Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The PC as an entertainment server (HTPC) - Part 2

Could I actually use my PC as an entertainment server? – Part 2

To view Part 1 Click Here

Since that time, I had begun ripping my movies onto my PC’s hard drive after having trouble with several of the DVD’s getting scratched and not playing well on different DVD Players in the house. I had read in a PC magazine about these PC based Home-Theater PC’s. Using the PC to play movies, listen to music (mp3’s) and even replace your DVR/Tivo. This article even talked about using your existing PC to do it! I’ll admit I am a tinker by nature especially when it comes to PC’s so I was very intrigued. I mentioned it to the wife and she rolled her eyes and said “go ahead as long as I can still watch tv without you messing things up”. Boy did she not know what she just gave the o.k. on!!!

screenshot of meedio menu

First, I did a bunch of research on the net and in some magazine articles. I decided to start with Meedio just to run movies and music. I did a trial of Meedio and became hooked. Meedio took a lot of tinkering for me to get it right. In fact, it took me many months just to get it usable for what I wanted, but I did get it working. Next I drilled a hole from my office where the PC was into the living room [honestly I drilled two holes one of which was in the wrong place and I still get razzed about even today by the wife J]. I ran a svideo cord and audio card from the back of the PC in the office to the living room PC. After fighting the video card to show the same picture on both the PC monitor and the TV for over a week I finally go those working. Next up was getting a remote to run. I already owned a Home Theater Master MX500 which was programmable. I purchased a usbuirt and girder. After a week or more of setting up the remote to run the meedio program, the computer TV and receiver I got it to work. We began using the computer to watch movies and to listen to mp3’s that were on the PC. We had to switch inputs on the TV back and forth to go from TV to the meedio program, but it was a start. One of the first benefits was being able to listen to a large collection of music with the click of the remote. Shuffle through the music and listen to a variety rather than one or six CD’s at a time. Also, the entire pile of CD’s went to the basement – never to be heard from again….

For movie watching it was nice to be able to select the movie we wanted without searching for the disc and sticking it in the dvd player. All you had to do was search by genre, movie name, release date etc. all the time browsing the movie covers with descriptions. This was an instant hit with everyone who tried it. The main drawback was the constant tinkering I had to do to upload each movie and keep the thing working. There were a lot of bugs whether program related or my fault – it still took a lot of work on my part.

Coming soon:
Part 3: Do I dare replace the cable companies DVR with the computer (or) how Snapstream Beyond TV took over our TV! The wife & kid could revolt here...