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Making my old PC into a whole-house DVR and media center?
Old 08-23-2012, 10:54 PM   #1
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Making my old PC into a whole-house DVR and media center?

I'd really like to build a DVR / Media Center out of an old PC I have no real use for. It's a DELL DIMENSION E521 with the specs listed below.

My goal is to take advantage of my 20 mbps dl/ 2.5 mb upload speeds I get at my new home and ditch the cable TV. I have seen a lot of different options out there like HULU, Playon (this intrigues me a lot), etc...

I want as seamless an interface as possible, HD capabilities, remote control use, *possibly multi-TV (ie whole house) use as one tv is on the backside of my wall in the living room, etc.

I will of course need tv/tuner card, a video card I assume, more ram, bigger hard drive....but beyond that I'm getting lost!Any advice would be wonderful





Item Description Unit Price
Quantity Total Price



Dimension E521 Small Mini-Tower: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 3800+ (2.0 GHz) Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
1 $319.00
Dimension E521 Small Mini-Tower: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 3800+ (2.0 GHz)
No Speakers
Dell Optical USB 2-button Mouse
USB Keyboard
Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
No Raid
Service Software
AOL Software
Support Software
Operating System Label
Processor Label
48X CD RW/DVD Combo Drive
Software CD
AOL Software Documentation
AOL ISP Software
Scratch & Dent
1 GB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz (2 DIMMs)
V.92/56K PCI DataFax Modem
Assembly Cable
ISP Search Assist
Microsoft Works 8.5
Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Reader
Earthlink ISP
250 GB EIDE SATA II Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
16X DVD ROM Drive
13 in 1 Media Card Reader
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Old 08-23-2012, 11:03 PM   #2
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Sounds doable except for the remote control part. If the services like Hulu view your device as a computer, they will assume you are using a keyboard, and therefore present a keyboard-driven user interface.
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Old 08-23-2012, 11:41 PM   #3
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I do believe there's a remote out there...cant recall the name...googling....

SnapStream Beyond TV: Features

I liked this interface, but not sure how it might work with some of the other programs that are streaming based

firefly is the app i guess - so you need to use your phone
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:02 AM   #4
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AppleTV. It comes with a remote. The remote tries to control my laptop too but I finally figured out how to turn that "feature" off.

Oh, and I can control my AppleTV from my iPad or Mac too and control my stereo - not just video/TV.

Been enjoying that HD stream from Hulu+.
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:28 PM   #5
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Just guessing, but 1G of DRAM sounds puny for this application.
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Old 08-24-2012, 02:28 PM   #6
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When I attached a P4 system to cable, I found that system memory was important, but more important was the video memory and processor. The on board video was mostly keeping up, but there were problems.
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Old 08-24-2012, 02:28 PM   #7
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You should be alright. I used to use exactly same machine until upto end of 2010 and I use to do serious video editing. It wasn't lightening fast but it worked. It should be just fine as a DVR.
Look into XBMC. I have not set up DVR myself so can't be of any more help.

P.S. - If you can scour through some old machines at repair shop, get more RAM for sure, it will help a lot.
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Old 08-24-2012, 02:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by target2019 View Post
When I attached a P4 system to cable, I found that system memory was important, but more important was the video memory and processor. The on board video was mostly keeping up, but there were problems.
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelm View Post
You should be alright. I used to use exactly same machine until upto end of 2010 and I use to do serious video editing. It wasn't lightening fast but it worked. It should be just fine as a DVR.
Look into XBMC. I have not set up DVR myself so can't be of any more help.

P.S. - If you can scour through some old machines at repair shop, get more RAM for sure, it will help a lot.
I bought a video board with 1G on-board memory for maybe $45 at Fry's to augment my "studio" computer, which would only take 2G DRAM max. The problems are that many systems won't take more than 1 or 2G DRAM, though yours appears to max out at 4G.

Documentation

On-board video processors share that. So, add DRAM to the max the motherboard will support, AND buy a video board with its own memory instead of using on-board graphics, assuming it doesn't already have a separate video card.
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