Back in August, I wrote a post about some guy, Troy aka pcCinema, who on the AVS Forum proposed to help people build HTPCs. He was going to test different components to make sure they could play all the disc formats (HD included), play and record TV, play music, etc., etc. This would be real helpful for people that have struggled with matching the right hardware with drivers and codecs to play their media glitch free. He would post a list of components that passed his tests so people could just purchase the hardware from online vendors and feel confident that it would just work. He was also going to create installation routines to help people get the correct software, drivers and codecs to tie everything together seamlessly. A lot of people responded to his offer and a few of them offered to help out. A couple of guys, greeniguana and binary64, offered to do more sophisticated scripting to take it to the next level. This included tracking the current versions and automatically going to websites to download the most stable and compatible software. Like I said, it was pretty promising and it generated a lot of interest judging by how many people were responding and reading the thread. There were quite a few people who even donated to a fund so Troy could buy some of the hardware needed to start testing.
Troy/pcCinema decided to quit his own project. I don't know exactly what happened. You could try reading the thread to see if you can decipher it, but it looks like pcCinema just couldn't continue the project. Maybe his injuries (I think injured back) were more than he could handle. Or some people accused him of being a scammer and using his plan to get some donations so he could buy some hardware. I think the former is probably the real reason. There were a few people who were suspicious from the start and they questioned his motives. He didn't handle the criticism very well and probably helped fuel the fires of doubt. After quiting, it would have made sense for Troy/pcCinema to either return the donations or pass the hardware on to people who were willing to help out with the project. He did neither and instead probably pissed off everyone who trusted him, especially greeniquana and binary64.
Meanwhile, it looked like greeniguana and binary64 were going to continue on without him. If they could get their software to work with any hardware, they could really help a lot of people. If you are interested in what they are doing, just respond to the original thread. They also meet every so often on the IRC chat line called "HTPC Project." I think the irc address is 126.96.36.199:6667. The hostname is irc.htpcprojectchat.com. If you search the thread you can probably find the information you need to contact them.
There was also a guy named "renethx" who provided a lot of really good information about hardware. Troy/pcCinema basically delegated all hardware choices to him because of his impressive knowledge. As it turns out, renethx created his own thread with detailed hardware recommendations. I even used it to help select a few components to upgrade our demo HTPC.
So maybe there is still hope. Between renethx's hardware recommendations and the other guy's software scripts, people can find some very good information and potential setup tools to help them build and setup advanced and stable HTPCs.