HOW DO I: Build the perfect Media Center home?

  Quaywe 17:01 25 May 2006

I've recently begun the quest to replace my existing PC to an XP Media Center PC. As I discover the benefits of XPMC I realise that there's another dimension I want o be able to add to my home - that's the ability to have access to my media on my PC from my lounge and also be able to control Sky TV from either my office or my lounge.

So I've got a wish list of what I want now. Trouble is I don't seem to be able to tick all the boxes with the technology available. I'm hoping someone out there with a bit more experience might be able to provide the solution of what hardware I need to get what I want and if it's actually possible today, or still a pipe dream. Here goes...

Wishlist for my Media Center Digital home:

First, it's worth noting that I'm prepared to buy a new PC for the office and "something" to talk to the office PC for the lounge. I DON'T want a PC in the lounge also, as it will cost too much and will be too noisy.

Office PC:
- Needs to be grunty enough to handle media handling and editing activities (photo editing, watching and recording telly, playing music etc).
- MUST be quiet.
- Must have a small physical footprint.
- Can play & record (another channel at the same time) Sky TV and freeview if I happen to be without sky - doesn't need to be HD (but feel free to suggest HD options if not too expensive).
- Must have great I/O options.

Lounge "Solution":
Primary functionality I'm seeking:
- MUST be quiet!
- Needs to be able to access and play/record all photo's, videos/movies, and music on my office PC. I'm looking for Sky+ functionality here, but without the Sky+ subscription.
- Need to be able to surf the web (so k/b and mouse/trackball supported).

- connectivity from office to lounge will be wireless. I will replace my existing wireless with a 802.11a/g router.
- Office PC will be "wired" connection to router.

Misc info:
- I have one Sky box presently in my lounge. I'd like to be able to control it and view from it from either lounge or office. I don't know where it will need to be located, but I'm assuming the office.
- I'm not a gamer, so don't need heaps of grunt. Just enough to be able to act like 2 computers at once.
- The office PC needs to be able to provide dual user functionality - ie one user is watching a movie in the lounge streamed from the PC, while another user is using the PC in the office.
- I have a compact DTS DVD/home theatre system in the lounge at present with good connectivity.
- I'll probably upgrade my telly to an HD Ready LCD as part of this process also.

SO, the biggest questions I have are these:
- What hardware do I need to acheive the Sky+ functionality?
- Does anything exist to provide me with the functionality I need in the lounge?
- Where does the Sky box need to be located?
- Which 802.11a/g device is the best at supporting this functionality?
- Ultimately - CAN IT BE DONE AND HOW?

If anyone can answer this one I'm sure there will be plenty of people interested!


  ade.h 17:14 25 May 2006

Really, it's still a bit of a pipedream. Or at least, the easy solution is. It's possible to achieve some of what existing home electronics already do, but it takes a bit of work. As Intel's new Viiv philosophy (I'll call it that because that's what the marketing men would like it to be) begins to get established, the complete media centre package will become easier to achieve out of the box.

  DrScott 20:35 25 May 2006

You can't get Sky+ functionality without subscribing to Sky+ or getting their box. That's just the way it is.

HTPC usually work by having two tuner cards so you can record and watch at the same time. I believe this is how Sky+ works (as well as a HDD), and to build yourself you'd need 2 tuners working with your Sky decryption card. Of course, if you just want PVR but are happy changing to the right sky channel manually, that's much easier to do because you just need to route the sky box output to a PC and record to the PC.

Some people have tried buying a Sky+ box and not paying for installation. Unfortunately, to activate Sky+ you also have to manipulate your satellite dish - instructions can be found on the net, but it's not easy.

  silverous 13:43 26 May 2006

With 2 PCs...can't see how you can avoid having a PC in the lounge also - you can get a 'slick' media center box for the lounge and an 'office PC for the office and don't see why you shouldn't achieve most or all of this.

You can I believe get kit for your PC to allow it to change the channel on sky as part of recoridng process so that shouldn't be an issue.

to get music video tv in to your lounge u could purchase and xbox 360. the 360 has a built in media centre extender creating a "portal" to ur media centre. once connected to a hd lcd screen the picture quality is super and it has connections for surround sound. the only problem is getting sky + in both rooms i dont thinks its possible just to use one box inless ur willing to sacrafice sound and image quality. the best way would be to attach a 360 to ur media centre and pay an extra tenner on ur sky bill for sky multi room or and extra 20 quid for sky hd and multi room. the latter being the best option

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