The Building of a HTPC – Part 4 – Fixes

So I found that I had a few fixes to implement, and this entailed a fair amount of research.

I had three issues I needed to resolve; a slow boot up (due, I assumed to USB had drives being connected), a black border around some video files when played, and the five changes of region the Blu-ray player would allow me to make.

It didn’t take much time to understand that all three were simple fixes, though in two cases they were also fiddly ones.

The ASUS EFI Bios controls every aspect of the motherboard and how it behaves. I discovered with some digging that it was possible to turn off all hard drives and USB sockets and leave just the boot hard drive activated. Enabling this allowed for an instant improvement in my boot times.

This discovery did take some time to find, each motherboard manufacturer uses a different system and their bios’ often bear little resemblance to each other. So referring to the motherboards manual, as well as some creative thinking took me along a route of trial and error, in one case leaving me unable to access my computer because I had inadvertently turned off my USB keyboard!

Using the jumper setting on the motherboard (this is a tiny three pin arrangement that has a "cap" acting as a switch between two of the pins) I reset the motherboards bios to its defaults and began again.

It took a while but the results were worth it.

My second quest was to find a way to circumvent the five changes I was allowed for Blu-ray region. This one turned out to be the easiest fix.

Blu-ray region compliance is, by the definitions of the format, a software issue and no region coding is allowed to be put into the hardware of the drives themselves. This meant that whatever controlled the region changes must be saved somewhere in the software I was using, which was PowerDVD.

With a few minutes of searching on the internet I found that inside the program folder there was a file in a folder called "BDNAV" that contained the region changes. To find this file I had to allow viewing of hidden files and folders in my windows settings.

By simply deleting this file I found that my setting allowance returned to five for the programs region coding. So a simple batch file run every time at start-up would delete this file for me, and turn the HTPC into a region free Blu-ray player.

My last problem was the worst, and this wasn’t because it was difficult, but because it meant I have to alter quite a few values.

Because I was using a plasma screen as a monitor for my HTPC it seemed that I was a victim of a thing called "over scan".

Over scan is a roll over from the days of analogue TV, and it was an attempt to "crop" noisy information from the edges of TV broadcasts. This was done by simple "over scanning" the image and effectively cropping bad information off the edges of the screen.

Oddly this practice has survived and whereas modern TV’s crop a tiny amount from the edge of the screen (a few pixels); computers, perhaps because of the multiple screen ratios and resolutions they have, crop a great deal more.

The result of using one screen in replacement of the other can (but doesn’t always) result in thick black borders to be visible onscreen.

By going into my video cards setting I could manually alter the amount of over scan, but I had to do this on all the frame rates the videos I was playing would use.

SO I had to go into each frame rate: 24fps, 25fps, 50fps and 60fps and alter each in turn.

Then I had to alter the settings in KODI to allow the program itself to appear correctly.

By going into KODIs’ setting I could "zoom" in and out of the program visually, matching the programs overlays with the video file being played.

This took some time, and multiple adjustments before the videos played fluidly and without a noticeable border around them.

It all took some time; but the result, a region free multiple format player that contains its own library and databases that can be streamed all over the house… Well, that speaks for itself.

But there was one other thing…

Right at the beginning of this adventure I, on a whim, installed the program "Steam" and during the configuration process I began looking idly through the games on offer. After finding a few deals I purchased a few, none of them any more than £5 in price, with which to idle away time.

And with this I discovered what Steam had to offer, and why every HTPC computer should have a copy of it as a requirement.

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