The Christmas Special – HTPC Mk II

I meant to post this over a month ago … life has a tendency to be busy.

I started the HTPC craze over a decade ago with an ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon card.  At that point I did not have much of a theatre, mostly watching media on a 15″ (later a 17″) CRT monitor.  After I moved into the house years later, I picked up a TV tuner card and installed it for the PC in my office but never used it to the full potential, or at least nearly as much as when I was still recording shows in the apartment.

At one point, when I started investing in $10 PC’s (hospital surplus systems), I ran into a problem.  The new motherboard was positioned in a way not to accommodate my video card and my TV Tuner.  I had to make a choice.  Knowing a HTPC was back in the works (I must have talked about this before), I saved it for that.

Well, things did not work out as planned.

There were a couple major limitations with Mk.I, the kicker was that the chipset that came with the Lenovo M58 did not allow the use of the PCI Express slot and the DisplayPort jack – if anything was in the slot (not just video cards), DisplayPort would turn off.  I tried a VGA to HDMI adapter to no avail.  In the end, I shelved the TV Tuner again.

The other major limitation was that the M58 came with DisplayPort, not DisplayPort+ (the latter can payload sound over to an HDMI connection) so I would be tied to a nearby stereo for sound – as my only option.

With that said, I have been keeping watch at work for the early lines of HP desktop PC’s.  The newer line would (in theory) solve both these problems.  So in November (a day before I recorded this video), I found out that handful of HP’s were  down in disposal past-lease, and were available for sale.  So I made change for a $10 the next day, and started changing things over.

As mentioned at some point, these PC’s don’t come with hard drives, but they can come with most everything else at that price tag – the contents of the box (with the exception noted above), power cord, keyboard, and mouse.  But, since I had a pre-loaded system already, I can just transplant the hard drive, up the RAM (left over from a previous project), and finally, install the TV Tuner.

I was surprised everything pretty much worked out of the box with this move.  Usually I have to reconfigure the network.  I am still fighting a little bit with sound – now that I have the option between outputting to the TV or stereo, I have set certain applications to the desired outputs – but I have yet to find a silver bullet to switch all applications to TV or all to the stereo.

In the meantime – I set up the TVHeadEnd server on the system, which by way of the TV Tuner, turned the system into a PVR, on top of everything else.  One of my biggest gripes with TV is that you had to be there when the program came on.  Now I can schedule to record any show, whenever it comes on, and watch it any time I want.

Anyway, you can watch the rebuild on YouTube.  It covers a little bit of what I talked about here.

On another note, since this was an early Christmas present to myself in November, another early present – this time from work – came my way near the end of the month.  I will be starting in a new department (will remain as an Analyst) early January!  I am quite excited, and a bit nervous at the same time, as I have been in the same department for about nine years.

Anyway, hope your Christmas was great and all the best for the New Year!

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The Christmas Special – HTPC Mk II

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