Quote: Originally Posted by sternfan2011
I have a parent with arthritis and would like to set up a media center PC so everything is one one box - no need to swap out DVDs etc (walking across the living room to the DVD can be an issue). I've never worked with Media Center, so I have a bunch of basic Qs.
FIOS for cable TV - what is the best card for input? Hopefully able to watch & record any channel?
You basically have two choices:
(1) Ceton InfiniTV 4-tuner cablecard-enabled card, either (a) internally installed in a PCIe x1 slot in your HTPC, or (b) external USB version
(2) HDHomeRun Prime from Silicon Dust, which is a 3-tuner network device that communicates with your HTPC via your home LAN.
The HDHomeRun solution almost certainly requires a gigabit home LAN setup, or at least gigabit from HTPC to the router and also gigabit from the HDHomeRun to the router. This is because a 1080i program takes about 25Mb/s bandwidth, so recording/viewing three separate 1080i programs at once would require 75Mb/s of bandwidth (from the tuners in the HDHR to the router and then to the HTPC for recording). Then at the same time feeding a separate HDTV with a 1080i recorded/live program takes another 25Mb/s from HTPC to router and out of the router to the HDTV. So you are now at 100Mb/s already involving the HTPC, and you've now maxed out a 100Mb home LAN. That's why I say at least several links to the router must be gigabit, and the router must be 10/100/1000 capable. But the individual playback legs from router to HDTV/extender can be 100Mb/s runs.
If you can connect an HDTV directly to the video card in your HTPC then that's fine to watch HDTV directly from the HTPC (assuming an HD-capable video card). Otherwise, you can place an "extender" at a remote HDTV somewhere else in the house (connected via Ethernet to your router), with the HDTV connected to the HDMI output of the extender. You can use an xBox as an extender, or you can find a no-longer-made but still-available Linksys DMA2100. The xBOX uses more electricity, involves a drive, makes noise and generates heat, but is an xBox so you can use it for that purpose as well as being a Windows Media Center extender. In contrast the Linksys DMA2100 is silent, uses almost no electricity, has no drive, is 100% silent, and is nothing more than an extender to allow you to watch HDTV remote from your HTPC.
There are a number of standard acceptable Windows Media Center remotes that work both on the HTPC as well as on extenders. Or, the Linksys DMA2100 comes with its own remote intended to be a perfect WMC remote. The xBox remote can be used as a WMC remote, but it's not laid out the same way. There are WMC remotes for the xBox, but I'm not familiar with them (I use DMA2100's, not xBox's, as my extenders).
There a number of DVDs - is it possible to convert them and play them in Media Center?
I don't actually play DVD's or BluRays via my WMC HTPC, although I do have CyberLink PowerDVD installed which can be used I believe to play the discs on the HTPC and deliver them to attached HDTV or extender/HDTV's via WMC. I think there is a WMC plugin from PowerDVD that enables this. No reason to convert anything... just play directly on the HTPC and watch on the remote HDTV via extender.
Or, if you have your own method for copying/converting DVDs to some video form, you can define the folder containing those video files as part of your "Videos" library accessed by WMC. And these "videos" can again be played on a remote HDTV via the extender.
I, myself, have the Ceton InfiniTV card installed internally in my HTPC (for more than a year) and distribute live/recorded content to three HDTV's around my house. I do have a wired gigabit home LAN, and have no performance issues whatsoever.
You get an M-Card cablecard from FIOS (which inserts into the Ceton card) and you're pretty much ready to go, although you should be sure you've got FIOS coax cable going to your HTPC location and that you have a large internal hard drive (typically 1-2 TB) to hold your recordings.
You will now be able to watch/record up to four "live" programs simultaneously, and also watch up to five additional previously recorded programs simultaneously... all at the same time, assuming you had that many display devices and extenders.