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.