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AMD-Based/Linux HTPC Build for My Needs - Need Useful Input

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I have been considering an HTPC build for some time, joined a few forums and found some useful hardware reviews and HTPC build threads here such as, http://www.overclock.net/t/1451337/advice-needed-for-budget-htpc.

The discussion I referenced above taught me AMD and Linux does no necessarily mix. However, I'll continue with this desire until I understand this relationship better. Here is a listing of the other entertainment hardware I have to work with to integrate a compatible HTPC system:

1 - (2) FullHD 1080p Samsung LCD televisions (LNT4016F & T260HD). Both feature multiple HDMI ports and the 260HD has a single DVI port. Both feature the SPDIF output.

2 - Oppo up-conversion DVD player - I bypassed Blu-Ray intentionally as this began with DVD;s in excess of $30. HD DVD meets all our needs. This also features the SPDIF output, but I use the RCA jacks to my receiver for audio.

3 - External stereo. I think this may be a old low-end 5.1 system, but am uncertain, it even features a passive sub-woofer (Ha!). It is good I can laugh at myself! Ultimately, I have a far better conventional stereo system that will be used but, it remains packed in boxes.


My needs for an HTPC are to stream and record PBS Kids shows, sporting events and possibly find software to record, strip shows of their commercials before playing them back for our kids. I guess this involves what I see called 'PVR' software. I do recall an application that was bundled with Win Vista, but I cannot recall it. Other freeware exists to accomplish this, but I cannot currently recall any one in particular. I may add XBMC if it proves useful, but cannot convey a real need for this at this time. I do like the idea of OpenELEC.

I have the flexibility to go mini-ITX or ATX because, I have on older Dimension 4100 mid-tower pc that could be used as a dedicated case with a micro-ATX or ATX based system. Obviously, I need as much quality as I can afford, but the challenge is our budget the features some of this technology possesses. Some of the problems I have read with the mini-ITX boards amaze me and I have no desire to repeat others errors. Other than this I would like the HTPC to be silent, low-power and robust. I do not have plans for a Windows OS, but may integrate this as a dual boot option if it proves useful for the HTPC. My intent is this will be a dedicated HTPC.

Thanks.
post #2 of 8
AMD + Linux:

No problem if it's the processor, linux doesn't care and doesn't require any special drivers. If you're talking about an AMD Radeon graphics card then I'd stick with nvidia. Historically AMD have been very sluggish releasing drivers for linux, they're better now but the damage has been done as the majority of people who have used linux a while use exclusively nvidia cards as things tend to work better out the box and its easier to configure as most online tutorials will have nvidia cards in their rigs.

PBS Kids:

If you can get this over the air (i.e. not a satellite/cable subscription) then I would recommend MythTV (linux only) PVR software along with one or more DVB tuner cards (e.g. DVB-T, DVB-T2, DVB-S, DVB-S2, DVB-C etc depending on your service). This guy's website has been very useful for me in the past although I'm in the UK so it's possibly more directly relevant to me than you (http://parker1.co.uk/mythtv_ubuntu.php) but should still prove useful. If I were buying a DVB-T2 card today I'd probably buy this one - http://www.amazon.co.uk/PCI-E-DVB-T2-Definition-Digital-Receiver/dp/B006MTN32A

MythTV will remove adverts as standard, allow series recording, transcoding to allow playing on portable devices or just for more optimal storage (as standard a DVB card will just write the MPEG-2 stream to disk so its about 2GB an hour or something), and lots more features.

I think the program bundled with vista was Windows Media Center and has been bundled with every version of windows since. Its ok, is reasonable for what it does but no where near as feature full as Myth.

Dell Dimension 4100 case:

I suggest you bin this! Does it even have a removable knockout panel at the back for the motherboard connectors which you'd need to change if you get a new board. Also, it's pretty old, the PSU probably won't work with modern hardware and all the fans are probably kicking up a fair bit of noise. Could be wrong.

Recommendations:

By all means go for linux, download mythbuntu (http://www.mythbuntu.org/) if you want to try Myth, if you just want a media player then download XBMCbuntu (http://mirrors.xbmc.org/releases/XBMCbuntu/). Both are ubuntu based which is a very popular distro and there is a lot of support for it.

I'd get a nice ITX case (e.g. http://www.fractal-design.com/home/product/cases/node-series/node-304-black) and I would stick a tuner card and an nvidia card in. An i3 iGPU should handle all your video needs and a decent motharboard would have SPDIF output so you could do away with the nvidia card if you want. HDMI can output 8 channel lossless audio so an nvidia card would allow you to do this but you'd most likely need to get a new AV amp to handle this.
 
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post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks.

All good to read except the case issue as I have been told it would permit me to upgrade to a much newer processor and motherboard, but this has been by sales staff not technically oriented people so, it could be incorrect. Yes, the P/S would have to be replaced to. Using it removes the cost for a case. No other advantage. If I do not use it for the HTPC (...it is large for that purpose) I may use it to build an FX CPU desktop replacement.

Second, no i3. I have to restrict my consideration to a lower cost AMD system. It's overkill for OpenELEC anyway unless you want Windows and I have no desire to pursue that because, I prefer to have this be a dedicated machine.
post #4 of 8
I don't know for sure about the Dell case, historically they've not been the most upgradable but have a closer look and see what you think or post some photos of the back of the chassis and I'll take a look, it should be pretty apparent from them.

What is your budget and how do you plan to record your TV shows? Might be able to offer some more ideas
 
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post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
I need the tv tuner card and software for recording the tv broadcasts. No concrete plan for software yet. MythTV is high on my list. I would like to keep this under $300, but I'm uncertain if this is feasible. It looks possible, but I prefer a separate video card (i.e., nvidia) to the APU graphics. A low end A4 should be adequate and the TDP for these is already high at 65W for an HTPC. I am inclined to use a mini-ITX or mATX in a mATX case so it resembles a piece of A/V equipment and will have plenty of room for airflow.
post #6 of 8
Just or the sake of mentioning it, have you looked at intels NUC offerings? They're very small but probably a little over budget. All your peripherals would have to be USB though which isn't really what you want but they're a nice elegant piece of kit. You can certainly get myth compatible USB dvb tuners.

Are you planning on getting your tv services over aerial, satellite or cable with or without subscription? Do you also want to run Netflix or other streaming services? How familiar with Linux are you?
 
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post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
All good points to make. I have looked at the Intel NUCs and they are appealing from a cost perspective. I must add that this can be a daunting challenge to learn everything required to assemble a known good system. For me, the skill and knowledge in building is a large motivator because, these skills spill over into other facets of life that help me stay on top of those responsibilities. I maintain all pc's in the house.

Budget is always important, but the way I handle situations like these is keep a target in mind and see what the technical issues bring to the discussion. For example, if I decide to use the mini-ITX boards I have two real options based upon current availability: The MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 and the ASRock FM2A75M-ITX. The MSI looks quite good in terms of features, performance and user satisfaction. However, if I loosen my consideration to a mATX I find similar and improved features in the MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 for less cost (Amazon $90 mini-ITX vs $60 mATX). Similarly, my primary thoughts regarding the APU were for an A4 ranging from $50-$60, yet the A6-6400K Richland is ~$75. Additionally, if I am really able to forego a dual-boot with Windows OS I can easily keep these costs down by $100 or more. In the event my final decisions exceed a targeted budget I determine if I can accommodate the increase by purchasing items over time. Also, I do not mind pursuing used hardware if it can be determined to be sound.

Our tv services are via aerial as we have no desire (or time) for tv to take this much priority in our lives. Watching with discretion is the best choice for us. We have no Netflix and do not want to go there either, yet I expect our consumption of video related forms of entertainment to be quite low with regard to the norms of today.

I am familiar with Linux, but only on the low end. I realize it is a life-changing decision and I consider this to be a wise choice.
post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by RAVC View Post

I am familiar with Linux, but only on the low end. I realize it is a life-changing decision and I consider this to be a wise choice.

Certainly having a project like this is a great way to learn something new. Looking at OpenELEC I'm not sure how easy it will be to get MythTV working on top of it as that's not what it's intended for. I think you'd end up adding in most of the components of a full distro to get the backend working on it. However, it's all free to try apart from your time so I'm not saying you shouldn't if you want to!

You can have a network of Myth machines, as a minimum for a usable system you need a master backend (which has the tuners, storage, channel database etc) and a frontend (graphics and sound output to TV and interface to manage the system). In the simplest setups these are all on one machine but there is no reason they have to be. You could for example, have an ugly looking full size ATX PC tucked away out of sight with multiple TV tuners and many HDDs hooked up to your antenna. You could then have multiple frontends around the house connected to each TV based on either a ITX, uATX, NUC, ION etc small form factor that is used for playing back your content.

MythBuntu makes it very easy to set all this up as otherwise you can get bogged down in MySQL database issues and lots of other problems you'd really rather not think about! XBMC can access your TV recordings too but myth file names are a hash of date and episode name so are difficult to browse without the myth database. Fortuantely there is a plugin which can generate more legible names for browsing in XBMC so your frontends could potentially be OpenELEC based which you were keen to try initially.
 
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EK D5 Vario X-top EK D5 Vario X-top Win 7 Pro x64 Dell U2713H 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Razer Lycosa ECGA SUperNova G2 1300W Caselabs TH10 Razer Lachesis 
Mouse PadAudioAudio
Razer eXactMat NI Komplete Audio NAD C320 Stereo Amplifier 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Core i7 920 d0 Asus rampage ii gene Asus GTX 480 Corsair xms3 ddr3 2000 c9 
Hard DriveHard DriveOptical DriveCooling
OCZ Vertex 3 Samsung 2.5" notebook drive Samsung DVD-R drive Noctua 120 
CoolingCoolingCoolingOS
Noctua 120 Noctua 140 Noctua 140 Win7 x64 pro 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Mythbuntu 12.04.1 Panasonic 46" Plasma HDTV Apple Aluminium Keyboard  corsair hx650 
CaseMouseAudioAudio
Fractal R1 Apple Mighty Mouse Sony STR-DH800 Amp via HDMI in 5.0 speaker conf... Mordaunt Short 905 Centre, 902 front and 904 re... 
Other
Xbox wireless controller dongle 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
core 2 quad q6600 Asus P5K-E XFX 9800 GT Geil DDR2 4x1GB @ 1066 MHz  
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Seagate Baraccuda Samsung HDD Seagate Baraccuda WD Caviar Black 
Hard DriveOptical DriveCoolingOS
Seagate Baraccuda Samsung DVD-RW Thermalright CPU cooler Mythbuntu 12.04.1 
PowerCaseOtherOther
Corsair 450W PSU Antec 300 WinTV Nova HD-S2 WinTV Nova-T PCI 
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