Retro Setup Update

20. September 2019 13:15 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

I had been seeing various posts about JVC D-Series consumer CRTs and recently picked up a couple for my collection. My primary driver for retro gaming is a JVC AV-32D303 which is a great size for seeing scanlines from a reasonable viewing distance. I also found a JVC AV-20D303 locally which is a good option for shorter gaming sessions. The JVC D-Series sets are quickly becoming my preferred way of retro gaming due to their curved screens and near flawless geometry. While I do like Trinitrons, if the set is a flat panel, the geometry looks weird on the edges. Now, if I did happen to see an FV310 become available in my area, I would definitely pick it up. That said, JVC's D-Series is a good competitor to the consumer Trinitron. The colors, geometry, and sharpness are simply stunning. If you happen to find one locally, definitely pick it up!

Since I recently purchased the 3rd party GameCube component cables from Insurrection Industries, I decided it was time to increase my component inputs. I didn't want to pay upwards of $200 for a gcompsw right now so I bought two Philips PH61150 4 way automatic switchers. I got each one for about $25. The nice thing here is that they can be daisy chained or combined with an existing switching setup. I already had a 3-way manual component switcher so I plan to make two of the inputs on that switch go to the automatic switchers.

The Philips switches provide the ability to switch between component, composite or S-video sources. The inputs don't transcode from one to another though. As most of my devices are component, I am primarily interested in the component switching abilities anyway. Since my GameCube will be getting an upgrade from S-video to component, I no longer need a switch for S-video. My Sony Handycam can output to S-video and I can leave the S-video input on my JVC D-Series available. My only composite device is my VCR. I had thought about an S-VHS VCR, but those are unfortunately quite old by this point. My VCR was manufactured in 2016 which is the last year that VCRs were manufactured. I hope that it will remain in functioning condition for years to come.

Why Plex? - Part 2

17. September 2019 13:09 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments

The online TV streaming market is becoming more fragmented as each company introduces their own service and gets exclusivity to several of our favorite TV shows that we used to watch on cable TV. I fully expect traditional cable to TV to be replaced by streaming in the next 5 to 10 years. The idea with streaming services was to "cut" the cord from the big cable companies. However, the reality is, the amount of money we pay hasn't really changed; It's just a matter of who we pay now.

With all of the new streaming services popping up to grab a piece of what used to be dominated by cable TV, I am glad to have my own Plex library which I have been slowly adding box sets of my favorite TV shows. It has become a bidding war of who gets to stream which show and it becomes too much to manage if you only subscribe to a couple of services. If it weren't for Netflix original content, I would probably drop them completely and continue building up my own TV library.

One of my favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, is available on Netflix, but only in the UK. I have watched some of the show while visiting the UK, but while back in the US I've been using a VPN to get access to the show. Now that The Big Bang Theory is finished airing on live TV, I can purchase the box set for $200 on Amazon and not worry about who has the streaming rights to a particular show. If you usually pay $12-$15/month for Netflix, this works out to be about $144-$180 for the year. Yes, $200 for one show might seem like a lot, but it will save you the decision making of whether to keep a service or add a new service should the show you like switch streaming providers. Beginning next year, The Big Bang Theory is leaving Netflix to go to HBO Max streaming service. You will also be able to see it on TBS. However, I am just glad I won't have to worry about where I can watch going forward.

In the end, it's all about how you consume media. If you still have cable, then you can probably find the shows you like on your favorite networks. If you subscribe to streaming services, you can pick and choose which ones work for you for a given time frame. For me though, I mostly like to just subscribe and forget and not have to actively manage which ones to stay.

HTPC Upgrade/Rebuild!

28. July 2018 22:55 by Cameron in Home Theater  //  Tags: , , , , , ,   //   Comments

I've upgraded and nearly completely rebuilt my HTPC for better long term usability and more moderate gaming. I swapped out the motherboard with an HP Elite 8300 motherboard, upgraded the RAM to 16GB, upgraded the CPU to an i7 3770, upgraded the SSD to 240GB, upgraded the hard drive to 4TB, and upgraded the GPU to a GTX 1050 Ti.

Originally, the upgrades were inspired by high CPU usage when playing H.265 content from Plex. I noticed this when playing back 4K H.265 content from Plex on my i5 2500. With the i7 3770, I am able to play back 4K H.265 movies with roughly 30-40% CPU usage. Adding a GTX 1050 Ti also helped with the decoding via its CUDA cores. The GT 1030 simply didn't have the power to help with H.265 so everything was CPU bound. I needed to swap motherboards because the HP 6200 Pro doesn't supply the needed 75W for the GTX 1050 Ti. Since I was swapping motherboards, I went for the HP Elite 8300 so I could get Ivy Bridge CPU support. Naturally, I needed to get the best i7 available. The larger SSD was just so I could install a couple of higher demanding games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 3. I outfitted the rig with a 4TB drive to accommodate installing more Steam games and support recording TV shows/movies from Plex DVR.

As a result of these upgrades, the only thing original to the PC I first bought is the chassis. Now, I am happily using this machine as a more moderate gaming machine and my home theater workhorse. I will likely upgrade the low profile GPU as needed in the future, but the GTX 1050 Ti should suit me for a while.

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