harbar.net component based software & platform hygiene

Digital Media Home Saga Part One: Requirements

Print | posted on Thursday, August 20, 2009 3:57 PM

As some of you will know I’ve been over time working on a setup in the house for digital media. Recently a surprising amount of people have asked me to blog about it and my experiences. So here goes with part one of a mini series of off topic posts about it.

Whilst I am a computer geek, I don’t like mess and I certainly don’t like servers in my home. Nasty computers in the living room is also a big no-no. As many of you know I am also *seriously* into music. Over the past six years I’ve been playing with pretty much all the solutions in this space, and recently with hardware advances and the release of Windows 7, the Microsoft stack is now good enough IMO. At least for what I am after. Of course there are certainly things I think should be improved, but being an old git not interested in the world of Shuffle Play, I am not the target audience (unfortunately).

However my requirements are actually pretty straightforward. The following are absolute must haves:

  1. a low power, low noise, low heat PC of some description in the living room…
  2. which can play tunes, dvds, videos and photos…
  3. …from a network server type thing…
  4. …in high quality…
  5. …which works well with my TV, Amp, etc…
  6. …and doesn’t have a crappy remote control experience
  7. be reasonably priced in total

It’s worth noting the high quality bit here. I am not interested in crappy MP3s that fall apart at a decent level.

The following are nice to haves:

  1. Multi room solution
  2. Recording of TV (in the unlikely event that there is ever anything on British TV that I wish to record)
  3. Streaming to the Internet
  4. Centralisation of other things such as regular file sharing and backup
  5. Some way to get all them tunes on to an ipod type thing
  6. ability to “rip” Vinyl into FLAC
  7. remote access

One thing I *really* don’t care about is games like Xbox – I have one, but that is just one noisy fan – it ain’t living room friendly at all. It’s just not worth it just to get my ass kicked at Tiger Woods over Xbox live. And as an extender it’s pathetic because of the noise.

And that’s basically about it. There are plenty of things out there that purport to do all of them. Not so much when it comes to the practical reality. Take Apple TV for example – what a crock. That is one lame catch up product if I ever have seen one.

I was/am happy to build all this out myself, so not worried about packaged solutions really. I know there are digital home freaks out there that will be scoffing and saying “pah! that’s all really easy” but that’s their problem :).

So I’ve more or less got it all sorted. It took ages but that was mainly due to work commitments. In summary what I have is:

  • A Windows 7 Media Center in the living room
  • A Windows Home Server hidden away
  • A Harmony Remote Control
  • A Network Music Player

And I’m damn happy with it all so far. The next post will talk about the Media Center box and it’s setup.