First (humble) efforts for a home media center


To make a long story short: I have a 1TB USB 3.0 hard disk that is full of TV series (and some movies) and I was trying to watch them at home, after everyone went to bed (this is the only time I have for this small luxury). The easiest way was to plug the disk in the home laptop and watch them – at the kitchen table. That was not very comfortable. An alternative was to connect the home laptop to my 37-inch flat TV and watch the episodes comfortably sitting at the couch. However, space is limited around the TV and on top of that there is no power outlet; so I can carefully place the laptop on top of the DVD player (so that the former will not flip over) and I can watch movies as long as the laptop battery lasts (which proved to be more than I expected). Last but not least, I tried connecting the laptop to the bedroom’s 23-inch TV; there is a power outlet there and some space behind the TV but it seems that my wife did not appreciate me watching TV for that long.

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I started looking for options that would allow me to build a home media center for cheap, like the Intel USB Compute Stick (and cheaper alternatives), network drives to be connected directly to my ADSL modem/router, traditional media center boxes etc. Then I remembered that I had bought a Crypto ReDi 215A DVB-T receiver that could also play video files (TS, MPG, MP4, AVI, MKV, MOV, FLV and SRT subtitles); it was bought as a temporary replacement for the one used with the main TV but it was never actually used. In terms of ports it is really basic (1xHDMI, 1xUSB 2.0 Host, 1xScart1xCoaxial Audio, 1xAudio jack) but I only needed the USB host and the HDMI ones, so I thought I should give it a try as a basic media center hoping that it would meet my three requirements:

  1. Correctly identify and power my Intenso USB 3.0 disk;
  2. Play the various video file types available on the disk;
  3. Support the Greek subtitles available for each episode.

So I set up everything: plugged the hard disk to ReDi 215, plugged ReDi to the TV through HDMI and powered up everything. I waited a bit and…

  1. Disk correctly identified? Check
  2. Video file playback? Check
  3. Greek subs correctly displayed? Not check

While everything went better than I expected, the Greek subs were not correctly displayed (the usual issue with Greek encoding). I tried tweaking various settings available through the menus but with no luck. Then I turned to online resources and I got some valuable help from Crypto’s online documentation; it seems that I only had to switch the menu’s language to Greek (I used the default English one). When I did, the Greek subs were displayed perfectly fine.

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So, I managed to have a (basic) media center using my existing 25 Euro DVB-T receiver, which is compact, portable (so I can easily use it wherever I find a TV screen) and plays full HD video files without lagging; how cool is that? 🙂

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