DiY Media Center

More geek cred for me. I built me a Media Center PC. Here are your specs…

AMD Sempron 3000+ CPU
ECS C51GM-M mATX MainBoard
2 GB of DDR2 800 memory
ATI TV Wonder 650
ATI X1550 Heatsink/no fan. DVI / D-SUB / HDTV / S-Video Out
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
Samsung 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA Hard Drive
IOGear Wireless Multimedia Keyboard/Mouse
Lite-On Optical Drive
Zonet USB 1.1 Bluetooth V2.0 adapter
Windows Vista Home Premium OEM (hint: OEM version is half the price of Retail)

I put all this hardware into the Blue Cube case (click on thumb image). In the picture, you can see the 15″ LCD monitor above the computer. The BENQ DLP projector is providing the cloned image in the background. The Blue Cube case has a fairly quiet, large rear exhaust fan. For cooling the CPU, currently using the stock AMD heatsink and fan. The power supply also has a quiet fan. Since the video card and TV card are both fanless, those 3 fans are the only ones in this system. You can still hear some hum, but this is the quietest computer I have built. Someday I hope to build a fanless computer.

This is my first time playing with Vista. It doesn’t bring a whole lot of new things to the table. It is pretty… like candy. Hmmm…yummy candy. You like candy don’t you?

Home Premium version of Vista comes with Windows Media Center. This is the reason I chose this version. Windows MC is actually very good software. The Media Center software that ATi came up with was capable, but not as feature rich or user friendly as the Window’s version. Only problem with Windows MC so far is that they tack on their DRM stuff to any TV recording you make. ATi just uses vanilla MPEG2 encoding with no DRM attached.

The only games I have loaded are Half-Life 2 related (Valve/Steam games). Haven’t noticed any problems in that regard. I am in the progress right now of moving the MAME games over. I am up to 15 GB worth of MAME related stuff. This may take awhile for this network move.

That Apple commercial that pokes fun at Vista’s security features is spot on. Constantly having to make snap decisions to Cancel or Allow is very stressful. Do you want me to continue to talk about Vista – Cancel or Allow? Whew! Thanks for choosing Cancel.

The picture quality isn’t quite as good as what my DVD recorder provided. This was a bit of a disappointment. Image is a bit blurrier and it seems like the frame rate is a little slow… some subtle stutter. I may have to do some tinkering in this regard. This may be a hardware issue, and this is as good as gets.

I still don’t have my Windows MC remote control. That should be in by the end of the week. About that bluetooth adapter? I plan on getting a Nintendo Wiimote. Wiimotes use bluetooth. Someday there is going to be a mature Windows Vista driver for the Wiimote. You would think that a WiiMote would be better than a mouse when it comes to a Media Center PC.

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