Using PC as entertainment centre.
by wanderlustfl - 7/27/08 3:40 AM
In Reply to: Keep it simple !!! by hansjorn
I have 6 PCs, 2 on Vista Home Premium, and four on Vista Ultimate, plus a laptop on Vista Ultimate. I have a good Netgear Wireless Router, but as it only takes 10/100 ethernet, I have a Switch which taked Gigabit Ethernet connections and all six PCs and the laptop have gigabit ethernet cards. The laptop and one of the PCs has a wireless connection but I netwrok them with both wireless and ethernet cable so that I can have the faster connection when/if needed. I use Cat6 ethernet cable to get the full benefit of the Gigabit transfer. The whole network is set up with static IPs for easy linking and file transfer/sharing across the network.
Five of the PCs have AND 6400 x 2 processors, one has Intel Q"uad, and the laptop intel core2duo. All have 4GB of 6400 (800 MHZ) RAM.
Four PCs have TV tuners, and two and the laptop have dual TV tuners, all DBT, so I need never miss a TV programme !!! - Not I use them all all of the time.....The six PCs share 3 x 22" monitors, one being a monitor/Digital TV. In the computer room is a 32" Samsung HDTV, and in the living room, a 46" Samsung HD TV.
I record all my CDs, cassettes, Tape, and vinyl to two of the PCs using '.flac' lossless codecs. There are various softwares out there for conversion, both free and paying, and the two music storing PCs have 5:1 amps linked to them and my stereo system which can be send to every room in the house except the guest bedroom (yes, that includes the bathroom and toilet !)
There is a wide choice of methods for hooking up to a TV/DVD recorder, and a wide choice of methods to convert music/video. I have a VHS/DVD recorder which is linked to one of my PCs with a digital link so that I can convert the VHS or DVD to '.mpg' or '.avi'(DivX,XviD)and store on the PC. I have a record deck for vinyl and a tape deck for cassettes, plus an old fashioned tape deck for reel-to-reel tapes. All can play directly to the sound system or through the PCs to the sound system, so that I can 'tone' the music with the PC graphic equalisers.
For media broadcast I chose Netgear EVA 8000 HD Digital Entertainers. I figured that because they were made to work with Windows Media Centre, I could play '.dvrms' files through them. Not so. even with the latest firmware and software upgrades which claim to make this possible, they stutter when playing '.dvrms' files (Files created by Windows Media Centre when recording TV). Also the latest updates claimed to play 'mkv' 264 files. Well, there seems to be a buffering problem here. The '.mkv' files will play for a bit then freeze, play on the freeze, etc.. However it does play all types of '.avi', '.wmv', etfc. common media files, and will play a DVD from a folder on the hard drive of a PC (NOT an '.iso' but folders extracted from a DVD).
So, I thank the programmers at AVS Media and VSO Software for their great programmes. Both will convert '.mkv' files with no problems. However, for '.dvrms' files the only sure way of getting those converted is to convert them to DVD using VSO Convertx2DVD version 3, then use AVS to convert the DVD to a DivX/XviD file using DVD to GO.
I have the Digital Entertainment centres linked by Cat6 cable, although they can be, and are linked wirelessly, both with static IPs. When playing streaming media, it is better to use Cat6, as wireless tends to have problems buffering.
Now, needless to say, each PC has between 4 and 8 500GB drives for storage, and I have two laptop and two 3.5" external hard drives. Netgear Digital Entertainer (eva8000) allows you to connect two ISB leads to it, so another way of getting media to your TVs is using external hard drives or Flash Drives. (I actually use Integral SATA/IDE caddies, so that I can interchange 3.5" HDDs).
So, as far as I am concerned, I am almost there. All I need is a Digital Entertainment Centre that will play 'dvrms' files and 'mkv' HD files, and an LCD screen on the bathroom ceiling !
You might say I should use Pinnacle software, or even AVS software for my TV tuners and record directly to '.avi' or '.mpg' for my TV programmes, but Windows Media Centre is so easy to use and programme......... - why, oh why, did MS have to invent their own containers (dvrms) ? - what was wrong with '.avi' ? - opr even '.wmv'.
I welcome any suggestions to help solve my extant problems, that are faster than those I have devised, and am praying Netgear eventually come up with a way to play 'dvrms' and '.mkv' files faultlessly......