Necromancy +1 !!
Things have been super busy, particularly on the home/work front - but finally the Entertainment center is finished!
Most of the work on the center has been fine tuning and trouble shooting. Unfortunately I had to abandon linux due to some ati/openGL problems. I spent weeks trying to get Alsa and Pulse working, and frankly, I just couldn't justify spending weeks and weeks on every troubleshoot. My Linux multimedia knowledge just wasn't strong enough.
So, courtesy of some Xmas gifts, I installed a fresh copy of XP. The TV application is Beyond TV (BTV
)- I'm sad I had to pay for it (as opposed to say Myth), but the features and integration are well worth it.
is my DVD player. Using FFDshow Tryouts
in addition, It has almost no problems with DVD's or any other media it can grab from the family laptops and PCs
I'm using Medio
essentially as a master UI. It's a rather depracated use for what is a Media center Suite - but while Medio is a jack of all trades (PVR - streaming content from the net - ala hulu, etc), its a master of none. The various plugins are rough and rather slow - configuring them can be pretty confusing as well. The UI is tight and super customizable (and easy to do so!)- so I essentially us it as the Main UI Launching BTV and VLC when I want to watch tv or a movie. That way I always have a 10' interface
Last is Event Ghost
. It is a macro program where it takes events (say- recieving a signal from a remote control via the USB-uirt) and runs a simple macro. From simulating keystrokes (ie Channel up on my remote is the "up" button on teh keyboard), to sending sending RC commands via the a loopback adaper to VLC, to making sure the various programs shutdown when I turn off the TV, it is the brain of the operation. There are tons of plugins and commands, its really limited by your imagination.
Here's some final glamour shots!
The small black rectangle on the right side of the center is the IR reciever. I had a lot of frustration with it intially as it didn't work. Then I discovered my cat had chewed through the cable - on the side that is 24+ gauge. A few gell clips later and all was well.
Yeah, that's a squeeze box, found a duet super cheap on ebay - and I have some future ideas to use it with a file server rig (openfiler perhaps?)
And in action - That's live TV - beautifully smooth
Also, the 1960's radio still works wonders! The radio is what inspired my to buid this machine - so i'm happy I didn't kill it in the process - otherwise, it would be a hollow victory
Well it was fun - I really enjoyed writing this for you all - Sorry it took almost a year to finish the silly thing. Over all I'm really happy with my little project.
I really have to thank everyone on this board and MPC's ROTM column in their mag. A lot of my ideas came from looking at your works and learning from your mistakes/sucesses. So with that in mind here's a few things I learned that I hope might help you all out in the future:
-- I had about 10 sheets detailing how this project was going to go down. Everything from a sheet called "What do I want it to do?" to parts lists to measurements. In the end, while my result didn't look exactly like what I originally put on paper, sitting down and planning it out forced me to really think about every aspect of the project. I avoided a lot of pitfalls by pausing and writing out my ideas.
-Work with your strengths!
-- I like FOSS projects. Linux, Myth, etc. That said, I'll use linux in my file server, or in a notebook. But in the end, having experience with every MS OS since 1984 was the deciding factor for me going with XP. I just know the OS better when it comes to multimedia.
--Like the above example - not everything you expect will come. Remember the HDD/DVD drive cage I built for this thing? Turns out with the A/V sitting under it, it is impossible to add/remove a Hdd with out disassembling the entire center! - Whoops
-Where the parts and stuff came from:
--Great for hardware/equipment deals. Need a power conditioner? $200 at best buy - $80 at Home Depot
--Nice home electronics section with a huge selection. 90 degree F connectors, Crimping supplies, every jack and converter possible.
--Custom Faceplates and connecting cables. A tad expensive - but very easy to order what you need
--Thier website looks like its from the 90's, but it was the friendliest and cheapest place to buy good sheilding to protect my Harddrives from the stereo speakers
-Of course New Egg goes with out saying.
And becuase no Pc'er every has a totally finished rig here's my plans for the future:
-Ok - watching live TV and trying to access shared folders on the Entertainment Center doesn't work - kills playback. So, Time to look into a simple, separate file server (Saw a positive mention of Open Filer in Father in Law's Linux Journal). I know the Squeeze box is linux compatible. I can set BTV to archive any processed and compressed shows to the Server so I can stream them anywhere. I wonder if there is a good *Nix media server out there (that would work with an MVP or a console - If I ever buy one). If I can find a micro itx with a bunch of sata ports I'd be set. Hell they even use dc-dc power supplies - I could run it off a spare line from the Main PS perhaps
- I built the system to be 7.1 surround compatible - I should really buy 2 more speakers and add them in
- I keep seeing Boxee mentioned on the MPC site - Looks like a video stream aggregator - the one in Meedio sucks - Might have to give it a try.
- My pvr 350 died durring testing - so I got an 1800. It has a dual Ntsc/Atsc/Qam tuner with Mpeg2 decoder on board - I'll have to play with OTA ATSC more - $10 antennea is all I need (actually, I'm so close to our region's tower that the card picks up OTA signals on its own - weird)
-Sometimes, my wife or I will be surfing the internet or working on our pc/laptop and find something really cool we have to show the other. It would be amazing if there was a way we could just push a "Send to Entertainment center" button and esentially stream what's going on our computer to the TV via the entertainment center (like some art or photo's we are working on). Like Pulse's Sound server only with video. Telling Medio to open up program X and listen to port X would be all that was required - hence we could stay in the 10' interface. I wonder if they make something like that?
-Automate the PC - Perhaps, I can start with Event ghost and work from there. Auto download updates (OS, BTV, VLS, EG, etc), apply them and restart the computer at night when its not recording. Perhaps have the computer hibernate/suspend/whatev until it needs to record (and wake on keyboard/usb so the Remote control wakes the Center). All these programs do this on their own, but there's no crosstalk - no coordination..
Well that is all for me - I had a ton of fun - and I learned a lot. That was prolly my last big project until We get a house - then its full house upgrade (We've wanted to live "off" the grid as much as possible for years now), solar, water collection/purification, Z-waze, Cat5e, MVP for the bedroom, the list goes on - hehe, I can't wait