Jamie's Blog

Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids

Build your own PC Entertainment Center? I recentl…

Build your own PC Entertainment Center?
I recently bought a laptop for all my development needs in front of the TV (and my apartment isn’t big anough for a workstation). However, this has limited uses in terms of gaming, CD writing and DVD watching - no TV-out, CD writer or fast graphics chip, but then I didn’t buy it for these purposes!

It occured to me that I could assemble my own, to-spec PC to fulfill these needs. But it has to be small, very quiet, expandable using standard PC (not laptop) components, designed to use the TV as output, and usable as a games console, DVD player, CD writer, and wireless file server. I’d be intending to grow the machine over time to fulfill further needs such as TiVo-replacement, MP3-based stereo, DSL gateway and so on…

On a different note, my work is taking me into the area of embedded computers, particularly those which combine memory, processor, 802.11 and some other input (serial, PCMCIA). A screen isn’t important except for configuration as they will be used as autonomous sensors.

So, any advice on where to point my browser for components, guides or partial systems? BTW, I’m in Ireland so a quick trip to my local Fry’s is sadly out of the question :-)

Technical specs:
- Spare PCI slots for further expansion
- Floppy drive (maybe not?)
- DVD drive
- CD writer
- Video card with TV-out, ideally also TV capture
- Sound card
- Dimensions less than two stacked VCRs (plus 1" gap for cooling)
- Quiet fan/PSU etc
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