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Posted on May 06, 2013  - Last updated on Feb 28, 2014
By Benoit Frigon

HTPC (home theater pc)

This is my HTPC. At first, it was supposed to be a PVR. I wanted to add a TV tuner, but i dropped the idea and instead, built a separate media server for this purpose. Now it only serve as a “frontend”.

I did not buy a ready-made case for this project, i took an old Scientific Atlanta Explorer 2000 and modified it to fit a mini-itx board.

Specifications

Motherboard Intel DH61AG
CPU Intel i3 2100 3.1Ghz
Memory Kingston 4GB DDR3
PSU VMS-100-18 18.0V 100W
SSD drive mSata Crucial 32GB SSD
Hard drive 2.5” laptop HD bay (not used)
OS OpenElec 3.2

Case mod

This is the Explorer 2000 case i modified :

IO Shield template

IO Shield template

This is the template i made for the IO shield cutout and for the MB mounting standoff locations. As you can see in the images above, i glued the template on the inside of the case so the thickness of the case walls don’t matters. I used 0.250” swage standoff to mount the motherboard and the template takes that into account. The original template had a reference height of 0.270” because of the aluminum sheet under the MB. I removed the additional 0.020” height in this template assuming that the standoffs are mounted directly on the case bottom.

If you do use this template, make sure you print it to scale! I included a calibration scale for this purpose. Just make sure it measures 6” in both directions.

Download template

Front panel

Here are the specs :

  • 20×2 character lcd w/RGB backlight
  • 6 navigation buttons (up,down,right,left,ok and menu)
  • Reset/power buttons and power led (bi-color) which are connected to the motherboard pwr control header.
  • Two additional bi-color leds (record and message led )
  • Microchip PIC18f2520 MCU
  • USB interface (FT232 serial to usb)

The lcd is controlled by a python script on the HTPC.

Design files

HTPC LCD schematic (Rev. B)

Board layout available at OSH Park

Type Title Size
pdf LCD module - Bill of material 40.3 KB
pdf LCD module - Schematic (Rev. B) 38.9 KB

Hard drive bay

I made an aluminum bracket for a 2.5” drive. It used to have a 750GB drive for my media files, but i moved those files to a separate server and use a 32GB mSata drive for the OS.

Media center OS

Currently, I use OpenElec 3.2, a lightweight Linux distribution with XBMC 12. At first, I tried Mythbuntu (xbmc 11), it worked fine, but i was unable to install the new version. I had problems getting the video card (intel) to work. Anyway, i tried Openelec, and it worked perfectly. Although, with the recent updates, I’m having problems with viewing live tv from my TvHeadend server, it constantly display the message “connection lost” and playback of recorded streams sometimes fail to play (“unknown command” error message)…

Why did you not use a Raspberry PI instead ?

The reasons why is simply because when i built this, the PI was still hard to buy and from what i read at the time, the support for XBMC was not as polished as it is today. Also, my initial goal was to install a drive and the TV tuner inside my HTPC which is something that the PI does not supports. That was before i built my media server. My next HTPC build might feature a Raspberry PI but for now, it is working just fine for me.