Home Theatre PC06 May 2010
We bought our current media centre in 2003, choosing Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition (XPMCE). This was a disaster. If it was an open source application, then I would say that the first edition of XPMCE was worse than Alpha quality, being utterly unusable. We upgraded to 2004 at the first opportunity, it was marginally better, possibly Alpha quality. At last we upgraded to 2005, and we had a barely usable system, Beta quality I would say. It still crashed regularly, but it no longer lost all our channel set-up every day or two.
Those that say that Linux is free if your time is free have never spent evening after evening setting up XPMCE.
In 2008 we upgraded to Mythbuntu 8.10. My wife was easy to persuade, simply because she could not see how Linux could possibly be worse than Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition. And so it proved, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was just good enough that we never regretted the change.
Conventional wisdom is that, if you have a working MythTV system, then you should leave it well alone; but I decided that I wanted to move to KDE from the standard XFCE. It was only after the installation was well under-way that I realised that this meant KDE 4.1, which was an unusable version. Kicking myself for such stupidity, I quickly upgraded to 9.04 and 9.10. Both upgrades went almost flawlessly, and the system has been pretty good ever since.
Unfortunately we’ve come to hate the Evesham emedia station that runs our MythTV. I stupidly bought four PCs from Evesham and have always regretted it. Evesham have a good reputation, but my experience is that the hardware is very poor indeed. Specifically it has always been very noisy and suffered from overheating. In addition we have issues with USB support on this PC in Ubuntu. Something to do with OHCI, UCHI etc, I forget what exactly. It’s also ugly as sin. In short it was not a good buy and we have always regretted it.
If you’re interested you can read a review on this god-awful PC. Having read this very positive review, I can only assume that Evesham reduced the component quality significantly by the time I bought this machine.
So we’ve decided to replace our media centre. I have considered XBMC and Boxee, but with such a poor Internet connection, we really do still need to get our TV via our aerial. And that means MythTV, as far as I know.
I considered buying an Acer Revo, but a huge prejudice against Acer put me off this decision (oh god, not Acer, not ever). I did not consider for a second buying a dedicated XP MCE machine and putting MythTV onto it - we’ve experienced what can go wrong first hand - and I wanted 100% control over the components.
So what are we looking for in our new media centre (or Home Theatre PC as the jargon now has it!)?
- Low power
- Powerful enough to run KDE fully
- DVI and HDMI interfaces
- Decent on-board sound
- Plenty of USB slots
- Needs to visually go with our HiFi amp and Blu-Ray player
- Powerful enough graphics to support 1080p (or 720p if not possible)
In my next post I will run through the hardware I’ve chosen.