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My first real HTPC... have a few questions.

Ravynmagi

Diamond Member
Jun 16, 2007
3,067
10
81
I'm a long time computer guy that never really built a HTPC. I've messed around with some OTA tuner cards before, but that's about it. However I'm kinda tired of the ever increasing rental fees cable companies charge me for boxes that look like they are 10 years old. So I'd like to build something and be able to ditch the boxes. Part of the problem though is I need to also make sure it's simple enough to use for the no tech literate people in the house.

I went out and bought a Ceton InfiniTV 6 ETH. A 6 tuner box that connects to my network.
And I'm using a Dell Inspiron 580s machine that's probably about 2 or 3 years old with a Core i3-550 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 750 and 1TB hard drives. And running Windows 7 Pro.


Question 1. Alternatives to Windows Media Center?
I have a cable card installed and a tuning adapter from the cable company. With Windows Media Center I'm able to get all my cable channels, including the premium channels like HBO. From what I've read it sounds like Windows Media Center is the only program that will let me watch all the encrypted and premium channels. And things like Media Portal can only see unencrypted channels or something. Is this correct? Because I don't particularly like Windows Media Center so far and am a little concerned that Microsoft is abandoning it.


Question 2. Does AMD suck?
I have an AMD Radeon 4350 card, I used this card in my work PC for a while and it's a nice low profile passively cooled card. I figured it would be awesome in my Inspiron 580s turned HTPC machine (I can only fit low profile cards in it). But for some reason animations in Windows Media Center are super laggy. When I open the guide and video is playing behind it, the video gets real stuttery, the guide is slow to navigate. When I took out the AMD card and use the integrated Intel graphics, everything got much smoother. Unfortunately the Intel graphics on my older i3 apparently don't support HDCP (and a lot of people on the AVS forums seemed to back this up), so I still need a discrete graphics card. So I put in an Nvidia GT620 and its was smooth like the Intel as well. I'm not sure if it's the older 4350 that's the problem or just AMD drivers in general. It seems like the 6450 would have been a better card than the GT620, but I am having trust issues with AMD since I've had driver headaches with them in the past for other issues as well. I guess the question is, do people have AMD graphics card in their HTPCs and not have issues with Windows Media Center lag?

I tried Catalyst 13.1, 13.4 beta (apparently no newer drivers for 4000 series cards now) and stock Windows 7 drivers, none of those fixed the animation lag in WMC. Also tried disabling the PCI-E power management in power options and disabling video enhancement features in Catalyst.


Question 3. Silicon Dust or Ceton?
I'm starting to think the Ceton tuner might not have been a good choice. It's slow to tune channels (even with the different video card), take 3 to 5 seconds. Seems like people complain their customer service isn't as good (though I haven't had to use it yet). And I think I probably didn't need to spend $300 on a 6 tuner device anyway. I'm contemplating returning this and getting a Silicone Dust HDHomeRun Prime with 3 tuners for $130 or waiting on the new Silicone Dust 4 tuner device I hear is on the way. I've seen some comments that the HDHomeRun Prime may tune channels a little bit faster. And I also like that Silicone Dust hosts it's own support forums. Sounds like they are more engaged with it's customers. Though I do see some guy named Eric that I think works at Ceton posting a lot of the AVS forums.


Question 4. Power management?
I'm having an odd issue where when I press the sleep button on my HTPC remote, the machine goes to sleep, but then it immediately wakes up. And another issue where it sometimes doesn't even go all the way to sleep, it turns off the display and the hard drive starts churning away, but doesn't actually go to sleep (white light doesn't turn orange as it should on this Dell) and I can't get the display to come back on without hard booting it. This might be some isolated weird issue with this Dell, so I'll need to trouble shoot this more.

I'm wondering about power management though. Do people leave their HTPCs running 24/7? Can you put an HTPC into sleep mode and would it wake up automatically to record a show (something I can't seem to test at the moment)?


Question 5. Media extenders?
I have an Xbox 360 that I'm testing with as a media extender. It works, but it doesn't seem that practical since I don't know if I really want to keep the console running 24/7 or having to boot it up and launch the WMC app each time.

Are there any low power devices that I could use as a media extender? I know of the Ceton Echo, was hoping for some more alternatives.
 

Binky

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
4,046
4
81
I'm a long time computer guy that never really built a HTPC. I've messed around with some OTA tuner cards before, but that's about it. However I'm kinda tired of the ever increasing rental fees cable companies charge me for boxes that look like they are 10 years old. So I'd like to build something and be able to ditch the boxes. Part of the problem though is I need to also make sure it's simple enough to use for the no tech literate people in the house.

I went out and bought a Ceton InfiniTV 6 ETH. A 6 tuner box that connects to my network.
And I'm using a Dell Inspiron 580s machine that's probably about 2 or 3 years old with a Core i3-550 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 750 and 1TB hard drives. And running Windows 7 Pro.


Question 1. Alternatives to Windows Media Center?

Question 2. Does AMD suck?

Question 3. Silicon Dust or Ceton?

Question 4. Power management?

Question 5. Media extenders?
1. I'm sure others will chime in on this one, but I don't think there aren't really any full competitors to WMC. XBMC is moving into the DVR area but i haven't used that part of it myself. I like WMC for TV (with DVRMStoolbox and showanalyzer), media browser for movies, a WMC link for XBMC, and a WMC link for Hulu. All are launched from within WMC.

The only "support" I'm worried about losing from MS is the free guide updates. If that ends, WMC is dead. As of now, no support is really needed and WMC works great.

2. No, but your card may suck. That's the worst of the worst in AMD cards. I think certain versions of the 4350 were slower than the 3450 they replaced. Find a deal on something slightly higher end and you should be happier. Both Nvidia and AMD work well.

3. No opinion for cable card, but I love my hdhomerun(s) for OTA.

4. Power management troubleshooting is a PITA. There's a program I once found that runs in the tray and it tells you what caused the last wakeup event. If you can get it to sleep, WMC will wake the computer up seamlessly to record shows. A sleeping HTPC may be an issue for extenders. EDIT: see "standby tracker" here near the bottom of the page: http://www.missingremote.com/guide/methods-resolve-and-diagnose-sleep-problems-windows-7

5. The only viable extenders right now are the Ceton and the Xbox360. There were older extenders by Linksys and Dlink that may still be available used. They work fine, but the 360 is a little faster on the menus. The extenders do have the advantage of being silent, consuming far less electricity, and they go right to the WMC menu if configured properly. I sold my older linksys extenders in favor of the 360, but I primarily use a second WMC machine as a quasi-extender (can access shows, but no live TV and can't change recording schedule).
 
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pkscout

Junior Member
Aug 30, 2012
24
0
0
Question 1. Alternatives to Windows Media Center?
I have a cable card installed and a tuning adapter from the cable company. With Windows Media Center I'm able to get all my cable channels, including the premium channels like HBO. From what I've read it sounds like Windows Media Center is the only program that will let me watch all the encrypted and premium channels. And things like Media Portal can only see unencrypted channels or something. Is this correct? Because I don't particularly like Windows Media Center so far and am a little concerned that Microsoft is abandoning it.
If you want to record the encrypted channels without doing a digital->analog->digital conversion, your only choice is WMC. A few of the other PVRs will at least record the unencrypted channels even if you have a cablecard, but some of them can't even do that.

Question 3. Silicon Dust or Ceton?
I'm starting to think the Ceton tuner might not have been a good choice. It's slow to tune channels (even with the different video card), take 3 to 5 seconds. Seems like people complain their customer service isn't as good (though I haven't had to use it yet). And I think I probably didn't need to spend $300 on a 6 tuner device anyway. I'm contemplating returning this and getting a Silicone Dust HDHomeRun Prime with 3 tuners for $130 or waiting on the new Silicone Dust 4 tuner device I hear is on the way. I've seen some comments that the HDHomeRun Prime may tune channels a little bit faster. And I also like that Silicone Dust hosts it's own support forums. Sounds like they are more engaged with it's customers. Though I do see some guy named Eric that I think works at Ceton posting a lot of the AVS forums.
I almost never watch live TV, so there isn't much channel changing while I actually watch. The HD Homerun Prime I have seems to change channels fine, but it's a very subjective measurement.
 

OGOC

Senior member
Jun 14, 2013
312
0
76
I use WMC for live TV and XBMC for everything else. There's a hack you can download that lets you start XBMC from inside WMC. So you can easily switch between them with a remote. WMC can do most everything XBMC can, but imo XBMC is simply prettier and better at most everything except live TV.

Never had much luck with MediaPortal. I like it, but always had some kind of problem. Haven't used it in probably two years, so it's probably better now. I like NextPVR too, and it can do a lot of stuff, but WMC has had enough add-ons to it over the years that it can do stuff too if you want. WMC is the only one with an easy-to-setup, built-in tv guide, and that's a pretty big deal.

AMD cards are fine, just that 4350 might be underpowered or not have the bandwidth, especially if it has to deinterlace and things. You don't need a powerful gaming-type card, but the really low-level ones might not be good enough.

Yes, you can have the PC be in sleep mode then wake up to record a show and then go back to sleep. If your PC immediately jumps out of sleep mode like you say, when I had that problem, I reinstalled Windows to fix it. Maybe there was another way. It didn't bother me much at the time on that particular PC, so I didn't look too hard for other answers.

There's news of the XBOX now working with Time-Warner cable.
 

Scheeringa

Member
Sep 18, 2013
31
0
0
1: Windows Media Center is your only option when it comes to watching premium channels. XBMC is great, and I've heard XBMC on Linux is incredibly stable. But I have only had experience with WMC and I'm happy with it. Even the wife likes it.
2: AMD does not suck, the 4350 does. You may burn it.
3: I have the PCI version on the Ceton card, and it has been fantastic. Also, your Ceton has 6 tuners, where Silicon Dust only has 3. the extra tuners will come in handy when you have multiple TVs going at once.
4: I never let my HTPC sleep, but it seems rather happy in Away Mode.
  • Click on the Start Button and then choose “Control Panel” in the right hand bar.
  • Click on the “System and Security” heading and then choose the “Power Options” link.
  • By default, Windows uses a “Balanced plan” which will work fine for our HTPC with a few minor tweaks. Click on the “Change plan settings” link to the right of the Balanced Plan.
  • Half way down the screen, click on the “Change advanced power settings” link. Once in the Advanced Settings, scroll down through the settings and configure them as follows:
    • Expand the “Sleep” setting and:
      • Expand the “Sleep After” setting and if it’s not set to “Never”, set it to 0 Minutes.
      • Expand the “Allow Hybrid Sleep” setting and set that to “Off”
      • Expand the “Hibernate After” setting and if it’s not set to “Never”, set it to 0 Minutes.
    • Expand the “USB Settings” section and:
      • Expand “USB Selective Suspend Setting” and set it to “Disabled”
    • Expand “Power buttons and lid” and:
      • Expand “Sleep Button Action” and change it to “Do Nothing”
      • Expand “Multimedia Settings” and:
        • Expand “When Sharing Media” and set that to “Allow the Computer to enter Away Mode”
        • Expand When Playing Video and set that to “Optimize Video Quality”)
5. There is a setting in your XBOX 360 to enter WMC on startup, otherwise Ceton's Echo is a great choice, even though it has no support for anything newer than Windows 7
 

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