Good day dbone. I'm off work today with a pulled back muscle (excruciating) so I thought it might be a good idea to take advantage of the time and discuss possible software options that would enhance/optimize my HTPC experience. BTW my diNovo mini came today. Must play with!
I haven't completed my digging on other sites and forums yet. I'm currently reading lists of people's favorite VMC plug-ins. I thought I might attempt to tell my story of how I embarked on this journey and what I'm hoping the final product will enable me to do. Perhaps this information will be a useful description of my needs to help the experts on here prescribe the proper formula of settings, software, websites, etc. So here goes:
I was happy with the TV programming situation I had, but it did chap me a bit because of the monthly expense I was laying out for it. I have a 46" LCD, 5.1 surround sound, Panasonic DVD recorder with an 80GB hard drive, and a DirecTV package with the sports package added on and Setanta Sports added on. I also have an old Dell desktop and I recently bought an HP laptop and installed a wireless N network in my home. My wife and I do not watch a ton of TV. I spend more time doing research and reading articles on the computer then I do watching TV. My wife enjoys a few network shows and we both enjoy Discovery, History, TLC, and so on. Occasionally we watch TBS, TNT, FX, USA, Sci-Fi, Spike, G4 when there is a decent movie on (which is rare). I also like to watch FoxNews. I don't need MTV, LifeTime, HSN and the like. But my wife does like HGTV and DIYnetwork. Most important to me is being able to watch live English Premier League and Uefa Champions League matches (soccer
), hence the $30 a month extra outlay for this programming through DirecTV. On Friday nights and throughout the weekend we will sometimes rent DVDs and kick back to unwind. This is about the extent of our interest in programs on TV. I have recently been watching documentaries online and Youtube clips on my desktop.
So, about 2 or 3 months ago I opened a letter from DirecTV informing me that my rates were going up $3. Okay, 6 months prior to that I had received the same letter raising my monthly cost $3. I'd had enough of this vampiric (sic?) draining. I was trying to decide what to do because I just could no longer justify spending $90 a month for TV programming that we barely watched. I mean, it's the age old gripe - 200 stations and nothing is on. I only watch about 25 stations so I really don't need the rest and I don't want to pay for them. You're all familiar with this. Having recently become aware of the growing programming on the internet I had this epiphany - "I could get rid of DirecTV and watch all of the stations that interest me online. I could stream sporting events and download movies if I want too. But I don't want to sit at my desk watching programs. I want to lay on my sofa and watch from my HDTV. I wonder if I could connect a computer to my TV and render DirecTV unnecessary?!?". Okay so I'm a bit dim and most of you cottoned on to this concept a long time ago
So I proceeded to check online for websites for all of the broadcasters we watch and I found ESPN360 to stream SOME of the sports I require. Then I started combing the internet for other people who might be in the same situation as me and have discovered the answer. I was led, after much searching, to information regarding the HTPC. I honed my search on this topic and found an excellent website for building your own HTPC. I followed the instructions and pestered the forum and eventually I built an HTPC. I got it mostly set up and I am now at the point where I am trying to understand what it will take for me to get to that beautiful day when I can anxiously call DirecTV and tell them to #$@!&!%#%$.......... I mean, cancel my subscription.
Please bear in mind that I've only been at this for about 2 or 3 months, so my understanding and grasp of technical computer related aspects are limited, but growing! I am a willing learner but this is all very new to me and my desires surpass my abilities. Hence, my coming to this forum for guidance.
The vision I have for my final product is, to be able to turn on/off my TV (with the HTPC connected) with a remote, have a programming guide to select what I want to watch, ability to set up to record programs/sports, download shows/movies, watch DVDs (Blu-Ray now since my HTPC is equipped), and occasionally do some gaming. And I would like all of this to be at high quality resolution. I'd rather not have to type in web addresses and troll through different sites looking for something to watch. And I'd rather not have to open several windows or programs to accomplish this. I think we are content to just pop DVDs in and watch them, so no need to store movies on my hard drive. Maybe down the road. I think that covers it.
My HTPC has a 2.8 Ghz Intel E7400 processor, Radeon 4670 video card, 640 GB hard drive, Blu-Ray player and a Hauppauge WinTV HVR-2250 TV tuner card. I have Vista Home Premium OS. I just joined NetFlix so I can download movies and TV episodes. My TV tuner card is not picking up my local OTA stations through my antenna as well as my HDTV does. So I need to get that sorted out.
I haven't settled on an interface yet. I am leaning towards VMC since it's free and installed already. But I need plug-ins, add-ons, apps, whatever they're called, to make this user-friendly and meet the WAF!!! I'd also like it to have some WOW factor if possible. But I need to understand which interface and other software enhancements would suit my situation best. Again, I'm still open to recommendations of other interfaces.
I have run across articles about some plug-ins that interest me like Secondrun.tv, ZeeVee, Hulu plug-in, Boxee plug-in, Netflix plug-in and various commercial skipping plug-ins. My confusion is, there are several plug-ins that work similarly, so which is going to accomplish what I'm looking for the best?
I'm also wondering if I should download a version of Flash Player for widescreen because some of the sites play programming in Flash which does not fill the screen of my HDTV. As I mentioned above, I need to improve my OTA signal capture and I'm looking for information on ways I can do that.
Phewww! Okay, I'm done. My sincere apologies for writing a book here. I've been accused of being verbose in the past
Anyone who has read this far has enormous perseverance and I am extremely grateful.
With the information I have supplied, are there any recommendations anyone could provide?
I'm off to continue my research!