Building a Home Theatre PC

I spent my Christmas / year end time on a home theatre PC project. I have wanted to do this for a long time. I have RCN Digital Cable right now, and it does not work with Tivo very well. What I want my HTPC to do mainly are:

  • Record TV (like Tivo), quality not too important
  • Play my huge CD collection in high quality
  • Display my photos

I re-purposed a holder Shuttle PC that I have. It is a small form factor (SFF) PC, model SS51G Version 1. It has a reasonably fast P4 2.4 GZ processor and lots of memory. But it was using all the board services -- video and sound. This motherboard's SIS 651 family of video is notoriously bad. The shuttle has two slots (it is, afterall, a small form factor PC sized of two shoeboxes). I bought a ATI 9600 XT video card, and a Hauppauge PVR-250 TV Capture card to complete the HTPC.

Hardware Installation

The hardware installation is not too difficult. The inside of the Shuttle tight, but the AGP and the PCI card slots are right on the side. The only trick that I found is that on the back panel, there is a piece of metal that flips up to make room for the end of the card during insertion. If you have a Shuttle, take a look and you'll see what I mean. That is a very cool and useful design. I installed the ATI video card first to make sure that works. Then I installed the Win-TV/PVR card.

ATI Configuration

To me, this is the scary part of the installation. I followed the instructions on the ATI documentation. First, I installed the latest AGP driver for the Shuttle from their support website. Make sure I got the version 1 motherboard support page. Then I have uninstalled the current video driver, and then disable the on-board video from the BIOS. I wonder what will happen if the ATI does not work and the on-board video is disabled? Without video, how do I re-enable the on-board video?

After the ATI card is working, I installed their driver and software and everything is working on the video side.

Win TV PVR-250 Installation

I though this would be an easy installed. I installed the card, and then installed the drivers from the included CD-Rom. The instruction said I should then install the applications (WinTV2000 etc, which I need). However the CD-ROM does not contain any of the software!

I went to their support website and downloaded all the new drivers and application. You have to follow their instructions to get everything installed correctly.