First, you need a PC with a TV signal output on the graphics card, so you can play your films back and watch them on the telly instead of huddling round the computer monitor.
If you're going to locate your VoD playback PC beneath the TV and use it as a general home entertainment console, you probably want it to be quiet. Try to find a case with no or very quiet fans or perhaps one which uses an external DC power supply.
You need a quiet hard disk, some of the newer Seagate drives have a new design of bearing which is very quiet.
To play back DivX movies without any frame skipping I think you need a processor of about 800MHz or faster. Unfortunately this is slightly at odds with the need for quietness, as the faster processors tend to need a fan.
If you don't want to have a stack of large drives on your VoD playback PC, you can store all your goodies on a big server located elsewhere in the house, under the stairs or somewhere like that, and link them together using a LAN. Some really neat software which I found the other week and tried out, streaming from an 800MHz PIII acting as the server to a 400MHz Celeron laptop (the only machine I have with a TV out) is available from http://www.videolan.org/. It was quite straightforward to set up. With the "server" broadcasting to a multicast address and the "client" listening on that same address, I could theoretically have a "client" machine in every room in the house all playing back the same movie. Both of my machines were running Windows 2000. The video playback from the laptop froze every 20 minutes or so then carried on, which was disappointing, but it at least proved that the system works. The other disappointment was the quality of the picture from a supposedly good-quality DivX rip - what looked good on the PC monitor was somewhat lacking on the TV, overall rather worse than Homechoice. Slight changes in colour shading, eg on a blank wall in a room, show up as definite blockiness. Nowhere near the quality of a DVD. It was an interesting exercise for one evening though and I'd try it again with a better spec "client" PC. Ed, Tue Jun 17 11:16:38 2003
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