In Valid Logic

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MCE go boom!

Monday night, I had an interesting happening with my Media Center Edition PC.  I've been using MCE2005 for two years now and absolutely love it.  I wouldn't imagine going to anything else.  The system has run quite well for the last two years, but I was planning on making a few minor upgrades before putting Vista MCE on it.

Then Monday night, Trish and I were watching the new episode of 24 (we love 24) and we were down to the last 5 minutes of the show... you know, the time when they do all the big things that make you anxious to watch next week's episode... when all of a sudden POOF!  The screen goes blank.  I jump up like "WTF!"  After breathing for a second, I just start laughing.

The video card in the system had been acting up some by showing some artifacts on the menu overlays when watching a show.  It hadn't been a big problem, just a bit of annoyance.  So I knew the video card was probably on its way out, but I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.  It was down to the pivotal moment in 24 when it decides to finally give out.  Luckily we were recording 24 and we were about 15 minutes behind, so it did record the whole thing.

The other part of the irony is that I was planning on ordering a new video card for it that night.  The two things I wanted to upgrade it to Vista MCE were a new video card and more RAM (512mb didn't quite cut it too well when I tried MCE on Vista RC1).

So what happened to cause it to blow?

After taking of the covert to put in a spare video card, the insides were practically red hot.  Being that it is out in the living room, most HTPC computers are built to be nice and quiet.  Quiet doesn't really mean cool though.  Apparently, the fan on the front of the computer had gone out (don't know when) so it was getting less air flow through the cause and over time, heat built up and the video card was just the first thing to go.  The motherboard has temperature sensors and would shut the computer off if the motherboard or CPU got too hot, but there was nothing for the video card, and no fan monitors set up so I'd know it died.

In order to rectify the situation, looking at making a couple changes with the components in the computer and how I have it configured:

  1. New video card, duh.
  2. More ram, might as well upgrade to Vista MCE now.
  3. Dumping the HTPC case I currently have.  I haven't liked it very much since I got it.  Several reasons:
    1. Front fan has poor airflow.  HTPCs aren't always good coolers, since they more for aesthetics than performance, but its positioning wasn't good.  Also had a bad fan shroud manufacturers always put over fan slows.  I tried to take the case apart to cut it out when I first got the case, but couldn't get to it.
    2. The case has this huge support bar going directly over the CPU area, preventing your from using any of the nicer CPU heatsinks that are built for silence.  They are usually larger heatsinks with bigger fans, but the bar prevents you from using any of them.  Poor design.
    3. It has this stupid LCD screen that was supposed to be MCE compatible but isn't, so for the past two years, I've been staring at "Welcome iMON Home Theater PC" (yes, with poor grammar too!).
  4. Currently, the system has a 40gb HD for the operating system and a 250gb for music/recordings.  There really is no need to separate them.  Two HDs means two sources of heat, when only one is really needed.  Will take out the 40gb and just use a single larger one.
  5. Too much case clutter.  The built in LCD added a bunch of stupid cables and everything.  Should find a way to minimize the clutter so it gets better airflow.  The new case will hopefully have less, but if not, will do some cutting.
  6. Add system monitoring.  Have it running software to monitor temperature and fan speeds, and either pop up a notification or email me when something goes wrong.  More than likely, it won't need immediate attention, but that way I could take care of it before something dies.  Would be nice to find one that integrates with MCE, though don't think there is one.

So, ordered some new stuff yesterday and it should be here tomorrow (Newegg rocks).  In the meantime, have a spare video card that just barely handles HD in MCE, and only running the system when needed and with the case off for now.  Tomorrow night will put together the new and cool MCE box.  Probably post more once I get it up, test it out, and know its working well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

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