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Build Your Own PC Home Entertainment System [Paperback]

Brian Underdahl
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 13 2003 0072227699 978-0072227697 1
Who needs the movies? Now, you can achieve stunning audio and top quality video results through your PC. This book shows you how to build your own home entertainment center using an ordinary PC. Watch and record TV shows and movies, put your entire CD collection on hard drive, and listen to radio stations from around the world.

Product Details


Product Description

From the Back Cover

Create a PC-based center that delivers endless excitement and entertainment to your home. Choose the appropriate case, motherboard, processor, and memory to make your entertainment system sing, then select the operating system and additional software that will best enhance your PC performance. Inside, you'll find fully illustrated instructions on putting everything together, including operating and troubleshooting tips. From TV tuner and video card options to amplification recommendations, Build Your Own PC Home Entertainment System delivers a complete guide to the parts and accessories you'll need to build your dream home entertainment system.

  • Customize a PC you already own
  • Get a list of top-quality author-recommended components and assemble your ideal system--even while saving money
  • Install, check, and run your system--plus, follow specific instructions on proper care and troubleshooting
  • Learn which processor, memory, and operating system will provide optimal performance
  • Configure your system for multichannel surround sound, and understand speaker systems, audio drivers, and other sound-generating essentials
  • Improve storage with floppy disk and DVD drives, redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID), and other techniques
  • Partition and format the hard drive for peak performance
  • Program hundreds of hours of music, create mixes, and use tuner application and video editing software
  • Store your favorite TV programs or digital camcorder movies on DVD
  • Add gaming features, use video cards, TV tuner cards, and connect to a large screen TV

About the Author

Brian Underdahl (Reno, NV) is the best-selling author of more than 60 books on all aspects of computing. During his career, he has appeared on a number of TV shows as an invited expert, including the Computer Chronicles and TechTV. Brian¿s books have won awards and received critical acclaim from a number of organizations, including an Award of Merit from the Northern California Technical Communications Competition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In these days when you can buy just about anything you want off the shelf at your local megastore, building your own PC-based home entertainment system might seem like a waste of time. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Might be good for a newbie to PC's. July 13 2004
Format:Paperback
I have held off getting involved in the Home Theater (HT) scene for some time, waiting for prices and standards to settle down - and good thing I did! Yesterday's 'standards' are obsolete, and there are several generations of orphan A/V equipment out there that now don't talk to each other well (or at all). However, things are now starting to settle down, and I'm getting interested. Since I'm a computer geek, I'm also interested in doing HT with a PC (HTPC). So I bought this book, but I'm not very impressed. It might be good for a complete computer newbie, but I know what a sound card is. I know what a video card is. I didn't need this level of hand-holding. In fact, there is nothing in this book that I didn't already know. If you know what "Linux" is; if you have ever formatted a hard drive; if you know what the different flavors of recordable DVD are, you don't need this book and it will just offend you. I've never written an Amazon review before, despite being a long-time customer; but this book stinks on ice.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Consistently pessimal in every respect June 8 2004
Format:Paperback
This book was presented to me by my sister in the hope that I would build her such a system. After reading it, I came to the conclusion that not only would I not build such a system, but that no knowledgeable person would either. I can't conceive of any reason behind any of the choices he makes other than perhaps get some freebie hardware from the vendors he plugs in this book.
"Pessimal" seems a strong word, but no other seems appropriate. Where does one start addressing his bad choices?
Firstly, a PC does not make a very good stereo or home theater system, because of the overhead of a general purpose operating system and the poor optimization of the display and D/A technology vis-a-vis home theater or high-end audio components for their purposes. Yes, you can do all the things he speaks of, but you can't do them as well. (Although good audio gear is expensive, my speakers were made in 1978 and my power amplifiers originally constructed in 1959 and reworked by myself in the late 1980s. PC components, by contrast, have an economic half-life of around nine months to a year.)
When that operating system is Microsoft Windows, you have the added problem of the extremely huge overhead, the lack of optimization inherent in general purpose computer software, and the simple fact that Windows, of any variant, is in simple computer science parameters mediocre-to-poor software. Because of the large numbers of awkward choices Windows' designers made for 'backwards compatibility' and to implement a big feature set in a minimum amount of time, from a large pool of programmers, Windows is just not suited very well to the task.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Project for Home Feb. 10 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The author's done a good job of describing each step necessary in building a system that does things like TiVo. The book even has a complete list on the inside cover telling me exactly what I need to buy to build the exact system described in the book. And in the back, is a 'shopping list' with pictures of each item-- VERY COOL!
What impressed me the most was how each chapter doesn't attempt to cover too much and skip the details. If you are patient and handy with a screwdriver, I think you could probably follow the instructions and have this system running in no time.
Plenty of pictures of each item being discussed are included, which was nice. I'm giving this 5 stars because the book does exactly what it claims on the cover... good job to the author.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend it. May 24 2003
Format:Paperback
If you're thinking it's time for a new PC, but have never actually built one yourself, this book is for you.
It's really nice to have a good amount of research done for you. The component choices made by Underdahl appear to be good ones. He also does a good job of making you aware of the most important tradeoffs.
Though I have not bought any components yet, this book has been a Bible for me for the past 2 weeks -- an excellent reference, and food for thought.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Might be good for a newbie to PC's. July 13 2004
By Say Uncle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have held off getting involved in the Home Theater (HT) scene for some time, waiting for prices and standards to settle down - and good thing I did! Yesterday's 'standards' are obsolete, and there are several generations of orphan A/V equipment out there that now don't talk to each other well (or at all). However, things are now starting to settle down, and I'm getting interested. Since I'm a computer geek, I'm also interested in doing HT with a PC (HTPC). So I bought this book, but I'm not very impressed. It might be good for a complete computer newbie, but I know what a sound card is. I know what a video card is. I didn't need this level of hand-holding. In fact, there is nothing in this book that I didn't already know. If you know what "Linux" is; if you have ever formatted a hard drive; if you know what the different flavors of recordable DVD are, you don't need this book and it will just offend you. I've never written an Amazon review before, despite being a long-time customer; but this book stinks on ice.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Project for Home Feb. 10 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The author's done a good job of describing each step necessary in building a system that does things like TiVo. The book even has a complete list on the inside cover telling me exactly what I need to buy to build the exact system described in the book. And in the back, is a 'shopping list' with pictures of each item-- VERY COOL!
What impressed me the most was how each chapter doesn't attempt to cover too much and skip the details. If you are patient and handy with a screwdriver, I think you could probably follow the instructions and have this system running in no time.
Plenty of pictures of each item being discussed are included, which was nice. I'm giving this 5 stars because the book does exactly what it claims on the cover... good job to the author.
5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Consistently pessimal in every respect June 8 2004
By Keith Carlsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was presented to me by my sister in the hope that I would build her such a system. After reading it, I came to the conclusion that not only would I not build such a system, but that no knowledgeable person would either. I can't conceive of any reason behind any of the choices he makes other than perhaps get some freebie hardware from the vendors he plugs in this book.
"Pessimal" seems a strong word, but no other seems appropriate. Where does one start addressing his bad choices?
Firstly, a PC does not make a very good stereo or home theater system, because of the overhead of a general purpose operating system and the poor optimization of the display and D/A technology vis-a-vis home theater or high-end audio components for their purposes. Yes, you can do all the things he speaks of, but you can't do them as well. (Although good audio gear is expensive, my speakers were made in 1978 and my power amplifiers originally constructed in 1959 and reworked by myself in the late 1980s. PC components, by contrast, have an economic half-life of around nine months to a year.)
When that operating system is Microsoft Windows, you have the added problem of the extremely huge overhead, the lack of optimization inherent in general purpose computer software, and the simple fact that Windows, of any variant, is in simple computer science parameters mediocre-to-poor software. Because of the large numbers of awkward choices Windows' designers made for 'backwards compatibility' and to implement a big feature set in a minimum amount of time, from a large pool of programmers, Windows is just not suited very well to the task. A dedicated product such as QNX or the now-defunct BeOS would have drastically improved matters, but a Linux or FreeBSD distribution specifically designed for the task would have been a far better choice and could have been included with the book at very little additional cost. The author's one-sentence dismissal of Linux consists of utter, provable nonsense.
Computer speakers and sound systems are generally inferior not only to high-end stereo components, but even inexpensive hobbyist home recording gear. I would strongly look at inexpensive Mackie, Yamaha, or similar powered (active) monitor speakers before I would look at most anything specifically marketed to the computer segment. I would also keep in mind that even low-end pro audio users select sound cards substantially more expensive than the ones offered to consumer buyers, and for good reason.
Finally, I very definitely would not use MaxBlast or any other proprietary program to format my HDD if I were running Windows (or any other OS). When you first install a drive, write zeroes to it using a program such as the ones offered by most drive vendors, then partition and format the drive from the installation CD of whichever OS you choose to run. Proprietary programs solve problems such as using larger drives in machines built before their size was supported, or running multiple OSes, but in a new clean instll these are not concerns-or if they are you need new hardware. Windows in particular likes its own partition and formatting routines.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend it. May 24 2003
By Paul Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you're thinking it's time for a new PC, but have never actually built one yourself, this book is for you.
It's really nice to have a good amount of research done for you. The component choices made by Underdahl appear to be good ones. He also does a good job of making you aware of the most important tradeoffs.
Though I have not bought any components yet, this book has been a Bible for me for the past 2 weeks -- an excellent reference, and food for thought.
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