Cheap Media Centre Build

John Avis by | April 22, 2011 | Media Center Computers & Internet

For some time now I have been trying to set up an inexpensive media center PC to record from Foxtel and manage my multimedia collection.

I find it amazing how many hurdles I have encountered on the way.

I had already Windows 7 Home Premium so this was the obvious choice of operating system.

First up I tried to use a Pentium 4 system that I had spare but it was difficult to find an AGP video card that was compatible with Windows 7 and that could display 1920x1080. I did end up getting a Matrox card to work, but it required some hacking.

I planned to connect the Foxtel set top box to the composite video input of a TV tuner card. I was also going to use the Foxtel remote to change channels. I bought a digital TV tuner card with an analog input and plugged it in. I then found out that the analog input of many DTV tuner cards will not work in Windows 7 Media Center. So that card was sold on eBay and the search for a compatible card started. Apparently Hauppauge are one of the few that work.

In the meantime I acquired a Pentium Dual Core specifically for the Media Center PC role.

Eventually I found a used Hauppauge WinTV PVR 250 which I thought would be compatible. It was delivered but found to be faulty. Surprisingly the seller had another and swapped it for me.

With the replacement card in finally I could get composite video input in Media Center. Unfortunately I came across a new problem which was that I needed IR hardware to control the Foxtel set top box. I wasn't going to use this hardware so I found it annoying that Microsoft demanded it.

More hacking was required, this time the installation of a virtual IR device, which resolved the problem. (You can download this driver here.) I did have to choose a set top box from a list and pretend that it was working before I could finish set up of the TV tuner.

So things were progressing... straight to the next problem. I have a widescreen TV but the picture was 4:3. There is probably no resolution to that problem as I think it is due to the old analog card. I will look into that later.

Now I am ready to move the new PC to the main TV. I plug it in and it is forced back to 1280x1024, with no option to increase the resolution past 1366x768.

Will I ever get this going?

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by Rowan | July 15, 2011

Please correct me if I am wrong, but could a standalone graphics card be used to get the higher resolution using HDMI out of the computer and into the TV?

I have also tried to get the FOXTEL to play through the PC into the TV, however it appears Fox now uses HDCP so the next option is composite out of the set top box and into the PC.


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