Kay's HTPC - a gallery/worklog/journal of torment :p


May 5, 2001
Section 1: History and Previous Gallery
(what has happened up to this point, current issues and new pics and progress are in sections 2 and 3)

Rage seems to be encouraging us to open up this section and make our own threads, so here goes! This is a worklog of my HTPC in progress. This is in the gallery since the thread is only mean to show off my project and i've got lots of pictures here and lots more to add soon. I'm going to try and fill in the gaps a best as possible, I know i'm missing a lot of pictures.

Current Specs:
1700+ TbredB DLT3C @ 200x11 (2000mhz) / 1.6v w/SK7+80mm case fan
2x256mb DDR (one is BH-6, one is Infineon 6A) @ 200mhz 7-3-3-2.5 / 2.6v
Biostar M7NCG 400 nForce2 MCP mATX motherboard
BBA Radeon 9600 non pro - fanless model
ATI E-Home Wonder w/capture TV tuner
Toshba SD-R5112 4x DVD-R/W Drive
Seagate 60gb 7200rpm hard drive
Coolermaster ATC-620 HTPC case
Antec SL350 PSU
Lite-on Airboard + USB-UIRTl

My HTPC project truly began a couple months ago, after I sold my last htpc attempt that was sitting in the closet. What stopped me last time was the realization that a quality HTPC isn't going to squeeze by on a 600mhz celeron, and that real cost was going to be involved. My plan was to buy the best possible budget parts and squeeze a decent system out within a few months timeframe. I began to formulate a plan... Here was my old project:



Current budget: $0 -The first step was to decide how to base the project. My initial idea was to take this dell 2.0 and add a tuner card and a few other peices, but lacking a VGA slot made it less than optimal. I end up selling it for $165 without the 60gb hard drive, pci video card, or dvd-rom drive, and selling or keeping each of those peices to keep the project going. The video card and dvdrom were sold for a total of $36. Here is a pic of the dell that I started with right before I sold it. I actually paid $135 for this thing on a dell deal :p


Current budget: $201 - Time to start buying! Well as is the case with most HTPC projects, the case is what makes you drool the most. I was going to buy a case and power supply, but newegg had a great deal on the SLK3700AMD for $67 shipped plus $13 for a fron 120mm fan for it. This included a 350 watt Antec power supply that I could use for the HTPC, and I could get my main rig into a good looking case. I'll throw in before and after pics later if possible.

Current budget: $121 - So my HTPC had a case (the blue cheiftec) to reside in temporarily and a PSU to use (the Antec 350). It was time to find some guts! Right now all I had was the case, power supply, hard drive, and an old stick of pc2100 to test with. I hit anandtech forums and started looking for used parts! Almost immediately I found a 1700+ and SK-7 for $45 shipped. Not the lowest price, but this chip was told to hit 2.3 @ 1.65v. In the end I think that was a bit of an exaggeration, but it wasn't too far off. At the same time I bought a Biostar M7NCG 400 "new" there for $55 shipped. I say "new" because it was bought from ebay by the seller, could a cleaned up refurb or used, will never truly know.

Current budget: $35 - Getting to the bottom of the barrel! Well now that all those parts were here, I needed a way to run this system at a decent speed and get some overclocking done! I was using a keyboard and mouse out of the closet and an old 128mb stick of pc2100 for testing, and neither of those were acceptable. So I hit anandtech once more and found 256mb of corsair xms platinum pc3200 for $39. I also hit newegg and spent $23 on a lite-on airboard. Now this is a bit more than I had budgeted, but I went ahead and budgeted ahead with my paycheck to spend a bit. In fact from here on out pretty much all expenses are out of pocket.

Current spendings: $62 - Time for ebay! Found me 256mb pc2700 (that runs at 3200 just fine) for $20. I actually bought this (it had no descriptions of speed or chips) at random and decided to give it as a gift to my parents if it turned out to be a slow speed, but I got lucky. This was the only picture given, and based on it I decided that it probably had 6ns chips.


Current spendings: $82 - And this is where the office max 4x dvd-r/w drive came in. They had a deal for a Toshiba (mad dog branded) burner for $8 after rebate (shipping and tax cost) that I had to jump on. It makes a great quiet and reliable player and its easy to make dvd-r backups of data and video from it. The rebate was $40 and I haven't received it yet, so it's still counted as a $48 spending.

Current spendings: $130 - Ok so now things are coming together. I've got everything needed thus far except a tv tuner and a case. I was going to buy a PVR-250 with SageTV @ pcalchemy, but the cost was a bit much and the e-home wonder was available for so much less. Newegg had a refurbished one with FM and svideo/composite input (the more expensive of the two models) for $56, half the cost of a PVR-250 without software if you factor in shipping. I went with this.

Current spendings: $186 - Things are wrapping up! Still need a HTPC case and remote, thinking about a sound card and second tuner but don't have a desire to buy them right now. I bought a niveus remote from pcalchemy for $48 with shipping, shoppped around for a case but didn't find anything I liked. Here you can see the niveus and the above mentioned lite-on airboard:


Current spendings: $234 - The Niveus sucks :( Went ahead and sold it for $30 and bought a USB-UIRT which would allow me to use my own universal remote. That put me back $15 after what was in my paypal account. Here is where the current project is at at this stage:


Current spendings $249 - Time for the case! A member here had a Coolermaster ATC-620 (the case I was looking at buying from newegg, had they not been sold out) for $70 shipped, a very good price. I decided that I couldn't pass it up! So at this point everything is basically together. Still need a second tuner card and a sound card (using onboard sound) but it's all in a working state. Only problem is that the system won't sleep right, but I avoided that issue until after getting the software all setup. Software setup has been going on all along the way, but I won't bore anyone with the trials and tribulations of it. Lets just say that the HTPC world is far from a stable state when it comes to software. Anyway, here is the system in the new case:



Section 2: The journal of torment :mad:
(trials and tribulations)

The main problem i've had with this system all along is that it won't sleep in S3 (suspend to ram) mode. For those who don't know, S3 provides a huge power saving benefit, as it only uses about 1/10th of the power of the average home light bulb to keep the system in a nearly ready to use state. Most systems can come out of S3 sleep mode right back to the desktop in well under 10 seconds. I've tried every possible method of getting it to go into (or really out of, it will sleep but never awakes) S3 sleep that I know of with no positive result, and i've settled for S1 at this time. S1 is a method that shuts down some hardware, but not nearly as much. The fans, cpu, memory, and other devices still remain active.

Also my USB-UIRT died on me. Had a bit of a runaround with the reseller on it but it turned out just fine and i'm having a new one shipped out as soon as they come back in stock. On top of this I ordered a new motherboard (hoping it would be a newer revision that might sleep) and the order went poof, and the e-home wonder (second one) I ordered from newegg turned out to be the wrong product - by their fault :( The keyboard broke as well, the mouse stick on it snapped. I opened it up and placed a glob of superglue between the two rubber peices (it's hard to explain, imagine two suction cups pushed together with a thin plastic rod down the center) and it's actually working better than before.

So as it stands I have no remote and the system still isn't sleeping how I want it, the remote issue is out of my hands and the tv card will be re-ordered when I get a refurnd from newegg on the wrong one they sent.

10/24/04 - New usb-uirt was sent out today, got a refund for the tv tuner as well. Still looking at newegg refurbs to see what pops up.

10/15/04 - Still working on SageTV, I finally was introduced to the Neilm STV which is totally awesome but incredibly frustrating to setup. Still don't have auto recompression and commerical skip setup, as well as some of the weather features. Also i've got a Chaintech AV-710 on the way now (been wanting to order one forever, about time!) so hopefully that will work out. I'm concerned about spacing and how having all the pci slots filled (when my second e-home gets here) will affect video card temps, but I don't think it will be a big deal.

10/25/04 - Feeling good about the project, usb-uirt will be here in a couple days so i'll I need to complete the project is another tuner. The sleep issue is a pain in the ass, but i'll likely replace the board at a later time (or during my dads HTPC build, which i'll post info on as soon as it actually begins).

10/28/04 - Got the new usb-uirt today, hopefully this one stays alive! pcalchemy was a bit amature in their communication (not childish, I mean ameture as in it's clearly a new/startup company) but they handled the situation very well overall. They are definately still on my good list. After I plugged in the new usb-uirt I decided it was time to sort out the software. Here is my new configuration:

--XP Pro
--SageTV with the Neilm STV - it has fully customizable xml menus with that package and can launch ZoomPlayer for DVD's and auto sleep/restore itself before and after it's done. Damn near perfect integration of the two :D
--The ZoomPlayer+FFDshow combo rocks now, especially with the new NVDVD codecs! The new SSE optimized ffd version is impressive as hell, i'm running 1440x960 lancos resize strength 2.0, Denoise 3D HQ 0.5,0.5,5.0, and unsharp mask and getting around 85% CPU usage.
--Girder is still needed for ZoomPlayer, but i've setup the internal SageTV ir support with the usb-uirt since it feels a bit more responsive that way.

I'm almost to the point where I can ditch the explorer shell, if I added a couple more links in the sage submenus (control panel, etc) I could run sage as the shell and keep girder as a service. I think it would work out fairly well and it would likely be lighter on startups and sleep/resumes. Not sure how other programs would react though, might be a project to look into later.
Section 3: My dad's HTPC
(building for him as a christmas gift, he has no idea)

Here is my super secret and horridly aligned copy and paste of the plans for it, looking at all these parts to buy one by one.

Part	Aim or End	Notes	Estimate	Spent	Remaining
Processor	AMD 1800+ 	$20.00 	$20.00 	$0.00 
Motherboard	Abit AV-10	Backplate Needed	$20.00 	$20.00 	$0.00 
Heatsink	Copper - Any brand	1u maybe, clip style	$10.00 	$0.00 	$10.00 
Memory	256mb pc2100/2700	Infineon 6ns is best	$25.00 	$0.00 	$25.00 
Video Card	9200 or 5200	Low profile & Svideo	$25.00 	$0.00 	$25.00 
Tuner	ATI E-Home Wonder	Input Optional	$48.50 	$0.00 	$48.50 
DVD Drive	Toshiba SD-M1612	Other acceptabe	$20.00 	$0.00 	$20.00 
Hard Drive	~40gb	Any speed	$30.00 	$0.00 	$30.00 
Case	HTPC looking mATX	Color should be black	$40.00 	$0.00 	$40.00 
Remote	Home made IR receiver	Internally mounted, RS	$13.00 	$0.00 	$13.00 
Total			$251.50 	$40.00 	$211.50

Anyway, i've purchased the CPU and motherboard, and i'm going to pick up a heatsink tomorrow morning. Not sure how i'll handle ram, likely pull a 128mb stick out of my dads current 384mb rig just for testing :p If I don't change the text on the coolmon desktop stats he won't even notice.

10/28/04 - CPU got here today, was pleasanly surprised!!! It was supposed to be an 1800+ in working order, and the owner beleived the core was a tbred based on its shape. I assume it would be a nice and banged up Tbred A, but here was what I got, and for only $20 shipped!


It's obviously a 1700+ TbredB, and my hopes are that it will run 166mhz fsb without a voltage boost (1826 up from 1463) since the motherboard that will be here tomorrow doesn't support voltage or multiplier changes, just FSB changes. Even that little boost should be enough to allow a decent resize in FFDshow :)

10/29/04 - The motherboard arrived today and I was very surpised to see that it had the box, manual, cables, i/o sheild (which rocks because its a strange layout), and disc.

I wanted to test out both the mobo and cpu, so I hit compusa. Now i'm not one to buy things locally, and I hate spending money at a retail B&M computer store unless i'm getting a better deal than planned, but I just had to know if everything worked. I opted for the $19.99 "mirrored copper" heatsink because the 70mm fan on it claimed to be low noise and the design looked decent. Plus it was rather short, and i'm planning on using a low profile case so that matters a lot!

Anyway I got the three items assembled (which was no easy task, the heatsink area has little clearance around it despite having the 4 mounting holes for large heatsinks :confused: ) and I realized that the power supply I have for testing (and old 300 watt generic) has no P4 connector, which this board uses. I decided that I didn't want to buy one just to test tonight since i'm planning on buying a case with a proprietary or microatx psu, so I felt that it was necessary to sacrifice my HTPC for about an hour.


Testing went fine, I set the mobo on top of the HTPC case (without the lid) and stretched the power connectors to reach, and I also borrowed a stick of ram from the motherboard below. I probably should have taken pictures but I was too concerned with finding out if my refurb and "possibly dead" cpu were ok. After a couple CMOS clears it booted up just fine, and I was able to change the FSB from 133 to 166 and the ram speed to 166, resulting in the overclock I wanted. No idea if the cpu will be stable there at default voltage (no cpu voltage adjustments in the bios) but I think there is a good chance of it based on my experienced with these chips.

Next step is to find a case and some ram so I can boot this thing up on its own. I think the tv tuner and video card will be last (onboard video is fine for now) since they won't be needed until i'm ready to set it up as a tivo/pvr. Still not sure what to do for drives.

11/1/04 - Ordered an Athenatech case from a member of the forums here :) Will post pics when it gets here

11/3/04 - Well the election sucked, but I ordered an older Pioneer 104/A04 burner for $25 shipped. I was just going to order a dvd reader, but the price was good enough that I was willing to go over budget on this part by $5.

11/9/04 - Too tired to post pics or much info, got the case today, mounted everything I have (mobo/cpu/ram/dvd/etc) and drilled the hole for the IR receiver in the front and glued it in. I've still got to wire it up, I just glued the receiver component in. I've got most of the parts so that shouldn't be too difficult.

12/8/04 - Been a while since an update, I got a 256mb stick of 6ns infineon ddr from ebay a couple days ago, so now the system needs a hard drive, tv card, and video card with svideo output. It will also need the IR receiver built (i've got the parts) and the software installed and setup. Cost should be around $85-100 to finish - more than I wanted to spend on the whole project, but hey, gotta be reasonable!
Section 4: Pictures and content that wouldn't fit in the first 3 sections
Not needed yet, but I wanted to reserve this space in advance
Nice work on both rigs. Your dad's rig had a few pleasant surprises i see, that mobo and cpu @ 166fsb ought to kick some butt, +350mhz on an athlon XP make a big difference in my experience.

Hopefully your recent good fortunes make up for some of the bad you've had in the past ;)

Keep up the good work and keep us updated! :)
i like that heatsink. got a brand name/model? I've been looking for a low(er) profile cooling solution

i read that you drilled a hole and glued an IR receiver into it. how do you plan on running the cable and connecting it to the serial port in the back of the computer? or do you have other plans for connectivity?
i like that heatsink. got a brand name/model? I've been looking for a low(er) profile cooling solution

i read that you drilled a hole and glued an IR receiver into it. how do you plan on running the cable and connecting it to the serial port in the back of the computer? or do you have other plans for connectivity?

Well I plan on drilling a hole in the case and running a cable through it to the serial port. I still haven't done any of the wiring because ive been so busy on my n64 cube (worklog on that is up in the case modding section).

The heatsink is a generic compusa model, looks rather nice and works well.