Wow! This is huge. I just setup my first HTPC. Tasha gave it to me as a belated Christmas & Hanukkah present. I’ve wanted one for the longest time, it has taken this log because I’m over analytical. There are also so many (expensive) options in this space. I didn’t think I knew enough to build my own box, and I wanted something small, with minimal power consumption. My first thought was a mac mini, but the bang for buck just isn’t there. When apple didn’t announce new hardware in January, I decided I’d look elsewhere. It just so happened that Dell was blowing out refurbished Studio hybrids. They have about the same footprint as a mini, similar horsepower, and for $425 shipped it was a steal. Finally pulling the trigger to buy one was the first step, here are my thoughts since I’ve taken it out of the box.
The first stumbling block is hooking the thing up. Try going to any store, be it Walmart, Bestbuy, etc, and glance at the cost of home theater, speaker, or computer cables. They want $99 for a 5 ft dvi to dvi cable, $25 for a 4ft optical cable, $12 for a 5ft network cable. While I would expect a bit of price premium for having them local, I don’t know they were charging such ridiculous prices for what is a commodity good. I’ll order them online from Monoprice. I’m not in that much of a rush. Be sure to factor their cost into your budget, it
would not hard too hard to rack up $100+ in retail priced cables in no time. Luckily I was able to borrow cables from my office computer and rewire a few components in the entertainment center to get the required dvi and optical cables.
Wiring issues resolved, I finally turned the box on. Only to immediately run upstairs to grab the lcd so I could read what I was trying to configure. It took a while flipping back and forth between the monitor and tv before I accidentally flipped the right setting. In order to read the fonts and menus on a larger screen, it requires setting the dpi of the font to something _much_ larger than the default. I set mine at 175%. It is now mostly readable, because I need glasses, but that’s a different story. Fairly annoying to waste 1hr accomplishing nothing but that’s what you get when learning by doing. Another road block, is that this is my first exposure to Vista, and this lack of familiarity has been causing me some angst.
Now I can see the settings, I’m still trying to sort out the proper viewing resolution. So far, I’ve proceeded to waste at least 2 hrs trying to set my resolution to the appropriate 1080i for my ‘ancient’ 4×3 HDTV. I hear that 4×4 CRT tvs are so of the more difficult devices to configure. Trying to find anything out online about what resolution the video card supports, and what resolution the tv supports is all good and well, but getting the video drivers and the monitor drivers to facilitate enabling those settings is a different story entirely. When you think you’ve set correctly and but you still have a twinkly slightly too large display, don’t be surprised. Basically, my tv (and all CRT tv’s) does not display the entire image it receives, some of it is off the screen. It’s called overscan. Computers output is meant for an under-scanning monitor. Basically computers set a literal resolution, and that means if I setup your computers res to 1920×1080 you can’t see some of the screen. Fortunately it’s only unimportant things like start buttons and window controls… heh. Thank goodness most HTPC applications expect this scenario and allow you to control overscan, or at least design for it in their user controls.
So, after many hours spent I finally launched Media Center and began using what this box was intended for…. To Be Continued.