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A Truly Silent Home Theater PC Built for Linux 178

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fun-toys-to-play-with dept.
slimrabbit writes "LinuxDevices is reporting on a truly silent home theater PC that comes with its own Fedora 5 based quick install Linux DVD capable of installing a fully-configured FC5 system with LIRC, KDETV, TV-Time and Kradio in about 15 minutes. The most notable features are its "church mouse quiet" 14dba power supply, TV-Out (SVideo and composite), component video, DVI and VGA out, and hardware MPEG support(XvMC). The company also supports and engages the Linux community through its sponsorship program. It is sponsoring knoppmyth and the Debian User Project and makes the mechanical drawings of its face plates available under the GPL."
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A Truly Silent Home Theater PC Built for Linux

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  • by slidersv (972720) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @09:19PM (#16031340) Journal
    Finally I will be able to replace my XBOX, which is used solely for home theater purposes, with this HD-DVD capable system.
    There is no HDMI, but component and DVI should suffice for most.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      1) There is no HDMI on the XBox, either

      2) The XBox cannot record TV shows

      The XBox is just a fancy frontend for you PC (which can sit in another room) - so a HTPC is an upgrade, not a replacement for for it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BoberFett (127537)
        I realize bashing MS around here scores you points, but please be knowledgeable before you try to bash them.

        http://www.xboxmediacenter.de/ [xboxmediacenter.de]

        For people with a modded Xbox, other than lacking TV tuner support it's a pretty full featured system.
    • by Josuah (26407)
      How is this an HD-DVD capable system? I don't think it comes with the software to support AACS. And without HDMI 1.3 and HDCP, you cannot pass the protected audio stream to your sound system.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Finally I will be able to replace my XBOX, which is used solely for home theater purposes, with this HD-DVD capable system.
      There is no HDMI, but component and DVI should suffice for most.


      Nice, finally someone addressed the niche of people who buy XBOX to not play games on it and are fine with a Linux based home theater.

      I also hope you're ready to spend good money on those noisy poorly transferred HD movies as well.
  • by venicebeach (702856) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @09:19PM (#16031342) Homepage Journal
    A truly silent home theatre system? Hope it comes with closed captioning...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by elgee (308600)
      That is just fine. I sleep through most tv and movies anyway and I don't like to be awakened by sound.
    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *
      WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Main screen turn on!

        We get signal!

        Someone set us up the bomb!


        --- Now I want voice commands for my HTPC.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2006 @09:28PM (#16031366)
    for watching silent movies
    • Duke Nukem Forever Silent Edition comes to my mind. Of course since they started to work on it in 1925, they cannot be expected to finish anytime soon. Some of the devs got changed in the meantime and some of them got soultrapped.
  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @09:33PM (#16031370) Homepage Journal
    ...and makes the mechanical drawings of its face plates available under the GPL.

    Whoo hoo! Striking a blow for freedom! Telling those evil user-subjugating anti-freedom proprietary face plate manufacturers where to stuff it! I want one of these, because I'm sick to death of this nasty Antec case that won't let me distribute its modified face plate...
    • 1) Don't treat the GPL as sacred
      2) ???
      3) Get modded down
    • by Phroggy (441) *
      Actually, while I know it isn't much... shouldn't we be supporting the idea of releasing plans for ANYTHING under an open license? I mean, sure, most of us don't care about the plans for a faceplate, but there's no good reason to keep these plans proprietary, is there?

      It's not a big deal, so don't try to make a big deal of it. But it is a good thing, so don't knock it.
      • ...there's no good reason to keep these plans proprietary, is there?

        There's no good reason to slap a heavy handed legal document like the GPL on it either.
  • Good price tag too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by growse (928427) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @09:50PM (#16031406) Homepage

    This is interesting - for $300 they've created something that beats me spending my own time and money on building myself. Previously when I've seen "silent" under-the-tv boxes, they've been closer to $800. This is enough to make the average geek think "I'll just build one myself". That, however, takes time and effort, and there's no guarantee that it'll work properly at the end of it.

    To get a barebones, including a nice case and decent psu for this price makes it worthwhile getting over a diy system. Only question is, does it suck because it's cheap?

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @09:58PM (#16031425)
      Well, you still kinda have to build it yourself.....

      TFA:
      The Lx8100-MN, available "barebones" (sans CPU, memory, and hard drive) for around $300


      Still should come in under $600, depending on your components though I hope they have guidelines on what is necessary for smooth operation and what that socket lets me install on CPUs.

      But I don't think this system will save anyone that much cash. It looks like it should be easier to set it up than a diy myth TV though, while still having control of the box.
      • by AnyoneEB (574727)
        TFA:
        • Supported processors -- AMD Socket AM2, compatible with Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64, Sempron
        • Memory -- 4 x 240-pin DIMM; supports up to 8GB DDR2 ECC/non-ECC unbuffered

        But the most important feature, which the summary left out, is the parallel port...

        ...

        ...

        WHY!? I don't have an old printer in my living room next to my TV. I don't know about the rest of you. Or maybe it's for loading videos off a SyQuest [wikipedia.org] drive.

        • Why must PC makers keep putting those massive, useless plugs on computers?
          • by Dun Malg (230075)

            Why must PC makers keep putting those massive, useless plugs on computers?

            Because there's a space reserved for it in the ATX rear panel spec. Seriously, when the difference between including a parallel port and leaving it out is a fraction of a cent on the price of the connector because the chipset contains the interface by default, why not? In this case, they're probably just using a commodity mobo chosen for it's complete smorgasbord of ports. Stands to reason the parallel port would show up too.

          • For the same reason they keep shipping drivers on 3.5inch floppies.

            Because they can.
        • by arivanov (12034)
          WHY!? I don't have an old printer in my living room next to my TV. I don't know about the rest of you. Or maybe it's for loading videos off a SyQuest drive.

          You need it to drive one of those nasty 7 line LCD panels used in DIY consumer equipment. While I hate LPT as much as you do it is a necessity for a home theater box. This is unless you want to make it 5in thick and stick a 7in touchscreen on the front.

          Anyway, the setup looks rather expensive and very "windows thought process infected" for a linux hom

          • Why use an Athlon. A C7 will do the job the same and the noise with a solid state brick power supply will be under 10db.

            In my opinion, some of the best reasons for building a set-top box yourself rather than buying a Tivo include a number of applications that will require a bit of horsepower.

            Playing back many common codecs at HD resolutions requires a fairly strong processor. There was an article a couple days ago about PCs being better than $2000 DVD players at DVD playback, and someone (in the comments)

            • by arivanov (12034)
              Playing back many common codecs at HD resolutions requires a fairly strong processor. Nope, it does not. It is a waste of horsepower to do this on a general purpose CPU. For applications like this a specialised decoder will wipe the floor clean with any general purpose CPU. Via from C3 from series M onwards has a hardware MPEG decoder integrated in the video chipset. I have not played with it to be honest so I do not know how good is it in reality. Still, this route is definitely the right approach from an
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by scottnews (237707)
        http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82 E16856110050 [newegg.com]
        Here is the equivalent system without the distro. It shouldn't be too hard to configure Linux for this.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by daspriest (904701)
          Or you could download the configured distro from a link in the article.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BLKMGK (34057)
          I looked at this system not too long ago after having seen some other Myth type article - think it was on Engadget, might have been Digg - cannot find it now. Anyway while digging I found more than one post or scrap of info on the Pundit box from folks complaining that they were having some issues configuring it for Linux. For those of us who aren't really adept at Linux this might be a bit of a bargain if it held a ready to go image of Myth and skipped those issues.

          However reading the article it looks like
          • While I agree with you, the article did state that they didn't include MythTV due to possible issues with Copyright.
            • by BLKMGK (34057)
              I saw that and couldn't help but wonder. Myth is an open source effort right? What copyright exactly are they worried about? How hard would it have been to build a standardized hardware config, tune it to a T, and distribute an image for it? They imply that this is for Myth use so certainly they must have set it up at some point right? They could have at least explained what the concern was exactly, they certainly seem to have no issues distributing customized Linux distros....
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        Still should come in under $600

        I suspect it might come in under $560, configured with HTPC AMD® 3000+, 250GB HD, 512MB, DVD/CD Combo, TV-Capture, Hardware MPEG. At least, that's what it says in TFA...

      • by drsquare (530038)
        It's easy to find CPUs, memory and hardware that work with Linux. Generally the main problem is getting video cards, TV cards, remote controls etc that work with Linux.
      • I built an almost silent home theatre mythtv box for 250GBP, though admittedly without TV aspect, only MPEG4 etc capability. Throw another £100 for the TV ability and higher spec CPU and it might be equivalent. This unit is good as it might bring Free HTPC setups to those without tech know-how, and it's similarly priced ($600 = £314 today)
    • $300 + ram, CPU, and hard drive. Bringing it within spitting distance of your $800. It is a good starting point, but not a complete solution at $300.
      • by Danga (307709)
        CPU, plus HD, and RAM will NOT be even close to 500 bucks. If that is really all it is missing then I would say it would cost maybe another 300 dollars. You don't have to get the most expensive CPU or fastest RAM or biggest/fastest HD. So for another $300 you can spend a total of $600 and get something that performs just as well, if better, than the $800+ fully configured system.

        It is a good starting point, but not a complete solution at $300.

        True, it is a starting point. It also is significantly cheape
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:07PM (#16031444)
    The submitter seems to have confused quiet with "truly silent." In addition to the power supply's 14db fan, there are two more case fans. The CPU lacks a fan, relying on nearby vent holes on the top of the case for air intake - don't set anything on top! It also uses a hard drive, apparently not in an acoustic enclosure, and lacks any noticable means of acoustically muffling the DVD-ROM drive. And in general, fan quietness often comes at a cost of unsufficient cooling. If it's reliable, at $550 for the loaded system, I could still see it being kinda cool. But not silent, and maybe not even all that quiet when the DVD fires up.
    • by NeMon'ess (160583) *
      It's close enough to silent for most intents and purposes.

      The two more fans can be about 15 to 20db.

      For Windows, use Nero DriveSpeed to limit the DVD drive from spinning faster than 4x and it'll be silent.

      For the hard drive, get one that's particularly quiet, then use acoustic management software to silence the clicking noise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kent Recal (714863)
      Correct. The device in the article is not silent.

      If you're looking for a really silent (as in fanless) system then I'd
      recommend to look at an mCubed [mcubed-tech.com].

      I have an "HFX classic" myself and it runs my Athlon64 3500+
      perfectly. No overheating, not even in the summer.
  • I have been itching to build a MythTV (or similar) box for a long time now, but what has always stopped me is the noise. I have tried to keep up on things like underlocking, rubber grommets, etc. for noise reduction, but even though I can successfully build a low noise PC, it is no where near the level of quiet I desire for my living room. The whirr of my Xbox is almost unbearable, and is a big reason I buy multiplatform games for the comparatively silent GameCube.

    But if there is a truly quiet box on the m

    • by BLKMGK (34057)
      Slap an 80mm fan in the XBOX and use XBMC to regulate the temp such that it slows the fan down. It's not too hard to get the bigger fan in there, cost me $8. Had to snap the bottom ears off of it, gring the air guide, and that was it. I can no longer hear my XBOX, it used to sound like a small jet plane. Perfectly silent? Nah but then neither is my DTIVO actually. I'm okay with that, I just turn up the volume a tad. That's exactly what I'd do with a Myth system. I have an MCE HTPC too, that box sits in the
    • If it is a regular xbox you have, then wait until you see what an xbox 360 sounds like when it is reading from the DVD drive. I would say it is somewhere between a blender and a drill. Definately the loudest console I have, but luckily I have it tidied away far from where I sit to play (wireless controls are great).
    • by idonthack (883680)

      If you're going to use Myth, you should build two boxen. Put a server in a closet somewhere you can't hear it, and build a thin client (or multiple thin clients, for more than one room) that boots off the network and thus needs no hard drive to run the mythfrontend. You could even get a fanless VIA processor if you can live with 1GHz. I'm not sure that can play back HD though.

  • Forget about buying a media system, just dig out some old computer you have, make sure it has a video card with TV-out. Doesn't matter if it has a hard drive or not, as long as it has a CD or DVD player. Download Linux Geexbox boot CD. Hook up your system to your TV and stereo system. Download some movies from the bittorrents. Burn to CD/DVD. Watch movies. Who cares if the system is noise, you won't hear it when you have a movie playing loud.
    • by dhasenan (758719)
      I hope you have five gigabytes of RAM to store a DVD image to burn.

      Or maybe you do want a hard drive after all?
      • by ylikone (589264)
        Not sure what you are talking about. I download and burn the images on my main computer, not the media center computer. It has nothing to do with RAM anyway. You just need hard drive space and K3B.
    • by Dun Malg (230075)

      Forget about buying a media system, just dig out some old computer you have, make sure it has a video card with TV-out. Doesn't matter if it has a hard drive or not, as long as it has a CD or DVD player. Download Linux Geexbox boot CD. Hook up your system to your TV and stereo system. Download some movies from the bittorrents. Burn to CD/DVD. Watch movies. Who cares if the system is noise, you won't hear it when you have a movie playing loud.

      Yeah...because HTPC boxes are just used to play DVDs.

      Seriously,

    • by Phroggy (441) *
      Who cares if the system is noise, you won't hear it when you have a movie playing loud.

      You're obviously not one of the people who should consider buying one of these. Please try to understand that while you personally don't care about noise, many of the rest of us do. Please don't try to tell us we shouldn't.

      If you have something constructive to say that is pertinent to this discussion, feel free.
  • Truly silent? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sparrowjk (214769) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:39PM (#16031512)

    1. The power supply is 14dbA? Yea right. The reviewers didn't even test it. That number is highly unlikely, especially from an unbranded PSU.

    2. What about case fans? What's the dBA on those? What about the CPU fan, which isn't even included? Both of these will have a big impact on the total overall noise of the system.

    3. Not to mention the hard drive! But enough.

    This is not a "silent" HTPC. It's a quickstart HTPC. It should be judged on those grounds. Calling it truly silent is just going to confuse people.

    See http://www.silentpcreview.com/ [silentpcreview.com] for real silent computing.

    • Yeah. It's not even that hard to build a silent PC- a mobile processor cooled by only a large heatsink, fanless power supply and video card, and a single low-RPM fan to exhaust heat out the back. The only noise would be from the hard drive, and that can be controlled with rubber mountings and such.

      And since relatively slow processors and low-end video cards today have more than enough power for HD video, building such a HTPC shouldn't even be that expensive. The costliest component is a nice looking case
      • First, you're forgetting the optical drive. As any Xbox 360 owner will tell you, the optical drive can add a lot of noise to the system. On the 360, although the machine isn't nearly silent without the optical drive on, it gets a lot louder with it on.

        Also, slow processors and low-end video cards today do not have more than enough power for HD video. They would for MPEG-2 video, but not for MPEG-4 or H.264. Only a very few video cards accelerate MPEG-4 or H.264 at all. And most of them are high-end mosters
        • Most optical drives are no louder than a stand-alone DVD player, and any decent HTPC would be playing videos from its hard drive or even a backend fileserver.

          As for your Mac mini, its processor isn't the bottleneck. Shitty Intel graphics are, and any modern graphics card (Geforce 7- series, Radeon x1k series) should handle MPEG4 and h.264 in hardware.
          • Unless your optical drive is riplocked, it will read the disc at 8X or more. Drives are a lot louder at 8X than a standalone drive that runs at 1X.

            I have no idea how you say a decent HTPC is defined by where it is playing its content from.

            My shitty Intel graphics aren't a bottleneck, they just aren't helping at all. They don't accelerate MPEG-4 or H.264 playback. As to your comments about high-end cards accelerating MPEG-4 and H.264, that wasn't the point. I did allow for this with my comments, but this is
    • It's actually pretty difficult to test something that is 14dBA. Ambient in almost any room is higher than that, even before you put test equipment in the room.

      I doubt the reviewers could have managed to test verify the power supply was only 14dBA.

      I agree it's pretty clear the reviewers don't really know what they are talking about.
  • 6150 Mobo? (Score:2, Informative)

    by lordofthechia (598872)
    Nice that they're prepackaging all this and supplying the drivers and all. But this seems to me to be a 6150 Mobo [nvidia.com] and case w/ remote. Good Mobo (use a 6100 for 2 Linux WoW machines), though sound was a pain to configure (ended up getting a external card).

    Not sure how much the case is worth but the mobo is only $60-$80. Still guess it may be a good deal for those that don't wanna mess too much getting their own drivers and tweaking them properly.
  • by jerkychew (80913) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @11:16PM (#16031579) Homepage
    I've been battling my MythTV install for the past couple days, and am working on it as we speak, so this article is perfect timing.

    This device appears to be little more than a barebones PC and a lot of marketing induced FUD. Others have already touched on the lack of HDD, CPU and RAM, so I won't bring those back up. What I will bring up is my suspicion of the true reason why it doesn't have MythTV - Because MythTV under FC5 is a serious pain in the arse. To quote Axel Thimm from this posting [atrpms.net] on the Atrpms-users mailing list:

    "Anyway, all in all currently mythtv on FC5 isn't an easy ride. If you
    don't want to get in adventures, don't upgrade yet. Wait at least
    until the fixed kernel makes it into updates proper."

    I had originally loaded FC5 on my MythTV candidate, only to run into whacky issue after whacky issue. I formatted and reloaded to FC4, following the holy grail [wilsonet.com]of MythTV install guides, and the install has been much smoother. (I'm just trying to nail down the audio / video sync issues - I gotta get my line out to stop playing 'live' audio, dammit!)

    I think you'd be better off speccing out a PC from NewEgg or something, rather than purchasing one of these boxes.
    • by r_cerq (650776)
      (I'm just trying to nail down the audio / video sync issues - I gotta get my line out to stop playing 'live' audio, dammit!)

      Just disable "Capture" for the TV line in the audio mixer (alsamixer will do. Just hit tab twice to see playback and capture devices simultaneously)
    • 3 MythTV boxes (1 master, 2 "satellites"), all running FC5. As someone previously mentioned, just "yum install mythtv-suite" using the atrpms repo.
  • by peeon (743159) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @11:18PM (#16031582)
    By following this guide, http://www.silentpcreview.com/article16-page1.html [silentpcreview.com], I have built two machines identical to their setup and modded my power supply cpu with a low rpm fan. These machines have run solid for almost 4 years, until one of my motherboards crapped out. They are quietest piece of hardware I have owned since I sleep right next to them.
    • I'm interested in building a MythTV box and was wondering what, if any, DVR-type stuff have you done with the machines built from that guide.
      Thanks!
      -Trillian
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2006 @11:18PM (#16031584)
    The main reason I am not engaging in any PC-based home theatre appliance is the 350-500 Watt power consumption.
    I am always looking for energy saving, and I think it's insane to use that much power for playing/recording DVDs, music, compared to CD or DVD players/recorders, which consume much less energy.

    • The power supply might be 350-500W, but actual usage is usually less than 150W.

      Of course, that's still a lot higher than a CD or DVD player. But those don't give you easy access to a hard drive with thousands of MP3s, among the other things that a PC can do. If all you're doing is playing CDs and DVDs, then by all means just get a regular DVD player.
    • I doubt it would use more than a fraction of that, even with a P4. With a low-wattage chip, and a laptop HD (quieter, too), a PC can be run off a DC power brick (really, truly silent, unlike this thing) supplying maybe 75W.

      But even with low power, truly silent hardware, HTPCs are a pain. Getting the remote to work properly was an exercise in frustration...and standard remotes work so much better than any cludge I could find for the PC. I gave up long ago and got a Panasonic DVD/HD recorder as my TIVO, an
      • by mcrbids (148650)
        The barebones machine in this article is worthless, overhyped garbage. However, I think there is a real market for a silent-as-a-good-DVD-player HTPC that "just works" out of the box and which is unencumbered by DRM. I'd like to see someone make such a system, using the same hardware and disk image on each system...since there's no way I'm going to go through the headache of trying to get a Myth box to work.

        It's a free market - why don't YOU do that? If you are right, and there's really a need for this, it'
        • Hello? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rob Simpson (533360)
          Because I'm TOO LAZY to do so! Try taking Reading Comprehension 101, please. I said in the post that I didn't have enough interest to go through the work and frustration of setting up the system and getting Myth to work ONCE, for MYSELF. Do you really think I would go to the additional difficulty of setting up something for mass production if I'm not willing to do it once?

          I have plenty of money...if someone else sold systems like that working 100%, then I'd happily pay for their services. Me=Part of the
    • The main reason I am not engaging in any PC-based home theatre appliance is the 350-500 Watt power consumption. I am always looking for energy saving, and I think it's insane to use that much power for playing/recording DVDs, music, compared to CD or DVD players/recorders, which consume much less energy.

      I think it should be possible to do a home theater PC without drawing anywhere near that kind of wattage. I went on a power saving kick a year or two ago, and I discovered my Mac Mini only draws about 4

    • by bogie (31020)
      If all you ever do is watch cd/dvds then you have zero reason for a HTPC in the first place.
    • I've actually been trying to spec. out a PC based PVR the last few days -- my total pretax cost is coming around to CAD 450.

      It should be relatively easy to get your power usage to under 150W at load, and half of that at idle. It's still a lot more than a DVD player, but certainly not 350W. The trick is to be selective about components -- you don't need the highest end, most power consuming, hardware for this. Here's a link to an article at Silent PC Review on these things [silentpcreview.com] -- note, the system they've
    • by fm6 (162816)
      If you're concerned about energy-wasting appliances, then you probably don't own a fancy plasma display [guardian.co.uk]. And if you don't, then a fancy home theater appliance is a waste of money anyway.
  • Summarize (Score:2, Funny)

    by pipingguy (566974)
    10 links in one submission, wow.
  • I'd like to see a thorough comparison between the LixSystems' $560 system

    http://www.linuxtechtoys.com/ltt/product_info.php/ cPath/24_27/products_id/237 [linuxtechtoys.com]

    and Interact-TV's $600 system

    http://store.interact-tv.com/store/product_info.ph p?cPath=9&products_id=81 [interact-tv.com].

    And any others that might be out there.
  • If you RTFA, this is $300 for a HDTV case, a quiet PSU, and a GF6 video integrated Motherboard. The motherboard is an ASIS a8n vm csm. ($78 @ newegg) The case is some sort of Custom HDTV case, not found with easy trawling, lets assume $100 + $60 for the "Ultra Silent" PSU.

    Not a bad deal for the $300 barebone. Especially as they configure the Linux for non easily installed stuff.

    Linux Install CD: http://www.lixsystems.net/lix/product_files/LX8100 -939BB-A8NVN/installCD/Lx8100-939BB-A8NVN_InstallC D.htm [lixsystems.net]
    (Coin
  • by niceone (992278) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @03:21AM (#16031907) Journal

    The PSU looks quiet, but it's not fanless.

    There are two case fans - I couldn't see how loud they are, they say "Case fans as low as 1200rpm", but they look pretty small and small fans are usually pretty whiney.

    The model that comes with a CPU [linuxtechtoys.com] seems to use a stock heatsink/fan and there doesn't look like there's a lot of room in there for a quieter solution. Also there are air holes straight above the CPU which are going to let the noise straight out.

    I didn't find anywhere where they quoted a sound level for the whole system - maybe I missed it?

    I have no idea how this compares to other HTPC form factor solution, but it sure isn't "truely silent".

    • by KillerBob (217953)
      Of course it's truly silent as sold.... A computer without a CPU, optical drives, or a hard drive isn't going to make a lot of noise. :-)

      Silencing your PC is an easy thing to do, though. Just about any PC can be made silent, too... Just replace your case fans with variable speed fans, and your CPU, GPU, and Northbridge fans with passive heatsinks. At the low speed, the fans won't make a lot of noise at all. Even with a "silent" PC, though, there's going to be noise. I mean... here's what I've thrown in my s
  • by riflemann (190895) <riflemann@@@bb...cactii...net> on Sunday September 03, 2006 @04:31AM (#16031973)
    After seeing and discussing a very interesting mythtv frontend at Lugradio, I went out and bought myself (on ebay) a T-Online Vision S100 [juski.co.uk] set top box. These were built for a german VoD service, but they're easily available on ebay.

    It is *totally* silent (no moving parts) and comes with wifi, ir remote, ide slots, a pci slot, tv/audio/spdif out, usb and runs linux beautifully. I can even use it as a Wifi AP. It's only 766MHz and the 128Mb DRAM is soldered on (non upgradeable) but this is all you need for a silent box.

    And whereas most set-top-box PCs are reminiscent of a massive mid 80's VCR, this is actually no bigger than your average DVD player.

    Note I say "frontend". You probably need a bigger case to get a PVR-150 into it, so it might work as a combined back/frontend, but in its natural form factor it's easier as a frontend. Though you can buy USB based DVB tuners, and assuming there's linux support, you've got your backend.

    Requires some hardware hacking if you want to get a DVD drive or a 2.5" HDD into it (mine runs off a 1Gb USB stick), but remember - there are no moving parts, and it's got wifi built in!
  • What really is the point of this? MPEG is hardly CPU intensive to decode these days. Even an XBOX can decode MPEG4 HDTV streams on it's CPU, a lowly Celeron 750MHz.

    A useful feature would be hardware H.264 encoding.
  • This may be just the ticket.

    Currently I've a Windows box with quite a bit of media (both video/movies and mp3s) on its HDD. I have an S-video cable and a fiber optic cable running some 30 feet from the desktop to my AV receiver.

    It works alright, and the quality is pretty decent, but it's somewhat clunky to use as a true HTPC. I literally have to drag media player into the other display and maximize it to watch anything. From where it's situated, I don't have line of sight for the remote in my normal TV v
  • by rcw-home (122017) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @02:36PM (#16033453)
    It just came in yesterday afternoon, so I haven't had time to get everything running on it yet, however there are a couple things worth commenting on:

    I talked to Andy, the guy who apparently is LinuxTechToys, a bit before buying the system. He was very helpful in clarifying questions the website created. When I asked him if my old MatrixOrbital VFD2041 display would fit in the case, that was all the prompting he needed to make me custom mounting brackets for it.

    The system came packed in one inch of low-density foam in a cardboard box about half an inch too narrow. As a result, the FedEx ground trip from California to Washington left a sizable dent on the right side of the case, possibly from the slimline CD to IDE adapter which was packaged alongside. I was able to pound this out with a hammer, a block of wood, and some gaffer's tape without any damage to the paint, so no biggie.

    Everything is a very tight fit. I had purchased a Samsung SN-S082D DVD burner for this system. I don't know if this drive is slightly larger than any of the others, but using the included IDE adapter, there was literally about a millimeter of space between the back of the floppy power connector's plastic tab and the front of the power supply - not enough room for the other side of the connector. I worked around this by grabbing an old fan power connector and soldering GND and 5V wires directly to the IDE adapter circuit board. (I needed to make one of these anyway for my VFD2041 anyway.) The 40-pin IDE cable rests snugly on the power supply, and I'm glad that power supply isn't a millimeter higher. There's a capacitor on the motherboard partially blocking the VFD2041's serial port, but that's OK because I only need pins 3 and 5 connected, it's the bottom row of pins that's obscured, and appropriately-sized wires will friction-fit into a female DE9 connector.

    My first message from the system was from Asus's BIOS, which said something like: "USB overcurrent detected. Locate and unplug USB device. System will shut down in 10 seconds." The IR receiver draws its 5V from one of the USB headers on the motherboard - I'm glad they chose this location instead of directly from the power supply, otherwise I could have let the magic smoke out of something. With the IR receiver circuit board screwed in to place between the VFD2041's mounting bracket and the case, there's enough pressure to cause the very end of that 5V line to make contact with the mounting bracket. I removed the IR receiver, covered the entire receiver circuit board in electrical tape, tucked it in next to the VFD, and taped it in place. Problem solved.

    The SN-S082D's tray is, at 13.8mm-ish, slightly wider than the acrylic front panel cutout. I had to sand the front panel quite a bit to get smooth operation. 100-grit sandpaper left the edges considerably smoother than before - they must have been CNC milled and left at that.

    I do not have a dB meter or the appropriate room to verify their 14dB claim, however the system has a total of four fans (CPU, power supply, and two case fans) and the only noise I could identify after powering on was from the CPU fan (which is the stock AMD fan). The BIOS does a good job of spinning these only as fast as they need to go.

    Debian Etch Beta 3 boots just fine on it, however I plan to netboot it (which the BIOS supports) so it'll take me a bit longer to get everything installed.

    Bottom line - the system works, they will go the extra mile for you, but be prepared to put more time into it than you think you'll need.

  • Who wants quiet? I want the world's Freakin' Loudest Home Theatre System!
  • I call bullshit on the "14dbA" power supply.

    1: No distance measurement is given, so the measurement is bunk anyway.
    2: The quietest fan-based PSUs are around 18dBA/1m, and that's difficult to measure - typing, nearby traffic, and just about any other noise can easily muffle a sound that is that quiet.

    The only way to build a "silent" PC is to build one with no fans and no optical/hard drives. Even then, poor power circuitry can make noise.

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