I have decided to get serious about my HTPC. After years of
using a HTPC for slide shows, music server and some SDTV
recording, I decided that it is time to move into the high
definition era. I went to work researching the different
technologies available and ended up settling on the MyHD MDP-130
HDTV Receiving PCI Card. The reason I chose the MDP-130 was
due to the on-board hardware decoder. This card is the
equivalent of taking a ATSC digital tuner box and placing it on a
PCI card with the additional benefit of being able to record
programming to the hard drive. If you are interested in the
MDP-130 card see:
MyHD PCI HDTV Tuner / Decoder Card
With MyHD you can watch both Digital and
Analog TV broadcasts on your PC at an affordable price. MyHD
is the hardware decoding HDTV card. Unlike software decoding
HDTV cards, MyHD does not require the resources of your
graphics card and CPU. All you need is a PCI slot and MyHD to
experience crisp, clear HDTV. MyHD supports live-pause,
record and playback of HD broadcasting programs with
time-shifting capability. MyHD is ideal for use with LCD
Displays, Projectors, Plasmas and other digital displays in
both 4:3 and 16:9 ratios. MyHD also supports digital video
output (DVI-D) using optional MDP-130DVI adaptor. MyHD
MDP-130 features TitanTV integration that makes scheduling
recordings a snap! Record HDTV, capture still HDTV images,
up-convert NTSC, MyHD is the perfect next generation card
that keeps getting better.
the MDP-130 is the functional equivalent of taking a Set Top Box
and reducing it to a PC card with the benefit of adding the
recording ability. It has its own video output and the ATSC video
does not leave the card for HDTV display, therefore it will work
with ANY video card as your PC's video card has nothing to do
with the MDP-130. You do have to decide whether you are going to
connect the loop through connection to the card to connect your
PC's video card through to the HDTV to use the HDTV as the PC
monitor, but that then requires that your video card must support
HDTV resolutions. On my setup I use a separate PC monitor from
the HDTV so it runs at 1024x768p in 4:3 whereas the HDTV is
running 1920x1080i in 16:9.
though the MDP-130 card only needs a 900 Mhz CPU, I decided to
get a faster computer and went to eBay to see what was
available. I was able to acquire a Compaq D51S Pentium 4
computer with the following:
On board Video
total cost for the computer was a little over $200 delivered and
all that was needed was to add the MDP-130 for the transformation
to a HTPC. Well that and a larger hard drive of 300 Gb
which was ordered for another $100 delivered. Adding the
cost of the MDP-130 card of $160 delivered and the total cost
wound up coming in under $500. Since I plan to use the
system without a keyboard, mouse or monitor, that would be the
I received all of the components I decided to get the system set
up using the 40 Gb hard drive that came with the computer before
tackling the hard drive change out. I also wanted to do
some testing of using some outboard storage rather than just the
internal hard drive and if successful would just leave the 40 Gb
drive in the computer. The Compaq computer will only
accommodate a single hard drive and two PCI cards, but with all
of the video and communications being on the motherboard, that
should be sufficient. I would have liked to have the space
for an extra hard drive, but will make do with what it is.
thing that should be noted here is the Compaq D51S is dead
quiet. Once placed in my entertainment center it will not
be heard at all. I can't even hear it sitting 2 feet away.
The reason is the design of the case which is superb for sound
suppression. The fan for the CPU is located in the front of
the unit and fresh (cool) air is ducted to the CPU so I will have
to provide a cool air source for the front of the unit when
placed in the cabinet. The power supply fan in located
inside the cabinet mid-chassis and the internal air is ducted
over the power supply components and exhausted through two
louvered square outlets - see photo.
install the MDP-130 card it was only necessary to slide the cover
off of the chassis. Next it was necessary to remove a
single screw that held the PCI card carrier in place and then the
entire PCI buss carrier could be removed. The MDP-130 card
was installed in the carrier and the carrier was reinstalled into
the chassis. That's it! One of the easiest card
installation I have ever made. Oh, yeah also the sound jumper
needs to be installed for the analog audio to be passed to the
sound card. Also, to my surprise the computer has a speaker
included in the chassis that is loud enough for the initial
Next step is to button up the computer, hook
up a monitor, mouse and keyboard and the connection to the HDTV.
I had a KVM switch already installed for my existing HTPC for
using another computer for testing purposes so I used the same
monitor, mouse and keyboard through the KVM switch. The VGA
from the onboard video card was connected to the KVM switch and
the HDTV VGA connection was used to connect the HDTV which for
testing was another computer monitor. Eventually I hooked
up the HDTVs through a Key Digital VGA to component Transcoder.
It is possible to attach the cable supplied with the MDP-130 card
to the computer's VGA output to allow both the computer desktop
and the HDTV tuner output to be displayed on the same display,
but that would require the HTPC video to be able to match HDTV
resolutions and timings. The onboard video in the Compaq is
not settable with HDTV resolutions, so my system would require a
HDTV that would take a 1024x768 signal and my HDTVs will not so I
opted for the separate monitor and HDTV connection.
before I installed the MDP-130 card I connected the computer to
the KVM and Internet and downloaded all of the Windows updates to
make sure I was starting with a good and up to date operating
system and to be sure I didn't receive a dead computer.
Then I popped the cover and installed the MDP-130 card.
Also, it is necessary to plug in the IRC remote control IR
receiver to one of the USB ports. I used on of the front
ports for this.
After re-booting the computer, Windows of
course found the new hardware and wanted to take control of the
driver install. This needs to be canceled and the
installation software run from the supplied CD-ROM. This
will install the software that is required to allow the card to
become operational, but it will not necessarily be the latest
version of the software. My CD had version 1.65 software on
it and version 1.66u was the latest version. At first I
didn't realize this and started the system up with the v 1.65
software to find that some of the recorded files would freeze
midway. After updating to the v1.66 the freezing was fixed.
Also if you are going to install Cliff Watson's EPG software for
TiVo like recording scheduling, v 1.66 is a requirement.
More on that later.
To tell you the truth, I didn't know what to
expect in terms of picture quality from the card. My other
HTPC had a ATI Wonder NTSC tuner card that was less than
impressive in the picture quality department, which is why I
waited so long to get a ATSC card. To my surprise, the card
performed as well as my Zenith HD-SAT520 receiver, which is one
of the best OTA tuners available. Considering the card also
will receive QAM as well as OTA ATSC, it makes for a very nice
high performance HD PVR. Now how does the recording work?
the standard recording method is clunky at best. Basically
you can record the show you are watching by pressing the Record
button on the remote and the recording will continue until you
stop it or the disc is full. A second method is to use the
capture function available through the PC menu and there you can
enter the file name (it defaults to capture.ts) and the duration
for the recording. Thirdly, you can use the PC Config Panel
Capture Menu to schedule upcoming shows by channel number,
start time and duration. Also there is the
possibility if you have a free account with www.titantv.com
that you can configure titantv to fill in the data required by
pressing the red dot on your selected program. The last 3
methods mentioned will require a monitor, keyboard and mouse for
entry, so the possibility of controlling everything on screen via
the remote control is not there. I use a separate laptop
computer and VNC software for this and I will go into more detail
as to how to set this up separately. There is a third party
software upgrade available that I have referred to previously
that will allow for show titles to be picked from a guide and
season passes entered that I will also cover separately.
are a few things that were a bit unexpected that I should
mention. When a scheduled capture is being done, the MyHD
will be reduced to the system tray with a red dot in the center
of the icon. The HD video will still be output to the HDTV,
but monitoring the video on the PC desktop is not possible.
Also when a capture is in progress the audio is turned off
through the PC speakers and audio output. Additionally, if
the capture (record) function is used the MyHD window on the PC
monitor will show a bunch of horizontal lines like a TV that has
lost horizontal sync.
because the MyHD window is put to the system tray while recording
if for some reason, trust me it will happen, you need to add
another scheduled show to record, you will have to wait until the
window can be restored.
I was pretty sure this was not going to be
possible but I tried it anyway. After recording a file of
about 13Gbytes, I copied the file to my other HTPC hard drive.
Then I played the file using my local LAN to retrieve the file.
The results were unusable, so as of now I've abandoned that
idea. It is probably the fault of the remote computer and I
will get back to it later.
Cliff Watson's EPG Software
I have downloaded this add on
software and the first try at getting it to go was not
successful. After getting the labs.zap2it account the
software populated the guide like expected. The problem is
it is wrong. It appears the pm listing is a duplicate of
the am listing, so it may be that I need to do more work on that
package. What I was able to determine from it told me that
the channel/time/duration method used in the base MDP-130
software would work fine for me for a while.
Control Via VNC
Although the card comes with a remote
control and IR receiver, it turns out the HTPC can not be fully
controlled using it. It does offer the basic control
functions for changing channels, selecting input source,
controlling the volume/muting, start/stop a recording, select a
file to play, etc. But if you want to be able to completely
control the HTPC the PC monitor, keyboard and mouse will be
where the VNC software comes in to play. It is available
as a free download, although I recommend a donation - it's that
good. Using their own words to describe its operation:
is a powerfull, easy to use and free software that can display
the screen of another computer (via internet or network) on your
own screen. The program allows you to use your mouse and keyboard
to control the other PC remotely. It means that you can work on a
remote computer, as if you were sitting in front of it, right
from your current location.
have been using the VNC software to control my other HTPC for
some time and it is by far the best scheme I've ever come up with
yet. I like to sit on the couch and watch TV while surfing
the net, working my blogs and moderating the highdefforum
in the evenings. To facilitate this I have added a LAN jack
so I can hardwire connect my laptop to the internet. I
tried wireless, which I can also use, but the speed just does not
match the wired connection during heavy down/uploading.
VNC software comes in 2 modules, a viewer and a server. The
viewer is used on the laptop and the server is used on the HTPC.
With both running in their respective computers the viewer
computer is connected to the remote server computer by selecting
the server computer's network name and entering the password for
that server. Once connected, the viewer computer will
display a window that contains whatever is showing on the server
computer's monitor and the viewer computer's keyboard and mouse
will be connected to the server computer so that it is literally
like you are sitting at the HTPC using it's monitor, keyboard and
mouse. You can surf the web, download software, clips,
updates, etc. using the HTPC being controlled by the viewer
computer. To return to the local laptop operation all
that is required is to minimize the viewer window.
VNC remote connection was particularly helpful in setting up the
HTPC because I could search the web for edit software using my
laptop and when found, switch to the HTPC for downloading and
installing. A couple of packages required me being at the
HTPC because the video window not being transmitted back to the
laptop, but mostly I was able to try various packages while
sitting on the couch watching TV! Also by taking the laptop
to the HTPC area, I could use it for help pages while operating
the HTPC. This was particularly helpful in learning the
After making a few successful recordings I
quickly decided I would need a software package that would allow
me to cut out unwanted sections of the recordings like
commercials. My requirements were pretty simple, I though.
I wanted to be able to mark the start and end of the unwanted
sections and cut them out. I wanted a resulting file that
would be playable back through the MDP-130 card. Little did I
know that it would not be that simple.
Apparently, the transport stream
the MDP-130 records will not cooperate with all of the mpeg video
editing software out there. Case in point after searching
out several different packages, I decided to try the Womble MPEG
Video wizard and downloaded the free trial version. After
figuring out how to make the cuts, I cut up my first try a 2 hour
movie and saved to file to the hard drive. Playback through
the monitor windows in the software was ok, but the playback
through the MDP-130 card was less than impressive. Although
the video seemed to be all there, the audio would come and go.
Ok, this was going to be more difficult than what I had
envisioned, so to make things a bit simpler I captured a short 30
minute file that would not take so long to save. Same
results. Apparently there is a way to make this package work, but
I wasn't interested in investing a whole lot of time forcing a
software package to work, so I decided to move on.
The next package I tried was the
predecessor to the Womble MPEG Video wizard, Womble
MPEG-VCR, which I thought might do better because the site
digitalFAQ.com listed it at the top of its FAQ page for removing
commercials in MPEG. Same deal as before.
So I moved on to the next
recommendation on the page, the VideoReDo package available from
and this time I was
rewarded with complete success! Not only did the test file work
perfectly, the 2 hour movie was edited and saved in no time.
Well, the saving took some time because a 12 Gb file doesn't just
appear on a hard drive! In any case the software performed
flawlessly on the first go, so it is what I will settle on for
now. Later when I get to burning DVDs, it may work out that
I will need something else, but for now this package will do what
I want. Actually I plan on using my VGA to s-video converter to
feed into my stand alone DVD player until a HD DVD burner is
available, but that is another chapter.
Another side benefit of the
VideoReDo package that I was not expecting is the compatability
with my remote access system. I use my laptop to control
the HTPC rather than the IR remote because it allows me to have
access to all of the PC via the laptop's monitor, keyboard and
mouse. The MyHD software will not transport the video
inside of the viewing window, which is not unusual, but to my
suprise the VideoReDo viewing window is transported, so all of
the editing can be done from either computer. The audio does not
get transported, of course, but it is really not needed for
cutting out commercials. All in all so far, I'm a happy camper.
Follow Up Posts:
Report - VideoReDo
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