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HTPC

HTPC Installation Guide

I have spent several hours on this project and at one point I was almost ready to give up. But now when I have everything running I must say it was definitely worth it.

I have had some experience with Linux before I started this project and it helped me a lot. You don't need to be a guru on Linux to build your own HTPC, but it will be much easier with some basic knowledge. Internet is a great source to find information. Often with Linux it is very difficult to find a guide that exactly describes everything step by step. I guess that is mainly because different hardware requires different setup and it is very unlikely to find a guide that describes exactly the setup you are using. My advice is to get some hardware that others are using and that you know should work. Then if you run into trouble there will be people on the Net that can help you.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 February 2007 21:41 Read more...
 

HTPC Weekly Progress

2005-10-14:

Have compiled the kernel once more. The reason is that I noticed I removed the ACPI support. So the function to do a clean shutdown when pressing the power button was gone, it just CUT the power!! But now it is back.

I also found a feature in the kernel which I enabled, "suspend state". I have not tried it yet but I hope that can help boot my machine a lot faster.

2005-10-08:

After 4 months in The Netherlands I decided to do something with my VDR machine. I was still on version 1.3.15 so I first upgraded to 1.3.32.

I noticed quickly that VDR did not always respond to a key press on my remote. I thought it was something wrong with LIRC or that some process took a lot power that caused VDR not to respond. But the machine had very low load. I upgraded LIRC to the latest version, 0.7.2, but it did not help. After troubleshooting for one day I found out that it was the batteries in the remote that were weak... God it is simple sometimes.

When I was using VDR in Sweden I had a bug when switching channels. If I switched from a DVB-S channel to a DVB-T channel I could get no picture. It often happened if I had not been watching a DVB-T channel for some time. Now I have noticed the same thing, but the other way around. If I switch from a DVB-T channel to a DVB-S channel I can get the same phenomenon.

Today I have upgraded the kernel to 2.6.13.3 and also installed the latest DVB drivers. This time I skipped the DVB support in the kernel and installed the DVB drivers separately. If I only want to upgrade to drivers in the future it might make that easier. I have not done a big test yet to see if the new kernel and new DVB drivers have solved the issue described above.

Installing the new kernel I had to compile LIRC again. No problem with that. I only had to make a "make distclean" to remove all the old config files, I need to do that as I found it still had links to my old kernel.

Also installed the latest drivers for my D-Link DWL-122 USB WLAN adapter. I installed linux-wlan-ng-0.2.2.

Will get back when I have done some testing.

Week 6:

The new stuff arrived!
Happy as I was I started to install the new PSU at once. With everything in place I turned on the computer. But nothing happened.......

I tried the old PSU again and it was working. I connected the new PSU to my normal computer and it worked. So it seems as my new PSU and the Dell motherboard aren't compatible. I checked the pin outs with a multimeter on both PSU's and they didn't match. I searched the Internet and found others with the same problem. Dell are using the normal ATX connector but they are not following the standard for the pin outs. One guy on Internet tried soldering his own cable to fit the Dell standard but he failed. So I decided not to give it a try myself. Instead I will use the PSU in my normal computer and hopefully I will buy a new case soon for my HTPC.

At least I could use the new papst fan, but overall it doesn't make any difference because of the old PSU.

I also finished with the case and it is now all black. I left the buttons white but maybe I should paint them too.

   

 

Week 5:

I have now ordered a new PSU and case fan.

PSU: FSP300-60PN(PF) <20db
Fan: Papst 80mm 12db

The specification for the PSU says it should be below 20db at normal use. But the question is what they mean with normal use. Anyway, I have heard others that were quite happy with theirs so I hope I will be too.
I'm not worried about the Papst fan because I know it is the most silent one on the market.

My Dell GX1 case isn't really a beauty so I will paint it black instead. I hope that will improve the look.

 

Week 4:

The picture to the right shows from the top:

  • SkyStar 1
  • SkyStar2
  • Video/Audio out(cable connected to the J2-pinout on the SkyStar 1 card, able to get RGB and AC3)
  • AirStar2
  • Sound card.

Since I took the picture I have actually removed the SkyStar 2 card and the sound card. Have no use for the SkyStar 2 card and all the sound is taken directly from the SkyStar 1 card.

Up until now I haven't been doing anything to get the DVB-T AirStar 2 card working. But now when I have a stable version of VDR running I started with the AirStar 2.

I found out pretty soon that the DVB frontend used by AirStar 2 was called mt352 and that it is one not included in Linux 2.6. So I download the DVB drivers from CVS.

In the DVB root directory there is a script called makelinks.sh. That script creates links from the kernel-source directory to the DVB directory. Next step was to configure and compile the kernel again. During configuration I could now see the new drivers.

Next step was to make a channel scan and save to a file. Same scan tool used with the DVB-S card. To be able to scan you need a configuration file with the frequencies for your city. These files can be found here linuxtv.org.

Then I copied the channels I wanted and inserted them into my channels.conf file for VDR.

Week 3:

The installation of the Skystar1 went well. I got the firmware from this place. If you need a patched firmware you will find it here. Because I'm using kernel 2.6 I used the DVB-drivers included with linux. I loaded the dvb_ttpci for the card and stv0299 for the frontend.

I went with the latest developer version of vdr, at this point vdr-1.3.15 was the newest. All versions can be found at ftp://ftp.cadsoft.de/vdr/Developer/.

It didn't take long time to get VDR running, but only the main program without any plugins and no remote isn't much fun. So my first task was to install LIRC so I could get my remote running.

I'm running FC2 with the the kernel upgraded from a package. A prerequisite for LIRC is to have access to the kernel source. So even I was running the latest kernel I had to download and compile the kernel myself. The configuration of LIRC went fine but of course I had a few problems along the way.

The two plugins that caused me most problem was the ttxtsubs and the sc plugin. The mp3 and mplayer plugin was probably the most complicated to install because they required a lot of additional software to run, but I follow the instructions and got it working without any hassle. Other plugins, like femon, games and osdteletext, I only unpacked and ran "make plugins" to get it working. I tried to install the image and weather plugin but I never managed. It was not highest priority so I might try again later.

I will add a page here soon where I describe the installation of VDR and all the plugins and what problems I had. I can't really say everything was easy but with the help from Google and a few hours hard work nothing was impossible.

Until now I have had the computer on the floor next to my normal computer but now it was time to put it next to the DVD player. To be able to access the computer I installed a D-link 11Mbps WLAN USB adapter.

Week 2:

I found a bunch of different HTPC software on the Net, both for Windows and Linux. I decided early that I would prefer a system based on Linux, but during the "testing phase" I didn't limit myself only to Linux. You will find most of the programs on my favorite page.

DVB support was a must and because many programs didn't support that they disqualified them self.

After a lot of reading on different forums I definitely decided to go with Linux. I mainly looked at two different program for Linux, VDR and MythTV. I tried both programs by installing a Linux-dist with the software included, LinVDR and KnoppMyth. After some more reading and comparing of features I made my decision. I would go with VDR. I want a system mainly for watching and recording TV and then VDR is the best option.

I installed RedHat FC2 Linux and started play around with the Pinnacle card and trying to get it work under Linux. I tried to get the card working for a few days but I never really managed.... During this time I ordered a SkyStar1 card from Germany, I also ordered a SkyStar2 and an AirStar2 card. So before I got the Pinnacle card running I had my own card to test with. VDR is mainly built for an SS1 card, a card with MPEG decoder, like Skystar1, so even if I got the Pinnacle card running under Linux I would have had problems get it work together with VDR.

Week 1:

The hunt for a satellite dish started but the search was soon over. I had the luck to get a dish from a work friend. Thanks DVDBerg for it!
I also got a mounting kit from DVDBerg, but it was made for wall mounting and because I live in an apartment I couldn't use it. Instead I went to the local TV-dealer and bought a 1,5m pipe that I will attach to the balcony. I also bought brackets so I could mount the dish to the pipe, cables and f-contacts. Back home I realized that the bracket's legs wasn't long enough, it didn't reach around but the pipe and the balcony girder.... So out again looking for another bracket with longer legs. At last I found one and now the dish is mounted.

At the same time I started to look at different types of DVB-S cards and I think I will go with a Skystar card. But in the mean time I borrowed a Pinnacle PCTV SAT card from Killroy. So the plan is to try out different software before I buy a card of my own.

With the card installed in the computer the next step was to align the dish. I connected my SAT-finder and began to move the dish. I had no compass so I wasn't really sure where south was. When I found the first satellite I made a channel search on my computer. It showed up to be Hotbird, but the strange thing was that I found less than half of the channels on Hotbird. I used the PCTV-program that came with the Pinnacle card and later I found out that was a mistake.

Then I move the dish more to west and I found Sirius. But the same thing here, I couldn't find all the channels when I made a full search. I tried ProgDVB and actually a found more channels, but still there were some missing. And every channel never reached a signal qualiy over 50% even though I had aligned the dish fairly well.

But my goal was to point my dish towards Thor so instead of troubleshooting the bad quality I realigned the dish again now moving more to the west. When I found Thor and made a search the same thing happened. None of the channels had a quality over 50% and most of the channels were around 30%..... I went outside to align the dish atlest twice but with no improvments. I started to believe it was something wrong with the dish or the LNB. But the next day I got a tip from a work friend to try DVBDream instead. He had the same problem before with his computer. Back home I tried DVBDream and the quality level was now 100%.
Thanks marcla!

 

 

 


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