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Mew's Singleseat TV-Server
In the summer of 2006 I bought a Hauppauge PVR-150 and tried it on my PC workstation with MCE2005. I could instantly see the advantage of a HTPC, but reading around the internet I quickly became aware of the limitations of MCE. I searched further and found alternatives; the one I was most impressed with was MediaPortal.
I have been looking at the MediaPortal website and forums since October 2006, and have installed various versions to test them on my workstation. I decided at the beginning of 2007 that I would look to take the plunge and build a dedicated HTPC around April. I chose April as it is my birthday and I could get family to buy some components as presents.
Where I live in the UK, the Freeview (DVB-T) website says that the service cannot be received. As we do not have an aerial (we get the standard UK analogue TV channels through a Virgin Media cable connection) it would be expensive to find out if this is actually true or not. I decided that in order to gain further advantage of an HTPC (and sell the concept to the wife & kids) I would put up a minidish to receive Free To Air satellite. I would still need analogue capabilities as Channel 4 and Five are not yet Free To Air on satellite.
I have built and modified numerous PCs over the last 10 years, but I must say that this is the one I have agonised over the most. I decided to allocate a reasonable budget to get good performance, especially bearing in mind that high definition is becoming more common. However, because it was due to go in the living room, performance had to be balanced with space and noise (it needed a high WAF). This made selection of components very hard. In addition, I was concerned that the hardware I chose may not perform well with the MediaPortal software. In order to go ahead I convinced myself that if I could not get it working as anticipated I would still have a reasonably specified PC.
I built the PC in two phases:
- The first phase was all the components except the second WinTV HVR-4000 and the EN8500GT. I didn’t want to buy 2 HVR-4000s if I couldn’t get one to work. I know there are issues with this board and TV Server but I am only using DVB-S/S2 so this is not a problem for me. I chose the WinTV PVR-500 for analogue TV as it is dual tuner hardware encoding card that I knew would work OK.
- The second phase was to change the LNB on the satellite dish from single to quad, add a second WinTV HVR-4000 and exchange the Gigabyte 6200 PCI-X card for the Asus EN8500GT which had now been launched.
- Case: Silverstone LC10M
- Mainboard: Asus P5B-E
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
- Memory: 2 x 1GB DDR2 PC6400
- PSU: Corsair HX 520
- VideoCard: Asus EN8500GT Silent
- TV Card 1: Hauppauge WinTV HVR-4000
- TV Card 2: Hauppauge WinTV HVR-4000
- TV Card 3: Hauppauge WinTV PVR-500
- DVD-Drive: Pioneer DVR-112DSV
- HDD: Samsung HD501LJ Spinpoint T 500GB
- Remote: Hauppauge MCE Remote
- Wi-Fi: Abit AirPace PCI-Express
- Sound: Onboard motherboard sound
- TV-Set: Sony 28” KV-28WS2U Widescreen CRT
I originally chose the Antec Fusion case based on the glowing reviews I had read, but it only takes a uATX and none of the intel i965 boards had the 3 PCI slots I needed for TV cards. I also realised that the main venting was through the sides and I didn’t have a lot of clearance there.
The lack of PCI slots is also why I chose a PCI-e Wi-Fi card.
I chose Hauppauge TV cards as these seem the most common. My experience has been that Hauppauge are fairly good at maintaining support for their products. I have had a software encoding WinTV card for the last 10 years and it has run under Windows 95/NT4/98/98SE/2000/Millennium Edition/XP. I also believe the cards that are in my HTPC are supported under Vista x64 if I wished to use that.
- Windows XP Pro SP2 + updates
- Hardware drivers
- Media Portal TV Server
- MediaPortal + SVN+Client Plugin
- PowerDVD 7.3
- Video: SVHS to SCART convertor
- Sound: 3.5mm to 2 phonos lead. Plugged into a SCART convertor
I loaded Windows XP Pro SP2 plus updates. Then I loaded the hardware drivers. Most of these have been downloaded from the internet as they are nearly always newer than those on the supplied CDS. Then I loaded TV Server, MediaPortal & SVN & client plugin.
Both the MCE remote and VFD display have been tricky to get working, although now I know how to install them on XP Pro it is fine. The remote I seem to need to apply the irbus.inf & irbus.sys files as well as the rollup (KB912024)for the eHome Infrared Receiver. I am not sure yet with the VFD whether it is the iMon software with the case that makes it work or the drivers from the website.
So far I have had to reformat twice and start again. With the benefit of hindsight I have reason to believe that both of these were probably unnecessary.
- On the first occasion it was after I updated the Hauppauge drivers for the WinTV cards. When rescanning for DVB-S channels the TV Server kept crashing. I have now realised that applying the Microsoft patch (KB896626) to fix this problem in Windows SP2 has to be done after you install the drivers.
- The second reinstall was after adding the second HVR-4000 card and replacing the Gigabyte ?GeForce 6200 PCI-X card I was using (which was borrowed from my dad) with the ASUS EN8500GT Silent. This was fine at first but I realised that each time I used the HTPC after hibernation the video (live TV or recorded) stuttered terribly. This was quite the opposite of what I expected the new card to do. The reinstall made no difference. After a lot of searching on Google I tried disabling Hardware Acceleration in the PowerDVD Codec and this seems to have fixed the problem. This does seem the opposite of what you would want to do with a card designed to accelerate video in hardware. Maybe when the new XP drivers with Purevideo HD support come out in June 2007 this may work OK.
I noticed that even after running for some time, the EPG obtained from DVB-S contained very little information. A trawl on Google revealed that Free To Air satellite in the UK only currently broadcasts a now and next EPG. At least I can get up to 14 days worth using WebEPG.
In July 2007 I had a week off work and decided to change the HTPC to run on Vista x86 instead of XP Pro SP2. There were a number of reasons the main ones being:
- Vista drivers existed for all my hardware (this is obviously vital).
- Nvidia's XP drivers did not at the time have hardware H.264 acceleration.
- EVR was being added to MediaPortal and to take full advantage of this would need Vista.
- The faults in XP (such as number of DVB tuners etc) are already fixed in Vista and any other issues are more likely to be fixed.
Before proceeding I took an image of the current set-up (just in case) and a backup of the MS SQL database. The update went smoothly and the SQL backup restored fine onto the copy of MS SQL Server Express on Vista keeping all my settings and recorded program details.
The main issue I have had have been the Nvidia drivers for the 8500GT. They still feel very beta compared to the XP ones and a lot of the settings present in XP are currently missing in Vista. The only mode I can use is 720x576 @25Hz interlaced. This works OK but leaves thin black (well dark grey) bars on the left and right of the screen. There are currently no settings to overscan to remove this. On the Plus side with the drivers, the Jitter level in MediaPortal in standard definition is zero. Scrolling text is beautifully smooth which I could not achieve in XP (as Jitter was 1).