Media Centre Musings (Part 5: Putting it all together)
This post is part one of a five-part series. Skip to related posts:
- Media Centre Musings: Part 1 – The Theory
- Media Centre Musings: Part 2 – The Plan
- Media Centre Musings: Part 3 – Third Time’s the Charm
- Media Centre Musings: Part 4 – Starting Implementation
- Media Centre Musings: Part 5 – Putting it all Together
Probably the most epic assembly of consumer electronics I’ve experienced, and still not quite finished.
After I picked up the television and the PS3 on Sunday last week, I went out and bought most of the components for my HTPC on Monday. I unfortunately couldn’t assemble it that day because every local PC store had conveniently run out of stock on the case I wanted, so I had to wait for that to be sent to me. It arrived on Wednesday, and I assembled the HTPC, which was pretty straightforward because building PCs is my thing.
The Antec Micro Fusion 350 is, as with all other Antec cases, a very solidly put together affair with all of the things you’d expect and Antec case to have. Even though its name denotes it as being the smaller in Fusion class of HTPC cases, it suffers no functionality or convenience loss, even incorporating Antec’s dual chamber design.
In the above picture you can see pretty much everything: 96×16 LCD just visible on the front, 750Gb Western Digital ‘Green Power’ SATA disk in the foreground inside its own chamber, GeForce 9400GT graphics card and 2x2Gb Corsair TwinX memory in the mid-ground, and the CPU cooler and exhaust fans of the motherboard chamber in the background.
I installed the 9.10RC of Mythbuntu onto the server and was totally lost. I have never used MythTV before, so I really had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully it comes with a lot of sane defaults and most of the functionality worked with minimal setup. I copied all of my media from an external backup disk into the appropriate directories and then started configuring the remote and the LCD.
As mentioned, I’ve no experience with any of this, so I was starting from scratch in all regards. After I spent nearly a half day mucking around with the remote and the LCD, following guides designed for Mythbuntu 9.04, I had aquired enough knowledge to realise that my setup was actually fully functional but was not working because I had selected the wrong presets.
So, now the remote works, but it is a little clumsy in my mind. What buttons from the devices’ original remote do not exist on the Logitech remote are mapped via the softmenu keys which allows you to scroll through a list of functions and then choose what you want to do. The only criticism of the remote itself that I have is that it is very long and slender and the buttons are very hard to push. This means you nearly always need two hands to operate it because you can’t quite reach end-to-end and maintain a good enough grip to support the remote while pushing down the buttons at the extreme ends of the device at the same time. I will have to let loose the newbies to see if they can navigate the system without my assistance, and also to gather from them ideas on how to improve the control scheme. As of yet I have not implemented any direct control of the television from the PC and everything relies solely on the Logitech Harmony remote.
There’s little to say about the speakers and the receiver at this stage – the setup of both was very straightforward, although I did have a problem with the subwoofer not working initially. I took it back to Harvey Norman and they tested it on their demonstation system, where it worked perfectly fine. Confused, I assumed it must have been the cable, or worse, the subwoofer output of the receiver. Thankfully, the helpful sales guy at Harvey Norman gave me the high-quality cable from their demo system and told me to take it with me. “If it works with this cable,” he said as he handed it to me, “you can keep it. Just let me know.” It worked with the new cable.
There’s only been two things so far which my plan failed to account for: the S/PDIF output of the HTPC, and where to place the rear surround speakers. The latter was swimming in the back of my mind at various stages but I never put any solid thought into it. I solved the problem yesterday by going out and buying some universal satellite speaker stands which feel like they’re made from wrought iron. Thankfully though they are just perfect for mounting my speakers; the stands themselves are hollow so the speaker wiring can pass through to the bottom and leave the base unseen. As for the audio on the HTPC problem; the motherboard doesn’t have an onboard connector, only internal jumper pins. Currently I am passing the S/PDIF audio from the internal motherboard connector to the graphics card and through the HDMI cable to the television which then outputs it via optical cable to the receiver. However, in order to listen to music through the HTPC this requires the television to be turned on. Really not a great option considering the television draws about 265 watts of power when on. So I’ve ordered an S/PDIF dongle with both co-axial and optical connectors which should hopefully arrive soon, as when the XBox 360 gets here it’ll need the optical input on the receiver currently in use by the television.
This post is huge already. I think I will write up some reviews of all the components over the next few weeks to save novellising what I already have.
Here’s my working area during setup, the final setup, and the obligatory shot of me playing Team Fortress 2 on the setup. Not seen are the rear satellites just out of shot under the foreground.