i have been meaning to detail my Media Centre setup for some time now but due to me creating a new web site time has been short in the evenings … the web site is now live so i have a bit of time on my hands to take a breather from web design and get back to what i really like, media centre chatter

So my setup, i guess i`m quite lucky, i have a room right next to my Lounge that is large enough for 2 decent sized corner desks ( his and hers ) plus cabinets plus computers, from here all our media is shared throughout the house. My desk has 3 screens, 2 keyboards and 2 Pc`s reside underneath the desk quite happily, one is a quad core HTPC machine and the other is my tempermental 3.2 ghz Hyper thread machine which is my main access to the interweb, on a side note i am so looking forward to putting Windows7 on it, Vista drags it down badly.

My lounge has amongst other things a 50″ LG HD Tv that is unusually hung from the side, we had no choice on this as one wall is basically glass ( patio doors ) and to put the screen directly infront of the glass would have been horrible, looking out and in, so a special bracket was purchased, some large holes were drilled right through the wall to the other side where plates and bolts were used to secure it and then the Tv was gingerly hung… at first it was pretty scary seeing the Tv just kinda hung there as the brackets dont show it looks like its floating, a year later we take it for granted and it has never moved a millimeter…thanfully , and all cables are chased into the walls, i hate seeing cables 


My sound system was another conundrum, the wife did not want to see speakers, i researched for quite while on what to do and how to overcome this small annoyance being a guy i wanted to see my speakers big and bold but she who must be obeyed insisted so the hunt was on for an answer, at first i looked at in wall speakers but due to my house construction this wasent possible and nor were in ceiling speakers due to kids in bed above, Infact i found the answer in America, Orb speakers, if you look closely at the pic above you can just make them out, one is top left amd you can just see 2 more down the end by the curtains ( drapes ) on the left and right hand side, the Orbs are great speakers, round unassuming and very good for movie playback as long as they are coupled together with a decent sub which i already owned to help with music i have 2 Mission floor standers in the room as the orbs dont cut the mustard quite so well for music, together with the 5.1 Orb sub and mission mix my sound during movie playback is ..good enough [:D]


The whole lot comes together ( HTPC, Tv, Amp, Xboxs ) very well, i gave up on the Xbox as a main source of Media consumption in the lounge  as it has to many drawbacks to being a viable main viewing area device, at least for me it did, i wanted reliability and ease of use which i found in a well specd HTPC Medion computer, it has a Freeview Tv card, S/Pdif output, duel screen connectivity, a TB drive, card slots, High def + blueray combimed drive and a RF remote control all as standard for that machine, it made it the near perfect choice for what i needed

The Pc itself sits under my desk with a Pc monitor conected and also it has a 5 Mtr DVI-HDMI cable running from the HTPC to my TV, control is Via the RF remote which is brilliant, sound is carried in 2 ways simultaniously which is pretty unusual as most people struggle with sound output from a HTPC , i have audio Via the HDMI cable to the TV and also audio to my amp at the same time, this was achieved by taking the S/pdif from the HTPC motherboard and spliiting it via a homemade cable to the TV card internal s/pdif in and to a homemade female RCA connection which then is connected via digital coax to my amp, i dont have to switch audio devices if i want the amp on or the Tv on , they are both on all the time

The Xboxs live in the kids rooms and they love the media centre interface at bedtime, no more hunting out dvd`s from our collection, they are all now stored on the HTPC where they can pick and choose at liesure, the xboxs have wired connections not wireless as its just to flaky for reliable playback especially over a distance

All in all our media Centre setup works very very well, i wasss , i say was because i`m not any more always tinkering and testing add ons for that extra wow factor but to be perfectly honest there are few WOW add ons that work reliably, the ones that suit us and work well are

1. Heatwave weather add on

2. Radio Time

3. The latest Media Browser

4. Tunerfree MCE

5. Google Earth for media centre ( which actually is a great WOW to show friends and family )

6. and i nearly forgot … Ians own Media Centre add on for the RSS digital lifestyle feeds , it seriously works brilliantly and i so wish other web sites would use the same format and let there information into media centre as well as Ians does


i hope my cobled together mishmash gives some insight into Media Centre Home intergration, it has taken time but in all honesty 90% of it is out of the box stuff , a decent specd PC and some xboxs and your there , the rest of it is just down to hiding the cables and doing work whilst she isnt looking [:D]

0 thoughts on “My Media Centre setup”
  1. How do you get sound output for both HDMI and s-pdif at the same time? With my Gigabyte motherboard, and all boards I’ve had before I have to chose the default sound output device in the settings i.e. either HDMI or s-pdif, but not both at the same time. Did you do something in the registry or is it unique to the motherboard you are using? Thanks.

  2. s/pdif splity is an easy task and all it takes ia a homemade cable and a solder iron

    what you need is a motherboard with a s/pdif header out, a video card with s/pdif header in and a female RCA connection

    make a cable which goes from s/pdif mobo out and splits 2 ways, call it a Y split to keep things simple , one end of the Y split goes to the vid card s/pdif in and the other part of the Y split goes to a female RCA connection , what you then achieve is duel s/pdif out from 1 single audio device in control panel , in this instance because its mobo s/pdif it will be HDMI out

    I have done alot of research on this lately looking for a suitable upgraded vid card that has audio pass through and NOT processing , with processing you have then got the issue of having to select which audio device output in control panel , a pain in the backside to us Media Centre users,

    presently my HTPC runs a very low spec vid card GEforce 9300 GS which is not much more than a laptop card however it gives no issues, no lag, infact no problems at all except i feel my freeview playback on my 50″ Tv could be better , this may be down to the vid card or maybe down to the freeview Tv card , i thought i would start with replacing the vid card but it has been a trial and error game which is still unresolved

    i do believe that the Galaxy GeForce 9500 GT Overclocked 512 MB is capable of s/pdif in with pass through but as i have yet to purchase one i cant gaurantee it

    i would strongly suggest to anyone who wants duel output to look for a vid card with s/pdif in and audio passthrough not processing , but due to us being a small minority of people who require this they are hard to find

    i think i blogged about this before on the Digital lifestyle with more detail and a link which explains the principle better

  3. sorry about not getting back sooner but it has been manick here for a couple of nights and i havent had much time to reply

    Google maps for Media Centre
    Well its all a bit vague and as i have just got back on my Pc i havent had any chance to research where i got the file or cross reference my file with the ones available on the net and mentioned above

    What i have is a file named GMAPMCE.MSI this file installs perfectly well on VMCE and runs with no issues it displays the world and as usual with google maps lets you zoom down to roof level in detail where available, i would call it the most WOW programe to show NON Media Centre users, especialy if you have a large Tv, it isnt complicated in any manner and is available in the programes location within Media Centre once installed

    now i`m finaly back here on my Pc i will check the file mentioned above matches my file, if so its the same programe which it probably is anyway as i doubt there are 2 progys that do the same thing but i`l chaeck anyways

    again sorry about the late reply


  4. well i checked the file on Jakes web site and its a different name to mine , i havent installed that file so cant say if its the same programe or not

    to save anymore checking and hunting around the net i have put my version up on my web site go here

    left hand side cant miss it

  5. Gadget

    Many thanks for the reply with the link to the file! However the link is not working is it correct? Cheers Stuart

  6. Well done Stu . i have been real busy and just completely missed the replys and the fact that my link was dead , my fault actually , i been moving pages around lol , i also have the moon and mars version but they dont work for me !!

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