HTNB: Home Theater NetBook
HTNB or Home Theater NetBook; a story of being Frugal. A couple of years ago I went to the trouble of setting up a retired PC to a television. One of the biggest complaints my spouse had was the noise, rightly so. After my son got his first smartphone, his NetBook (ASUS Eee 1001P) somehow lost its glamour. We decided to see if we could find a purpose for the NetBook, this is what we came up with.
It should be noted that I didn’t have much confinience that this low end machine would work as a streaming device, but to my surprise it works quite well.
Prepping The NB
Resetting to Factory Settings. This model has no optical drive. I discovered the with 2 steps you can easily reset this device.
- F2 - In the BIOS you will need to turn off ASUS Express Gate.
- F9 – Hitting the F9 key during boot up will start the recovery process.
As I never really cared much for Windows Starter and I have a TechNet membership, I went ahead and used the Instant Upgrade option and upgraded the OS to Windows 7 Home Preimum.
Now it is time for one of the most time consuming operations….Removing the Bloatware. Once this is done you can do a couple of last little items that I decided couldn’t hurt.
- 2GB USB Stick used with ReadyBoost
- Turn off all gratuitous graphics. Set Visual Effects to ‘Best Performance’
These minor adjustments made a significant inprovment in the performance of the NB.
The only additional hardware that we invested in was a: Blue Tooth/WiFi Mouse. I looked at Windows Media Center remotes but realized that I can do 90% of what I need with a mouse. There are of course a collection of apps for both Android and iPhone that will turn your phone or tablet into a media center remote as well.
If you opt for a Mouse, you will want to take a close look at the distance between the mouse and the BT or WiFi transceiver.
Home Media Sever
One of the primary reasons most of us even go down this road is so we can have access to our local content play through our Home Entertainment System.
I have experimented with various media server configurations, but in the end I opted for:
Remote Potato is an Open Source project, it will work with Windows7 Media Center and there is an Android application for mobile access.
RemotePotato brings your media to you, wherever you are. Videos, recorded TV, music, pictures, it’s all instantly accessible over the Internet, streamed live from your home. Wherever you are in the world, all you need is a normal web browser to access your media. Videos are streamed in stunning quality – AVI, MP4 files, Quicktime – most major formats are supported. If you have an iPhone or Android mobile device, we have an app to make things even neater. Never sync your mobile again!
I tested quite a few different media centers; Windows 7 Media Center, XBMC, and Boxee. As one might guess they are all graphic intensive and require a significant overhead. I took a minimalist approach and opted for:
Setting Up Google Chrome as a Media Center
Chrome is one of the fastest browsers available and with the use of a few extensions and apps you can create a reasonable media center.
- SpeedDial Plus: Speed Dial Plus is based on Speed Dial extension with an option to export/import the dials. Export Dials to bookmarks – exports the dial’s URL and its custom icon URL to chrome bookmarks Import Dials from bookmarks – imports the dial’s URL and custom icon from bookmark
- AppJump: AppJump is a launcher and organizer for your Web Apps and Extensions! With AppJump you can put Apps and Extensions into Groups to allow easy management. You can also display specific groups of Apps in the launcher and start them right on your browser toolbar.
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