Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Media PC - software installation

Here are the software installation steps for a build a do it yourself, do it all Media PC.

Once the BIOS is configured, you are ready to installed the operating system and configure all of the software.

Here are the basic steps with notes and links.  Plan on spending a bit of time on this as it will take a while to get the system setup the way you want.  Don't worry, you can always start over if you make a mistake.

Note:  Even if you have a large disk, I recommend limiting your OS partition to about 100GB.  Obviously you will want more space, and you can create a D drive with the remaining space for your Media.  This is primarily for ease of backup and to make future upgrades easier.

When you have everything the done, you can create a system image to easily recover your work.  See this post on backup.

Operating System and Drivers
  1. Install Windows 7 Home Premium.  If you are not familiar with windows 7, I recommend taking the product tour and learning a bit about what is new.  It is time well spent.
  2. Let the system boot up after install and auto-update (make sure you have network connectivity).  During the auto update, be sure to select any optional updates that include 3rd party drivers that it detects (like your TV tuner, if it is plugged in).
  3. Don't forget to add some cool desktop wallpaper, and try the built-in Windows 7 desktop gadgets like Clock, Calendar, and Weather Bug.  For me, these eliminate the need to run Yahoo Widgets.

Additional Drivers
  1. Install the latest ATI Catalyst Driver graphics driver software (full suite).  If you don't run a recent version (e.g. 10.2 or later) the system will crash when playing video after resuming from standby.
  2. (recommended) Go into ATI CCC and create custom resolutions for your desktop.  This is important so that your desktop displays 100% of the screen area on your TV.  For example, on my TV I created a resolution of 1820 x 1024 for my Mistubishi TV with 5% overscan.
  3. Install the Realtek Flash card driver (cleans up the drive icons).
Update:  If you want to run 10.4 or later ATI drivers AND have a TV that has overscan (like mine), you may run into an issue where the overscan settings don't get saved.   I've figured out a workaround that has allowed me to run 10.7 drivers (and hopefully newer ones later).  The trick is to use Windows Screen Resolution switcher (right click on desktop).  Click on "Advanced Settings".   Under your adapter, select "List All Modes".   Here you can explicitly set the mode and frequency you want (e.g. 1080p, 32-bit @ 60Hz).  Click apply after selecting the 1080p mode you want.   Then open CCC and set the overscan to 0%.   Click Apply in CCC.  IMPORTANT:  Don't do anything else, just reboot immediately.   If you are like me you only need to set overscan to 0 on three modes (1080p @ 24, 59 and 60hz).  Once you do this, the settings seem to stick (yeah!).   Otherwise, if you try to switch resolutions before rebooting your settings will be lost!   After you configure the resolutions with 0 overscan, everything else seems to work normally.

Update #2: I'm actually testing out a new set of drivers by TwL on guru3d.  The latest version based on 10.7 seem to be working pretty well.   Here is the link to the drivers.  In addition to his very thorough uninstall procedure, I've also used the utility driver sweeper to clean out any older references to ATI drivers.
    Post-OS installation Software
    1. (recommended) Install the Firefox browser
    2. (recommended) Install some anti-virus software (I recommend AVG Free)
    Video Player Software
    1. (Needed for Bluray playback) Install the PowerDVD8 software.  The installation CD comes with the LiteOn Bluray player as long as you buy the retail version.  Once installed, be sure to load the PowerDVD8 update.
    2. In order to watch Flash Video (e.g. YouTube, Hulu, etc) you will need Flash.  I recommend trying out the new 10.1 Beta as it includes support for hardware video acceleration.
    3. (optional) Install the Video Lan Media Player.  This is a nice open source player that may come in handy.  You can use it to play ISO images of DVDs directly with full menu support.
    4. For custom video codecs (and complete playback control for home theaters), try installing the CCCK package (it includes another media player called media player classic home cinema).  Don't worry, the software isn't as scary as the website.
     Nice tools to browse internet video
    1. Install the Hulu Desktop (a nice interface)
    2. If you want to play with more internet video try Boxee or Zinc (my favorite)
    Window Media Center
    1. Start up Windows Media Center and configure it.  The main things to do are to configure your TV tuner, configure your display and speakers.  This isn't complicated and the menu system is pretty intuitive.  Just start browsing around.
    2. If you want to be able to play Blurays from within Media Center (which doesn't natively support it), there are several solutions.  I like this free Media Center add-on.  Try it out, or you can always run PowerDVD8 outside of Media Center.  With newer PowerDVD9 (not free but probably worth it), support is integrated into Media Center.
    3. Here is another nice Media Center add on you may like, it provides color channel logos in the program guide.
    4. Install a really cool tool for solving all kinds of Media Center issues call Media Center Standby Tool. This tool will help you fix any standby / resume issues you may have.  I'll write up a separate blog post on this.
    5. If you want a recording LED, full instructions are posted here.
    1. I use SqueezeSlave (an excellent software client that works with Logitech's Audio Streaming System).  You can get the server software here.
    2. An complete overview of my whole house audio system is here.
    3. Here is how I setup my Media PC as a SqueezeBox.
    1. If you want to do remote control customization (e.g. turn on/off your TV, Receiver, launch custom applications, change remote behavior etc.) you will want to install EventGhost and you may want to get the option IR receiver / transmitter call USB-UIRT.  Here is a blog post on how to do this.
    2. For Place Shifting and remote access, try installing Orb and Remote Potato.  I cover setup here.
    3. For ripping DVD/Blurays you own (I don't endorse illegal use), you might check out MakeMKV or DVDFAB HDVirtual Clone drive also comes in handy when trying to play ISO images.

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