Any Tips on Setting Up Home Theater?

I am about to set up an integrated system of TV, TiVo, a computer, and speakers. Has anyone done this recently?

   I want to be able to watch TV (via Direct TV), stream, use NetFlix, play YouTube and Vimeo videos, play my Sirius radio, and have all the functions of a computer. It seems that this is a better route than getting a “smart TV, which, as I understand, has certain built-in functions, but not the breadth of choices available on a true computer.

   Seems to me also, that the storage capacity of a computer is a good thing to have (vs. smart TV). I’m not sure about Roku, Apple TV, or other boxes, but it seems to me again, that a computer would be more robust. Advice?

16 Responses to Any Tips on Setting Up Home Theater?

  1. Unknown says:

    Hi Lloyd,

    If you have the budget for one of those new smart TVs I heavily recommend them, the only downside is I don't think you can stream Direct TV through the internet on to the device. Otherwise, Netflix, Hulu (make sure the TV you buy actually does Hulu, most do not) YouTube, etc are all available on these devices. The space saving alone is worth it. And you do not have to worry about virus infections, and other nuances of a PC.

    On a side note, I have an Apple TV and LOVE it! It does all of the above except Direct TV & Hulu, the Roku devices claim they work with Hulu, but you must have a Playon subscription that is connected to a PC to stream through it. (not simple enough for me)

    We haven't had cable for over 7 years, and I don't miss it. The awkward conversations when someone says "don't you just love that commercial when…" I stare at them blankly because I haven't sat through a commercial in so long.

    Good luck with your project!

    P.S. I am a 12 year computer tech/AV guy, just for creds.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is too easy Lloyd,

    KILL YOUR TV….save your mind 🙂


  3. Anonymous says:

    Don't forget about the turntable for playing the precious vinyl.

  4. Anonymous says:

    mmm Hire someone good. Probably some snippy twelve year old. (kids seem pretty talented these days). Then watch them intently as if you completely understand what they are doing, but just dont want to stress out your fingers…(have a sling you could put on?). Ask the odd question..Good luck.

  5. jhm says:

    Most of this I think can be done with the tivo box. I've found that it is hard to get many things to stream onto the tv, but you might want to check out the following:

    pyTivoX, to stream and upload via tivo:

    To stream via bluetooth:

  6. onyx says:

    make sure what ever computer you end up using to surf the net and whatnot has an HDMI output, otherwise the text is hard to read on any tv and a wireless keyboard and mouse is a must! I have a system working on my tv now and works great! Netflix, Directv and whatever i can find on the net while using surround speakers. works great!

  7. D says:

    I use a Mac Mini as my media hub. I have the hard drive on it, as well as an external drive, that I keep my digital media (mp3s, ripped DVDs, photos, home videos, etc) on. It has an HDMI port, so it plugs right into my Samsung tv. It (the Mini) also has a LAN port, so I have the Mini directly plugged into my wifi router (I could connect to the router via wifi, but I prefer the extra stability of having a hard line). From the router, I can stream whatever the Mini has access to anywhere in the house, the yard, or even remotely, when I'm away from home (more on that in a minute).

    I use the PLEX app to manage my media libraries; it's a free server and client that presents my locally-stored movies and music in a very user-friendly, "jukebox" kind of interface. Very easy to instal and learn. PLEX has iOS apps, so you can control and access it (and your media library) with your iPhone or iPad, from the couch (yard, car, hotel room, etc).

    The remote stuff I mentioned happens with a free MyPlex account. Using it, you can watch a movie or listen to music that's stored on your mini or home network, from anywhere in the world (provided you have the bandwidth).

    PLEX plays host to apps from media providers like Netflix, Blockbuster, ABC, YouTube, Vimeo, etc etc etc (just like the Roku and all the other set-top boxes). Start up PLEX, start the Netflix app inside of it, and watch whatever you want.

    Going the Mini route also means you have a full-fledged desktop computer, running OSX, hooked into your tv. So you can do all of the "smart tv" stuff, but without the weird and often flawed experience of doing so from within the tv's onboard OS. Plus, you can run Photoshop and whatever else you ordinarily do with your regular computer/notebook. Admittedly, I don't do much computing that way, but it's nice to have an extra machine now and then, and like I said, checking email or Twitter from within OSX is a lot more enjoyable (and familiar) than navigating a clunky tv-native OS.

    PLEX can read iTunes libraries and playlists, so streaming music from your established iTunes library works really well. Better, so far, than Apple's own Airplay feature.

    PLEX also has an app for Roku, so if you'd rather not spend the $600 on a Mini, that's another way to do it (though so far the Roku PLEX app leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion, which is why I opted for the Mini in the first place; your desire to "have all the functions of a computer" was my cue to mention it for you, as well).

    PLEX does a lot more stuff, including automatic tagging of local media it indexes, so if you're at all intrigued, check out their website (I don't work for them, I just really like the product):

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey Lloyd … thank you for your interesting and frequently updated blog. It always brightens my day.

    Regarding an integrated computer/TV system; I decided to ditch the cable and go with a 'connected' TV about a year and a half ago. With increasing access to bandwidth, equipment, and content its definitely the wave of the future.

    My current equipment configuration is as follows:

    1. Used Sharp Aquos 1080i LCD TV with HDMI and four external inputs.
    2. AppleTV
    3. Mac Mini
    4. Over-the-air digital tuner for High Def broadcast TV signal.

    Connect the MacMini to the Sharp TV by HDMI.
    Connect the MacMini to high bandwidth Comcast internet.
    Connect the Over-the-air antenna digital tuner to one of the Sharp external TV inputs.
    Connect the AppleTV to one of the Sharp external TV inputs.
    That leaves two extra Sharp external TV inputs for DVD, tape, CD, etc.

    The result is a 'connected' TV that allows me access to high speed internet on my Sharp TV, over-the-air antenna broadcasts via High Def TV signals (I prefer broadcast TV over Direct TV et. al. for financial and personal reasons), streamed or downloaded content from the MacMini or the Apple store via the AppleTV, watching DVDs or listening to CDs and digital music, and I have room for two additional inputs if I want to connect some other device.

    Hope this helps.


  9. bayrider says:

    I am not very high tech in my setup, my computers are not directly connected to TV.

    But one device I have used for about 6 years is the ROKU streaming player, pretty amazing. It has worked flawlessly off my wireless DSL (not the fasted by any means) primarily for Netflix streaming, but you can stream all sorts of other channels, Amazon, Hulu, Pandora etc. Their top of the line box is only $99, easy to install, easy to use and will connect with older TVs. I loved their Soundbridge internet radio also but they discontinued it. Their support was almost non existent on the Soundbridge, just awful, but I have never needed it on the streaming player.

    I was a Tivo enthusiast since they first came out but they dropped the ball on their integration with DirecTV a few years ago. I switched to the DirecTV DVRs a few years back and actually liked them better once I acclimated to them. If you are a new customer you can get them installed for free with a contract. Do not 'buy' them, it's bogus and the costs are identical to renting them. The problem with DirecTV, if you want HBO and two TVs with HD DVRs, it will cost about $100 per month. Their customer support is horrible too, you need to argue with them constantly and get a supervisor to get any discount or satisfaction. Which they will give if you are persistent.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Craig. Kill the TV not your mind.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Easy way = Google TV ($99.47)

    *Works harmoniously with your existing TV service (direct TV)




    *stream movies and music from your PC

    *Advantage of an integrated system with one remote

    Hard way = XMBC (free)

    This program is free and will do anything if you have the patience but It is much more technical and time consuming than a set top box. The install you specify would probably require a few hours to days of tweaking various plug-ins and custom scripts to get everything cooperating. It's the easiest of the DIY methods but it's still not for the faint of heart.

    Hope this helps,


  12. Anonymous says:

    I forgot to mention a good place for general information about what your trying to do is the the Wikipedia entry for HTPC (home theater pc).


  13. Anonymous says:

    .thanks for sharing

  14. If you want to get the best out of TV and the web combined, I guess you picked the right setup. But I’m sure the thing you’ll enjoy most there is the control you have over it. It’s quite convenient that TiVo allows one remote to set everything in place. How are you enjoying it?

  15. Nowadays, a lot of these solutions are available in the market, starting from those which are low priced but come with less functions. There are also sophisticated smart home solutions, which although high priced, but have a number of functionalities. Depending on what features people need to have in their systems, so as to get comfortable, and their affordability, they are buying the home automation system. One very common modality of installing this kind of facility is seen with the smart home theatre.

    Such home theatre installation guide gives people the necessary knowhow on how to handle the system, although the installation is done by experienced home theatre installers. After the home theatre installation is finished, people in homes can operate their televisions without having to search for the remote control. This function, as well as many others is readily finished if home theatre installation is properly conducted. Many of the homes are using the automation, primarily for the purpose of door locking and security, which can send signals to the owners, friends and public friends as well as to the law enforcing agencies.

    Smart Home Theater

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