This was a project I started late last year. The idea was to build a PC specifically for the purpose of watching TV and Movies in our new lounge room (on a 42″ LCD Screen).
Basically it was built to replace a PVR, CD player, DVD player, Blu-ray player (eventually) and a Media Center box.
So, here’s the specs:
- Silverstone LC20B ATX/microATX HTCP Case
- ASUS M4A88T-M | Socket AM3
- AMD Athlon II X4 640 3.0GHz 2MB Cache | Socket AM3
- eVGA GT220 1GB | PCIe v2.0
- Kingston DDR3 4GB PC10600/1333
- DViCO FusionHDTV DualExpess4 Dual Digital Tuner | PCI-e
- AVerMedia AVerTV Volar HD Nano | USB 2.0
- Western Digital Green 1TB WD10EARS | SATAII
- Western Digital Green 2TB WD20EARS | SATAII
- Logitech Z5500THX 5.1 Digital
- Sony Media Card Reader + USB Port
- 2 x Antec 80mm TriCool Case Fans (for some reason the case didn’t come with fans)
So that’s the insides, here’s the
So im running Windows 7 Ultimate primarily for it’s Windows Media Center Application (7MC).
Normally I would shut a computer down when I’m done, but being a TV I need it to come on in a few seconds, thus requiring S3 Standby mode aka Suspend-to-RAM.
Ended up also needing a tool called MST (Media Center Standby Tool) which takes care of all the complicated power settings that seem to be required to make it work in Windows 7.
Now tweaking the system was the fun part, and there’s plenty of addons and extensions to polish things off a little.
First I used BSE (Big Screen EPG) to get a more reliable EPG set from the internet (I’ve got it updating 3 times a day). This neat little app also adds a better synopsis for most shows/movies and also adds inline pictures (usually the title poster) to the EPG Guide.
To finish off the EPG guide I got MyChannelLogos to add icons to all of the channels in the guide.
So I realised after that, I realised I needed a way to index and play back my vast collection of DVD and Bluray Rips and also my TV series.
Media Browser accomplishes this very well. Its very themeable, has a nice interface, and even supports auto mounting of ISOs. In addition it also gives detailed info about each show, and it even properly figures out TV Series.
Finally, I used Media Center Studio (not maintained anymore) to rearrange the icons in the 7MC and rearrange them.
Scratch that… second tuner card just disappeared… *sigh*
It appears, though I will wait a few weeks before saying its ‘confirmed’, that my TV Tuner disappearances has finally CEASED! In the end I did the old switch-a-roo with the Media PC’s dual tuner (DViCo FusionHDTV Dual Express2 PCIe) with one of mine (AVerMedia TwinStar PCIe). So far there have been no BSoD’s or problems with hardware disappearing randomly. I’ll reserve my happyness until ive used both machines a while, just to be sure this time lol.
As for the cause of the problem, I can only speculate, but it does indeed appear to be a specific PCIe bridge chip that causes problems when 2 or more exist on the same motherboard. Strange problem though, and Gigabyte are still adamant that it’s the chipset driver. I personally believe it has to do with the AMD800 series chipset, which should be fixable in the BIOS coding.
On further inspection, the DViCo card does not feature a PCIe A/V Capture Bridge, which is interesting. From what I’ve discovered from it’s datasheet, the SAA7160 A/V Capture PCIe bridge (on the TwinStar) is used to multiplex everything received (audio/video) and send it off via the PCIe 1x port to the Northbridge. It seems this would be the point where having two would conflict. That said, I’m no expert and its starting to give me quite a headache, so from now on… I don’t care about it!
Anyways, in the mean time I’ve also been working out the foibles of BSE (Big Screen EPG) and why I cannot get channel logos to work properly. In the end it was easier to just use MyChannelLogos (USD$3.40 donation) to get them working, so that’s that I’ve done, and it’s now looking great!
Until my next problem,
I was reminded recently about an issue I had many months ago. Back when I was building the HTPC, I had many problems to contend with.
Little did I know that these problems were all most probably caused by one (or possibly 2) pieces of hardware which I had dismissed as a cause because they were previously working fine, and so therefore had little reason to check them.
So here was definitely a lesson to learn from this: Always follow standard troubleshooting practise i.e. start with nothing and add devices one by one regardless of their flawless history.
Anyway the problem child ended up being the Leadtek PxDTV2300H PCI-E TV tuner, or rather TV tuners; 2 of them to be precise.
It really should have been a dead give away when it was the 2 tuners that disappeared from device manager. From what I remember, I didn’t think of it because of the LAN adapter (onboard) also disappearing/not working at random, thus throwing me off the scent.
At the time I was sure it was a motherboard failure or a PSU failure or even a problem with the RAM.
It wasn’t until long after I replaced the TV Tuners, the motherboard and consequently, the RAM, that I realised it was the TV tuners causing bluescreens, crashes, random device disappearances and general instability. I confirmed it when I put them both into my own computer and I started to get random BSODs and they also started removing themselves from device manager at random.
Whether this is a driver problem (very possible considering Leadtek’s history) or some kind of chipset compatibility issue (both machines I tried were AMD 800 series – 890GX and 890FX), I have no idea, or way of testing it. All I know is that both cards do the same when put together, as they do apart and no amount of driver changing or windows reinstalls helps.
So from all this I suppose my main point is this:
Always check any addon cards, AGP, PCI, PCI-E;
Check em all!