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Is HTPC ready?

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
HTPC Experts,

For a long time I have been considering putting together an HTPC, however, my wife is of the opinion that if she can't do everything with a single remote control and it is easy to switch between viewing different types of media, then she will get frustrated and reject it. If there are problems with playback or she has to navigate through too many menus, switch inputs, switch remotes, etc., then it is up to me to do everything for her.

So my question is, are we at a point in technology where I can set up a system that just works, or would I be getting myself into more trouble than it is worth?

My ideal setup would be:

In the basement:
  • Cable Modem
  • InfiniTV 6 ETH
  • Synology NAS

In each room:
  • LED TV
  • Set-Top Style Fanless HTPC with BluRay
  • Remote Control
  • Phone/Tablet Remote (for me ;-)

I would like the HTPC to be able to:
  • Play native images from BluRay and DVD (not transcoded to MKV) stored on the Synology NAS, to allow for menu, subtitle, & language.
  • DVR to Record Cable and OTA programs (in HD and SD)
  • View Cable Guide
  • Drop in a BluRay/DVD and watch a movie without having to burn the image file.
  • Watch movies from online services (i.e. Netflix/Amazon)
  • View other media files stored on my NAS

I have look very seriously at a number of solutions (XBMC, Plex, Mezzmo, Raspberry PI, Roku, WD TV Live), but it seems that there is always something missing from the solution set. And it requires multiple boxes, remotes, switches, etc.

Am I just dreaming, or can this be done? The key is an easy to use single UI to control everything.

As a computer engineer, I don't mind building this myself (linux or windows based), or piecing together software components, but it has to be easy to use and has to work without problems constantly popping up for one reason or another.

If there is something out there that works well, could someone share what and how it was put together?
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Too much for one box. That is a HTPC plus a smart Blu Ray player.

The solution isn't a single box. The solution is a well programmed Harmony remote that hides all the hard stuff from her.
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
I was looking at this box: http://www.hd-plex.com/hdplex-h5.sodd-fanless-computer-case.html

But you say that I can't make it work from a single box?

We have a Harmony Remote right now (though an older one) with a Comcast Set Top, Sony BluRay and a Philips TV. One remote, but still she has me turn on the TV for her, because I have to switch inputs, and navigate through the DVD menus to get to streamed files from Mezzmo on a PC.

The Harmony remote often gets confused about what is on and what is not, plus, we have to use the keypad on the TV when in WatchTV mode and the Harmony remote assumes the cable box gets the keypad, so we have to switch back and forth between devices.

It frustrates her that it can't be simpler, and that I have to be around for her to watch TV.

So far for me, the "easiest to use" setup has been a cable box with DVR, BluRay player with DLNA and a PC with mezzmo serving up the content. I was just trying to unify everything, but alas, that does not seem to be the case yet. Perhaps another few years???
 
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Raincity

Diamond Member
Feb 17, 2000
4,475
12
81
I still don't understand why Microsoft does not allow to have multiple HTPC boxes in the household eco system to work as a WMC extender. The whole thing could be done with My Movies, Anydvd HD and the My Movies WMC plugin.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
I still don't understand why Microsoft does not allow to have multiple HTPC boxes in the household eco system to work as a WMC extender. The whole thing could be done with My Movies, Anydvd HD and the My Movies WMC plugin.
Microsoft did come the closest to what OP wants, but long ago they quit caring about WMC and HTPCs. They realized that no matter what we are a niche (a not very lucrative niche) and the real way to control the livingroom is something that is easier for normals to use (like the Xbox One's HDMI pass through). They are not the answer.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
I still don't understand why Microsoft does not allow to have multiple HTPC boxes in the household eco system to work as a WMC extender. The whole thing could be done with My Movies, Anydvd HD and the My Movies WMC plugin.

Server wmc + xbmc works as an alternative and it's free.
Better than purchasing a WMC license for each additional pc.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
I was looking at this box: http://www.hd-plex.com/hdplex-h5.sodd-fanless-computer-case.html

But you say that I can't make it work from a single box?
Nope. It is easy to have all the right hardware in the box, but no software system can do everything you want. As it is any HTPC that does all that will be a hackfest because no one software can do it all.

The real holdup is Blu Ray playback. Kodi is closest to what you want, but until the open source libraries for Blu Ray playback get really good you aren't going to be able to play Blu Rays in it. Given the speed of this sort of open source development I expect by the time Kodi plays a 1080p Blu Ray we will all care about playing some sort of 4K Blu Ray, just like what happened with DVDs.

With that said, this is magical times. It is amazing the value I can get with a HTPC now compared to just two years ago. Maybe the cheaper hardware will speed up development. Hard to say- most people like me who are really into this stuff have completely given up playing disks (they really are icky) so you might be SOL on that one.

We have a Harmony Remote right now (though an older one) with a Comcast Set Top, Sony BluRay and a Philips TV. One remote, but still she has me turn on the TV for her, because I have to switch inputs, and navigate through the DVD menus to get to streamed files from Mezzmo on a PC.
What Harmony? Any above the 600 series should have activities buttons that should clean up all of that. It if it a Harmony lower than 600 it is not even worth being a doorstop, and should not represent how Harmonies can make your life easier.

If it is above a 600 series, it is all in the programming. You can hide a LOT of complication behind a well programmed harmony. They are a pain in the ass to program- it takes a lot of wife trial and error- but the end result is a remote that can be exactly what she wants when she needs it.

So far for me, the "easiest to use" setup has been a cable box with DVR, BluRay player with DLNA and a PC with mezzmo serving up the content. I was just trying to unify everything, but alas, that does not seem to be the case yet. Perhaps another few years???
If you already have a Blu Ray player why the crusade to replace it? Let the Blu Ray player play Blu Rays, and let a Chromebox or FireTV do the rest of it. No one box can do everything, but I can think of three setups (Kodi, Plex, Jriver) that are WAY easier to use than DLNA content. DLNA is a wife nightmare.

Seriously with a Blu Ray player, a well programed Harmony 600+, and a Kodi box you can do everything you want with less wife pain. I know, that is my setup. Heck, just a Plex app on the Blu Ray player is better. DLNA is so far from an optimal WAF solution its not even funny.

So we are not "there" as in a magic one size fits all box/software, but your solution is there is you are willing to take up two HDMI ports instead of one. Or at least a better solution is there. My wife drives everything in my house without any input from me 90% of the time, and my library is huge.
 
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bradly1101

Diamond Member
May 5, 2013
4,690
293
126
www.bradlygsmith.org
I would like the HTPC to be able to:
  • Play native images from BluRay and DVD (not transcoded to MKV) stored on the Synology NAS, to allow for menu, subtitle, & language.
  • DVR to Record Cable and OTA programs (in HD and SD)
  • View Cable Guide
  • Drop in a BluRay/DVD and watch a movie without having to burn the image file.
  • Watch movies from online services (i.e. Netflix/Amazon)
  • View other media files stored on my NAS
That's all stuff Windows Media Center can handle with added Blu-Ray software (I've got the now defunct Total Media Theater but Power DVD Ultra [on sale now for $59] can do it too apparently with a Media Center plugin).


I think Media Center is the only thing that can handle encrypted cable TV. I'm using two HD Homerun Primes to get six tuners, which requires two cable cards but they're only $1.76/mo. THE HDHR just works so well, and being external they help keep your HTPC cool and quiet.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
If you already have a Blu Ray player why the crusade to replace it? Let the Blu Ray player play Blu Rays, and let a Chromebox or FireTV do the rest of it. No one box can do everything, but I can think of three setups (Kodi, Plex, Jriver) that are WAY easier to use than DLNA content. DLNA is a wife nightmare.
Gonna have to disagree with you here. XBMC with the Aeon Nox Skin (among others) lets me <Favorite> my DLNA server and put it right on the blade. Then I can control all of the content to any HTPC from the server side. With Mezzmo, menu customizations and media lists are much, much, much more wife-friendly than anything that XBMC can dream of.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
26,353
246
106
AFAIK you can't do Cable and OTA with WMC simultaneously. But it is correct that if you want to use a Cable Card with a PC WMC is your only choice due to copyright stuff.
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
Mezzmo is pretty good, the one thing that I can't get working right is subtitles and separate audio; though it may be my blu ray player that is the problem. On my tablet, only MKVs seem to allow for SAP and subtitles. ISO streaming doesn't seem to work. And neither allow for menu usage.

Anyway, back to the original post. PoofyHairGuy, you have a good point. I currently have two boxes, and I guess I can keep it that way. Let's face it, for $10 a month, I can avoid all kinds of headaches by keeping the cable and dvr on one box (where it is needed) and then do all the rest via the dvd player.

So you mentioned a dvd player with plex. So far, I have not found any that allow you to play ISO from a NAS with menu and subtitle support. Do you have any you can recommend?
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
Mezzmo is pretty good, the one thing that I can't get working right is subtitles and separate audio; though it may be my blu ray player that is the problem. On my tablet, only MKVs seem to allow for SAP and subtitles. ISO streaming doesn't seem to work. And neither allow for menu usage.

Anyway, back to the original post. PoofyHairGuy, you have a good point. I currently have two boxes, and I guess I can keep it that way. Let's face it, for $10 a month, I can avoid all kinds of headaches by keeping the cable and dvr on one box (where it is needed) and then do all the rest via the dvd player.

So you mentioned a dvd player with plex. So far, I have not found any that allow you to play ISO from a NAS with menu and subtitle support. Do you have any you can recommend?
I don't think you'll find a disc player that will support menus since most, if not all, require a DLNA server for playback of shared content. Menus just aren't supported by DLNA.

You'd have to find a disc player that will read network shares. Maybe something from Oppo:

https://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-bdp-103/blu-ray-BDP-103-Features.aspx

but that doesn't mention .iso support so it may not support menus, either.
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
Ok, so I called Oppo, and got the scoop:

They support MKV but do not support ISO or BDMV on their players. Apparently it is a licensing issue. They did briefly have it on the BDP-93, but had to remove it. So that means that any commercial provider of a DVD player will not support ISO because no doubt, Sony has their hands tied.

I guess I will have to switch everything to MKV and give up all the menus and special features etc. Even going to DLNA through mezzmo, I lose menuing and such. The good thing is that with one of these players, I can at least shut down a computer and just keep a NAS running.

Anyone know if the Samsung BD-F7500 supports apps that play ISO or MKV? I see it has a Plex app, but my understanding is that Plex doesn't support ISO.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Gonna have to disagree with you here. XBMC with the Aeon Nox Skin (among others) lets me <Favorite> my DLNA server and put it right on the blade. Then I can control all of the content to any HTPC from the server side. With Mezzmo, menu customizations and media lists are much, much, much more wife-friendly than anything that XBMC can dream of.
Well yeah if you have an awesome software client than DLNA can work fine. I was more getting at the concept that a DLNA server feeding some Blu Ray player or TV isn't on the same planet as any Kodi setup.

No matter how your content is served, the client matters. Heck Plex can be pretty awesome if you use their client software on a HTPC instead of the app that comes with Roku or whatever.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
Well yeah if you have an awesome software client than DLNA can work fine. I was more getting at the concept that a DLNA server feeding some Blu Ray player or TV isn't on the same planet as any Kodi setup.
Oh yeah, well then definitely. I couldn't agree more.
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
I use a fanless case for a HTPC (a Streacom FC8 EVO), but you have to be careful when it comes to hard drives. A hard drive needs to keep its temperature controlled, but without air flow, it cannot. I fried a 3.5" drive by using it in the fanless case.
That is why I have my NAS located in the basement.

So, assuming that my NAS is in the basement, and I have a standard Set-Top box with DVR, can I set up a Kodi box with a minimal boot drive, blu ray player and then play the ISO files from my NAS with menu, audio and subtitle support?

Ideally, something like a Raspberry PI with blu ray drive ;)
 
Sep 12, 2004
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AFAIK you can't do Cable and OTA with WMC simultaneously. But it is correct that if you want to use a Cable Card with a PC WMC is your only choice due to copyright stuff.
WMC can do cable and OTA at the same time and does it seamlessly. It is even possible to use XBMC with a cable card tuner. It all depends on your cable provider and whether or not they have implemented the "copy once" copy protection flag. Most cable providers only use "copy once" on premium channels.
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
Thanks for that PoofyHairGuy. I will keep an eye on that.

I did check with ZOTAC and they recommended that I look at ZBOX EI750 or EI750P. It will run XBMC and supports an external blu ray drive via USB. Their blu ray model they discontinued because of (once again) licensing issues. They said that this version supports 4K at 60fps.

So this still gets me back to the basic question: Ignoring Cable and DVR for the moment, can XBMC/Kodi do everything else cleanly?
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
Thanks TastesLikeChicken.

I have Comcast, and everything I have read so far, they seem to be pretty good about not setting the protected flag and allow the copy once. I need to try it in my area though to be sure.
 

blackconure

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2015
13
0
0
You need to get the second version of this, or Ebay the first version:

http://vidon.me/vidon_box_av200.htm
Apparently vidon.me is affiliated with DVDFab in some manner. I love the software despite being crippled by the government.

Anyway, it seems that vidon.me is releasing a software only version that allows for menu navigation and such on blu ray. The box they have is OK, but I was looking at this one: http://www.cnx-software.com/2014/09/22/hph-nt-v6-unboxing/ It has HDMI 2.0 support and does 4k at 60fps.

If I can piece these two together, then we might have something. Has anyone tried the NT V6 before? Any thoughts on the build?

Here's the manu site: http://www.nagrace.com/en/products/detail/id/125.html
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Anyway, it seems that vidon.me is releasing a software only version that allows for menu navigation and such on blu ray.
That is what you need then. Kodi is 90% there except for those disks.

Another option is patience. I think there will be mature open source libraries (aka native Kodi support) for Blu Ray disks within two or three releases.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
I mentioned that because you specifically stated...


[/LIST]
...and you cannot record to a network share in Windows Media Center.
I think you can only dvr to the PC with the TV tuner.

However, you can use pcs as Windows Media Center extenders despite what the documentation says. Ive already done it.
It's a little hard to do given Ceton weird tools but I shared the tuner on my network, bridged it to my lan on the PC, and can access it from any wmc PC. Still easier to use xbmc though
 

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