making a media center to hook up to tv

I am looking for information regarding both hardware[1st] and software, so I hope posting in here is ok.
What I would like to do is use an old computer [Pentium 2] to hook up to my TV, so that I may play music, slideshows and home movies that I have stored on a hard drive.
What I need to know is what type of equipment would be needed to achieve this? Besides the base computer, what would be the proper video card, cables, os and software needed?
My tv is just a base rca with a S-Video connection [not HD].
The old computer, being a P2, is obviously not heavy on ram or processor speed, would it be sufficient for this type of application.
Any info to get me started in the right direction would help, thank you

I really have no experience in this area but I can tell you there are distro’s specifically designed for this application
ie; | Mythbuntu](

Not that I recommend such, but I have read about it and even installed it in a Virtual Machine.

Your hardware is another question totally, and you will likely have to hunt down parts. Might be worth consider the financial prudence of your plans, seeing that some very cheap basic unit are available today.

ty caf4926
for the point to mythbuntu/tv - I will look into it but was hoping to get something not quite so all encompassing. I really just want to view stuff I have stored on a hard drive, not interested in being connected to internet or recording anything.

This machine [which I already have minus video card w/ S-Video] is old - I have both][P2 or P3] and was hoping for an OS that was minimal but could allow me to watch slideshows/video/listen to mp3.

I really don’t know how the hardware hookup is to be done or what additional hardware/software I would require.

So basically, I know nothing, except that there is a possibility that it can be done.

Your setup can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. As far as I can tell from what you want to do, it should be very easy to setup. You should be able to do what you want with a pretty basic install using XBMC. I have done this exactly using a softmodded xbox and XBMC and found it extremely useful.

If you are already able to do watch videos and perform those other functions on the computer you have, you shouldn’t have any problems doing the same hooked up to a tv. You will obviously need a video card capable of using the svideo output under linux. I don’t know what the current situation is regarding this, but I have heard that it has been problematic in the past. Other than that, you will need an svideo cable to feed the video to the tv, and a headphone to rca audio cable to feed the audio from your soundcard to the tv input. From there, install XBMC and everything you want to do will is already built into that program.

You can get a live disc version of XBMC to check it out if you are not familiar with that particular program from XBMC for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux | Download

I imagine there are other options for software that would allow you to do this as well, but XBMC is all I have had experience with. Boxee is a similar program, and has more of a ‘social media’ aspect to it.

ty to herderofyaks

I want to keep this a simple as possible. Only output from my computer to my TV.
XBMC looks good, but in my ignorance I was hoping I could just use my TV as a monitor and select what I want from my displayed files and play them thru VLC media player. Would that not be possible?

I have found tho that PCI video cards are very rare these days and the computer I will be using is an old P3 with only PCI slots in it.
So maybe this is not going to work out so well, unless I can come up with a PCI style card.
Anybody else have other ideas?

If you want it that simple, you can have it that simple. Cancel the audio cable (you can get that from PC speakers anyway) and just use VLC. I suggested XBMC because it has the features you described all built in with a nice interface.

As far as the PCI video card, I wouldn’t give up hope just yet. Do you have any Computer shops in your area that deal with used hardware? I have one near me and I recently picked up a PCI video card with svideo-out for $10 or $20. I was planning on doing a similar project, with similar hardware in fact, but my tv crapped out and now I just watch stuff on my LCD monitor.

ty herderofyaks

I can’t give up the audio cable. Right now its the only piece of the puzzle I have. [lol] [besides the TV and P3 computer].

I have checked with my local used computer parts dealers, but no luck so far. Apparently they are as rare as…
I have even done a look around ebay, but frankly other than knowing I need a ‘PCI’ video card with S-Video, I am unsure what to choose.
Such as, can it be any PCI video card with S-Video or does it have to be fairly new [less than 5 yrd old?]

btw, i like the idea of xbmc and may still adopt it, if only I could find out what I need in a video card and am able to find one. My P3 is an old HewlettPackard with 256 ram and I am not sure what type of processor, but not big at any rate.

I suppose you could always try posting in the ‘wanted’ section on Craigslist for your area. You may get lucky and find someone like me in your area that has piles of old hardware laying around.

From what I’ve read, you’ll want to get an NVIDIA card. That is what the card is that I have. I’ll try going ahead with my project to see how it works out, as it will all be pretty similar hardware to what you will be working with. If you’re interested, it will be a Dell GX150 P3 1 GHz with 384 MB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce2MX400 PCI video card.

It may take a couple days to get everything up and running, but I’ll keep you updated on here to let you know how things work out.

ty once again herderofyaks

I am beginning to piece this all together now. would you know approx. how old this Nvidia card is? and what kind of OS will you be using?
I will continue my search for a used card.

Looks like that video card came out in 2001, so it’s pretty old. Was planning on trying Ubuntu first, though I don’t know if that will last very long as I really don’t like that particular distro. Haven’t had much time to work on the project yet, so no updates at this time.

I can’t vouch for their quality, but an alternative might be a VGA to s-video adapter or converter box. You can’t just get a simple adapter, but there are powered converter boxes available. As I said, I do not know whether (or even if) they work:

vga to s-video converter - Google Product Search (they start towards the end of the first page, the first few things are TV tuners, not what you want).

I looked into that option as well, and you actually can get an adapter, but you need to have a video card that specifically has tv-out through vga as an option. They also didn’t seem to be very highly regarded.

Turns out with the NVIDIA proprietary drivers this is fairly simple. Was able to get it set up in a fairly short period of time with nvidia-settings. You’ll want to set up each display as a separate x-server. Got it up and working basically the same as a dual monitor setup, with the tv as the second monitor. You’ll undoubtedly have to do some fine tuning on your end to suit your specific equipment, but you’ll be happy to know it does work and isn’t difficult to setup.

I would expect that you would be able configure your settings such that the tv is the only display if you’re wanting a standalone media center.

From the limited research I did, it looks like there are a few other options for this as well, but the NVIDIA driver settings tool gave me the best results (a.k.a. overall success).