Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hulu Desktop rocks!!!

If you like watching shows on hulu.com, you will really like the hulu desktop application. Download here http://www.hulu.com/labs/hulu-desktop

  • Great for HTPCs
  • Works with your media center remote (I use my logitech)
  • High quality 480p video is smoother compared to the browser based flash.
  • To seamlessly launch and use it from windows media center see this link

Monday, June 29, 2009

Media Center complete!

My media center build is now complete. I'm trying to make this my main family entertainment center and that means wife acceptance is critical.

Primary Goals
  • View Local OTA digital & HD channels
  • DVR functionality with ability to view & schedule recordings
  • Blue-Ray, HD-DVD & DVD playback
  • View digital photo and video collection
  • Listen to music collection
  • Play DIVX movies
  • Watch Hulu & netflix online
  • High WAF(Wife acceptance factor)

Components Used

  • Zotac 9300 mini ITX motherboard
  • Pentium E5200 dual core processor (2.5GHz)
  • Apex M100 mini-ITX case with 250W Power Supply
  • 4GB OCZ DDR2 memory
  • Western Digital 1TB Green Hard drive
  • LG GGC H20L HD-DVD/ Blueray drive
  • BTC 9039 URF III Wireless Keyboard with trackball
  • SiliconDust HDHomerun dual TV tuner
  • Belkin N+ gigabit router
  • Clearstream CS4 TV Antenna
  • Antec veris multimedia station basic IR controller
  • Logitech harmony 890 remote
  • Windows 7 64bit RC, Arcsoft Total Media theatre for Blueray & HD DVD playback

Build Notes

  • Performance better than expected - I was pleasantly surprised to see no performance issues during playback of OTA HD video and HDDVDs.
  • Heat issues - The tiny Apex M100 miniITX case posed some heat issues, primarily due to restricted airflow. The following tweaks resolved the heat problems-
  1. Fans on either side of the case (1 - 120mm & 1 - 80mm)
  2. Hard drive mounted using general purpose velcro on the floor of the case
  3. Power Supply mounted upside down. The included 250W power supply has a fan on top, but the case doesn't have a vent on the top. Mounting the power supply upside down improved the airflow. The cpu cores are now at a constant 53 degrees C and the GPU at 57 degrees C, even under load.
  • Wake on USB solution - The zotac 9300 motherboard doesn't have a wake on USB feature. This means the pc cant be woken up with a USB device like an InfraRed receiver (zotac you bastards!!). After some research on http://www.avsforum.com/ , I stumbled upon this device - The Antec Veris Multimedia Station Basic, IR Receiver. This IR receiver connects to the motherboard's power connector so it can be woken up using a remote.
  • HDMI audio issue - I've run into issues with the nvidia HD audio driver crashing and looping ocassionally in windows 7 64bit. I'm temporarily using an optical cable instead, with the realtek audio chip, until better drivers are released. This means no LPCM audio for now.
  • Keyboard with trackball is required if you want to control the mouse cursor from a couch.
  • The logitech harmony 890 remote works like a charm. It has been programmed to work like a MS media center remote.