Do you have a dedicated HTPC?

Do you have a dedicated HTPC?

  • Yes, I own 1 HTPC!

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yes, I own 2 or more HTPC's!

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No!

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No, What is a HTPC?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No, but I am currently building/planning one!

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Staff member
I am trying to get a feel of how many Cocooners have a dedicated (read: part of your home theater setup, not a workstation) HTPC, so spill the beans!
OK. I voted (and said 1). But I'm not sure what the actual number is. It depends on how you define HTPC. My answer may be none. I think that a better answer would be that I have 1 (mostly) integrated (or on its way to being integrated) media system.

For most HTPC people, the playing of video material (from files, dvd, etc.) is a defining feature of their HTPC. This is one thing that I do not use a PC for. I'm currently using networked devices to play files or actual, real-life DVD players to play DVDs.

My integrated media system:

1) PC dedicated to PVR - recording and temporary storage only. Rarely used for playback. This is the only PC in the living room with the stereo/TV/etc.

2) Second PC
a ) file server - all mp3s and video files accessed by the rest of the system.
b ) winamp for mp3s - this is my primary mp3 player. An optical cable connects the PC to my living room receiver. The web-based interface to winamp is provided by Browseamp.
c ) XM satellite radio - my newest acquisition (to play with, rather than necessary). The audio from an XMPCR device feeds into a sound card on this pc and is selected through winamp and run through the same optical cable as 2a. I'm still working on rigging an interface for this. The source selection is handled through my browseamp interface but I can't change channels yet.
d ) media servers - this machine is running servers for MediaMVP and GoVideo 2730 networked devices in other rooms.
e ) this is also my HomeSeer computer and is running my apartment.

3) Networked devices in living room and bedroom connected to "stereo" These devices are used to play video from the server and rarely used for music or photos. Why do I have two of them (and in the same room) - no reason, just wanted to play with both.
a ) Hauppauge MediaMVP - audio, video, and photos
b ) GoVideo D2730 networked DVD player - similar to MediaMVP but also plays regular old DVDs.
c ) Audrey running PhJuke - this is the primary mp3-playing device in the bedroom. The output from the Audrey is connected to a receiver. PhJuke finds mp3s on my server through a shared directory (\\server\music).

4) Control of system - the media system is primarily controlled through web pages running on Audreys throughout the apartment. The same web pages can also be accessed wireless on touchscreen machines or a wifi PDA. These are done through HomeSeer - which is also used to transmit IR through a wired system. None of the interfaces looks particularly fancy (I wouldn't use them to sell the system), but they work and I can move on to other projects. Some things still need to be done with normal IR remotes (and to be honest, even things that could be handled through the web pages are often done with remotes).

5) Distribution - the output of the living room system (audio and video) is distributed throughout the apartment one way or another. There is a direct connection (composite video and audio) from the living room to the bedroom (one way only) so anything playing or selected in the living room can also be played in the bedroom (unless it's a digital source - my receiver will not put out line-level analog from a digital source (this includes my optical connection to the winamp machine, unfortunately)). In addition, the output of the receiver is also fed to a modulator - cable channel 100 in my apartment is this distributed signal. Also, the second ( B ) speakers from the living room are run into the office (where the other computers are to begin with).

This, of course, does not include the "workstation" PC that I'm normally using for other things and rarely use for this stuff. However, video files and DVDs played on that machine look great with its monitor. I wouldn't mind having the monitor in the living room.

So anyway...
That is a long (too long) explanation of why I'm not sure if my vote of 1 is the correct vote. By most HTPC people's definition, I think maybe I have one - even though I don't really use it to watch video. By other definitions, I have 2 machines primarly used for multimedia stuff in one way or another. If you count network devices that are running linux under a front end, you'd need to add a few more, but I don't really think that counts.

So anyway (again)...
I think my vote of 1 is a vote for a single HT system, not a single HTPC.

That sounds pretty good to me! It's more then I have right now.


Another question might have been, "No, but I want to build one"

That is my next major project, thefore my earlier post about using the 12" LCD touchscreen with MainLobby.

I would like to start by ripping CD's for music, and later ripping DVD's for video

I would like to hear recommendations from members about HD storage for MP3, and MPEG2 video. Also sound cards and video cards, on the hardware side.

Also GUI interfaces and software. JohnWPG and Waterman seem to have killer setups using NetRemote.

I open to learn anything! :D
My answer was no...but intrigued. I ended up buy a TiVo instead of building an HTPC though. $150 for a TiVo sounded better than like $700 - $1000 for a PC powerful enough to be a HTPC. But I would still be interested in trying it.

So that would lead to a question. If I build a HTPC, is there any software that would create the video files in a format that I could watch them on my (not at the moment) network connected TiVo or visa versa?

That would be really cool.
I just rebuilt my HTPC after a motherboard failure left me without. :D I don't have cable or use an antenna so all my entertainment are DVDs and CDs which I have ripped to a seperate Media Server. I'm also starting to make plans to build a second HTPC for the bedroom which oughta be nice to have.

John, in answer to your question about storage space, RAID-5 with as many hard drives as you can afford in a seperate networked PC is what I consider optimal. Ideally you want a hardware raid card that supports online expansion so that you can grow your array as you fill it up. I'm in this bind now as I currently have about 500 gigs of space, filling up fast, but because I decided to go cheap and use software RAID I'm stuck.

In fact I just added a new toy to my HTPC in the form of a 15" Elo touchscreen LCD. It's great because now I can select and listen to music without turning the TV on and I've got it setup so that when I start a movie the TV is automatically turned on and switched to the correct input.

Is it disturbing that talking about this stuff makes me drool? :eek:
If I build a HTPC, is there any software that would create the video files in a format that I could watch them on my (not at the moment) network connected TiVo or visa versa?

Well, you'd have to hack the Tivo, but the tivo itself resords in mpeg2. Tying this into John's question about hardware...

The Hauppauge 250 is tuner/capture card of choice by many HTPCers as it uses hardware to encode the data to mpeg (versus, say a AIW, which uses software) thus taking a lot of pressure off the CPU. The only downside is that is ONLY records in mpeg format, so you would have to transcode it if you wanted it in a nother format (the AIW can record in WMA format).

Most programs support the pvr-250 cards (if they don't... they aren't worth the time to look at 'em), so with a little hacking you could stream shows that you saved with your HTPC to a tivo box. I have read that Tivo may be coming out with an option that would allow users to save shows to their networked PCs, but who know if and when that will happen.

If you only want to display to a standard def. tv, you can easily get away with a 1.7Ghz machine (possible as low as a 1.2) using a pvr-250 (they sell for a little over $100) and a GF5200 (about $50) vid card. You dont need a top of the line computer. Better yet, if you make a media server, you could use a total pos CPU (around 500mhz?) with multiple pvr-250s and a raid-5. Then use something like the Hauppauge MVP player to stream it to your tv. So many ways to work it.

Now if want to display it on a HDTV... well, you may want a higher CPU machine (over 2.8Ghz), so you can use FFDShow (a post processing program) that will really enhance all your video media.

Front ends... well, thats another thread all together, but a popular one would be Meedio. There are a lot of choices and its hard to know which one will work best for anyone else's situation. Since I'll be recieving the Planar 12" touchscreen soon, I have been looking into Netremote, MediaPortal, Xlobby, and Meedio as they fit my budget a little better than some of the higher end ones. So far Netremote has peaked most of my interest as I dont need an integrated tv player, it works with girder (intimately), and JohnWPB did some kickin' screens using NR on his 12" TS which really got me, well.... drooling :D

Sorry for the ramblin'

PatSikes, With an HTPC and TV card you don't have to play via the Tivo. Use a PVR software on the HTPC. I watch my Tivo via my HTPC and apply DScaler video tweeks which makes the SD Tivo look much better.

The major benefit of an HTPC is the ability to run video (and sound, but to a lesser degree of benefit) enhancement software. This makes an HTPC rival some of the best standalone processing equipment you can buy (very expensive).

I just put a memory / network card in one of my Tivos to play around with. Haven't gotten it to work right yet, maybe this weekend to debug.
Building an HTPC has made its way up to about prioity number 3 on my project list, so I'm starting to do some research. I'm glad to see others are about to take the plunge - that means more available help.

Treetop (or anyone)-

The Happauge 250 seems to be the "standard". However, I am concerned about video quality. Can the 250 produce DVD quality video (or near)? I have used the Happauge WinTV USB and an Adaptec tuner, but the video quality of these TV tuners is nowhere near acceptable (VCR-like). Is the 250 much better? How does it look on a big screen?

I noticed you didn't mention MainLobby as an interface to consider. Any reason?

Mark S.

Of the boards I've used, the PVR250 has had the best quality. I've compared with AIW Radeon, AIW 9700, Leadtek ?, Hauupauge USB (which I use for a web cam), and ATI TV Wonder VE (I think). The direct record the mpeg2 is either good or bad, depending on what you need to do.
Thanks Smee.

I guess I'm just wondering if I will be disappointed with the video quality of an HTPC. Never really used one. I don't want to spend up to $2K on what I think are all the best components only to be disappointed with the video.

Many people end up with HTPCs in order to get the best possible video quality. However, they are typically driving much higher end equipment than I am. All of my video display is done with composite video. The composite out I get from any of my computers fed to a tv is ok but tends to look like video tape. The composite output from my dedicated DVD player is obviously better.

If your display will take component or DVI input, then you may be able to get a much better picture out of the computer - assuming the computer will drive these. If you go this route, you may be in for a lot of tweaking to get it exactly right.

On my non-media oriented PC, I have a nice LCD monitor that I drive with DVI from my video card. I think that DVDs played on this computer on its monitor look significantly better than composite input on my TV. I'm glad it looks better - it's the most expensive display I've got.
Glad to see this poll is sparking some debate :D The PVR series is the best tuner (quality wise) you can get, the only problem it has is that certain skin tones look too bright, but this has only been a problem during commercials so far. Otherwise the quality is VERY acceptable and probably as good as you can get unless you upgrade to the newer Fusion tuner which supports digital cable and HDTV (see front page).
I noticed you didn't mention MainLobby as an interface to consider. Any reason?

It's a good one to consider, especially if your are recording DVD's to your hard drive. Check out their site at
If you are PC hardware limited, the PVR250 and 350 are the only way to go as they use hardware encoding. This means the graphic card does the work and the PC CPU does not. The disadvantage to these cards is that they will not stream video. This is what I bought my 350 for so not a happy camper to find that out and that the cheap cards do stream.

MainLobby is the best choice, if the price of the suite doesn't faze you. If you are used to paying for software (as oppose to free / shareware), then it isn't out of order.

To apply any significant video processing on an HTPC, you will need 3.0 ghz machine w/ at least 512 meg ram and the best graphics card you can afford. It will be an expensive PC, but a very inexpensive high end video scaler.

For everything you always wanted to know about HTPCs, visit:
Thanks for all of the good comments and suggestions.

My thought process right now is to possibly do this in two steps. Audio (MP3?) first,

then video. Possibly using separate boxes for each.

I have a spare AMD 2400 machine to dedicate to the audio now. I have two of the Planar 12" touch screens on order, and I also have the $225 Kiosk touchscreen box that I haven't done anything with yet.

For the video, I would want at least s-video output, as compared to composite.

I'm very intigued by the HDTV Fusion card that electron linked to.

My timetable is to try to get the audio going this winter, and the video the year after that.

But I would like to use the same software GUI for both, so that is my first priority, the software decisions. Lots of great stuff out there, I'm open to all opinions and suggestions