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Anyone running Extender-only setups?


eagle63
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I built an HTPC about 5 months ago and have that hooked up to the TV in our living room, and have an xbox360 in the basement acting as an extender. While things have worked well for the most part, I seem to deal with a fair amount of annoying little display issues on the HTPC. Things like MC switching to windowed mode (instead of full screen) occasionally, as well as the (infamous?) black screen of death. I've spent quite a bit of time researching and tweaking things to get those issues addressed, but there's a big part of me that questions the whole idea of having a PC connected to a TV. Drivers change, software updates, etc, etc. The family gets frustrated when things don't work, and it certainly bugs me too. A DVR needs to be be stable and NOT flaky.

 

So... as I've been thinking about my setup, I've realized that my xbox extender always works. It's not a general purpose computer, it's really an appliance - and that's exactly why it works so well. And in the unlikely event that it does do something flaky, the family can just turn it off and back on again - as opposed to me having to remote-desktop into the HTPC and reboot/kill media center/whatever.

 

Has anyone else tried doing extenders only? Am I crazy for wanting to try this? (please talk me out of it if there's something big I'll be missing!) As I see it, the 2 things I'll lose out on are: no video_ts movie streaming to the extender, and no Netflix integration within media center. Neither of these are deal breakers for me.

 

As to HOW to do this, I'm considering 2 options:

 

1. Keep the HTPC as-is, but just put it in the basement. (so it's running as a "headless" MC box)

 

2. Run MC in a VM. I've actually been testing this the last few days with an extra xbox360 my neighbor gave me. I've already got a server running 24/7 with Hyper-V on it, so it was easy to throw a win 7 VM on it and have it connect to my HD home run network tuner. So far it works great, plus saves some electricity as I wouldn't need the separate HTPC running.

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not sure if # 2 is 'extenders only', since I assume it's talking to the VM MC, but I get that it does mean you don't have an HTPC in the living room.

 

For me, having the HTPC in the living room is great because it means we can surf on a really large screen, which is a big plus when multiple people are trying to see the screen at the same time.

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not sure if # 2 is 'extenders only', since I assume it's talking to the VM MC, but I get that it does mean you don't have an HTPC in the living room.

 

For me, having the HTPC in the living room is great because it means we can surf on a really large screen, which is a big plus when multiple people are trying to see the screen at the same time.

 

Yeah I should have clarified - by "extender only" I simply mean no PC's hooked up to the TV. Obviously there has to be a MC computer somewhere, and in my case I'm thinking either a VM running MC or my existing HTPC running headless.

 

Good point on web surfing. I personally don't do that, but I might be in the minority.

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Netflix is the only negative I can thing of. I used extenders only for about 6 months. I connected my xbox to my desktop. Using my movies, I can play ts folders just fine. I would just move the htpc to an area the family doesn't have to interface with it. If you don't have a tv area like this, then go for extenders only.

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Extenders only is great 80% of the time; our TVs stay on the Xbox 360 most of the time. The Xbox 360s connect to a Windows 7 PC with a Ceton tuner in it. TV recordings are recorded on the PC and then Archived to the WHS.

 

For me the only exceptions are Netflix, Airplay and Blu-ray. I have a Xbox 360, a HTPC, and a Apple TV 2 connected to each TV. I know it is overkill but it is easy for my family to understand - Xbox 360 running Media Center for TV and Videos and Music and Pictures, PC running Windows Media Center for My Movies for DVDs and Blu-ray, and Apple TV for Netflix and Airplay. I have a Harmony One at all locations with the same Activities and devices setup.... works pretty well and not much tech support.

 

I had the HTPCs in place before and it was working pretty well, but the key was being able to watch live TV while it was recording in progress. With the PCs, I would record but have to wait for the recording to complete and then transfer to the WHS before I could watch them. Just didn't work 100% for us.

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Yeah, Netflix is probably the biggest hangup for me. Not the end of the world, but annoying for sure. Does 1 Xbox Live Gold membership cover multiple Xbox's - or do you need to purchase one for each xbox in the house?

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Extenders only is great 80% of the time; our TVs stay on the Xbox 360 most of the time. The Xbox 360s connect to a Windows 7 PC with a Ceton tuner in it. TV recordings are recorded on the PC and then Archived to the WHS.

 

For me the only exceptions are Netflix, Airplay and Blu-ray. I have a Xbox 360, a HTPC, and a Apple TV 2 connected to each TV. I know it is overkill but it is easy for my family to understand - Xbox 360 running Media Center for TV and Videos and Music and Pictures, PC running Windows Media Center for My Movies for DVDs and Blu-ray, and Apple TV for Netflix and Airplay. I have a Harmony One at all locations with the same Activities and devices setup.... works pretty well and not much tech support.

 

I had the HTPCs in place before and it was working pretty well, but the key was being able to watch live TV while it was recording in progress. With the PCs, I would record but have to wait for the recording to complete and then transfer to the WHS before I could watch them. Just didn't work 100% for us.

 

My Movies works fine through an xbox. Why did you state you needed a PC (ie HTPC) for My Movies?

 

Yeah, Netflix is probably the biggest hangup for me. Not the end of the world, but annoying for sure. Does 1 Xbox Live Gold membership cover multiple Xbox's - or do you need to purchase one for each xbox in the house?

 

Based on what I have heard Paul Thurott say, it is one xbox live per membership. Apparantely there are ways to carry that around on a USB but what a pain.

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Based on what I have heard Paul Thurott say, it is one xbox live per membership. Apparantely there are ways to carry that around on a USB but what a pain.

 

Or get a family pack and have a different auto login for each Xbox360.

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I'm testing a boxxe Box for my guest bedroom now. I have 3 HTPC's running and I have to say the Boxxe Box is amazing for what it costs. Now its 100% not as snappy as my HTPCs however they are way way over kill for HTPC's 2700k SSD's etc. Only thing you need to be sure of is:

 

A) Either Wired connection

B) You have a good 2.4ghz connection with very little interference

C) You have a Wireless Network that supports 5ghz and you get a Wireless Bridge for it.

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My experiance with two extenders, a 360 and a 360 slim, is generally good.

Things I would suggest from my experience:

-A wired gigabit network. Mostly for stability as well as speed.

- In my case 8 gig ram in the WMC server - 4 for the WMC box and 2 for each extender.

- Lots of processor power in the WMC box. It is my experience that any version of Pentium or even Core i3's just won't cut it. Not for real smooth operation on the extenders.

 

Serving up info to the extenders requires the RAM and any processing of the info before sending it out to the extender requires processing power.

 

Myself and family (and I understand the family part all to well) were not happy with extenders until the WMC box was upgraded to its final config of a Core i7 with 8gig connected by a gigabit network.

 

Now everyone in the Bowland family is finally happy. After all it's just TV it should just work!

 

Ted

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