The HTPC Saga pt2
Through trial and error, here’s where I am now:
To ferry around HD content I abandoned WiFi as a medium and now use a HomePlug system, I simply plugged the adapters in to the wall, connected network leads and they just worked. Job done. Speed wise; I haven’t measured their capacity, but have never experienced their limitations.
To control the HTPC from the aforementioned sofa, I bought a simple remote control. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that model but I’ll put up with it for another while.
The HTPC I’m using is a de-constructed laptop with no hard-drive which runs XBMCBuntu from a USB drive. I shall elaborate.
I don’t want to buy a new computer right now, luckily I actually find it more interesting to try and cobble something together that will do the job. I was gifted a knackered laptop a while ago and set to work dismantling it; screen (broken), hard drive (missing), DVD drive, keyboard, track-pad, battery and casing have all been removed. The remaining parts consist of the motherboard, RAM, CPU and CPU cooler; the computer has on-board graphics, sound, networking and the usual connectivity.
I want some good software that can run on this basic system. XBMC is the most flexible media centre software I’ve ever used, it runs on my Win7 gaming rig and on my Ubuntu laptop; the flavour I’m using here is the new XBMCBuntu Beta3 (Feb/2012). This is a live version of the new Eden release which is happy running from a CD. It is equally happy running from a USB drive, and by using Unetbootin to put it there, it’s possible to use persistence to save any changes you make. Lovely! (I’m aware of even lighter versions of XBMC such as OpenElec, but it can’t boot from this computers awful bios, and I couldn’t find an OpenElec ISO to feed into Unetbootin)
So there we have it, a HTPC that cost nothing (nothing but hours and hours of my life). Admittedly there are a few shortcomings; my pets may electrocute themselves on the circuit board lying on the floor, it’s also a trip hazard and USB drives and Beta software have a few reliability problems.
The computer will need a case, but I want to make sure it doesn’t expire before I expend any energy.
The reliability problem; I have taken measures to account for, measures that have unexpected benefits. More on that next time.