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The PC and ahe Video Entertainment Center? 32

EvilNight writes "Did you ever find a use for all the old hardware laying around you house? I've used mine to build a computer for my entertainment center. Components: PII350, 32mb ram, 1GB IDE HDD, Pioneer DVD drive, keytronics remote keyboard, and an ABIT BH6 (1.0) motherboard. I want to use the computer for the following tasks: Video playback on TV (all formats), Video Capture (800x600 if possible), Boot a desktop on the TV (no monitor), and playing DVD on the TV. All I need is a good graphics card. This isn't as simple as it seems." Yep! It gets more complex. Click below for more.

"I need a card that can have the copy protection (MacroVision) disabled on the DVD/TV out so I can run it through a receiver and VCR without having the MacroVision make a mess of the signal. The Realmagic supports this (using zone-selector) as do some other ATI cards (I think). I'm aware of the Sigma SCC box that can filter these signals, but it degrades the video quality a bit and I would rather kill the signals completely instead of filtering them out.

I'm not really particular about what operating system I use. I think I will probably go with Win98 since it has the best hardware and multimedia support.

What graphics card would be best equipped to handle this? It needs to be able to boot and run a desktop using only the TV out, and I can't find any cards that can do this AND do decent video capture as well. I don't mind buying two cards if I have to. I think the best solution would be a Realmagic Hollywood Plus card and some other video card that can do the capture and put the desktop on the TV. What works the best? Someone out there must have their PC set up for this sort of activity. What are your experiences with your hardware? Is there any card that has decent hardware DVD, boot-to-TV, and video capture all in one package? Any pair of cards that can accomplish this together without spending a fortune getting them?

While I'm at it, does anyone out there know of a soundcard that can playback or record AC3, THX, basic surround sound or other advanced formats?"

Whew! I must admit, if something like this is possible, then it looks like this could be another role has been for the PCs of the next millenium. Is anyone really surprised?

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The PC and ahe Video Entertainment Center?

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  • Eek, forgot to check for responses to my post. Hopefully it's not too late that you don't get this (I'd have emailed you if I had some way of knowing your address)...

    Anyway. From what I can tell, the Asus's SVideo output isn't a true SVideo output; notice that there are six holes on it, rather than the usual four. Also, notice that the SVideo cable has only the four standard pins on it. Then notice that the composite adaptor only has the other two pins on it. Basically, I think that Asus saves space on the connector edge by combining the svideo and composite plugs into one plug. I seriously doubt that adaptor cable will work on normal SVHS sources. :)

    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • Hi All,

    Getting the computer to record hi quality video is something I'm trying to setup as my collection of aging tapes of old shows deserves better than just being sent into the ethers as magnetic static.

    The Iomega Buzz video card is nice, but it has conflicts with the video card I am using with it.(ATI pc to tv 3d pro)[very old card]. However, on the systems where I'm using a RivaTNT, it works fine. The problems I've had with this is that it tends to not work well with my hard drive setups be it scsi or udma. I keep getting dropped frames and other annoying problems.

    I've also had the enjoyment of trying one of those WinTV cards by Haupauge. Rather nice and it worked on my Linux box fairly well, but flaked out on the Win98 box. Go figure. :) But getting it to capture 30fps + stereo 16bit sound on Linux was not quite possible. ^_^;; A friend suggested I do more tweaking, but the max resolution on that card wasn't enough for me. (3??x2??)

    Which brings me to the current card I've pre-ordered and am waiting for. The All-In-Wonder 128GL(AGP) 16mb card. Figuring that it is an integrated card, there should be much fewer hassles and problems than I experienced with the other two. Plus, this card can both input and output, which is a godsend. Plus I can also use it for games. ;)

    But I don't know how well that card will perform, so it is a "wait and see" situation.

    On the whole, the capturing of video will depend heavily on several factors, most of which you're probably aware of:

    CPU Power:
    The CPU power is usually not too important, but with the All-In-Wonder 128GL, there is the option of real-time mpeg2 compression of the video. This happens to be cpu intensive and in my case, one of those Athlons looks like a real contender. ;) Mpeg2 benefits you by providing a good deal of compression to save you drive space at the cost of some image quality.

    Capture Card and Graphics Card (Power/Compat):
    The capture card will determine what is the maximum quality your recordings will ever have. Whether the capture card is compatible with your video card is another issue as it can cause intermittent errors or unexpected slow-downs or visual artifacts. One reason why I am choosing the ATI card.

    Sound Card performance:
    Go for a good solid PCI sound card. However, as you are looking for the various sound format compatibility, you're probably better off checking with one of those studio sound cards or with TurtleBeach soundcards. They make some nice cards, however, I'm not sure if they support those extra sound formats.

    Hard drive performance:
    This probably goes without saying, but something along the lines of at least 7MB/s sustained througput is a must. Though when I was using the Buzz, the amount of data moving was in the ballpark of 6-8MB/s, so the better the drives, the smoother the recording. AV or professional studio hard drives will go a long ways to keep the hiccups to a minimum. There is also the issue of UDMA vs SCSI. I'm not going to get into that. But if you plan on doing real-time compression of the video stream and want to go UDMA, avoid using the on-board chipset that comes with the motherboard and just get an expansion card. Anything which takes some load off the CPU is good. With SCSI, most controllers are off the board, so the main factor would be getting a rock solid card with good drivers.

    But overall, for those special sound formats, it may be helpful to contact one of the studio quality sound card manufacturers and inquiring.

    Sorry for the rambling, but hope it was informative to someone out there. ^_^;;

    - Wing
    - Reap the fires of the soul.
    - Harvest the passion of life.
  • Actually I copped out and now have all the pre requisite seperates but acheiving a similar goal is still a bit of a dream for me. Let me outline how I would do it.

    Apologies if this seems a little UK oriented but thats where I am so that all I can advise on.

    First of all - and most importantly - Get a decent Dolby Digital amp/receiver. I have the Sony STR 925b - It's a great box with 4(5?) video inputs, lots of audio inputs - including a seperate 5.1 input and it drives my current setup brilliantly. You cant skimp on this as in my recommendation this is going to be doing all of the audio out work.

    PC - I'd be tempted to go with a Gateway box in the UK - simply because they're reasonably well built now and they're very quiet - youd don't want 10 minutes of fan noise while you're watching 2001 ;o)

    IF you can get one - the older style Creative Labs DVD Kits are great - you can easily overcome the reion coding and macrovision and they have composite and svideo out as well as coaxial SPDIF

    Sound card - Go for the best card you can with SPDIF out - most domestic sound cards introduce noise in or after the digital to analogue conversion - remove the conversion to the receiver and you remove a lot of the noise - this is very important if you plan on using the machine as a CD transport as well - try not to use the machine as a CD player as the audio transport within a PC is, again, too noisy.

    Get decent speakers - I cant stress this enough - I've got a pair of Kef Q35s as the fronts - I hope to upgrade these to 55s or higher and then put the 35s as rears - these are great AV speakers - not THX but a great sounds and more than adequate for music too - they also do a matching centre and bookshelf style sets suitable as rears - here [] for more info.

    For video in and out I dont have much advice - I've got a hauppage card which performs great - on win98 ironically - but nothing for video out.

    I would definately recommend a radio requency keyboard and mouse - you dont want IR because it limits you to line of sight and it's interrupted by people etc - Logitech do a nicely styled kit for around £100

    That's all I can think of about now - drop me an email if you want.

    M@t :o)

  • In the starter for this thread, this was said.

    "I need a card that can have the copy protection (MacroVision) disabled on the DVD/TV out so I can run it through a receiver and VCR without having the MacroVision make a mess of the signal."

    I'm afraid that this question is getting lost, and this is the question I want most answered.

    I just purchased a new Sony home theatre system (TV, Dolby receiver, 5 speakers + sub, and VCR) for myself. I would like to add DVD to this setup. I would like to have some way to turn the MacroVision off on whatever I buy.

    Judging from what I have read, my best bet is to purchase a DVD drive and decoder card for my PC that can be manipulated to remove the MacroVision. The Creative Encore 5x with the Dxr3 decoder has been recommended. From what I understand, no regular DVD player (like a Sony one to match this setup I have) can be made to disable the MacroVision - you have to get a decoder box for this. Is this true?

    An audio question to add: According to Creative, the Dxr3 provides Dolby 5.1 output. Is this true? Or is it "simulated" or something like that?


  • Right now I'm using an All-In-Wonder Pro for my audio visual i/o and its an extremely well made card. It captures video beautifully from both cable and RCA connectors and can output ONLY VIDEO to a vcr. To get the sound to work what you gotta do is go to best buy or radio shack and get a cable with a female Hi-Fi plug on one end and a male/female RCA plug(s) on the other end (depending upon the inputs on the back of your vcr). Then you plug in the female Hi-Fi to the male Hi-Fi coming out of the card and then plug in the RCA cables to the vcr. Or if you can only get a connector with a male Hi-Fi connector (it'll happen) then you can plug the into your soundcard speaker out plug and plug the card output into the line in and work your computer like it was an audio mixer. Other than that it has excellent in/out capabilities for video.

    (PS: you can only work with video that's 320x240. That is the standard for american broadcasts and for vhs videotape.)
  • I could be wrong, but I'm sure that "on board" SCSI and UDMA (as in, placed on the motherboard) would provide just the same performance with just the same CPU load as putting in say, a PCI expansion card.

    The reason for this is that while "on board" is built onto the motherboard, it is not in any way more dependant on the CPU. It still resides on the PCI bus, it just has traced connections to the bus controller instead of a card-slot connection. Most of the on-board SCSI/UDMA setups use exactly the same chipset (eg: Adaptec 7940 or whatever) as the off-board ones as well.
  • by cswan ( 6058 )
    The G200 series (or if you've got money to burn, the G400 series), coupled with the TV/OUT (Mystique comes with, Millenium has to have the TV/OUT added) will hook you up. It DOES have the ability to boot DOS, and indeed, output to the TV as a monitor the entire time. A nice feature of the G200, which many other cards lack, is that it has great TV/OUT--1024X768. You'd really need to jack your font size up to make it readable on a TV at that resolution, though.

    If you are going with Windows (I assume you are, because you mentioned DVD playback), using the software Cinemaster engine 1.028 will disable Macrovision protection. A PII-350 should be plenty to do software decompression of DVD with that software engine--the MPEG hardware on the G200 helps...if you had a slower chip (like PII-266 or lower) you'd almost definitely need the specialized hardware on the ATI cards to get decent playback.

    To do video input, you're looking to spend a little more money. You can get the addon for the G200 (the Rainbow Runner-G), or just pick up a Marvel from the gitgo. Either way is about the same. Note that you're not going to be getting great video capture/output cards for under $1000, so if you're doing heavy duty stuff you're looking higher end--Miro cards are popular.

    If you are doing linux, you might have a few gotchas. You'll probably have to boot DOS, initially, and flash the 'always TV/OUT' function into the BIOS of the card. After that, I don't think it matters what OS you run, because the 60Hz TV/OUT will always be active.

    G200 cards can be found for pretty cheap anymore...but, the Marvel sounds like it is more what you're looking for. I would not recommend some cards, like original TNTs, because their MPEG scaling is pretty crummy (and I don't think you can get a TNT+video capture combo card.) And don't even bother with one of those stinky RealMagic cards...ick.
  • I currently have the DxR2 card with the DVD Encore kit in my Win98 Peesee. It does do Dolby AC-3 5.1 (I've got the Caimbridge Desktop Theater 5.1 decoder/speakers and it sounds great). And, it can also skip the macrovision stuff if you use Remote Selector, which is a tiny little utility that is absolutely wonderful. I have heard rumors that some of the things you can do with Remote Selector on the DxR2 don't work in newer versions of the decoder card, however, I don't know for certain...
  • Hi Plankeye,

    Oops. ^_^; I actually had the answer to this and forgot to put it in with my post.

    When testing the Iomega Buzz card for capturing a/v to my computer, I had been using a DVD player playing the most horribly encoded/macro-protected DVD I had ever seen. (Make that worst of DVD and VHS). It was I think the Batman movie where batgirl is introduced into the picture. Very very extreme dark and light transitions.

    Anyways, the Buzz card recorded the data without the protection problems and the video was saved, in part, to the hard drive clear as day. This was an interesting revelation. However, whether or not the card has remained protection free since when I bought it about a year ago, is something of an issue.

    As for turning the protection off, I could be mistaken, but I was under the impression that the macro-vision protection scheme, for dvds at least, was something which is added during the playback process. Ie, the player can choose not to do any fiddling with the signal. Just as the player can choose to ignore the zone encoding, if so convinced.

    However, never found a way to do it with mine and didn't feel like bringing it to a "shop" and have the machine "repaired". I'd much prefer to visit a store like Hollytron or Superco to get my special player needs. They are both large consumer electronic stores with some imports which are universal in nature. There are other shops, which can probably be assumed that many people on this site already know about. :) Most are small little stores.

    Once again, my post has been somewhat vague, but hope it has been of help. ^_^

    - Wing
    - Reap the fires of the soul.
    - Harvest the passion of life.
  • Too the best of my knowledge (I've looked around a bit) there are no consumer level products that support true Dolby Digital format (preferably with a digital output). Creative labs Live cards support 4 speakers, but not a true 5.1 dolby digital, though they sometimes make it seem like it does by advertising their speakers (cambridge soundworks) as Dolby Digital or whatever. They are not. But the card does have an SPDIF output, which will allow you to connect it to a high quality stereo with a good D/A converter.

    I recommend what a previous poster had said, get a high quality Dolby Digital reciever (or seperate components if you can afford them). Regular Sony models and most other basic brands Marantz [], Harmon-Kardon and others for good quality sound which can be had for around $1000 (US), or less. I have a Proceed [] system, but expect to pay $10k+ for something of that caliber (along with Krell [] and others).

    If you get such a reciever, make sure it has at least 2 (preferably more) RCA SPDIF inputs. That way you can use the SPDIF (Dobly Digital) output from your MPEG decoder that the DVD is attached to and the SPDIF of a soundcard to the reciever using a RCA cable. This will move the digital to analog processing OUT of the computer, into the reciever, which has much higher quality components and a much reduced noise floor.

    Combine the reciever will a high quality set of speakers and a subwoofer and you have an incredible home theater system. Important: Don't skimp on speakers any more then the reciever. DO NOT BUY BOSE SPEAKERS!!! There are far better quality and better sounding brands that cost less money. Bose, like Microsoft, is based on marketing, the quality of their products is inferior to many others. Go for a traditional bookshelf or floor standing speaker as opposed to Bose type mini cubes (if you get floor standers you may be able to forgo getting a subwoofer initially, though it is recommended). B&W [] offers some of the finest loudspeakers available, from $250 to $40,000. I highly recommend the 300 and 600 series for an affordable home theater. Match it with a Velodyne subwoofer, and you have a system to die for.

    Sorry if I rambled a little off topic here, but Audio is hobby of mine :-) I have a similar situation in my dorm room. Next I want to get a video projecter with a d-sub or RGB input so I can connect my computer to it and project my DVD's on a huge screen!

  • Hmm.. I could be wrong as well then. However, the reason why I brought it up was because a friend of mine who's had problems up the whazoo with computer hardware in general makes it his hobby to look up the designs or specifications and to his knowledge, yes, it is the same chipset and it is hooked to a PCI bus.

    However, the difference is with the fact that on the motherboard, the circuit traces are shared with the other components on the board and in some cases, say UDMA, the interrupt signals are shared to conserve extra traces and interference with other component systems. So while the chipset may be the same, the implementation of the device controller is different and this causes problems. Not so much with the CPU, but rather, with itself.

    In such a case, I'd rather just disable the onboard and go with a dedicated card with its own processor/brain so that it can work more efficiently.

    But I admit that I might be off on this one.

    - Wing
    - Reap the fires of the soul.
    - Harvest the passion of life.
  • Regarding TNTs, the Asus v3400/TV and v3800 (TNT1 and TNT2, respectively) both have a video capture. I don't know what quality they have, but yeah, they're certainly not as good as the G200 or G400's optional captures are, but they're also a lot cheaper. Also, don't blame the TNT1 for crappy MPEG scaling, because they don't do any MPEG at all; blame whatever software decoder you were using. :) To blame the TNT1 for crappy MPEG scaling is about akin to blaming the C64's VIC-II chip for the same thing.

    I believe the Asus v3800 has an MPEG decoder chip on it, in the meantime. I dunno. I recently wasted $400 on a Sony DVP-S550D DVD player and don't really care about out-of-region playback or VHS bootlegging, and would rather just go with something high-quality. As good as PC-based DVD playback is, PCs still just can't match the output quality or features of even a midrange player like the DVP-S550D. (FWIW, all reviews I've seen of this player, not including ones of units with older, buggier firmware, are absolutely glowing, and put the quality on par with the DVP-S7700, apparently the best player on the market. Having a variety of options which make this player scale with my needs doesn't hurt any, either.)
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • Hm, that's odd. We have a v3800 at work and it works just fine, though I don't know what motherboard's in it. I don't think it's an Asus though. I think you likely just had a bad card or something. Weird.

    Of course, since you don't care about video quality, there's no real point in worrying about what tv-in chip is used. As I think I stated above, I wouldn't use any TNT-based solution for serious video work; TNTs are great 2D/3D chips which just happen to have tv in/out functionality, usually as an afterthought. The Asus and Leadtek cards are the only ones AFAIK with a decent TV out, and of the few with a TV input, the quality is just suckiness. Not to mention not Linux-supported yet. :) Hence why I got a Leadtek S320 instead of an Asus v3400 and saved about $40... I figure if I want TV capture eventually, there's lots of much-better cards for about $50-$60 which are supported in Linux.

    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • There is a $200ish Technics AC3 decoder. It's a normal width stereo component, about 2" tall, and has a cool display, remote, and you can adjust the 6 speaker levels independently. You can get it at Best Buy last I checked, probably many other places too.
  • This sounds interesting...

    I have an old ADS GameBlaster (you know, converts VGA to TV) with a DOS driver. The driver is actually a TSR. I managed to find a "freeware" driver with source that works OK, but once again, it is a TSR and is for DOS.

    All of this would be fine, but the application I am wanting to use the GameBlaster for I want to develop under Linux (it is a homebrew VR rig). So how do I get around the DOS/TSR issue? Is there a similar way under Linux? I have looked for info on doing this under Linux, but no luck. From looking at the code to the freeware version (it is x86 assembler - yech!), it first scans the VGA registers, trying to get a certain frequency setup to work. Once it finds one, it switches the frequency, pops to text mode, sets the TSR, and exits - leaving you in TV mode. It also replaces the video intterupt vector routine, to change the frequencies accordingly based on mode. The actual hardware is a cheapo device to take those modified frequencies and convert them to composite video.

    I haven't been able to find anything, and I would really like to use this device - otherwise, I am going to have to spend another $70-100 on a standalone scan converter, or a video card that has composite out.

    What are your guy's thoughts? Should I mess with it, or should I just drop the cash and buy something new?
  • I've been monkeying around in my spare time trying to build a pc that's integrated into my home theatre setup. I'd like to run linux only, but the DVD issue has forced me to install win98 as well.

    Anyway, I had lots of trouble getting X to display on the TV. I have an ATI XPERT@Play card with the rage pro chipset. Text mode was trivial. The card autodetects a TV connected to the S-Video or RCA output on boot and initializes the console to use that output. I really had problems when it came to getting X to work. I tried several dozen modelines purporting to be TV resolutions to no avail. Eventually, I stumbled onto some instructions refering to the mystical, magical frame buffer device and X server.

    I specified at the lilo prompt for my kernel to use the 640x480 framebuffer mode at 16 bit color (vga=0x312 or was it vga=0x311? -- more info in /usr/src/linux/Documentation/fb/vesafb.txt) Voila! There was the penguin icon at the top of the screen. I made the required changes to the XF86Config file to use the "default" mode and presto -- the frame buffer X server started right up!

    A friend of mine has also used the frame buffer on a slightly different ATI card with equally good results. There is a noticeable improvement in picture quality using the S-Video output opposed to the RCA output.
  • The ATI cards are fairly good for the task at hand, however, let me give you a warning: I basically have this type of setup in my computer, except it's an ATI All in Wonder Pro. It does everything that the 128GL does, except it doesn't have real time MPEG compression.

    My problem? It conflicts with my DVD Decoder card! In essence, it makes my DVD Decoder (The Quadrant International CineMaster) almost useless. And this then means I can't use SP/DIF for audio output. Luckily, I don't have a reason to use SP/DIF yet, but hopefully will rsn :)

    My vote would go for the new Voodoo3 3500 - it does excellent Video capture, and has everything you are looking for. Also, I know that there are OEMs that are bundling this card with DVD Decoders, so it probably doesn't conflict. Also, it has Voodoo2-SLI 3D performance, which is pretty good.
  • I have an RGB video projector so I wanted to do something similar. I have the NTSC to RGB converter box for my projector (for watching TV and videotapes), and I have the Samsung 905 DVD player which has RGB out for directly driving the projector, and also the 6-channel analog audio outputs. So a computer isn't strictly necessary in my case but I want to be able to use the computer in lieu of a VCR or Tivo. I will insist on using Linux (that's why I had to get a separate DVD player rather than trying to use a DVD-ROM).

    So I bought a Phoebe TV Master tuner board from Onsale. It uses the Bt878 chip, and with the Video for Linux drivers in Linux 2.2.10 I have succeeded in getting the tuner to work. However, the composite video and S-video inputs don't work, and I don't get any audio out of the card. The guys on the V4L mailing list have ignored my questions for the most part. For now I'm using the tuner card for the picture (it does make a smoother picture than the NTSC-to-RGB converter box did) and using my VCR to tune in the audio portion. I'm planning on finding a genuine Hauppauge tuner board (mine doesn't have the stereo audio decoder either and I consider that essential).

  • That is not entirely correct. As I said, there is no consumer soundcard that supports Dolby Digital (true dolby digital encoding). Most DVD decoders have an SPDIF dolby digital output. However, the Soundblaster Live! soundcard uses Creative Labs proprietary Environmental Audio (which requires games or audio programs to support it) to output sound to 4 speakers. To the best of my knowledge, this cannot be output with the SPDIF connector to a dolby digital decoder, even if it can, its not a "true" dolby digital system.

    At any rate, the cambridge soundworks set you mention, I said is not a true Dolby Digital system. That is incorrect, it does support true dolby digital (5.1) decoding, as well as Creative's proprietary Environmental Audio. However its quality is below that of even an ultra-cheap Sony reciever and Radio Shack speakers. If you don't wish to replace your Aiwa system (don't even get me started :-) ) I recommend getting a traditional decoder. Many brands have cheap (~$250) decoders, that are designed to work with their dolby digital "ready" systems. Try your local consumer audio store. They should have several models that will be much better then the cambrige system, since you don't need the speakers/amp anyway. Again, make sure it has SPDIFs, preferably two, so you can use your MPEG decoder card out too.

  • Actually, you aren't off the mark that far. I don't really understand HOW it works, but most PCI disk interfaces don't tax the CPU. That's the whole point of SCSI. Then there are the mobo's that have builtin SCSI, but those still don't tax the CPU either. AFAIK, it has something to do with a special little processor just for disk. The Promise ATA/66 controllers do the same thing -- take the load off the CPU, as do the ABIT BE6 and BH6 (?) that have integrated ATA66 ports. They have extra chips to lighten things on the CPU.
  • I use the all-in-wonder-pro at home as well, it works great. One thing to watch for is scaling -- some TV cards scale horrible, but the all-in-wonder scales to 800x600 (and higher, I think) very well.

    My entertainment system in my den is actually just a 19" monitor (I'm a poor college student) w/ at PII 350, the all in wonder for TV and VCR, the creative Dxr 5x DVD (which includes video out on the mpeg decoder card), and a soundblaster live hooked up to a a Dolby ProLogic receiever, some Bose bookshelfs for front and Yamaha for rear + center. Works great for me. I know the SBLive and the DVD will do Dolby Digital, but from what I've heard so far, ProLogic has passable surround at a much cheaper price. (X-Files is broadcast in surround, and it sounds great even through the allinwonderpro)

    OH, and someone mentioned a little earlier in the thread about the new version of the all-in-wonder Pro .. I'd like to know how that works out! I've been considering upgrading to one of those and moving my voodoo2 up to my linux box..
  • I too wanted to achieve PC/TV integration, and after researching it, decided it was too soon. It's just not economical to achieve digital TV quality from a PC right now. Video capture cards with lossless decompression require higher bus rates than are available. Short of a $17K Pioneer Plasmon Display, no sets, even HDTV sets, support high res digital input. DVD formats don't even support HDTV! I wouldn't even think of using dvd anyway until it's opened for linux. This is what you would have to buy:
    1) Next generation Athlon (K8 w/ 200 MHz fsb) $1K
    2) Dual U/160m Quantum Atlas 10K drives $2K
    3) HDTV card (coming Q4) $600
    4) High End Video Capture $500+
    5) Pro-Music Card $500+
    6) Madrigal Proceeds digital pre-amp/amps $10K
    7) Pioneer PDP-501MC $17K
    8) HiFi Speakers $5K+
    Especially irritating knowing that it's $36K in the near term but half as much in 2 years. The alternative consumer level products (Sony DVD, TIVO, SDTV) work but will not integrate with the PC until they become internet appliances and run jini. Alas, digital dreams...
  • To kill Macrovision, just turn the AGC of whatever you're spitting the video in to OFF.

    Macrovision injects noise pulses that confuse the AGC. AGC is only used on video inputs, so that's why your VCR hates them. TV's you can't record off of so they don't have AGC on their inputs.

    Actually my VCR has an OSD option to disable AGC. :-)
  • The SB Live! does do 5.1. Through the SPDIF. Period.

    You have to hook up speakers through the SPDIF, and the Cambridge Soundworks model you mentioned ($299 @ Best Buy) have a little AC-3 Decoder box with them.

    I, for one, WANT THAT BOX. Read my top-level post if you want to know why...
  • I have a nice little DVD/gaming/hax0r d00d box I'm building. ;-)

    Hardware DVD decoding, all the perks. It will have SPDIF AC-3 output for sound.

    I also have a $400 AIWA mini-theater system that has Dolby 5.1 analog inputs.

    However, I DO NOT have an AC-3 decoder. I need something to take my SPDIF input (from DVD card) and make it into 5.1 Analog outs. The ONLY thing I've seen to do this is a part of the Creative/Cambridge SoundWorks "Dolby Digital 5.1" speaker system. It's $300 at BestBuy, and comes with a sweet-ass little AC-3 desktop-sized decoder box.

    Can I get a decoder somewhere, or is my best bet to go steal this thing from the display model @ Best Buy?? ;-)

    Thanks for any help...
    {remove the _nospam...}
  • The Diamond Monster Sound MX-300 supports SPDIF output if you buy the $40 addon card. I do not know if this is true Dolby Digital, though.
  • I actually just bought one of the Desktop Theater 5.1 setups from $230, give or take a couple bucks after shipping. Very, very nice. You get the decoder, the center speaker, the sub, and the four surround speakers, plus some tripod stands, some velcro, and table-/desk -top stands. My only problem was that I had to use a lot of RCA extenders to get everything to reach from the computer room to the living room, and then from the AC-3 decoder to the read speakers. But, even taking that into consideration, it's pretty good.

    The biggest drawback: No remote control -- you've gotta get up to change the volume, or the fade/balance/sub. For the money, though, a very capable system.

    But, to answer your question, I don't belive that they sell the decoder seperately.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller