Wednesday, February 13, 2013

3. Windows 7 Media Center Software Installation - Video

The following slide show illustrates the installation of the Duet Tuner card and Windows 7 software setup procedure.
Slideshow captions should be turned on as you sequence through the images. Turn them off temporarily if you have difficulty reading the text behind captions, or click in the center of the slide to go directly to the Picasa Web album where the full-size images for this slideshow exist.

Notes on connecting to the Internet:
I started out by using an inexpensive USB WiFi Stick plugged into the back of the Media Center to avoid stringing cable through the house. This seemed to work fine at first, but after a while I experienced random interruptions and slowdowns while watching NetFlix streaming movies. I switched over to a CAT-5 Ethernet cable, connected at the rear of the box and wired directly to my DSL Modem. I find this provides the fastest data connection for watching streaming video.

The next post describes the setup of Windows Media Center and the Xbox Universal Remote Control.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

4. Media Center Setup - Video

Missing Channels?  After your TV Tuner has been detected and Guide listings have been downloaded, verify that TV channels are mapped correctly for your area. To do this, go to the Guide and scroll down the channels. Refer to this TV Coverage Map to find Channel numbers and antenna orientation for your area. If any of the call letters and the corresponding channel numbers don't match, or you see "No data available", then these channels may be incorrectly mapped! This appears to be a random problem with Media Center. Several of the slides in the following set will show you a way to fix this problem. 

Media Center Setup: The following slideshow shows you how to start up Media Center for the first time. Captions within the following slides should be turned on as you sequence through the images. Turn them off temporarily if you have difficulty reading the text behind captions. Note: Clicking in the center of the slide will take you directly to the Picasa Album where the full-size images reside.

Universal Remote Control

Using the Microsoft Xbox Universal Remote Control with Windows Media Center.

The Xbox Universal Remote Control is one of the best remote controls I could find at reasonable price. I bought a used one from Amazon. It has 46 easy-to-see lighted pushbuttons, and fits nicely into the hand. Even though it is designed for the Xbox it has nearly all the functionality required for Windows Media Center and can be made to work with a few simple registry mods.

The last four slides of the set provide a quick overview of the registry modifications needed to use the Xbox Universal Remote Control with Windows Media Center. To modify the registry navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\HidIr\Remotes\745a17a0-74d3-11d0-b6fe-00a0c90f57da 
  1. Change the value of CodeSetNum0 to 0 if you wish to use the Xbox Remote exclusively, or to 8 if you wish to use both the Xbox Remote and a regular Media Center compatible remote as well.
  2. Delete the three entries CodeSetNum1, CodeSetNum2, CodeSetNum3.
  3. You need to reboot for the change to take effect.
  4. Follow the above sequence carefully - export the existing registry to a backup file if necessary! Read the following if you are unsure:
To use the remote for Media Center Only (no TV functions are enabled on the remote): By skipping the next step "To control your TV", you can prevent the TV Mode button from being activated. The Volume and Mute functions will now control the media center box only. Note that the CH up/down functions do not work in this mode.
To control your TV: If you also wish to turn your TV on/off and control its volume and mute functions with the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote, you must program the remote control for use with the specific brand of the TV that you're using. You can manually enter the TV code, or you can perform a scan to find the TV code. To scan for the correct TV code, follow these steps:
  1. Turn on the TV, and then point the remote control toward the TV.
  2. Press and hold the TV button and the OK button at the same time for two seconds. All the buttons on the remote control will illuminate for two seconds. Then, only the numeric TV buttons (1 through 12) remain illuminated.
  3. Press the CH+ button or the CH– button to send a series of off commands to the TV. Continue to press the CH+ button or the CH– button until the TV turns off.
    Note Give enough time for the TV to respond to the off command after you press each button. Some TVs take more time to react to the off command than other TVs.
  4. Press the TV button to save the code and to exit. All the buttons on the remote control will blink three times to confirm the code.
Note If the remote control doesn't function correctly after you set the TV code, try a different code from the same TV manufacturer. Or, scan for another code. You can also go to this site and Click "Q3" to find a code you can manually enter for your particular TV.

There are two modes for using this remote, Media Center and TV. Once you have programmed it as above, to control your TV's On/Off, Volume, Mute and Channel +/- buttons push the TV button and it will light Red, indicating that you are in TV mode. Push the TV button once more and it lights back to Green, indicating that you are back in Media Center mode.

Go to the following site for more detailed instructions:  
To "punch in" specific channel numbers: let's say you would like to select a numeric channel number directly, such as Channel 7.2, with the Xbox Universal Remote. Here's how:
  • Punch in the desired channel number using the numeric buttons 1 to 9 and 0 on the remote. 
  • The *(100) button at the very bottom left selects the "."for the decimal place, channel "7.2" for example. 
  • As you push the channel numbers, the corresponding number should also be displayed on the screen. Once this shows correctly, press the OK button.

To add additional / missing functions to the XBOX Universal Remote: Refer to this link to undestand how to remap codes:

Infra-red USB Receiver:
RC-6 Infra-red USB Receiver
A Media Center "eHome" compatible USB RC-6 Infra-Red receiver is required to use the Xbox remote.

I found the one shown in the picture on eBay at:
If an eHome compatible IR receiver is plugged into a USB port it will be recognized and the necessary driver should load automatically.
To verify this go to: ControlPanel > Device Manager > Universal Serial Bus controllers. You should see "eHome Infrared Receiver (USBCIR)" listed there.

Tell us about your own Do-it-yourself Media Center Set-up Experiences!
Building your own Media Center is almost always a learning experience. Let others know about some of the things you may have learned or provide any hints that may be helpful to those attempting a build for the first time. Please feel free to leave your comments by clicking on the Post a Comment link below:

In the next post you can explore how to enhance your Media Center and find further resources.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2. Assembling the HTPC - Video

The following slide show illustrates the assembly procedure for my media center box. Ordering information and specifications for most of the components I used for this build may be obtained by clicking on the product images shown on the right sidebar.
Slideshow captions should be turned on as you sequence through the images. Turn them off temporarily if you have difficulty reading the text behind captions, or click in the center of the slide to go directly to the Picasa Web album where the full-size images for this slideshow exist.

Notes on heatsink installation:
  • The stock Intel heat-sink/fan that comes packaged with the Clarkdale and Sandybridge CPUs can be tricky to install correctly. If mounted incorrectly, the CPU temperature will rise rapidly after power is applied and the entire system will shut down.
  • Make sure that the heatsink and the CPU mating surfaces are flush and making full contact after pushing down on the black plastic push pins at each of the 4 corners. The pre-applied grey thermal compound on the bottom surface of the heat sink assembly must make intimate contact with the CPU.
  •  I find it is easier to push down on the four push-pins diagonally while the motherboard is still outside the case. Note the direction of the arrow on top of the male push-pin: turn the push-pin counter-clockwise in the direction of the arrow for removal, and clockwise for installation. 
  • Support the bottom of the motherboard on a firm soft surface, being careful not twist it or apply excessive force to the surface-mount components on the underside while you are pushing down on the push-pins.
  • You should hear a "click" as you push down on each pin. After installation, examine the bottom of the motherboard to ensure that each of the four black male push pins is protruding fully through its respective hole and through the surrounding white female plastic pin.
  • To make sure that the above installation is correct, after powering up the system for the first time go to the PC Health Status page in the BIOS and verify that Current CPU Temperature is within normal limits ( between 30 - 50 degrees Centigrade).