Monday, November 16, 2009

Windows 7 Installs

What a weekend......great foot ball. Finally got Windows 7 installed and humming on all three of my machines. Let's go to the details straight away.

Basement PC
Upgraded to Win 7 Professional. Was real easy....took little less than one hour and 30 minutes. this i the one that is connected to my projector and the images are stunning. Watched two movies over the weekend....and WAF was very very high. I am using the Nvidia video settings on both my media PC's and it is very rich in colors and pictures look stunning.

Wife's old Laptop - Dell D600
Upgraded to Win 7 Professional again from XP. Upgrade went real easy. The laptop has 1Gb or Ram. Win 7 is definitely faster even on this old laptop. Had an issue with the ATI Radean 9000 driver. Was able to load the driver in XP mode and all is well.. I am only having occasional sound issues with the Sigmatel audio driver. But it has improved after couple of different installs with 2-3 different drivers.

Main Media Pc in the living room
Upgraded from Vista Home Premium to Win 7 Ultimate. This update was the most painful. It took more than 7 hours for me to figure out. Here are the issues I faced.

1.SATA drives are showing up as IDE during boot. I had to look at the internet and install a ton of things to get AHCI mode. I am stil not sure if everything is accomplised...but the drives show up as SCSI in device manager and I guess it is okay. But the sad part is there is lot of noise during shutdown and reboot compared to vista and I am not happy about it. Planning to open the machine and follow the sound during a reboot...maybe sometime this week.

2.Second issue was with the install itself. It will hang everytime on "Completing Installation". It took a long time for me to figure out. I was trying to do the install with USB keyboard and mouse. that was the first issue. Secondly PC was connected to LCD tv. that was the main the hell am I supposed to know that? I connected a CRT monitor and regular keyboard/mouse and install went well after that....this is after 7 hours of breaking my back and mind to figure out what the hell was the issue. What If I did not have a CRT monitor? that really sucks.

3.Got all software installed. Media center was alright...but OTA HD had lot of stutter and even the TV programs recorded in vista had occasional stutters. I was googling all day saturday to fix this and nothing worked. I updated all drivers - Hauppage, nvidia etc etc. nothing worked.

4.Mediabrowser was also giving issues. It would not either show some of my folders or would not show all the DVD's inside the folders and was driving me crazy...

finally on sunday evening ...fixed both the issues. Unchecked the "Movie Playlist" in mediabrowser and fixed all my issues....WTF....could not make sense of this one. Secondly...changed the resolution from 1920*1080 50hz to 1920*1080 60hz and the stutter was gone. Double checked my vizio TV manual to make sure this wont fry my TV.

Win 7 is just awesome from a HTPC media center stand point. All the easy shorts cuts and tricks you can do to move and resize windows and stuff...they are all great.

Here is what I use from software stand point.
Win 7 ultimate - main media PC to do Tv recordings.
Media browser to manage mymovies
Heatwave plugin for weather info
donated 3$ and got the channellogo plugin. Worth the money. It looks real nice in the guide.
Shark codecs for mkv, xvid etc etc.
DVDFAB and DVD Shrink
Coretemp to monitor my CPU temperatures
VCD clone drive for loading ISO images
Power DVD 7.2 for my bluray

Will post pictures soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New build for a friend - my first Customer!!!!

<<< click on the pictures for large Image>>

Off to a good start for my first custom build for a friend...he is my first customer...yahoooooo:-)...........and I already have got a request from another friend.

Ordered the parts from newegg last week and they arrived promptly today. They were well packed as usual and I just love shopping for computer stuff at newegg. This is the fourth build I am doing in two years.

Decided to go with nmediapc 5000B HTPC case. Had some good reviews and more importantly had lot of connections in the front side - eSata, 3 USB, 1 HD audio, Firewire and various card slots (SD/MMC/CF/MiniSD blah blah blah).

Selected the AMD Atlon X4 dual core 2.9ghx 65w processor. Was cheap for 60$(half the price of Intel) and is a good choice as it emits less heat and also consumes less power. Bought the microATX Gigabyte board as a combo....great board with lots of built in match the media case.

Other parts include Patriot 4GB DDR2 6400 memory, 500w power supply by coolermaster and the 1TB spinpoint drive from Samsung. I have two of them on my rig and they have been performing well for the last 8 months. I was real happy and proud that I did the build in 90mts from start to finish. Was very impressed with myself.

To be continued.........

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Family Room HTPC

  • Vizio 1080p 47inch LCD TV
  • Yamaha 5.1 Dolby digital/DTS receiver with Yamaha speakers and a powered sub-woofer
  • Direct TV H23-600 HD receiver box (HDMI) Straight to the TV
  • Wii – primarily for my 3.5 year old son to play – connected to the Vizio (composite)
  • My main HTPC (Intel Based) which is the backbone of my home entertainment.
  • Harmony 880 (what a great device -J)

HTPC Specs
  • Silver Stone LC17B case
  • Intel E6550 2.33 ghz processor / 4GB RAM on a MSI board with inbuilt HD audio – SPDIF out directly to my Yamaha receiver
  • Vista home premium & Mediaportal
  • EVGA 9600GT DDR3 512mb super clocked graphics card – DVI to HDMI to my Vizio
  • Hauppage 1800 Tuner – with OTA $10 antenna to get OTA HD and also connected via S-video to my Direct TV box.
  • Microsoft IR receiver and the IR transmitter stuck to the front of the Direct TV box.
  • LG Bluray Drive with Power DVD 7.3
  • Seagate 500gb drive with OS. WD 1TB green drive with movies, music and photos


I use both Vista media center and Mediaportal for my needs. After tinkering around with Mediaportal to get my DVR working and wasting a ton of time, I decided to stick with Vista MCE for my DVR needs as it is so easy. Microsoft has made such a wonderful product…it is just amazing. All you need to do it hookup the cables, put in your zip code, select your provider and voila….EPG is downloaded automatically and everything is taken care within like 30mts. Nothing to beat Vista MCE in terms of DVR functionality, ease of setup and ease of use.

As far as my other media (DVD, movies in AVI, DIVX and XVID) – I primarily use Mediaportal for couple of reasons - the ability to remember a ton of movies at their last watched points and the ability to easily switch between codecs to watch any kind of video. All my DVD’s are direct rips from DVD’s that I own and they are all in VOB format at 100% quality. I still cannot believe that mediaportal is a free software. For people like me who use want to organize their movies, music photos and have a nice interface with customizable screens etc….mediaportal is the way to go.

For my bluray needs I use Power DVD 7.3 and the LG bluray drive. I have media browser installed in Vista MCE and it takes care of auto loading the Bluray ISO and firing up PowerDVD. I have a Quit PDVD button programmed in my Harmony which closes Power DVD and restores Vista MCE. We watch all our recorded TV through Vista MCE.

CCCP Codec pack with FFD Show and Haali Splitter
AC3 filter

Basement Home Theater


  • Panasonic AE7000U projector
  • 92 inch widescreen Elite Screen (retractable with remote)
  • Pioneer VSX815 Dolby digital/DTS receiver
  • Definitive 5.1 speakers with powered sub-woofer
  • Dish 811 HD receiver (bought on ebay and just used as a HD unscrambling box for OTA channels) – connected through component to projector (40ft)
  • Microsoft MCE remote. I have the Harmony also programmed to be used in the basement

HTPC Specs

  • Silver Stone LC10B case
  • AMD 64 X2 4000 2.1ghz processor on ASUS board with 2GB RAM
  • Windows XP & Mediaportal
  • EVGA 8600GT DDR3 512mb graphics card – DVI to HDMI to my Panny (40ft cable)
  • HP IR receiver
  • Lite-on DVD burner
  • SPDIF audio out to my receiver
  • Two IDE drives with all my personal data
  • 1 Samsung spin point 1TB drive that has a backup from my WD 1 TB in the main PC
  • I also have a WD 160Gb external drive that backs up my personal data


I use Mediaportal primarily in my basement. All the movies that I have in my family room HTPC are mapped through network folders in mediaportal and I get the same interface in both places. I also have a copy of PowerDVD running on this machine to watch Bluray movies. I am a big NFL fan and watch all the games in my basement on the big screen. I use the Dish HD box primarily during the NFL season to unscramble the OTA signals. I bought this box in ebay for around 100$ in 2005 and preferred that rather than getting it from dish and giving a 2 year commitment.

If there is a need to watch any of the Recorded TV from Vista Mce, I just use windows media player because of all the dvr-ms issues.


CCCP Codec pack with FFD Show and Haali Splitter and AC3 Filter

Basement construction pictures

We finished our basement over a period of four months from July'05 to Nov'05. Without the help of my friend Kitchy and my wife, it would not have been possible for this place to turn out the way it is today.