Geeks Love HTPCs

An HTPC is a Home Theatre PC. I’m assuming you know what the ‘PC’ stands for, but in this case it doesn’t necessarily mean a Windows computer—it could also be a Mac or Linux variant too. A geek will tell you that they love their HTPC and that it never fails and that it revolutionised the way they watch TV or videos or photos, etc.

But what they won’t tell you is the World Of Hurt (WOH) that you need to be prepared to endure just to get it running perfectly. And even then, when you think you have it running perfectly, you need to prepare yourself for the WOH for when things go wrong.

And they will go wrong. And they will go wrong at the worst of times, like when your wife is watching the season finale of Desperate Housewives and the computer pops up a warning message, mutes the audio, then freezes just before they get to the climax of the episode. Or when your wife calls you while you’re out because all she wants to do is watch a TV episode that was recorded but she keeps getting a ‘funny message’ on the screen.

The reason why geeks love HTPCs is that it gives them something else to tinker with and it fills them with pride when they see their wife happily watching a recorded TV episode without any skips or stutters. But the reason there are no skips and stutters is because the geek was up until 2am the previous night, updating graphics card drivers to a beta release which fixed an issue that only occurred when watching a particular TV channel because the broadcast encoding differed slightly from the other channels.

And when the geek’s wife changes channels and sees the channel lineup displayed nicely on the screen, the geek grins at his wife while proudly stating how cool it is to have the full EPG available. Of course the wife doesn’t understand: shouldn’t it just be that way? Unfortunately our heroic geek had spent the previous two nights hacking away at an open-source program which scrapes TV program information off various websites, compiles it all into nice confusing XML file, and then parses it into a readable format for display on your screen. The geek even went to the effort of scouring the Internet for the TV channel icons so that it looks just like MySky or Tivo.

In case you haven’t seen the problem yet: if you’re not a geek and you’re not prepared for the WOH enduring endless nights hacking away at drivers, software, hardware… just to come up with something that will probably/maybe/sometimes reliably work, you should give up now and buy a MySky or Tivo.