Operating System

For the first pass, I put a copy of Windows XP on the machine to make sure it came up OK, and that everything worked.  Which it did.   Then I realised that I'd have to think properly about what O/S to run on this box, and concluded that Vista Home Premium was probably the answer, as this includes all the Media Center capabilities that used to be sold separately under Windows XP - Media Center Edition.  And, if I bought an OEM version, it wasn't too expensive.  One mistake I probably made at this point was getting the 64 bit version - I figured I had a 64 bit chip, I might as well run the 64 bit O/S, but subsequent research has revealed that I'm probably not getting much benefit from this, and, with 'only' 2 GB of RAM installed (I'm old enough to remember when 2GB was a very large hard drive), I was probably using more memory than if I'd got the 32 bit version.  I'll put this one down to experience.

I could put a load of screenshots of Vista Media Center in here, but you might as well go to the Microsoft site and see them for yourself.  As you'd expect, it's all pretty slick, and while I'm a huge fan of GB-PVR, I have to admit that, as you might expect from Microsoft, Media Center looks considerably more sophisticated.  In addition, I think handles other media, such as music and pictures, much better - I've got my complete CD collection loaded on a separate external network drive, and using Vista Media Center to navigate it and select tracks is frankly superb.

Remote Control

The Silverstone case comes with it's own remote control, from the VFD/IR manufacturer Soundgraph.  This remote is really pretty neat, and a lot more functional than the standard Media Center remote : (Soundgraph IMon remote shown on the right)

The main thing I like about the IMon remote is that it has a 'right mouse' context button, which is very useful when navigating Media Center.


Having spent additional money getting a case with a display in it, here was my opportunity to see what it was good for.  The initial answer is, er, not actually that much.  Soundgraph supplies software to drive it, and out of the box it can do some initially cool, but ultimately useless things - like display the weather from a number of cities, or scroll news headlines from an RSS site.   It can also be set to give a graphic EQ display, but again, this pales pretty quickly.  Probably the most useful setting is the 'media' one, where, when running Media Center, it tells you the name of the program that's being watched, and the time to run, etc.  If you've got good eyesight you might just be able to read it from across the room.

Microsoft 'TV Pack' (Fiji)

About the time I was installing my software, Microsoft launched their upgrade to Vista Media Center, the so-called 'TV Pack' (code named Fiji).  This was available to OEM's only, but within a day or so it was all over the web, and had lots of threads about it. I decided to install it, and initially it all went pretty well.  But, on actually using the system, it would hang when navigating the menus, and only a full reboot would usually get it back.  After a week of wrestling with this, I gave up and did a full re-install of Vista, this time without the TV pack, and now the system is pretty stable.  Lots of other people have reported success with the TV Pack, but it doesn't really give me anything I need, and gave me loads of problems I didn't, so I'm staying away from it for now.

Logitech Di Novo Edge Keyboard

I've built this machine for a pretty keen price, but when it came to a keyboard I decided to indulge myself and get a Logitech Di Novo Edge bluetooth keyboard.  Frankly, it's the only keyboard that doesn't look out of place in the living room, and I have to report that it works brilliantly.  Highly recommended, if you can cope with the price...

To Do

I've still got a small problem with the machine coming out of hibernate - sometimes it doesn't!  This is obviously annoying when I had a recording scheduled.

The next thing to do is to get a second TV card, this time one that does digital TV (my current one drives my Sky box).  Of course, once I've got two TV cards, I might have to try the TV Pack I'm in no hurry.