can surf, watch movies, listen to music and look at photos of the grandkids.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by frood
by frood on Sat 12th Sep 2009 05:55 UTC
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Woah, wait... you can't install Snow Leopard on your Atom based HTPC? Off topic I know, but someone please put my mind at ease!

Reply Score: 1

Plex on the INtel based Macs
by vikramsharma on Sat 12th Sep 2009 06:46 UTC
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I use Plex on my iMac, the apple remote works with Plex. Plex can handle more formats than Front Row, Plex is basically XBMC optimized for Intel based Macs. I am going to try MythTV now on my Linux box.

Reply Score: 2

htpc - no sh*t
by l3v1 on Sat 12th Sep 2009 09:30 UTC
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Well, forgive my ignorance, but I sorround myself with stuff I need and I can use, not with buzzwords. What is a HTPC? A computer with a large(r) screen. Well, that's what I use, a small form factor computer hooked up to the tv, wireless keyboard and mouse. No media center app, I don't need that, it's just a self-imposed limitation on the use. Tv tuner, lots of codecs, transcoding apps, burning apps, video and audio player and I'm good with it for [let me think] I don't know exactly, but more than 2 years now. Only opened to clean out the dust every now and then.

I let others s*ck with shiny toys that call themselved media center apps/packages.

Reply Score: 1

RE: htpc - no sh*t
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 12th Sep 2009 09:59 UTC in reply to "htpc - no sh*t"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

That's a little uncalled for, isn't it? Where does all the anger come from? Did an HTPC run over your kitten?

Reply Score: 3

RE: htpc - no sh*t
by DrDankenstein on Sat 12th Sep 2009 15:43 UTC in reply to "htpc - no sh*t"
DrDankenstein Member since:

Well, forgive my ignorance, but I sorround myself with stuff I need and I can use, not with buzzwords. What is a HTPC? A computer with a large(r) screen. Well, that's what I use, a small form factor computer hooked up to the tv, wireless keyboard and mouse. No media center app, I don't need that, it's just a self-imposed limitation on the use.

I agree with you that the idea of the HTPC media center app being limited is very true. I loved having my mac mini hooked up to my tv and using it as a computer. However, using frontrow made the experience a little nicer when it came time to watching media from 10 feet away while reclining and relaxing. The remote makes it even more couch potato friendly, I really liked my setup. Not everyone likes seeing small text from 10/15feet away, it can be very cumbersome and damaging to the eyes.

It is my belief that maybe the idea of a mediacenter app is purely out of convenience and overall experience.

Dr. D

Reply Score: 3

It's a pity...
by mrhasbean on Sat 12th Sep 2009 10:41 UTC
Member since:

...Plex is Intel Mac only ;) I'll have a spare Mini in a week or so but it's an earlier model. I've been looking at these recently so your feedback is appreciated Thom. Anyone had any experience with the other two on G4 Mini's - or suggestions on something else that may suite the hardware better?

Reply Score: 2

Alright don't laugh...
by jimbofluffy on Sat 12th Sep 2009 11:35 UTC
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I use a Pentium III 1GHZ Dell OptiPlex GX110 to watch Hulu on my TV. It also has an cheap capture card in it, which I doubt I could get to work right in Linux, so that is why I used XP. Why is this my "solution", because it is cheap and the video quality is about as good as it can get on my decade old TV. The one nice thing about it is that it has the midsize chassis that fits in with my other av components.

Reply Score: 1

They're all poopie
by RawMustard on Sat 12th Sep 2009 11:43 UTC
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Every single one of them in some way or another.

WMC - well why would you trust your movie/music collection to such a piece of <insert favourite four letter adjective here> Not to mention the codec disaster that is windows!

MythTV - Are you kidding? Why should I have to go to university to use media centre based software.

Assorted Apple cra... - No brainer realy. Why spend huge wads of money when there's free stuff around just as bad.

XBMC - See MythTV


GooBox, GeeBox and all the other unknowns - Well they're unknown because they're like I said, poopie!

Latest SVN-mplayer and lirc and you're good to go. Will do everything the others do without the headaches!

Reply Score: 1

Mac HTPC on Atom basis
by bloop on Sat 12th Sep 2009 12:09 UTC
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Using a Atom 330 Intel board solution (for now until I get a decent Atom+ION that runs OS X). With Mac OS X 10.5.6 and Plex. Installed 1.75TB in a SliverStone enclosure. External TwistedMelon IR receiver + Apple Remote. VERY happy with the setup. Works like a charm and HT working too.

Still looking for a solution on a non fan PSU that is not 200W+

With ITunes 9 even more might be possible with that set-up.

Cheers bloop

Reply Score: 1

Wow - I never checked...
by mrhasbean on Sat 12th Sep 2009 12:20 UTC
Member since:

...system requirements on any of the others before but they all require Intel based hardware ;)

Has anyone has any experience with anything decent that runs on PPC hardware too?

... (5 mins later) ...

Gah - I wish these guys would clarify things. You go to the System Requirements section of the Wiki for XBMC and it says you need an Intel processor. You then click on the Installing on a Mac link and it tells you it works on PPC too. :S

Edited 2009-09-12 12:24 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Wow - I never checked...
by NathanHill on Sat 12th Sep 2009 19:49 UTC in reply to "Wow - I never checked..."
NathanHill Member since:

I used a G4 Cube (450mhz!) for a while, and it did pretty well using VLC Media Player, Transmission, built-in file sharing, web server, etc.. So, there may be no fancy frontend for it, but then again, Front Row isn't too bad and can be extended I think.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Wow - I never checked...
by StephenBeDoper on Sat 12th Sep 2009 20:03 UTC in reply to "RE: Wow - I never checked..."
StephenBeDoper Member since:

I used a G4 Cube (450mhz!) for a while, and it did pretty well using VLC Media Player, Transmission, built-in file sharing, web server, etc.. So, there may be no fancy frontend for it

There's a web-based UI for VLC. My previous roommate had a nice big LCD TV, so we connected an old desktop to it, setup VLC + the HTTP UI, and then used an old laptop (P233 MMX, I think) as a WIFI remote.

Not very elegant, but it was one of those "what can we do with what we have on-hand" situations.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by Luminair
by Luminair on Sat 12th Sep 2009 13:54 UTC
Member since:

another vote for popcorn hour and f--k all the rest

Reply Score: 2

Comment by FealDorf
by FealDorf on Sat 12th Sep 2009 14:35 UTC
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I just connect my Mac Mini to my TV. It's through a CRT cable and I don't see the need for a DVI or something as such. I can't use Windows Media Center either as the Apple Remote doesn't work with it..

Reply Score: 1

Boring answer:
by Torbjorn Vik Lunde on Sat 12th Sep 2009 14:38 UTC
Torbjorn Vik Lunde
Member since:

PPC Mac Mini with Front Row (and Perian for codecs).

Not very fancy compared to Flex and all those others, but does it's job well for me. ;)

I'd like to upgrade to an Intel though.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by BluenoseJake
by BluenoseJake on Sat 12th Sep 2009 15:33 UTC
Member since:

I use Windows 2008 +Tversity. I have the HTPC in the other room. The reason I use 2008 is I wanted to be able to do a lot of other things with the box, so it's also got a couple of TB of storage and 3 or 4 VMs running on it in Hyper-V. So that's a lot of video and Audio

I have a separate Dell 531 running Windows 7 with a Hauupage Tuner card for Cable, and connect both systems through an Xbox 360

Reply Score: 2

by sbergman27 on Sat 12th Sep 2009 16:00 UTC
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Personally, I put the idea of buying a home theater system in the same category as buying a solid gold toilet.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Flush...
by kramii on Tue 15th Sep 2009 14:16 UTC in reply to "Flush..."
kramii Member since:

I think it depends what you want. My own setup is very basic. It cost just £500 and substitutes for TV, DVD player, CD player and interenet access point. Granted, it doesn't do anything fancy like surround sound or HD movie playback, but I'm just not that interested.

I picked a Philips LRPC 7500 on ebay for about £200. It came with Vista, and I haven't added anything to basic install.

I didn't have a TV previosuly, so I also bought a new 32" screen that now hangs on my livingroom wall. That cost the other £300 or so.

For sound, I connected the PC to my exisiting HiFi (a basic all-in-one stereo) and I use my existing wireless router.

That's it.

I can honestly say that this basic HTPC has been one of the best investments in technology that I have made.

Reply Score: 1

by DBAlex on Sat 12th Sep 2009 16:22 UTC
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I don't bother. When i'm not using a PC I don't really want to be faffing about with a PC just to watch TV... also If I was going to build one, it would have to be fanless... and i'm not sure theres that many good cheap solutions to that problem... I suppose the Aspire Revo, but apparently it can't even drive a full HD display.

At the moment I just have an Xbox, standard DVD player and Freeview box. Works well enough for now. I know I could try XBMC... but this is an Xbox Crystal... last time I looked you can't softmod them... feel free to reply if you know any different.


Reply Score: 1

RE: Well...
by modmans2ndcoming on Sun 13th Sep 2009 02:38 UTC in reply to "Well..."
modmans2ndcoming Member since:

Atom proc plus ion chipset and a pico PSU will get you fanless for cheap.

Reply Score: 2

Another vote for popcorn hour
by dagw on Sat 12th Sep 2009 17:00 UTC
Member since:

I also spent many hours researching this topic a while back, until one day I just went "screw this", popped down to the local electronics store and picked up a popcorn hour and a 500GB hard drive. And I have to say I'm very happy. Simple, small, easy to use and not too ugly (the last one can be important if you happen to live with your girlfriend). Sure it's not as advanced as some of the other HTPC solutions, but at the end of the day it does everything I want it to do and it just works without any needless hacking.

Reply Score: 2

by AdamW on Sat 12th Sep 2009 19:06 UTC
Member since:

I run a self-built PC (I forget the specs, something like a Pentium dual-core, 9600 GT graphics) in an Antec Overture case. It runs Freevo 1.x. When I first built the system, MythTV would hang solid on my gfx card when loading for some odd reason, so I went for Freevo as a second choice, and have just stuck with it ever since. It's a giant ball of pain to configure - the configuration files are _pure python_ - but once you have it set up it's very very easy to use, which is great for visitors.

For those who don't see the point in a media center setup - controls. It's a) more difficult and b) far more annoying to use a keyboard and mouse to control a conventional desktop and conventional media players in a living room setup. My HTPC has an old Hauppauge TV card in it, purely for the remote control sensor it includes, and is controlled using the same Logitech Harmony remote which controls the rest of the living room setup. That's a gigantic benefit over having one remote control for everything else, and a keyboard / mouse lying around to control the PC. It's really that simple. Media center apps fit in far better to the way you typically interact with a living room media setup.

I experimented with using my PS3 for media duties, but its codec support is just too limited. You can use a server app that does transcoding, but then you can't fast-forward or rewind, which is a deal-breaker for me.

I've looked at switching to Moovida (used to be Elisa), but it's still got a few control issues when used with a remote, and since it's gstreamer-based you can't do VDPAU decoding.

Reply Score: 3

I prefer dedicated units myself
by rklrkl on Sat 12th Sep 2009 19:34 UTC
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I'm still "old school" in the sense that mix both normal PC video viewing (movies on the PC, most of which I FF through anyway - amazing how much garbage is released as movies nowadays) and TV viewing via a combination of a hard disk recorder, Sky Digital settop box (no subscription though - dropped that like a hot potato once I got broadband) and an LCD TV.

The reason for this is that I don't like the idea of leaving a noisy PC on 24x7 in my bedroom, when 90%+ of the time it won't be used when I'm not in the room or, indeed, when I'm trying to get to sleep. The hard disk recorder in standby mode is totally silent and has a fairly quiet hard disk when in fully on mode - do people have their HTPC right by their bed like I do with the hard disk recorder? Nope, I didn't think so (and, yes, I record things overnight, since most evening movies aired on TV go past midnight nowadays).

The hard disk recorder is fairly flexible for my needs - it'll play DivX and either play directly from USB or copy from USB onto its hard disk. This is extremely useful for any PC downloads - save them to an external USB drive, attach to them to the hard disk recorder and copy them off. Yes, an Ethernet connection would be better, but this is the next best thing.

I also have a twin-tuner Freeview hard disk recorder in another room so that I can cover programme clashes (not that's there's many - anyone else noticed how poor UK TV is nowadays?). No wonder the UK is the biggest illegal downloader of US TV shows!

Reply Score: 3

Member since:

Since this is the topic, I am requesting tips on a lightweight htpc-frontend for Linux...

I dont need the "bload" functions like TV-recording etc. that is freevo, XBMC etc...

What I need is a nice front-end to select files from, to play with a customized script that launces mplayer or vlc based on filetype... nothing more ;) sure nautilus works fine, but i little more nice gui wouldnt hurt ;)

I have tried eliza from debian repos, but no luck.. no fonts no nothing ;) otherwise that seems to be the kind of app for me...

any ideas? ;)

Reply Score: 1

AdamW Member since:

that's how I use Freevo. You don't have to configure the TV stuff if you don't want to use it. Just ignore it.

Reply Score: 2

Kubuntu, NFS, Kaffeine
by phoenix on Sun 13th Sep 2009 00:45 UTC
Member since:

No central "media centre" app. Just a directory on the server with new/unwatched shows, another with movies, another with music, shared via NFS. Kaffeine and Amarok on the laptop connected to the TV and stereo. Nice and simple. A wireless mouse controls it all from the couch.

Note to article writer: XBMC Media Centre is redundant, it's just XBMC.

Reply Score: 2

Networked Multimedia Players
by darkstego on Sun 13th Sep 2009 01:08 UTC
Member since:

I messed around with HTPCs in the past, but I never found a solution that was practical enough and dependable enough to stick with until I found Networked Multimedia Players.

Solutions like Tvix and Popcorn Hour, while they may not be as flexible as HTPC, cover 90% of what I wanted from an HTPC at a fraction of the hassle. Now being married with a kid it is nice to have a solution that is easily accessible to everyone in the house, and doesn't require constant tinkering. I now have a unit installed with every TV in the house. I have even installed one at my parents house to enable viewing of digital content, it leads to a much more comfortable viewing experience when compared to sitting in front of the PC.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by blitze
by blitze on Sun 13th Sep 2009 01:11 UTC
Member since:

uTorrent and VLC.

Just connect Win 7 to the Panasonic Plasma and pull what I want to watch from uTorrent (TV Series only). VLC is my playback software of choice which serves for DVD's and other stuff I watch nicely.

Wireless Mouse works a treat as my VLC controller from the couch.

BlueRay hasn't taken off well here in Oz so I mainly just watch DVD's upscaled on the Plasma but they look nice enough for now.

Haven't bothered with a TIVO style app. Just think if I pull too much stuff down I will be stuck infront of the box for the rest of my life.

Reply Score: 2

by HelenWeathers on Sun 13th Sep 2009 01:37 UTC
Member since:

I use SageTV software on my server to manage 4 HiDef OTA ATSC tuners and two HD PVRs (for HiDef from my satellite boxes).

I have 4 SageTV HD200 Media Extenders connected via HDMI to TVs in my living room and bedrooms.

Watching recordings and live TV thru the HD extenders (avoiding the PC codec hassle) is a great experience.

Reply Score: 1

RE: SageTV
by techie75 on Sun 13th Sep 2009 04:04 UTC in reply to "SageTV"
techie75 Member since:

One more vote for SageTV!

There are community written addons for SageTV that allow you to access and manage your SageTV DVR remotely via web browser or mobile phone, an addon that allows SageTV to tweet on Twitter, addons to process your recordings to mark the commercials and allow your SageTV DVR to automatically skip commercials during playback, addon to automatically extend the recording time of many major sporting events that go into overtime so you don't miss the endings, addons to download and display your local movie theater show times and movie trailers, and many more addons. SageTV can be an HTPC solution, but is easily expandable to be a whole-house DVR solution as well. No need to have a PC at every TV. Low cost Hauppauge MediaMVP extenders can be used on your SD TVs and the HD200 extenders can be used on your HD TVs to eliminate the need to deal with the configuration and experimentation needed to get a PC to do video playback smoothly with your videos.

SageTV has an extremely smart and reliable scheduling engine to ensure your favorites are recorded. If you have too many favorites and too few TV tuners, there is a conflict resolution system that will attempt to record later airings of favorites so no favorites are skipped. When SageTV can't resolve a conflict on its own, it will notify you with a conflict icon on the screen so you can choose from one of several options to inform SageTV what to do for the conflict. With SageTV, there are no EPG fees. EPG data is available direct from SageTV for free if your channel lineup is from a North American cable/satellite/fiber/OTA provider. XMLTV grabbers can still be used outside of North America to grab EPG data.

Unlike some of the smaller free/low cost DVR software out there, SageTV has virtually unlimited support for number of tuners and connected clients. Don't have enough expansion slots or USB ports to support the number of TV tuners you want? No problem, SageTV can control TV tuners that are installed in other PCs on your network as if they were installed directly on the main SageTV PC.

Another cool feature of SageTV is the Placeshifter client. A laptop or PC running SageTV Placeshifter, or the HD200 extender, can access your SageTV server over the Internet. This allows you to go on business trips or vacations and still be able to use your SageTV DVR on the road as easily as if you were at home. Watch your recordings or even live TV on your laptop while on the road or in the air. If your friends or family have broadband Internet, bring your HD200 extender to their house and have access to the content on your SageTV DVR at your home while at their house.

Not a fan of Windows or PCs? SageTV has you covered there too. Besides Windows and Windows Home Server versions, SageTV comes in Mac and Linux versions as well.

If you're serious about your HTPC and you want DVR software that lets you do all of the Tivo-like TV related stuff but also lets you access your photo, music, and DVD collection, access Google/YouTube videos, and more, then SageTV is worth a try.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by kees1869
by kees1869 on Sun 13th Sep 2009 02:28 UTC
Member since:

Using XBMC here build on top of Moblin, which makes it boot really fast. Under 5 secs excluding POST (booting from SSD).

Reply Score: 1

Media Portal
by faltiska on Sun 13th Sep 2009 08:11 UTC
Member since:

I think I tired them all and no one compares to Media Portal.

Reply Score: 1

Netgear EVA8000
by Moochman on Sun 13th Sep 2009 23:30 UTC
Member since:

Got a Netgear EVA8000 here. Used off eBay, the price was right.

While the interface is not nearly as shiny or as usable as for example AppleTV, it supports a *lot* more formats--most significantly AVI and Xvid. The interesting part (good or bad depending on how you look at it) is that you bring your own storage--either you can directly connect a USB mass storage device, or access a server on your network via ethernet or wi-fi. No special software is required on the server side--any old SMB server/NAS will do, though it does come with its own software for Windows that adds support for YouTube playback.

The only downside is that if you go the USB route, you can't access the drive over the network. On the other hand if you already have some kind of file server in your network, this may be the device for you.

Edited 2009-09-13 23:35 UTC

Reply Score: 2