htpc

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Tonight I had a quiet night in, leaving Hackers* running on the TV while hacking a power switch into my Keysonic wireless keyboard. It’s hard to justify modding a £35 keyboard, but I didn’t do it because it was a cost-effective means of solving my problem. I just wanted to do it.

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Last night my 4-year-old daughter Pascale and I assembled a PC for the kids to use. I reused gozer, my former HTPC, along with a monitor given to me by my friend Soren, and a keyboard and mouse purchased for tiny hands. I installed Qimo 2.0, a children-focused Linux distribution based on Xubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”.

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XBMC 11.0 “Eden” has just been released. So far, it’s sexy. So sexy.

After the upgrade, one key on my Logitech diNovo Mini keyboard stopped working. Previously, I had configured the “Media” key in the lower right corner to switch between full screen and windowed mode, so I could access the normal Ubuntu desktop. However, this now launches the Music Library. They keymap for this key changed from <launch_media_center> in Dharma to <launch_media_select> Eden.

This file corrects it.

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On my HTPC, XBMC outputs sound over HDMI to a Panasonic TX-37LZD70 TV. This works great in most respects. However, there is a 2-second delay between when XBMC starts playing audio (music or video with sound), and when it actually outputs from the TV speakers. The sound is in sync with the video; it just takes 2 seconds to start. It’s annoying to always hear a theme song start part-way into the first few notes.

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Update 2012-03-27: keymap updated for XBMC 11.0 “Eden”.

I’ve been using a Logitech diNovo Mini keyboard on zuul, the new HTPC, for three weeks now. There are plenty of reviews online, which you should read if you are thinking of buying one. These are my notes on using it with XBMC and Ubuntu.

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HTPC, Take Two

It’s been almost two years since I assembled gozer, my first HTPC. Over the Christmas holiday I replaced gozer with zuul, a Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11.

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Update 2010-10-14 – This problem has been resolved since pulseaudio 1:0.9.22~0.9.21+stable-queue-32-g8478-0ubuntu14. You can now play AC3 audio with the Lucid packages.

Since upgrading my media PC to Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”, pulseaudio can’t play files with AC3 audio. Unfortunately this includes all of my ripped DVDs, which were encoded with AC3 pass-through audio. If I play such a file in Miro, the video hangs after a few seconds. If I play it in Totem, the same happens but a pop-up is also displayed: “pa_stream_writable_size() failed: Connection terminated”.

I fixed it by downgrading Pulseaudio to the karmic version. Here is how.

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The game of global whack-a-mole continues, and it does not favour those holding the mallets. tvrss.net, formerly my source for RSS feeds of torrents of my favourite TV shows, is likely down for good. You can search eztv.it for individual torrents directly, but why? showrss.karmorra.info is already up, and it’s even better than tvrss.net. Now I have one custom feed for all my shows, and it automatically filters out duplicates and resolutions I don’t want.

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My HTPC setup

As I mentioned in my last post, I now have a Home Theater PC (HTPC). Want to look under the hood?

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I recently bought a Shuttle X27D to use as a Home Theater PC (HTPC). The reviews of this hardware run from disappointing to average, but I’m reasonably happy with it. It’s quiet (just one small fan for the GPU, and none for CPU, case, or power supply), uses little power (I measured it at 32 W in full operation), and the analog audio jack on the motherboard has no discernable noise in the audio stream (unlike my Dell Vostro 1500 laptop).

Unfortunately, the Intel 945G graphics processor can’t reliably handle 720p @24 frames video. I tested with a downloaded copy of Sita Sings the Blues, and it dropped frames as the animated fireworks exploded during the title sequence. It was fine with most of the rest of the film. Still, it means I’m likely to stick to upscaled 480p video. Which is far better for my bandwidth usage.

Naturally, I ran into some problems setting it up.

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