Friday, August 24, 2007

HTPC Help Is On the Way, Go Troy Go!

If you've recently tried building an HTPC that can do all the basics, like play music, DVDs, plus play the latest HD formats like HD-DVD and Blu-Ray and have been frustrated with the incompatibilities between hardware, operating systems, drivers and A/V codecs, there might be some help in the very near future.

Troy, aka "pcCinema" on the AVS Forums, is offering to help everyone out. Troy started a thread titled, "Suppose I make it easy for all the newbies and budget folks?" back on August 16th to first announce his intentions and gauge interest. Troy is a former MCSE Senior IT Consultant who was responsible for the large scale automated rollout of PCs to corporate clients. He specializes in writing scripts or deployment tools that would make building high performance HTPCs easy for every newbie out there. He plans to maintain a website that would provide a list of high quality software and hardware components that have been fully tested for performance and compatibility with the required HTPC applications. Best bang-for-the-buck components would be included to make sure systems built from the recommended hardware list would also be affordable. Whenever, newer more advanced hardware or software is available and passes the necessary testing, the list will be updated.

After the user purchases his components based on the recommended hardware and software list, Troy's scripts would be used to assist with the process of assembling and installing all the hardware and software to create a trouble free HTPC. No more driver or codec conflicts. Finally, HD DVD and Blu-Ray playback will be stutter-free without all the hassles many people currently deal with today to get the correct combination of hardware and software to work together.

It's also interesting to note that Troy doesn't plan to charge a penny for any of his services. Troy doesn't sell any of the hardware or software, the user will have to shop for everything on his/her own. This is something he plans to do out of the goodness of his heart. Actually, it sounds very altruistic (it is), but he's also doing this out of self preservation. Troy explains that he is disabled and unemployed, waiting for Social Security benefits. He says he has nothing better to do with his time and since this is something he is very good at, he might as well do something he enjoys and allows him to be productive.

"It has been good for me to have a purpose again. I actually feel better physically and mentally now that I have this to focus on," Troy writes. "I've said it before that I've been going out of my mind with boredom, etc. I also want to make it good for the volunteers, and the community at large, and not just those that benefit from the plans directly. What's that they say about how people live longer if they have work to do? And the number one killer of retired people... "

Troy is hoping enough people will donate to his non-profit organization to help pay for the latest hardware and software that will be used to test for performance and compatibility with a high quality HTPC.

Interest in his proposal has been pretty positive. Of the 149 responses so far, it looks like more than 95% have been very encouraging. People are even willing to volunteer their time to help build a website (this one was thrown together pretty quickly by someone with the user name "pc1984" to demonstrate what he can do with a content management system (CMS) based website), help with the legal issues regarding setting up a non-profit organization, writing more advanced automation scripts, writing how-to guides and testing systems.

Well, I hope it works out. Personally, I'm pretty annoyed by all the hassles we have to deal with to get an HTPC to play all the high definition formats today. The latest dual/quad core CPUs from Intel or AMD and video cards from ATI or NVIDIA show promise, but sorting out the right combination of drivers, codecs and applications is enough to piss off an experienced HTPC builder. It will be interesting to see where this leads. I'll be paying close attention.

Good luck Troy!!

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