A Computer In My Living Room: The Hardware

July 7th, 2005

Upon graduating from Seattle University this June, I moved into a new apartment. My girlfriend graduated from a different university and moved into the new apartment with me. You might say it’s “our apartment”. People probably reference it as “Brian and Rachel’s Apartment” when they speak of this place in conversation, I’m certain of it.

Let’s get to the point here. We have this apartment and we want it to look nice. She and I outfitted the place with choice elements from Ikea and Craigslist Postings. The apartment shaped up nicely. Take a peek, won’t you?

Snapshot One
Snapshot Two
Snapshot Three

All of the furniture, save for the couch, is from Ikea. God help me. But what is that couch-side monitor doing? What is its purpose? Why would I have a monitor next to my couch? Media PC baby. I’m talkin’ ’bout a Media PC.

Now, this is a limited configuration. I refuse to watch movies that come from the s-video output of a video card. I’m not an animal. I don’t eat my own crap. Until I can afford to purchase a projector for my living room this computer is solely for audio and I’m completely fine with that since I have a metric ass-load of music to listen to including over three hundred bootlegged live shows.

The computer itself isn’t anything out of the ordinairy. I’m not going to spend thousands of dollars building a computer that is just going to run Foobar2k and Litestep. Here are the parts:

Case: Antec Overture Piano Black ATX Case
Motherboard: PC CHIPS V3.1C Socket A (Socket 462) VIA KT266A
Processor: Athlon XP 2400+
RAM: WINTEC 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM Unbuffered DDR 400 (PC 3200)
Video Card: MSI RX9550-TD128 Radeon 9550 128MB
Sound Card: CHAINTECH AV-710 8 (7.1)
Optical Drive: LITE-ON Black 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM
Hard Drives: 120 GB and 160 GB Maxtor drives I had lying around.

If you look at the contents of the entertainment center of those pictures, you can spy the computer nestled snugly underneath my tape deck. Look at how smoothly that blends in with the other components. It’s almost a crime how nice this looks.

As far as the audio is concerned, the sound card I purchased for a mere twenty-five dollars came with an optical audio cable and since my receiver has optical inputs on it, I felt it was a sign from God. The fact that my thrift store bookshelf speakers sound so damn good are testament to this divine intervention.

In order to interface with the computer visually, I hemmed and hawed over a solution for a few days. I sure as hell wasn’t going to browse through files using my television (no matter how big I made the font, it’s just not going to happen). I almost bit the bullet and bought an LCD projector when Woot had a good deal on an InFocus refurb, but I went with my better judgement and refrained from the debt-building purchase.

I really didn’t want to disturb the beautiful dual monitor setup I had going in the office, but I think it’s for the best. I lifted one of the monitors from my desk and put it in the living room on the couch-side coffee table we bought. I ran a longer-than-necessary VGA cable from the monitor, under the couch, under the area rug and into the computer (along with an extension cord) and everything was good to go.

Now, to actually interact with the computer I need to decide upon a proper input device. I didn’t want a keyboard sitting out on the coffee table (wireless or otherwise) but I don’t mind an unobtrusive mouse sitting on the table, so I went with a Bluetooth mouse. If someone can explain to me why all Bluetooth devices must a) be blue and b) be shaped like a tooth, I’m more than happy to hear the reason(s) why.

Finally, I didn’t want to string a cat5 cable across my apartment because I did that in my old place and it looked like I lived in a college dude’s house (because, well, I did). I’m an adult now and I have standards. I got a cheap-ish USB 802.11g wireless dongle and it sits snugly behind the television set.

So I have my computer built, I have my monitor solution, and I have an input device that works well. What about the software? What do i do for a media-browsing/playing solution? I guess you’ll have to read the next installment for that because I’m not even done developing the system I’m going to use yet.

2 Responses to “A Computer In My Living Room: The Hardware”

  1. fate0000 Says:

    That’s a nice setup and apartment. Right now, I use a modded Xbox as a poor man’s media center. Hopefully, after I get some of these school loans paid off (and the demand for real estate drops), I can find a place for myself. Anyway, thanks for the help today; it will make my long trip more bearable. Hmm.. I never realized how talented a writer you are.

  2. iamserio.us » Blog Archive » A Computer In My Living Room: An Epilogue Says:

    […] Previously, I wrote a two-part entry where I documented the hardware and software¬†that I used to make a home theatre PC capable of playing audio through my stereo system. The system worked well enough but it only lasted for about a month before I got tired of it. […]