Should I build a new media PC?
Eight years ago, approximately, I built my last media center computer. My family and I used it a lot, but it was in the era when set-top boxes were still mostly in their infancy.
I did it fairly simply. I bought a used desktop model (a tower wouldn’t fit on a shelf in my cabinet) and began a partial remodel. I tried to do it fairly cheap. I opened up the case and replaced the RAM with more, swapped the hard drive for a higher capacity one, and replaced the video card with one that had component out and the audio card with one that had SPDIF out. Both cards ran their output to the A/V receiver where the signal was processed and carried out to the TV via HDMI.
Once built and hooked up, it was time to install the software. I tried a couple of kinds briefly, both Microsoft WMC and XBMC (since changed to Kodi), but couldn’t get into either. I settled on Media Portal and added some codecs and ways of playing them, which mostly consisted of VLC Media Player. There are many other types of software out there that can run your system, as well. Many are Linux-based, such as OpenELEC.
In addition, I added a way to convert recorded files into the format of choice. I do not recall the software I used, but multiple ones are available.
Finally, I used one of my own old tower boxes in my office to create a backup server which I based on FreeNAS.
There is more that can be done, many people add a TV tuner, for instance. This will give you an idea of how I did it the last time, and likely a similar way to how I would do it once again, although with newer and more powerful hardware.
That leaves the real question: are projects like this still worth it? Especially for somebody who has Fire TV and Roku and doesn’t need to make a library of kids movies anymore? Let me know what you think.
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