Wednesday, August 03, 2005

HTPC Update

This past weekend I started building my HTPC. The parts spec out as follows:

  • Gigabyte GA-K8N Ultra SLI motherboard
    • NForce 4-based
    • Fanless
    • Dual gigabit Ethernet ports
    • 2xPCI Express 16X ports
    • Gobs of USB and Firewire ports
    • Coaxial digital audio in and out
    • Four SATA-150 ports, supports RAID
    • Four SATA-II ports, supports RAID
  • AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (Venice core)
  • 1 GB DDR RAM (2x512)
  • 2x160 GB Western Digital SATA-II in a 320 GB striped RAID-0 configuration
  • Sony DWQ28A 16X Double Layer (8.5GB) DVD+-RW
  • Gigabyte GV-NX66256DP GeForce 6600 256 MB video card with fanless heat sink
  • DViCO FusionHDTV 5 Gold Edition HDTV tuner card
  • Silverstone LC10M case, with built-in display (for track/artist info, for example) and IR receiver (for remote control)
  • Silverstone ST30NF fanless 300W power supply
  • Silverstone NT01 v2.0 fanless heat-pipe CPU heatsink (this thing is sexy, check it out)

Note the emphasis on fanless and quiet construction. This thing is barely audible. I've left the two rear case fans enabled, as the fins of the CPU heat sink butt up against them (did I mention that that heat sink is sexy?). Actually, the hard drives are probably the loudest part of the whole thing. The DVD drive is silent when playing a DVD movie, though it whirs when it really spins up (like when you're installing software). It'll be a nice quiet home theater component, sitting next to the receiver and the TV. I didn't want some loud-ass fans drowning out some quiet dialog during a movie.

There was a challenge when installing the RAID drivers while installing Windows. That whole F6 thing requires a floppy drive (why can't I burn the drivers to a CD?). Finding a working floppy disk took a few tries, as did pulling the drive out of another computer.

I can watch HDTV using the supplied software, time shifting and the whole deal. It comes in beautifully! The Windows Media Center Edition 2005 software will only work with HD if you also have a separate SD tuner installed. Lame! Double-lame, since the Fusion tunes both HD and SD in a single card. So I'll probably be using Media Portal, an open-source project to provide the same functionality. It sees the card as expected, though I still have to set up the channels and install XMLTV (for a program guide) to make it work (in other words, I need to RTFM). Plus it's written in .NET, so maybe I'll contribute in my "spare time."

Did you know that Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is really just XP Pro with an additional Media Center program? And here I thought it was something more.

The other challenge I'm facing is getting the IR receiver that's built into the case to work with remotes other than the one that came with it (say, for instance, the better-laid-out MCE remote that came with the Fusion). I think I read that the beta drivers will fix that, though I didn't get a chance to try.

If only I had more time to play with it! Maybe this coming weekend. Though most of my time will be devoted to moving then, so maybe the weekend after it. Once it gets to a steady-state though, and I'm able to do everything from a remote control, this thing's going to be suh-weet!

Edit:I bought a standard-def tuner.


Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by Tim.] I love the case. It looks like it belongs with AV equipment, but doesn't look cramped inside.
The display is a huge plus as well, especially if you can have it on for music, and make it go blank when watching movies.

Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by jason.] all in all, a very nice setup. i'll be looking forward to hearing more about it as you test out more features.

Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by Travis.] Tim- That was the idea :) I actually went with the brushed aluminum/silver version instead of black. It matches with the TV and the TV stand ( Eventually I'll buy a new receiver in silver (I have black now) and it'll look really slick. I think silver is the new black for AV components (like how black is the new beige for computers).

Travis said...

[Imported comment* originally authored by czarina`.] How long do you think brushed aluminum will be in for kitchen appliances? It'd be nice if they'd sync these things up :)