by Peter Daley
It is very easy to set up an exciting home entertainment centre on your personal computer, plus you can do it for little cost, or for free. Why purchase all those extra boxes, eg DVD player / recorder, Video Recorder, Desktop High Definition TV box, Radio, CD player, and HiFi system, plus have all those messy cables lying around, when you can do everything neatly in one box, your computer?
Yes, you can go and purchase a dedicated home entertainment centre computer if you want, but why would you, when all you need is a modern computer system, no more than two years old, with a reasonable video card and 80 GiG or larger hard drive, with a minimum of 512 megs of RAM, and install one of the excellent free home entertainment software packages, that will turn your computer into a sophisticated home entertainment centre.
For Windows based systems you install the free home entertainment software program, Media Portal, http://www.team-mediaportal.com/
For Linux use Myth TV, http://www.mythtv.org/
Both these programs will turn your home computer into an advanced home entertainment media centre. They will organize and play all your media files, music, radio, and allow you to watch your stored video, and DVDs, even display the local weather report. They also turn your computer into a recorder for your TV and Digital video.
To use the Radio, TV or scheduled TV recording features, you will need to install a High Definition or Analog TV/Radio tuner card into your home
computer, or use an external USB TV High Definition or Analog tuner plug-in device. These cost from $100 upwards. Dual tuner cards will allow you to watch one station, and record another at the same time.
(Tip: If you are using Linux, make sure you check out which TV tuners will work with Myth TV before purchasing a device.)
I personally prefer the USB tuners, because you can move them from one computer to another, with ease. If you have multiple computers in the house,
you can turn any one of them into a High Definition TV player/recorder, by simply installing the USB device's software on each machine, and then plug
in the USB tuner into the computer you wish to use as a TV set at that time.
(Tip: make sure you purchase a TV Tuner card, or USB TV, with good signal sensitivity.)
In most areas you will need to plug the TV/Radio tuner device into an external roof mount aerial, to get good reception. An important point that will greatly improve the enjoyment and usability of your home entertainment centre, is to have all your entertainment media, music and videos, organized
in a logical sensible fashion, in your computer filing system, before you install the media centre software.
(Tip: Make sure you do regular backups of all your multimedia files!)
During the installation process, these programs will search your hard drive and index all your stored media files as you have organized them on your computer. So it doesn't matter how good the media centre software is, it's ease of use will be determined by how logically you have organized
your media files on your computer.
© Peter Daley 2010
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