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Thread: PC as sound output/stereo replacement

  1. #1
    Automated Home Jr Member
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    Default PC as sound output/stereo replacement

    I've currently got a Sony 42" TV, with a decent DVD and video player setup in our lounge. I've also got two servers, one linux and one windows, which look after all our email and home automation.

    What I'd like to do is two fold:
    Add in a new device, that sits with the TV, DVD and video player, that can then play music from my servers or stream of the internet, via my wireless network.
    Secondly, I don't have a decent stereo, and have thought about surround sound. Can this be easily done from a PC, with the various outputs coming from mainly the TV?

    I've never seen Windows Media Centre, but I'm not sure from my limited understanding that it's what I want. Does anyone have any thoughts?

    Cheers
    Nunners

  2. #2
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Hi Nunners,

    You've got a few options.
    The first that springs to mind is XBMC, or XBox Media Centre. Quoting from http://www.xboxmediacenter.com/info_project.htm,
    XboxMediaCenter is a free open source (GPL) multimedia player for the Xbox from Microsoft. Currently XboxMediaCenter can be used to play/view most common video/audio/picture formats such as MPEG-1/2/4, DivX, XviD, MP3, AAC, JPG, GIF plus many more less known formats directly from a CD/DVD in Xbox DVD-ROM drive or of Xbox hard-drive, XBMC can also stream files from a PC over a local network and even stream media streams directly from the internet. XBMC has playlist and slideshow functions, a weather forecast and many audio visualizations. All these features enable the Xbox running XboxMediaCenter to fully function as a multimedia jukebox. XBMC is easy to install and use, it's very convenient and flexible plus offers a great price/performance ratio. XBMC is of also course completely free of any adware or spyware. (This, The XboxMediaCenter Project is also known as "Xbox Media Center" or simply "XBMC"). Note! XBMC is a hobby project that is only developed by volunteers in their spare-time for free. (Remember that XboxMediaCenter does require a modded Xbox to run on or it will not function).
    XBMC will also up-scale SD content to the 720p HD format, with the signal output over component. Results are said to be stunning
    (http://www.ukha-archive.com/ml/ukhad.../msg00860.html)

    XBMC requires a modded Xbox (classic, not 360). This can either be via the addition of an extra chip (aka mod-chip) or can be "soft modded" where you use a specific game and some other bits to covert the console.

    Up until a few months ago I'd have also recommended Xlobby (www.xlobby.com) but this has changed from being free to becoming paid-for software, with pricing TBA. Still a fantastically capable media centre application, but the future is a little uncertain at present (IMHO).

    The MS Media Centre will also do what you want too.

    With any of the above you're better off connecting via a wired network instead of wireless. You may find that you playback stutters depending on the other activity on the network if you go wireless.

    HTH,

  3. #3
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    THanks for the reply - only slight problem is - I don't have an xBox, and don't particularly want one I might be getting a Wii, but I'm fairly certain that can't act as an MC?

    Cheers
    Nunners

  4. #4
    Automated Home Sr Member wywywywy's Avatar
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    Hi,

    Yes you can do what you want with a media centre.
    But consider a wired connection instead of a wireless one!

  5. #5
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Have a look at the Pinnacle Showcenter. http://www.pinnaclesys.com/PublicSit...Center+200.htm

    This will stream video, mp3 and photos. Though DVD quality video via the wireless lan isn't that good, unless the WiFi link is less than 5m away. So you are better off using a network cable to connect the showcenter to your router. Some Internet radio stations will also work with the Showcenter.
    There is also some homebrew software for it such as Swisscenter, www.swisscenter.co.uk/. According to the forums its also possible to use a Linux based server and run the swisscenter software from there. This gives the advantage of not needing a PC to be on all the time you are using the Showcenter. The only problem seems to be setting of access permisions to the server, but once this is sorted it should work.
    My only gripes with it (I have the older 1000g version) are technical support from Pinnacle is terrible. they are not used to people who actually know what they are doing. It took me 3 months to convince them that I needed to return the unit due to a faulty network adapter. Once returned it worked very well. The other gripe is the instructions, not the easiest to understand. In some areas they kind of hint at what you need to do. Apart from that its quite a good piece of kit and plays most video formats you can through at it.

  6. #6
    Automated Home Sr Member wywywywy's Avatar
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    I personally found the Netgear EVA8000 better than the Showcenter.
    The EVA8000 is in HD too!

  7. #7
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nunners View Post
    THanks for the reply - only slight problem is - I don't have an xBox, and don't particularly want one I might be getting a Wii, but I'm fairly certain that can't act as an MC?

    Cheers
    Nunners
    No probs, I wasn't suggesting you use it as a games machine though
    2nd hand Xboxes are under 50 in Game, Blockbuster, etc. so you could have a fully chipped box & configured media centre for less than 100.

    Media Centre PCs are substantially more than that

    Pre-modded Xboxes are also available if you didn't fancy doing that bit yourself.

    Cheers,

    Tim.

  8. #8
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    The Showcenter is also HD compatible.
    I know the EVA700 uses the same media chipsets from Sigma as the Showcenter 1000G.

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    What sort of sound quality will an xBox produce? If i'm looking for something that can support surround sound, am I better building my own PC, with a surround sound supporting card?

  10. #10
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Personally I would go for a stand alone surround sound system, rather than a PC based sound system. The quality will be better and should make for a more flexible system.

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