It was a plan for a long while but finally I decided to build my HTPC. The reason was that my Samsung DVD-R121 recorder gave up and the spare part would have been as expensive as a new recorder.
One of the most important thing is the power consumption. It makes me nervous that when I switch on my desktop PC the base consumption is about 200W which is a way too much.
I know its conflicting but I need a good performance beside low cost. I want to watch high quality FullHD videos without glitch.
If I only want to watch videos as a typical user I can buy a ready made Media Player like PopcornHour or WD Live. But I’m a developer so I like challenges. And I like Linux. So it’s clear that I want to build my own custom player.
After a long search I found my configuration;
- Barebone: Asus S1-AT5NM10E (info)
- intel Atom D525, 1.8GHz, NVIDIA ION 2 GPU, b/g/n WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet,
- Memory: 2GB
- Storage: 1TB SATA
- Input device: Logitech diNovo Mini (info)
The D525 is a 64bit dual Core HyperThreaded processor . It has an integrated GPU but Asus decided to add an external NVIDIA ION 2 processor and that was an excellent idea. This is a low power but high performance GPU to play 1080p HD video. The motherboard of course has got HDMI output so it’s easy to plug in to your FullHD TV.
The operating system is Fedora 16 64bit.
During the install I turned off the unnecessary options like office or developers tools as I wanted to build a HTPC. The install was working nearly out of the box. What about I have to take a closer look is the graphics driver the Bluetooth and the CIR component. The infra port and the BT is still unusable but it doesn’t hinder the daily usage.
NVIDIA supports the Linux fans
It’s great that NVIDIA has got a fully functionable driver for their GPUs and it’s really easy to configure. It has got much-much better performance than the default driver coming with Fedora. My laptop has got intel GPU and it took 3-4 days to cope with the configuration. The NVIDIA took only couple of hours. I really like it.
The price of quality
I have got issues with Bluetooth on Fedora. The KBluetooth crashes everytime I click on Apply so I wasn’t sure if a Bluetooth keyboard will be working with. The diNovo Mini is a high quality HTPC keyboard. I expected a reliable radio connection high comfort and long lasting battery power. I got what I expected.
The keyboard is lightweight and very intelligent. After 5 seconds turns off the lights and the radio communication to save power. When I press the cursor (or touch the pad in mouse mode) only the main buttons will be lit. The QWERTY part will be lit only when I start typing. The response time after standby is acceptable. The buttons are rubbered and soft but the keypress is definite.
You can read more reviews about diNovo Mini here and here.
The only disadvantage what I have to mention is its price. But I’m pleased with it.
The software environment
As I mentioned before the OS is Fedora 16 64bit. Since the processor is 64 bit the OS can push its advantage.
The media player is XBMC
The XBMC is a good frontend for Media PCs on a lot of hardware configurations. Generally it was developed for XBox but it works on anything with Linux or Windows. It has got a handy interface. It can utilize network shares and local storage too. If you organize your media XBMC can easily discover them. You have to keep some rules and naming conventions and XMBC will be able to pull all movie and TV series information from the internet repositories.
To spare later maintenance issues you can export the captured informations just beside the media files so after a reinstall XBMC will find them much faster.
Still under progress
The HTPC isn’t yet finished. I want to have operating Infrared and Bluetooth interfaces and I need a TV tuner to record TV shows. These are still under progress tasks.