1. Joined : Jan 2015
    Posts : 359
    Windows 10
       27 Sep 2016 #1

    Advice on building a user-independant HTPC?


    I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask, so mods feel free to move.

    I'm planning to build a cheap HTPC with the sole purpose of acting as a universal movie and game playback streaming device. I will want it to play DVDs and bluray disks locally along with visitor's pictures and movies on disks, sd cards, or usb sticks. I will want it to connect to Netflix, Youtube, CraveTV (maybe), PlayStation NOW, and connect to my main desktop for Steam In-House and maybe ripped movies (but I don't have any ATM so that's not a worry).

    And most importantly, I want it to do all this seamlessly and simply so that I can let a (let's assume technically competent) family member or visitor use it without much direct instruction.

    Full Bluray support and PSNOW/Steam In-house rules out Linux and consoles respectively, and seems to only leave me with a Windows PC as compatible with everything (Maybe macOS, but I'm concerned that the OS is no longer viable).

    However, Windows 10 doesn't do most of these things natively, and I'm concerned about having a jarring interface that makes navigation difficult. I'd prefer everything to be easily controlled by a remote control, hopping to a mini keyboard (maybe a slideout from the remote?) and a Steam controller only when necessary.

    How would I do this?
    1. Can I use Windows 10's Tablet mode with a tweaked start menu as the interface? Would most apps respect it fine?
    2. Will everything work with a standard remote? What remote can I use? If needed, is there one that emulates the laser-pointer accuracy of a Wii Remote, but with proper media controls?
    3. What would be the best Bluray software? Preferably one that at least tries to match Windows 10's aesthetic?
    4. Can I use Windows Store apps for streaming and media when possible? I'd like to avoid relying on the browser or all-in-one media apps that jarringly kick you out for the few tasks they can't handle.
    5. for playing back media on personal usb drives/sd cards/disks, should I just use File Explorer or is there and alternative file explorer that can be tweaked for a more seamless experience?
    6. Is it possible to lock it down somewhat so it can be used but people don't have alteration access to it? I suppose I'd have to check each individual app (like Steam or PSNow) to ensure they don't have dangerous access like purchasing, but at the bare minimum can I secure the interface so someone with a lead thumb doesn't delete or break anything?

    Thanks.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by FuturDreamz; 27 Sep 2016 at 10:58.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  2. Joined : Nov 2015
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10
       29 Sep 2016 #2

    Paul Thurrott was working on a similar project, https://www.thurrott.com/hardware/77...ct-little-woku Long ago and far away I built a full sized HTPC. I had the same experience Paul had. It never really met my expectations. The remotes (I tried several) always came up short. There was, however a fix for the remote problems. Girder from Promixis https://www.promixis.com/ was able to interpret the keyboard codes from the remote so they would match the app that was running. This solved a lot of compatibility problems. The problem today, is that it is so bloody expensive. I think there was a free version at one time. I guess if you are setting up a $100,000 home theatre you can justify the cost but for my living room, not a chance.

    Another site that might be useful http://www.thegreenbutton.tv/forums/

    The only thing that really worked was Media Center but that is now dead and gone.

    I really think the best solution is Miracast or Chromecast.

    Good Luck. Have fun.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  3. Joined : Jan 2015
    Posts : 359
    Windows 10
       30 Sep 2016 #3

    Darn... Have you seen a motion control remote that has the accuracy of the Wii remote? I'd use one, but it doesn't have a lot of buttons.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  4. Joined : Nov 2015
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10
       03 Oct 2016 #4

    FuturDreamz said: View Post
    Darn... Have you seen a motion control remote that has the accuracy of the Wii remote?
    I've found the devices from Gyration http://www.gyration.com/ are high quality and work well. You might look at their products.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  5. Joined : Jan 2015
    Posts : 359
    Windows 10
       03 Oct 2016 #5

    stlbud said: View Post
    I've found the devices from Gyration http://www.gyration.com/ are high quality and work well. You might look at their products.
    I was hoping for something that had a few media control buttons (like play/pause, ff, rw) though. I might as well just get a Wii remote with it's laser-pointer accuracy. There seems to be literally no other controller that uses that system.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  6. Joined : Nov 2015
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10
       03 Oct 2016 #6

    FuturDreamz said: View Post
    I was hoping for something that had a few media control buttons (like play/pause, ff, rw) though. I might as well just get a Wii remote with it's laser-pointer accuracy. There seems to be literally no other controller that uses that system.
    Understood - The one Paul Thurrott recommended looked promising (you might check his review again), but I don't think he was satisfied with it's performance.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  7. Joined : Jan 2015
    Posts : 359
    Windows 10
       04 Oct 2016 #7

    Sadly it doesn't seem Windows 10 is gamepad-friendly at all. I think I'd just go with a Wii remote. Maybe a third party one with decals on the buttons so it's not mistaken for one of the Wii U's controllers.

    That answers question 2 and makes a yes for 1 plausible, but I still have the other questions.

    1. Can I use Windows 10's Tablet mode with a tweaked start menu as the interface? Would most apps respect it fine?
    2. Will everything work with a standard remote? What remote can I use? If needed, is there one that emulates the laser-pointer accuracy of a Wii Remote, but with proper media controls?
    3. What would be the best Bluray software? Preferably one that at least tries to match Windows 10's aesthetic?
    4. Can I use Windows Store apps for streaming and media when possible? I'd like to avoid relying on the browser or all-in-one media apps that jarringly kick you out for the few tasks they can't handle.
    5. for playing back media on personal usb drives/sd cards/disks, should I just use File Explorer or is there and alternative file explorer that can be tweaked for a more seamless experience?
    6. Is it possible to lock it down somewhat so it can be used but people don't have alteration access to it? I suppose I'd have to check each individual app (like Steam or PSNow) to ensure they don't have dangerous access like purchasing, but at the bare minimum can I secure the interface so someone with a lead thumb doesn't delete or break anything?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  8. Joined : Nov 2015
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10
       04 Oct 2016 #8

    FuturDreamz said: View Post
    Sadly it doesn't seem Windows 10 is gamepad-friendly at all. I think I'd just go with a Wii remote. Maybe a third party one with decals on the buttons so it's not mistaken for one of the Wii U's controllers.

    That answers question 2 and makes a yes for 1 plausible, but I still have the other questions.

    1. Can I use Windows 10's Tablet mode with a tweaked start menu as the interface? Would most apps respect it fine?

    I have been able to launch applications using a Media Center Infrared Remote (MCR) and a wireless Xbox 360 game controller. The tablet mode start screen responds as expected to both. The apps, however are another story. Netflix, for example will not work with the MCR.

    2. Will everything work with a standard remote? What remote can I use? If needed, is there one that emulates the laser-pointer accuracy of a Wii Remote, but with proper media controls?

    As I said above, apps have their own rules and do not all behave the same way. Some uber programmable remotes may work, but they are expensive and require considerable study and expertise. Another option is Girder mentioned in another post.

    3. What would be the best Bluray software? Preferably one that at least tries to match Windows 10's aesthetic?
    4. Can I use Windows Store apps for streaming and media when possible? I'd like to avoid relying on the browser or all-in-one media apps that jarringly kick you out for the few tasks they can't handle.
    5. for playing back media on personal usb drives/sd cards/disks, should I just use File Explorer or is there and alternative file explorer that can be tweaked for a more seamless experience?

    File Explorer does not offer a good 10 foot interface unless you choose the largest possible icons. Even then, navigation between folders is not as easy as it could be.

    6. Is it possible to lock it down somewhat so it can be used but people don't have alteration access to it? I suppose I'd have to check each individual app (like Steam or PSNow) to ensure they don't have dangerous access like purchasing, but at the bare minimum can I secure the interface so someone with a lead thumb doesn't delete or break anything?

    Regarding the start screen, it is possible the icons can be accidentally moved and rearranged. With user permissions, you can lock out a lot of system features. There are also a number registry entries that system administrators use to control access to many functions, but of course the registry is a dark and dangerous place ;-)
    Response embedded in the list of questions.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


 


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