Adventures in HTPC-land

I’ve been dreaming of an HTPC for a while, especially since I won a passively cooled half height Radeon HD 5550. I finally convinced my wife it was a good idea and inexpensive, got the parts and now have a reasonably small PC that would fit in the living room. I plan to discuss the hardware and the software I’m trying and using in further posts. For now, here’s the hardware spec:

  • Enermax Laguna case. It’s a decently small and good looking case that can fit a microATX motherboard.
  • Phenom II X3 710 CPU. I upgraded my desktop a few months back to a Phenom II X6, so had this lying around. Used it with its stock cooler.
  • Gigabyte GA-M68MT-S2P motherboard. A cheap AM3 microATX motherboard.
  • HIS HD 5550 Silence graphics card. Won it at XSR a few months ago.
  • 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM (single stick).
  • 320GB hard disk (from an old PC).
  • DVD burner.

I installed Windows 7 Ultimate on it, for which I have a license from beta testing Window 7 (my main PC is still using Vista; haven’t seen the need to upgrade).

I tried using XBMC. It’s supposed to be an easy to use and good looking media centre solution, with a nice Android remote control (both me and my wife have Android phones), but so far has proved problematic. In particular, it’s unable to play my MPEG2 movies, created by a standalone LG DVD recorder. These movies play without problem on Windows Media Center and on my standalone streamer. I guess I’ll have to use something other than XBMC.

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