HTPC interface and navigation

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs' started by Lemodular, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. Lemodular

    Lemodular Senior member

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    This is a cross post from another forum...

    Hi all,

    I have always been interested in an HTPC but never have the dedication to build one. The itch came once again and I was going to build one using a few of leftover components laying around the house (HDDs, Ram, PSU, Graphics card) I needed a nice chassis, a mobo, cpu and HSF. In my search I ran across complete system in a beautiful Antec Fusion Remote (Black) case. It has a Gigabyte GA-945GCMX-S2 modo with an intel E5200 CPU, 2Gb of DDR1 ram, Asus GT 620 fanless video card, LG bluray player and a few other components. It's running Windows 8.1 pro Media Center Edition (don't know what that means).

    What I want to do is play my .mkv library, stream videos and music and run Kodi. I can run it like a typical dedicated computer but I'm not sure if there's a better interface than a window screen with a few shortcuts. What are some of the interface setups that would make this feel more like an "appliance" rather than a home computer? Also, what is the best way to navigate? Mouse and keyboard? I have the Veris remote that came with the case, but it doesn't seem to be too convenience to use as a mouse.
     
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  3. dullard

    dullard Elite Member

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    I think the way to navigate is quite personal and the answer varies too much from person to person. Kodi will do most of what you want although I find it a bit lacking for streaming videos (not that I do it since I have mkv files of everything I want to watch). So, you can leave Kodi up and running most of the time and it will feel like an appliance. I happen to like mine to feel like a PC though. Browsing the web with a group of people, popping in an SD card to share photos/videos taken moments before to show at a party, etc. If you can think of it, the PC can probably do it and you aren't limited to some setup that someone else has thought of.

    I really like the Lenovo 5902 to control the HTPC. It takes some learning, but it does everything easilly. My wife tolerates it. My guests detest it. So, I have a wireless mouse for them. One relative insists on editing documents on it (walking from the couch to a proper PC is too much effort), so I drag out a wired keyboard when she comes to visit. So, I just don't think there is one right answer to your question.

    USB extension cables do come in handy. Even if you want a wireless mouse/keyboard, you can stick your HTPC anywhere and put the wireless receiver on the extension cable to get great reception from many angles.
     
  4. SlitheryDee

    SlitheryDee Lifer

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    I mostly use my harmony one to navigate the media playing functions of my htpc. I was able to set up a shortcut on it to open plex home theater and toggle fullscreen mode, which puts me in an interface that is designed to be navigated with a remote control. I'm sure the same thing could be done with kodi. When I'm using it as a pc I use a mini wireless (this one) keyboard more often than not, though I also have a Logitech dinovo edge for the occasions that I need a full sized keyboard. The mini keyboard is actually very well suited for navigating kodi or plex as well, but the harmony one can turn on everything and turn off everything with a button press as well as being able to control the volume on my home theater receiver while simultaneously allowing my to control the HTPC without having to switch remotes.
     
  5. blackangst1

    blackangst1 Lifer

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    I use JRiver instead of Kodi, but I can navigate through everything with my Harmony Ultimate One remote.
     
  6. poofyhairguy

    poofyhairguy Lifer

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    I second the use of Kodi. On my machine I use this program:

    http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=136798

    To replace the default Windows shell (aka the taskbar and desktop icons and all that) with Kodi so my machine boots right into Kodi. It basically makes the machine a Kodi appliance.

    In Kodi I have configured it to point to all my content on my media servers, all in a single library with fanart and all of that. I even have a Steam plugin for Kodi that boots Steam into Big Picture Mode so if I want I can use my Xbox controller to load Steam and get into games. Also thanks to Rom Collection Browser I have all my emulators and old games loaded into the Kodi interface so that way I can literally select almost any game I have ever owned and load it without touching a keyboard or mouse.

    The backbone of my entire setup is a FLIRC:

    https://flirc.tv/

    A FLIRC is a IR sensor that can receive any IR signal and translate that into key presses (or key combos). So I have mapped every button on my remote (pause, play, enter, etc) to a function in Kodi, and I have mapped the colored buttons (red, blue, yellow, green) to key combos that quits emulators. With this setup everything is controlled by a remote, I actually don't even have a keyboard and mouse ever hooked up to this machine.