HTPC 2013

So about the HTPC…

It’s now 2013. Three years since I bought the thing, or so. It’s still running fine. I’ve done some upgrades during the past months, and I’ll discuss them in this article.

First of all, the CPU fan had to go. And by go, I mean replaced with a thin form factor, larger fan. The fan is attached to the case with some wires. It looks ugly, but then again, you don’t really see it from where you sit in the living room. There’s little to no vibration or noise from the fan. The one i got, and that i can recommend to any case that needs a low-RPM thin fan, was the Scythe Kaze Jyu Slim, from Jimm’s PC Store. I paid 8 euros for it. Works like a charm. It’s not attached to the CPU heatsink, but it still moves enough hot air out to keep things running. I guess I could run things passively, as I have speculated in the past, but I don’t really like my stuff running that hot, even if it’s within spec. Things just tend to last longer when they are at least somewhat cooled.

The second thing I replaced, was the hard disk. I wish I had a few extra bucks for an SSD, because that is what I will put in as an OS drive (if just for the fast boot time), but right now, I opted for a 3TB Western Digital Red. The old drive was a Western Digital Green 1TB, which had a number of issues (I lost one drive due to a feature relating to power saving, which wore out the drive prematurely. The warranty of course covered this, and no problems with WD). The drive also was a bit sluggish, it felt. But then again, the Green series drives are “supposed” to be. They run at lower RPMs, and are designed for power saving instead of high performance. The Red series drives (I paid around 150 for my 3TB version) are designed for NAS use, and are rated for a very large amount of usage hours. The HTPC is pretty much always on (well not really, but a lot of the time), so this was a good choice. I’ve now had it in use for a few months, and I can’t say I have any complaints. The drive runs smooth, silent and has a lot of capacity. It’s also, unsurprisingly, faster than the Green drive. I have a 20 GB partition set aside for the OS (which I will get to in the next paragraph) and the rest for media and backup from my desktop (over smb, I suppose it could be nfs too..). Nothing bad to say about the drive really. 3TB should be enough for everyone. “:)”

As for the OS, I am now running XBMC 12 “Frodo” RC2. There’s an RC3 but I have not upgraded, except for what I get through apt-get. I have to say that this is by far the best “out-of-the-box” XBMC experience so far. Every damn thing worked. The only thing I really had to set, was the audio output, since I’m running it out through SPDIF instead of HDMI (which was the default). I now no-longer had 9 audio devices to choose from (as in XBMC 11), but three. HDMI, SPDIF, and analog, which is exactly what you would expect. Before I had three devices, each with the three options. Very confusing. I also didn’t have to fiddle around with alsaconf or anything else to get both stereo and surround sound to work using the same output. Very much recommended.

Ok so here’s where I’m at right now. There are two final upgrades I would like to do, and I would like to finalize the fan-attachment so that it doesn’t look like ass. Still thinking about how to do that. The other two, are: SSD for the OS (I could take any size, really, as XBMC takes around 4 to 5GB), and upgrade the RAM from 2 to 4GB.

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