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View Full Version : PC's as something other than Desktops or Laptops



AshleyAshes
03-24-2014, 03:06 PM
Why not try something new? PC's are typically seen as just 'Desktops' or 'Laptops' but what about the freaks of the genre? What about the hardware used for living room gaming machines, home theater PCs, servers, network attached storage, routers, render boxes and the like? I imagine our most common genre will be gaming boxes fitting the role in the living room as a console. So let me introduce you to mind:

Ashley's XBMC / SteamBox

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh100/AshleyAshes2/IMG_0117.jpg

It's the ultimate gaming machine! Featuring a 2 terabyte hard drive just for games, four AMD CPU cores at a blazing 3.0ghz each, 960 Stream Processors and enough marketing bullshit to convince your parents that if they don't buy it for you then they probably didn't love you to start with! All of this in a box conveniently the size of microwave!

...Okay, more seriously...

This is a box that started out as a dedicated HTPC to run XBMC. I started with a single 2TB drive for OS and storage and the plan was to grow it from there. It started with a Tri-Core AMD A6-3500 which offered SOME gaming power but the box was pretty much just for multimedia. In December 2012 I ordered the A8-3870K CPU because AMD was phasing out Socket FM1 so I got the best CPU for the board cheap. This made the box actually pretty decent at olderish games. It wouldn't run Crysis 3 but it'd run Portal 2 an others nicely. This is when I started to integrate Steam into it using Steam Big Picture Mode, it took some maturing of Steam and for the Steam Launcher app from XBMC but it eventually got to where I can switch from XBMC to Steam seamlessly and this thing is now my default game console. Thanks to Steam it has a huge amount of games it can access and whatever input you desire. I normally use an IR remote and Xbox 360 controllers, but there's a wireless keyboard with touch pad for it and you could plug in whatever else you want because at it's core, it's a Windows PC. It's now up to 2TB System/Game storage and then an additional 17TB Multimedia storage (2TB + 3TB + 4TB + 4TB + 4TB). In October 2013 it got a graphical update for 'free'. I upgraded my desktop's GPU so the Radeon HD 6850 got handme downed to the HTPC. I had to spend $25 on a replacement cooler because the old one was noisy from age but that was it. With this new GPU it became a pretty formidable midrange gaming PC.

It'll run a rather wide arrange of games, though maybe the most significant example I can come up with was the Tomb Raider reboot that I was able to enjoy while playing it. IT got about 360/PS3 level graphics, I have to admit that my desktop work station would a done much better but I wanted to play while chilling out in my bedroom. Also but obviously, it's graphics can be upgraded. It's next upgrade will probably be the Radeon HD 7950 if it gets handme downed from the desktop again. If it were to get a NEW card, it'd be with something with HEVC/h.265 decoding support but that's unlikely as the CPU is fast enough to do that kinda work.

Software wise, it does a fair bit:
Windows 7 Ultimate as the desktop OS. You can totally use it as a mainstream desktop PC if you like.
XBMC. The multimedia front end for cataloging and playback of a LOT of media files.
Steam Big Picture Mode. Because games! :D
SickBeard. Maybe I shouldn't mention what this program does.
CouchPotato. Or this one.
Sabnzbd. This is an NZB download program, used with the above two programs.
MySQL. This stores my XBMC database, it's used to share that DB with OTHER XBMC machines in the house. Only necessary if you want one library on multiple machines.
Cinema 4D Team Render Client. Cause hey, sometimes I'm rendering stuff and EVERY computer in the house is expected to help!
It also obviously works as Network Attached Storage for the rest of the condo. :)

As a box, it's not terribly expensive but if you don't include the media drive but to include game controllers, it's a bit more expensive than a game console. On the other hand, the games are dirt cheap. As for it's multimedia capabilities, it keeps me from paying $75 a month for cable.

What's funny is, this game made me fall in love with console gaming... ...Just not using a console. :)

Runefox
03-25-2014, 06:35 AM
And yet it's all stuffed into the cheapest possible case. :P

I used to have something similar set up as a file server minus the HTPC aspect, but I kind of got sick of having big boxes lying around sucking up energy. If I were to build something like this, I'd try and make it as energy efficient as possible; WD Red drives, a Core i-series T variant, etc. Hell, thin micro ITX + USB3 externals might even be better than a tower if not for the cable clutter. But then again I've sort of become obsessed with reducing energy consumption because I've been paying huge power bills lately.

One other neat thing to do with a PC is to make it into a pfSense router. All kinds of flexibility baked in, though AFAIK there's no hardware AC support. But slap two gigabit NICs into a relatively lightweight machine, hang a gigabit switch off it of any size and then connect up a wireless AC bridge and you've got quite a flexible SOHO network. I did this for a while with some old Pentium III's I had lying around, but the old hardware wasn't reliable enough to continue using.

TeenageAngst
03-29-2014, 04:15 AM
I have a computer hooked up to my TV that I use for games. It's really barebones and lightweight, entirely solid state, but so far it's played every game I throw at it flawlessly. It's noiseless too, I have passive cooling set up on it so the body of the computer itself actually directs the heat to the vents. Granted the graphics aren't exactly next-gen quality but it's an acceptable tradeoff, especially considering the consistent FPS I can get by keeping the settings lower.

http://www.commodorecomputerclub.com/images/090712/IMG_0923.jpg

Tiido
03-29-2014, 05:01 AM
http://www.tmeeco.eu/BitShit/SC3000.jpg

I love the keyboard-computer form factor. It should return in full force !

FishNChips
03-29-2014, 09:35 AM
I have a computer hooked up to my TV that I use for games. It's really barebones and lightweight, entirely solid state, but so far it's played every game I throw at it flawlessly. It's noiseless too, I have passive cooling set up on it so the body of the computer itself actually directs the heat to the vents. Granted the graphics aren't exactly next-gen quality but it's an acceptable tradeoff, especially considering the consistent FPS I can get by keeping the settings lower.

http://www.commodorecomputerclub.com/images/090712/IMG_0923.jpg

Here's my rig, it's a hand-me-down so it's a little bit old but it works pretty fine for what I use it for.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/eniac3.jpg

However I want to upgrade it a little so I can finally run Hearts of Iron on it, any suggestions?

Socks the Fox
03-29-2014, 06:33 PM
img

I love the keyboard-computer form factor. It should return in full force !

Laptop minus screen = KFF PC :3

Tiido
03-30-2014, 08:53 AM
Sadly the trend seems to be towards just the screen part....

MkLXIV
04-04-2014, 07:57 PM
I'm not quite sure this would fall under a category of its own, but what about Hackintoshes? They're basically PCs running OS X- they have very specific hardware; not everything is compatible with OS X but still compatible with a standard PC and vice-versa. If you don't believe it's possible, I have pictures of my very own Hackintosh which I use daily for most of my tasks. ;U

EDIT: Yes, basically PCs as Macs. :P

Kanagrooboy
04-05-2014, 02:03 AM
Here's my rig, it's a hand-me-down so it's a little bit old but it works pretty fine for what I use it for.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/eniac3.jpg

However I want to upgrade it a little so I can finally run Hearts of Iron on it, any suggestions?

A whole lot of these to start:
http://d1gsvnjtkwr6dd.cloudfront.net/large/SC-PNP-2N2907_LRG.jpg


I'm not quite sure this would fall under a category of its own, but what about Hackintoshes? They're basically PCs running OS X- they have very specific hardware; not everything is compatible with OS X but still compatible with a standard PC and vice-versa. If you don't believe it's possible, I have pictures of my very own Hackintosh which I use daily for most of my tasks. ;U

EDIT: Yes, basically PCs as Macs. :P

I've always wanted to do a hackintosh build. I've always loved their OS, but hated when it came down to hardware, especially considering how limiting they are with what they will let you open on the computer itself. I'm not too big of a fan of having to buy a special tool online just so I can unscrew my Mac case to blow the dust out!

As for myself, because I have a chassis with HD racks, and a MoBo to support it, I'm looking to have multiple uses condensed into one box. Right now I'm planning to get another HD to run the Steam OS, then another to run the Hackintosh, as I have an Adobe CS package that I can't use all that much, what with a dying iMac and all. To top it, I have an old chassis in my closet that I would love to use for making a light server/mothball storage unit.

Runefox
04-05-2014, 11:52 AM
Hackintoshes are fun until they start to randomly kernel panic after a few hours of usage like some kind of throwback to the Windows 9x era of computing. My experience with it was a perfect storm of compatibility at the time, the only incompatible item having been my sound card (X-Fi). Radeon HD 4850, Intel i5 2500K, one of the suggested boards with pre-built installer boot disc... Worked great while it worked, but kernel paniced like crazy. Considering the amount of time and effort that went into making the thing work and what I had to show for it afterwards, my triple boot Windows-Ubuntu-OSX config didn't last long. I'd recommend it for the curious, definitely not for anyone looking to use OS X seriously. Get a Mac Mini if you want to do that.

AshleyAshes
04-05-2014, 03:24 PM
I'd say a Mac is still desktop and a MacBook is still a laptop. o.o

Kanagrooboy
04-06-2014, 05:44 AM
I'd say a Mac is still desktop and a MacBook is still a laptop. o.o

Can't argue with that. Though it's still a neat thing to discuss, especially given that this thread is more or less dedicated to doing things with PCs that your typical user wouldn't think to do.

AshleyAshes
04-06-2014, 09:10 AM
Can't argue with that. Though it's still a neat thing to discuss, especially given that this thread is more or less dedicated to doing things with PCs that your typical user wouldn't think to do.

I think it's more that TA has a thing against PCs being used as consoles or anything else other than 'Desk Monsters'. :P

avan
04-06-2014, 10:58 AM
I've got a bunch of computers, though probably only 3 get used as something other than a classic 'doing general consumer stuff' system. Maybe 4 if the ruggedized laptop's occasional use as an emergency umbrella counts.

The 3 systems are:
My workstation which is effectively a render box that I end up using for desktop purposes too. Originally it was only used when absolutely necessary due to older, hotter running hardware, but with a series of upgrades its able to do its heavy lifting jobs without turning the room into an oven. I suppose its now the 'do everything' system, and tends to be tasked with everything from web browsing to synthesizing verilog for FPGAs. The overclocked 1090T (4.2Ghz) is aging, but it still handles things well enough to let me do things when heavy parallel tasks are running in the background. Also has 16GB of ram, an OCed r9 290 and an r7 260x (this one drives secondary monitors). I plan to upgrade the ram since running 2000 tabs or so in waterfox uses ~7GB of ram, while all my instances of krita eat up ~3-4GB. Combined with everything else, this has pushed usage up to 32GB.

I've got a little E-350 htpc which is pretty much my 'playing skyrim on the tv' system, considering it handles that game at the tv's 720p resolution just fine, despite my higher-benchmarking intel laptops falling flat on their faces when they try to run it (except for our best laptop which happens to have a 730M gpu)

Lastly, theres an old i5-3120M laptop which sees use as a minecraft & starbound server.

I've temporarily used laptops as wireless -> wired LAN bridges before too, and once out of desperation made a giant daisy-chain of computers with 2 ethernet ports, letting me create a series of network bridges all the way to a computer outside since i didnt have any long cables, but did have a ton of old desktops & short cables.

Socks the Fox
04-08-2014, 05:57 PM
I've temporarily used laptops as wireless -> wired LAN bridges before too, and once out of desperation made a giant daisy-chain of computers with 2 ethernet ports, letting me create a series of network bridges all the way to a computer outside since i didnt have any long cables, but did have a ton of old desktops & short cables.

That is beautifully horrifying.

avan
04-09-2014, 10:38 AM
In retrospect, now I wish I had pictures >.> But I could probably do it again considering I still have a lot of computers and still have the old NICs. They original desktops are largely gone though, donated those away to an orphanage

TeenageAngst
05-06-2014, 04:43 PM
I think it's more that TA has a thing against PCs being used as consoles or anything else other than 'Desk Monsters'. :P

I just don't get how plugging a desktop into an HDTV is innovative.

Runefox
05-07-2014, 11:41 AM
I just don't get how plugging a desktop into an HDTV is innovative.

Nobody said it was.

TeenageAngst
05-07-2014, 09:17 PM
Nobody said it was.

This entire topic is basically a showcase for Ashley to let us know yet again that he enjoys using a tower PC as a console then? I should make a topic where I plug a 360 into a DVI monitor.

Runefox
05-08-2014, 12:01 AM
This entire topic is basically a showcase for Ashley to let us know yet again that he enjoys using a tower PC as a console then? I should make a topic where I plug a 360 into a DVI monitor.

Hey, if it'll keep you from trolling a thread that hasn't been touched in a month, go for it.

AshleyAshes
05-08-2014, 09:51 AM
This entire topic is basically a showcase for Ashley to let us know yet again that he enjoys using a tower PC as a console then? I should make a topic where I plug a 360 into a DVI monitor.

Most monitors have HDMI these days. o.o

JiJi
05-14-2014, 01:46 PM
I have two HTPCs, because I got two systems for free lately (fixing peoples computers and tech and people pay me with more tech!)
I have a little Acer Revo which is so odd as it's single core intel atom with 80gb (320 now, 80 was broken,) yet hdmi out. So odd because Ubuntu and Windows have hard time with 720p letalone 1080p. Which bring me to a newer matx PC I just gained. They both run XBMC I'm happy.

Oh and Rune, I've been fiddling with hackintoshes for 4 or 5 years now. Haven't had a kernel panic in ages :)
(I did build my main system hardware to be all mac compatible, for odd bit of logic mixing work.)
Dual booting annoys my keyboard shortcut memory though, always forget which OS I'm on, but I have mountain lion running smoother and quicker than my lady's macbook c:

I wanted a cheap laptop or netbook for live recordings (lug around a mic and interface mind.) but I have no funds for such luxuries. :c

TheMysteriousL
05-17-2014, 12:04 PM
My current laptop makes a really good paperweight.

...does that count?