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Network/multiroom HTPC

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by hiwakey, Mar 13, 2005.

  1. hiwakey

    hiwakey
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    Hope I'm not going over too much old ground here but now have square eyes from looking at forum threads:

    Having been on a Virgin flight recently and thought quite a lot of the V-port in-flight entertainment system I was wondering how to re-create it at home? The idea of central server based access to stored music, tv, video, individual games and networked multi-player games sounds excellent (especially with the addition of internet/e-mail access from any of these terminals) but how feasible is it to translate the idea from 9” chair back LCDs with a single gaming/remote and lo-fi headphones to a high quality IR controlled multi-room audio system? Oh and keeping costs down to lower than stratospheric levels where poss.

    I’m working on the premise that I use a HTPC of some kind in the main room to keep the box count to acceptable levels, connected to an AV sound rig and projector. Assumed HTPC spec:

    • Quiet, decent looking PC case
    • Nebula/Hauppauge digi-TV tuner
    • Best quality sound card possible
    • Quality video card that can scale to match the displays. Pref 2 Digi outputs to connect to the 2 displays mentioned (I like the sound of WHF’s review of the UVEM setup matching their £4500 reference Teac DVD for pic quality)
    • Large HDD. Raid arrays have been mentioned for data safety but I think this may involve a trawl of e-bay for a server to live in a cupboard somewhere.
    • Some sort of slick operating software that can do all the PVR stuff as well.
    • I’m presuming that for Sky, an external box will have to be connected? Side-issue - How does HTPC PVR work with Sky Digi and how am I going to future proof it for HDTV?
    • DVD rewriter (option of going blu-ray or HDVD upgrade when such things are available and affordable
    • Don’t know what spec of mobo and memory is required but don’t want flaky DVD playback and I’m assuming that most P4’s and recent AMD’s can handle this.
    • Quality radio access via freeview, Sky, internet and/or a DAB PCI tuner (the DAB PCI tuner is sadly unavailable new due to the demise of the company but ebay or a PC world store cupboard might turn one up).

    I only really want ONE cable across to the projector (Screenplay 4805 in mind) so how does one route any other video inputs to the PC and use it as the video switching device? Are cards available?

    For the other rooms in the network, I was thinking along the lines of Cat 5 wiring the house as high qual video takes up quite a bit of bandwidth.

    The office and kitchen will be brought in first, with the option of adding bedrooms in at a later date. Each room will therefore need (ideally):

    • To be able to access all the functions on the HTPC including the external boxes like the Sky or a gaming console like PS2 or XBox – is this possible?
    • A small network terminal of some kind – this is the bit I’m really confused about – it has to feed the monitor with display scaled (preferably DVI, but VGA would do) data for best picture quality so all these small network repeater box ideas that have been mentioned elsewhere presumably won’t have the ability to feed the monitor directly because they don’t have a video card? What I’m thinking of will probably need a scaled down HTPC of some variety, but what spec?
    • A Home Cine amplifier of some kind (Richer Sounds offer of the month probably).
    • 5 off flat speakers for wall mounting (e-baying for Mission FS1 and FS2’s at the moment).
    • A small sub.
    • A wall mounted display of some kind. The office has a recently acquired videoseven 19” monitor which is nice for a sit down traditional PC setup, but their 26” widescreen LCD TVs look ideal for both monitor and TV functions where primary use is not computing.

    Further questions on the multi-room:
    • I would like to access the digi TV tuner in the main HTPC without having to buy a separate freeview TV tuner for each network terminal. However I assume this would mean you would only be able to watch the same thing upstairs and down?
    • Would each terminal need a sound card with a SPDIF terminal to feed the AV amp sound data.
    • Would channel control/PVR functions of a Sky box be possible over this network?
    • How would you control games?
    • Would it be possible to RC the terminals with a pointing device? What options are available? (An IR keyboard would obviously be needed for writing e-mails or heavy internet use in any event)
    • Is buffering required to avoid jerkiness when streaming video files across the network?

    I think this is possible but my knowledge of networking and multiroom is limited at the moment, as is my budget to employ a pro to do it for me!
     

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