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March 2006

This chapter is from the book

WEDNESDAY: MARCH 29, 2006

THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Windows Media Center

BUILDING YOUR OWN MEDIA CENTER PC

If you don’t want to buy a pre-built Media Center PC, you can always build your own. When you go this route you’re not limited to the Windows Media Center Edition operating system; in fact, many home theater PC boxes run Linux, which is perhaps a little more efficient than Windows for this type of dedicated purpose.

Building your own home theater PC is just like building your own desktop PC, with careful consideration for the following components:

  • One or more large hard disks, often employed in a RAID configuration.

  • High-end video card.

  • One or more television tuner cards with recording capability, such as those by AccessDTV, Hauppage, MyHD, and Pinnacle Systems. For state-of-the-art performance, consider a card with HDTV capability.

  • Sound card with surround-sound digital audio output.

  • Combination CD/DVD player/recorder drive.

  • System cabinet, in either a slim desktop/media center or small form factor "shuttle" design.

  • Appropriate home theater PC operating software, such as MainLobby, MediaPortal, Meedio Essentials, SageTV, and Snapstream Beyond Media and Beyond PC.

ON THIS DAY: COCA COLA CREATED (1886)

On this date in 1886, the first batch of Coca Cola was brewed over a fire in a backyard in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. John Pemberton had created the concoction as a cure for hangovers, stomach aches, and headaches, and advertised it as a "brain tonic and intellectual beverage." And here’s the fun part: Coke contained cocaine as an ingredient until 1904, when the drug was banned by Congress.

HARDWARE OF THE WEEK: DENALI EDITION MEDIA CENTER

My favorite Media Center PC is one hog of a machine. The Denali Edition Media Center stands an impressive 8.25 inches high, while its 17.5-inch width matches all your other system components. Operation is absolutely silent due to the total absence of cooling fans; instead, the entire case acts as a giant heat sink to disperse the normal heat build up. You also get four TV tuners (two for HDTV), up to 1 terrabyte of hard disk space, and wireless keyboard, mouse, and remote control. Prices start at $4,600 and go a lot higher; learn more at http://www.niveusmedia.com.

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