www.assassinhtpcblog.com

©Copyright 2011 by assassin @ assassinHTPCblog. All rights reserved. This guide and its contents are copyrighted by assassin @ assassinHTPCblog.

This may be used for personal use by the purchaser only; users are forbidden to reproduce, republish, redistribute or resell and material from this guide without the permission of assassin @ assassinHTPCblog.

Welcome to assassinhtpcblog.com!

This site is devoted to getting your HTPC up and running in the best and easiest way possible. I have a few sample guides listed here as well as over 130 other guides in the Paid Guides section. For a complete list of everything that is included see the table of contents here. Once you are a registered paid user you will have full access to everything to not only get your HTPC up and running correctly but also have many tools available to unlock the potential of your HTPC.

My goal is to bring HTPC to the masses and these guides are one of the reasons why.

The 4 guides below are a small  example of what to expect in my Paid Guide area which now includes over 130 total guides. In the paid area I have painstakingly detailed step-by-step illustrated guides on how to setup, configure and use your HTPC to achieve bitstreaming HD audio and HD video in a matter of a few minutes as opposed to many weeks or months of setup and time spent tweaking. My guides not only work — but work extremely well. This is the guide that you have been searching for…

List of Free Guide Samples:

  1. Guide 1: Introduction to HTPC and Eliminating Cable Forever
  2. Guide 2: Installing and Setting up Shark007 Codec Pack to bit-stream multi-channel audio in Media Browser and Windows Media Center(WMC)
  3. Guide 3: Mediabrowser Appearance Guide
  4. Guide 4: MakeMKV made easier (even though its already pretty easy)
  5. Guide 5: How to Download and Add Torrent Files to Your Assassin HTPC
  6. Guide 6: Download and Install Windows from a USB (or burn to a DVD)

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Free Guide 1: Installing and Setting up Shark007 Codec Pack to bit-stream multi-channel audio in Media Browser and Windows Media Center(WMC)

This guide is to show you how install and setup Shark007, setup Media Browser (MB) to allow playback on extenders, and bit-stream audio.

This guide is an alternate to Guide 2 where LAV is the sole codec used for both video and audio.

If you are only running a 32-bit Windows 7 System then the base Win7Codec Program will set all your video and audio codecs for you.

If you are running a 64-bit Windows 7 System the Win7Codec Program will set your video and audio codecs for WMP and any other 32-bit programs on your HTPC.  The x64Component Add-on will set your audio and video codecs for WMC, to include MB.

First let’s go to the Shark007 website to download the newest release.  If you are running a 64-bit system you need to download and install both the “32bit Win7Codecs” and “x64Components Addon.”  When you click on the link it will bring you to the MajorGeeks.com mirror site.

Click on Download Locations and then you may run the install file from there or save and run it from your HTPC.

Installing Win7Codecs.  Choose your language and click OK.

Click Next >.

Choose your desired directory (note the 32bit codec pack saves to the “Program Files (x86)” directory).  Click Next >.

Choose Complete install and click Next >.

Click Finish and Win7Codecs will install to your HTPC.

Now go back to Shark007 website and download/run the “x64Components addon” installation file.

Click Next >.

Choose your desired directory (note the 64bit addon saves to the “Program Files” directory).  Click Next >.

Click Finish and Win7Codecs 64bitComponent Addon will install to your HTPC.

Now we will initialize the 32-bit codecs.  Right-click on Settings Application and choose Run as administrator.

Click OK (you may see this prompt if you have UAC disabled in Windows).

Win7Codecs will automatically reset to installation defaults the first time it is opened.  If it does not click on “Shark007 Suggested Settings” . When complete click Exit.

Next, we will initialize the 64-bit codecs.  Right-click on Settings Application x64 and choose Run as administrator.

Click OK (again, you may see this prompt if you have UAC disabled in Windows).

Win7Codecs x64Component Add-on will automatically reset to installation defaults the first time it is opened.  If it does not click on “Shark007 Suggested Settings” .

The remainder of this guide will focus on the settings for each tab in the 64-bit application, since this is what affects our playback in WMC.  I personally have my 32-bit application set to the installation defaults because I do not run any 32-bit programs on my HTPC, however the 32-bit application can be setup just like the 64-bit application.  The 32-bit application has all the same tabs, their layout just may be slightly different.

On the Config tab my only change is to select No Subtitles since I never watch any of my movies with subtitles and it’s one less filter my movies have to run through before it gets to the big screen.  However, if you want subtitle control leave the default DirectVobSub (Enabling Subtitle Control will walk you through setting up subtitles).

On the Audio tab, check TrueHD/DTS HD-MA (if your AVR cannot decode HD audio streams click AC3/DTS only instead).  After setting bitstreaming, notice that disable auto speaker configuration now becomes checked and Same as input becomes checked instead of 2.0 Stereo (the installation default). Click on “setup LAV audio” to change some settings for bitstreaming.

Inside the LAV setup screen select the bitstreaming formats that your HTPC and AV Receiver can accept. Remember that HD Audio (Dolby True HD and DTS-HD) can only be sent via HDMI. When finished click “Apply” and then “OK”

On the AVI tab, select LAV Splitter.

On the H264 tab, enable Do not use FFDshow, Use MPC-HC codec, and Use LAV codec.

On the MKV tab, check Use LAV’s splitter.  I am also going to uncheck Disable the DivX Media Foundation splitter… the DivX Media Foundation is required for playing back MKV’s on an Xbox Media Extender.  I have also unchecked Disable MKV Explorer properties as everything has been working fine with it enabled.

On the MOV tab, I am going to stick with using LAV’s splitter as my video codec of choice.

On the MPG tab, overall MPEG Playback will be assigned to LAV splitter, MPEG2 specific Playback (DVD) to Set MPEG2 (system default), and MP4 Playback to LAV’s splitter.

On the SWAP tab, I will remain with the default for XVID and MPEG2, and set AAC to use Microsoft codec by default.

Please note that some users my want to try to set AAC audio in DirectShow Players to Use FFDshow64’s codec and check Disable Microsoft’s Audio Decoder.  Disabling Microsoft’s Audio Decoder is required for some files with AAC multi-channel audio (mostly mp4’s) to bitstream.

I suggest going back through each tab and ensuring your changes “stick.”  A lot of the time I find when I leave a tab the settings revert back to the default.

On the Misc tab, click on Save ALL Settings.  This will create a restore point to come back to if you mess things up when “tinkering.” Click Exit.

The settings will now be saved. Click “OK”

Rendering a test file in GraphStudio shows that both LAV Audio and Video are being used

Our last step is to make sure all our different file types can be played on our Xbox 360 Extenders.  Open Media Browser Configurator.  Under Extender Settings add the following file types: dvr-ms, wmv, avi, mkv, mp4, m4v, mov, wtv, m2ts and mpg.  Exit when complete.

Congratulations!  You are now bitstreaming all your HD, AC3 and AAC audio to your AVR, as well as being able to watch all your files on your Xbox 360 Extender using Media Browser, enjoy.

Guide created by paid user Wilky13 and assassin

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Free Guide 2: Mediabrowser Appearance Guide

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.

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.

1. Install Pearl, CoverArt and the BAS Skins manager (run as administrator) 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:

 

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Free Guide 3: MakeMKV made easier (even though its already pretty easy)

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 ($100) or PowerDVD 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). If you really like MakeMKV you can purchase it now from the developer.

A MKV file  is a container that can hold an unlimited number of audio, video and subtitle tracks in a single file. This format is open and free and is also now supported by many media devices.

So what are some of the features of makemkv? A quick overview:

  1. Reads protected DVD and Bluray discs
  2. Direct conversion of all video and audio tracks with no loss of HD Audio/Video quality
  3. Includes all chapter and metadata information
  4. The speed of transfer is only limited by the speed of your drive — my HTPC recommended hardware is plenty to perform this transfer
  5. No additional software is needed
  6. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac should you want to try this out on another PC
  7. As stated above all of this is free while it is in beta (now) but at most will cost only $50 in the future

The Tutorial:

Download and install the latest version of MakeMKV and follow the installation instructions

Choose where you want to install the program

Select to run the program and click Finish

MakeMKV will now open. For now I will show you how MakeMKV works at default settings but at the end of the guide I will show you a few tricks that I do to make it even easier to use.

If you have more than 1 bluray or DVD drive you can select which drive to use under the “Source” dropdown menu. My bluray drive is selected so let’s select the large “Blu-ray Disc to Hard Drive” icon in the lower right section of this screen. This won’t do any ripping yet but will open the disc so you can see the contents and options to choose.

MakeMKV will now open the disc. It may take a few seconds to a few minutes depending on your system

Now that the disc has been opened by MakeMKV you can see its contents. There are quite a few options here and as I mentioned earlier I will show you at the end of the guide how to narrow this down automatically.

For now let’s look for the largest file as that’s likely the movie. For this disc its likely the 21.1 GB option that is first on the list. Let’s click that option to open it

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 HTPC.

On this screen you can see the individual audio options for this movie. Since I prefer the HD Audio track I will choose it (DTS-HD) and un-select the other options. If you instead wanted only the non-HD Audio track(s) you would choose DTS, DD 2 channel and so on. Also, on the right you can see detailed information about the file you have chosen. Alternatively you can choose more than one option which will give you more than one “stream” in the MKV container but will obviously also make you file size larger. Here you can also select what (if any) subtitles you want. As subtitles take almost no room I usually include all of them in my native language.

When you have made your selections you can change the output folder to wherever you want.

We’re now ready to rip! Click the MakeMKV icon to save the titles in MKV format!

Your bluray is now being ripped to the hard drive! That’s it! You just ripped a Bluray to your HTPC! How easy!

As I have stated above this will create a exact quality copy of your bluray on your HTPC. This whole process should take less than 30 minutes for most movies.

TIP: Did your 30 day trial key run out? Makemkv is free to use while in Beta development and you can find a new trial key every month here. Copy this key and update your previous product key for another free 30 day trial period.

I mentioned above that there are a few tricks that I do to make MakeMKV even easier. Under Preferences in the Video tab I change my minimum title length to 3600 seconds (60 minutes) which will ignore all files on the disk that are less than 60 minutes. To me that means ignoring the extras, alternate endings, previews, etc that I don’t want as I just want the main title movie. On this tab you also can change your default destination if needed.

One other thing I do is to change my preferred language to my native language that I want to prioritize. This makes the selections even easier as it ignores all others.

Compare this main screen after these changes were made to the main screen I posted above before the changes were made (5 choices instead of 15!). The options are much less and I have narrowed down my selections significantly making choosing the correct track even easier!

Assassin 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. I now have multiple Handbrake guides included in the Paid Guides section.

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Free Guide 4: 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.

  1. uTorrent which is a a tiny and efficient bit torrent client.

  2. 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!

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Guide 5: Download and Install Windows from a USB (or burn to a DVD)

This guide will show you how to install Windows from a USB drive (or how to burn a legitimate downloaded copy to DVD for installation). The great thing about this technique is not only is it faster (about 7 minutes for Windows Home 64 bit) but you can try out Windows for free for 30 days. You also can install Windows while you are waiting on your Windows license to arrive and then use the license key to activate windows once it is received. Make sure to download and install the same exact version of windows that you have purchased. If the license key is not the same as the version it is linked to Windows will not activate and you will have to start over.

You obviously will also need a USB flash drive. I recommend at least 4GB. There is no need to pay for a USB 3.0 drive as the drivers for the USB 3.0 ports won’t be available until after we download and install the drivers for them.

Now you need to obviously download Windows legitimately. Here I have linked all the versions that are available. Again, be sure to download the exact version and type (32 vs 64 bit) that matched the license key you purchased.

(Remember that x86 is 32 bit and x64 is 64 bit)

Now that you have the file downloaded let’s download the Windows DVD to USB tool here

Now let’s open the Windows DVD to USB tool. Locate your Win7 iso file that you downloaded (I have renamed mine Windows 7 Install) and then click next

Next select that you want to store it on a USB device (alternatively you can burn it to a DVD if you want)

Select the USB that you want to use (here I chose my 8GB flash that already had some stuff on it as an example for this guide. I suggest that you backup and then delete whatever is on your flash drive and start with an empty flash drive)

Next select “Begin Copying”. Your downloaded iso will now be transferred to a bootable USB flash drive. Alternatively if you are choosing to burn to disc you would have chosen your DVD burner and your bootable disc will now start burning

The end result looks something like this

Opening the flash drive above looks something like this

The next step is to enter bios of your new HTPC. In the area where you can select your boot order select USB to boot first. Now plug your flash drive into a USB 2.0 port on the rear of your HTPC and restart bios. Windows should now install in about 7 minutes!

Once Windows has installed you can use it for 30 days without having to activate it. When you get your disc or license go to Start and right click on “Computer” and select “Properties”. Here you should be able to enter your license key and activate Windows

www.assassinhtpcblog.com

©Copyright 2011 by assassin @ assassinHTPCblog. All rights reserved. This guide and its contents are copyrighted by assassin @ assassinHTPCblog.

This may be used for personal use by the purchaser only; users are forbidden to reproduce, republish, redistribute or resell and material from this guide without the permission of assassin@assassinHTPCblog.

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