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Which HTPC Software ?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by richjthorpe, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Hi All,

    If I got a PC with all the hardware trimmings needed for DVD playback and Freeview (Say the Nebula card), and wanted to link it to a hi-def capable LCD tv, which software would I use ?

    The Wants...

    DVD playback
    Twin Tuner Freeview (Does this mean I need 2 Nebula cards ?)
    EPG
    PVR capabilities
    Digital FM radio (Nice to have really)
    Scaler capabilities (To 1366x768)

    Most importantly, one front end. I don't mind having a number of packages to set up the PC for scaling and EPG extra, but I would need a package that brings it all together. For example, I don't want to have to close the Freeview software and open the DVD software.

    Does Windows MCE do all this ? Are there any glitches ? Does it do scaling ?

    Also, I have a Twin Tuner PVR at the moment, how does a scaled image through a HTPC compare to an external tuner given that the bitrate is low ?

    Thanks in advance,

    Richie.
     
  2. hebawom

    hebawom
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    MCE does all that, but it does not support the nebula card.

    Also all the digital radio stations that come with freeview aren't found in mce since they aren't broadcast with a video stream. Also for the same reason MCE can't find the teletext channels (no great loss!)

    You'd have to get 2 PVR cards for the watching and recording of 2 different channels. I just bought an MCE sweetspot card with the AVforum discount - I'm very pleased so far.
    MCE is practically WindowsXP so for scaling, just use powerstrip which runs in the background.
    The absolute best thing about MCE for TV is the EPG!! Awesome. Its like the sky one where the channels are listed on the left hand side and the programs scroll to the right for each channel in there appropriate time spots. It downloads 2 weeks of listings for each channel and then you can search for the things you want to record. So you can search all the films and set up recording of any you fancy. Then you can browse all the comedy sketch show and decide whether you want to record just one episode of little Britian, or the whole series. Then it gets complex, once you've told it to record several series, it'll start finding recording conflict - then you can prioritise which recording you want. ie. Record Little Britain unless it conflicts with Dr Who - then record that!! Hours of fun!
     
  3. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Sounds like you've had hours of fun already !

    The PVR I have now already does all this (EPG) although it doesn't have series link.

    I little miffed MCE doesn't work with the Nebula card. Does it work with Hauppage ? Heard it's about the same PQ for Freeview.

    I didn't realise Powerstrip was a scaler, just thought it outputted a native screen resolution for Windows.

    What about Digital Radio Stations that aren't included on Freeview eg, the ones when you buy a DAB radio ?

    Thanks,

    Richie.
     
  4. Skunkpipe

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    For freeview you could try the BlackGold freeview card - this is also very good; I believe they'll be releaseing a dual tuner version soon....
    As for the nebula, last time I asked about the BDA drivers required for MCE I was told 'Feb 2005', that's been and gone now, but I understand they're not far off (Q2 last time I heard).
    One thing to note with both of these cards is that evern though they have s-Video in, this will not work with MCE as they are software encoded (MCE requires a hardware MPEG2 encoder for video capture - Analogue cards such as the Hauppauge PVR150 do (tend to) have hardware MPEG2 encoding, so s-video in on these will work)

    Re: radio stations - this depends on your area and what ensembles you can pick up on your DAB radio v's what's on freeview; but all the services you can get on BBC National DAB ensemble will be available to you on freeview- did you have any stations in mind?
     
  5. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    It's annoying that there is a great piece of equipment in one box called the HTPC that can/will revolutionise the way people watch, listen to AV but there isn't a single program that can do everything. If I was still into coding I'd have a crack at it myself. Any coders on the board fancy a crack at a stand-alone MCE beater ? :thumbsup:

    Anyway, I was thinking of stations like XFM that you can receive in London. Can't find it on the Freeview box.

    Richie.
     
  6. lisag

    lisag
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    When I had a Hauppauge 150MCE in my Media Center it did come up with FM radio as an option in the main MCE Start Menu, but I never configured it as I did not have a spare FM aerial feed, so it is possible.

    A couple of other options are to listen live to XFM via their website, there are a number of radio stations available via 'Online Spotlight' of MCE, most are US based I believe, or check out the forever increasing MCE plug-ins that will probably be able to integrate web based radio into the MCE interface.

    lisa
     
  7. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Just been reading about MCE2005 and it seems to do more than the previous edition although doesn't do scaling. Would I be able to use DScaler with MCE2005 ?

    I've not seen MCE in action so I don't know how it loads. Do you have to start up in normal XP then load MCE or does it automatically load ? If the latter, can you easily get back into normal XP for web browing, email etc ?

    Thanks,

    Richie.
     
  8. hebawom

    hebawom
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    It is a seperate OS, but practically its XP. You can set media centre to launch on startup or not - very easy to get back to XP - just close media centre!!
    Although, I never do. I just use the remote to navigate media files.

    Very good, in depth review of MCE2005:
    http://htpcnews.com/main.php?id=mce2k5_1
     
  9. hebawom

    hebawom
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    If DScaler is a DVD codec, then you choose which one to install. If its a video cleaner and post-processor, then you can use FFDshow within the My Movies plugin.

    http://www.binnerup.dk/mce/
     
  10. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Not entirely sure what DScaler is, but I know that it de-interlaces images and can scale the image to the native res of a tv/monitor, eg, takes a 720x576 image and sacels it to a HD 1366x768 TV.

    Does ffdShow do this ?
     
  11. TheCrow

    TheCrow
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    Someone's already doing this, it's freeware and open source so you can contribute your own changes.

    Media Portal

    It already supports Digital Radio via Freeview and software encoding capture cards.

    Can use VRM9 or Overlay, Choice of codecs, supports FFDShow and lots of other cool features.

    It's still in heavy development and so occasionally unstable but looks very promising.
     
  12. TheCrow

    TheCrow
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    A few comments regarding various posts in this thread:

    Powerstrip is not a scaler, it allows you to set precies and unusally screen resolutions and refresh rates for your graphics card but it does not scale any images this would still be done by the graphics card.

    DScaler is not a scaler dispite the name. DScaler 4 allows you to view the picture from a video capture or TV tuner card on your PC it has lots of image processing abilities the most notable of which is deinterlacing but it doesn't scale images. DScaler 5 at the moment is only a DVD codec.

    FFDShow is the only software scaler I am aware of for the PC.

    DScaler and FFDShow are not supported in the MCE frontend but can be run on the normal XP interface when the MCE shell is closed.

    Some of the newer graphics cards can do image scaling at a quality level close to FFDShow, I am using an nVidia 6600GT card with Purevideo and find it hard to see any improvment using FFDShow.
     
  13. hebawom

    hebawom
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    Although as I said earlier, you can use it via the My Movies plug-in - works fine for me, although some people have had trouble getting it working
     
  14. TheCrow

    TheCrow
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    Do you need to run TheaterTek to get FFDShow working in MCE or can you use it with the MCE DVD player?

    Presumably it only works for online DVD playback and not with a DVD-ROM drive or with TV?
     
  15. hebawom

    hebawom
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    Yes, only theatretek, and only on-line. But there is a fairly active forum on the developers web-site with many petitions for zoomplayer support. Doesn't bother me, I like theatretek. But I'm sure that the zoomplayer support will be out soon
     
  16. TheCrow

    TheCrow
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    @ richjthorpe

    If I were you I would build a HTPC with MCE 2005 (it's basically XP Pro without the Windows Domain bits but much cheaper) then tryout Media Portal it does most of what you want but isn't as stable as MCE at the moment. That way you don't need to spend any extra money as you will need an O/S anyway and Media Portal is Free. :clap:

    I would recommend a nVidia 6600GT card with the nVidia DVD codec as I find the scaling with this combo to be very good.
     
  17. MikeFish

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    To get FFDShow running in MCE2005 you need to use TheaterTek. You also need the My movies plug-in (latest version) which allows you to chose whether to use TT or the normal DVD player.
    Don't think it will work with TV, just movies on your hard drive or in the dvd drive.
    However, I don't find this a perfect solution. The MCE remote buttons don't match up with TT buttons, ie the play, stop, next buttons don't do anything. To navigate through a disc you have to use arrows instead (the MCE remote works powerdvd perfectly!). Also, if you stop playing a film, it doesn't revert back to the MCE window and menus (which the standard player does).
     
  18. Skunkpipe

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    I can get XFM on DAB (CE London Ensemble), Sky, but not freeview round these parts. Freeview radio seems to be limited to teh BBC services, plus Kerrang, Heart, Mojo, talksport and a couple others :thumbsdow
     
  19. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Hi TheCrow,

    Would I be able to scale a Freeview signal (eg Black Gold card) using the nVidia codecs or are they just for DVD playback ?

    Richie.
     
  20. hebawom

    hebawom
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    If you're looking at the Black Gold card - get the sweetspot MCE - its exactly the same card, although with the 12.5% discount from AVforums, it works out a bit cheaper!

    I use the NVidia codecs for DVD and TV.

    I tried Media Portal and I've gotta say that it did not impress me at all.
    Very sluggish menus (using the media centre remote), transition effects through the menus are poor, the slideshow effects for "my pictures" are crud. Basically media centre is very very polished, when you use something else you'll notice little things that are missing from media centre that seem to make it so good.
     
  21. TheCrow

    TheCrow
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    The Purevideo scaling works in Freeview as well as DVD.

    Infact it is a part of VRM9 so if your application uses VRM9 (like MCE 2005) then it will use the purevideo hardware to scale the image.

    As I understand it VRM is an alternative way of rendering the screen, instead of using overlay. It uses the DirectX interface and so can call on hardware accelleration available in the graphics card. This also lowers CPU usage.
     
  22. TheCrow

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    Agreed, it is not as slick as MCE but it does offer feature not available in MCE.
    I guess you have a choice of a stable and slick system with some missing features or a feature rich system that's a bit clunky and unstable.

    I am hoping in the future MP will gain stability and speed or MCE will add the features I am missing (support for Freeview Radio and the Sweetspot RGB capture card).
     

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