HTPC Hardware & Starting Point

13 09 2009

So a new project to the blog welcome! I do need to go back and update the low power NAS one of these days but that isn’t what I am playing with tonight.

So right now I am waiting for .NET 3.5 SP1 to download.  So why an HTPC and why now?  Well I’ve been interested in one ever since my co-worker introduced me to Boxee.  Its really cool and most importantly I like to listen to music.  I have an Audiotron by Turtle Beach that plays my music off of a share no problem but the screen is tiny and hard to use far away.  The ideal situation would be to use the TV as the interface. Bingo! And so the seeds of “change” were planted.

Problem #1 – My roommates TV doesn’t have any sort of computer/digital input AT ALL.
Problem #2 – Boxee really needs a good graphics card + processor (if you want to run Hulu … stupid flash player!)

So it basically boiled down to I have no computer hardware that will play it well and I don’t have a TV that could take a signal anyway.  Obviously something changed, actually 2. But what?

The first thing that changed was that I got some broken hardware from work.  We had a P4 3.4 GHz machine that’s video would randomly drop.  Since it was a one off machine out of warranty it was headed to the dumpster so I re-routed it to my home to see if I would have any luck with it.   I put in a “new” (really old 16 MB) PCI video card just to test to see if was an on board video problem.  The first night I had it the video didn’t drop at all, the second night it dropped like 5 times.  At this point it wasn’t looking like a good candidate to replace my aging 2.4 Celeron main machine.  Not stable enough!

However, my girlfriend’s computer died and I gave it to her to test burn it for me.  I think out of the few weeks its been there it has only dropped the video once or twice but still I was in the middle of something kind of important and lost some data.  The uptime was pretty good but the random dropping of the video still removed it from being a good contender for replacing my main computer.

The second thing that changed was a Dell sale.  I had been rummaging around the idea of building a new computer with some used parts I had or buying a new one to replace the function but aging and slow home computer of mine.  I had been successful in talking myself out of spending any money on any new parts or new computers until this past weekend.   Dell had a sale where I could buy a low end business computer (plenty for my needs) and a 24″ ViewSonic LCD HDTV with computer in for a total of $577 including shipping and tax.  The computer alone I could talk myself out of and the TV alone I could have talked myself out of but essentially for $80 over the cost of the normal price of the computer I got a 24″ HDTV with VGA input.

So now I have fairly decent hardware (still a crappy video card but we will get there) that sometimes drops video and an HDTV that has VGA input. NOW I can start playing with an HTPC for real…

Summary of Hardware:

* HP Compaq dc5100mt with a 3.4 GHz P4 and 2 GB of RAM

* 24″ ViewSonic HDTV

* Old Cingular Windows Mobile Pro phone with wireless (to hopefully use as a remote control)

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