Goodbye old boy - Retiring our HTPC
by, 29th December 2012 at 11:41 AM (14404 Views)
It’s a sad day today. Ever since Christmas morning and the kids began to play with their new (well, second hand but new to them) Wii, it has become obvious that it was now redundant.
The media PC, the stalwart of living room entertainment for well over 4 years has to go. To be honest, it’s been on the cards since we got a Tivo box earlier in the year.
We’ve had a media PC in the house since about 2004 when I used an old Athlon powered Shuttle PC to run Media Portal (MEDIAPORTAL - a HTPC Media Center for free! - MEDIAPORTAL) through a large Sony CRT TV. From there I got my hands on a cheap second hand Elonex Artisan media PC based on a P4 running XP MCE. It was awesome and, most importantly, silent. After a year or so of running this I made the decision to make something that will last. So I sourced the following components:
- Core 2 Duo E8400 3Ghz
- 4GB DDRII 800 RAM
- 1TB Samsung HD (later replaced with a 2 TB)
- Radeon 4670 (passively cooled)
- BlackGold BGT3540 six–in-one tuner
- LG HD-DVD/Blu-Ray/DVD combo drive (you could/can pick up HD-DVD movies for pennies on eBay!)
- Vista Home Premium (later upgraded to W7)
- Zalman HD160XT Ultimate HTPC case with touch screen
- Fanless PSU
- Asus Silent cooler
I have to admit, that at the time, it was amazing, and to be honest, it still is very capable. We used if for everything from watching movies, recording TV, browsing the internet, streaming music from and, of course, playing games.
However, over the past 12 months it has been seeing less and less use. With the house getting a Tivo box, smart phones, another laptop and a dedicated Blu-Ray player it has increasingly fallen into disuse and now is only really used for storing photos on. Oh! And did I mention that it was HUGE?! Imagine a large AV amp and double its weight. It is a very un-portable computer. It also doesn't help that I haven’t wiped W7 since I put it on there in 2009. It is now very, very slow to boot and now takes 2-3 mins before it becomes usable.
So we are to retire it. It will be going into the office with me next week and used for ‘something else’ the Wii will now live in its space in the AV cabinet.
But, that is not the end of it. I still see the point of media/HTPC’s, I really do, it’s just that this one no longer suits our specific needs. We still need to browse the internet on a large screen, and whilst the Tivo provides many TV station ‘players’ it is not as extensive as we’d like. More importantly, we need centralised storage in the house. We need somewhere to put photos, music and documents. This type of household facility is getting a must in the modern world as more and more things get digitised in our day-to-day world.
So here is my plan, and given the cost of my original media PC it should come in at a fraction of the price of the original.
- Buy a duel drive NAS box and fit 2x1TB drives
- Use a Raspberry Pi for use on the flat-screen TV
I have to be honest here the Pi is going to be a godsend. A (very) cheap and (very) low powered device that will fulfill a major role in allowing us to browse the web, look at our pictures and play music/movies from the NAS box. Here is a device that perfectly fits the bill for the task in hand.
It’s going to be quite exciting. A new year’s project that won’t break the bank and will provide an important role in the home for very little money. Now there’s a business opportunity that someone can take up!
Goodbye old boy. We're replacing you with something smaller and more friendly!
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