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HTPC Setup Advice

Discussion in 'Plasma TVs' started by pixuk, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. pixuk

    pixuk
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    Hi All,

    A warning in advance that this is likely to be a long post... but I figure it's better to give all the details I can think of in order to get the best advice from the gurus amongst you.

    Background
    Up until a week after Christmas, my AV setup consisted of a Mitsubishi XP4015C 40" 4:3 Plasma (which was, ahem, nearly 7 years old..), Panasonic Sky Digibox, Sony DVD NS300, Sony STR-DB940 Amp and a Tivo. The interconnects were all composite (lowest common demonminator from the Sky Digibox), and feed through the AV Amp (which can't mix S-Video & Composite inputs).

    Got back from a Christmas break, turned on the Plasma and after about 20 minutes of normal operation the picture went crazy. Now it only displays a random combination of RGB lines vertically and horizontally, jumping around as the input picture changes. I'm guessing this is terminal, but if anyone recognises this problem (and whether it's something that can be cured), let me know!

    Anyway, the demise of the Mitsi forced me out to buy a new Plasma. I went for the LG MZ-42P245V, since this was in my price range. However, when I set the new screen up at home, it highlighted just how poor quality (and noisy) my original screen was, and how poor the Composite signal is.

    The first step to improving picture quality has been to get a Keene Scart RGB - Component converter, and this is taking the output from the Tivo to the Plasma. A much better picture, but after reading many of the threads on here, my interest was peaked in a HTPC setup.

    HTPC Components
    My wallet has been getting quite a bashing, and I've been assembling a kit list of parts to build a HTPC. This inludes;

    • MSI Mega 651 with 2.4GHz P4
    • Sweetspot Card & Scart/RGB Cable
    • GeForce FX 5200 256MB AGP
    • 1GB RAM (Crucial PC2700 DDR 333)
    • DiamondMax Plus 10 250GB HD
    • RedRat3 IR transmitter

    To that I'm planning to add a bluetooth keyboard & mouse and hook the whole thing into my existing network.

    Now comes the flood of questions...

    PVR
    I'm thinking this HTPC box could replace the Tivo. If I do retire the Tivo, then I'd like to pull together a PVR solution that does at least things like Season Passes and Suggestions. I've looked a Showshifter, amongst others, which seems to have a bunch of Tivo-like plug ins; but all the solutions seem to be based on a grab-bag of utilities that have to work together to give you an integrated system. I'd prefer to have an interface that looked like a media center, and not a PC, and I'm not sure I've yet worked out whether there is an application that pulls all this stuff together (live TV, DVDs, recorded programming, etc) and presents a full screen overscan display (ideally which could be skinned, since my profession is a designer). Advice on this would be appreciated.

    Since I'm using a Sweetspot card to get a picture in from the Sky Digibox rather than a TV tuner card in the PC, I need to get the PVR to control the channels on the set-top box. I've got the RedRat 3, and I'm thinking Showshifter (and possibly others) can use that to send the remote commands. However, I couldn't find the RedRat 3 plugin software for Showshifter anymore (page not found). Is it a mistake to go down this route?

    Aspect Ratio
    One slightly annoying feature of going from a 4:3 plasma to 16:9, is having to flick between aspect ratios constantly (and although I know the grey side bars on the LG plasma in 4:3 are there to avoid screen burn, but they are *really* distracting - how I wish they would be black!). I read a post on here about the Type 209 Aspect Ratio Controller, but that doesn't appear to support the LG plasma. Any other suggestions?

    DVD Player
    Should I retire my standalone DVD player? If I buy an internal drive for the PC, any recommendations as to which one to go for and which software to drive it? As the MSI only has one PCI slot, and that will be occupied by the Sweetspot, I can't use the XCard in that solution. If I do go down this route, I'd need a multi-region setup, since half my discs are Region 1.

    Thanks in advance for any comments, suggestions or abuse :)

    Pete
     
  2. pixuk

    pixuk
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    A thought occured to me with regard to Aspect Ratio Control. If I'm using the Sweetspot and DScaler, will that be able to automatically switch aspect ratio as per the (brief) notes on the dscaler.org site, or does it not get the correct signal in from the Sweetspot card?

    Pete
     
  3. peezee

    peezee
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  4. pixuk

    pixuk
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    Oops! Sorry. Could a moderator move this thread to the appropriate forum?

    Ta

    Pete
     

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