Building a Media Center PC Part 2


Ongoing Media Center Project

Not too long ago I realized that I could pretty much write whatever I wanted and get away with it.  So I decided that I wanted to write a review on an adult 3D game that was all about sex.  Complete with video and lots of screenshots.  I quickly found out that my previous revelation was merely fantasy and I was pretty much on the hook to write the second part of this Media Center PC bit.  I would have much rather watched CGI porn and given you guys a real show today, but alas…  So here goes with the second part of the MCPC article.

When I left off on the last article, I had just received my remote and was waiting on a motherboard that could actually do the damned job.  At long last, a package arrived on my front door.  Delivered by a man driving a goofy little Post Office car and wearing the shortest little blue shorts I’ve ever seen, I gladly took the package and headed back to the office to replace the defective one I bought from  Yeah, thanks a lot guys.  How does it feel to be one-upped by eBay?  Now I was the semi-proud owner of one MSI P4M900M2-L VIA P4M900 Socket 775 Motherboard.  Damn, that’s a long name isn’t it?  But the good thing about this new mobo, aside from the obvious fact that it works, is that I can later upgrade to Core 2 Duo and ditch the Sempron.  But that comes later.

So I dropped the processor down into it and laid down a coating of Arctic Silver before installing the OEM heatsink.  I didn’t figure I would need much more than that since this is basically for playback only.  I planned on ripping all my Rob & Big and Viva La Bam to it, and I could really care less about ripping HD video.  Ohhh… did the computer writer say “screw HD”?  Yep, sure did.  This is about doing things on a budget, little by little.  I want entertainment for my bedroom, people.  I’m not looking to build a new Cinema 5 for my whole block to stop in and watch.

Once I had the RAM dropped in, I put the thing back together and got ready to install Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.  Another long name.  So everything was installed and ready to go.  I let the computer do its thing and updated via Windows Update, then installed the Klite codec pack and any drivers I thought might be needed that Windows hadn’t taken care of.  At this point I was just glad that the darned motherboard worked.  So time marches on, and I go make a turkey sandwich and watch the latest episode of South Park on Fancast.  A little while later I go in and relocate the MCPC to my bedroom, where my television is.  Okay, keep this one thing in mind.  I am building this thing with as little expense as possible.  So trying to use what I have on hand is necessity.

XP Media Center in its sucky glory

Unfortunately, that includes the GPU.  Which it turned out that the only video card I had on hand that wasn’t being used was an Nvidia GeForce 5500FX.  We’re talking turn-of-the-century stuff here.  Remember when Franklin did his little thing with the kite and key?  He documented his progress on a computer that was made up of an abacus, some copper thread, and this video card.  And for some reason I couldn’t get a decent output to the television no matter what I did.  I tried VGA to S-video adapters, S-Video cables, S-Video to Composite, and VGA to composite.  Every time it turned out black and white and super deformed.  So for temporary I gave up and replaced my television with a CRT monitor.  Smaller by far, but at least you can see the picture now.

So I went back to my office to grab the Flash media stick with some video on it and jotted down a memo to buy a large wide screen monitor and better video card to use for the next article on this thing.  Something told me that I was nowhere near done with it, and there would be much more material than was really required to fabricate a third article.  So off to the bedroom I went to load some video onto it and see what it was good for.  But the video didn’t play.  And at this point, I wasn’t really surprised.  In fact, I was getting pretty pissed off.  A little research into the matter lead me to information that unless the hardware is MCE 2005 certified, it won’t work.  Still looking for reasons to move away from XP and onto Vista?  Boo-ya.