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Thread: Entertainment Box

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    Entertainment Box

    Project: Negs Entertainment Box

    This is more a call for advice than a tutorial, but maybe someone finds this usefull or likes the idea and starts doing some experiments...

    My video-recorder is about to die, and I was thinking about buying one of those harddisk-recorders. Those things aren't really cheap, so I figured I could do better and cheaper...

    My mission:

    I'm about to build myself an all-in-one video-recorder, dvd-player, cd-player, mp3/vcd/svcd/DivX-player, television system, complete with timeshifting capabilities and networking-possibilities... and why not, a game-station.


    Maximum cost 500USD (the price of one of them harddisk-recorders).


    Video card:

    The ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon card combines a decent 3D-card with tv-tuner and capturing possibilities. Since it's replaced with the 7500 and 8500DV-versions, this baby goes for around 90USD (in Belgium, so it must be lots cheaper in the States). If you can't get one of those anymore, go for something like Haupage's Pinnacle Studio PC TV. These solutions come with all the cables we'll be needing.


    A Pentium III of about 700MHz should be enough for this system. You could also go for a higher-clocked Celeron, but I think the PIII has better multimedia-acceleration. If you want to keep things small, go for a MicroATX-motherboard. If you have plenty of space, any motherboard will do.

    Case: Three possibilities:

    - A state-of-the-art design case. Cost: way too much.
    - Use the case of your old VCR (make sure it's big enough for your power supply). Cost: nothing, just lots of trouble.
    - No case... just a wooden board that you hide somewhere... Cost: a couple bucks and some carpenter-talents.


    Any DVD-player will do. Non-Americans might consider buying a model that can be 'region-hacked'.


    RF-combo's are decent solutions, but you may be limited by their actionradius. Something like this not only looks nice; it's infrared as well.

    Hard disk:

    Should be at least 20 GB.


    128 MB should be enough, but it won't hurt going for more at all...


    Windows XP or 2k probably would be the best solution, but since we're going to work with lots of 'exotic' hardware, I think we're better off with ME.


    - BIOS flash to latest version.
    - Windows ME minimum install with latest drivers.
    - Hard disk partitioning: a couple of gigs for the OS and programs, the rest for capture-files.
    - Windows Update: make sure to have the latest DirectX and Mediaplayer.
    - Codeckpack: download one of many codeckpacks to make sure you'll be able to play about every format available (Digital Digest).
    - Enable DMA for both the hard disk and the DVD-player.


    The ATI-card comes with the ATI Multimedia Center. It also came with my Radeon 8500, and it sucks IMO... I'm looking into other solutions at the moment (Snapstream seems promising. A free LT-version is available).

    Sound: Winamp is still my favourite.
    Video: Zoom Player is supposed to be the best for playback on tv-screens.

    Network: it would be nice to include the box in our homenetwork. PC Anywhere or VNC will allow us to update/control our Entertainment-Box remotely (Wouldn't it be cool if you could record your favourite tv-show when you're in the other end of the world?)

    Configuring Windows: get rid of the taskbar, set the resolution to 640*480, and go for large icons.

    The rest is a piece of cake: connect the Entertainment-box to your cable-distribution, and off you go...

    Now, this was all purely hypothetical. Does anyone here have any experience with building things like this? Did I forget something?
    Am I about to build myself a real 'Entertainment Box' or will this thing run like ****? I could just build the thing and find out, but I'd like to hear your input first...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Neg, just a suggestion, I'd rather go with nVidia... the XBox uses it as well as I do, and lots of games "love it"...

    What brand of audio are you going to go with? I've always been a fan of Creative...

    Besides that, it all sound good...

    I'd suggest making your own case, maybe with fiberglass...
    So that you can put the game ports in the front?

    Also, maybe go with a wireless mouse and keyboard?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Thanks for the suggestion, fiber-glass sounds cool

    nVidia would do fine, but I'm gonna need one of those all-in-one cards... and Radeons are cheaper than nVidia...

    Not sure about the audio yet. Maybe I'll just go for a motherboard with audio on board, maybe a simple Sound Blaster...

  4. #4
    Antionline Herpetologist
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Neg what about speakers? All this is fine, but without a good speaker system, it ain't an entertainment center.
    Buy the Snakes of India book, support research and education (sorry the website has been discontinued)
    My blog: http://biology000.blogspot.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    The TV-speakers
    Can't have much more for only 500 USD...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Sounds pretty good, ive thought about doing the same thing myself. You will have to make sure it has enough speed and ram to play dvd smoothy and quickley enough. Every thing you have said sounds good. It would be a nice touch using linux as the os but you would have to make sure that everything would work with it.
    If its not broken it can still be inproved.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    That's a good idea you have there! I might look into something like that myself. I'm definatly gonna enjoy those internet radio stations in my livingroom! But I have a suggestion for you: Forget about the game station stuff, I don't think you're video-card nor you're box is gonna handle gaming too well. The hardware's gonna be obsolete for those kinds of challenges in a short while anyway. But you should spend a few bucks on your sound-card, to get that dolby sourround for your DVDs. Those on-board sound cards aint gonna be good enough, but you'll get a fairly good sound-card for 70$, problably less.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2001

    ...so it's $6,755 (USD). But it's the leetest thing next to the movies. And I know your probably thinking: how the hell does this help me?. Well... I'm thinking you can just use this as a list you can run down - so at least your computer parts are all in order.

    Oh well...have fun. If I think of any bright idea's I'll PM you or something.
    ...This Space For Rent.


  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    sounds like fun Negative
    when you're done with yours.. will you build me one ?

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Interesting project. Show us some pics when done.

    A guy on Tech.Tv about two weeks ago did an ultimate gaming system project. He built a custom case then gutted s PS2, Nintendo and a computer. Then put them all in one case. It was a thing to behold. I looked like a PC but had the game machines built into it also.
    The COOKIE TUX lives!!!!
    Windows NT crashed,I am the Blue Screen of Death.
    No one hears your screams.

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