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HTPC – Plan of Attack (projectlog Part 1)

Sunday 6th September 2009

We have a lot of spare computers lying around at home. Nothing special, just old computers that we don’t need any more because we’ve upgraded. I’ve always thought that it’s a slight waste for them to just be lying around unused because really there’s nothing wrong with them, as long as you don’t need to run cutting-edge software or stuff that needs a quick pc. For example, when I got a new PC (3 years ago!), carried on using it because it was fine for him at the time. Recently though he needed something newer so he upgraded, so my old pc was just sat around, basically doing nothing. It’s not slow – it runs Half-Life 2 pretty damn well, for instance. So I thought I’d put it to use.

I’ve toyed with the idea of building a htpc for a while. Initially I thought of using something based around a dual-core Atom processor, because that would be quiet (silent iirc) and still more than quick enough for what I need it for. Sadly the parts for that is more than I’d be willing to spend, which is why I came around to using my old pc. I decided that all I need to do on the hardware side is make it quieter, because at the moment it’s got lots of fans and is too loud to use as a htpc. Obviously for something that’s gonna be on pretty much all the time and is going to sit next to the tv, you want it to be as quiet as possible.

So, I started thinking about what I wanted it to do and what I’d need to buy to do it.

Whiteboard

The basic requirements I drafted up were:

  • Ability to record one programme whilst watching another.
  • Easily able to see shares from my desktop pc, so I can play music or videos I’ve got stored on that over the TV.
  • Some sort of online interface, so I can login over the internet and set programmes to record whilst I’m away. Preferably, I’d like this interface to work well on my iPhone as well :)
  • Able to play DivX etc
  • Work well enough on the hardware I wanted to use. It’s no use having it if it takes half an hour to open the TV listings…
  • Pretty frontend
  • Good bittorrent software with a web interface.
  • Would be good if iPlayer etc could be integrated into the interface, so we don’t have to leave the media software to use it.
  • Also want to install some emulators on the pc (MAME etc), and it’d be good if that could be integrated into the media software as well.

I had a look at TV cards and really couldn’t differentiate between the different types, so plumped for the cheapest dual-tuner card I could find. I also got a wireless keyboard, which has a touchpad built in, which I thought was pretty cool and ideal for this sort of system. Also I jumped on eBay and got a quiet CPU cooler for a fiver and 1GB of RAM.

All that remained then was to wait for the parts to arrive, so I could put my new toy very useful system together :)

Posted at 12:00 pm | Posted In: GeekProcrastinationTechnologyTV Tagged:

8 Comments:

Lucy

Sunday 6th September 2009, 1:13 pm

H’intriguing.

Erm. What is an HTPC…?

Callan

Sunday 6th September 2009, 5:21 pm

Interesting project. You going to run completely silent cooling (fanless) stuff, or just quiet fans and hope for the best?

I will watch with anticipation.

Dickie

Sunday 6th September 2009, 7:05 pm

HTPC = home theatre PC

I’m not going fanless. The CPU and graphics card I’m using both dissipate too much heat to do that (cheaply), so I’m going for as few fans as possible. 120mm fans arent too loud, so I don’t mind using those where I need to.

My aim is to make it quieter than the Xbox360. Given how loud those things are, should be doable…

Andy

Monday 7th September 2009, 2:03 pm

You going with Linux or Windows for the OS?

For torrent software with a web interface I’d go with the uTorrent WebUI, you can even get a version optimised for iPhone, assuming you’re using Windows. It works real nice, and uTorrent has just the tiniest footprint possible.

Andy

Monday 7th September 2009, 2:03 pm

p.s How much did that whiteboard cost you?

Dickie

Monday 7th September 2009, 2:09 pm

I’m not sure how much the whiteboard cost tbh. Not too much I don’t think, about £20? It’s pretty sweet though, I always wish I had one in Cardiff too.

Andy

Monday 7th September 2009, 2:28 pm

That cheap? I wants one. I wants one a lot.

Flix

Monday 7th September 2009, 6:20 pm

whiteboards are awesome, that is all.

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