Identical builds with full versions of Windows 7 Home with the exception of the build on the right that has an SSD. See for yourself the difference. [embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaZcdRiP4lo&hd=1[/embed]
I am excited to announce a new model at Assassin HTPC:
- Intel G620 Sandy Bridge Pentium CPU
- Mini-ITX Form Factor
- 2GB DDR3 1333 RAM
- 500GB Hard Drive
- DVD Burner
Total Price: $449.99 plus shipping
(Yes, you read that right. Less than 450 dollars)
Also highly recommended is my paid step-by-step illustrated guide for only $20 which will show you how to configure, install, and use all the software needed to have this HTPC up and running in a matter of minutes!
So grab this build, my guide and a copy of Windows 7 and you have a machine that will run circles around anything in its price class for about the same (or less) money!
This will be added to our webstore very soon. As a reminder our opening is scheduled for June 1, 2011.
Assassin HTPC is proud to announce that we are the only licensed system installer in North America!
What does that mean for our customers? Mainly that we purchase officially licensed versions of Mediabrowser.
Media Browser requires a specific amount of donations to unlock core plugins, in System Builder installations there is no such requirement. Core plugins (Pearl, Coverart, Trailers) are available and users will not see any donation required message.
Mid tower custom build completed for Leon in New York complete with software installation and configuration. Sandy Bridge i3 CPU, 4GB DDR3 1600 RAM, 64 GB SSD SATAIII, 2TB Green Drive, Modular PSU, Bluray
Example of Assassin HTPC screen
Wall E 1080p DTS-HD
MakeMKV made easier (even though its already pretty easy) by "assassin"
One of the drawbacks to Windows 7 is that is does NOT support playing back bluray discs natively. What this means is that you can't just pop in a bluray and expect Windows 7 to play it because it just won't happen. To watch bluray discs on Windows 7 you have 2 options. The first is to buy an expensive piece of software like TotalMedia Theatre 5 ($100) or PowerDVD 11 Ultra ($100). The second way is to rip your bluray disc to your hard drive in a MKV format where it can then be played by Windows 7 for free. You will not lose any quality in either video or audio by using the latter option.
So how can you do this? By using a great little free program call MakeMKV. Please note that MakeMKV is free while in beta (now) and can be tried free for 30 days but will eventually cost $50 (DVD decryption will always be free).
So what are some of the features of makemkv? A quick overview:
- Reads protected DVD and Bluray discs
- Direct conversion of all video and audio tracks with no loss of HD Audio/Video quality
- Includes all chapter and metadata information
- On an Assassin HTPC the speed of transfer is only limited by the speed of your drive --- your hardware is plenty to perform this transfer
- No additional software is needed --- everything else you need is already included when you purchase an Assassin HTPC
- Available for Windows, Linux and Mac should you want to try this out on another PC
- As stated above all of this is free while it is in beta (now) but at most will cost only $50 in the future
- Download and install MakeMKV
- Insert your Bluray disc into your bluray drive
- Open MakeMKV.
4. Next click the "Disk to Hard Drive" button in the center of the screen. The bluray disc will be analyzed for just a few seconds.
5. Next is perhaps the biggest part of why I love MakeMKV. You are able to select just specific tracks to be ripped which can really make your movie collection more precise and specific. For example
you can select just the main movie and leave all the extras, foreign languages and previews behind. This saves you a ton of time and space on your Assassin HTPC. As you can see in this example just the main movie, non-HD audio and English subtitle tracks are selected. If you wanted the HD audio track you would select the DTS-HD track instead.
6. Now its time to tell MakeMKV to rip your disc to the hard drive. As you will see above there are two areas highlighted. Click on the large button to the right of the screen.
7. As you can see your bluray is now being ripped to the hard drive! That's it! You just ripped a Bluray to your Assassin HTPC! How easy!
As I have stated above this will create a exact quality copy of your bluray on your Assassin HTPC. This whole process should take less than 30 minutes for most movies.
Assassin HTPC Trick: Did you know that you can compress your MKV files to make them smaller? Some people like to do this to save on space. You will lose a little picture quality but most users swear they can't tell a difference if compressed slightly. If you are interested in experimenting with compressing your HD bluray MKV files I would recommend a great little free program called HandBrake. Please note that this process can take many hours to complete.
Also added to the "Guides" section of assassinhtpcblog.com
How to Download and Add Torrent Files to Your Assassin HTPC by "assassin"
Torrent files are a very popular way to download files to your Assassin HTPC. In this guide I will show you how to download and add torrents to your HTPC to expand your library. (What are torrents?)
Legal Disclaimer: Assassin HTPC in no way endorses or condones the acquisition of illegal or copyrighted material. Downloading these materials is at your own risk and we take or assume no liability for these actions. By reading this guide you agree to this disclaimer.
Downloading torrents is extremely easy. You will need 2 pieces of free software.
- uTorrent which is a a tiny and efficient bit torrent client.
- Peerblock which blocks "known bad" computers from accessing yours and vice versa. As the makers of peer block state this "can help protect you from the bad guys"
After downloading and installing these 2 programs make sure that peerblock is running in the background. It is a good idea to update peerblock at least once a day -AND- before you begin any new downloads.
Now let's open uTorrent and view its main screen.
Next let's tell uTorrent where you want to save your completed torrent files. Go to "options" and select "preferences".
Here you can tell uTorrent where you want your files saved. Pick a location on your Assassin HTPC where you want to store your torrent data. Click on the button labeled "1." to select where to store your new torrents. Click on the button labeled "2." to select where to store your completed torrents. I like to select my largest hard drive and make a folder called "Torrents" with a "New" and "Completed" folder inside. I then review the torrent before moving it to my Assassin HTPC library (HD Movies, Movies, or TV Shows for example).
Since this is a tutorial we will select torrents that are very easy to locate. If you have a favorite torrent site you can select a file from there as well.
So try out uTorrent with peerblock running in the background.
First make sure that peerblock is running in the background. To do this click on the "show hidden icons" in the bottom right corner near the clock on your desktop. Click on it and update it before you begin downloading. Its icon is am orange or blue block as seen below.
Now lets go back to the main screen of uTorrent and click on "New Apps!" on the left panel which will take us to an area with easy access to torrent files.
Let's click on "Pioneer One" which is a television show that we can download and watch. Click on install located under their icon.
Next click on "Episode 1" on the left and click on "Download Episode One" on the right.
You are now downloading the first episode of this TV show! Wasn't that easy? Now select "Torrents" in the left panel and you will be brought to the main downloading screen of uTorrent.
On this screen we can see a few important pieces of information.
- The file(s) that are downloading located under "name".
- The size of these files.
- Percent done of the download.
- Status (Downloading vs Done/Sharing)
- Seeds (Very Important: These are the people actively sharing the files. The more sharing usually the better resulting in more reliable and higher speed downloads)
- Leechers (Very Important: These are the people actively downloading the file from the seeds. You typically want a high seed to leecher ratio.)
- Upload and Download Speeds: This will depend on the speed of your connection and the seed/leecher ratio as well as the seeds' connection speed
- ETA: Estimated time of arrival (how long the download has before completion)
Once the download has completed and you are finished using uTorrent right click on the file from the uTorrent main download screen and select "remove". This will remove it from uTorrent which will allow you to move it on your Assassin HTPC to its new folder.
After removing it from uTorrent let's go to where you told uTorrent to store your data. You should now see it in your folder. Right click on the file and select "Cut" - this will move it to its new location and delete the old file in the previous folder.
Since this is a TV Show lets go to your Assassin HTPC "TV Shows" folder.
Make a new folder named "Pioneer One". Inside the "Pioneer One" folder make another folder named "Season One". Now inside that folder left click and select "paste". This will move this file into your new folder. I usually re-name my media at this point. Since this is the first episode of season one we need to rename it "s01e01".
Its that easy! You just added a new TV show to your TV Shows folder!
Now follow the steps included with your Assassin HTPC tutorial to add this file to your media library. The software on your Assassin HTPC will do the rest! The end result should look something like this:
There are a lot of websites out there to use to search for media for your Assassin HTPC. Good luck torrenting!
Here are the first pictures of our first line of HTPCs - The Assassin Mini-ITX. This model has the following specs. This is another one of our "no cut corners" builds:
- Intel 2100t Sandy Bridge i3 CPU
- Mini-ITX Motherboard with USB 3.0, SATAIII, eSATA, AHCI capable, Digital Audio Optic Output
- 40 GB SSD
- 2TB Hard Drive
- Bluray Drive
- 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM
- Case and PSU
- Windows 7 OS installed
- Bios Configured
- HTPC software setup and configured to be used out of the box
Assassin Mini-ITX and 32" Samsung test HDTV
Kill-a-Watt Meter at Idle: 30-35 watts
Kill-a-Watt meter while playing Avatar 1080p
Avatar 1080p playing on test HDTV
These are some screenshots that I took on an actual Assassin HTPC once it was setup and loaded with some of the owner's media. All Assassin HTPCs come configured with very simple instructions. All you have to do is add your media to a few folders (which we create for you as well) and then follow a few steps in our included guide. The HTPC does the rest. HTPC made much much easier!
The following is completely optional but will allow you to change the look of your Assassin HTPC by adding a theme called "Pearl" and a plug-in called "CoverArt". Unfortunately these excellent additions cost a few dollars to pay the developer but in my opinion are worth it. Currently Pearl is $6 and CoverArt is $4. Or alternatively you can purchase the "Classic Bundle" for $10 which includes both of these plug-ins and trailers.
One additional download you will need is BAS Skins manager which has dozens of skins that you can use for the Pearl theme. This is free.
There are other components and software that you will need to make this work but fortunately as an Assassin HTPC customer this was already installed an configured for you!
1. Install Pearl, CoverArt and the BAS Skins manager and select Pearl as your theme. Choose "cover flow" in the settings inside mediabrowser to display the folders like I have them shown.
2. For BAS Skins I currently use "dnicks Orange clear" although you can experiment around with the different skins and see which one you like the best.
3. Next let's setup mediabrowser using the configurator. This is the way that I have my folders structured but you can structure yours however you like. Here you can see a custom logo that I made. Assassin HTPC customers have default folders that have been created but can alter this scheme to fit their needs if desired.
4. Here are more of the settings that you can use. For weather enter your zip code instead of the Yahoo ID. Assassin HTPC customers will have these settings already configured.
5. This is how my main screen looks with artwork that I added. Assassin HTPC customers will have a custom "Assassin HTPC" wallpaper as their background.
6. There are thousands of other possible setting combinations and Assassin HTPC customers will have these pre-configured and optimized for their HTPCs. Finally inside mediabrowser configurator select the plug-ins and configure the cover art plug-in. These are my settings in coverart.
8. Now close mediabrowser if you have not already done so and right click on the mediabrowser active app icon which is running in the folder at the bottom right of your desktop screen (under hidden icons by the clock on your desktop). Once you are inside here click to clear the cache including images. This will delete all images stored in mediabrowser forcing them to reload with your new settings.
9. Now restart mediabrowser. If your new images did not load click on the wrench in the upper right screen to enter the menu (this is easily done with your remote control if you purchased one for Assassin HTPC).
10. Once inside the menu click on "Update Library". This will force mediabrowser to update it again this time from inside mediabrowser.
Assassin HTPC Trick: Did you know you can manually refresh an individual folder by pressing "Ctrl" and "R" at the same time? Try it!
The finished product:
MakeMKV guide now available under the "Guide" tab