So I have for now switched off my 24/7 running HTPC which was mainly used for DVB-T. I consider myself quite seasoned and capable with AV and PC's, but as you will read even the best of us run into issues. My saga below, yes it's long and quite a ramble however I needed to
vent explain the whole story.
I think the downfall was going with the Shuttle case, which I made the decision for at the start of the year intending to be an HTPC. But maybe not as a Freeview HD box, as I assumed (incorrectly) DVB-T STB's with PVR capabilities would be out by the time I decide to build the box.
As the year progressed towards the Olympics and after a bit of research realising no decent PVR boxes existed, and the nzTivo's although functioning fine are not taking advantage of my 50" TV capabilities.
I decided my best option would be to build this Shuttle HTPC into a box mainly geared around watching Freeview HD and the Olympics since it was only a week away.
So I eagerly built the box with a Quad core 2.5GHz, 4GB ram, 750GB HDD, Leadtek 9600GT S-fanpipe, Nova-T 500.. Installed Vista Ultimate.. This setup cost a bit however came under budget ~$800
Powered it up noticed the noise factor far too loud for my tastes. Initially I used Riva tuner to adjust fan speed of the 9600GT, however the setting didn’t stick after coming out of Standby, even though it was set to maintain/reapply settings after reboot and standby.
Not satisfactory, more investigation revealed the most noise was created by the Shuttle's PC50 PSU 2 40mm delta's Fans, replaced these with similar specd ones 14db SilenX fans. This improved the noise level a lot, however as soon as the box was out of standby the 9600Gt fan kicked back into normal speed. Well I wasn't going to take that. So I went looking for a silent Nvidia card which was capable of hardware H.264 , was single slot (had to fit in the shuttle case), had dual output (DVi/HDMI + Component) capabilities, SPDIF pass-through connector onboard (not asking for much am I).
Well this ruled out 9600GT cards, so onto 8600GT couldn't find anyone in NZ with stock, so went for a Asus 8500GT Magic Silent HTP after triple confirming with the shop that the white connector on the board was indeed a SPDIF connector.
Graphics cards manufacturers are not very specific with their manuals instead using quite generic instructions and no board layout explanations.
I removed the 9600 and installed the 8500, installed drivers all up and running fine, shutdown to connect up the SPDIF pass-though, big mistake!! For once I didn't do the proper research on this and took the advice of a retailer, the Shuttle didn't boot.
I though that was strange, I removed the SPDIF cable, it booted fine after removing the cable, double checked the pin outs, everything was correct and should work, since the 9600 worked fine with the cable. Reinstalled the 9600GT, no pass-though sound on this also. Turns out the connecter is a Fan header so it looks like it blew something on the board now the Shuttle's onboard SPDIF doesn't work, this connector is also the one that is passed out through the rear of the machine also. Much cursing for the next day.
After all this the Olympics were only 4 days away, so thought I'd better stick with he Asus and get DVB-T running.
Installed Mediaportal, played around with it a bit, struggled with instability for a couple of days. In the meantime purchased a better UHF antenna, and installed it on the roof gained 20% more signal.
2 days till the Olympics.. Purchased DVB Viewer, works well didn't like the interface at all not consistent. By this time Mediportal RC2 was released.
1 day till the Olympics, went back to Mediaportal got the EPG running, was semi satisfied with the performance. Ran into standby issues, decided to run the box 24/7
Opening ceremony for the Olympics was awesome HD goodness, noticed a few glitches and artifacts in the picture occasionally, put it down to the feed. Started noticing more frequent glitching and artifacts put it down to the feed. Didn’t compare against the TV3 feed. Should have.
Looked on Geekzone for others suggestions, changed the codec from Cyber link to the Arcsoft one, worked flawlessly for about 1.5 weeks. Temps on the 8500GT ran into about 80°, semi normal for a passive card in a cramped case.
Towards the end of the Olympics noticed the performance degraded Mediaportal was working fine however when watching livetv you can see at intermittent times the picture would get pixel artifacts, glitching then return to normal, was quite distracting. Artifacts and glitching remained only got worse. I then did the tin foil trick created a slim profile tin foil EMF shield within an antistatic bag, placed it between the geforce and tuner card.
This improved the performance and the artifacts and glitching were gone. But now I noticed another issue while watching TV3, then saw it on TV1 as well. The picture would freeze a little then return to normal however only after fast forwarding a few frames, the sound remained on. Wasn’t sure what this could be initially thought it was the Harddrive. Decided to check the temps, I was shocked to see the 8500GT which was performing at an average of 80° was now was peaking at 96°!! I put it down to the tin foil mod affecting cooling. I can’t win, the box has been turned off for now.
I see a couple of options for me.. Which ever way I go I see PVR capability is the number 1 requirement. Then noise.
1. I have most components, buy a proper HTPC case, main board and rebuild, currently there is no room in my entertainment centre for such a large HTPC case.
2. Purchase one of the only 2 PVR (glorified VCR, no EPG) capable DVB-T HD boxes, the Vantage or the Strong.
I am currently leaning towards the second option, as I’m not sure how silent I can get the HTPC case without spending more insane amounts of $. I will then relegate the shuttle to HTPC duties without DVB-T H.264.
I hope you enjoyed my story and learn something, I certainly did.