Need help creating a media center PC setup
May 26, 2010 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Need some advice on creating the ultimate media center PC setup

Last year I finally decided to build a desktop good enough for gaming but after I built it, I realized that I didn't need it since I already had a comparable laptop and i dont game much these days.

I don't want the thing to collect dust so I was considering turning it into a media center PC. Coupled with the fact that I don't watch much cable TV since the stuff i like is on youtube and hulu, it just made sense.

However, I dont just want to stop there. I want to put together a sick setup where i can incorporate my NAS device (2x500GB mirrored) and possibly even an old un-modded xbox (not 360) that I've got lying around.

A couple requirements:

1) my girlfriend is technologically retarded so it needs to be easy for her to use. using a remote control is key here.

2) I have a 42" plasma 1080P HDTV so the setup has to play nice with it (just want to be able to view content in HD)

3) id like the ability to store content on the NAS since it has a lot more space than the desktop. saving directly to the NAS is preferred.

4) id like the ability of starting downloads (via bittorrent, etc) from anywhere (even my android phone) so the content is ready for viewing by the time i get home

I've looked into XBMC and boxee but i'd like to get some feedback from the cloud.
posted by deeman to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I was gonna suggest XBMC as it seems to do all of your requirements.

With uTorrent, you can set it up to monitor a folder for .torrent files which are then added to the download list and removed from the folder.
Then use the technique of choice to upload .torrent files to your computer remotely.

Maybe an FTP, or other options of which I'm not aware.
posted by notpowercat at 2:03 PM on May 26, 2010

uTorrent has a webUI that you can access on your android phone.

I would also recommend XBMC. It's been my got to for a long time. Boxee is more closed than XBMC. However, getting XBMC up and running will be your project. Once it's working your girlfriend will be able to use it just fine.

Your old Xbox can also run XBMC, though only in SD, or barely some HD content. Maybe you could set that up in a different room and also have it be a part of the network.
posted by lakerk at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2010

Store files on your nas
Install XBMC onto your computer - windows flavour works great if you're not into linux
Hardwire your NAS to your computer (though a switch of course) so you don't have any problems with microwaves while watching a movie.
Start up XBMC, spend a few hours getting the catalog going for the TV shows and movies (and music) and you're good to go. There is an iphone app, and I would really be surprised if there wasn't an android app as well.
Old xbox... not required. It doesn't have the grunt to play HD - I just retired mine after many years of faithful service.
posted by defcom1 at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2010

Forgot to mention the 'hook the computer up to the tv' part. Get a DVI-HDMI cable or DVI-DVI cable, depending on your computer output / tv input. Use powerstrip to get the resolution of your computer just right on your TV (I don't know the rules, I know on mine there is overscan or something with the DVI input, and I don't have 1920x1080, but 1860x990 or somesuch. Don't ask me why. No problems with XBOX360..?)
posted by defcom1 at 8:29 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have found that using extenders connected to a TV is a lot more reliable than connecting a computer directly. That way you can also stash the loud computer away from your viewing area. If you want DVR capabilities, my HTPC software choice is SageTV. It runs on Windows (and Mac and Linux) supports many different tuners and they have both hardware and software extenders.
posted by reddot at 9:13 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My 4 Cents - I have a "nice" Home Theater PC and this is what I've found :

1) Good remote - for those who need it simple and a nice wireless keyboard with the mouse built in . I like Gyration remotes .

2) I like XBMC , and have Linux all over the place, but my deal breaker was that Windows Seven Media Center has Netflix - where Netflix/Silverlight is not getting to Linux any time soon (if interested - please sign the petition - then hold breath) Do not "use" Vista Media Center - it is unstable, does not support QAM tuning and causes much weeping and gnashing of teeth. I also like MythTV - and I bet Sage is awesome because of that but I have not used it .

3) Silence is golden - quiet fans are important .

4) Multiple cable cards or TV tuners - so you can watch one thing and record another .
posted by epjr at 7:45 AM on May 27, 2010

If you are planning on using it as a DVR for cable then try GBPVR.
posted by WizKid at 1:05 PM on May 27, 2010

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