Blog Discussion Topic – November 3, 2008 – Sumit Chawla – My HTPC experience so far . . . .

This summer I caught the HTPC (Home Theater PC) bug, and I decided to build one for the living room.  I have written a few blogs during the course of this project.  Now I am almost done!  I say almost, because as with the A/V room, this is one of those things that is never fully completed.

My music, home videos, and pictures are all on a NAS (Network), and they are readily available.  Currently, I am using a Media Center Extender to gain access to this content from other rooms.  The Blu-ray optical drive in conjunction with Arcsoft’s Total Media Theater enables Blu-ray playback on the HTPC.

This system is undoubtedly complex, with software and hardware subsytems from different companies, but this is not a consideration once it is in use.  The HTPC is meant, at the very least, to be a replacement for the DVD player and as such I expect it to function just as reliably.  This is the only part of the experience that I am not entirely happy with.  While some issues have been resolved either via a hardware change of a software update, some remain.  These include:

– Sometimes the PC is unable to talk to the NAS, requiring a router reboot.
– Sometimes switching the TV input back to the PC freezes the machine, most likely an HDMI handshake issue; this requires a PC reboot, somewhat of a time consuming process.
– Every so often I am flashed with an update message for the OS or an app.  Oftentimes, these updates are ok, but sometimes you get unlucky with a rogue update.  A restore from a previous backup or reverting to an earlier system restore point can get you back to the old state if necessary, however, this is still work.

When things don’t work, you do realize the merit of using special purpose devices.  The DVD player remains connected in the living room to serve as a backup.

I don’t, however, wish for these reliability issues to overshadow the ease and convenience that come with using the HTPC.  When the system works, which is more often than not (my wife disagrees with me on this), it is a delight to use.  We have been making playlists, purchasing music online and watching old family pictures that we had not seen in a long time.  Music is often accompanied by a slideshow.  It has been a good experience and well worth the time investment.

If you use an HTPC, please share your experience.