Bossworld's HTPC build and rebuild

Bossworld

Active Member
Right, looks like my Scaleo's died so I'm going to have to rethink my options.

Currently have a

Scaleo E case (built in RC-6 IR receiver, VFD)
2x Compro S350 DVB-S cards
1x Hauppauge Nova-T DVB-T USB stick
Liteon DVD-RW
Samsung Spinpoint F1 500GB (reasonably quiet)
2GB DDR 400
MSI GeForce 8500GT 256mb
VIA K6241A (as my motherboard SATA isn't recognised by W7 setup)

However, it's just died for the third time. Recent attempts to get it working by removing the CMOS battery are no longer working, so looking at replacing/upgrading.

Will keep this thread updated as I'm sure there's a couple of people with Scaleo Es on here.

Older pics:







Now connected up to a 32" Sharp 1080p panel before the PC died.
 
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Bossworld

Active Member
Have ordered a new Scaleo case, thankfuly all my components turned out to be OK. So now have spares in case of problem, I reckon the motherboard is fried so will have to try the PSU on another machine, otherwise it could well be that both are goosed - not willing to try the old components with the new ones just in case the same happens again.

Will upload photos later, a german chap has released a new VFD driver which works a hell of a lot better than the old one.
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Apologies, in my rush to build I forgot to stage-by-stage, so here's an improv.

Empty shell of the old one. If you buy one from eBuyer, this is essentially what you'll get. Excuse the blue hard drive holder it shouldn't be down there!



Extras included in the box - silent passive heatsink, rubbish wireless keyboard (receiver built into the media centre case), MCE RC6 remote, power cable and ADD2 card for DVI/S video output



Built up, with silent passive 8500GT, Via 6241A SATA card (for some reason BIOS doesn't recognise samsung spinpoint hard drives in Windows Vista/7 setup - works in XP though) - had to also create a custom bios which incorporated the VIA Raid utility.

Also has two Compro S350 DVB-S Cards in there, 2x1GB sticks of DDR, and the silent heatsink installed. The only fans in the machine are in the PSU - this is a seriously quiet machine. Have since re-routed the wires around the heatsink to avoid any problems. Excuse the IDE hard drive sat on top - I'm waiting for my SATA drive to be returned from an RMA.



Picture of VFD, front controls and rather nasty 'Media Center' sticker (have since removed, need to clear up with some meths). Must be to protect Fujitsu Siemens copyright.



Full front view with ports, and seriously naff keyboard (poor trackerball, keyboard misses characters.) Both i've had are just as bad as each other.

 

Bossworld

Active Member
BBC HD with the VFD active



EPG of some of the remaining Freesat channels - the normal ones like BBC1, ITV1 etc. have been merged with their freesat equivalents on my DVB-T tuner, to give three possible sources for each of the channels - no recording conflicts here!



Will get some more pictures of the new VFD driver and bluetooth keyboard I'm using now.
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Samsung HDD eventually RMAd by eBuyer, have swapped to a Western Digital 640GB as it has excellent reviews re: noise (Caviar Blue 640GB)

Look what else arrived :D Full edition from Amazon - £45. Couldn't help but notice the lack of a browser ballot screen though...




Hard drive plumbed in. Now this drive is very quiet when being access, even on its loudest AAMS setting, but the resonance is absolutey awful. in comparison to the temporary IDE drive it resonates, which then gets amplified by it being in a wooden stand. I've tried standing the machine's front feet on some card which makes a substantial difference, but going to have to figure out a better solution.



New VFD driver as mentioned. Recording light now flashes on and off continuously when recording, channel name is a bit sporadic, doesn't always come on but the rest always updates fine. "Recorded TV" graphic is in German though! :rotfl:



On a side note i'm having a few problems with sharing media with W7, SMB shares seem harder to implement too. I've managed to get the missus' netbook to be a viewable source in W7 media player, but for the life of me can't get it the other way round.
 
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Daz CPFC

Active Member
Dude, that's awesome, can't believe I've missed your other posts.

How did you get ITV HD to Show the EPG. Mine never shows.

Good Job buddy:smashin:
Appears to be the main ITV1 channel feed although OP can verify, nice build looks good, really like the VFD! :smashin:
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Appears to be the main ITV1 channel feed although OP can verify, nice build looks good, really like the VFD! :smashin:
Correct, bit of a kop out but what it means is that when you manually activate a recording, it keeps the name. As ITV HD is only occasionally broadcast, and is always just an HD version of ITV1, couldn't see any point in mapping anything else!

Thanks for the feedback. Hard drive is starting to drive me mad, took the machine to bits again and tried mounting the HDD upside down but made no difference. Not really sure what to do, the only thing that works is putting a chequebook under one of the feet lol, tried a couple of bits of corrugated card and didn't do much.
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Quick update, have reformatted to x64 due to my media centre often resuming from standby with a blank VFD and no activity, almost as if the hard drive isn't being initialised or something? Came out about the same time as that Windows 7 'black screen of death' crisis, never figured out what it was and couldn't understand the system event logs either.

S350 cards installed automatically after a windows update, Hauppauge needed the driver downloading. Going to leave the VFD driver off for a few days in case it was causing the problem, but there's now a 64 bit version available too.

Can't really see any downsides to x64 although i'm sure i've overlooked something!

Would be nice to be able to reimport my custom channel setup and series links, i've saved the files but i've heard there's problems when trying to reintegrate the channel line up, apparently the series links can be done though. Don't know if you can go x86 -> x64 though.
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Standby bug was fixed using the Media Centre standby tool, and enabling Nvidia D3->S3. Could not fix the same problem using the newer version of the tool, but clearly it was the graphics card playing up after all this time and not the hard drives as I suspected.

----

Incidentally, the new VFD driver allows you to use custom graphics. I've made my own, fairly happy with the results.



---

Got a 1 month sky player trial so using that at the minute, works quite nicely. Recorded the last two League cup games from BBC HD, not sure about the big fuss that's being made over the change of encoder, still looks great to me.
 
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Bossworld

Active Member
Well, this stopped being fun a long time ago, but my G86 based NVIDIA card did the noble thing and died from overheating.

Have bought an Asus Bravo 220GT (silent), which is the only half height/passively cooled card I could find. Unfortunately paid a premium of around £15 more than the standard cards, perhaps due to the bundled IR receiver/remote (that now makes 5 different remotes that I could use with this system if I felt the urge :laugh:)

In an attempt to justify the cost of the 220GT over the 210 (which received some fairly bad reviews), I've also bought a Samsung SH-B083L BD-ROM/DVD Combo.

For the eagle eyed amongst you, you'll see my motherboard only has 1 onboard SATA, hence the additional PCI card. The top port on here is shared with the one on the back of the card. There was no clearance (even with a right angled cable), so i've had to route the SATA cable out of the PC, and back inside, thereby necessitating the removal of the SATA card backplate. Not really an issue and may let some heat escape, as that GT220 heatsink is much bigger than the one on the 8500GT.

When watching VC-1 blu-rays, CPU usage is around 25% maximum. Had some issues with an MPEG4 AVC one, but that may have been a one-off blip. I'm using TMT3 with the desktop refresh rate set to 23.976HZ, and the media centre refresh rate set to 50hz. Using the shortcut within Media Centre works a treat. Have also made shortcuts for ejecting/closing the disk tray, as the button doesn't line up well with the one on the case. Can post instructions if anyone is interested.

Also can't praise this iPlayer plugin enough: Downloads - mce-media-core - Project Hosting on Google Code

Want to try and get MacroTube working properly for YouTube playback, but it's just a horrible stuttery mess at present.
 

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looking good :d
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Upsetting to check the post dates and see that this was only up and running for 3 months before a major overhaul, but that's life I guess.

I was experiencing problems using a VIA SATA add in PCI card, there was some issue in the transfer rate between the hard drive connected to that, and the one off my motherboard. Probably not that surprising as it's all SATA 150 and might have been causing an overload or conflict across the PCI bus, but it was causing issues and I needed more than one SATA port.

So, decided it was time to upgrade.

Bought:
AMD Athlon X2 405e (2.2ghz triple core).
2GB Corsair DDR3 1333 (bog standard but one of the few that eBuyer could send the next day)
MSI 880GM-E41
(and a 24 pin power extension cable).

BTW congrats to ebuyer, ordered at half 10 at night, arrived at work at 2PM the next day (despite all the snow up here).

Ripped all the old cables out for firewire, scart etc. that would no longer be used.



The problem with this chassis, although £ for £ one of the best cases I've ever seen, is that it had a custom I/O shield build into the steel case. Tried to use a pair of needle nose pliers to rip through it, but couldn't get enough of it off to see the new motherboard.

1 trip to Argos and £40 later, came home with a Dremel multi. Took 2 and a half cutting disks to get through (one of which shattered everywhere), a whole load of sparks, and you can see the dust over my ironing board :D but I can now fit a standard MATX motherboard in there.



Unfortunately the new I/O shield won't quite go on, and i'm not willing to try and cut any further so would either need to sand it down, or cut part of the shield off and mount it somehow into the larger gap. Either way not much point.

 
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Bossworld

Active Member
So, installed the motherboard (only takes 6 screws and doesn't reach the old mounts at the top which was a relief - saved more use of the dremel!)



The power cable was an inch too short, so had to use the extension piece. That mess of cables in the top left is a variety of floppy-style power splitters that used to be for the SCART outputs on the back of the old motherboard, but as it still seems to be powering the VFD display, I can't really start hacking things off. So have had to tie them up and leave them at the front of the case.



This was the initial test with everything plumbed in. The graphics card heatsink is very very close to the PCI riser (we're talking millimetres here) so that will be a case of watch this space. The motherboard does have onboard HD4250 though so might be usable (although I think there's still a conflict with ATI/HD channels?).



One of the reasons for choosing this particular motherboard (there weren't any reviews I could find!) was that it has 6 SATA 3GB ports, 4 of which are mounted vertically. This meant that I could feed the two hard drives and the bluray drive without having to use long right angled cables or bending things too far. You can also see the lack of graphics card clearance on this pic.



Picture with the PCI riser removed. I was lucky that this motherboard follows the Intel standard for power connectors/front audio connectors, so didn't have to change anything, and it made plugging everything in childs play.

Also have the USB for the included wireless keyboard (rubbish), VFD, IR receiver and card reader/front USBs.

 

Bossworld

Active Member
Final post of the update (no pics this time as this is more about functionality and improvement).

The reason for buying the AMD Athlon X3 405e was that it has a low power draw of 45W max. So, despite costing more than the equivalent normal processor (and being a bit slower), it meant that the power draw should be ok with my 250W power supply. There was a green dot on the CPU cooler box included with the processor, not sure if this means it's an eco one or something, but it's reasonably quiet in any case.

Within the BIOS, there was an option to try and unlock the fourth core. I'm pleased to say that this worked and seemingly without issue.

I've also tried the standard easy-overlock (OC Genie) within the BIOS, which bumped the CPU speed from 2.2GHz to 2.8GHz, however it did seem to stop the power-saving throttling (CPU usually goes down to 800mhz). So might not overclock for now, but theoretically I've got a quad core 2.8ghz for £60. Spot on.

System booted fine, had to reinstall windows but just did a quick test over the top, now reinstalling properly. In all honesty I can't say there's a massive speed improvement in MCE yet, checked on CPU-Z and the CPU sits at 800MHz, rising to 2.2 when using MCE, then settling back at 800MHz when watching HDTV.

Does 7MC use multiple cores? If not I'm perhaps losing some performance when compared back to the old 3GHz pentium 4.

Also, I'm only using 2GB of RAM because the video card has 1GB onboard, and so theoretically at least, any more would be a waste? I've got the 64 bit Windows 7 disk so may put it on at some stage if I upgrade the RAM.
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Ditched my existing Logitech Cordless Mediaboard Pro - shame as it's an excellent keyboard but I've never had much luck with Bluetooth adaptors and S3 sleep. Replaced with a Logitech Dinovo Mini - seems to use a customised bluetooth to USB adaptor that doesn't show as a bluetooth device - but on the flipside no S3 problems and it can wake it from sleep. Haven't yet figured out why I can't get into the BIOS with it (believe it's the delete key!), and want to change the media centre button to be media centre rather than WMP. Took the opportunity to pair it with a little Logitech M305 wireless mouse for when I need one. Bit daft all in all as the MCE remote does everything you need on a daily basis and more often than not I RDC into the machine, but never mind!



Took the opportunity to upgrade to 8GB of DDR3, hasn't made much difference but now it means the PC can use 1-1.5GB without it being any kind of issue. Also moved to 64 bit Win 7 accordingly, v. impressed since the last time I tried it 2 years ago, no driver issues at all. Don't get a thing in event viewer anymore either which is really nice!

Ran a geekbench test at the request of another Scaleo user, probably won't be accurate as it's only a 32 bit test. However the score is nearly 4 times better than the stock Scaleo, which is a massive improvement, especially considering I'm using a 5400RPM laptop drive as my main boot drive. Swapped over to AHCI at the last reformat (AMD drivers seem to have stabilised any previous S3 sleep problems) and performance is much improved.



Now just need to find out a quick and conveniant way of being able to switch between a desktop refresh rate of 23hz and 60hz, while keeping Media Centre at 50hz. More fun and games!
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Cheers :smashin:

Going back to the refresh rate issue, it would appear that TMT5 was designed to resolve this and automatically swap the rate depending on what media you're watching.

Found a couple of threads on their forum, doesn't work for me and some others though. Have done some searching and found this:

CyberNotes: Shortcut to Change Resolutions

If you download that software, install it then you can run command level switches to change resolution.

So now I have Media Centre at 50hz, the desktop at 60hz (can finally use Youtube etc. properly), and by running TMT5 through a switch, it goes to 23.976 :thumbsup:

Just need to add this back into Media Centre's extra programs - will probably use this again:

Media Center Studio

Will do a write up to try and help others
 

Bossworld

Active Member
Right, if anyone's interested...

Big screen browsing, iPlayer, open/close Blu-Ray from remote

iPlayer
Install iPlayerSetup_alpha1.5.msi - Google Project Hosting . This will give you iPlayer within MCE, works brilliantly. Only thing you may need to do first is to upgrade your WMP security components (if you can't stream anything this is the giveaway) Security component upgrade [must be done in Internet Explorer]

Open/close Blu-Ray from remote
Download and extract NirCmd - Windows command line tool to the root of C:\Windows

Right click on your desktop and create a new shortcut, using the following target:

Open
Code:
C:\Windows\nircmd.exe cdrom open
Create another shortcut, for
Close
Code:
C:\Windows\nircmd.exe cdrom close
If you have more than one drive, append the drive letter to the command, e.g. C:\Windows\nircmd.exe cdrom open E:

Big screen browsing
Download and install Kylo Browser . Based upon Firefox, so can save passwords etc. and has several zoom setting options. Would recommend disabling the onscreen keyboard within settings as it doesn't seem to accept letter entry via the MCE remote :facepalm: and therefore gets in the way, but that's the only downside I've found. This will take your desktop resolution, which is excellent for a proper MCE setup (50hz within Media Centre, 60hz desktop) and means that websites like Youtube won't be jerky as a result of this setting (might still be crap due to low quality video though). Have found this a much better solution than Macrotube as you can see all videos available.

Auto 24hz (23.976hz) switching for TMT5 within media centre
So this is the grail I suppose!

Download and install Display Changer - 12noon
I chose to install both 32bit and 64 bit variants so you'll need to base your shortcuts based on your OS.

This will form the basis of a shortcut to go into MCE, to switch from your MCE refresh rate to 23.976hz while using TMT5, and then swap back again once you've finished with TMT5.

Code:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\12noon Display Changer\dc64cmd.exe" -refresh=23 "C:\Program Files (x86)\ArcSoft\TotalMedia Theatre 5\uMCEPlayer5.exe"
----

Now that's done, time to put it all into MCE!

Download and install Media Center Studio

Open this up, and choose the Start Menu option at the top, then the start menu tab.

Some of this is personal preference - I remove the TMT5 and Kylo groups as they're on Extras as well, and I don't see the point in it cluttering up the menu.

I'd also recommend unticking 'Explore' within Extras as it takes up room for not a lot of use.

Click on Application at the top, give the new shortcut a descriptive Title such as Open DVD.

Copy and paste the shortcut target you created earlier - remembering to just put the Exe path in the Target, and the argument on its own line (you can then delete them from your desktop - only recommend creating them to test they work). You can also assign a custom image. Don't worry about iPlayer and Kylo, their shortcuts are automatically created and added to the extras folder.



Once done, Save your changes by clicking on the floppy icon at the top.

Then, start Media Centre.

At this point, go into your Extras library at the top. Right click on the shortcut that you want at the end of this list, and choose Add to Start Menu. Repeat this process for the rest, remembering that they'll be added right to left.

Once done, sit back and admire your handiwork. :thumbsup:



The only thing I haven't been able to solve is that if you open your drive, and pop a blu-ray in, TMT5 will autoplay it using it's standard settings (e.g. desktop refresh rate, not 23hz). Workaround is to open the TMT 23 shortcut, then use eject within there. Don't do as I did and try and remove the registry entries for autoplay blu-ray, as they're very difficult to resurrect, even after reinstalling TMT5. The eject options will work fine for standard DVDs within media centre though! :smashin:
 
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krlibbi

Standard Member
hi fella
i have a scaleo case, and while fitting a new dvd rom i had to pull the front face plate off.
in doing so the wires came off the I/R reciever for the remote... can you tell me which wire goes where so i can solder them back on.... by the way, i,ve had my scaleo for 5 years, its fitted with 2 hard drives, 500gb and a 250gb. pallet 8400gs low profile graf card with hdmi output. 3 GB of ram and a pentium 4 3.06Ghz processor.. all conected to my 50" plasma:lease:
 

Bossworld

Active Member
hi fella
i have a scaleo case, and while fitting a new dvd rom i had to pull the front face plate off.
in doing so the wires came off the I/R reciever for the remote... can you tell me which wire goes where so i can solder them back on.... by the way, i,ve had my scaleo for 5 years, its fitted with 2 hard drives, 500gb and a 250gb. pallet 8400gs low profile graf card with hdmi output. 3 GB of ram and a pentium 4 3.06Ghz processor.. all conected to my 50" plasma:lease:
Sorry mate not too sure, did they come off the front panel or the internal connector? If it's the front panel, there's what can best be described as a blob on the inside that they connect to.

Mine was a bit flakey last time I took the front off so they're quite fragile
 

krlibbi

Standard Member
Yes Bossworld. i have removed the blob of glue and uncovered a sensor with three leg connectors. its this that is confussing me. The three wires, black, blue and green connect to these legs, but which way around is where i'm stuck..:confused:
 

krlibbi

Standard Member
Thanks for the replies bossworld.
Found what i was looking for on the ebuyer forums for the Elonex artisan cases.. there was a picture for the wiring. as below...Have posted for reference to anyone else who has trouble...:thumbsup:
 

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