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HTPC, my update

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Gordon @ Convergent AV, Jun 30, 2002.

  1. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    HTPC: An update on how I’m getting on with HTPC.

    Folk keep asking me how I’m getting on and what I think of the performance of my HTPC so I thought a little update might be in order.

    Automation: I was trying to use an ir keyboard and learnt commands to pronto for this. Unfortunately its not working. So I am going to have to go the irman and girder route. Picture quality with Dscaler on normal TV programming, be it video based or film is very good. Much better than I could have hoped. I still have issues with the set up of the video controls for dscaler and my video capture and display cards as very high whites are definitely being crushed. I’m sure I’ll get to the bottom of it but I just don’t have time.

    Powerstrip still confounds me. Even although I have detailed instructions of how to set multiple shortcuts to different refresh rates at same resolutions I can’t do it. I’ll get Helipilot to pop over and show me how to do this once I’m closer to a solid build.

    Theatertek: Picture quality is great. Useability is a pain in the arse. Everytime I pause or skip a region2 and most region1 discs the f..ing thing crashes. I am going to post on the support forums about this. It’s extremely annoying. When it works it’s fab though. If I can’t get it to work then I suspect it’s going to be Zoom for me.

    I never thought it would be so hard or take up so much time getting this thing right. I guess when you are not a computer geek these things are hard. It sounds like the thing is not useable but that isn’t true. My wife hasn’t had any trouble using the ir keyboard to watch TV etc. The pronto launches dscaler fine so it’s just a case of changing aspect ratio’s and occasionally inputs with the ir keyboard.

    Time and patience are what’s required for a stable HTPC.


    Gordon
     
  2. GearHead

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    Gordon,

    I belive you are using one of the M-Audio sound cards, how would you rate the sound quality compared to a reasonable stand-alone DVD player ?

    I'm using the digital out on a SoundBlaster 4.1 as a get-me-going. It works flawlessly for regular Windows use and with PowerDVD. However, the sound quality is a bit mediocre IMO. Roughly equivalent to the analogue stereo outs on my Sony DVP725 but clearly inferior to the Sony's digital o/p.

    I guess my next step is to get a 'proper' home-cinema sound card, it just sickens me that they cost as much as a complete DVD player.

    Allan
     
  3. GearHead

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    Oh dear - I'm not worthy !
     
  4. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Gearhead: You are worthy. I've not been about today and didn't see your post yesterday. I haven't done the dem. I'll do it soon and let you know.

    Gordon
     
  5. GearHead

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    Excellent, look forward to it.

    Allan
     
  6. Paul D

    Paul D
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    Gordon,
    I have just gone the IR keyboard/Pronto route, and it works perfectly.

    I'm wondering how you programmed your pronto?
    I just held the pronto in front of the keyboard and pressed the "right" key for the command etc.
    One important thing i seem to remember from my early attempts with my old pronto (which i sent back nearly two years ago due to it not working my Digi cable box), is to hold down the keyboards button until the Pronto beeps "OK". This is to stop the pronto filling up the rest of the learned command buffer with repeat IR pulses. The pronto recognises when there is a IR "loop" so won't store multiple key presses if you keep you finger on the keypad whilst storing.

    Maybe that's what's causing your pronto problems?

    Let us know how you get on!;)

    Ps this is where i got my great little keyboard with a Gyro "nipple" mouse pointer built in!
    IR Keyboard
     
  7. MartinCo

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    fulabeer - does the IR keyboard work with Girder?

    I assume it does since Girder works with keyboards but just wanted confirmation.
     
  8. Paul D

    Paul D
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    Martin,
    I have not tried girder as i thought it was to use a IR receiver to achieve the same thing, but without using a IR keyboard etc.

    So please post back what i can use Girder for, as you've got me interested!:)
     
  9. MartinCo

    MartinCo
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    thought this too myself... haven't tried this,
    but if you read through the supported hardware it lists
    keyboard about 3-4 devices from the top.

    to me, Girder looks more a macro/ command service since it also
    lists serial, parallel and even tcp-ip as being supported.

    so surely if you get an IR keyboard... fake the keypresses
    from a pronto and then have girder (and possibly a custom interface) on the PC... surely a pretty good fit?
    a few choice macros to run your favourite apps up, change settings on the fly etc.

    just having a play with girder to confirm this.

    I really needed a USB version of the wireless keyboard you mentioned... think I've found one here
    http://www.cw2.co.uk/index.html for those interested.

    saves me having to buy a usb PC remote control (£40+ anyway) - just buy a IR keyboard instead.
     
  10. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Paul,

    I have two ir keyboards.Both exhibit similar problems. I'ts not to do with the Pronto...

    The thing is that the shortcuts to certain functions involve ctr, alt, "x" type of pushes. Somehow, once a three button hold command like this is sent the PC will not recognise many of the two button push ones. It's just not robust enough. I will try again though.

    Gordon
     
  11. ChrisAllenFiz

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    Fulabeer, I would also be interested in knowing if you can get girder and the kustompcs keyboard to work, as this sounds ideal for me. Also what sort of range are you getting on the IR with it? Can you tell me the make so I can look up the specs. Sorry for all the questions but it looks like that is the keyboard for me, but there is no detail on the website

    Ta

    Chris
     
  12. RichardH

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    Sorry to butt in on this one, but I'm also considering the IR KB options currently. Am I right in saying that the keyboards using Radio Frequency rather than IR will be impossible to mimic with a learning remote (Pronto or otherwise)?
     
  13. MartinCo

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    chrisallenfiz - the girder/ ir keyboard should work... with a pronto obviously becomes very tempting and more powerful.

    Richard H - yes, thats correct. the RF ones wont work with a Pronto or similar. I reckon best to try and stick to the IR keyboards...

    as to whether an RF learing remote (x-10) would learn the codes of an RF keyboard... dont know. maybe. not as nice as pronto though so..
     
  14. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    There appears to be a little confusion about ir control from pronto with HTPC.

    If you have an IR keyboard then hopefully you can just programme buttons on a pronto to mimic the keyboard IR codes. Girder is not required.

    With IRMan and Girder you don't need an IR keyboard at all. My understanding is that you create shortcuts to command lines that initiate commands. These shortcuts are then associated with an ir signal. This could be an IR signal generated by your old Sansui CD player if you wanted. It doesn't have to be from an IR Keyboard. In this way you can have more shortcuts and commands than are possible with an IR keyboard only. The limit is how many unique IR commands you can generate....

    Gordon
     
  15. ChrisAllenFiz

    ChrisAllenFiz
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    But I thought that girder could act as a macro creater, so that sequences of commands could be mapped to say, F12, and then you could use the pronto to learn f12 of your IR keyboard, and then go from there? This was how I was hoping to use girder (as well as using the normal keys in say powerdvd or whatever). Maybe I need to look into it again.

    Chris
     
  16. MartinCo

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    true... girder (or any similar tool) is not required but it is a useful addition on top - it adds full macros on the PC to do virtually anything you want...

    so yes... you've got an IR keyboard (maybe with codes learnt on the Pronto) so you can run something like WinDVD's controls...

    but how do you start WinDVD the way you want... maybe change some features around and set things the way you want.. unless there are keypresses you cant do it.

    similarly, you could be running Dscaler, Powerstrip, YxY, whatever.. and have macros with any configuration you want to do, or change things around... pretty much anything can be done with the girder and either IR remote or a keyboard.

    Gordon... also remember the first section in the start of your thread, which you called "Automation".
    Girder isnt described as just an IR tool, its described as "the Ultimate Windows Automation Tool".

    then again.. I am extremely lazy and like everything perfect and wife proof.:D but...
     
  17. Jeff

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    The applictions for Girder are huge, lots of options here. The problem with IR keyboards and girder is that you can run out of keys to assign functions to. Also if you use the ALT, CTRL or Shift keys or a combination of, their states can get messed up so that they don't work anymore or even worse the wrong commands get issued. With an Irman you don't assign keys, you use native IR codes. You could then use an RF keykoard for general input and navigation.
     
  18. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Guys,

    I am well aware of the function and possibilities of Girder...Isn't that what I posted?

    My intention to try and NOT use it and a serial IR receiver is that the best HTPC (and most stable playing DVD's) that I have ever seen didn't use girder. It used an airboard. The builder, Jenz, suggested that to make these things robust, less is more. I am no computer geek so I took his advice. Of course, getting an airboard is a problem...

    If I could change the shortcuts on my chosen software to allow me to NOT use CTRL or Shift keystrokes I'd be in heaven. I completely understand that using Girder would allow this. As I said, it's looking like the last route for me.....

    I'm glad there are folks like you who have a wealth of knowledge about how to carry out this process as I feel I'll be in need of help soon.

    Gordon
     
  19. MartinCo

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    sort of Gordon...apologies if any offense taken... think we were talking across purposes.:)

    I just didnt agree with you that if you have a IR keyboard and a Pronto then Girder is not required.
    agreed you can do a good deal of stuff just with the IR keyboard/ Pronto say once WinDVD is running... most things I'd expect but not 100%.

    I'd like my eventual HTPC to do absolutely everything.. every piece of software from start to finish, as black box as possible but with full control, maybe running a replacement GUI also... Girder (or similar) is going to have to be used here whether with a IR keyboard or serial remote.

    I'm currently deciding between getting either a IR keyboard or IR PC Remote Control (has to be USB), so same as you, I want to get the best of everyone's experience on the forums..

    at least this thread is getting some good info on it... asked about the usb pc remote controls and no-one replied.
     
  20. RichardH

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    Now this may have been done to death elsewhere, and I've just been poking around on AVS and haven't found a definitive answer, but why is the Airboard the panacea? Is it simply because it's a neat IR keyboard with mouse built in, or does it offer other advantages over other IR keyboards?
    Incidentally, I found this link to a UK site listing the Silitek-7100 - as I understand it, the Airboard. £39 + VAT. Hope that helps someone - may even get one myself....

    R
     
  21. triplebj

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    Hmmmm.....looks like it might be nicer than the one I just bought :

    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=34468

    Still getting used to the built-in mouse, so I am undecided as to whether I like it or not....... Might just try the other one as well....

    FWIW my mate gave away hiw Airboard as he reckoned it was completely useless !

    BJ

     
  22. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    No offense was taken. We both want the same end result. I just thought you thought I didn't understand Girder..

    The reason I suspect folk use airboards is that there are plenty of CCF files created, and tested for that ir device. I, stupidly, presumed that any ir keyboard would be learnable to the same level. My first was a disaster so I went to get the Siltech at one of the links previoulsy mentioned on this forum. Of course, it's no longer manufactured "but we can send you the new airboard from the same company" I presumed that it would be from Siltech and that it would work off same ir commands.....wrong......Didn't even say airboard on the box. Couldn't be bothered trying to argue with them to take it back...

    Then again, I haven't tried one of the downloaded airboard ccf's on this one. Just tried learning with mixed results.

    If I only had more time...

    Gordon
     
  23. MartinCo

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  24. RichardH

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    ...I think that is the biggest problem of all with the HTPC route.....
     
  25. triplebj

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    Yep, sorry forgot to mention that it's RF, which is nice as my HCPC
    is not in line of sight from my sofa ;-)

    BJ
     

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