Build Your Own HTPC

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Johnny Mota over at Rave Pubs and discussed HTPCs and Media Centers. We had the big debate over paying for an over priced corporate piece of plastic, or building a solid machine yourself for much fewer duckets. Check out the full article over at Rave Pubs. I also give him my build list for a good HTPC. It is basically what I would build if I wanted an HTPC slash emulation gaming rig for the family room. Cheers!


I have been living with the WD TVLIVE for about a month now. It has become a great source of entertainment for our bedroom. It is a great way to display your media on your high definition television. Attach up to two USB based external hard drives and you are ready to roll. You can easily pull up a slideshow of your trip to Italy or watch a movie in brilliant 1080p resolution. You can also use it to play your music library while hosting a dinner party. Although I have never done so, it is an option with the WD TVLIVE. If you connected it to the internet it can stream music from Pandora and videos from YouTube, provided you have an account. If you have a media server or PC in the house, you can stream the content from the server to your WD TVLIVE box.

I bought my WD TVLIVE box from Costco for 109 USD. It came with a remote, a small HDMI cable, a component cable with RCA, an RCA cable, a power cord, documentation, and software for your PC. The HDMI cable is perfect if you are going to set the box near the TV however, I would argue that some people might have problems with the length. I have not had any problems with this but I can see how some people might. If you need a cable longer than 3 feet, you will need to go out and buy a new HDMI cable. The remote comes with batteries and is somewhat small but crucial to the operation of the box. The only thing that the WD TVLIVE lacked was a hard drive but, this is one of the most complete home media solutions you will find for the price.

The user interface is easy to use and even easier to set up. Set up is a simple plug and play. However, if you want a clean and aesthetically pleasing view of your content, you have a little more work ahead of you. I will get into that later. The interface is a clean blue and black interface that unfortunately, you cannot change. I wish there was a way to customize the skin of the UI but beggars can’t be choosers. There might only be one skin but there are a few different views. There is a folder view where a picture is displayed on the front. For instance, if you have the movie poster Ninja Assassin within the folder of the movie it will display it on the folder and/or on the movie file. The other view is a list view similar to a list view in Windows. The music player is simple, it displays the song with the artwork and the song that will play next. I have not yet found a screen saver type view when playing music that resembles iTunes or Plex. The interface is clean and extremely easy to use. However, the limitations that restrict the UI remind you time and time again that the WD TVLIVE is not a computer. This is not a HTPC running Boxee, it is a cheap but extremely effective small media viewing device for your TV.

The video looks crisp and clean in both 720p and 1080p. I saw no hick-ups and the video hasn’t frozen on me once. The zoom aspect perfectly puts older movies into full screen. There is also a 1.1X zoom that barely zooms in. It tries to cut the letter boxes from the top and bottom of the screen without removing too much from the sides. I personally don’t mind the letter boxes created by widescreen moving but if you do, you might find this feature beneficial to your viewing pleasure. I read a review prior to purchasing my WD TVLIVE that stated that the device has a hard time with 1080p video. I did not find this to be the case with my device. It is possible that the software updates from Western Digital corrected this problem. I purposely waited to write this review until I thoroughly used the device and I found it’s video capabilities near perfect.

What I liked: Easy to set up. No problems viewing 1080p video, like some of the reviews previous to my own stated. Ease of use. Great picture and great sound. The folder view looks amazingly clean and simple provided you have images that correspond to the movies. Movies load extremely fast. The ability to fast forward in various speeds. All the cables that came with. Perfectly small and portable. Small box means it takes up less space.

What I disliked: Certain file types either don’t play or you can’t fast forward or resume playback. WMV files from the internet either don’t play or don’t play properly. The need to re-encode certain files, like WMV, for proper playback. I’m hoping that these files and quarks will get resolved with software updates. Long loading times of your connected hard drives. The inability to change the look of the interface.

The Final Verdict: I did not find any large problems that would prevent me from recommending the WD TVLIVE to a friend. As long as you understand that it is not an HTPC and see it for what it truly is, then you will not be disappointed. The WD TVLIVE has provided countless hours of entertainment for me and my family. Turn your external hard drive into a media center with ease. This is a great cheap alternative to creating an HTPC.

Mac Emulators Update

Not much has been going on in the world of Macintosh Emulators so, I will give you an update on what I’ve been up to.

Last month we bought a 37″ Vizio LCD HD TV. It’s the 60hz version and therefore, it was a little cheaper. I will be exorcising the “90 day no questions asked return policy”, to trade up for the better 37″ when they get it back in stock. The next time I went to Costco it was to purchase a wall mount. However, I didn’t get a wall mount. Instead, I bought the WD TV LIVE. This product retails for 149 dollars but we got it for 109. It plays movies in all different types of formats in 1080p. I am currently working on a full product review and I will be posting it soon. What I can tell you is that I am extremely happy with this product and it blows the Apple TV out of the water!

I am still waiting for my Pandora. They say that they will be shipping in April or May. I’m hoping they ship sooner. I have already purchased my SD card and have it filled with all my favorite roms and some isos. I will be posting an “unboxing” video on YouTube and later a full review here on my blog.

Xbox Media Center for Mac

The always popular awesome Xbox Media Center for Mac saw an update this week. The newest version is called Camelot. Personally I prefer Plex, but each to their own. This is great for organizing your videos and pictures. Turns your computer into a great media center. Perfect for a Mac Mini that has been hooked up to your TV. Download from the link below.