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Home Theater / WHS / Office

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 3:53 pm
by hooraah
So here's the main home theater PC, an Athlon XII 250 in a Silverstone ML03 case running Windows Media Center. TV shows record on an internal 1TB black drive while streaming TV and movie rips come from the upstairs Dlink NAS box using Mediabrowser, as well as the Netflix and Hulu plugins. The TV is a Samsung 46" LED mounted to the wall. Hiding the wire bundle from the wall mounted TV behind the wall is my next project, as well as trying to get the switch and the HDHR into the cabinets. The surround sound is nothing special - an older Sony 5.1 system that only accepts Dolby Digital or analog, no HDMI.

The router is used as a switch and connects the downstairs network to the upstairs one via a single hardwired CAT6.

TV tuner is a HDHomerun Prime with a Comcast Cablecard. 3 Tuners are dynamically shared between the upstairs and downstairs HTPCs (as well as laptops and desktops on rare occasion). The downstairs HTPC has an additional OTA tuner connected to a small antenna hidden behind the furniture to free up a network tuner while recording shows on the major networks. It also serves as a backup for the rare occurance of the cable going out or having low signal.

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Upstairs is our second HTPC, an Athlon X2 4200+ with a passive ATI 4350 in it. It can do all the things the downstairs HTPC can with the exception of the additional OTA tuner. Mostly used for watching Netflix and TV rips from the NAS box.

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Upstairs is the loft. My desk is on the left, with a plain-jane i3 2120 in an antec case.

On top is the router, an additional shared external hard drive, and a Dlink DNS323. Right now its only hosting a 750GB and a 250GB drive as the big drives were pulled to be put in the WHS 2011 box.

The desk on the right is my Windows Home Server 2011 running on an older emachines P4 with not enough ram. Despite its tiny size, the WHS box has 6 drives in it of various capacity. Its really my wife's desk, but she only rarely uses it to plug in her laptop when she needs to scan documents or needs a place to use a real mouse. The desk also hides a magicjack plus in wait of a landline phone to connect it to. Laptops can also view HDHR tuners as well as recorded TV, but I try to keep it to just recorded TV so I don't step on the toes of people who've programmed recordings downstairs.


The cable management behind both desks, despite my best efforts, is nothing short of atrocious, so no pics of that.

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Re: Home Theater / WHS / Office

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 1:45 am
by newfiend
Nice Setup.. I see you're running Win 8.. How do you like it?
newfiend~

Re: Home Theater / WHS / Office

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:42 am
by TeddyR
Nice setup.. and can easily be expanded with more tuners as the need arises...and it will... :-) A second Prime (for more cablecard tuners) or even some HDHR-US for two ATSC tuners tucked away in an attic (really cheap now on ebay)... I would have said another HDHR-US for QAM as well but Comcast is one of the CableCos that are trying to encrypt everything... You will want the additional tuners as soon as the wife/kids realize the capability of the system... [I have at least 12 tuners avail and frequently end up with at least 8 in use under "normal" circumstances across all the devices] :-)

Re: Home Theater / WHS / Office

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 1:59 pm
by hooraah
newfiend wrote:Nice Setup.. I see you're running Win 8.. How do you like it?
newfiend~
I am! I'm still running the release preview build 8400. RTM is available, I just haven't had time to upgrade and the RP has been pretty darn stable for me.

Anyway, as a short answer, I am probably going to keep 8 as a final product rather than go back to 7. Like everyone else, I'm not a fan of the metro interface, and I'm especially not a fan of the way they force it. As for the changes to the desktop, there are some things in there I really like. For example, the file copy process is much improved. You get a history of bandwidth as well as the ability to have all of your transfers in one window and the ability to pause a specific transfer and then resume later. I do lots of backups of big sets of data, so this is a nice feature for me.

Second thing I love is actually a part of the start screen. I love being able to drag my mouse to the bottom left, hit start (for the start screen), and type the name of the app I want, hit enter, and have it open the app in the desktop. The way I open apps, this is convenient for me. For example, if I want to open the control panel, its 'start screen, c-o-n-t +enter', notepad is 'start + n-o-t-e + enter', skype is 'start + s-k-y-p (since I have skydrive installed) + enter'.

That said, neither of those two things I like are game changers, and could easily be put into windows 7. The whole metro, app store, tablets, winRT thing going on at the core of windows 8 is not how I use windows on the desktop, and I don't have a tablet, so it doesn't affect me, yet.

Re: Home Theater / WHS / Office

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:21 pm
by hooraah
TeddyR wrote:Nice setup.. and can easily be expanded with more tuners as the need arises...and it will... :-) A second Prime (for more cablecard tuners) or even some HDHR-US for two ATSC tuners tucked away in an attic (really cheap now on ebay)... I would have said another HDHR-US for QAM as well but Comcast is one of the CableCos that are trying to encrypt everything... You will want the additional tuners as soon as the wife/kids realize the capability of the system... [I have at least 12 tuners avail and frequently end up with at least 8 in use under "normal" circumstances across all the devices] :-)
The learning curve for the whole system was a bit steep, but my wife is a quick learner and I actually have a pretty high WAF on the whole setup right now. Most of her recordings are on the major networks, so if anything, I'd like to expand the ATSC tuner portion. 3 tuners on the cable card has been plenty with the caveat that the one clearQAM tuner is set to a higher priority for stations it has in common with the cablecard, keeping the HDHR prime tuners free.

Yes, you are right though about Comcast encrypting the clearQAM. I was very disappointed to hear that. I'm actually in the process (this weekend) of disconnecting a few cable lines in the attic and switching them over to an antenna I'm installing up there. I get more channels FTA with an attic antenna than I get clearQAM now (thanks FCC!), so thats the way I'm going. Fortunately, the cable junction box is in the attic, which makes it a very easy transition. One I do that, I might add a few more ATSC tuners. I like the HDHR so I might take your advice and get one, allowing both HTPCs to use the tuners instead of just the one.

We only have one kid, and I've been keeping him away from broadcast/cable TV. The media center allows me to rip entire seasons of spongebob, sesame street, and other kids shows with no commercials for some stupid plastic toys.

Re: Home Theater / WHS / Office

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:13 am
by jkg2
very cool! thanks for the insights in 8 re: copying, good info for me as well as I decide if/when to take the plunge