Thursday, March 06, 2008

Starting My Media Center

I'm a huge hardware nerd. I'll be the first to admit it. One of my favorite ways to waste time on the Internet is by piecing together imaginary computers on Newegg. My interests really lie in creating efficient, fast, ergonomic computers, so a lot of my favorite hardware sites have some rather unconventional slants about them.

I get information from a number of hardware sites, but my favorites (listed in no particular order) are:
  • Silent PC Review - silence truly is golden. But it's more than just silence; how much power does your computer draw? How efficient (as in, work done verses energy used) are your components? People who can be fanatical about silence seem to be equally in tune with the overall quality and ergonomics of their system. This is what I find particularly endearing about SPCR.
  • AnandTech - A more general site, but it has a clean layout and generally good reviews.
  • XBitLabs - another general site. Good reviews, and great metrics for video card power consumption.
  • Jonny GURU - a finer power supply oriented site, there has never been. I truly enjoyed the article where he ran six junker PSUs through his rather vicious workbench, and managed to destroy all but one.
There are a few others, but these are the sites I frequent most.

Anyways, the point of this blog post is: I want a media center PC. In addition that that, I want the PC to run Slim Server software to power my squeezebox. In addition to that, I want it to run the video surveillance software that I develop.

So, let's get a sense of what I need. For media center, I need decent processor and graphics, ample disk space, and a spare USB port for the remote controller. For Slim Server, I need some network interfaces--pretty easy. For our software, I need another USB slot to hook up our receiver. I might also want an MX Air mouse, so a third USB would be useful.

Our software only runs on Windows, so that determines my operating system of choice: Windows Vista Premium SP1. Why not ultimate? Quite frankly, Ultimate doesn't have any features I'm interested in. I'd rather not have the extra crap.

I originally wanted to use my old Inspiron 600m, but the driver support in Vista is totally non-existent. The benefit of a laptop is the lower power consumption, but I have yet to figure out how to get it fully configured with Vista and my external monitor. So, for the time being, I'm scrapping this plan. The 600m is going to run Windows Home Server, which will also host SlimServer and my video surveillance software.

More in a bit; I'm going to post more specific hardware setups, and perhaps some network topology diagrams.

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