Media Center PC

After several years of fooling around with TV to PC and such, I have finally gotten a decent system up and running, that Stephanie and the kids can use. Some of the features I think that they actually prefer now.

I am running Homeseer 2.0 in the background. It is very rare to interacte with it now, except using the web interface. I have it controlling a shitload of X-10 devices, one Z-wave lamp interface, which I cannot decide if I like or not. I originally had the Z-Wave beginners kit, or something like that. Came with a Z-Wave handheld controller, a USB interface, and two lamp modules. One of the lamp modules went belly up after about a month and has been sitting in a drawer ever since. The Handheld controller works, and I have used it to program the devices, but as a remote it blows chunks. It is nowhere even close to being intuitive, hard to use, and a general pain in the ass. As far as the USB controller and remaining lamp module, they work, but there is an issue with either Homeseer 2.0, or the interface is going bad, because I have to restart Homeseer sometimes three or four times a day because it loses communication with the controller. All in all, I will probably ditch Z-Wave in the very near future. I have heard lots of good things about it, but in my experience it sucks. If the shit doesn’t work out of the box for a dumbass, then noone will buy it or take it seriously down the road.
I use the ADI Ocelot as my X-10 controller, as well as (less often) IR control. The Ocelot kicks ass. I have had it for a year or two, and have never had a problem with it. No software for me to bungle up (except for the rare cases when I use CMAX to program events in it) and it works great with HS. I am using a 3rd party plugin for it, rather than the stock Ocelot plugin.
I also have a Temp05 temperature interface. I have about 15 temperature sensors around the house, inside and out, as well as a humidity sensor. I have most of them disconnected pending a rewiring project that I have not gotten around to yet.
I have two RF sensors, the MR-26a, and the W800RF for my remote control. Works very well, and I can use Homeseer with a girder interface to translate commands to the rest of my programs.

For remotes, I have two. I would like to go down to only one, but have not had the time to fool with the needed configuration for that. The main one is the Snapstream Firefly. I use it to control just about EVERYTHING on the HTPC. Unfortunately it is strictly RF, so I have to use my programmable IR remote for everything else.

On the front end, I am using Meedio as my main interface. I really like the menuing system, and it is very extensible. I have a rudimentary plugin that uses Homeseer and Girder to control my lighting from Meedio, although my remote is faster and I normally use that. It uses libraries to catalogue all of my music, movies and pictures, in addition to information downloaded from the web. I am able to use it as a My Pictures slideshow (with music playing if I want it). DVD rips, in addition to movies record with my PVR software are also available. I don’t use the internal music software, as there is NO support for music downloaded from iTunes, and not likely to be any time in the near future. I do use a plugin the runs winamp in the background, which works great. Near seamless, I never see winamp.

As far as TV, I own Meedio Pro, which includes a PVR interface, but support for TV tuner cards sucks, and overall, it is very inferior to Snapstreams product, BeyondTV. I have three TV tuners, one is USB, the other two PCI cards. One of the PCI cards is hooked to my cable box, the other two, just to regular cable. BeyondTV also offers me the capability to use a serial cable from my cable box to the PC, so it changes the channels when I need it to. In the past I used girder and the Oceleot, and if I ever have my cable box upgraded, will probably end up doing that again, but it is much slower than the serial hookup. The PVR is great. I can record two shows siultaneously while watching a 3rd. I schedule it to record stuff that I really want to watch, very rarely do I watch live TV anymore. When I do watch it live, I am able to pause, rewind, set it to record even though I am in the middle of the show. The Beta version that I was running earlier this summer also offers FM tuner support, I am very much looking forward to that being added back in.

In comparison to alot of systems that I have seen pictures of and described, I have a pretty damn basic system, but it works great for me. I would hate to have to go back to regular TV. I have about 30 gigs of music that I recorded from my CDs, LPs and Cassettes. Much better than taking up all of that damn room. I do still get the occasional CD, but I prefer to use iTunes, as it is cheaper, and I don’t even have to leave the house for it.