MCE HTPC w/Media Server


Hello Guys,
Just came across this site and love it, lots of info and it seems like alot of people know there stuff around i decided to ask some questions about my personal setup and what would be the BEST option for me

I was thinking about setting up a MCE Media Server that has all my media (pics,movies,videos & music) and 4-6 HD\SD tuners,FM tuner and maybe XM or sirus if possible
And add 3 basic(no tuners,small HD) HTPC at each location listed below
*My house will be wired w/cat5e using a gig ethernet at all locations*

My Current Equipment:
Xbox 360
DirecTV H20 (HD)

Living Room
50" HP Plasma
Bose Lifestyle II 28
DirecTV Hr20-700 (HD DVR)

32" HP Plasma
DirecTV H10 (HD Tivo)

My main goal is that i want to have access to all my media,DVR recording, Insteon lighting,security cameras through any tv in my house
I would also like to add THREE 7" lcd touchscreens(3 zones) in my kitchen,master bedroom, & hallway, so i can control my lighting(insteon), check my cameras,weather,etc.. and only play music in that current zone

So i was writing all this down and said dam i would need alot of HTPCs (6 total,3 for my equipment locations, and 3 for my wall mount LCD locations) + one MCE server

Now as far as i know there is no way for me to get touch pads in the wall without having a PC behind it? (Besides the nonPC systems that cost $3000 for the controller +1000 for there touchsreens, like life|ware,cortexa,etc..)Correct?

I know the xbox 360 can be used as a HD extender and that would be great in my case, just add 2 more 360's but my DVDs are ripped to xvid and dam M$ doesnt allow it to play natively..i could use Transcode360 but transcoding can always be a problem FF and rewinding,stutttering,etc

So what do you guys think is the best way to go in my case..
Thanks for reading
There is another solution to a non-PC based touch screen. Have a look at It uses UTMA technology, has no moving parts, no maintenance, but is a little larger than your desired size (12").

Also, what consideration have you given to your home automation software for controlling lights and zoned audio? Are you going with a canned audio solution like Russound?

Some of the more popular options for HA software include CQC and HomeSeer (with MainLobby as a front end). It's important to select the software that will interface with your desired hardware.

Search around the board here and continue to ask questions. Also, welcome to CocoonTech. :lol:
thanks for the fast reply BraveSirRobbin

Yea i was reading some info on TouchTronix but i rather do a PC based system, I have been using MCE for the past yr just for videos and music and i love the GUI and my wife and daughter are use to it as well.. So im trying to keep the GUI the same all around

I mean i dont mind have having my 3 touch panels as computers, because i get the PC's cheap (I work for HP :lol: ) and i can get 7" touchscreens for about $350...I currently use a 7" Xenarc for my CarPC which has been working fine for 3+ yrs

as for the HA software i was planning to sick with MCE using only going to be using about 4-5 lights w/insteon + 1-2 IP Camera' its not that big of a network

I know some people here wont even consider mControl as a option but i think it would be the best one for me, unless you guys have some better idea. I love the life|ware GUI in MCE but its two expensive
Are there any other MCE HA solutions?

Now about the Audio and Zones!! I never looked into Russound before, i will have a look.
Now that im thinking about it can MCE even do zoned Audio??

Thanks again
Actually I like mControl as they embrace the MCE environment (unlike all other HA software solutions) so I think that is an excellent solution if you don't have a lot of hardware to integrate that it does not yet support.

As far as your MCE question, I'll let electron answer that one as he is a lot more familiar with this application.

There isn't a problem with the PC solution for touch screens, I just thought you didn't want that option ;) .

Curious, where can you get seven inch touchscreens for $350? That sounds like a pretty decent deal! B)
XBox 360 does work good as MCE Extender and is easier to justify if you want a gaming console as well. I use it as local DVD/CD player for A/V system as well.

I believe that recent XBox updates have added more video support and it is rumored that there is more to come. I haven't tried an xVid lately but will try later tonight.
Well I have just got a Linksys Media Extender... works pretty well and was easy to setup.

All in all I like MCE.

the Touchtronix UTMA requires a PC to run the special Windows over IP software. What makes it unique is that you don't need a proprietary cable from touchscreen to PC. It uses a standard PC LAN network.

If you don't have a problem running a Cat5 cable from PC to touchscreen location, then I would not recommend the UTMA but recommend a VGA to Cat5 balun set to connect the PC to the "dumb" touchscreen.

Other choices include "Panel PCs" which are full blown PCs in the wall. Not recommended by me anymore due to the other better solutions.

The Lifeware touchscreens are a lot more expensive than the $1K you quote. About 3 - 4 times more from what I have gathered.

My recommendation is to use a PC in a server closet connected via Cat5 baluns to a dumb touchscreen. don't forget you also need a Cat5 cable for the serial connection for the touch control. You can buy a balun that does both VGA and serial on one dedicated Cat5 wire but if you don't have problem pulling the first cable, you should pull two plus a 18/2 power wire for 12 volts to the touchscreen.

If you do have trouble cabling, then look into the Touchtronix UTMA solution.
thanks guys for the replies

check these links for 7" TouchScreens..The price actually went up a little, they are now $365 (Xenarc)
They also released a new 8" Widescreen Touch screen for $260

These 2 screens are the most popular for carPC use, the main difference between the Xenarc and Lillput is that the Xenarc is better to see in the sun etc...glare
So i might even go with the 8" now

Yea the 360 is great as a extender but it wont play Xvid or Divix files you need a program called Transcode 360

Does that linksys stream HD from a media center PC?

Those Touchtronix are also a good idea, but i can do it for alot cheaper adding my own 8" touchscreen at $260 bucks rather then spending $1200 for the touchtronix

I never heard of vga to cat5 balun before, so i would still need 3 PCs for each Touch screen? or can i add 3 video cards to that 1 PC in the server closet, w\3 baluns and shoot them to my LCD locations

Does anyone know if they make baluns with VGA and USB, i would need USB for the touchscreen
Sweethip, yes, you can find VGA and USB baluns. Check out Gefen. I have used their baluns for HDMI, VGA, DVI, USB, etc. a lot and never had a problem. I personally run the CAT51000 to run VGA, stereo and USB from my desktop in the basement to my family room theater. Works like a charm and I scored major points with my wife by installing it.
The Linksys has the same limitations as the Xbox 360 does. I am going to try the Transcode application and see if that helps.

I thought I'd pop in as I'm looking to do something similar but am far from figureing out how to set things up.

A couple of things you probably want to look at, your 3 touchscreens, are you okay with each touchscreen showing the same information? If so you might be able to get by with just one PC and have all three touchscreens connected to it, the screen would just have to have some additional functionality that the user would need to put in a room.

I've looked at the mControl and it looks like a good fit, the only thing is it doesn't seem to handle a multiroom environment well as far as having the display pop up on two touch panels and control those. But future versions may. It also seems to be a bit lacking in climate, av, multiroom audio.

Personally I really like the overall feel of the Lifeware stuff but from what I understand it's too much for my budget and too future restrictive.

One option, while the cost is a little up there is the Cortexa Technology stuff. The controller is around 2K and wall panel is 1300 or so. I'm not sure if it could be used with other touch panels or not but it has the multiroom audio stuff built in as well as av. To me it seems like a middle ground between mcontrol and lifeware. It may be worth looking at.

I am using slower HTPC's (AMD Tbird 1.2Ghz w 256 megs of ram) running MediaPortal as an extender. It lets me play whatever the main MCE 2005 machine can play, and it also supports playing DVD's from the audio and video TS folders, ms-dvr files, xvid etc without any problems, since it's just a simple XP Pro box.

Since my other TV's are all older (and only have analog cable), I am going to put MediaPortal PC with my other servers in the basement, and just modulate the signal to the other TV's.
yea i dont mind that all three touchscreens show the same thing, BUT im not sure if that can be done?
Does anyone currently have that setup...3 touchscreens running from ONE MCE machine... the 3 screens will be mirrored and as long as i have each of them with there own USB(for touch)hooked up to that PC, it should all work?

another newbie question...does all my Insteon lighting have to be installed on that PC, or can i get control for any PC on my network

Cortexa is also a good solution,but it would be costing me $6000+. does anyone know if we can use our own touchscreens with the cortexa controller?

So you are using MCE and mediaportal, they both can work together?
Define work together. I can play MCE recordings on my MediaPortal machine because the OS can play these files to begin with. It's not a real extender like the Linksys one, but it works really well. You probably could build a very small XP based machine with MediaPortal, all it has to be able to do is connect to your TV and be fast enough to play your recordings.