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  1. #1

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    Default What kind of market do you think is there for HT PC's?

    The biggest thing I have heard from people is that performance suffers in the name of noise from the box itself. The noise comes from fans and stuff but with modern brushless fans, they can be made very quiet. You can even use coolant systems or heat pipes that are fanless and therefore dead silent.


    The problem though is heat and it needs to be dissipated. But a good deal of the heat inside a computer comes from not the processor and memory, they are actually quite small heat sources. The hard drives are where the heat is. Even if they are solid state, they will still cook a turkey so to speak. Plus, unless they are solid state, hard drives spinning at 7200-15000 RPM are very noisy.

    But I have a way to have a home theater box in your home theater room running Windows Media Center but you can mount and store the drives in another room where the heat and noise will not be an issue.

    The biggest issue with racking a machine remotely is that you gotta pass not only data but video, audio and input across the network connection to the receiver or processor and that takes excessive bandwidth that only hard wired gigabit networks have the ability to handle.

    But if I can make the PC quiet and move all hard drives behind the scenes somewhere, I can solve the high bandwidth problem easily. If the HT box is in the rack next to the receiver, you only need your digital coax or optical cable outputs from the video and audio cards. The processing is handled locally by the computer. You still need a network connection but it can be a simple 100BaseT because you are only passing data, not processed information. You might be able to even do it wirelessly because the new N standard is quite fast compared to older G standards.

    Basically, I can boot Windows, without PXE or any other kind of software assistance, across a network connection and that allows me to move all hard drives off of the chassis and put them in another room. All you need then is one line of ethernet cable running to a small switch that networks to your HTPC. I can pass high definition video and sound at 1/10th the bandwidth needed to pass already processed information. If you have a home network, it would not be difficult at all to scale the technology to make any PC in the house a media center "portal" so to speak. On top of that, even at current prices for hardware, I think I can do this for less than $6K for a turnkey solution. Just gotta install it. Of course, if you want serious, hotrod components inside, the price would reflect the cost of those components. But you'd get all the benefits of an HTPC including DVR, audio files galore and even video games and such if the box is equipped well enough. Plus, with a remote storage solution, you could go whole hog and get something like an Apple X-Serve for about 7 terabytes of dataspace. You know how much porn that could hold?

    I'm just wondering if this solution is worth it to refine this idea and see if I can't market it.
    You're just jealous 'cause the voices don't talk to you!

  2. #2

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    Couple of thoughts.

    1. You could use a 3.5" hard drive (laptop drives). I've never tried it so I'm not sure how noisy or how hot four of them would be.

    2. I'm not so confident there's a market for this anymore. I think this type of solution is beyond the average consumer and those with the $$$ to pay for this type of solution will probably purchase Blu-Ray instead to play on their 60"+ 1080P TV's. I doubt standard DVD's streamed from a back end server would be popular enough to find you a niche market. Now, if you were to crack BR you may be able to do it if Sony doesn't sue you out of existance. I recall a company had a $24,000 solution whereby the unit would automatically rip the DVD and store the movie in a large terabyte partition but that company died in court.

    The key would be the ability to continue to easily add hi def movies through some sort of automated system without getting sued.

    Edit: If Sony comes out with a $2,000 400 disk Blu-ray player that worked flawlessly, you're dead.
    Last edited by fatchowmein; 04-16-2008 at 05:55 PM.

  3. #3

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    1.) Laptop drives do not come in a very large capacity and usually don't spin as fast so access times drop. Besides, laptops are moving towards solid-state drives anyhow.

    2.)What's Blu-Ray gotta do with anything? You are assuming this is for illegal copies of software. The intent is not to provide someone a way to easily view pirated movies. If Sony is making Blu-Ray players there will be Blu-Ray drives if there aren't already. The point of moving the hard drives off of the main computer chassis is to reduce noise and heat so the HTPC isn't so intrusive in to the viewing environment. The benefit to such a system is to provide a central media source for many things. The abundance of space is intended for HD-DVR recording. HD broadcasts require much more space to store than a standard definition broadcast. But it can also record radio shows and provide a level of home automation. HTPC's are not just for geeks with copious amounts of pirated media.

    Beyond that, your last statement again implies illegal activity. Unless my idea infringes on patent or software copyrights, I cannot be sued as long as I am playing fair. What a customer does with such an item is on them. Granted it's not a given that I wouldn't be sued by some stupid company out there but if all I am doing is using my know-how and abilities to create a system that provides a simple, integrated solution using commercial, off-the-shelf products, then I'm not doing anything illegal. I am merely providing a service and an integrated solution to a customer. The hard work is in sorting out software licensing agreements and properly transferring ownership of said licenses.

    Don't read so far in to this. HTPC's are still in the beginning stages and people are still buying them because they offer more functionality than a typical home theater or home stereo rig plus they offer greater access to many more forms of media that are not available in a conventional stereo setup. Besides, many broadcasting companies are streaming media across the internet to customers now and standard HT and stereo rig fare does not take advantage of that. An HTPC with a network connection does.
    You're just jealous 'cause the voices don't talk to you!

  4. #4

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    No, I'm not talking about illegal/pirated movies. What I'm talking about is using the native capabilities of Windows Media Center or Vista Media Center to play back movies from your hard drive (see Microsoft's My DVD or My Movies http://www.mymovies.dk/ ). The intent was to move one's movie collections from the bookshelf unto your hard drives and box the jewel cases. The company that had the $24,000 solution was sued because they gave the purchaser the ability to take their legally purchased DVD and easily rip onto that system's hard disks. In the end, the courts determined that providing the purchaser the ability to circumvent the copy protection violated the movie studios rights. For these reasons, Microsoft crippled the Xbox 360 as a front end player by preventing the streaming of VOB files. Funny how the Sony PS3 can play VOB's (sorry, no IFO).

    I was in the transition of moving our 300+ DVD collection to hard disk and using Transcoder 360 to stream the vob files to the 360. I stopped because I ran out of space and the transcoding wasn't perfect (issues with 100+ minute movies played in AC3). However, if I build a front end HTPC with Vista, I can play DVD movies from a mapped drive on a backend file server. This is the direction I'm probably heading to because of the crippled 360. I'm just wanting for the 1TB drives to go further down in price. This will allow us to remove our standard definition DVD collection from our shelves to make room for future Blu-Ray movie purchases.

    Yes, the ability to create a HD-DVR would be fantastic and right now the ability to use a HTPC for movie (no vobs), music, and photo playback would be great and I believe the Xbox 360 has that capability (when married to a backend Media Server), including recording TV shows depending on hardware. Check out The Green Button.

    I wish you luck but in no way was I implying illegal movies.

  5. #5

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    1) if it rips DVD's, it's illegal. I forget the company, but someone built this badass HTPC that would rip all your DVD's and stream them through your house. They forked over all kindsa money for licensing and made every effort to appease the studios. Then they got sued.

    2)Are you going to pay for all the software that your system will use? Depending on how you use the software, you might fall under a different licensing and they will charge you up the ass.

    3)Your market will be so limited, you'll never make money off it on a large scale. On a small scale, you might- basically under the model that HT installers have. You recommend gear, set it up and they pay you for that service.

    4)The hardware solutions out there for recording anything other than OTA HD content are VERY expensive. People want to hit a button and record HBO in HD. You can't provide that.
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  6. #6

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    I'm not going to go in to what I can and can't do because it would give away too much.

    But again, you are both going on the premise that the intent here is to rip DVD's. It's not. Play DVD's, yes. But there is a huge amount of online content and you can download entire movies and TV shows or even watch them across a network for a fee also. But currently, most people are confined to a computer screen to watch that content. Having an HTPC that can provide the comfort of your living room with the power of your PC is the deal maker there.

    I don't want to rip movies. It is possible to record HD programming. In 2009, ALL broadcasts will be in high def and if you don't have a high def tuner, you will need to get a special decoder box. Those kinds of tuner cards are already out there.

    But again, I am not looking to violate any nazi RIAA or MPAA policies. I'm not looking to give a user a capability to compromise that stuff either. I just have an integrated solution that I think is quite viable that will allow a user to PLAYBACK many forms of media and entertainment. If they want to download something that allows them to rip stuff that's on them, I'm not going to provide it. I just have a way of providing a vast depository for media of all kinds that can be accessed easily.

    There are already several companies out there offering turn-key HTPC boxes for several grand. I have an idea that I know works, just needs refinement and I think I can do it better, cheaper. I just want to know if anyone thinks it's worth it. I'm not looking for a lecture on legal problems that other companies had because they blatantly violated laws. I just got a different way of doing what is already being done. That's all. Lay off the illegal practices stuff because you both have mentioned it. One of you did it twice.
    You're just jealous 'cause the voices don't talk to you!

  7. #7

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    Dude, the reason why we're bringing it up is unless you're very careful it will bite you on the ass- in ways that you don't expect... and this isn't limited to DVD's.

    Regarding HD recording, yep the hardware is out there, but ONLY for recording broadcast HD. The HTPC market is going to have direct TV, cable, FIOS, which are a royal PIA to record off of. As for broadcast, I'm in a good market and I can get maybe 5 channels w/ an antenna, nevermind HD.

    The other thing is, just about anything you can come up with, someone will have already done on Linux, better. Unfortunately, YOUR market overlaps heavily with the kind of people that are going to know Linux and then you have to do better than free. I believe that your best bet is to think of it like your doing HT installs, not trying to sell a set hardware product.

  8. #8

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    The regular joe doesn't know Linux nor do they want the hassle of dealing with it. Linux in many cases is unsupported because it is open source. Yeah, Linux is free but it requires much more effort on the end user. It also requires alot more work from the vendor to hammer it in to place and if there is an update, it can and most likely will destroy functionality. Home users don't want to deal with that. You said it yourself, users want to hit a button and record HBO in HD. Linux does not provide that ease of use.

    As far as recording off of cable, FiOS or whatever, I'm failing to see what the issue is. Those services you can't use without a digital decoding box anyway and you can tap the signal off of the output from those boxes. It is still in HD and it is already decoded because it plays on your TV which doesn't have a decoder, just an HD tuner. If you have an HD tuner card in your HTPC, it's no different than a TV. Maybe I'm missing something but I think you are making it out to be more difficult than it is.
    You're just jealous 'cause the voices don't talk to you!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jstas View Post
    I just have an integrated solution that I think is quite viable that will allow a user to PLAYBACK many forms of media and entertainment. If they want to download something that allows them to rip stuff that's on them, I'm not going to provide it. I just have a way of providing a vast depository for media of all kinds that can be accessed easily.
    Well, there are many options out there but if you've build a bigger, better mousetrap, then go for it since I still haven't found THE best HTPC solution yet. Or at least a solution my wife hasn't called me at work to troubleshoot. :D

    http://tversity.com/screenshots/
    http://www.team-mediaportal.com/
    http://www.snapstream.com/products/b...FQR2gwodS1IM-g
    http://www.gbpvr.com/
    http://www.sagetv.com/
    http://www.jrmediacenter.com/
    http://www.mythtv.org/
    http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/default.aspx
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/pro...diacenter.mspx
    http://www.tversity.com/images/TVersityGUI_ps3_5.png

    http://gizmodo.com/363600/apple-tv-v...oad-battlemodo

    http://www.wegotserved.co.uk/2008/02...s-home-server/

    http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_hd_pvr.html

    http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/tvshows.html
    http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinesto...option=catalog
    Last edited by fatchowmein; 04-17-2008 at 01:12 PM. Reason: I forgot.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jstas View Post
    As far as recording off of cable, FiOS or whatever, I'm failing to see what the issue is. Those services you can't use without a digital decoding box anyway and you can tap the signal off of the output from those boxes. It is still in HD and it is already decoded because it plays on your TV which doesn't have a decoder, just an HD tuner. If you have an HD tuner card in your HTPC, it's no different than a TV. Maybe I'm missing something but I think you are making it out to be more difficult than it is.
    Ok, try this: Find an HDTV component video capture card. NOT a tuner card; one that accepts the output from a cable box. The last time I looked the cheapest one I could find was like $700.

    The OTA tuner cards are cheap & easy to find. Something that can capture the output off a cable box in HD? Not cheap. So recording HBO is out, unless you want to throw a very expensive card into that HTPC.

    So. Basically your user will have to:
    1)rip DVD's
    2)Download content over the internet
    3)Accept what they can get OTA
    4)Accept Non-HD streams
    5)Magically get content onto the box via some method you will not participate in.

    See the problem? Either you open the legality can o' worms or you have limited antenna content or poor quality. Now, there was talk of a cablecard tuner card, but I don't know if that ever went anywhere.
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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by unc2701 View Post
    Ok, try this: Find an HDTV component video capture card. NOT a tuner card; one that accepts the output from a cable box. The last time I looked the cheapest one I could find was like $700.

    The OTA tuner cards are cheap & easy to find. Something that can capture the output off a cable box in HD? Not cheap. So recording HBO is out, unless you want to throw a very expensive card into that HTPC.
    +1. Been there.

    I think there will eventually services like the iTunes store but we're not there yet. Let's see how 2009 unfolds.

  12. #12

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    No offense unc or fatchow, but ya'll are missing his point. Forget the point of what some end user may do with his/her computer that may be illegal. They cannot sue him because he provided the means with which to do something illegal. That would be like me suing Toyota for selling me a car that can drive above any posted speed limit and me getting caught speeding all the time. That or if you were to buy a gun(legally) and then go point it at someone and shoot, and then you sue the gun manufacturer because they gave you the means with which to commit murder. Extreme, I know, but it is equally as pointless as where you are coming from.

    Jstas point I believe is saying, if he were to be able to build a computer that can make things simple enough for your average user to use, would they buy it? Are there still a lot of uncertainties? At this point yes. Does that mean it can't be done? No. All that being said, drop all the other crap and give some constructive criticism/ideas to what the man is asking about. I'm not meaning to rail on you two and have nothing against either, I just hate for Jstas thread to get lost in a bunch of legal mess that doesn't need to be here.

  13. #13

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    All that being said above, I think people would buy it Jstas. I think your initial price point is going to be out of the range of most consumers and if it were to stay at that price point you would be marketing to a niche market that wouldn't allow you to make enough money to justify it all. Kind of like your bigger computer companies, maybe a few different options as far as different price ranges or setups. Would it not be possible to get the initial information from a potential client as far as their current computer specs, add necessary space and software to their current system for file storage and then add in a second unit that would be housed in their HT to have a local box they can play DVD's, CD's watch online content and overall manage their HT experience(both for PVR, DVD watching, audio streaming, etc.).

    I don't know if this would be a more cost effective approach, but it was just an idea that popped in my head. If you are going to have remote storage anyway, why not just use what they already have? And given the current price point they more than likely have a computer that you can upgrade and can handle the new duties that you would be assigning to it. Just a thought.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by edbert View Post
    I don't know if this would be a more cost effective approach, but it was just an idea that popped in my head. If you are going to have remote storage anyway, why not just use what they already have? And given the current price point they more than likely have a computer that you can upgrade and can handle the new duties that you would be assigning to it. Just a thought.
    Already being done: Popcorn Show, Xbox 360, PS3, XP/Vista Media Center, Buffalo LinkTheatre, etc. That's what all of those links I posted above are about. XP/Vista Media Center has the capabilities as either the front end or back end depending on how you want to handle the interface with your TV. Meedio, Transcoder 360, TVersity, PS3 - I've been jacking with this stuff for over 3 years. Currently, the simplest solution I've tried so far is a XP/Vista MC front end mated to a file server backend. At the front end, a laptop hd, fanless graphic card, and 120mm case fans set to low is ultra quiet. On the backend, slap in as many drives and big fans as possible and don't stick that box in a closet because overheating is a serious issue with 8+ drives unless you AC your closet. Stick as many tuner, pvr, dvr, etc cards or external usb DVR/PVR you want to that backend server. But as UNC said, ya gonna pay a premium depending on how or what service is providing the HD content.

    Like I said, if he's figured out to build a bigger, better mousetrap, then go for it. But before he starts out, take a look at what's currently available (check out the Popcorn Show A100).

    You want hardcore? Try this.

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=940972

    As for the legal issues, try telling your car analogy to the ISP's attempting to block P2P and bittorrent content for fear of being sued.

    If Jstas can overcome the limitations and problems inherent in providing a simple solution to online, OTA, cable, satellite, fibre content packaged in one simple appliance, go for it. I'd buy it.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by edbert View Post
    They cannot sue him because he provided the means with which to do something illegal.
    Sure they can.

    Napster
    Limewire

    He just has to be careful that whatever solution he provides, the endusers don't use it in a way that puts him on the RIAA/MIAA radar.


    Looks like the Kaleidescape DVD jukebox company won the lawsuit.
    http://www.kaleidescape.com/company/...329-DVDCCA.php

  16. #16

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    Jstas,

    I think it is a great idea. In fact, I think there will be a HUGE market for HTPC's in the future (I have two).
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