Geekzone: technology news, blogs, forums
Guest
Welcome Guest.
You haven't logged in yet. If you don't have an account you can register now.




66 posts

Master Geek


# 142902 28-Mar-2014 08:31
Send private message

After spending far too long trying to come up with an elegant home theatre solution I've given up and decided to get my hands on a late model second hand PC and turn it into a home theatre TV.

I'm going to use it to play Youtube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, TVNZ Ondemand, 3Now On Demand and Vimeo. My browser of choice is Chrome using the Hola proxy extension.

I'd also like to play music via Spotify, Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Indie Shuffle, Bandcamp and Hype Machine.

And finally I've got hundreds of videos on a NAS I'd like to index, browse and play. I'm thinking of using Plex for this.

Ideally it should be usable by non-technical people in my family. I've used a friends home theatre PC that was mouse/keyboard controller and it was really clunky to control.


The easiest approach seems to be buying an ex-lease PC with Windows 7 already installed on it, stripping it back to the bare (software) minimum and installing Chrome/ Plex/ Spotify on it.

A friend of mine recommended the Harmony Touch remote and I'm wondering if anyone has experience with using this to control a similar system.

I'm not totally sold on Windows 7 (happy to build Linux) so if there's a better operating system to base this on I'm happy to listen.


View this topic in a long page with up to 500 replies per page Create new topic
 1 | 2
3594 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1014364 28-Mar-2014 09:28
Send private message

My experience may differ as I run a MacMini... but I use a Harmony Ultimate (the next step up the chain) with Remote Buddy so I can navigate Plex with the remote control.
However, I gave up on using the remote to drive iTunes / web browsers etc... it was just too much of a pain.
I'd suggest a Roku that I'd connect to a VPN for Netflix / BBC iPlayer, and a Samsung device for TVNZ OnDemand / 3Now etc etc.
The Roku can also run Plex, so that would be able to access your NAS.
There'd be a LOT less in the way of curating of your setup, and generally it would be a much easier approach for other members of the household.

 

However, I don't know how easy it would be for you to access your streaming music services...

Have you seen the new Harmony keyboard?

noc

107 posts

Master Geek


  # 1014387 28-Mar-2014 09:49
Send private message

I use XBMCBuntu, which is basically Linux Ubuntu with XBMC media software built in. However, I don't know if it will do all the things that you want to do, you may want to read up on it a bit more. I just use it to play video content and music files locally and over my Network, so I don't use it to it's full capabilities at all (you can also run TV through it and record shows and stuff), but it may suit your needs.

Here's a link to XBMC, which you can install by itself on whichever platform you prefer (it's free), or install the XBMCBuntu OS

http://xbmc.org/download/

 
 
 
 


2135 posts

Uber Geek

Lifetime subscriber

  # 1014415 28-Mar-2014 10:10
Send private message

Id stick with W7 if its there. Its not costing you anything extra..

Easier to get netflix iplayer etc to run.  ie Can use iplayer desktop client to download uk content and play it from your hard drive. No need to use WINE or other techniques on a linux machine.

A.



66 posts

Master Geek


  # 1014425 28-Mar-2014 10:21
Send private message

Dunnersfella: My experience may differ as I run a MacMini... but I use a Harmony Ultimate (the next step up the chain) with Remote Buddy so I can navigate Plex with the remote control.
However, I gave up on using the remote to drive iTunes / web browsers etc... it was just too much of a pain.
I'd suggest a Roku that I'd connect to a VPN for Netflix / BBC iPlayer, and a Samsung device for TVNZ OnDemand / 3Now etc etc.
The Roku can also run Plex, so that would be able to access your NAS.
There'd be a LOT less in the way of curating of your setup, and generally it would be a much easier approach for other members of the household.

However, I don't know how easy it would be for you to access your streaming music services...

Have you seen the new Harmony keyboard?


That Harmony keyboard looks like a great solution, thank you: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/harmony-smart-keyboard

Good to know that even the Harmony Ultimate isn't very good for web browser interfaces.

On of my aims has been reducing the number of boxes under the TV, which is why I'm going down the single PC route. 



4124 posts

Uber Geek

Subscriber

  # 1014571 28-Mar-2014 13:45
Send private message

As another person above mentioned, Mac Minis make just fantastic HT devices - they're tiny and quiet, and have the significant benefit of having an IR receiver built-in. This means for those running Plex or XBMC it's a 10-second job setting up to use a Harmony remote with it (though programming Harmony remotes is another story!). We run two Mac Minis for this purpose; both running XBMC and using Harmony Ones. If you go this route Just make sure you don't get one so old it can't deal with full HD video (not a problem on all but the earlier intel-based ones).

In contrast, I found setting up a remote (non-Harmony) for a Windows-based PC a real dog (or perhaps this was just me? Or the remote?)

TBH, I do find using Mac Minis for more general purposes (eg general internet browsing) a bit of a dog - partly due to it not being a very non-intimate experience (driven by the distance between you and the TV - this is solved, in my book, by the Apple TV/iPad combo), but also partly as OSX isn't the best at scaling up (not an issue for XBMC and Plex, which are designed for the purpose) - there's always the option, I guess is to also run Windows on it.

Also, I'm not sure if this is totally correct but I understand Netflix doesn't (always? sometimes?) allow the highest-quality streams to be played on a computer (I recall this from a thread here on GZ); my understanding is that both picture quality and audio (eg, no full-HD and discrete digital surround sound) can be affected. Others may be able to confirm this. This is one of the reasons we ended up adding yet another device - an Apple TV - which doesn't face the same problems. If I'm correct on this, it'll be a problem no matter the OS of the computer.



66 posts

Master Geek


  # 1014579 28-Mar-2014 14:00
Send private message

jonathan18: As another person above mentioned, Mac Minis make just fantastic HT devices - they're tiny and quiet, and have the significant benefit of having an IR receiver built-in. This means for those running Plex or XBMC it's a 10-second job setting up to use a Harmony remote with it (though programming Harmony remotes is another story!). We run two Mac Minis for this purpose; both running XBMC and using Harmony Ones. If you go this route Just make sure you don't get one so old it can't deal with full HD video (not a problem on all but the earlier intel-based ones).

In contrast, I found setting up a remote (non-Harmony) for a Windows-based PC a real dog (or perhaps this was just me? Or the remote?)

TBH, I do find using Mac Minis for more general purposes (eg general internet browsing) a bit of a dog - partly due to it not being a very non-intimate experience (driven by the distance between you and the TV - this is solved, in my book, by the Apple TV/iPad combo), but also partly as OSX isn't the best at scaling up (not an issue for XBMC and Plex, which are designed for the purpose) - there's always the option, I guess is to also run Windows on it.

Also, I'm not sure if this is totally correct but I understand Netflix doesn't (always? sometimes?) allow the highest-quality streams to be played on a computer (I recall this from a thread here on GZ); my understanding is that both picture quality and audio (eg, no full-HD and discrete digital surround sound) can be affected. Others may be able to confirm this. This is one of the reasons we ended up adding yet another device - an Apple TV - which doesn't face the same problems. If I'm correct on this, it'll be a problem no matter the OS of the computer.

Thank you for that - interesting thought about the streaming resolution getting hobbled via browsers.

The price of Mac Minis puts them well out of reach of what I'm trying to do - or at least how much I can spend.

On the subject of Mac Minis - and for the benefit of anyone who wanders across this thread.  We setup a brand new Mac Mini at work last week and found out the native HDMI output is limited to 1920 x 1080. To run a higher resolution screen we had to purchase an adaptor for $160 from Apple. Considering HDMI has been able to handle 2560×1600 since 2006 (version 1.3) that felt like a right rip off.

Something to keep in mind for anyone wanting to go the 4k route with a Mac Mini.

740 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 1014743 28-Mar-2014 17:26
Send private message

The Logitech keyboard linked to above looks like an update of the Logitech K400, which is what I use. Very easy and suitable for remotely operating your HTPC. I personally wouldn't bother mucking about with a normal-type remote when it comes to HTPC - go for a keyboard/mouse combo.

The Roku is very mice/easy for Netflix etc....depends what you want, really. Having both is nice :)

 
 
 
 


3169 posts

Uber Geek

Subscriber

  # 1014763 28-Mar-2014 17:44
Send private message

I wouldn't spend the coin on a Mac Mini (even though I'm on one right now!)
For a HTPC I'd go with one of the new Haswell Intel NUCs.
Much smaller package but you still get the iR receiver built in plus HDMI etc.


4124 posts

Uber Geek

Subscriber

  # 1014770 28-Mar-2014 18:02
Send private message

CYaBro: I wouldn't spend the coin on a Mac Mini (even though I'm on one right now!)
For a HTPC I'd go with one of the new Haswell Intel NUCs.
Much smaller package but you still get the iR receiver built in plus HDMI etc.



Good point - have they come down in price recently? When I looked at one for my sister it was going to be fairly costly (given its purpose) - what would the min. cost to put one together for HTPC purposes?

3594 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1014785 28-Mar-2014 18:12
Send private message

I bought my MacMini secondhand (one of the very few items I've got in my rack that is), added RAM and as it came with a SSD... I just dumped all the media onto a an external HDD.
Sweet, and still not as expensive as buying new. :-)

4124 posts

Uber Geek

Subscriber

  # 1014812 28-Mar-2014 19:25
Send private message

Dunnersfella: I bought my MacMini secondhand (one of the very few items I've got in my rack that is), added RAM and as it came with a SSD... I just dumped all the media onto a an external HDD.
Sweet, and still not as expensive as buying new. :-)


Totally agree re value of buying a Mini s/h - I'd find it hard to justify buying new. It seems they're also a bit cheaper now than a few years back. Check out TM or even here. That said, a NUC may also be a good proposition, though you'll have the issue of needing to buy a Windows licence or go with Linux, and chances are you'd need to buy new.

A standard computer is unlikely to be as quiet or as inconspicuous as either of these options - personally these are important to me, but may not matter to you.

3169 posts

Uber Geek

Subscriber

  # 1014836 28-Mar-2014 20:20
Send private message

jonathan18:
CYaBro: I wouldn't spend the coin on a Mac Mini (even though I'm on one right now!)
For a HTPC I'd go with one of the new Haswell Intel NUCs.
Much smaller package but you still get the iR receiver built in plus HDMI etc.



Good point - have they come down in price recently? When I looked at one for my sister it was going to be fairly costly (given its purpose) - what would the min. cost to put one together for HTPC purposes?


For a HTPC the Celeron version is all you need.
They also have a 2.5" HDD/SSD version now so you can just put a standard notebook HDD in them, same as what comes in the Mac Mini, so that keeps the cost down.


327 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 1016194 31-Mar-2014 19:59
Send private message

Much as I plan to love my NUC I am somewhat surprised by the issues I am experiencing with it in the first few weeks.  Its my first HTPC - a stepup from the wdtv I've been running last couple of years.  I still think it's more of an enthusiast piece of kit versus a plug and play box such as Roku etc. Nothing wrong with that and I'm happy to tinker and learn but at this model - about 5th one in I was hoping for an easier ride from Intel.

I bought the taller model to house normal SSD's instead of MSata's which seemed to generate more heat from the stuff I read. One issue has been trying to get away from using a keyboard and mouse for the good lady but as others have said, its just painful in some cases to not be able to double click and type stuff - logitech k400 keyboard with little mousepad is your friend here and has very good range.

The real gripe for me is the switch on sequence and  timing I need to employ with my current ( modern ) kit to ensure I get a picture onscreen due to hdmi handshaking issues.   Much as I read the same regarding netflix and image quality etc I find it to be more than ample and very very quick compared to the wdtv.

Your mileage may vary. One of the guys in the office has seen the little glitches with my NUC, read about more online and he's been building and running htpc's for the last 8 years...He was about to press buy now on a recent sale but has put that on ice until he sees the platform stable etc.. 

I built the i5 with IR - 8gb Ram and a 240 Gb SSD + Windows 7 for $980.  I've read the i5 may well be overkill but its running windows as well and I'll try some basic gaming - minecraft or otherwise on it. 





Mad Scientist
20906 posts

Uber Geek

Trusted
Lifetime subscriber

  # 1016196 31-Mar-2014 20:05
Send private message

windows 7, SSD, and an app on my android phone to control it




Involuntary autocorrect in operation on mobile device. Apologies in advance.


724 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 1016263 31-Mar-2014 22:16
Send private message

have 2 machines running win7 + xbmc + harmony remotes

win 7 means you can do all the stuff you wanted ie. Youtube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, TVNZ Ondemand, 3Now On Demand and Vimeo
xbmc gives you a fancy front end for your meadia which can be anywhere on your network (local / ext hdd / other pcs / nas / server)
harmony remotes mean you can navigate xbmc sweet and spotify okish (browser based stuff i use a kb/mouse stored in a draw)

most of my content is on an unraid server

machine 1. is an off lease hp sff dc7800 ($50) + raedon 5450 ($45) + harmony ($75) + ir reciever ($15 ebay) = hw cost $185 --> in family room opens spotify first as music is its main function - but it also does everything you listed

machine 2. xtreamer ultra $400 ish a couple of years ago + harmony one $175(?) - as it needs to control more devices = hw cost = $575 ---> in ht room opens xbmc first as video is its main fundction - and ditto
(+ i3 int gfx desktop workhorse in study + xbmc beta test rig)

ALL play 1080p / all can be operated with ph/tablet based remotes as well / all have been well stable and i am well stoked with them

so yeah there are heaps of ways to skin this particular cat - but i DEFINITELY recommend a full os + xbmc + harmony to get what you want

have fun :)

 1 | 2
View this topic in a long page with up to 500 replies per page Create new topic



Twitter and LinkedIn »



Follow us to receive Twitter updates when new discussions are posted in our forums:



Follow us to receive Twitter updates when news items and blogs are posted in our frontpage:



Follow us to receive Twitter updates when tech item prices are listed in our price comparison site:





News »

Logitech introduces new Made for Google keyboard and mouse devices
Posted 16-Oct-2019 13:36


MATTR launches to accelerate decentralised identity
Posted 16-Oct-2019 10:28


Vodafone X-Squad powers up for customers
Posted 16-Oct-2019 08:15


D Link ANZ launches EXO Smart Mesh Wi Fi Routers with McAfee protection
Posted 15-Oct-2019 11:31


Major Japanese retailer partners with smart New Zealand technology IMAGR
Posted 14-Oct-2019 10:29


Ola pioneers one-time passcode feature to fight rideshare fraud
Posted 14-Oct-2019 10:24


Spark Sport new home of NZC matches from 2020
Posted 10-Oct-2019 09:59


Meet Nola, Noel Leeming's new digital employee
Posted 4-Oct-2019 08:07


Registrations for Sprout Accelerator open for 2020 season
Posted 4-Oct-2019 08:02


Teletrac Navman welcomes AI tech leader Jens Meggers as new President
Posted 4-Oct-2019 07:41


Vodafone makes voice of 4G (VoLTE) official
Posted 4-Oct-2019 07:36


2degrees Reaches Milestone of 100,000 Broadband Customers
Posted 1-Oct-2019 09:17


Nokia 1 Plus available in New Zealand from 2nd October
Posted 30-Sep-2019 17:46


Ola integrates Apple Pay as payment method in New Zealand
Posted 25-Sep-2019 09:51


Facebook Portal to land in New Zealand
Posted 19-Sep-2019 18:35



Geekzone Live »

Try automatic live updates from Geekzone directly in your browser, without refreshing the page, with Geekzone Live now.


Support Geekzone »

Our community of supporters help make Geekzone possible. Click the button below to join them.

Support Geezone on PressPatron



Are you subscribed to our RSS feed? You can download the latest headlines and summaries from our stories directly to your computer or smartphone by using a feed reader.

Alternatively, you can receive a daily email with Geekzone updates.