Custom HTPC and Home Media Server


Reposted From: Hackaday.com


[Benoit Frigon]‘s builds are a tribute to tidiness: both his HTPC and media server are elegant creations packed full of features. He has quite the knack for clean builds in this form factor; his PBX server was met with high praise earlier this summer.

For the HTPC, [Benoit] gutted and cleaned an old DVR case and modified it to house a Mini-ITX board. He added standoff mounts to support the motherboard, then sketched up a template for the IO shield as a guide for cutting the back panel. The front of the DVR case originally had a 4-digit 7-segment display and a few simple buttons. Though he kept the original button layout, [Benoit] chose to replace the segment displays with a 20×2 character LCD. The new display is controlled via a python script on the HTPC, which runs an OpenElec Linux distro with XBMC 12.0.

The HTPC’s hard drive bay is a bit lighter these days, because [Benoit] decided to migrate his media storage to a separate server. Inside the new home media server is yet another Mini-ITX motherboard with an embedded Atom N2800 that runs Ubuntu Server. Live television streams via a WinTV HVR-2550 TV tuner and TVHeadend software. The case originally suspended the tuner from the IO bracket on the back (and nowhere else), which left the rest of the card dangerously unsupported inside. [Benoit] solved the problem by building an additional aluminum bracket that firmly holds both the PCIe riser and the tuner. Check out both builds’ pages for downloadable templates, software details and bill of materials.


Need to put one internet URL link in your task bar?

Need to put one internet URL link in your task bar. I have a simple solution.

On your desktop right click, New>Shortcut. Then input the line cmd.exe “/c start URL replace “URL” with your URL. Click ok.

Then drag and drop that icon to your task bar. It’ll appear down there.

On the original shortcut on your desktop now, right click, properties. You’ll see a check box next to hidden, check and click OK at the bottom.

You can take it further. Being that it is what it is, the icon can be changed to fit the type of link it takes you to. My wife is using this method to go to her online school email. So I changed the icon to an email one.


RIP Google Reader

As some, all or maybe none of you know Google discontinued Google Reader. I have used Reader for as long as it has been around. I really liked it. It was simple but had very nice features. It was clean and streamlined but not overly. I have no idea what I am going to do. I used my public “Starred” feed and re-posted a lot of those automatically to my twitter, @mattinindy, feed and some even here. I’m played around with Feedly, which seems to be the socially popular new option for a cloud based RSS reader. It is just to modern. I like being able to go through and read each, either, topic as a hole or the individual feeds in each topic. I am not a happy camper!


Ham Radio Deluxe and the Griffin Powermate

griffen_powermateControlling Ham Radio Deluxe with the Griffin Technology Powermate

Now this will go much smoother if your at least fimiliar with Ham Radio Deluxe. I’m not going to here because it’ll make my post to long winded, so there’s plenty of resources on the web to tell you about HRD. But I will give you a very little overview. HRD is a ham radio software suite. It has a logging portion, there’s radio control software build in to it, there’s rotor control in it, there’s various IP functions and plethora of other things.


This is a pretty decent overview of HRD.

What we are interested in today is the portion of the suite that interfaces with your radio and specifically the frequency scope. Now you can see from the screen shot that you have control what your radio can do. Specifically frequency is what we are looking at here. For my Yaesu FT-950 you see that my bands 160m – 10m are selectable in the center toward the middle of the GUI. Fine frequency control is right up that and fast freq control is right above. The selected freq in large numbers is near the top and to the left and right of that are radio settings control.

HRD FT-950

Again what I’m focusing on today is frequency control. When using HRD you may change frequency by interfacing directly with the VFO knob on your radio or use your mouse to control it via software.

Whats my point?

Well I live in an apartment with my wife and we share a desk. I hope to get my radio working with HRD in such a manner it can be moved from the main surface area to a rack off the desk with it’s power supply. Thus freeing much room on our desk. I love the feel of the large VFO friction knob on the FT-950, so when it comes to running frequency with the mouse. I’m not super excited. Nor with the arrow keys. It just doesn’t feel like ham radio to me. I want a knob to turn.

Now comes the Powermate by Griffin Technology. This is a programmable USB digital knob. For all intentional purposes it’s a USB digital potentiometer. With the included software you are able to assign 6 tasks that the knob does to a piece of software currently open and upfront on your PC. You can setup it up to have specific settings with multiple software suites. When you change what program your using it knows and it uses those assigned tasks.

Controlling the HRD Frequency

At this point the device is plugged in and HRD is open and loaded. The screen above is what you see when your radio connects. Now you need to also have installed Powermate software. Available at Griffin Technology’s website.

You want to Click ‘Applications’, select ‘Add’, chooses the open available software to add, and click ok. Go through and select each knob action and set it up like the picture below. That will give you fine tuning by turning the knob, fast tuning by holding down the knob then turning, and pushing down give the keystroke of F7 which will open the ‘Add QSO/Contact’ dialog in the logbook. But you must have it open in the background.

The settings you see:

Simulates Keystrokes=fine tuning

Scrolls Up/Down = “Fast” Style tuning

Simulates Keystrokes F7 Key = New QSO Entry