Saturday, April 23, 2011

Learning a new thing in every build.

Currently working on a dual build for a friend. Here are the requirements.

1. Have similar interface in both the family room and basement media room.
2. Ability to rip legally owned Bluray's and DVD in full quality to hard drive and have the ability to play with full menu, subtitle etc
3. Have cover art, back drop images and meta data for all media
4. System should be scalable
5. Ability to route HD audio from HTPC to two Onkyo HD audio capable receivers
6. Ability to play 3D Bluray
7. Ability to play music with least hassle using a combination of itunes running on the server and other apps and finally
8. Ability to record programs in HD from Dish network and share the recorded video in multiple rooms.

Considering all these requirements, I decided on doing a Windows Media Center based build for both the rooms. After consultation with Damian ( - an amazing HTPC enthusiast and knowledgeable person, I decided on the following parts. I would also like to thank Assasin over at the website for his list of good parts for a bluray/3d bluray capable system based on the new Intel processors. The new I3/I5/I7 Sandybridge processors can do HD Audio, Bluray and 3d Bluray with ease and thus avoid the need for an internal Video card.

Just finished the second build for the basement with the following parts. This will just act as a client and play all the media stored in the main machine at the ground level and also from a HP EX495 10TB server.

1.Core i3 2100 -
2.4GB DDR3 1066 RAM -"
3.2TB HItachi 6GBPS hard drive
4.Silverstone LC10B case
5.Antec 400watch 80plus certified power supply
6.Samsung dual layer DVD burner
7.Windows 7 home premium 64 bit.

Here are some pictures from the build. Will be doing the main build this week and the installation is scheduled for this saturday (April 30th). Will post installation pictures over the weekend.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The build..

All the parts were in place and the actual build putting everything together took less than one hour. To my surprise, I got the power and restart LED connections right the first time. Hooked up to my 23inch Dell 1080 P monitor using the onboard DVI connection, started the machine and popped in the Windows 7 Home premium 32bit disk. Windows started loading and everything got loaded in an hour's time. I activated the 4 cores from the initial start up menu and the machine was humming. I was pretty happy about the whole thing.

Here are the parts list I used for the build.
1. Silverstone LC 17B black case
2. 1 TB Hitachi 7200 RPM drive, partitioned for O/S and TV recordings
3. 2 2TB hard drives for media (one Hitachi and one Samsung 5400RPM green drive)
4. 4GB Gskill DDR3 1066 RAM
5. OCG 500W modular power supply
6. AMD Athlon quad core 3.1 ghz 65w processor
7. Asus AMD3 Motherboard with onboard video, DVI port, 8 USB ports, SPDIF output (very important for me), one PCI express, two PCI, 4RAM slots, 6 SATA slots and Gigabit LAN.
8. LG 4MB cache Bluray drive
9. Hauppage 2250 dual tuner
10. Galaxy 1GB 256 bit GT430 (ferni) video card with HDMI output

Other software that I used
1. Microsoft Essentials anti virus (free)
2. Media Center master - free metadata and poster grabber only for English movies. The metadata grabbing for Indian movies was way off. I like this tool because it puts a folder.jpg and background.jpg in each of the respective movie folders, unlike mediabrowser
3. Makemkv for converting from bluray to mkv
4. DVDfab for ripping DVD and bluray to ISO (only trial version)
5. Ultra VNC viewer and server

Here are some pics from the build.

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Sage TV experience

Got a request from a friend to setup a media server for his home and wanted to try out something different other then windows media center. I love Windows media center, but its inability to give live tv to client machines is a big negative....I am not really sure why Microsoft is not able to extend the windows media center experience to other PC's in the house which can act as a client.

Here are the requirements I came up with.
1.Build a server to host all movies and play DVD/MKV/AVI and Bluray seamlessly
2.Dual tuner to record OTA and also stuff from Direct TV STB
3.Enough storage to host movies, pictures, music and home video
4.Same user interface experience in the basement with ability to watch live TV. Also pause and resume in the second room or vice versa was a functionality that I desired to give.

With this in mind, I experimented on a few solutions.
1. Tried the Patriot Box Office (PBO). Even though it played most of the videos, bluray playback was very bad with lot of hiccups even on my 1GB home network. Added to that the User interface was terrible.
2. Tried Western Digital....experience was much better.

But both these solutions coupled with the server PC does not give me live TV. So finally arrived at experimenting Sage TV V7.

Installed Sage V7 on my server and things went pretty well. Sage was able to play pretty much every video including dvr-ms. It cannot however play WTV files. Also it could not play bluray menus, but played blurays without any issues. As a second step, installed Sage client on my laptop and then used the client to watch live tv and other videos and the experience was just amazing.

So finally decided on the solution for my new setup for Karthik.
1.Server running windows 7 with 5 Tb storage. 1 Tb partitioned to hold O/S and Tv recordings. The rest 4TB to hold all the other media.
2.Sage V7 will run on this box and will record TV shows from a Hauppage 2250 dual tuner.
3. For the other room, ordered the Sage HD300 which will act as an extender, giving the same experience in the other room.

Details and photos on the build to follow in the next few days.