HTPC Complete!

I finally got the last of the HTPC parts delivered today. The wireless keyboard and IR remote are now set up and working quite well. I settled on a Logitech K400 wireless keyboard with a built in touch pad. This eliminates the need for a separate mouse and just works better while sitting on the couch. The IR remote is a cheap Vista MCE Remote Control. I found both of these on Amazon pretty cheaply.

The remote seems to work pretty well. It does have a few limitations though. It primarly only works within Windows Media Center, this isn’t a huge issue since I knew this prior to buying it, but it would have been nice if it would control iTunes or other programs as well. Maybe I can set it up with Autohotkey to do some more stuff. The remote also has a directional pad to control the mouse, this works pretty well but responds slowly. Found along the top of the remote are four quick action buttons that are supposed to access TV, music, pictures, and video; these buttons do nothing on my system. This also isn’t a big deal since I didn’t plan on using them anyway. The remote comes with a USB IR adapter which, from my research, is the hard part to get. Seems like buying just a remote is easy, buying just an IR receiver is easy, but getting the two that work together is the hard part. I have also read some reviews indicating the receiver works with the Logitech Harmony remotes as well. I plan to try out a Harmony sometime in the future.

The keyboard, on the other hand, will take some time to get used to. It is not a full size keybard – infact, it feels smaller than my laptop keyboard. The backspace, enter, and right shift key are all kinda funky. The backspace and enter keys are smaller than normal, about 2/3 size. The right shift key is just wrong. It is located below the enter key, but is half size. This wouldn’t be an issue, but the left half the shift key has been replaced with the up arrow. This makes for some interesting typing at times but shouldn’t take too long to get used to. I have been in the habit of using the left shift key for everything anyway. I find it faster using it rather than fumbling around for the right one. One more thing about this keyboard: I find I have a remarkable increase in typing errors. Certainly this will diminish with time.

I have also been playing around with rainmeter. If you haven’t checked this out, I strongly suggest you do so. It allows excellent customization through widgets, for a lack of a better word, that can be placed on the desktop. There are a large number of skins available which include a large number of functions. I have some remote friendly shortcuts, clock, calendar, weather, volume control, and storage levels. This will be one of the components with which I will constantly be tweaking trying to find what will work best to meet the needs I have at the time.

Some of the other tools I recommend for a HTPC are Media Browser and Media Center Master. Media Browser is an add-in for Windows Media Center which allows for a better movie browsing experience. There are a number of plugins available for Media Browser as well. I have not used any though.

Media Center Master is an all-in-one metadata manager for your movie and TV collection. It will download the cover art, fill in a short synopsis, get a list of cast, and do much more stuff I have not even begun to explore. Check it out if you need a metadata manger. In the past I have used yamm and Ember Media Manager but could never get them to work quite as I wished.

If you have a movie collection or just want a larger monitor for you computer, it just may be worth it to set up a HTPC.

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