I’ve been screwing around with my HTPC for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve made no progress beyond getting Samba to work properly.  VNC still has random drop outs, Ktorrent has the worst UI I’ve seen, and of course Myth is completely useless.

So, what I thought I do was  I could try something besides Myth, I could go back to MCE, which has a limited life span and activation issues, or I could put in another gig of memory and hope that vista runs.

None of these are ideal of course.  I really wish either Windows Server 2008 or Windows Home Server included a media center suite.  Just the backend.  My extenders are the only frontends I want.   This has been discussed several times on different sites.  Rollup 2 killed any progress that was made so I won’t bother linking to it.

So, where does that leave me.  The HTPC core hardware (mobo, proc, ram) are all original from 2005 before I started school.  The box began life as a duplicate to the parts in the Intel Developer Transition Kit that was being passed around by Apple.  Anyway…

I ask Newegg what can be done.  Let’s review the basic goals of a small home combined HTPC/Server:

  • Reliably host files needed on the network
  • Sit in the closest and use the set top box to record TV shows
  • Make those shows available to an extender.  UPnP or other
  • Hold a large number of hard drives as to allow for incremental upgrading
  • Doesn’t run up my power bill

Not too complex.  So what’re the requirements

  • Integrated graphics
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • SATA ports
  • PCI ports

How low can you go? First considerations.  I build my PCs by generation.  My desktop is a socket 775 soooo this one will be too.  I like to start with the motherboard.

I liked Gigabyte’s GA-G31M-ES2L.  Next up is the processor.  We knew the socket so that makes it easy.  No way do I want a celeron.  I want to do HD with this thing.  I’ll pay a tad more for low power soooo 45 nm.  That leaves the Pentium E5200.  Dual core, 45 nm, 2.5 GHz.  Perfect.   Throw in 4 gigs of RAM and I’m set.

Next bridge.  Operating System.  I love Linux, but I love Linux as a server operating system.  This is a server, right?  I think so, but thanks to bizzare convergence factors it’s a Media Center.  Sigh.  I’m not fighting with it again.  I invested more time getting Myth to work on the old box than the cost of the OS.  Plus, now you have to pay yearly for the guide on Myth.

Windows 7 is coming out, but I don’t want to use a beta OS with all my data…that and the media center component has issues…

So, Windows Vista it is!  Not the best option, but the route to the least headaches.   I put it on my parents HTPC and the only headache there is high def.

Wait, the whole goal behind myth was high def.  I’ve bought 2 cards, the A180 and another Hauppauge one, neither work.  Oh what the hell, I’ve been hearing about the HDHomeRun for at least 3 years now.  It’s under 200 bucks, I was thinking of getting a HD cable box anyway.

That’s another odd situation.  It’s an ethernet tuner.  Which means it can go anywhere practically.  Sweet.  I need more space in my server closet.

Reusing everything else.  I love the PVR-500 dearly, but I only have one cable box.  This’ll give me a good excuse for the new remote too!

In closing: Screw MythTV

Channel changing works.  For future reference here is the script I used:

for digit in $(echo $1 | sed -e ‘s/./& /g’); do
irsend SEND_ONCE $REMOTE_NAME $digit
sleep 0.5  # tweak the delay if needed
exit 0

I named it and put it in /usr/local/bin.  In MythTV under input connections you set the external change command to the path of the script with the name.  The wording they used to describe it was confusing, but I got it.

Everything seems to work.  However! I get a black screen whenever I go to watch TV.  I see the screen overlays, and the cable box changes correctly, but there is a black screen.  After class tonight I need to figure out how to capture a test image off the piece of shit.

As far as other services go, I got the other drives in, samba working with a guest account, and KTorrent sucks balls.  It takes too many clicks to get to useful information.  All this shitty apps make it abundantly aware that nobody listens to UI designers in the Linux world.  I mean seriously.  This is Linux.  I want a torrent client that runs as a service and uses a Web UI frontend.  Not a shitty web ui like KTorrents, hopefully more along the lines of uTorrent, although that one still needs work.  I may try Vuze tonight simply because it sort of makes sense.

Soooo things to do yet:

  • Fix black screen
  • Run mythbackend as a service
  • Test the storage through a reboot
  • Find a better torrent setup

Pain in the ass.  Oh, and the VNC server sucks.