HTPC Build – Part 4 UPDATE: After trying out the Ceton 6 ETH for couple months I am going back to HDHomerunPrime. I gave it a shot, but I ran into the same problems since the first version came out – missed recordings because tuner anavailable. This is getting so old Ceton, I have no idea how this hasn’t been figured out as I didn’t have it happen once in 2 years with HDHomerunPrime. We will deal with the 3 tuners in favor of stability and faster channel switching. I will be setting up the HDHomerun soon and will do a guide for that.
1. Ceton includes the ceton diagnostic software required to setup tuners before activating them in WMC. Not to get off topic but this is the same interface since I had the very first Ceton PCI 4 tuner (outdated). Can be slightly confusing and difficult to troubleshoot. I switched to the ceton network 6 tuner version from HDHOMERUN prime. The HDHOMERUN prime software is perfect, gives you 4 tabs and very minimal understanding needed to get thing running quickly (not to mention it works 100% of the time). 2. Download ceton software here (stable). If you are interested in using the Beta drivers to use the network tuners similarly to how HDHOMERUN functions go here. 3. Open up diagnostic tool. You should see your ceton tuner at the top. Mine says Ceton InfiniTV Ethernet (00-80-96-16). You will see the driver versions listed. (For more info on getting tuning adapter working see below).
4. Under devices tab you will see checkmarks when your tuner is working succesfully. If you make changes I would recommend using the Clear Tuner Configuration and then you will have to rerun Setup TV in WMC.
5. Under CableCARD you will see checkmarks when you have successfully activated Cablecard in WMC. Ignore my error, that channel is working in WMC. This step may take lots of time and troubleshooting to get to work along with all channels working.
6. Under update you can see updates to software/firmware/hardware. I checked box next to beta updates since I am using beta drivers.
7. Now you are ready for activating tuners and setting them up in WMC. 8. Tuning Adapter Setup Some will need tuning adapter if required by cable company to get all your channels. For HDHOMERUN Prime you can just plug it in and it works. With ceton it takes a bit of magic and luck. At first it didnt work because it states in directions to connect usb cable to ceton tuner. When you do that windows doesnt recognize it so under Infinitv tab you won’t see driver version. I am not sure if its required or not but I plugged usb cable into computer and I at least got driver version to show up. I then unplugged it and plugged it back into ceton tuner. To be honest, at this point it still wasnt working. I had Cox repair and send signal to tuner and adapter again and eventually got it to work. Just keep playing around until it works.
Going to discuss and show how to get WMC up and running with Live TV. This is based on the fact that you would have had to set up HDHomeRun or Ceton software if you are running cabledcard setup. Check Part 4 to get instructions on setting up Ceton software.
1. Basic Setup from first time you open windows media center.
2. Display setup.
3. I chose Flat Panel
4. Connection Type – HDMI
6. Confirm Resolution. Should say 1080p. Select Yes.
7. Finish this Wizard.
8. Setup Sound. Here is where you select your setup. I chose 5.1 surround speakers.
9. If you havent already set up Digital Cable Advisor (required for cablecard to work) go to Extras. Follow steps to Digital Cable Advisor.
10. Now TV Setup. Select your region
11. Enter your Zip Code
12. Select I agree
13. Select Yes to download data now
14. Your cable card tuners should now automatically pop up if you set up ceton software correctly. Mine shows my 6 tuners from Ceton Network 6 Tuner
15. Select Yes to activate cablecard
16. Activate cablecard
17. Now call your cable company and provide cablecard ID and Host ID so they can pair your card. This can be the hard part because most people are terrible about working with cablecards. Try to get specialist. This also might take a couple of different cablecards in order for this to work.
18. Once it is paired successfully select your TV signal Provider. I chose Phoenix Cox Communication (Digital)
19. Next to configure with your tuners
20. Download when connected to get guide update if you havent already
21. If you are like me and use SSD to boot and a separate HDD for storage of recorded TV. WMC sets up recorded tv folder on SSD by default so you need to change this. Go to settings->TV->Recorder->Recorder Storage. Change record on drive to your HDD. In my case it was D: drive. You can set maximum TV limit if you choose. Click Save.
22. Under Settings -> Visual and Sound Effects I unchecked transition animations. This makes WMC much more reactive to remote control. Some people also say to uncheck playing sounds when navigating to prevent handshake issues. I prefer the sounds to get feedback. You can also select your Color scheme. I have tried all and right now Im back to WMC standard. Click save and go back.
23. Stay tuned in order see write up on My Channel Logos so you can customize guide in WMC and make it much better.
Going to be tackling software next. This will be broken down into many parts.
First a couple of things to do in BIOS. If you using onboard graphics, make sure that you select onboard in BIOS menu under Primary Graphics Adapter (may be different for each motherboard). Also I would recommend disabling onboard HD Audio and enabling Onboard HDMI HD Audio. Last thing is to Enable USB Keyboard/Remote Power On so you are able to wake from sleep with Remote Control.
Next we are going to setup audio devices and sound output.
1. Open up sound in control panel.
2. I would delete everything on the playback menu except for your main audio. For mine, the one I kept was my receiver (TX-NR809) Intel Display Audio. I also made this my default device. (Highly recommend not installing or uninstalling any audio drivers, such as Realtek).
3. Click on Configure. I received advice to set up audio as Stereo here (regardless of how many speakers you have). Don’t worry, we will get surround sound once we set it up properly in WMC. This supposedly helps to resolve handshake issues. Click test and make sure you hear sounds.
4. Next click on properties. Under advanced tab you can select default format. I selected 24 bit, 44100 Hz (studio quality). Again, test this to verify your computer/receiver can handle this and output sound correctly.
5. Under exclusive mode, check the boxes next to “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device” and “Give exclusive mode applications priority”. This will vary from person to person. This is needed to get HD audio if you use plex and also seems to work well with WMC. If you use XBMC you need to experiment because I had to disable exclusivity mode when running that.
This is continuation of previous post on how to set up DVRMSToolBox and ShowAnalyzer to run in Windows 8. I ran into issues of SA taking up all my CPU power while running and also it seemed to launch multiple processes.
1. Create new folder in C: drive. I named it showanalyzer.
5. Name it start.cmd (make sure to include .cmd at end so you save it as command file and not .txt)
6. Go back to notepad and click File New
7. Type in
taskkill /f /im showanalyzer*
(/f is force command, /im is to select name of process, and the * at the end is used to end all process starting with showanalyzer)
8. Click File Save As
9. Name it stop.cmd
10. For some reason you need administrative privaleges to run the stop command. In order to get around this make a shortcut by right clicking on stop.cmd and selecting Create Shortcut
11. Right click on the shortcut and select Properties
12. Click advanced under shortcut tab
13. Check Run as Administrator Box
14. Now to create the tasks to run at night. Open Task Scheduler
15. Click on Create Task…
16. Name it start sa and check run with highest privaleges
17. Under Triggers click New. Create the schedule you desire to run showanalyzer. I selected every day at 2AM.
18. Under Actions click New. Find where the start.cmd you created
19. Under Conditions check the box Wake the computer to run this task
20. Under settings you can leave alone. I selected to stop running task if it runs longer than 4 hours but I am not sure if this matters. Click OK
21. Now Create another new task and name it stop sa. Again run with highest privaleges
22. Under Triggers select schedule to stop showanalyzer. This will depend on how many shows you record nightly. It took my computer about 10 minutes to strip commercials out of 2 concurrent tv shows so I doubled that and figured it would take 25 minutes at max to analyze 4 shows. I would recommend running showanalyzer manually and see how long it takes and find a sweet spot so you get all the shows analyzed everynight. I chose to end at 2:30AM everyday.
23. Under Actions click New. Find and select the stop – shortcut you created. MAKE SURE TO SELECT THE SHORTCUT SO IT RUNS AS ADMINISTRATOR.
24. Under Conditions I chose to start the task if its idle for 5 minutes so it wont stop showanalyzer in middle of working. I said idle time is 30 minutes. I then checked Stop if the computer ceases to be idle and Restart if the idle state resumes. I also checked Wake the computer to run this task in case computer goes to sleep before process is stopped. (helps prevent showanalyzer running during day)
25. Under Settings I again chose to stop task if longer than 4 hours.
26. All done. Go back to Task Scheduler screen and test out each command. I would open up Task Manager and watch for ShowAnalyzer and ShowAnalyzer Master under processes. They should start up with start command and disappear with stop command.
Today, going to discuss my choice of remote and options out there.
1. Universal Remotes There are a few options out there, but I would say almost everybody uses logitech harmony remotes. Not only do they work very well and are easy to set up, but have an option to play very nicely with windows media center.
I use this at my parents place to set up their home theater. Got it for around $60 and is excellent value. Not quite as nice as my Harmony One and doesnt have rechargeable dock, but I would say this is an excellent choice if only using 5 different devices.
BEST REMOTE EVER. Touch screen face, buttons feel like they are in the correct position and don’t have to look at remote after awhile of knowing where everything is. Plenty of customization options which come in handy for WMC. Rechargeable!
I used the first model (1000). It was nice for awhile and visitors liked messing with the touchscreen + it looks nice on coffee table. My touch screen was delayed and didn’t work great. The biggest problem was you constantly have to look at remote to hit any button (this is probably why its discontinued and you can use smartphone now).
Over the years I have used Harmony 1000, Harmony 200, Harmony 650, Harmony Xbox 360, and Harmony One. By far and away the best remove ever is the Harmony One. Logitech discontinued it (stupid) and now the prices have skyrocketed.
2. You will need USB adapter to get your Harmony to play nice with Windows. I would assume there are many options out there, but I picked up this remote and adapter package and it was been working for a couple years for me (go here). Plus the remote is actually decent, but only controls WMC. It was plug and play for me, no drivers needed in Windows 8.
3. Configuring Harmony software
I am still using the OSX Harmony software application. I think they have moved on to web based as I had to do this with the 650 remote. However, I still use the OSX application for my Harmony One.
Set up your device and add all of your devices separately (xbox one, ps4, tv, receiver….)
When adding WMC, click add device, select Computer->Media Center PC->Microsoft->Windows Media Center SE
I then created Activity – Watch TV. Go through steps to choose which devices you use for each. Then click customize buttons. You can copy what I have if you choose
I recommend in additional buttons to have a wake computer (PowerToggle) as sometimes you need to sleep or wake up computer without having to go through activating all your devices. This has come in handy many times. Toggle Screen is occasionaly used if some popup is on screen and you want to switch to WMC or Plex. Close App can be useful to close whatever app is in full screen. The mute button is key for me. In my other posts you can read about the last issue I have with WMC sometimes causing system to mute on wake so this button is on main screen and is easy access in case I need it. The WMC and Plex are options to directly run scripts I have made to launch each. You can check out my other post about creating custom scripts to launch either one (including a WOL for plex to wake server automatically).
3. Now that you have universal remote set up you can think about adding an HTPC keyboard for those times where you need mouse and keyboard functions to fix any issues/update software without having to plug in old wired keyboard and mouse. There are a few of them I have tried.
Far and away my favorite HTPC keyboard. A little bigger and bulkier, but it works perfectly. Laser ball isnt perfect, but works for 99% of the tasks I use on my HTPC. Highly recommend.
Otherwise you can purchase wireless and mouse combo and use them (I have done this in the past). Since I dont use it as everyday computer I didnt need the full usability of mouse/keyboard. The IOGEAR has served me well and I don’t plan on changing to anything else.
If you want to set up Logitech remote to have custom buttons launch Plex and WMC (and work 100% of the time) then follow my other guide here or use custom (+) button to skip commercials in WMC here
2. Choose CPU – Intel vs AMD This will depend on if you want to run onboard graphics or not. I tried AMD integrated graphics and it just seemed to struggle and have stability issues. Once I switched back to Intel the problems went away. I would recommend Core i3 for most people. This will depend greatly on needs. I think the rule for streaming cablecard network tuners to externders is one core per stream. I currently am running Haswell i3 and have Ceton 6 Network tuner (have not tested 6 streams at once to seperate devices as I only use ipad and HTPC). If you are going to be using this as media server as well and need to transcode large files then maybe i5 would be your best bet.
I chose Intel
3. Choose Haswell vs Ivy Bridge if you go down Intel route I recommend going to Haswell just for the fact that you get the newer HD graphics. This will depend if you want to run onboard graphics or not. If you are going to put in video card then save money and go with Ivy Bridge.
Update – I just upgraded to i5-4430 with the HD 4600 Graphics (I also upgraded fan to Cooler Master Low Profile to keep it cool). I got it for $100 at Staples from pricematch to Frys. Couldnt resist as I can sell the i3 for $100 on ebay.
3. Choose Motherboard This is also a toss up. I usually get the best deal I can with at least 4 stars on Newegg. The things I was looking for was adequate SATA ports and at least one SATA III for my SSD. If you are using this as media server and needs lots of SATA ports then you will have to spend more money but worth it so you don’t have to worry about PCI Sata adapters.
I chose ASRock B85M-ITX LGA 1150 Intel B85 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard – Buy from Amazon 4. Choose PSU This will also depend on the number of discs you have and if you will be running video card. Again, I go with the best deal on something that is at least 80 PLUS Bronze Certified. Modular makes your case tidier and look nicer but are much more expensive. I chose
CORSAIR CX series CX430 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply Amazon
5. Choose RAM Ram is expensive right now so if you have old Ram laying around use it. I would get something rated DDR3 1600 that has decent reviews and the best price. The biggest question is amount of ram you need. You can use 4GB and probably be fine unless you are running many tasks at same time. To be safe I went ahead with adding extra 4GB to the 4GB I had laying around.
I chose 4GBx2 = 8GB Total 6. Choose Case I have used 3 different HTPC cases and the latest one is the best by far but they all were for slightly different uses.
nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum / Acrylic / Steel HTPC 6000B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case – Buy from Amazon
This one is huge and has lots of space for many HDD’s. I also have seperate server now so I didnt need something this big.
SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum skin reinforced plastic front panel, 0.8mm SECC body MILO Series ML03B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case – Buy from Amazon
My current case is miniITX (fractal node 304) and is my favorite by far. Its box shaped, has decent depth, but much more functional use of space and looks nice in my media center. It has room for my SSD + 2TB HDD and plenty of fans to keep it cool. THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGE IS ITS DEAD QUIET compared to old case, fans, and video card. Can’t stress how quiet it is.
Fractal Design Node 304 FD-CA-NODE-304-BL Black Aluminum / Steel Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case – Buy from Amazon
7. Video Card – I chose to use onboard HD 4600 graphics. I have used video cards in the past from NVIDIA and AMD and I ran into driver issues. I think I have excellent video quality, it plays 3D 1080p Bluray perfectly and its silent. I liked my AMD 6450 low profile video card if you want something to start with.
8. OS – I used Windows 7 on previous builds but went ahead with Windows 8 and added WMC on this build. So far I have everything working the way I want it so not updating to 8.1.
9. Note in my current build I got rid of BluRay drive because there is no place for it in fractal case. I have external BluRay drive in case I want to use it but I ripped all my blurays to my server and haven’t missed it at all. I have collection of 3D Bluray’s that I use PS3 for to watch. Recently makemkv has released version to rip 3D Bluray so will check that out.
10. Tuner To watch tv in WMC you need tuners. There are a couple things to think about when choosing tuners.
Onboard vs External vs Network
Cable TV vs OTA
I have used all 3 and currently I have been sticking with Network tuners because of ability to switch devices on the fly. My absolute favorite is the Silicondust HDHOMERUN Prime. Its the simplest to set up and worked perfectly without an issue for a year. It is limited to 3 tuners so I recently upgraded to Ceton 6 Tuner on the network. Its still a pain to set up and keep it stable like it was in the very beginning. Really hope they improve this.
I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND STICKING WITH HDHOMERUN PRIME Cablecard Tuner
Before network tuners I ran two seperate AverMedia onboard tuners and combined them with OTA antennas. Would highly recommend them as they were perfect without any issues. The trouble I did have was the antennas picking up all channels (PLUS MY WIFE WANTED REAL HOUSEWIVES AND KARDASHIANS). Therefore, I went back to network tuners and paying for cable with cablecard rental.
If you want network tuners and OTA use the SiliconDust Dual Network tuner that works with OTA. Only 2 tuners, but you can add as many as you want (just add more antennas).