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Help for HTPC as Cable pvr,jukebox, dvd player

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by reddom, Jun 11, 2003.

  1. reddom

    reddom
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    I'm new to all this HTPC stuff, but it seems like this is the place to come.
    My Video has recently broken, and i was looking around at the options for pvr's and dvd recorders but couldn't find anything that did all I wanted, till i stumbled upon this htpc idea. Replacing my vcr has given me the perfect opportunity, to introduce an HTPC into my living room, without overly upsetting the missus (Its a vcr, honestly!).

    I have an extremly modest setup at the moment, no projectors or plasma screens etc so dscaler stuff is not of interest to me.

    I Have
    28" Widescreen Philips TV (2xScart (1 is RGB),S Video,Composite
    NTL Cable Box (The one that has non standard IR control) with scart RGB to TV (Composite to the VCR)
    Xbox
    Denon Stereo (stereo Anologue inputs only)
    PC Upstairs, Wireless Network, broadband etc.

    In order to gain permission from the Authorities;) my htpc needs to do the following three things.

    1)Be quiet
    2)Look Nice
    3)Do what the video did
    i.e., record whatever is coming out the cable box, use a timer, play back later to TV (Currently poor quality composite signal, would like better quality if possible) and control via remote control.

    In addition I would like.

    4)PVR Live TV functionality with cable box (pause, rewind etc), but with good quality picture, currently I use Scart RGB to Scart RGB on TV and it looks pretty good.

    5)Music Jukebox, 300+CD's that I would like to be able to play back via the stereo.

    6)DVD playback. Currently I use the Xbox for this but it is really noisy, would be nice to have region free stuff, and to do more with the audio via sc to my stereo.

    7)Control via ir remote (currently use kameleon as its the only thing that supports my stb), and simple front end, also audio using just the lcd.

    I've been looking around the forums, and I think I have a reasonable idea about what I need, but my biggest confusion is around the whole TV/PVR thing. So far

    for 1 & 2 I'm looking at the LMP silver case with dvd and LCD, with a zalman cooler, quiet power supply, and quiet drives, probably a p2.4 512 mb memory.

    for 3&4) I will need some kind of capture card, that takes the signal from my cable box. I've seen a converter that does scart rgb to s video at www.rgbtosvideo.com Will this provide a decent input to a capture card?
    I need a capture card that ideally will support some pvr software, to record from the s video in.
    Do any of those with a tv tuner also support s-video in? Any suggestions? PVR software?

    Then I need to be able to play the output to the TV. The only card I've seen to do this via scart RGB is the Sigma Xcard that but I don't think that this will let me support live tv, also would lose dvd sound quality as i couldnt use the audio card? so maybe i will have to make do with s-video out on another graphics card. Do ATI support this? what quality is the output?, Will it be in widescreen as it is now?

    5)Think I've got this covered, I'll copy cd's to hdd lossless compression.I'll probably use the m-audio revo card, going to the stereo via analogue, is this a good choice?

    6)presumably the points from 3-4 apply here as well, i need decent fullscreen output of dvd's, should spin quietly too, probably get a secondhand dvd106 for the lmp.

    7)maybe MyHTPC, and IRman. Will i be able to use the Kameleon(DVD setting) to control all this? Is it possible to get something to relay ir to the stb to change channel for recording? (the stb uses irda, the kameleon supports it but almost no other remote, not even the pronto)
    Can I get the lcd to display menus etc for control without the tv on? (I'm happy to do some coding for this)


    I know i've asked lots, but i'm new to this, and i think i might have found something to balance my need to tinker with new tech, while keeping the living room free of lots of new boxes (The missus's need, not mine).

    thanks

    RD
     
  2. thr5914

    thr5914
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    well this is all i can input.


    as for the jukebox thing, this is what i have.

    first off when you hook up the computer to the stereo, you pick-up a lot of extra noise, and im pretty sure mine is coming from the ram or the CPU.

    to fix that problem you have to buy groud loop isolator. pretty much what that does is send the analog signal in a loop and somehow throw's all that noise to ground.

    when you buy that kit (i got mine from radio shack for like 16$) it comes with a 1/8" STEREO(the one with two ring on it) to red( right) white(left) analog output adapter. from there plug that into the ground loop isloator. Then from the isolator to the reciever. I've heard you need to have the isolator as far away from all the other equipment as possible. and as far as i know thats about it.

    i know other could have some better input, so guys, help em out $)
     
  3. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    As far as capture card goes you have two broad choices: either a cheap one with svideo input that does most of the work of capturing with CPU power (one of these for example, if that link doesn't work try a search at pcworld.co.uk's site for "packard bell tv card") or a more expensive one which has an in-built MPEG2 encoder (such as a hauppauge wintv PVR250/350 or Vidac Vmagic).

    Both solutions have drawbacks; the first is cheap (£29.99), but pretty much stops you from using your PC while it's recording something, you'll also probably have to re-encode the recorded file after capture to make its size acceptable - this takes probably between two and five times as long as the recording itself depending on your PC and the type of codec you use. The second solution is not cheap (£120-240), but requires very little PC power to record shows (2-3% when run inbackground mode, from what I've heard). The disadvantages of these more expensive encoder cards is that they are restricted in what software they can be used with, and the stuff that comes with them tends to be pretty shabby. I have rejected the hauppauge ones as they apparantly introduce a delay of a second or two to live TV (even when not recording) and this would make using the EPG on satellite a major PITA. I'm still evaluating the vidac vmagic with the help of this site, but it may turn out to be the way to go.

    As far as software goes for this kind of thing have a look at showshifter, sage and MyHTPC (which in future will incorporate sage stuff).

    Hope this helps,
    Owain
     
  4. TEK

    TEK
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    I'm kind of new to this myself so I hope the veterans don't flame me if any of the following is wrong :)

    Get along to http://www.redremote.co.uk You stick this little beauty on the front of the PACE box covering the Irda sensor and it'll take a normal Ir signal from any learning remote and put the equivalent Irda out the back to the STB. You can still use the normal Telewest/NTL control as well. This obviously means you can use any learning remote (I have a Pronto) but also if you can get a transmitter/receiver then you could get the computer to change channels on the STB when appropriate. I'm still working on this but the www.redrat.co.uk is looking the best so far although a little expensive if you ask me.

    Typically for your kind of setup you would have a capture card for er... capture and the TV out of your normal AGP VGA card going back to your TV. Most capture cards have a composite/S Video input but try and get one that comes with WDM drivers - this'll let 3rd party software control it. Most do these days and I've just got a cheap Hauppage WinTV PCI which seems to do the trick. Radeon and Nvidia chipsets on the VGA card seem to be the most popular for output. A DVI on the Radeon will give you an upgrade path as well if you can swing the Plasma or Projecter pass the wife (if anyone has figured out how to do this as well please email me :/)

    The Sigma Xcard is only for DVD playback as it's a hardware decoder which means you can only use it's software for playback. Excellent quality but narrows your playback interface options

    I've found the best combination so far to be Digiguide as an EPG which will schedule ShowShifter as an all in one TV player, recorder, timeshifter et al. It'll also play your CDs or MP3s from the network along with DVDs. I have ISO images of my DVD collection (using DVD Decrypter) on several large HDs in the study and using Daemon Tools on the HTPC I can mount a virtual drive with an image at the click of a button across the 54g connection and it's like having the DVD in the machine.

    I still have a few problems which I think are to do with interlacing and getting the picture to fill the TV properly but I've only been at it a week or so so I need to do a bit more reading - and if I can just get the HTPC to change the STB channel then my life will be complete and I can curl up on the sofa and die of obesity as I'll never need to get up again...
     
  5. reddom

    reddom
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    Thanks all,
    You wait 2 days then three answers come along at once!
    I cant believe I never saw that redeye thing before, I spent months trying to work out how to control that damn pace ntl box! Looks like it will be able to change channel as well. Is it possible to integrate this with showshifter?
    Would i be right in thinking that if I use a software based encoder, I will not be able to pause live tv, or watch the begining of a program while its still recording?
    I think I will dispense with the Xcard for the moment, as I'm not sure the difference in output between rgbscart and s-video is worth the extra expense. I've seen a couple of converters tha will do component-to-rgb scart, which i may try if the picture quality really bugs me.
    The two things I'm still not able to decide on are the still the capture card and the graphics card. Preferably I want a fanless graphics card, and I'm beginning to think one of the cheaper nvidia cards may actually be better as they seem to have good tv out. I could start with a cheap nvidia card then try an ati if I want something better.
    I've got a while to think about it now as it looks like the lmp cases are out of stock :(

    ps Tek try telling her it a nice new picture frame....

    RD
     
  6. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    With showshifter you can pause live TV but you can't (AFAIK) start watching a programme before it's finished recording.

    You can get a fanless radeon 9000 for £50 so I'd definitely go for that.

    Regards,
    Owain
     
  7. TEK

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    Nope. It is only a receiver so just works with the PACE box alone. You would need a seperate transmitter from the PC to send IR to the redeye, and hopefully get it working with the likes of Showshifter... I'm still working on this

    You can timeshift with software based encoding. Showshifter and a cheap capture card work a treat

    Just see how you get on with software playback (or an accelerated playback integrated with your standard VGA) first. The quality might be good enough for your needs but at least you've got the option to stick an Xcard in afterwards if need be

    I think you're always going to get a 50/50 split on opinions between a GF and Radeon cards. I've used both and think they both do a good job so it'll probably come down to who is doing a "deal of the day" when you decide to buy.

    I'm currently using a GF MX


    Heehee, looks like I might of got Andys last one :)

    Now there's a thought but unfortunately I've left one too many copies of T3 magazine around the house that have provoked one or two verbal outbursts.... "f****** how much? I'll take the kids and go and live with my mum if you buy that"... if only I'd got it in writing eh? :suicide:
     
  8. hornydragon

    hornydragon
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    When i went into the lcal maplin they had a leaflet on PC stuff and were advertising a mini PC type case that was a full MP3 player etc but worked for MP3 withot bootint the whole PC cant find it on their site but looked very interesting.
    I will look for the leaflet at home and get you the details if i can.
     
  9. reddom

    reddom
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    Sorry thats what I meant can you get showshifter to act as a source controlling a pc based ir transmitter that will talk to the red-eye. (The web page hints at a serial port controlled red eye coming soon)
    Owain
    are you saying that with show shifter you can press pause, but cant then press play 10 mins later to carry on watching it 10 mins behind? i.e carry on watching the program while its still recording the end. Or is it that you cant do this with a scheduled recording?


    that mini pc sounds interesting, but I'm king of looking forward to nuilding it all myself now!

    thanks

    RD
     
  10. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    hi RD,

    to answer both your Q's, showshifter can change channels via an IR emitter (have a look at: http://www.showshifter.com/support/irtrans.htm) and (sorry I misunderstood the question) yes you can pause TV and pick it up 10 mins later where you left off, this works really well. What you can't do is start watching a scheduled recording before its finished.

    Owain
     
  11. Caveat

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    I've got close to PVR functionality with Digiguide programming Showshifter and changing channel on a stb via a redrat - Digishift sets any "Smartsearches" to be recorded, so I can set a search on "4star films" and all the films marked as 4 star would get automatically recorded - oe every episode of Eastenders for example. It was a lot of work, and the quality was never that great - about the same as VHS - could be better with faster cpu's - but theyre noisier to cool, I was using a Via C3 cpu.
    I suspect a hardware MPEG2 card would do a much better job, and would allow you to use a much lower spec MoBo/CPU which might allow you to think about some of the small fanless solutions.
    Finally I got a projector and the HTPC was moved out of the living room.

    Having said that, and just so the bases are covered, If youre starting the htpc from scratch it might be cheaper and certainly easier to get a Tivo for your pvr functionality and chip the Xbox to run Xbox Mediaplayer from a networked drive for your jukebox and DVD. I think Ive read some posts about making the XBox quieter too - not that Im saying theyre pretty!
    I think the biggest difference would be the interfaces, Ive yet to see a htpc pvr that is up to the Tivo for usability (let alone reliability).
     
  12. hornydragon

    hornydragon
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    The maplin one is called Mega PC by MSI
    Info here:http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=8400
    Its in the maplin offers leaflet SP010 but not on their site??
    Looks very smart and a great HEPC (home entertaiment) base
     
  13. TEK

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    I don't think hardware encoders will work with the likes of Showshifter
     
  14. reddom

    reddom
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    Well after listening to peoples advice and lurking here some more and at the avs forum, I took the plunge and bought some stuff.

    So far I have ASUSPNP800 Deluxe motherboard (No NB Fan)
    P2.4 Ghz
    2x 256Mb memory
    Nexus 3000 power supply
    Zalman Flower cooler
    120Gb Seagate Sata drive
    Rev 7.1 audio card

    I was still undecided about the capture card and the graphics card, after much internal debate I decided to go for a geforce for its TV out via tv tool (www.tvtool.com) however for this it seemed important that i get the correct tv out chip, and the only way to know is to look on the motherboard! I went into various places to look but couldn't find the one I wanted (Including PC world where they said I had to buy the Card, before being allowed to look in the box!!! and pay 10% restock fee if it wasn't right!)
    In the end I gave up and bought the cheapest one I could find with a TV out (GeforceMX400) and no Fan, on the assumtion that At least I will have something to compare others to when I upgrade it.

    Same for the capture card I got the the hp pb-100 at 29.99, which will get me started.

    I don't have the case yet (but Andy tells me they are now ready to ship)
    I liberated an old chassis from the cellar at work, to test everything in, along with a floppy drive.
    However I forgot to buy

    1)Power Lead (Doh)
    2)power converter for Sata drive (neither the mb,psu or drive came with one!) and could only find online suppliers of ide --> sata connectors.

    Using a borrowed power lead, I switched everything on and
    Nothing Happens :(

    realise that the case chassis I have has no power button!
    Come back next day with a power button!

    plug it in press it!

    the fan came on, but thats about all that happens

    realised I needed a speaker to hear the mb diagnostics.

    1 day later liberated a speaker, and the beeps pointed me at the graphics card, reseated it for the 10th time

    Can now boot to Bios!

    my Sata power convertor has arrived, So hopefully when I get home I'll be able to boot it up and install some software!

    Now all I need to do is decide what software to use!
     
  15. TEK

    TEK
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    I think that some MX400 cards were the first to have the non tv-tool compatible NV chips :/

    Although saying that I'm now using an FX5200 which also isn't compatible and it's almost spot on anyway, certainly no overscan
     
  16. reddom

    reddom
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    Tek, you are right about the mx cards, although I knew that when I bought it, but had heard that the new integrated TV out and latest nvidia drivers do a pretty good job on their own. However I'm now confused about how to get it working properly with my widescreen TV.
    The Tv out seems to work OK, and the picture fills the whole screen, however it seems to me like its stretched when I output dvd's full screen.

    I did a very small ammount of testing using windvd and lotr dvd
    if i had win dvd set to 'normal' or 'widescreen' then it looked stretched, and took up maybe only 50% of the vertical resoloution of the TV, e.g. it seemed to be a full widescreen picture shown on a 4:3 display, then stretched to fit the width of the TV.
    The only other option was 'pan and scan' and this just zoomed the above picture in, but with the same stretch, although it took up more of the vertical space on the tv.
    To be honest I'm a bit confused about this widescreen stuff, I cant really get my head around whether I widescreen tv has more horizontal resoloution than a 4:3 tv, or whether it has the same number of horizontal pixels but they are a different shape?
    anyway I'm sure with a bit more experimentation I'll be able to get it sorted.

    RD
     
  17. TEK

    TEK
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    To be honest I've never really been able to get my head around the whole widescreen thing either :)

    Try expanding the nav panel on the right of the player and turn fixed aspect ratio off
     

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