Home Theater PC

My Home Theater PC (HTPC) handles several tasks, where the main is to provide a home entertainment system, playing DVDs, movies stored on the hard drive, MP3s and viewing pictures. All this is handles by the Open Source home theatre PC platform called Freevo, see Features for more information and Tips and Tweaks.

In selecting the hardware for my HTPC, there where several criteria: It should be extremely quiet, simple to use and have enough power to play DVDs, DivX movies and other content. Initially the box was powered by a 566MHz Celeron and a nVidia TNT2 Ultra, but it did not have the power to do what I needed, so it was upgraded to the specs listed below (click links for more information on how to get it working with Linux) : Currently my HTPC is running Gentoo Linux with kernel 2.6.14 and Freevo 1.5.4 (my local_conf.py). The local hard drive is only used for booting and storing recordings, the rest of my media (Pictures, music and videos) are placed on my Matrox Shared Storage and shared via NFS.

Here is the dmesg for the machine

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Features

A HTPC based on Freevo HTPC software provides all the features that you expect from a HTPC, for example: Furthermore my HTPC runs a number of services that are not part of Freevo:
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Tips and Tweaks

Noise reduction

An important aspect of a HTPC is that it is quiet, besides using quiet fans in the case, there are also other ways you can avoid noise and they are described in: HOWTO make your linux computer not use the disk (Danish version: Hvordan man får sin linuxmaskine til at holde op med at bruge harddisken)

The Silverstone LC-13 which houses my HTPC unfortunately makes a deep humming noise because of the vibrations from the hard drive, so I have mounted the hard drive in a Chill-innovation CH-KIT2 HDD Anti-Vibration kit, and that solves most of the problem (read my notes about the Silverstone LC-13 case).

The Pioneer DVD drive has a feature which does it runs in a special "low noise mode" when it plays a DVD movie. Unfortunately this is not enabled by default and requires a Windows only tool to enable, take a look at this site: Firmware DOWNLOAD : PIONEER CORPORATION

Video playback

GeForce4 and newer cards supports XvMC (X Video Motion Compensation), which is hardware accelerated playback of MPEG2 streams, like DVDs or recordings from a Hauppauge PVR 150MCE card. This reduces the load on the CPU, such that it is possible to playback DVDs and other MPEG content on slower CPUs. To use this feature in Linux you need to use nVidias proprietary driver and a video player like Xine or MPlayer. Use xine -V xxmc file.mpeg or mplayer -vo xvmc -vc ffmpeg12mc file.mpeg to playback a MPEG2 file using XvMC (yes Xine's driver is called xxmc).
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